« AnteriorContinuar »
cd by admitting the scriptural account of the depravity of the human mind; its alienation from God, and its natural enmity against his truth. The reception which the Messiah was to meet with, had been described by an ancient prophet in these remarkable words, “ Who hath believed. our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ?"-And the event justified the prediction. Some few indeed, and those chiefly from among the inferior ranks in life, believed on him as the hope of Israel, and found in him all their salvation and desire; and while his claims. of being the Messiah were generally set at nought by their countrymen, they could say, “ Lord, to whom shall we go; thou hast the words of eternal life, and we believe and are sure, that thou art the Christ the Son of the liying God."*
From among these latter, Jesus selected twelve whom he named apostles, and whom he qualified and sent forth to preach the doctrine of his kingdom, and to cure diseases; and some time afterwards he appointed seventy others also to labour in his vineyard. These he sent forth, two and two, into every city and place to which he himself would come, as his heralds, announcing his approach and calling all descriptions of persons to repent and believe the gospel.t
It appears from the testimony of ancient historians, that about the time of Christ's appearing, the Jews anxiously expected him as the great deliverer and chief ornament of their nation, and even among the heathens an opinion was at that time prevalent, probably derived from the Hebrew prophets, that a prince of unparalelled glory was to arise in Judea, who was to found a kind of universal monarchy. But in the humble appearance of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jews found nothing that corres
John vi. 68, 69.
+ Luke x. 1-16. Suetonius in vita Vespasiani, c. 1. Taciti Hist, l. v. cap. 18,
SECT. 1.) The Ministry of Jesus Christ.
气 ponded to the expectations they entertained on this subject. Their vain hearts, like those of the generality of men in all ages, were so intoxicated with the admiration of worldly pomp, that that was the only greatness for which they had any relish, and hence they formed a picture of Him, who was the desire of all nations, very unlike the original. Nor was the doctrine which he inculcated more suited to their taste than his personal appearance answered to their expectations. For, while they fostered the presumptuous imagination, that in virtue of the privileges they enjoyed as God's covenanted people; and especially as being the descendants of Abraham; they had a peculiar claim to the divine favour and to all the blessings of their Messiah's kingdom, both Jesus and his fore-runner boldly attacked this master-prejudice, and evinced the futility of every such plea. They were now called upon to give up the erroneous sentiments which they entertained respecting their own characters, the way of acceptance with God, and the nature and blessings of their Messiah's reign, on pain of incurring eternal ruin. For whereas they expected eternal life as the reward of their Jewish privileges, or of their own personal righteousness, they were now taught, that God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life: that the Son of God came to be lifted up upon the cross, as the antitype of the brazen serpent which Moses elevated in the wilderness, that whosoever, not of the Jews only, but among the Gentiles also, believed in him, should not perish but obtain eternal life.*
And, with regard to the nature of the Messiah's kingdom, the doctrines of Jesus were equally at variance with their fondest hopes; for, while they ardently.longed for the accomplishment of the promises which God had made unto
* John iii, 16, 17.
their fathers by the prophets, they seem in general to have had no other object in view than the establishment of a temporal monarchy, like the other kingdoms of this world, though doubtless, much surpassing them all in its extent and splendour. Accordingly, being interrogated by their leaders “when the kingdom of God should come,” Jesus perceived the mistake of their hearts, and to correct it, told them that. “ the kingdom of God cometh not with observation” that is, it did not at all resemble the kingdoms of this world—it was not to strike the senses of men by the glare of worldly grandeur; for, as it is wholly spiritual, consisting in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, - he added, “ the kingdom of God is within you. So al
so when he spake to them concerning their bondage to sin and vassalage to Satan the god of this world, with the necessity of being set free from this spiritual tyranny before they could participate of the liberty of the sons of God, they resented it as the highest insult that could be offered them. “ We are Abraham's seed,” say they " and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest thou, ye shall be made free.”+
If we keep in view these false principles by which the minds of the Jewish people were led astray, the invincible obstinacy of their prejudices, and the contrariety of the doctrine and character of Jesus thereto, we shall cease to wonder at the issue to which matters were ultimately reluced between them. When he avowed himself to be the Son of God, and claimed equality with the Most High, they resisted his pretensions and accused him of blasphemy. And when he acknowledged his regal character, they charged him with treason against the Roman government. On these grounds they demanded his death, and “ the voices of them and of the chief priests prem vailed."
* Luke xvii. 20, 21.
1 John vüi.
Lake xxji, 23.
The Ministry of Jesus Christ.
It cannot be necessary to pursue this part of the narrative in detail, since the result must be familiar to every Christian. "They that dwelt at Jerusalem and their ruJers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which were read' every Sabbath day;--they fulfilled them in condemning him; and though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain; and when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a sepulchre. But GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD."*
From the Resurrection of Christ to the Promulgation of the
Gospel among the Gentiles.
The resurrection of Jesus is an article of such importance in the system of Christianity, that, like the key stone in the arch of the building, it is emphatically that which supports the whole superstructure. “If Christ be not risen, says the apostle," then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain; yea, and we are found false witnesses of God.”+ That the Messiah should rise again from the dead, was an event clearly predicted in ancient prophecy,I and Jesus himself repeatedly foretold both the fact of hisrising and the day on which it shouřd happen, not only to his disciples but to his enemies also, and even rested the evi
dence of his divine mission upon that event.* Of the truth and certainty of his resurrection, then, the apostles were witnesses, and they were every way qualified for substantiating the fact.“ He was seen by them alive after his crucifixion. It was not one person, but
who saw him. They saw him not only separately but together, not only by night but by day, not at a distance but near, not once only but several times. They not only saw him but touched him, conversed with him, ate with him, examined his person to remove their doubts."+" He shewed himself alive to them after his passion by many infallible signs, being seen of them forty days," during which time" he spake to them concerning the kingdom of God”I which they were to be employed in setting up in the world.
To qualify them for this vast achievement he had promised to pour down upon them the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father, and directed them to wait at Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. When thus fitted for their work, they were' enjoined to “ go and teach all nations," or proclaim to them the glad tidings of salvation, to baptize all who believed the gospel, and then further to instruct them in all his commands. In doing this they were to be witnesses for him both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.|| Thus having delivered them his last injunctions, he led them out as far as Bethany, where he lifted up his hands and blessed them, and while engaged in the very act of benediction, he was parted from them and carried up into heaven, a cloud receiving him out of their sight.[
See Matt. xvi. 21. and xvii, 23, and xx. 19. also xii. 38. John ii. 18-20. and x. 17. and viii. 28. also Matt. xxvii. 53. + Paley's Evidences of Christianity, vol. ii, ch. 8.
Acts i. $. | Luke xxiv. 19. Acts i. 4. || Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. Mark xvi. 16.
Luke xxiv. 50, 51. Acts i. 8.