THE ENGLISH PRAYER BOOK
(OR THE TESTIMONY OF THE BLIND NATIONAL CHURCH OF ISRAEL)
The National Message
EVERY student who reads his Bible intelligently as an ordinary Book must admit that the Hebrew nation was itself the Church of God.
St.Stephen speaks of the Church as "the Church or congregation in the wilderness" (Acts 7: 38) and refers undoubtedly to Israel. To this nation and Church
pertained the adoption, the covenants, the giving of the law, the Service of God and the promises; and unto them were committed the oracles of God (Romans3):
"He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his Judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for his judgments, they have not known them" (Psalm 147: 20).
Such was the unique position of Israel.
"You only have I known of all the families of the earth." Amos 3:2
She was the Church of the living God, chosen by God to be His witness in the world. Now the continuity of this Church as God's witness has never been broken.
It is evident from the Epistle to the Romans that the Gentiles were admitted into the covenanted blessings forfeited by the. House of Judah, but no Gentile Church
St. Paul (Romans 11) asks:
"Hast God cast away his people?" and the reply is "No! God forbid."
He then shows under the figure of the "good olive tree," which is Israel, the visible Church of God and its condition in the world. The "Root" is Abraham and its "Natural branches" his seed. Some of the Branches, the House of Judah, are broken off; "and they," that is the Roman Church, "being a wild olive branch were grafted in among the branches," these branches being the natural branches, to wit, Israel. It is therefore evident that the Church of God is not Gentile, for if the root and branches are Israel then no grafting can alter the parent stock.
So Israel continues to be the visible Church of God to this, day. And certainly Israel remains "a nation"; for when our Lord took away the Kingdom from Judah:
"The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matthew 21:43)
it was obviously given to Israel. For by the oath of Jehovah, it could not be given to any but the seed of Israel, and it was for this purpose that the division was made in 975 B.C. and it is this Nation that our Lord refers to as a stone when He says:
"Whosoever shall fall upon this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Matthew 21:44).
Here then we see Israel the nation and the Church of God victorious. Israel is spoken of in Scripture as an holy nation, a kingdom of priests, a peculiar people
(Exodus 19:5-6), His chosen ones (I Chronicles 16:13). Jehovah speaks of them as "Jacob, My servant," and "Israel, whom I have chosen," and describes them as His Witnesses (Isaiah 43:10). They are spoken of as His sheep, His flock, His people, His heritage, His first-born (Ezekiel 34; Jeremiah 12 and 13). Where are these people now to be found who were visited and redeemed by our Lord?
Let us hear the blind testimony of our National Church in our Prayer Book, remembering that we are the only Nation that has such a Prayer Book, remembering that the term "sheep" - is nowhere in the Scriptures used except of Israel.
In the Liturgy we have "We have erred and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep." In the "Venite" we declare we are the Lord's people, "the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand," and that our fathers grieved Him in the wilderness. In the "Benedictus" we bless Jehovah, the "Lord God of Israel," that "He hath visited and redeemed His people ... that we should be saved from our enemies ... to perform the mercy promised to our forefathers . . . to perform the oath which He swore to our forefather Abraham .... "
In the "Magnificat" we magnify the Lord, who, "remembering His mercy hath holpen* His servant, Israel, as He promised to our forefather Abraham and his seed for ever."
In the "Nunc Dimittis," we declare that our eyes have seen His salvation, "which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; to be a light to lighten the Gentiles; and to be the Glory of Thy people Israel."
In the "Te Deum," "O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine heritage, Govern them and lift them up for ever." Now here in the Prayer Book again and again we find all the Scriptural terms belonging to Israel, and to Israel alone, used by us simply because we and we alone have the right so to use them, though. we have done so blindly till now. You cannot take all these phrases spiritually, they are intended literally, and the witness, though blind, of our National Church's Prayer Book is that we are Israel.
It may be asked, how can the converted heathen take these phrases literally? St. Paul teaches that the heathen are adopted, by faith, into the family and household of God, by the Israelitish rite of baptism. And so is fulfilled in our Church and Nation the Scripture:
"I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not" (Isaiah 42:16).
"Hear ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Who is blind, but My servant? or deaf, as My messenger that I sent?" (Isaiah 42:18-19).
Let us hope and pray that soon indeed may the order go forth:
"Bring forth the blind people." "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord."
At the close of Evensong the clergyman lifts his hands and says exactly the words God gave Moses to give Aaron. "Numbers 6: 22-27".
* Old English past tense of 'help'.
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