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it be said, that the unbelieving Jews were branches (as they must have been in some sense) or they could not be broken off?" He answers, "They were so considered in consequence of their visible profession. As a nation, they professed to be his people." Then the nation of the Jews, were a nation of professing Christians. This is either to concede every thing to us; that the nation of the Jews was the visible kingdom of the Messiah; or it is a declaration without any meaning. If by professing people, be intended, that they were professed believers in Christ, as the twelve disciples were, this is notoriously contrary to fact. For, from first to last, they openly rejected him. "He
came unto his own, and his own received him not." They did not receive him by any kind of visible submission; but perpetually opposed, and at last crucified him. Besides, How could they be cut off from a visible profession? A man may profess as long as he lives, let him be in one state or another. Did the thousands of unbelieving Jews now existing, ever make such a profession? Certainly not. No part of the world, have been more openly inimical to Jesus, than this people.
3. That from which the unbelieving Jews were broken off, was not the society of the elect, as such, or those who, according to God's eternal predestination, become enriched with the adoption of sons. For these all are branches which abide in the vine, and must infallibly be saved. They are vessels of mercy, toward whom, this severity is not shewn.
4. It does not seem satisfactory to say, with Mr. Peter Edwards, that the olive tree represents simply a visible Church state. It is not denied, it is one of the principles of this Treatise, that some of these unbelieving Jews were in a visible Church state, and cut off from it by open unbelief. And dismemberment in this sense is undoubtedly involved in that dispensation by which they were broken off. But does a simple, visible Church state, come up fully to the idea conveyed by the metaphor of the olive tree? Does this state
comprehend the fatness of which the believing Gentiles partake? Does it distinguish living, from nominal Christians? Are all who are in this state subjects of saving faith? Is this, and this only, the state into which the unbelieving Jews are to be grafted again? Is this all that is implied in the effect of the vail's being taken from the heart, and their turning to the Lord? Would the salvation of all Israel follow of course? I confess myself not satisfied with this explanation. And am constrained, therefore, to adopt another idea, viz,
5. That from which the unbelieving Jews were broken off was the Society of Israel, without any respect to the distinction of visible and invisible membership. Let this matter be a little explained. It has appeared from passages, which have been introduced, and there are a multitude of others of a like kind, that Israel, as an entire community, is often addressed under the notion of a single person. "Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of, and they shall cleave unto thee." This language expresses a complete unity. All over the scripture, injunctions, predictions, promises, and threatenings are addressed to this society, in the second person singular, as though it were an individual, existing through the succeesive periods of time. This mode of speaking, while it marks the identity and unity of the Society with peculiar force, seems to exclude the distinction of visible and invisible membership, though it really exists. In a manner corresponding with which, our Lord says, John xv. 1, 2. "I am the true vine, and my father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." 5th versc, "I am the vine, ye are the branches." Here the Savior identifies his followers with himself; all of them without distinc-tion. He and his people are one person, as much as the vine and the branches are one vine. Yet some of these followers of his, who are in him, according to the metaphor, as much, and in the same sense, as the
others, are dead, unproductive branches. The others are vigorous. They partake of the life and fatness of the vine, and bear fruit. The vine, and the olive tree are evidently parallel figures, They both represent subjects of which unity is predicated. The olive tree, then, as used by the Apostle, must be designed to represent Israel, as a body, without any respect to visible and invisible membership, in regard to individuals. Accordingly Israel simply considered is referred to expressly in the context, without any respect to such a distinction. "And so all Israel shall be saved.
