Archive for August, 2009

John Howe, Expectations of the Spirit in the latter days

August 13, 2009

As I said in my last post, many old English theologians gave clear explanations on bible texts concerning the future. John Howe (died 1705) is one of them and he wrote 15 sermons on Ezekiel 39:29. “Neither will I hide my face any more from them; for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah.” This treatise was added later to “all the works of John Howe” by John Evans in 1725. You can find it here in a copy from 1835.john howe

I’ll summarize some beautiful sayings here. He expected a prosperous state of the nation of Israel and the church (body/people of Christ) before the end of time, e.g. when the conversion of the Jews takes place, as he said. “We can not in a few words have a fuller account given of a happy state.”

He points out (Sermon1):
—1. The import of this negative expression, “Neither will I hide my face any more from them ;” and,
—2. How to understand the subject of the promised favour here, as it is designed by this name, “the house of Israel.”

He said about point 1:

It must mean, that He would put them into a prosperous condition; the course of his providence toward them should be such as would import favour and kindness to them. And, it imports the permanency and settledness of this happy and prosperous state ; that it should not be a short, lucid interval only; but through a very considerable and continued tract of time this should be the posture and course of his providence towards them.

And point 2 about the house of Israel, he said:

I doubt not but that it hath a meaning included, as it is literally taken, of that very people wont to be known by that name, the house of Israel, the seed of Jacob. But I as little doubt, that it hath a further meaning too. And it is an obvious observation, than which none more obvious, that the universal church, even of the Gospel constitution, is frequently in the prophetical scriptures of the Old Testament represented by this, and by the equivalent names of Jerusalem and Zion, and the like.

He shows that the chapters 36-39 of Ezekiel spoke of the people of Israel. (Sermon2) He said the following will happen to that people:

1. Their reduction from their captivity; that they shall all be brought back and gathered out of the several heathen nations of the world, where they were scattered and dispersed to and fro.
2. The reparation of all desolation, the great building of their wasted cities.
3. The great fruitfulness of their land. I will not direct you to the particular passages, where these things are mentioned; but you may at your leisure view over these chapters, and you will find them all.
4. The great multiplication and numerousness of their inhabitants.
5. Their most entire victory and conquest over their most potent and troublesome enemies.
6. Their entire union among themselves, under one king ; as you may see in the 37th chapter. The making of that scattered people entirely one, that so divided people, so broken from themselves, Israel and Judah, one stick in God’s own hand. And,
7. God’s owning them visibly as his people, and taking them anew into covenant with himself, having pardoned their iniquities, and cleansed them from all their filthiness and their idols, and so restored the relation between himself and them. Certainly the concurrence of all these things cannot but make a very happy state.

In Sermon 5 he argues that family order and religion will be restored by the Spirit in the latter days.

I make no doubt, but when it shall be so, this will be found to do a great deal towards the reviving and restoring religion amongst men. There will be a time, when it shall be said severally and singly concerning the families of Israel, that God is the God of all their families, (as it is in Jer. xxxi. 1.) and they shall be his people; so as that the relation shall not be only with the bulk and body of the people in gross, but even with particular families. And this, it is said, should be in the latter days, if you look back to the close of the foregoing chapter, chap. xxx. 24. In the latter days, ye shall consider it. And at the same time, saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. And it is said, it should be at such a time, as wherein there should be planting of vines upon the mountains of Samaria, (chap. 31:5.) and when the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim should cry, ” Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion, unto the Lord our God ;” (ver. 6.) when the people of Ephraim, that is, of the other ten tribes that use to go under that name, and those that did belong to Samaria, should go to Zion, as heretofore; a thing which certainly hath not yet been.

John Howe is very clear in his expectation of the conversion of the Jews and a very happy and fruitful Jewish nation extended with the gentile nations. One big family with in particular a relationship with God.

Such numerous accessions to the church (read to the followers of Yeshua, JW) by the power of the Holy Ghost in converting work

would take place. (Isaiah 54:1) And about the community/ecclesia of the latter days he said:

There should be a far greater fruitfulness, than in the time of their more formed, stable church state, when they appeared a people in covenant-relation, married to God.

The numerous increase of converts

is most emphatically signified by the apt and elegant metaphor used Psalm 110:3. Where it is said the subjects of Christ’s kingdom should be multiplied ‘as dew from the womb of the morning.’ That is a vast and spacious womb; imagine, how innumerable drops of dew distil out from thence; such shall the multitude of the converts be.

He argues further that there would be a great calling. Many scriptures

seem to intimate, that there shall be a time of far more general calling, than hath been hitherto; when the receiving and gathering in ‘of the Jews shall be as life from the dead,’ as a resurrection from the dead, Rom. 11:15.

If you like this, I suggest to read sermon 5 (preached 1679), pag. 576-579, The work of the holy Spirit in reference to the Christian church, All the Works, John Howe, New York, 1835.

He closed with a little prayer:

Lord, that Spirit of thine that shall one day so flow down upon the world, may not I have some portion of it to answer my present necessities? and that Spirit, that can new-make the world, that can create new heavens and a new earth, cannot that new-make one poor soul! cannot it better one poor heart? – To have a new heart and a right spirit created and renewed in us, is better to us, than all the world; and we have no reason to look up diffidently and with despondency, but with hearts full of expectation. He will give his Spirit to them that ask him.

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