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kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed : And the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” So greatly does this kingdom differ from all those kingdoms; they vanish away, and are left to other people ; but this shall not be left to other people, but shall stand for ever. God suffered the devil to do his utmost, and to establish his interest, by setting up the greatest, strongest, and most glorious kingdoms in the world that he could, before the despised Jesus overthrew him and his empire. Christ came into the world to bring down the high things of Satan's kingdom, that the hand of the Lord might be on every one that is proud and lofty, and every high tower, and every lofty mountain ; as the Prophet Isaiah says, chap. ii. 12, &c. And therefore these things were suffered to rise very high, that Christ might appear so much the more glorious in being above them.
Thus wonderfully did the great and wise. Governor of the world prepare the way for the erecting of the glorious king, dom of his beloved Son Jesus.
3. Another thing for which this last period or space of time before Christ was particularly remarkable, was the wonderful preservation of the church through all those overturnings. The preservation of the church was on some accounts more remarkable through this period, than through any of the foregoing. It was very wonderful that the church, which in this period was so weak, and in so low a state, and mostly subject to the dominion of Heathen monarchies, should be preserved for five or six hundred years together, while the world was sa often overturned, and the earth was rent in pieces, and made so often empty and waste, and the inhabitants of it came down so often every one by the sword of his brother. I
say wonderful that the church, in its weak and low state, being but a little handful of men, should be preserved in all these great convulsions ; especially considering that the land of Judea, the chief place of the church's residence, lay in the midst of them, as it were in the middle between the contending parties, and was very much the seat of war amongst them, and
was often overrun and subdued, and sometimes in the hands of one people, and sometimes another, and very much the object of the envy and hatred of all Heathen nations, and often almost ruined by them, often great multitudes of its inhabitants being slain, and the land in a great measure depopulated; and those who had them in their power, often intended the ut. ter destruction of the whole nation. Yet they were upheld ; they were preserved in their captivity in Babylon, and they were upheld again under all the dangers they passed through under the kings of Persia, and the much greater dangers they were liable to under the empire of the Greeks, and afterwards when the world was trodden down by the Romans.
And their preservation through this period was also distinguishingly remarkable, in that we never read of the church's suffering persecution in any former period in any measure to such a degree as they did in this, under Antiochus Epiphanes, of which more afterwards. This wonderful preservation of the church through all these overturnings of the world, gives light and confirmation to what we read in the beginning of the 46th Psalm : «God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be car: ried into the midst of the sea ; though the waters thereof roar, and be troubled ; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof."
Thus I have taken notice of some general things wherein this last period of the Old Testament times was distinguished. I come now to consider how the work of redemption was car, ried on in particulars....And,
I. The first thing that here offers is the captivity of the Jews into Babylon. This was a great dispensation of Provi. dence, and such as never was before. The children of Israel in the time of the judges, had often been brought under their enemies ; and many particular persons were carried captive at other times. But never had there been any such thing as destroying the whole land, the sanctuary, and the city of Jerusalem, and all the cities and villages of the land, and carrying the whole body of the people out of their own land into a coun: try many hundred miles distant, and leaving the land of Can naan empty of God's visible people. The ark had once fora saken the tabernacle of Shiloh, and was carried captive into the land of the Philistines : But never had there been any such thing as burning the sanctuary, and utterly destroy, ing the ark, and carrying away all the sacred vessels and utensils, and breaking up all their stated worship in the land, and the land's lying waste and empty for so many years to: gether. How lively are these things set forth in the Lamen, tations of Jeremiah !
The work of redemption was promoted by this remarkable dispensation in these following ways.
1. It finally cured that nation of their itch after idolatry, The Prophet Isaiah, speaking of the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, chap. ii. 18, speaks of the abolishing of idolatry as one thing that should be done to this end : “ And the idols he shall utterly abolish.” When the time was drawing near, that God would abolish Heathen idolatry, through the greater part of the known world, as he did by the preaching of the gospel after Christ came, it pleased him first to abolish Heath lenism among his own people ; and he did it now by their captivity into Babylon; à presage of that abolishing of idols, that God was about to bring to pass by Christ through so great a part of the Heathen world.
