One aspect of this movement was the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews, founded in 1842, a half century before Zionism. It represented Presbyterians and other dissenting churches (non-Anglican).
In 1843, the society published Lectures on the Conversion of the Jews by various ministers. In Lecture I, James Hamilton stated that the destiny of the Jews was to return to their land and be converted.
“Abstaining from all speculations regarding the period when, and the agencies by which the result is to be brought about, it will be the subject of this lecture to show I. That the Jews are to be restored to their own land; and II. That they are to be converted. In other words, the destination of the Jews includes their restoration and conversion” (Lectures on the Conversion of the Jews, p. 3).
“When a great city is overthrown, and the first outburst of sorrow dies away, it is either quietly rebuilt and re-occupied, or forsaken and forgotten. In either case it is only one generation which suffers. If a new city rise on the ruins of the old, the conquerors and the conquered usually blend more or less together, and in some future age they live promiscuously and rejoice in common on a soil which their fathers moistened with one another’s blood. What modern Roman lays it the least to heart that the grass waves in theatres where his forefathers sat the long summer day, and laughed, and cheered, and shouted; or, who feels it personally that the bramble grows out of the riven altar on which Romulus or Numa laid the struggling victim? The chain of identity is broken, and the new race is clean severed from the old. If, on the other hand, no new city be suffered to arise, if the shock which overturned its walls have also dispersed its people, like the shattered fragments of the avalanche, they soon melt and are lost atoms in the stream of some mightier population. Where is the bosom in which Troy awakens the faintest throb of patriotic feeling? What nation pays its pilgrimage to the swampy sites of Nineveh and Babylon? ... Where are the people who have the hereditary right to sit down among such ruins, and recognising emblems of departed glory, the right to weep because their ‘house is left unto them desolate?’ Where are the old inhabitants? They are not exterminated, and yet they have vanished. Merged in the nations, and mutually commingled, there is no precipitate which can decompose them and bring them out in their original distinctness again. The house is desolate; but no one feels that the house is his, so no one mourns its desolation.
“But there is a city whose case is quite peculiar. Captured, ravaged, burnt, razed to the foundation, dispeopled, carried captive, its deported citizens sold in slavery, and forbidden by severest penalties to visit their native seats again; though eighteen centuries have passed, and strangers still tread its hallowed soil, that city is still the magnet of many hearts, and awakens from time to time pangs of as keen emotion as when its fall was recent. Ever and anon, and from all the winds of heaven Zion’s exiled children come to visit her, and with eyes weeping sore bewail her widowhood. No city was ever honoured thus. None else receives pilgrimages of affection from the fiftieth generation of its outcast people. None else after centuries of dispersion could at the first call gather beneath its wings the whole of its wide-wandering family. None else has possessed a spell sufficient to keep in remotest regions, and in the face of the mightiest inducements, its people still distinct; and none but itself can now be re-peopled with precisely the same race which left it nearly two thousand years ago. The reason of this anomaly must be sought, not in Jerusalem, but in the purposes of God” (James Hamilton, “The Destination of the Jews,” Lecture I in Lectures on the Conversion of the Jews, British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews, 1843, pp. 3-5).
In June 1864, the Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon spoke to a gathering of the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews meeting at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. It was the largest non-conformist church in London in that day, with a membership of around 3,000. The Tabernacle seated 5,000, but another 1,000 routinely crowded the aisles and rear of the building.
Spurgeon’s text was Ezekiel 37:1-10.
“The meaning of our text, as opened up by the context, is most evidently, if words mean anything, first, that there shall be a political restoration of the Jews to their own land and to their own nationality. And then, secondly, there is in the text and in the context a most plain declaration that there shall be a spiritual restoration--in fact a conversion--of the tribes of Israel.
“Israel is now blotted out from the map of nations. Her sons are scattered far and wide. Her daughters mourn beside all the rivers of the earth. Her sacred song is hushed--no king reigns in Jerusalem! She brings forth no governors among her tribes. But she is to be restored! She is to be restored ‘as from the dead.’ When her own sons have given up all hope of her, then is God to appear for her. She is to be reorganized--her scattered bones are to be brought together. There will be a native government again. There will again be the form of a political body; a state shall be incorporated, and a king shall reign. Israel has now become alienated from her own land. Her sons, though they can never forget the sacred dust of Palestine, yet die at a hopeless distance from her consecrated shores. But it shall not be so forever, for her sons shall again rejoice in her--her land shall be called Beulah, for as a young man marries a virgin so shall her sons marry her. ‘I will place you in your own land,’ is God’s promise to them. They shall again walk upon her mountains, shall once more sit under her vines and rejoice under her fig trees. And they are also to be reunited. There shall not be two, nor ten, nor twelve, but one--one Israel praising one God, serving one king, and that one King the Son of David, the descended Messiah. They are to have a national prosperity which shall make them famous; no, so glorious shall they be that Egypt, and Tyre, and Greece, and Rome, shall all forget their glory in the greater splendor of the throne of David! The day shall yet come when all the high hills shall leap with envy, because this is the hill which God has chosen, when Zion’s shrine shall again be visited by the constant feet of the pilgrim—when her valleys shall echo with songs and her hilltops shall drop with wine and oil. If there is meaning in words, this must be the meaning of this chapter!” (“The Restoration and Conversion of the Jews,” Metropolitan Tabernacle, gathering of the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews, June 16, 1864).
Today, the Metropolitan Tabernacle is a-millennial, but Spurgeon himself believed in a literal return of Israel to the land in a two-fold manner, first a political restoration, then a spiritual restoration. The first part has been fulfilled, and we are waiting the fulfillment of the second part, which will follow the close of the church age during Daniel’s 70th Week prophecy (Da. 9:27).
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