The New Zealand Evangelist
The Desolation Of Jerusalem
The Desolation Of Jerusalem.
“Mother of Cities! o'er thy head
See peace, with healing wings outspread,
Delighted fix her stay.
How blest who calls himself thy friend,
Success his labours shall attend,
And mercy guard his way.“
The Jews were selected to be the people of God—the exclusive depositories of illustrious privileges present or to come, and the appointed vehicles in the transmission of them to future generations. They were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and might be presumed to be the heirs also of the faith and obedience of those patriarchs. They were a royal priesthood to the Most High; to them the Old Testament was bequeathed, to them Moses delivered the law from Mount Sinai, and unto them the prophets of old spake by signs and by wonders. In the pressing overture of the gospel made to them by our Saviour and his apostles, we see the continued regard of God for his ancient people, and his desire to preserve them in the possession of their peculiar relation to himself, and to his Church on earth, not page 98 withstanding all they had done to forfeit his favour, and the rejection of his offers, of pardon and peace, made them in time past by the prophets. They were commanded by the Old Testament to turn from their evil ways, but by the New Testament they were entreated and importuned so to do by our Saviour's tears.
The Jews, however, cruoified the Son of God, slighted and treated with contempt the words of eternal life, and preferred the pleasures, and the interests of the present life to all the joys of the life to come. As a common punishment for the common sin of their infidelity, the whole nation of the Jews, from that time to this, have been involved in one sentence of rejection as the people of God. The special punishment of the sin of blood-guiltiness fell upon the heads of the generation who crucified our Lord, and not only rejected the offer of Christianity, but persecuted its preachers to the death. Although they were the brethren of our Lord, and God's chosen seed, yet they are now sunk in the deepest degradation—there is nothing but distress and lamentation throughout all their land—Judea, once the favoured home of God on earth, now groans under bondage, her sons and her daughters have become children of captivity, and a curse and grief in the sight of the nations.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! our tears may well flow for thee in the desolation of spiritual death—thy grandeur departed—thy bulwarks and thy palaces now no more! Thy temple of beauty and magnificence—the pride of thy people—the wonder of the nations—has become a heap of rubbish; thy high towers are laid low in the dust of ages, and thy sons and thy daughters have been scattered to and fro through the wide world! The Jews have been driven from one place to another, and been dispersed through the whole earth. They have, from age to age, run through misery and persecution, and torents, of their own blood. Their banishment from Judea was only the prelude to their expulsion from page 99 city to city, and from kingdom to kingdom. There is not a country on the face of the earth where the Jews are unknown, and though dispersed throughout all nations, they have remained distinet from them all. They are found alike in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, under every form of government, and speaking every language. They are citizens of the world, without a country, still living alone in dreary solitude and grandeur, and not reckoned among the nations. Like their own Jordan, which, although it runs through the Lake of Genesareth, yet does not mingle with its waters, they have retained all the peculiarities of their name and nation. They have trod the snows of Siberia, and the sands of the burning desert; neither mountains, nor rivers, nor deserts nor oceans, which are the boundaries of other nations, have terminated their wanderings; and this wonderful people, whose varied history is a miracle, like the Bush of Moses surrounded with flames, have always burnt without being consumed.
O Jerusalem, we are inclined to condemn thee, forgetting at the same time that there is a beam in our own eye, and that we reap the privileges which, thou didst despise. Hadst thou but known thy day of grace, and flocked beneath the wing of thy King and Saviour—even thy Messiah, Prince of Peace, who so lovingly invited thee with his tears; had thy pomp and power remained—had thy glory still shone upon thy walls and bulwarks—had thy children Still dwelt in pride upon thy beautiful mountains, as the sons of the freeman; then had the nations of the world, like Sheba's Queen, gone up to Jerusalem to witness thy grandeur—to consider thy palaces, and tell of thy high towers, Zion is now truly desolate, and loudly calls for sympathy. Jerusalem is now trodden down of the Gentiles. Can we forget thee, O Jerusalem, with all thy memorials of the Saviour's work? Shall no tears tell of the pious feelings which we bear to thee? Shall no prayers kindle the altar of our devotions for thy children's sake, and shall no deeds of charity brighten the fame of our page 100 love for their conversion? To the sentiment of the Apostle Paul will not our hearts cordially respond: “My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they may be saved?” We cannot cease to care for that peculiar people who once possessed the Holy Land, and who still claim it as their own. We can not but remember Israel and the land that is still theirs by promise; a land, be it thought upon, every step of which is history—a land, hallowed by the feet of our Saviour—a land, trod by the feet of patriarchs, and prophets, and holy men of old. The associations connected with our first Scripture lessons— the remembrances of the melting tale of the Babe of Bethlehem, from the lips of a beloved parent—justly endear to us the sacred places of the Nativity—the pebbly shores of the Sea of Galilee, where the Saviour taught—the sacred Gethsemane, which He wetted with his bloody sweat, and where He viewed the bitter cup that was given him to drink, and said, “Shall I not drink it?”—and Mount Calvary, where He was crucified and buried. Our feet would gladly stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem; our eyes would gaze with pleasure upon the hills and valleys among which David had often wandered with his flock, and in some of which the shepherds had heard the voice which brought the tidings of a Saviour born.
