Veiw of the Hebrews
by Ethan Smith
AN ADDRESS OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH, RELATIVE TO THE RESTORATION OF HIS PEOPLE.
[p.227]The writer might fill a chapter in illustrating the wrongs which the Indians have suffered from people in our land; in noting their reduced and deplorable situation; in pleading the cause of humanity in their behalf; and in appealing to the magnanimous feelings of the people of our nation. He might adduce many evangelical motives the most commanding, to enforce the duty of saving the remnant of the natives of our continent from extinction, and from wretchedness. The duty of sending them the gospel, and of being at any expense to teach them Christianity and the blessings of civilized life, is great and urgent on every principle of humanity and general benevolence. And this duty peculiarly attaches itself to the people, who are now in possession of the former inheritance of those natives; and from too many of whom that people have received insufferable injuries. This subject must occur with force to the mind of every well informed American. And it is devoutly to be hoped that far greater attention will henceforth be paid to it by all among us who make any presence to humanity, not to say piety.
[p.228]But the object of this chapter is to examine and illustrate an interesting portion of ancient prophetic writings, which is thought to embrace this very concern.
An address is found in the eighteenth chapter of the prophet Isaiah, which is apprehended to be of deep interest to America. It is a passage which has been esteemed singularly enigmatical. The circumstance has usually attended the prophecies, in proportion to the distance of the events. And they have often been left in silence, or their true intent misapplied, till near the time of their fulfillment. Then some incidents would throw light upon them, and render their import plain and satisfactory.
The writer was affected with this passage some years ago, when writing his Dissertation on the Prophecies. He found it to be an address to some Christian people of the last days, just at the time of the final restoration of God’s ancient people; an address to such a people beheld in vision away over the mouths of the Nile, or in some region of the west; a call and solemn divine charge to them to awake and aid that final restoration. He then apprehended it might apply to Britain, though he felt the difficulty arising from the fact that Britain lies so far to the north of the direction specified in the address. It now appears to him far more probable that the Christian people of the United States of America are the subjects of the address; or at least are especially included in it. To prepare the way for the consideration of the address, let several things be premised.
1. Some of the greatest and best of divines have thought it would be strange, if nothing should be found in the prophetic scriptures having a special allusion to our western world, which by propitious Heaven was destined to act so distinguishing a part, both in the religious and political world, in the last days. They have felt as though it might be presumed that some special allusions would be had in some of the prophetic writings to so distinguishing a community of Zion, and of men. Under the impression Mr. Edwards apprehended this passage of Isaiah might allude to America; “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west.” Almost [p.229]all other parts of the world are noted in prophecy. It certainly then is not incredible that our land should be manifestly noted.
2. The address in the eighteenth of Isaiah to be contemplated, is clearly an address to some people of these last days; and concerning events intimately connected with the battle of that great day of God, which is now future and not far distant, and is to introduce the Millennium. This is evident in verses 5 and 6; which will be noted.
3. The address then cannot have been to any ancient people or nation. This appears with certainty, from their being cotemporary [sic] with the events of that great battle, and the restoration of the Jews. The call then must be to a people of the last days; a nation now on earth; and a nation to be peculiarly instrumental in the restoration of the Hebrews in the last days. For this is the very object of the address; to go and collect the ancient people of God; because “in that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, (the very people of the ancient covenant in manifest descriptions repeatedly given) to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the Mount Zion.” This duty of the restoration assigned is in the address connected with the tremendous scenes of judgement, which shall subvert anti-christian Europe, and her adjutors [sic] hostile to the church; as may be seen.
4. The address then seems manifestly to a nation that may seem to have leisure for the important business assigned; while the old and eastern parts of the world (engaged in anti-christian hostilities) shall be found in the effervescence of revolutions, and in those struggles which precede dissolution. This consideration seems clearly to fix the address to a people distinct, and distant from the immediate turmoils of the old anti-christian lands; and hence probably to our own nation; perhaps including Britain.
5. Should it be proved a fact, that the aborigines of our continent are the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel, that we are the people especially addressed, [p.230]and called upon to restore them; or bring them to the knowledge of the gospel, and to do with them whatever the God of Abraham designs shall be done.
The great and generous Christian people, who occupy much of the land of those natives, and who are on the ground of their continent, and hence are the best prepared to meliorate their condition, and bring them to the knowledge and order of the God of Israel, must of course be the people to whom this work is assigned. The one consideration would do much toward the decision of our question, Who is the nation addressed?
6. Various things are found in the predictions of the restoration of God’s ancient people, which strikingly accord with the idea of a great branch of them being recovered from this land, and by the agency of the people of our states. A few of these shall be noted.
