To the Puritans the Jews were a people from a holy root (Romans 11:16) and their welfare was a matter of Christian piety. Indeed a call to prayer for the conversion of the Jews and success of the Gospel was a common feature of Puritan congregations, as evident from Walter Smith's directions for prayer societies in 1679:
"As it is the undoubted duty of all to pray for the coming of Christ's Kingdom, so that all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and know what it is to bow the knee in good earnest, will long and pray for the out-making of the gospel-promises to his Church in the latter days, that King Christ would go out upon the white horse of the gospel, conquering and to conquer, and make a conquest of the travail of his soul, that it may be sounded that the kingdoms of the world are become his, and his name called upon from the rising of the sun to its going down. That the old offcasten Israel for unbelief would never be forgotten, especially in these meetings, that the promised day of their ingrafting again by faith may be hastened..." (cited in The Puritan Hope, Iain Murray page 104).
God has commanded constant prayer for his ancient people: I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, whichshall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Isaiah 62:6, 7.
So in this third and final instalment from Fuller's A Pisgah-Sight we come to the calling of the Jews, that national conversion, that bringing home of his ancient people.
Who is called
By Jews, we understand, some left of every tribe being banished from their own country, since the death of our Saviour; not extending it also (as some do with small probability) to the ten tribes, carried captive by Shalmaneser, and never since certainly known, where existent. By calling, we intend, their real converting by the word, to the knowledge and love of God in Christ. By general, we mean not every individual Jew, whereof some refractory recusants will ever remain but a considerable, yea conspicuous number of them. And it is a charitable opinion, ancient, and conformable to Scriptures, that in this sense, the Jews in God's due time, shall be generally called.
The Tenor of Scripture
Come we now to the places of Scripture alleged for the proof of this opinion. Now as Mesha King of Moab, when his country was invaded, stood not the choosing of select soldiers for fight, but gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upwards: so authors muster up all places of Scripture, which put on any probability to this purpose, and can carry any countenance thereunto, amongst many others, these ensuing:
Should these quotations be severally examined, many would be found rather to persuade, than prove; rather to intimate, then persuade the matter in hand: and that, only to such free, and forward apprehensions, as are prepossessed with the truth thereof. But, amongst these, and many more numerous Scriptures cited, that one place Rom. 11:25. principally deserveth our serious perusal thereof.
The words of the Apostle run thus, For I would not brethren that ye should be ignorant of this mystery (lest ye should be wise in your own conceits) that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved &c. This is conceived the strongest, and clearest charter for the Jews general conversion.
It will be objected, that by all Israel the believing Gentiles are meant (for God's Church, being a collective body, of some Jews, and more Gentiles) which in Scripture are styled the children of Abraham, the Israel of God; Jews inwardly, with circumcision of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter. Yea, in the same verse, Saint Paul (a Jew) called the Romans being Gentiles, brethren, the kindred coming in by their regeneration: and in the same sense, all converted Gentiles may be called Israel, whose praise is of God, and not of man.
It is answered, allowing elsewhere in Scripture believing Gen∣tiles to pass under the name of Israelites, here literally the natural Jews by extraction must be intended,
(a) Because clean through the Chapter, the Apostle opposes the Gentiles and Israel, as contra-distinct terms.
(b) He acquaints the Romans with a mystery, which was none in effect (but stale news, and generally known) if only the saving of the Gentiles were therein intended.
(c) It was his design, to comfort the Jews, and curb the Gentiles, from over-insulting on their sad condition.
And lest any should say slightingly to this opinion, as David once civilly to Ittai (2 Sam. 15. 20.) Thou camest but yesterday; know, it descendeth unto us recommended from the primitive times.
The Testimony of the Church
Origen was the first that mentioned it, and he (otherwise the Allegorizer General) interprets the Apostle literally, in his exposition thereof. Say not that being the first of the Fathers who wrote a comment, no wonder if he wandered in his glosses (he who first went from place to place, never found out the nearest way) seeing better judgments afterwards built on the same bottom, Jerome, Ambrose, Chrysostom, & Saint Augustine.In the School-men the opinion of the Jews their conversion, is not dead, but sleeps: parables, and prophesies, are no dishes for their diet. Their heavy studies delighted not to tread the water (at best the marshes) of future contingencies, but on the terra firma of certainties, where arguments might be grounded. Yet the most peaceable amongst them, (more meddling with comments, then controversies) such is Dionysius Carthusianus, concur in their judgments therein. But, the silence of the Schools is recompensed with the loudness of the pulpits in our later age of Romanists, Lutherans, and Calvinists, generally maintaining the certain expectation of the Jews conversion.
Add hereunto, that the Jews ever since their exile from their own land, when the Romans sold their country, (and a learned man observes, they set no land to sale save Judea alone) have continued many hundred years a distinct nation. As if had learned from their River of Jordan, running through the Galilean Sea, and not mingling therewith, daily to pass through an ocean of other nations, and remain an unmixed, and un-confounded people by themselves. A comfortable presumption (when in company with other arguments) that they, once God's peculiar, are still preserved a peculiar people, for some token for good, in due time to be showed upon them; and that these materials are thus carefully kept entire by themselves, because intended by Divine Providence, for some beautiful building to be made of them hereafter.
Let it also be seriously considered, that in all ages God has dropped some considerable convert-Jews into the treasury of the Christian Church, as earnest of a greater payment to ensue. Amongst whom we meet with a mess of most eminent men. Nicolaus Lyra, that grand commentator on the Bible; Hieronymus de Sancta Fide turned Christian about Anno 1412, who wrote a book unto his country-men the Jews, wherewith five thousand of them were converted; Ludovicus Carettus living in Paris Anno 1553. and the never sufficiently to be praised Emmanuel Tremellius. And besides the visible converts, falling under the notice of man, we may charitably presume many concealed ones, especially on their death-beds known to God alone. Yea, I conceive that learned Rabbin, more than Agrippa, almost a Christian, who has this amongst other pious expressions, I dread, and fear, O Lord, that that Jesus whom the Christians worship, may be that righteous sold for silver, according to the Prophet Amos. (Amos 2:6).
The Time of the Jews Conversion
As for the time of the Jews conversion, let us content ourselves for the general, it shall be after the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in. But, for the particular year, by some so peremptorily, and positively assigned, I cannot but admire at the confidence of men therein. Especially, seeing some, which pretend such familiarity to future events, are not the best acquainted with passages in former ages; and those, which seem to know all which is to come, know but little of what is past; as if they were the better prophets, for being the worse historians.
But well it were, if their confidence were confined to themselves alone, being only content to abound in their own sense, without imposing it on others. But, besides their confidence, such is their cruelty, to exact, yea, extort the uttermost farthing of our belief, to be paid in (even at the first sight) to their conceits, or else we must into the prison, yea, deepest dungeon, and be condemned for being weak, or wilful; ignorant, or obstinate. Whereas, in such peremptory particularising of the very year, such as pretend to plough with the heifers of God's Spirit, may be suspected to be drawn away with the wild bulls of their own imaginations.
The rather, because so great the difference betwixt the several dates assigned by them. Some making it 1652; others, 1660. Some sooner, and before; some later, and after the destruction of the Romish Antichrist.It is therefore the most safe, and sober way, in so much variety to leave a blank in our judgments, for God to write the true time therein, when we, or after ages shall behold the same brought to pass. One day teaches another; and, today (yesterday's school-master) is scholar to tomorrow, at whose feet (as Paul at Gamaliel's) it will at night sit duti∣fully down for further informaton. Yea, by an inverted method, the daughter doth instruct the mother; and, the day which in time cometh after, goeth before in knowledge.