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synagogues that the Gospel was first preached. Their narrowness and bigotry made them nearly barren trees as to any fruit to the general good of the world. Yet on this barren stock was the Christian church engrafted, which soon bore fruit abundantly, and its fruit was for the healing of the nations. It was requisite that there should be one language generally diffused, for although the apostles might be miraculously assisted to preach in many languages, the time must at length come when some written memorial of their preaching must be all that would be left of them. It was of the highest advantage that the apostolic writings should be left in the Greek tongue, as its use was then extended from the deserts of Africa to the forests of northern Europe, from the Indies to the Straits of Gibralter.
That this was the case, is evident from the New Testament itself. The Epistle to the Romans was written by Paul in Greek, though sent to Rome where the Latin was the vernacular tongue. Peter dates his first Epistle from Babylon, which is written in Greek. The Epistle of James is sent to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, that is, throughout the world, and it is written in Greek. Had no Jew ever known any thing but the Hebrew language, the Messiah would have come in vain. The Gospel could never have been preached to any but the Jews, and the Christian church would have perished as an ob
scure sect of that religion. It was necessary that the Jews themselves should learn a new language, that which was most diffused, that the true religion might be infused into a new medium, and thus be spread from land to land. It was necessary that the precious medicine of life should be dissolved in an element which rolled on every shore, which flowed in every stream, that all men might taste thereof and be saved. It was necessary too, that a foreign language should be forced upon the Jews by conquest and constraint. Nothing short of this could have overcome their bitter prejudices. It will be the object of this lecture to show how this was brought about. The great designs of God were equally subserved by the misfortunes as the prosperity of the Jews, and his purpose of preparing the world for the advent of the Redeemer, was equally ripening by their means, whether they worshipped in Jerusalem in peace, or wept by the rivers of Babylon. Every where they diffused a knowledge of the true God. Every where they cherished the expectation of a Messiah, and when he came, they were the materials of a Christian church. They already possessed in almost every city of the Roman empire a part of the elements of Christian salvation. They already knew the only living and true God. It was only necessary for them to add the knowledge of Jesus Christ whom he had sent. And the sufferings of the Jews, like those of their Messiah, have been made instrumental in the salvation of the world, like the incense of sacrifice, then most useful and precious, when perishing in the consuming flame.
The first great empire, to which Judea fell a prey, was the Babylonian. Jerusalem was finally destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar five hundred and fifty-seven years before Christ, and the remnant of the people were carried to Babylon and the neighboring countries, whither the main body had been removed eighteen years before. The glimpses of those countries and times are very short, both in sacred and profane history. But enough is left us to lead us to infer, that the residence of the Jews in the East was not without great and lasting effects. One person adorned that dark period of God's exiled church, who might redeem ages from obscurity; I mean the prophet Daniel. Almost the only sight we get of the mighty Babylon, is through his writings. He passes before us from youthful beauty to extreme age. We see him rising like Joseph by early wisdom, piety and integrity, from slavery to be the chief minister of state. And it is altogether probable that it was through him, that Cyrus was prompted to restore the Jews to the Holy Land. The edict was issued in the first year of his reign, immediately after the capture of Babylon, which Daniel had foretold by interpreting the writing on the wall. But the restoration of the Jews, an event so wonderful and unique in the history of the world, though properly attributed to the providence of God, was brought about by means more circuitous than is generally supposed. Fifty or a hundred thousand Jews did not live in Babylonia, Media and Persia, seventy years for nothing. Such a singularly religious people could not fail to make a religious impression. And the Jews, among these oriental nations, appear to have been treated with much more respect than in the western world. The reason of this probably was, that the Persians, like the Arabians their neighbors, had not declined so far from the patriarchal religion, or sunk into such gross and degrading idolatry as those nations which had wandered farthest from the paternal hearth-stone of the human race.
It was in this period of the Jews' sojourn in the East, it is supposed, that the famous reformer Zoroaster, appeared. I look on him as bearing the same relation to Moses that Mahomet does to Christ. Both availing themselves of the light of a true revelation, attempted not to introduce the true religion, but to reform the religion of their country by introducing into it the most important principles of the true faith, and thus with a mixture of base and noble motives, to benefit their country and reflect glory on themselves. And the secret of the success of both was, that the theology which they derived from Moses and
Christ, was so simple, so sublime, and so consonant, at the same time, with the best conceptions of mankind, that it clothed these impostors with the veneration of their countrymen, and sanctified even their follies and their crimes.
From Moses, Zoroaster derived the idea of one spiritual God, the maker of heaven and earth. But he corrupted this pure doctrine by making two subordinate gods, the authors respectively of good and evil. From Moses he received an utter abhorrence to all images, and to temples in which they were worshipped. But he introduced in connexion with the true faith, the doctrine of evil spirits dividing the government of the universe. And so it happened that there was not only an action of the religion of the Jews upon that of the Persians, but a reaction of the Persian religion upon that of the Jews. The Jews, as would appear from the Book of Tobit, first learned in their captivity those ideas of the agency of evil spirits in the world, of which we find traces in the New Testament.
Cyrus was a Persian, and in all probability had been instructed in the doctrines of Zoroaster, a combination, as we have seen, of Judaism and the ancient Persian religion. Hence, I have no doubt, his extraordinary partiality for the Jews, and his zeal in rebuilding the only temple on earth which was dedicated, in his phrase, to “the God of heaven,"