In the thirtieth and thirty-first chapters of Jeremiah, the prophet treats of the united restoration of Judah and Israel. These chapters were written about one hundred and twenty years after the expulsion of the ten tribes. And in relation to the ten tribes, they have never yet had even a primary accomplishment, or any degree of fulfillment. The restoration there predicted is to be in “the latter days;” chap. xxx. 24; and at the time near the battle of the great day; see verses 6-8, 23, 24. Much of the substance of these chapters is appropriated to the ten tribes of Israel; though Judah is expressly to be restored with them. Of the former (having then been outcast for an hundred and twenty years,) God says; chap. xxxi. 20; “Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, (or expelled him from Canaan.) I do earnestly remember him still; therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord.” The next verse invites and predicts his final restoration. These yearnings of the divine compassion for Ephraim (one noted name of the ten tribes) are the immediate precursor of his restoration. “I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord. Set thee up way marks, make thee high leaps, set shine heart toward the high way—turn again, O virgin of [p.231]Israel; turn again to these thy cities.” “I will again be the God of all the families of Israel; and they shall be my people.” “For lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave their fathers, and they shall possess it.” “Fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel; for lo I will save thee from afar.” “Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth.” In this country “afar” off, these “coasts of the earth,” they had been in an outcast state. “Because they called thee an outcast, saying; “This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.” (For more than 2000 years none sought after the ten tribes.) These ideas strikingly accord with their having been outcasts from the known world, in America. This might with singular propriety be called the land afar off, and the coasts of the earth.
In the same connexion [connection], when God promises to gather them “from the coasts of the earth,” and says, “they shall come with weeping and with supplication; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first born;” he adds; “Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as the shepherd doth his flock.” “Isles afar off!” “Isles in the Hebrew language, signify any lands ever so extensive, away over great waters. Where can these “isles afar off,” (these “coasts off the earth,” here addressed by God in relation to the restoration of his outcast yet beloved Ephraim,) where can they be so naturally found as in America?
In Jer. xvi. 14, 15, 16. God is predicting the restoration of Israel in the last days. “Therefore behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, but the Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them; and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.” Here is the greatness of their restoration. In the next [p.232]verse follows the manner of it. “Behold I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” Here is a most striking description of Israel’s being recovered from a great wilderness like the sea; and from the hills, mountains, and rocks of the vast wilds of America. The description seems well to accord with their being sought in a savage state among such wilds, mountains and rocks, as the wilds of our continent present; especially the Rocky mountains, in the western regions of North America. The first missionaries fish them from the plains of the continent. Afterward missionary hunters are sent to rocky mountains and hills, more remote and savage. This prediction accords probably with no other country and its inhabitants so well, as with the wilds and natives of America. The coincidence with these seems perfect.
In other prophets the same things are found. In Isai. xliii. God promises this same restoration of Israel. “But now, thus saith the Lord, that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee. I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. Fear not, for I am with thee. I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” “Thus saith the Lord, who maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” In Isai. xi. is this wonderful restoration. Ephraim and Judah are both restored, the one from his “dispersed.” the other from his “outcast” state; and their mutual [p.180]envies are forever healed. And the places from which they are recovered are noted; among which are [p.233]”the isles of the sea;” or lands away over the sea, and “the four corners of the earth.” Certainly then, from America! This surely is one of the four corners of the earth. Of such a land away over the sea, it is predicted, Isai. lx. 9; “Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarnish first, (or a power expert in navigation,) to bring my sons from far.”
In Zechariah’s prophecy is the same thing. This prophet was sent to encourage in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple soon after the return from Babylon. As this return was to exhibit a primary fulfillment of many prophecies of the restoration of the Hebrews, which are clearly to have their ultimate accomplishment; so Zechariah clearly predicted the latter event, and said various things peculiar to it. Chap. ii. 6; “Ho, ho, come forth and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord; for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of heaven, saith the Lord.” This must allude to the great dispersion of Judah, and outcast state of Israel, which strewed them over the face of the earth; and could not have been fulfilled in the Babylonish captivity, which did not disperse them to all points of the compass. Verse 8; “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations, which spoiled you.” This must be the same with various predictions which speak of the battle of the great day as a display of God’s glory; and which speak of a subsequent going forth of missionaries (probably Jewish) to convert the nations where the Hebrews had resided. See Isai. lxvi. 18-21, &c. Verses 10, 11; “Sing and rejoice, O daughters of Zion; for lo, I come and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in the midst of thee.”—Many nations were not joined to the Jews upon their return from Babylon. Nothing of this prediction then took place. It predicted an event still future, to be accomplished upon the restoration of the Hebrews to Palestine. The prophet then says, verse 13; “Be silent, O all flesh, before the [p.234]Lord; for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.” This verse perfectly accords with the numerous predictions of the battle of the great day, nearly associated with the final restoration of the Jews. But it received not its fulfillment in the days of Zechariah.
