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I am, in the first place, then, to consider the general voice of prophecy, with respect to the conversion of the Heathen around us. And among many other illustrious predictions of this event, the words of my text, and the verses preceding it, are full and strong.
"Why do the Heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?-Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.-Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the Heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." The meaning of which is, according to all the commen
Thou art my son Jesus! This day have I anointed thee king over all the world, which thou hast purposed to redeem. Go on; complete the great eternal scheme, and thereby establish for thyself a kingdom of everlasting holiness. In vain shall the nations rage. In vain shall their proud leaders, Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Pharisees and rulers of Israel, combine themselves against thee. In vain shall they seek to dethrone thee, to cut thee off from the earth, and to crush thy kingdom in its birth. My eternal purposes are fixed. The right hand of my power shall be thy strength and guide. It shall defeat all the machinations of thy enemies, and raise thee even from the habitations of the dead, to thine inheritance in the mansions of glory. There shalt thou dwell forever, and whatever thou shalt ask of me thou shalt receive, till the Heathen become thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth thy possession.
Herein we see a most striking prediction concerning the propagation and final extension of Christ's kingdom to the very remotest nations of the world. And indeed there is a beautiful harmony among all the prophetic writers, relative to the same event.
The venerable Patriarch Jacob, in blessing his son Judah, gives an early intimation thereof; and tells him that the sceptre should not depart from his family till the immortal Shiloh should come, who was to erect an everlasting kingdom, unto "whom the gathering of the people was to be."*
But of all the prophetic writers, the sublime Isaiah seems to have been favoured with the fullest view of the Gospel-state, from the very birth of the Messiah to that glorious period, whereof we are now speaking, when the "kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ." For this reason he has been called the Evangelical prophet, and has delivered many noble predictions concerning the extension of the Gospel, and the final conversion of the nations.
"The earth, says he, in a language peculiarly striking and emphatical, shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious."
And again the spirit of God, speaking by the same prophet concerning the Messiah, says—“It ‡ is a light thing, [or a small part of thy undertaking]
• Genesis xlix. 10.
† Isaiah xi. 9, 10.
Chapter xlix. 6.
that Thou [the Saviour of the world] shouldst be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and tỏ restore the preserved of Israel. I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth."
Indeed the last chapters of this book are only one continued prediction of this period, and the glorious circumstances attending it.
am found, says he, of them that sought me I said, behold me, behold me, to a nation that was not called by my name*."
Nay he even gives a geographical division of the quarters of the world that were to receive the Gospel wherein he has included the whole four.
"I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, says he, to Tarshish, Pul and Lud that draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the Isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles."
Now, according to our learned Commentators, Tarshish denotes the East, Pul and Lud the South, Tubal and Javan the North, and the Isles the West. For, in holy scripture, the Isles, the Sea, and the West are frequently put for one another; so that "the islands afar off, which have not heard of God's fame, neither have seen his glory," may well be understood to comprehend this American continent, or West Indies generally so called, as the learned Dr. Lowth has observed in his accurate commentary upon this passage.
To the same purpose speaks the prophet Jeremiah, in his sixteenth chapter. Intending to reproach the Jews for their absurdity in apostatizing from the true God, after they had once known him; he tells them that to their great disgrace, a time would come when the very Heathen themselves, who had never heard the name of God, would come to him even from the uttermost parts of the earth; and confess that the gods which they had worshipped were no gods at all, but that they and their fathers had inherited lies from the beginning, and put their trust in things that profited not.
"O Lord, my strength and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction; the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the Ends of the Earth, and shall say, "Surely our fathers have inherited lies and vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?"
Let us hear also the prophet Daniel. "+The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall break in pieces and consume all those kingdoms (i. e. the four monarchies) and it shall stand forever. Behold, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people and nations and languages should serve him‡."
In like manner speaks Malachi. "From || the rising of the Sun even unto the going-down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in
• Jeremiah xvi. 19, 20. Malachi i. 11.
† Daniel ii. 44.
Chap. vii. 13. 14.
every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the Heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts." All which is confirmed, with the utmost solemnity by the angel's sound in the revelation, and the great voices from heaven, declaring—
"That the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever*."
Now, although these Prophecies may, in part, have had their completion, by the vast rapidity with which the Gospel spread itself into almost every known corner of the old world, soon after our Saviour's ascension into heaven; yet, methinks, it is impossible that they should ever have their full accomplishment without the conversion of the Indian natives around us, and the propagation of Christ's kingdom to the remotest parts of this continent. We have many of the strongest arguments to induce this belief. For, in the first place, none of these texts, which I have read, put any shorter limit to the spreading of the Gospel, than the Ends of the Earth; and from the rising of the Sun to the going-down of the same. And secondly, our Saviour himself, the greatest of all the Prophets, has expressly told us that Jerusalem† shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Now Jerusalem is still trodden down by the Gentiles, and‡ consequently their times are not yet fulfilled.
We believe, therefore, on the most solid principles, that there is reserved by Providence some future
• Rev. xi. 15.
See the learned Bishop Newton's Dissertations, No. XX.
† Luke xxi, 24.