We cannot forget thee! Yea, we dare not forget thee, though thy day of grace is sunk in night, and the evil of unbelief covers thy heart. The Lord Jehovah, your King and Saviour, shall arise and have mercy upon Zion; and his servants, the Gentiles, “shall take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof.” Christians, to you, who are the Lord's remembrancers, is this command given,—“Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, return thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord.” And. further, the Lord commands you to “Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord.” As to the privilege of your laying a stone in Jerusalem's breach, it is glorious—it is honourable—to be counted worthy to page 101 gather again the disjointed fragments of the once holy and magnificent temple. Nay, even gratitude's appeal should touch the chord of affection in our bosoms, “for if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carual things.” The resolution of the prophet should be ours, “For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.” Nay we should never forget the obligations under which we lie to the Jews for having transmitted to us so large a portion of the oracles of God, and for having preserved them pure and entire; and surely we should endeavour to repay these by imparting to them the knowledge of that Saviour whom their fathers crucified, and whom they still continue to despise and reject. Jerusalem hath become a dried and abject branch, and we, the wild olive tree, have been grafted in, and made partakers of the root and fatness of the olive tree.
Jerusalem, we cannot forget thee! since it is our interest, as well as our duty, to remember thy welfare, for an especial blessing is provided for them that do good to Israel. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee.” Thine alms and thy prayers, O Christian, shall bring down such a blessing, that there will be no room to contain it—thy name shall be held in everlasting remembrance, and no tombstone need mark the place of thy rest. When the proudest monuments of earthly pomp have passed away like an airy vision, and when the bright lights of science and philosophy have become like an extinguished lamp, shattered and useless, they “that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and, they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever” How precious the privilege to be an honoured instrument in rebuilding the ruined walls of Jerusalem, and how refreshing the sympathy that drops a tear over the strange punishment of her children!page 102
How sufficient the inducement to arise and build the walls of Jerusalem—to go on with the noble work, enlarging and extending, till the fulness of both Jews and Gentiles shall be brought in; and when, amid the golden harvest of millennial glory, Israel shall bud and blossom, and fill every mountain and every valley with prosperous fruit, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God! We will arise, then, and hasten to the help of Israel —we will beseech the Lord to turn again their captivity, as the streams in the south. In our labours of love, the gracious promise shall comfort us, that God will once more crown Jerusalem with prosperity, and make Zion the beauty of holiness. Let us pray, and labour, and watch for the accomplishment of this glorious event!
The cloud that now darkens the spiritual horizon of the house of Israel will are long give place to the bright shining of the Sun of Righteousness; for we learn from the sure Word of Testimony, that the final and complete conversion of the Jews is certain. The time is coming when the scattered sheep of Israel shall be gathered home to the green pastures and shady rocks of Judea, and when the once holy and magnificent temple shall again be restored in order and in beauty. The hand that hath driven them to and fro, and given them no resting-place for the sole of their wearied feet, will yet provide for them a home and an altar in the land of their fathers sepulchres, and shall give unto them, for a sure possession, the fertile hills of Samaria, the green plains of Judea, and the high mountains of Israel, as in days of old. The Spirit of the Lord shall come from the four winds and breathe upon the slain, that they may live—the voice that called Lazarus from the grave of corruption, will call into living form the withered bones of the whole house of Israel.
When the tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast shall have found rest in their own land, and spiritual peace in the bosom of the Church of their long-despised Redeemer, then shall Israel, quickened page 103 into newness of life, stand forth, in the sight of all nations, a missionary Church, and a missionary nation. “I will also,” saith the Lord, Isaiah xl, 6, give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” Also, in Isaiah lx. 3,” And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising”. As to the agency by which Israel shall be restored to the possession of all her promises, we have only to remark, that the faithful preaching of the gospel will be the power of God for their salvation. When Jehovah shall have put forth His agency and His power, then, “the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” Mere science or philosophy can no more accomplish the glorious result, than the Koran of the Turks, or no more illuminate their perverse souls, than the cold and ominous gleam of the meteor of night. The stream that flows from the Cross of Calvary, can alone cleanse them from the stain of sin, and cure that malady of soul under which they groan, being burdened. The unbeliever may scoff at this, and refuse his assent to the doctrine, but let him beware, lest, like the Samaritan infidel, he should be trod to death in the gate, by a perishing world rushing to the banquet of the Lamb.
“Now for my friends’ and brethren's sakes,
Peace be in thee, I'll say,
And for the house of God our Lord,
I'll seek thy good alway.”