In chapter viii. are predictions of the same final restoration of that people. After predicting God’s great jealousy and fury in behalf [p.181]of his people, he says; “I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.” It then follows, verse 7; “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country.” By the west country here, we suppose it meant America. None were saved from any west country, at the time of the restoration from Babylon. This shows then, that the thing predicted from, the future of that event. In the original, and in the margin of the great bible, the phrase is; “from the country of the going down of the sun.” The going down of the sun from Palestine is over America. And as God had said in a passage just quoted from this prophet, “For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of heaven;” so America must probably be included in this description of their being spread over. To decide more clearly that the ultimate events here predicted are still future, the Most High says in this 8th chapter, verse 13; “And it shall come to pass that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing.” Here is the express restoration of the house of Israel, with that of Judah. But the “house of Israel” were not restored with the “house of Judah” when the latter returned from Babylon; nor have they at any time since been restored. The event then is clearly future, and was distinct and was distant from any ancient restoration. It was to take place after a long and noted scattering of that people to the four winds! and their being viewed as a “curse” there by the nations. If they were to be “spread abroad as the four winds,” and thence recovered, and recovered from the “coasts of the [p.235]earth,” and “isles afar off,” and “from the west;” this surely is not unfavorable to the idea of Israel’s being found in the wilds of America.
In Zech. x. 6-9, is the same event; and Ephraim is by name saved from “far countries.” “And I will strengthen the hose of Judah, and will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them; and they shall be as though I had not cast them off; for I am the Lord their God, and will hear them. And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine; yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord. I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them; and they shall increase as they have increased. And I will save them among the people; and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.” “I will hiss for them.” God is represented as hissing for a people, only in two texts beside this; Isai. v. 26, and vii, 18; in both of which passages, the hiss was to call distant heathen. God’s hissing, in this passage then, to gather the children of Ephraim in the last days, seems to indicate his providentially calling them from a distant heathen state! And it is a mode of calling which perfectly symbolizes with the calls of American natives, a shrill significant whistling.
Such promises of the restoration of Israel from far countries, from the west or the going down of the sun, from the coasts of the earth, from the ends of the earth, from isles afar, their being brought in ships from far, making their way in the sea, their path in the mighty waters; these expressions certainly well accord with the ten tribes being brought from America. And such passages imply an agency by which such a restoration shall be effected. Where shall such an agency be so naturally found, as among a great Christian people, providentially planted on the very ground occupied by the outcast tribes of Israel in their long exilement; and who are so happily remote from the bloody scenes of Europe in the last days, as to have leisure for the important business assigned?
[p.236]Surely then this business would be assigned, either tacitly or expressly to our nation. At this conclusion we safely arrive, reasoning a priori. The circumstances of the case enforce it. And we might expect so interesting a duty, relative to an event on which the prophecies so abundantly rest, would not be left to uncertain deductions, but would be expressly enjoined.
We may then open the prophetic scriptures with some good degree of confidence, that the assignment of such a task is somewhere to be found. And where so natural to be found as in the prophecy of Isaiah? He is the most evangelical prophet; and treats largely upon the restoration of his brethren.
The expulsion of Israel is supposed to have taken place 725 years before Christ. Isaiah is supposed to have begun his ministry about the year 760 before Christ; 35 years before the expulsion. He lived then, it appears, to see the expulsion of the ten tribes. And his pious heart must have been deeply affected with the event. His prophecy was “in the days Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” But in 2 Kings, xvii. 1; we learn that “in the twelfth year of Ahaz, Hoshea began to reign over Samaria.” And in verse 9 we are assured; “In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah, and in Habor by the river Gozen, and in the cities (or territories) of the Medes.” This event then, must have been in the days of Isaiah. In Isai. xxxvi. 19, where Rabshakah is insulting the officers of Hezekiah, he says, “Where are the gods of Hamah, and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they delivered Samaria out of my hand?” Here it seems Samaria, or Israel, had already fallen. Accordingly Isaiah laments, chap. v. 13; “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge.”
There is one passage which seems to place the captivity of Israel just subsequent to the prophecy of this prophet, Isai. vii. 8, where Jerusalem was invaded by a coalition of the king of Syria and the king of Israel—Isaiah, to show that this joint effort against the Jews [p.237]should not prevail, predicted “within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken that it be not a people.” But it seems from the passages just quoted, that the main body of Israel were gone before this period, or the end of sixty-five years. This prediction then, must allude to a finishing scene, which should sweep away even the gleanings of the nation of Israel. Hence Scott says upon the passage; “It is computed to have been sixty five years from this prediction to the time that Esarhaddon carried away the remains of the Israelites.” The main body then, it seems, had been gone before, and were swept away in the days of Isaiah. This must have most deeply affected his pious heart. And it is natural to view him revolving in his anxious mind the place of their long exilement; and delighted with a view of their final restoration.
Behold this man of God, then, wrapt in the visions of the Almighty, casting an eye of faith down the lapse of time to the days of the final restoration of his long rejected brethren. He finds presented in vision, away over the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic, far in the west, or going down of the sun, the continent of their long banishment. He also beholds in vision a great nation arising there in the last days; a land of freedom and religion. He hears the whisper of the Spirit of inspiration, directing him to address that far sequestered and happy land, and call their attention to the final restoration of his people.
Isaiah xviii. verse 1; “Ho, land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.” Our translators render this address, “Wo to the land.”—But this is manifestly incorrect, as the best expositors agree. The Hebrew particle here translated Wo to, is a particle of friendly calling, as well as of denouncing. And the connexion [connection] in any given place must decide which rendering shall be given. In this place, the whole connexion [connection] and sense decide, that the word is here a friendly call, or address; as in this passage; “Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.”
