When Jacob was about to die, it was reported to
Joseph, who brought his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, that they might
receive the divine blessing from their grandfather. (Gen. 48: 1-20.) These
sons were so placed, the elder at the right hand and the younger at the
left of Jacob, that each might receive his own appropriate blessing.
But the chief interest, in this case, as in all others in that age of the
world, attached to the right of primogeniture, as this right was ever
esteemed of the first importance. Manasseh, therefore, being the elder,
was placed at Jacob s right hand.
When thus arranged, Jacob gives a general blessing by saying, "These shall grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth." (Grow as fishes do increase. (Siargin of the common version.)
Then, having placed his right hand on Ephraim's head, doing' it wittingly, yet contrary to Joseph's desire, he pronounced the blessing' on each of the two sons. But Joseph, believing that his father had, through imperfect vision,
made a mistake in thus placing his hands, seized Jacob's right hand, telling him that this -- Manasseh -- is the elder; Jacob replies, "I know it, my son, I know it;" he shall be a great people, but not like Ephraim; his younger "brother shall become a multitude of nations" The blessings of Jacob, then, on these two sons of Joseph were, viz., Ephraim should become a "multitude of nations," but Manasseh should become "one great nation."
This blessing, pronounced by Jacob upon his two grandsons, has ever been believed to have been under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore that it must certainly have its own fulfillment. But who of all the commentators on the Scriptures has ever undertaken to give all explanation of the how or the when of these two different prophecies are to be fulfilled? This, to me, is a strange fact.
And the only reason I can conceive why it has been so is, God's time had not yet arrived for the disclosing of the meaning of these prophesies, and therefore all remained concealed, hidden, in the counsels of eternity, until the day of their fulfillment drew nigh.
That day has now come, and it bursts upon the world with such splendor as to blind the eyes of' some, just as the advent of Christ blinded the eyes of the scribes and Pharisees of old -- others contemplate the sight with wonder, yet dimly, their vision not being graduated to the great light that has burst upon them. But to those who have been watching, and observing the signs of the times, and have seen the day-star ascending out of the east, and the rays of the morning sun illumining all the surrounding horizon -- these are not dazzled with the splendor of this approaching, day, but they hail it with delight -- "knowing that the redemption draweth nigh."
What, then, is the evidence of the fulfillment of' these prophecies, uttered by Jacob concerning the two sons of Joseph? For it is the evidence only, that is wanting to the clear perception of the actual fulfillment of both these prophecies. The prediction to Ephraim was, that he should become a "multitude of nations" Ephraim, we have found, both he and Manasseh,are now settled in England, and Ephraim in the scriptures is used synonymously with Israel as being the leader of the nation.
The fulfillment of Ephraim's promise, therefore, must be found somehow, in connection with Great Britain. What are the facts then?
1. In the first place, the Government of Great Britain is reckoned as the home government, the germ from which Ephraim's multitude of nations must come. Now, history -- the statistics of the empire -- asserts, that England has today more than sixty different nationalities within the bounds of her empire; and these all acknowledging the sway of England's scepter.
The Government of Great Britain, then, is the home government. next comes the great nationality of Canada. Next is the West India Islands; thence across the Atlantic to the west coast of Africa, St. Helena, as the capital, is another; thence in South Africa are two more large nationalities, ( Now three, 1886) thence to Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand, are three more large nationalities; thence around to India are found -- as Gladstone himself says -- more than 200,000,000 of people of some sixteen different nationalities; thence in the islands of the sea, scattered in all parts of the world, are many nationalities -- colonies planted by England.
So that it is not too much to say that England has today under her scepter sixty different nationalities! What more can Ephraim desire as the literal fulfillment of his promise, than these sixty nationalities? Is not this "growing into a multitude of nations in the midst of the earth," becoming "a multitude of nations"?
2. But Manasseh -- what about him? The promise to him was that he should become one great nation; one nation, in distinction from the multitude of Ephraim's.
We have seen that both Ephraim and Manasseh are in England, brought there in the Anglo-Saxon invasion; hence these two brothers cannot be separated; their lives are bound together -- if one fails the other must also fail, and if one is seen to have entered upon the inheritance of his blessings, the other must just so surely be found to have entered his. Let us trace, therefore, if we can, the origin and rise of Manasseh's one great people.
In A. D. 1385, Wicklif is said to have translated the Bible into the English (Anglo-Saxon) language. This seems to have been the first translation ever made of the Bible into the English language, and this was made from the "Latin Vulgate." Hence the people are supposed to have had little or no knowledge of the truths taught therein. (All the knowledge of the Scriptures held by the common people at this time was obtained from the teaching of the priests of the Roman Catholic church, and this teaching seems to have been given in Latin chiefly.)
But on the appearance of this Bible, we are told that tile people rushed to it, almost with one accord, and that too, as naturally as the little infant seeks its mother's breast, or as the little lamb the nurture from its
But why was this? This people seem to have had no more knowledge of the Bible than our common people have of the Koran, or of the Zend Avesta' Is not this an indication of the origin of this people? That the same fatherly care that had attended this people had never left them, but ill all places of their wanderings, and in all times, He has fulfilled his promise, "I will never thee nor forsake thee." And can anyone who believes in the God as made known in the Bible, suppose for a moment that God is regardless of his people's welfare? -- that He, by his Spirit, has not been ever striving with them to draw them to himself?