it is written, there shall come out of Sion the deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." This explanation is confirmed by the nature of the other figure the Apostle introduces, "If the first fruits be holy, the lump is also holy." It is agreeable to the introductory verse of the chapter, which is undoubtedly to be used as a key for the opening of the whole chapter. "I say then hath God cast away his people ?" He doth not distinguish, and say, visible or invisible people; but people indefinitely, as one society. "God forbid." This people continues. The explanation is confirmed by the remark of the Apostle in the 25th verse; "blindness, in part, is happened to Israel;" (to this one body.) With this explanation, and as far as I can see with no other, the whole process of the metaphor, and the whole context are reconcileable. To Israel the Gentile world is opposed. From the Gentile world, as a wild olive, a body of Idolaters, the believing Gentiles were taken, and inserted into Israel. Unbelief is the thing which cuts off from Israel, as it ever had done. Gentiles become inserted by faith. Israel is, holiness to the Lord; and in that respect, i. e. in regard to its peculiar character, and its being the subjest of the blessing, is justly represented by the fatness of the olive tree. Abraham and Christ are both of this Israel; the one the Father, the other the seed, to whom ultimately the promises were made; and in whom they are yea and amen. The unbelieving Jews, were natural branches of this one tree; or naturally belonged to
Israel, as they descended from this common stock. When they shall cease to be unbelievers, they shall be brought into Israel again, and take their natural position. But if this shall be true of them, and we have the absolute promise of God that it shall, certainly Isreal will be in being, as the original stock, into which they may be reinserted.*
If the reader should be satisfied with this explanation of the figure of the olive tree, he will agree, that it is undeniable proof, of the continuity of the ancient Isreal, as the spiritual inheritance of Jehovah. If he should not, still evidence will be furnished, in the connexion, of this truth. No construction can possibly be put upon it, which shall annihilate this evidence. For there are branches which remain, and they stand on the stock on which they originally grew. These are the remnant, in which Israel is perpetuated. If it be supposed that the Abrahamic covenant is represented by the olive tree, this will result in the same conclusion. For Israel, as an indissolvable society, is established upon that covenant.
Another passage, proving the actual continuity of Israel, is found in the 3d chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, at the beginning. The writer of this Epistle, generally supposed to be Paul, is addressing himself to believing descendants from Abraham. To them he says, "Wherefore, holy brethern, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle, and high priest of our profession, Jesus Christ; who was faithful to him that appointed him; as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, as he which hath builded the house, hath more honor than the house." Here Moses is considered as belonging to that one temple of grace, which Jesus Christ has reared. If he belonged to it, than did all the true Israel. The Apostle adds in the 6th verse. "But Christ, as a son over his own house, (the house is but one) whose house
* Dr. Doddridge seems to coincide with this idea. Though his paraphrase is by no means unambiguous or critical.
are we, if we hold fast the confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope, firm unto the end." Here the Jewish believers, existing at that time, of whom Paul was one, are declared to be Christ's house, built by him as Savior, and to which Moses, and the rest of the pious, of primitive Israel, belonged.
That the first Epistle of Peter was written to believers who originated from the stock of Israel, at least principally, seems evident from many things in the Epistle, and is very generally allowed by Commentators and Critics. Admitting this, farther proof to our purpose will be found, in the 2d chapter, 5th verse, of this Epistle." Ye also as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ.
following verses are coincident with this. The 10th verse may be thought opposed to this idea; but it is entirely reconcileable with it, if we allow, what is not at all improbable, and even seems to be strongly intimated in many passages in this Epistle, that these native Jews, who had been dispersed through the heathen nations, had very much forsaken the religion of their fathers, and partaken of the impieties of those nations.
Presuming that the point of the actual continuity of Israel under the Christian dispensation, and to as recent a period as the history of the scripture carries us, has been fully evinced, I will now proceed to consider the very important subject of the accession of the Gentiles. This event we have seen was provided for in the covenant which God established with Abraham. "I have made thee a father of many nations. In thee and in thy seed, shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And thou shalt be a blessing; and I will bless him that blesseth thee." We have shewn that these promises referred, not only, in the primary and proper sense of the term seed, to lineal descendants from Abraham, as such; but, in a secondary and implied sense, to another kind of seed, the acceding Gentiles, as children of Abraham by adoption.