The land addressed, lies “beyond the rivers of Ethiopia.” It is agreed that these rivers mean the mouths [p.238]of the Nile, which enter from Egypt into the south side of the Mediterranean. This probably was the farthest boundary in that direction then known to the Jews. And no doubt it was the most noted of any in that point of compass. When a landscape of a western continent then, was presented in vision to the prophet precisely in that course, he would naturally fix upon the place most notable and farthest distant, by which to describe the direction of this region of the world. It is then as though the prophet had said; Thou land beheld in vision away over the mouths of the Nile. Where would such a line strike? It would glance over the northern edge of the States of Barbary. But could the friendly address to a people of the last days, light on those barbarous Mohammedan shores? Surely not. No land “shadowing with wings,” or that would aid the restoration of the Hebrews, is found in those horrid regions. No; the point of compass and the address must have been designed for a new world, seen in that direction. This address of Heaven must be to our western continent; or to a hospitable people found here. The prophetic eye glanced beyond all lands then known; and hence no land is named. It must have been a land over the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
Thou land “shadowing with wings.” The above direction lands the prophetic vision at the point of the western continent, where the two great wings of North and South America meet; as at the body of a great eagle. This at first might furnish the prophetic imagery of a land “shadowing with wings.” As though the inspiring Spirit had whispered; The continent of those two great wings shall be found at last most interesting in relation to your Hebrew brethren.
And those two great wings shall prove but an emblem of a great nation then on that continent; far sequestered from the seat of anti-christ, and of tyranny and blood; and whose asylum for equal rights, liberty and religion, shall be well represented by such a national coat of arms, —the protecting wings of a great eagle; which nation in yonder setting of the sun, (when in the last days, judgements shall be thundering through [p.239]the nations of the eastern continent,) shall be found a realm of peaceful protection to all who fly from the abodes of despotism to its peaceful retreat; even as an eagle protects her nest from all harm. Yea, a land that, when all other lands shall be found to have trampled on the Jews, shall be found to have protecting wings for them, free from such cruelty, and ready to aid them.
Verse 2; “Who sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the face of the waters.” It is to be supposed that a great difficulty would at once present itself to the prophet’s view, when beholding in vision this western continent, over the mighty waters of the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic, and about to be called to restore his people. What could be done across such mighty waters? The difficulty at once vanishes, by the prophet’s being ascertained of this characteristic of the people addressed. They would be most expert in navigation. They could traverse the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and be able to send missionaries to Jerusalem, or to the ends of the earth, in those last days, or convey the Hebrews from one continent to another, with an expedition similar to that with which the Nile (beyond which this new world is beheld) used to be navigated with the skiffs made of the bulrush, or the rind of the papyrus.*
Verse 2, concluded. “Saying, go ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from the beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled.” ‘Saying,’ before the command Go, is interpolated in our translation, and destroys the sense; as though the nation said this to her swift messengers; whereas it is what God [p.240]says to the nation addressed. q.d. Come, thou protecting nation; I have a great business for you. Collect and restore my ancient people; that nation whose ancient history has been so remarkable and terrible;** that nation so long dispersed, robbed, and insulted, in the people of the Jews; and so long outcast in the ten tribes; that people of line line, (as in the Hebrew, and in the margin of the great bible;) or, whose only hope to find their ancient inheritance must be in the line of divine promise, or the entail of the covenant. As the land addressed is described as away over the mouths of the Nile; so various characteristics in the address are suggested from thought associated with that river, and the people on its banks; as the bulrush vessel just noted; and here the measuring line. The river Nile periodically overflowed its banks, and swept away the boundaries of every man’s inheritance on its interval. Every man then, had to depend on a noted line, to measure anew and find his land. So the Hebrews, having by their sins, and expulsion from Canaan, and from the covenant of Abraham, lost all the visible boundaries of their inheritance, having no ground of hope of regaining their standing either in Palestine, or in the covenant of grace, but the line of the mere and sovereign promise of God, for their restoration. The word is doubled, line, line; a mere Hebraism, to form a superlative. As peace, peace, means perfect peace,—Isai. xxvi. 3; and as good, good, means the best; so line, line, means superlatively of line, or altogether dependent on the mere promise of God. That the allusion is to the event noted is evident from what follows:[p.—”Whose land the rivers have spoiled.” Whose inheritance (in the Holy Land) has been torn from them, and overrun by neighbouring hostile nations, often symbolized by rivers, even as the lands by the sides of the Nile often had their boundaries swept away by the overflowings of that river. Thus the Romans first, then the Persians, the Saracens, the Egyptians, and the Turks, have overflowed and possessed the Holy Land. But the line of divine promise will restore it to the Hebrews.***
Go thou protecting people; shadow with thy wings my ancient family, as though the Most High should say. For thus it is written; “Surely the isles shall wait for me, (or lands away over the sea from Palestine,) and the ships of Tarshish first, (a people expert in navigation,) to bring my sons from far.” A far distant land over sea shall be engaged in this work.
