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Thus we have reduced the Oracles of the Prophets, which had been before expounded feparately to their Claffes, or refpective Places; that fo from this double View, as it were from different Stations, we may make a more certain Judgment as to this general Conclufion, That the Jews are yet to be restored. If we turn our Eyes elsewhere to human Affairs, and the prefent State of the Jews, it will be as it were a kind of third Profpect, and by thus collating all things, the Vifion will be clearer and more evident. It must be confeffed that the prefent State of the Jews is vastly different from the abovementioned Prophecies: But yet the difference is fuch, as intimates fome future Alteration.
God from the earliest Ages has preferved this Nation and People by his fpecial Providence: He has often rescued them from the Invafions of their Enemies, and delivered them from Servitude, by a Series of Miracles and his omnipotent Arm. He reproved Kings for their fakes, changed the greatest Empires (Ifaiah xiv. 4.) and in the four celebrated Monarchies, feems always to have had a Regard to their Condition; the Hiftory of these Affairs is celebrated by Mofes, the Pfalmift, and the Prophets.
Farther, God declared from the Beginning, and repeated the fame by the Prophets, that this People were felected from all the Tribes of the Earth; that they were a peculiar People betrothed to himself, dear and joined by all the Bands of paternal or nuptial Affection. Laftly, he promised again and again, that his Love should be perpetual and indelible.
And now I beseech you, what can at last become of this People? Has God chofen them for himself, and entered into the ftricteft Bonds of Friendship, .
and will he caft them off for ever? Will he suffer them perpetually to be derided and trampled on by all the Nations of the Earth? At present their Condition is no better, nor has been for many Ages. But is there no Hope remains for Ifrael? No Comfort amidst their Calamities? No Expectation of Reftitution? This feems (with Reverence be it spoken) not agreeable to the Divine Wisdom, Goodness and Fidelity. There is always in this Life room for Repentance and Mercy, fince the Goodness of God endures for ever, and his Truth is unfhaken.
The Jews, notwithstanding their prefent Miferies, keep the Law which was given to them as well as they are able, and they remain at this Day, and have done fo for a confiderable time in great Sufpenfe; loofe and unfixed as tho' they were going fomewhither, their Satchels being as it were in their Hands; they fix in no Country, nor make any Settlement, nor have they Fields of their own, but carry all their Goods along with them. By this means they are the more prepared and ready at the holding up of a Finger to depart into their own Country, when there fhall be an Opportunity given. They are not fo incorporated into any Kingdom, Commonwealth, or City, as not to be perfectly at Liberty to feek new Habitations. Moreover they retain their own peculiar Religion among all Nations, their proper Marriages and the Mark of the ancient Covenant, left they fhould be confounded with Foreigners. In a Word, as Soldiers are ready at the Sound of the Trumpet to march to their Tents, fo the Jews are prepared in every respect, upon the Signal given to return to their own Country.
Itherto we have been pleading the Cause of the Jews, but without being injurious to the Chriftians. For we have not faid any thing (far be it from us) with any Defign to transfer the Reward from our felves to them; but that we might not envy the ancient People their Portion whatever it is at length to be. We believe that the Jews will be restored, having been drawn to that Hope and Expectation by the repeated Oracles of the Prophets. But as to the Circumftances of that future Reftauration, I must profess my felf ignorant, nor do I pretend to know by what means it will be brought about. These things God feems in a great measure hitherto to have concealed from us; but we learn from the fame Prophecies, that it will be very illuftrious, and not brought about without Miracles, or an extraordinary Ministry. Then as to the time, we fuppofe that their compleat Redemption is not to be expected but at the fecond coming of the Meffiah, and renewal of the World; which I believe we have fufficiently demonftrated already from the Writings of the Prophets. Hav ing laid down these Conclufions we are obliged to anfwer all those Questions, which those who study much about this matter may poffibly raife. But as for thofe (as I fuppofe there are many) who deny our general Conclufion, and reject all those Arguments, which we have brought from the Prophets, their Reasons, or Objections must be confidered.
First, fome affirm that nothing Certain and Conclufive can be drawn from Prophecies before the G Event;
Event; because the prophetic Stile is fo lax, and their Words fo doubtful, that they may easily be drawn to favour any preconceived Opinion, according to the Inclination of the Reader. The Prophets feldom ufe a plain and direct Method of fpeaking, but wrap up their Oracles for the moft Part, in Figures and Allegories, fo that there is a large Scope for Conjectures, but little room for the certain understanding of their meaning. Nor are we (fay they) only puzzled to find out the certain Signification of their Words, but also of Things, Perfons, Places and Times. Doubts will arife in the Expofition of all thefe. As to Things themfelves, the Prophets often pass indistinctly and abruptly from one Subject to another. Some are referred to the Type, others to the Ante-Type, and this Order is alternately reverfed; nor are there proper Diftinétions by which we may know what properly belongs to the one or the other. There is no lefs Ambiguity as to the Perfons, speaking, and anfwering. God, the Prophet, and the People are often Interlocutors: Friends and Enemies intervene and mix together; nor is it eafy to affign every one his proper Turn. Moreover Places and Kingdoms have changed their Names, and the ancient Inhabitants are well nigh perished; being mingled and confounded with other Nations. And lastly, there yet remains a Difpute about the Times, and whether fome Prophecies are to be referred to the paft, prefent, or future Times. What is more frequent among the Prophets than prepofterous Narrations, and inordinate, with refpect to the time? All thefe Circumftances being weighed they fay, that nothing clear and certain can be determined from thefe Writings, till the Event has confirmed the Prophecy. Since moft Places in the Prophets will only admit of a conjectural Interpretation,
and but very few of a certain and demonftrative
I must confefs they do well in exhorting us to act with Modefty and Caution in our Interpretations of the Prophecies, fince there are fo many Doubts and Obftacles, which render it difficult for us to come at their true meaning. But what muft we do in the mean time? Is there no ufe of Prophecies before the Event? I muft own that those Expofitors who defcend too minutely to the particular Circumstances of Times and Things, may eafily fall into Error. But that we might avoid this Danger, we have in the firft Place taken Care only to infift on Generals, and farther we have not relied on one fingle Place of the Prophets, but produced multitudes; moreover we have compared the Prophets of the Old Teftament, with those of the New, that fo by their Agreement the Doctrine might appear more evident. We may also add, that we have no where departed from the literal Senfe, where the Nature of the Subject would permit us to adhere to it. Now I ask what Rules of Interpretation can we more fafely adhere to? Nor can I eafily perfuade my felf that the meaning of the Prophets in thefe Places, according to thefe Rules, is uncertain and inexplicable. Indeed the Iffues and Events of Things more fully explain the Prophecies; but God is often pleafed to give us as it were a Compendium of thefe Things before they come to pass, that thereby we may be the more chearful in the Expectation of future good Things, and more Cautious to avoid impending Evils. By which methods it more evidently and beautifully appears, that the World and human Affairs are governed by Providence, and are not driven about by the uncertain Motions of Chance.