This nation that was addicted to idolatry before for so many ages, and that nothing would cure them of, not all the reproofs, and warnings, and corrections, that they had, and all the judgments God inflicted on them for it; yet now were finally cured; so that however some might fall into this sin afterwards, as they did about the time of Antiochus's persecution, yet the nation, as a nation, never shewed any hankering after this sin any more. This was a remarkable and wonderful change in that people, and what directly promoted the work of redemption, as it was a great advancement of the interest of religion.
2. It was one thing that prepared the way for Christ's coming, and setting up the glorious dispensation of the gosa
pel, as it took away many of those things wherein consisted the glory of the Jewish dispensation. In order to introduce the glorious dispensation of the gospel, the external glory of the Jewish church must be diminished, as we observed before. This the Babylonish captivity did many ways; it brought the people very low.
First, It removed the temporal diadem of the house of David away from them, i.e. the supreme and independent government of themselves. It took away the crown and diadem from the nation. The time now approaching when Christ, the great and everlasting king of his church, was to reign, it was time for the typical kings to withdraw. As God said by Ezekiel, chap. xxi. 26. " He removed the crown and diadem, that it might be no more, till he should come, whose right it was." The Jews henceforward were always dependent on the governing power of other nations, until Christ came, for near six hundred years, excepting about ninety years, during which space they maintained a sort of independence, by continual wars, under the dominion of the Maccabees and their posterity.
Again, by the captivity, the glory and magnificence of the temple was taken away, and the temple that was built afterwards, was nothing in comparison with it. Thus it was meet, when the time drew nigh that the glorious antitype of the temple should appear, that the typical temple should have its glory withdrawn.
Again, another thing that they lost by the captivity, was the two tables of the testimony delivered to Moses, written with the finger of God; the two tables on which God with his own finger wrote the ten commandments on Mount Sinai. These seem to have been preserved in the ark till the captivity. These were in the ark when Solomon placed the ark in the temple, i King's viii. 9. There was nothing in the ark, save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb. And we have no reason to suppose any other, but that they remained there as long as that temple stood. But the Jews speak of these as finally lost at that time; though the same command
ments were preserved in the book of the law. These tables also were withdrawn on the approach of their antitype.
Again, another thing that was lost that the Jews had before, was the Urim and Thummim. This is evident by Ezra, ii. 63. “ And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there should stand up a priest with Urim and Thummim." And we have no account that this was ever restored ; but the ancient writings of the Jews say the contrary. What this Urim and Thummim was, I shall not now inquire ; but only observe, that it was something by which the high priest inquired of God, and received immediate answers from him, or by which God gave forth immediate oracles on particular occasions. This was now withdrawn, the time approaching, when Christ, the antitype of the Urim and Thummim, the great word and oracle of God, was to come.
Another thing that the ancient Jews say was wanting in the second temple, was the Shechinah, or cloud of glory over the mercy seat.
This was promised to be in the tabernacle : Levit. xvi. 2. “ For I will appear in the cloud upon
the mercy seat." And we read elsewhere of the cloud of glory descending into the tabernacle, Exod. xl. 35; and so we do likewise with respect to Solomon's temple. But we have no account that this cloud of glory was in the second temple. And the ancient accounts of the Jews say, that there was no such thing in the second temple. This was needless in the second temple, considering that God had promised that he would fill this temple with glory another way, viz. by Christ's coming into it; which was afterwards fulfilled. See Haggai, ii. 7. “I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Another thing, that the Jews in their ancient writings mention as being now withdrawn, was the fire from heaven on the altar. When Moses built the tabernacle and altar in the wil. derness, and the first sacrifices were offered on it, fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering, as in Levit. ix. 24 ; and so again, when Solomon built the temple, and offered the first sacrifices, as you may see in 2 Chron. vii. 1.