Verse 3. “All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye when he lifteth up the ensign on the mountains, and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.” After the land shadowing with wings is under way in fulfillment of the divine requirement; an apostrophe is made by the Most High to all nations, to stand and behold of salvation now erected for his ancient people; and to hear the great gospel trumpet, the blessed Jubilee, now to be blown for their collection and their freedom. The ancient silver trumpets in Israel collected their solemn assemblies. And the same trumpets, with joyful and peculiar blasts, ushered in the Jubilee morn, and loosed every bond slave of the Hebrews. And the antitype of the event shall now be accomplished.
[p.242]This standard of salvation at that period, is a notable event in the prophets. See Isai. xi. 12, where God sets his hand a second time to gather his Hebrew family from all nations and regions beyond sea; doubtless from America, as well as other nations; and it is promised, “He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” If from the four corners of the earth, then surely from America! In this passage are the descriptive situations from which the two great branches of the Hebrews are recovered; Judah from being dispersed among the nations; and Israel from being outcast from the nations; thrown out of sight of the social world; precisely as they have been in the wilds of America for more than two thousand years, provided our natives are of Israel.
Verse 4. “For so the Lord said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.” The event and the figures in this passage are best explained by those found in synchronical passages, or prophecies alluding to the same event. And according to them, it is as though the Most High should say; I am now about to renew my ancient dwelling place. I will again have fixed habitation in Canaan; as Zech. i. 16: “Thus saith the Lord, I am again returned to Jerusalem with mercies; my house shall be built in it;” and viii. 3; “Thus saith the Lord, I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.” And the event shall be as “life from the dead” to the nations; Rom. xi. 15. Therefore, ye Gentile lands, now behold. I will now be to my ancient heritage like the genial heat of [p.188]the sun to promote vegetation after the death of winter; as Isai. xxvi. 19, “Thy dew is the dew of herbs,” which in the spring shall vegetate. “And I will be like the fertile cooling cloud in the sultry heat of harvest.” The Hebrews shall now become “as the tender grass springing out of the earth, by the clear shining after rain;” 2 Sam. xxiii. 4. Yes, “I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall [p.243]grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon; Hos. xiv. 5, 6. The nations shall behold this fulfillment of divine grace to Israel, and shall find instruments raised up adequate to the work.
But a tremendous scene to the anti-christian world shall be found intimately connected.
Verse 5. “For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches.” Or near the fulfillment of this even of the last days, a vast scene is to be accomplished. Prophetic notice is ever given relative to that period, that the salvation of the friends of Zion shall be ushered in with a proportionable destruction to her enemies. The harvest and the vintage of divine wrath, called “the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” must be accomplished; and at the time of the restoration of the Hebrews, that tremendous event shall be at the doors. As in the natural vineyard, when the blossom is succeeded by the swelled pulp, which soon reaches the size of the full grape, indicating that the vintage is near; so at the time of the service here divinely demanded, wickedness shall have blossomed; pride shall have budded in anti-christian realms. The sour grapes of their tyranny, violence, and licentiousness, will be found to be arriving at their growth; indicating that the time for the casting of the vine of the earth into the wine press of the wrath of God, is just at hand.
Verse 6. “They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and the beasts of the earth; and the fowls shall summer upon them, and the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them.” Soon the most prominent branches of the anti-christian vine of the earth, shall be collected and trodden upon the mountains of Israel, in the noted scene of Armageddon; Rev. xvi. 16. The passage noted in Ezek. xxxix. 17—20, (at the time of the slaughter of Cog and his bands, and which is given as an illustration of the text,) shall then be accomplished. [p.244]”And thou son of man, thus saith the Lord God, speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh, and drink blood. Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth; of rams, of lambs, and of goats, of bullocks, all of them fatlings of Bashan. And ye shall eat fat till ye be full, and drink blood till ye be drunken, of my sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord God.” Also the further illustration of the same, Rev. xix. 17, 18; “And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of Heaven, Come and gather yourselves unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.”
Verse 7. “At that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from the beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot; whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the Mount Zion.” Just at that period of the world, the present which I claim of you shall be brought to the Lord of hosts, of that scattered and outcast people; of that people so terrible in ancient times to their enemies by the presence and power of their God with them; that people of “line, line,” or depending solely on the measuring line of promise, or the entail of the covenant, found in the sacred oracles, for their restoration to their ancient inheritance in the church of God, and in the promised land; inasmuch as the boundaries of their inheritance in both these respects have long since been swept away. A present of this people must be brought by you, sequestered land [p.245]shadowing with wings, unto the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the Mount Zion.
Ye friends of God in the land addressed; can you read this prophetic direction of the ancient prophet Isaiah, without having your hearts burn within you? Surely you cannot, if you can view it as an address of the Most High to you. God here exalts you, in the last days, the age of terror and blood, as high as the standard to be raised for the collection of the seed of Abraham; “on the mountains.” Nor is this the only passage, in which this your exaltation is recognized. See the same honor alluded to, in Zeph. iii. 10.—There nearly connected with the battle of the great day of God, in which he there asserts he “will gather the nations, and assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them his indignation, even all his fierce anger, and all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of his jealousy;” and that he will then “turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, and serve him with one consent;” he informs, as in the address in Isaiah; “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, my suppliants (or a people who are my worshippers [sic],) shall bring mine offering, even the daughter of my dispersed,” (as the verse should be read). Here is the same people, away in the same direction, over the mouths of the Nile, who are called God’s suppliants, and who, in those days of vengeance, are to bring their offering to God, consisting of the descendants of his ancient people.
