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which they have recorded in Shebat Jehudah, they openly professed that they never expected so great glory by their Messiah, as that which they saw them attended with. But do these things answer the promises made concerning him, from the foundation of the world? Is this the meaning of the promise given to Adam? Was this the end of the call and separation of Abraham? or the intention of the promise made to him, that in "his seed all the nations of the "earth should be blessed?" Is this only the import of it, that towards the end of the world many of them shall be conquered? Was this the intent of the oath made to David, and of the sure mercies confirmed to him and his thereby? Do all the promises in the prophets set out in words so glorious and magnificent, end in a warrior, inferior it may be to many of those whose destruction they prophesied of? Or, is not this rather a way to expose the whole Old Testament to scorn and reproach? Was this the expectation of the fathers of old? Is this that which they desired, prayed for, longed for, esteeming all the glory of their present enjoyments as nothing in comparison of it? What is there in this Messiah, that he should be the hope and desire of all nations? Did God set him forth as the great effect of his love, grace, goodness, and faithfulness towards them, and then bring forth a military king? Was the church in travail for so many generations, to bring forth this fighter? Had they no eye of old to spiritual and eternal things in the promise of the Messiah:
What is become all this while, of the work every where in the scripture assigned to the true Messiah? Who shall "break the serpent's head?" Who shall take away the curse that entered as the inseparable attendant on sin? Who shall be a blessing to all nations? To whom shall the Gentiles be gathered for salvation?
Who shall be a priest after the order of Melchisedeck? Who shall have a body prepared him to offer instead of the sacrifices of the law? Who shail have his hands and feet pierced in his sufferings, and his vesture parted by lot? Who shall make his soul an offering for sin? Who shall be bruised, grieved, and afflicted by God himself, because he shall bear the iniquities of his people? Who shall make atonement for transgressors, and bring in an everlasting righteousness? Who shall for ever make intercession for transgressors? Who shall sit at the right hand of God in his rule over the whole world? But these men indeed, take a ready way to destroy all religion, and to turn the whole bible to an idle story of earthly things, without either life, spirit, or heavenly mystery in it.
THE PROMISED MESSIAH IS LONG SINCE COME.
§1. Introduction. The time of the Messiah's coming, first determined by the prophecy of Jacob, concerning Shiloh. 2-4. The words of it briefly explained. §5-8. The argument deduced from it. §9. Haggai's prophecy concerning the glory of the second house. §10. What house intended. §11-13. What the glory of it. §14, 15. The argument from it, concerning the Messiah, confirmed. A parallel testimony from Malachi.
$1. THE second great principle, supposed by the apostle in all his epistle to the Hebrews, and which he lays as the foundation of all his arguments, is, that the Messiah, whom we have proved to have been promised from the foundation of the world, was actually come, and had finished the work appointed for him, when he wrote that epistle.
Now, this determination of time inquired after, was first made by Jacob, Gen. xlix, 8-9. But here we may remark, respecting the line of succession, that as, after the promise given to Abraham, the Messiah might have sprung from any family whatever of his posterity, by Isaac, until the limitation was made by Jacob to the person of Judah; and after that limitation, might have done so from any family of his tribe or posterity, until the confinement of that privilege to the person of David; so no restriction being afterwards added, his production by any person of his posterity, whether in an alliance nearer to, or farther from the reigning line, was all that was included in the promise.
The great masters among the Jews are exceedingly perplexed with the testimony above quoted, and have, therefore, invented endless ways for the enervating of it, openly and loudly contradicting one another almost about every word in the text. It were, therefore, not only endless to consider all their several expositions, but also useless, being so fully confuted by each other.*
2. The subject here spoken of is Judah; that is, the tribe of Judah. Now this tribe may be considered, either absolutely in itself, as it was in a separated state in the wilderness, without the mixture of any, not of his posterity; or with respect to that accession, which was afterwards made to it occasionally from the other tribes. As, first, from the lot of Simeon falling within its lot in the first inheritance of the land, Josh. xix, 1; whence that tribe, though still keeping its distinct genealogy, was reckoned to Judah, and became one people with them. Secondly, by the cleaving of the tribe of Benjamin, whose lot lay next to it, to the reigning house of David, in the fatal division of the people, 1
*Vid. A. R. Meir, Aben Ezra, Targ. Onkel, &c.
Kings xii, 20, 21, 27; upon which both these tribes were after called by the name of Judah, ver. 20, and the people of both called (7) Jews. Thirdly, by the falling off of the tribe of Levi to it, with multitudes of other good men, out of all the tribes of Israel, upon the idolatry and persecution of Jeroboam, 2 Chron. xi, 13-17; by which means that one tribe quickly became more numerous and potent than all the rest. Lastly, by the mixture and addition of those great numbers which, out of all the tribes of Israel, joined themselves to them upon their return from Babylon, and the restitution of the worship of God amongst them in its proper place. Now, it is Judah, with all these accessions, that is intended in this prophecy, and yet so, as that in the production of the Messiah, the genuine offspring of Judah was still to have the preeminence.
§3. That which is foretold concerning this Judah, is, that it should have () a sceptre, and (pp) a lawgiver, or a writer of laws, for others to observe. What time this should come to pass is not limited; only thus far, that after it once possessed this privilege, it was not to cease till the Shiloh came. Political government in that tribe, the foundation itself of executing this promise, was not laid until about six hundred and twenty years after this time; when the kingdom was given to David. Nor is the kind of government expressed; only that they should be a people having the principle of government among themselves. Whilst they continued such, the sceptre and scribe departed not from them, whatever might be the variety in the outward form. Accidental alterations in the modes of governing make no essential change in the state of the people, or nature of the government. Thus the first constitution of rule in that tribe was absolutely
monarchical; this being imprudently managed by Rehoboam, he lost the ten tribes, who would never afterwards submit to the royal family of Judah. Its retrieval, after the Babylonish captivity, was ducal, or by an honorary president, with a mixture of aristocracy and democracy. Upon the ceasing of these rulers, extraordinarily called, the aristocracy in Sanhedrim prevailed; whereunto succeeded a mixt monarchy in the Hasmoneans; and their interest being ruined by intestine divisions, Herod, by craft and force, intruded himself.
Neither did this usurpation make any essential change in the polity of the nation; for although the rule was not always in the hands of Jews, and Herod was a foreigner, and notwithstanding the turbulent government of the Herodians, with the interposition of the Roman arms, the nation, and, what constitutes a people, its laws and polity, were still continued. In this state things continued amongst them, until the destruction of the commonwealth by Vespasian, and of the city and temple by Titus; only as a presage of the departure of sceptre and scribe, the power of judgment, as to the lives of men, was some years before taken from the Sanhedrim, John xviii, 31.
By the fixation of rule, in general, in Judah, we are freed from any concern in the disputes of learned men, about the precise time of the departure foretold.* And, indeed, if any thing more be intended in this prediction, than that the tribe of Judah should continue in a natural political state, with government in itself, it will be utterly impossible to determine exactly upon the accomplishment of this prophecy.
* As Baronius, Scaliger, Casaubon, Bullinger, Montacue, Pererius, A. Lapide, Capellus, Scultetus, Rivetus, Spanhemius, &c.