What more reasonable than this divine manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of his people, winning them to God, through his truth? To me this is reason enough; God is not dead, He does not sleep and slumber like man. "For the Lord's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him [Israel] and there was no strange God with him." Gen. 32:9-12.
Such is Israel's God! And is not this reason enough why his people were drawn to the Bible, that book alone in all the world that contained the dealings of God with his people, from the time of Abraham down through all their wanderings? What more natural? What more like God is it possible to conceive?
The next in process of time came Tyndale's great work; the greatest, as it seems to me, ever wrought by one man -- the entire sacred Scriptures, translated from the original languages in which they were first written! Surely, if ever man had need of divine help, Tyndale must have needed it. And can anyone say he had not that help? Is there not abundant evidence to believe that the same divine aid which inspired and taught Moses and Paul, did certainly and most efficiently inspire and uphold Tyndale in all his mighty work? Further, when the character of Tyndale's work is considered -- the circumstancesunder which he wrought -- the age in which he lived, we may well exclaim, "What a mighty work!" But what became of' this mighty work of Tyndale's?
The people devoured this book, as it were indeed the very manna from Heaven. But the Pope, having supreme authority at that time, soon confiscated the whole and burned in one sacred pile, and Tyndale -- he also was sacrificed on the same altar. Oh' the agony of this blow! "How long, O Lord, how long?" did Israel then cry? Will not God avenge? Doth He not see? Will He not requite for this great crime against God and man ? Yes, God will avenge; God will so overrule as to make the wrath of man, even of the Pope, to praise Him, and the reminder he will restrain.
Henry VIII, having a controversy with the Pope at that time about a divorce case, ordered 300 copies of this Bible to be stricken off, and all distributed to as many churches in England, and there chained in the chancel of the church, with permission for all to go and read, only "they must not disturb the congregation." This was a little toward avenging -- God uses whom He will.
The next step in this work was taken by Queen Elizabeth, who printed the "Bishop's Bible," thus aiding the work by giving the leaders of God's host -- the Bishops -- a full large copy of the Scriptures. After this a few efforts only were made, but nothing definite till the time of King James I. Then was brought out our present version of the Bible, based on Tyndale's version. On this there was neither prohibition nor confiscation. Now the people grasped this Book as indeed the "Word of God." Now the Puritans by the thousands were born; and now sprang up the "Tree of Liberty," whose growth was mightily invigorated by the reading of this blessed Bible, and by this alone -- the tree of liberty, both civil and religious.
But the papal power was not vet dead -- it was only scotched. Hence all assemblies for worship by the Puritans were strictly forbidden, under the severest penalties. In time, however, these Puritans, faithful to their vows, said, "We must go somewhere where we can worship God according to our own consciences." Hence a company was formed under Parson Robinson, who led them across the sea over to Holland,; where they settled at Leyden. Here they remained for awhile, but soon this was found not to be the place of their rest.
That divine hand that had always led Israel, was now seen pointing toward the West. They therefore soon took ship and sailed back to England, and there exchanging their little ship for another, "the Mayflower," in which they all embarked -- one hundred and two or three -- and thus sailed away on the broad Atlantic, intending to go to Virginia or some southern coast.
But they knew not whither their course would lead them; the same divine guide was to lead this little band of Israelites still, and though no cloudy pillar by day nor pillar of fire by night was seen by the naked eye, yet faith discerned, with unfailing vision, a great helmsman with an eye ever on the compass, and the prow steadily held to the southwest. So on they sail, day after day, and week after week, till finally they drop anchor in "Cape Cod harbor," near the close of November. After perambulating about for awhile, and learning that they had now reached the main land, they returned to their ship -- these spies -- and spreading sails to the wind, moved up the harbor, till filially they landed on Plymottth Rock, Dec. 22d, A.D. 1620. Here was raised their "Ebenezer!"
Let us see now what became of this colony -- this bud plucked from the tree of Liberty in England, and planted here in America on a barren rock in the dead of winter! Alas! during the tile first year, half of this little band of pilgrims died! Buy ere long this little bud began to swell, and at length it appeared above-ground. By-and-by little branches began to appear, first on one side and then on the other. These continued to grow and spread themselves out, till at length these branches reached from the Atlantic to the Pacific, shading all the hind, and its roots permeating all the soil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico! This is Manasseh.
How much further this is to extend, whether to the Arctic ocean on the north, and to the Antarctic on the south, I cannot tell -- this is known to God alone, who gives account of his affairs to none; but I .suspect that :Ephraim is to retain Canada as one of his "multitude of nations." I suspect, I say; God only knows. But on the south I should not wonder if Manasseh's "great nation' were to reach out far away. Here now is a great nation -- a one great nation formed by Manasseh alone -- by him under the divine guidance. A nation already numbering 50,000,000 and more, (And now, in 1886, sixty millions.) the like of which can not be found in the history of the world! A nation of such sudden and such mighty growth!
What shall we say, then, to these things? Do we, like Thomas of old, say: "Except I shall see the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe"? Does not God in the fulfillment of these promises to Ephraim and Manasseh say as distinctly: "Reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing"? What more could He have done that He has not done, to make the fulfillment of these promises more manifest?