If these views be correct, Christians in our land may well bless God that it is their happy lot to live in this land shadowing with wings; this protecting realm, an asylum of liberty and religion; a land so distant from the seat of anti-christ and of the judgements to be thundered down on old corrupt establishments in the last days. And their devout gratitude to Heaven ought to rise, for the blessing of having their existence so near the period alluded to in this sublime prediction, when this land of liberty is beginning to feel her distinguishing immunities compared with the establishments of tyranny and corruption in the old continent. We may [p.246]rejoice to have our earthly lot with a people of whom such honourable mention is made by the prophetic spirit of old; and to whom so noble a work is assigned. Our children coming upon the stage may live to see the meaning and fulfillment of this prophetic chapter, which is most rich in sentiment, and when will not fail of accomplishment.
The great argument found in this sacred address, to induce to a compliance with the duty demanded, is the terrors of the days of vengeance on eastern corrupt nations; which seems to imply some good degree of exemption in our own case, and our happy leisure for the business assigned. Heaven will show despotic nations, and old corrupt empires, the difference between them, and a land “shadowing with wings;” a happy asylum of liberty and religion in the west.
Can a motive be wanting to induce us to maintain the character implied in this address, and to obey the injunction of Heaven here urged upon us? Should and say, what can be done? Let this be the reply; be devoutly disposed and prepared to obey; and Heaven will, in due time, make the duty plain. By prayer, contributions, and your influence, be prepared to aid every attempt for the conversion of the Jews and Israel; and God will be his own interpreter, and will make the duty plain.
A leading step has already been taken in a Jerusalem mission. This may prove, in relation to a fulfillment of our text, a cloud like a man’s hand, which shall afford a sound of great rain; and shall water the hills of ancient Zion. How great effects spring from little causes! A purling stream from the threshold of the sanctuary, soon rises to the ankles, to the knees, to the loins, and to an unfordable river, which heals the Dead sea; Ezek. xlvii. Already has the bulrush vessel slipped from the “land shadowing with wings,” across the mighty waters, over the prophetic eye glanced; over the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, by the mouths of the “rivers of Ethiopia,” and has landed her “ambassadors,” for a Jerusalem mission! Bless the Lord, O children of Abraham, for this ray of light from the [p.247]land of the going down of the sun. This may shed an incipient lustre on the noted passage in our evangelical prophet. It may prove to the children of Abraham, in these days of signal phenomena, a morning rising in the west to break their long and dreadful night! Let us, dear countrymen, second this attempt with our intercessions, our contributions, and our influence. May all societies formed in behalf of the Jews, and all solicitations in their favour, meet our most fervent patronage. And God will not fail of fulfilling by us his gracious designs. The blessed business will be brought within our reach, and will be accomplished.
The ten tribes, as well as the Jews, belong to the “nation scattered and peeled, and terrible from the beginning.” Yes, the stick of Ephraim is to become one in the hand of the prophet, with the stick of the Jews; Ezek. xxxvii. 15.—If it is a fact, that the aborigines of this “land shadowing with wings,” are the tribes of Israel; we perceive at once what can be done to fulfil the noted demand of God, as it relates to them.—And all who fear God will leap for joy, that as the Jerusalem mission is already under way; so missions to these tribes of Israel are already under way!
Should we find ample conviction that our natives are of the lost tribes of the house of Israel, and that the address noted is directed to us; we may in the light of this address, and of evangelical considerations connected with it, imagine ourselves as though seated in the audience of the prophet Isaiah;—may imagine him sighing at the long and dreadful exilement of his brethren of Israeli—and uttering the following sentiments of the holy prophetic spirit;
Ho thou nation of the last days, shadowing with thy wings of liberty and peace; pity, instruct, and save my ancient people and brethren; especially that outcast branch of them, who were the natives of your soil. Pity that degraded remnant of a nation so terrible in ancient times, but who have been now so long wretched. Bring a present of them, ye worshippers [sic] of Jehovah, to the God of Abraham. Give not sleep to your eyes, till a house be builded to your God, from those [p.248]ancient and venerable materials.—Were not your fathers sent into that far distant world, not only to be (in their posterity) built up a great protecting nation; but also to be the instruments of gathering, or recovering the miserable remnant of my outcasts there, in the last days?**** Rejoice, then, ye distinguished people in your birth-right, and engage in the work by Heaven assigned. Let not those tribes of my ancient people, whom I have borne as on eagles, wings for so many ages; let them not become extinct before your eyes; let them no longer roam in savage barbarism and death! My bowels yearn for Ephraim, my first born. “For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still.” “I have seen his ways, and will heal him. I will restore peace to him, and to his mourners; peace in the renewal of my covenant. I will again hear him on eagles’ wings, and bring him to myself. For you, (my suppliants in the west,) this honour is reserved;” Zeph. iii. 10. The wings of your continent have long [p.249]borne him in his banishment. Let now the wings of your liberty, compassion, and blessed retreat, bear him from his dreary wild to the temple of God.
