departure from the national faith of the Jews, we have the testimony of the Saviour and of Paul. “ Ye do greatly err,” says Jesus to the Sadducees, “not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Paul says before Agrippa; “ And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God night and day, hope to come; for which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it bé thought a thing incredible to you that God should raise the dead?”

But we have more ancient testimony. In the Book of Wisdom, written by a Jew at least two hundred years before Christ, we have the following sentiments. • The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seem to die, and their departure is taken for misery, and their going from us to be utter destruction; but they are in peace. For though they are punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. And having been a little chastised they shall be greatly rewarded, for God proved them, and found them worthy of himself. For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.”

Lecture VIII.


Matth.3: 1, 2.-In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Not only was the expectation of a remarkable personage universally prevalent among the Jews at the appearance of Christ, but the phraseology was already in use which designated what he was to be and accomplish. There was at the time of Christ a Messianic phraseology derived from different parts of the Old Testament, which embodied and expressed all their anticipations. Whatever inspiration accompanied the first composition of the prophecies, there was evidently none in their interpretation. This much was certain, that there was to be a Messiah, there was to be a new dispensation. No one knew precisely what he was to be. Imagination of course was set to work, and each one for himself formed his own, and made whatever passage of the Old Testament he chose, to be descriptive of his per

son and office. Not only the imagination, but the passions were concerned in the formation of their expectations. The pious thought of him as a religious reformer, and the new state of things to be a condition of higher religious perfection. The Rabbins interpreted concerning the days of the Messiah such passages as this from the thirty-first chapter of Isaiah, “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they all shall know me, from the least of them even unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.” This seems to have been the expectation entertained by the Samaritans, if the woman with whom Christ talked at the well of Jacob is to be considered as speaking the sentiments of the nation.

The universal expectation seems to have been, that he was to be a prophet like unto Moses, but greater.

In accordance with this sentiment, Peter in one of his first discourses after the resurrection of Jesus, cites the promise of Moses to the Israelites, just before his death, as applicable to Christ. “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren like unto me, him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” These were the sentiments of those who had seen the miracle of feeding the five thousand with a few loaves and fishes, bearing so strong a resemblance to the feeding of the Israelites in the desert. 6. Then those men when they had seen the miracle which Jesus did, said, * This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.""

Another and much larger class gave the Messianic prophecies a more worldly meaning. The Great Personage whose coming they shortly expected was to be a king, but greater than any who had sat upon the Jewish throne. It was with this expectation evidently that his disciples followed him through his whole ministry. And even after his resurrection they seem for a while to have entertained the same hopes. One of the first questions which they asked him after he rose was: 66 Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel ?” And at the last supper they disputed “ which of them should be the greatest,” that

[ocr errors]

is, who should be highest in office in the new kingdom that he was about to set up. It was with this idea that he was hailed by the multitude into Jerusalem with the shout, “Hosanna to the son of David.” This was the idea which Nathaniel meant to express when he said, on receiving the evidence that he was a prophet: “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the king of Israel.” That it was his temporal character to which Nathaniel here referred, we have sufficient evidence in the information which first directed his attention to Jesus. “ We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” The part of the Old Testament, from which this title and expectation were taken, was principally the second Psalm. The person described in this

described in this poem is represented as exalted by God to be a king on Mount Zion in Judea. The surrounding heathen are represented as being enraged. But God has nevertheless determined that he shall reign; and as a king sets his son upon his throne while he get lives, so has God, as supreme king of Israel, exalted this person to share his authority, and pledges his own power to support his throne. One idea of the kingdom of the Messiah, derived from this Psalm, was, that he was not only to reign over the Jews, but destroy all other nations.

Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine

« ElőzőTovább »