SUFFERI GS OF THE ISRAELITES. BY THOMAS AR OLD, D.D.

Deutebonomt xxviii. 67. In the morning thou shalt sm/y Would God' it were even! and at even thou shalt »ay, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. These words are taken from the chapter which was read as the first lesson for the morning service on Wednesday last^ It was not chosen on purpose, for there are no proper lessons for Ash Wednesday ; but it is the regular lesson in the calendar for the seventh day of March ; and as Ash Wednesday happened to fall on that day, so this chapter was read accordingly. Yet, had it been intentionally fixed upon, it could not have suited the service better. In particular, it well agrees with the Commination service, which warns us against falling under the wrath of God for our many and various sins. This chapter is, indeed, an awful commination : it threatens the Israelites with every conceivable evil, if they departed from serving the Lord their God ; it leaves them absolutely without hope, unless they turned with all their hearts, and repented them of their disobedience. It is impossible, I think, to read or to hear this chapter without being deeply struck by it. It speaks to the Israelites, before they were yet entered into the land of Cancan, to forewarn them lest they should be cast out

SUFFERI GS OF THE ISRAELITES. S3 of it. Amidst all the signs and wonders which Grod had been showing in their behalf, they were taught to look for

a time when neither miracle nor prophet would be vouchsafed to them, when God would be as closely hidden from them as His power was now manifestly revealed to do them good. As if, too, warning were far more required than encouragement, we find that the blessings promised for obedience bear a small proportion in point of length to the curses denounced against disobedience. So the Israelites entered Canaan, and took the lands of the heathen into possession, not without much to sober their pride, and to make them not high-minded, but fear. As wlien Solomon built his temple, and when Hezekiah showed all its treasures to the messengers of the king of Babylon, there was ever a warning voice mingling with the sounds of pride and self-congratulation, there was always something to check the fulness of the joy, that so it might be the safer. The severe judgments spoken of in this chapter declare also another great law of God's providence, that *to whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.' It was because the Israelites were God's redeemed people, because He had borne them on eagle's wings, and brought them to Himself; because He had made known to them His will, and promised them the possession of a goodly land, flowing with milk and honey, — it was for these very reasons that their punishment was to be so severe, if they at last abused all the mercies which had been shown to them. For theirs was to be no sudden destruction, to come upon them and sweep them away for ever ; it was a long and lingering misery, to endure for many generations ; like the bush which burned, but was not consumed. We know that Ammon, and Amalek, and Moab, that Assyria and Babylon, have long since utterly perished ; the three former, indeed, so VOL. VI. D

34 SUFFERI GS OF THE ISRAEUTES.

loDg ago that pro&ne history does not notice them; its beginnings are later than their end. But Israel still exists as a nation, however scattered and degraded : they have gone through for ages a long train of oppressions, visited on them merely because they were Jews. ay, even yet the end is not : however much their condition is bettered, still, taking them the world through, they have even now much to bear ; their hope is still deferred, and as far as their national prospects are concerned, the morning dawns on them with no comfort, the evening descends upon them and brings no rest. This is one remarkable part in their history; and there is another which I think deserves notice. It is declared in this twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, that amongst the other evils which the Israelites should suffer for disobedience, they should endure so long a siege from their enemies, as to suffer the worst extremities of &mine. ' The tender and delicate woman among you that would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil towards the husband of her bosom, and towards her son, and towards her daughter.' ow it is remarkable that this has, in fact, befallen them twice over. Of the siege of Jerusalem, by ebuchadnezzar, we have indeed no particulars given ; it is only said, in general terms, that after the city had been besieged for eighteen months the famine prevailed in it, and there was no bread for the people of the land ; so that the king and all the fighting men endeavoured to escape out of the town, as the only resource left them. But of the second siege, by Titus and the Romans, we have the full particulars from Josephus, a Jew, who lived at the time, and had the best authority for the facts which he relates. And he mentions it as a horror unheard of amongst Greeks or barbarians, that a mother, named Mary, the daughter of Eleazar, fronf the country beyond Jordan, was known to