Look at the origin of those degraded natives of your continent, and fly to their relief.—Send them the heralds of salvation. Send them the word, the bread of life. You received that book from the seed of Abraham. All your volume of salvation was written by the sons of Jacob. And by them it was transferred from Jerusalem to the lost heathen world, and to you; otherwise you had now been heathen, and eternally undone. Remember then your debt of gratitude to God’s ancient people for the word of life. Restore it to them, and thus double your own rich inheritance in its blessings. Learn them to read the book of grace. Learn them its history and their own. Teach them the story of their ancestors; the economy of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Sublimate their views above the savage pursuits of the forests. Elevate them above the wilds of barbarism and death, by showing them what has been done for their nation; and what is yet to be done by the God of their fathers, in the line of his promise. Teach them their ancient history; their former blessings; their being cast away; the occasion of it, and the promise of their return. Tell them the time draws near, and they must now return to God of their salvation. Tell them their return is to be as life from the dead to the Gentile nations. Tell them what their ancient fathers the prophets were inspired to predict in their behalf; and the charge here given for their restoration. Assure them this talk of an ancient prophet, is for them, and they must listen to it and obey it. That the Great Spirit above the clouds now calls them by you to come and receive his grace by Christ the true star from Jacob, the Shiloh who has come, and to whom the people must be gathered. Inform them that by embracing this true seed of Abraham, you and multitudes of other Gentiles, have become the children of the ancient patriarch; and now they must come back as your brothers in the Lord. Unfold to them their superlative line of the entail of the covenant; that “as touching this election, they are beloved for their fathers’ sakes;” that they were for their sins excluded for this long period, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, so all Israel shall be saved.
Go, thou nation highly distinguished in the last days; save the remnant of my people.—Bring me a present of them “to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the Mount Zion.”
NOTE.—Since publishing the first edition of this Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, the writer has for the first time obtained sight of an exposition upon this chapter of Isaiah by Dr. McDonald, and feels himself strengthened in a [p.194]persuasion of the correctness of applying this address of the prophet to America. As the two expositors are before the public, the writer forbears to make any remarks, except upon one idea. Dr. McDonald, upon the bulrush navigation of the nation addressed, conceives that it may have, perhaps, considerable reference to the boat and canoe navigation of internal streams. And observing that “the central and eastern regions of Asia are generally supposed to be the present seats of Israel’s dispersion; what nation then of Christendom can convey with so much ease and expedition, as the Americans, their messengers to the shores of that vast and unexplored country? What nation is better qualified to search and discover them in their unknown retreats? Sheltered in the capacious bosom of mountains, that reach the clouds, occupying the extensive sides of rivers rapid and broad, who waves never felt the keel, and on whose banks a highway has never been stretched; to European missionaries their retreat would be inaccessible, without a great expense of time and labour. But these obstacles oppose difficulties early surmounted by the nation of the canoe. Bred with the paddle in their hand, and taught to construct vessels lighter than the bulrush, they can ascend every stream, wind round the foot of every mountain, and as circumstances require, they can carry their canoe, or be carried by it.” Had this author been led to believe that the natives in the vast wilds of America are the ten tribes of Israel; and it comes within the prescribed duty of the people addressed by the prophet, to recover these outcast tribes; he would have perceived the application he makes, to come with still greater force to the sons of America, in relation to their searching out the wild tenants of the forests in the west, and through the wilds of America. It is a fact, the bulrush navigation, or light boats and birch canoes, have been a powerful auxiliary to travellers [sic] among the Indians, in ascending and descending their streams, in coming at their villages, and winding round the feet of mountains, carrying their canoes, or being carried by them in turn, to learn the existence and the customs of the natives. And the same means must be pursued, (and have already in a measure been pursued,) in carrying to them the world of life, and blessings of civilization. While the writer of these sheets still believes the leading object in the allusion to the ancient bulrush navigation of the Nile, when addressing our land, is to fix our characteristic of [p.251]expertness in the navigation of seas and oceans—”who sendeth messengers by the sea even in vessels of bulrushes”—yet he feels no difficulty in admitting that it also comprehends our great facilities in inland navigation; especially considering our astonishing recent improvements in canal navigation. The eye of the prophetic spirit might partially rest on this circumstance, in fixing this characteristic of the nation in the west, who was the subject of the message.
In relation to the American people having a favourable agency in meliorating the condition of the Jews, as well as the tribes of Israel, it appears the thought has struck the minds of some on the eastern continent, as well as the western. Consult the following:
Extract of a letter from Erasmus Hermanus Simon of Stockholm, to the Secretary of the American Meliorating Society, dated April 26, 1823.
“I am constrained to congratulate you, western Christians, on the glorious prospects which are before you. It has become evident to me, that the Lord reserves for the Christians of America the scriptural means of effectually benefitting the lost stock of Israel. Nothing can be conceived worse than the present state of religion over the continent (of Europe) in general. And nothing so subversive of that little serious impression, which a month or two of superficial teaching may have made, than their being left to the danger which abounds on every hand in what are denominated places of Christian worship. The reception which proselytes with the best desires and characters meet with, is truly deplorable. The Society of Frankfort, had it not been for the American Meliorating Society, would have degenerated into a mere tract society, having constantly heard of the miseries which beset those proselytes whom they sent seeking for employment among Christians.”
In another letter from the same place, the writer says; “I unite my voice of thanksgiving and praise to the Supreme Disposer of hearts, who has in this time of Israel’s extremity, turned so many in America to undertake their neglected cause. Our souls are refreshed by the prospect which is held out, of “a lodge in the wilderness for the wayfaring men of Israel, where they may hasten to escape from the storm and tempest. Happy country, which affords a refuge for Abraham’s believing sons!”
The following is ascertained from ample authority; that in many of the old establishments of Europe, the convicted anxious Jew can obtain little or no evangelical instruction. Such an one applying to a professed minister of the reformed church, was informed, “that it was not necessary to his salvation to believe in the Divinity of Christ. It would be sufficient should he preserve in the duty of being a good member of society.”
“To a minister in Wurtemburg, (one of the most religious parts of Germany) a young Israelite came for instruction. He said he found no consolation in the present state of Judaism, as an immortal being, guilty before God. And that he wished candidly to inquire into Christianity. The instructor said to him, (clapping him on the shoulder,) are you an honest man? and do you disturb nobody? If so; you need not give yourself any trouble about being saved; you are sure enough of that!” Must not these things operate as a thousand arguments on the people of our Christian land, and of our superior advantages, to aid the children of Abraham, from whom we have received the blessings of salvation, and who in their turn are in a perishing state, and are stretching out their hands, and directing their wishful eyes across the Atlantic to us, for a return of that same word of eternal life? May they here find a present asylum; and here be led to the “Balm of Gilead, the Physician there.”
* Our states may claim the characteristic of expert navigation, equal at least to any people on earth. Consider our steam boat navigation, and such accounts as the following: found in Niles’ Register, of March 22, 1823. “Baltimore vessels.—The brig Thessalian arrived at Baltimore on Saturday evening last, in 79 days from Lima, and 24 from the sight of the city of Pernambuco, in Brazil; a distance of 12,000 miles; averaging six and a quarter miles every hour of her passage. This vessel was, less than eight months ago, on the stocks in this city.”
** If this characteristic allude to this people in their dispersed state, as do the other characteristics here connected with it, it must be construed, as the Hebrew well admits, as their being subjected to great terror. This has been the fact. And this well accords with ancient predictions relative to them. Lev. xxvi. 16 “I will even appoint over you terror, consumption and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart.” Deut. xxviii. 37; “And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee.” The Jews during their dispersion, have been a people worn down with perpetual terrors. But they were terrible to inimical nations from ancient date. The text then may allude to either, or both of these characteristics.
*** Much perplexity had rested on the passage, a nation of line, line, till the above solution occurred to mind. With this I am fully satisfied. It is natural, as is the bulrush navigation. It agrees with facts, and is confirmed by the clause following: “whose land the rivers have spoiled.” Here the long occupancy of their beloved Canaan by hostile invading nations, is noted by a figure, alluding to the overflowing of the Nile;—which confirms the idea that the phrase, “a nation of line, line,” alludes to the same overflowing of the Nile, sweeping away boundaries, and rendering the use of the line necessary to ascertain every man’s bounds.
**** This duty of Christianizing the natives of our land, even be they from whatever origin, is enforced from every evangelical consideration. Rev. Dr. Mayhew accordingly remarks; “As the conversion of the heathen (in this land) was from the first one professed aim of our forefathers in settling new England; so almost all the royal charters, grants, letters patent, and acts of government in England relative to this country, have made mention of, and encouraged, yea enjoined upon settlers, the prosecution of this pious design.” The same author notes in the new charter granted by William and Mary to Massachusetts, an express recognition of this object, viz “to win the Indians to the knowledge and obedience of the only true God and Saviour of men.” The same object is expressly recognized in the charter granted by king Charles II to William Penn of Pennsylvania. How sadly has the object been neglected and forgotten! If our natives be indeed from the tribes of Israel, American Christians may well feel, that one great object of their inheritance here, is, that they may have a primary agency in restoring those “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Those Hebrews first occupied the blessings of the covenant under the old and dark dispensation. Then the Christian Gentiles came into possession of the blessings of this covenant, under its last, the Christian dispensation. Noah, more than four thousand years ago in prophetic rhapsody, uttered the following prediction. Gen ix. 27; “God shall enlarge Japheth; (i.e. the Gentiles) and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem,” (or of the Hebrews.) But this event is only till the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; Rom. xi. 25. Then shall the Hebrews again take their place, as God’s first born. (Jer. xxxi. 20, 21; Zech. i. 16. Isai. lx.) Let us then be active in restoring their long lost blessing.