SUFFERI GS OF THE ISRAELITES. 35

have killed her own child for her food, and to have publicly confessed what she had done. ow we know that the horrors of war have been felt by many nations ; but such an extremity of suflFering occurring twice in the course of its history, and under circumstances so similar ILS in the two sieges of Jerusalem, there is hardly another nation, so far as I am aware, that has experienced. Indeed the history of the calamities of the last siege of Jerusalem, as they are given by Josephus, are well worthy of our attentive consideration. ot that in general there is any good to be gained by reading stories of horror ; but in this case the value of the lesson overpays its painfiilness ; it is a full comment on our Lord's words, when He turned to the women who were weeping as He was bearing His cross to Mount Calvary, and bade them * not to weep for him, but to weep for themselves and for their children.' It explains why they should indeed, in those days, say to the mountains, * fall on us,' and to the hills, * cover us ; ' how, unless those days had been shortened, there could have been indeed no flesh saved. Eleven himdred thousand Jews perished in the course of the siege, by the sword, by pestilence, or by famine. I do not believe that the history of the world contains any record of such a destruction, within so short a time, and within the walls of a single city. A number of persons equal to the population of London, in the largest sense of the term, and taJdng in many of the most populous parishes of the neighbourhood, was crowded together within limits fiur narrower than those of London, and all perished. In &cty the population crowded together in Jerusalem was much greater than this ; for besides these eleven hundred thousand, ninety-seven thousand were taken prisoners; and these were reserved, not for the light sufferings commonly undergone by prisoners of war in our days, but for

Da

36 SUFFERI GS OF THE ISRAELITES. the horrors of the slave-market, and for a life of perpetual bondage. I said that this dreadful story was well worth our studying ; and it is so for this reason. These miseries, greater than any which history mentions, fell upon God's Church, upon His chosen people. His own redeemed, the people witii whom He was in covenant, to whom He had revealed His name, while all the rest ot the world lay in darkness. It was not upon Amalek, nor upon Babylon, that this extremity of judgment fell, but upon Jerusalem. And what is Amalek now, what is Babylon, and above all, what is Jerusalem? Whatever be the answer given to the two first questions, there can be no doubt as to the last. ^We are the circumcision,' says St. Paul, when writing to the Greek Christians of Philippi ; that is, we Christians, and we alone, are now the true Israel of Scripture, the Israel of God, the seed of Abraham. It is even so, and as we have succeeded to the privileges of Israel, we should do well also to remember the &te of Israel. But I am not speaking of ourselves as a nation ; it is not as Englishmen, but as Christians, that we are the Israel of God ; and it is not as Englishmen, that is, as citizens of an earthly country, but as Christians, citizens of a kingdom not of this world, a country incorruptible and eternal, that it concerns us to dread the judgments of Israel. God has other and far worse ministers of vengeance than the sword, or the famine, or the pestilence. These can but kill the body, and Christ has especially charged us not to fear those evils which can do us no greater harm than this. But we each of us individually, not in the persons of our children, not as the mere abstract

idea which we call a nation, — we all of us here assembled, in our bodies and our own souls, have to fear an undying judgment. To us, each of us, belongs in the strictest

SUFFERI GS OF THE ISRAEUTES. 37 sense the warning of the text. For us, each of us, — if we do fail of the grace of Grod, if Christ has died for us in vain, if, being called by His name, we are not walking in ffis spirit, — there is reserved a misery of which indeed the words of the text are no more than a feeble picture. There is a state, in which they who are condemned to it, shall for ever say in the morning, ' Would God it were even ! and at even. Would God it were morning 1 for the fear of their heart wherewith they shall fear, and the sight of their eyes which they shall see.' There is a state in which the tender and delicate woman shall hate those whom once she most loved ; in which they who lived together here in a friendship wherein God was no party, will have their eyes evil against one another for ever. For when selfishness has wrought its perfect work, and the soul is utterly lost, their love is perished for ever ; and the intercourse between such persons can be only one of mutual reproaches, and suspicion, and hatred. An eternal restlessness, and eternal evil passions, mark the everlasting portion of the enemies of Grod ; just as an eternal rest, and a never-ending life of love and peace, are reserved for those who remain to the end His true children. It is true that we see not this state of misery, and may therefore, if we choose, disbelieve it. And so did the Israelites disbelieve their threatened misery ; they said that the pestilence should not come imto them, neither should they see sword nor feunine ; and in refusing to believe that so great a misery as did actually overtake them should ever be their portion, they had, no less than we, the excuse that experience had never hitherto recorded a fate so dreadful. But what no former experience had ever witnessed, did come to pass in that day of God's earthly vengeance ; and

no less shall all former experience, and even all oiur conceptions of evil, be outxlone in the great day of God's eternal vengeance. That earthly visitation on Jerusalem

38 SUFFERI GS OF THE ISRAELITES. was well called the * coming of the Lord.' It was His earthly judgment for the final breach of His earthly covenant. Jerusalem after the fiesh had had her privileges and her day of trial, and her time being come to its end, she underwent her final sentence. And we, too, citizens of the spiritual Jerusalem, we have our privileges, we have our day of trial, we too have our covenant; not with earthly blessings promised, and no more than an earthly forfeiture incurred, but with a higher stake on both sides, — an everlasting crown, or everlasting misery. For this second covenant the judgment is coming, — when, we know not ; but this we know, that to each one of us the day of trial will be over soon, and then we shall be kept to wait for the judgment, with no fmlher power to alter it. The judgment is coming not less surely than that whose fulfilment is before our eyes, but infinitely more important when it does come.

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