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THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND.
And when Jesus entered upon his important Office, it is particularly worthy of remark, that he used precisely the same language. Matt.iv. 17. From that time i. e. from the time that John the Baptist was thrown into prison, Jesus began to preach and to say, Repent, for THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND. When, afterwards, he commissioned his Apostles and the seventy Disciples, to preach in his name, his instructions to them were, strictly to adhere to this declaration of its near approach. Luke x. 9. Say to them. i. e. to the Jews, The Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. Their public instructions are likewise stiled preaching the Kingdom of God. Thus Mark i. 14. Jesus is said to go into Galilee preaching the Kingdom of God. And, in another passage, it is said, Matt. ix. 35. that Jesus went about all the Cities and Villages teaching the Gospel, or, as the word properly signifies and ought to have been expressed, the good news of the Kingdom, i. e. of the Kingdom of Heaven, which he had, at first, announced, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. So again Luke viii. 1. And Jesus went throughout every City and Village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
As this was our Lord's original language, fo he continued to adhere to it, with the most scrupulous exactness, till the very close of his Life; but whether he used it precisely in the fame sense, can be discovered only by a close and attentive examination of it, in its connection. But whatever doubt there may
be as to the meaning of these latter passages, there cannot possibly be any of his original language; for the Evangelical Historians, having thus introduced Jesus and his forerunner as declaring the near approach of the Kingdom of Heaven, drawn from the prophecy of Daniel, as the foundation of their subsequent Histories, have not failed to point out, in very strong terms, the effects which it had
their countrymen. When John the Baptist made use of it, St. Matthew fays, Ch. iii. 5. Jerusalem and all Fuden, and all the region round chout Jordan, went out to meet him, and were baptized by him in Jordan, confessing their sins. In like manner, it is said, Ch. iv. 23, 25, that when Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel, or good news, of the Kingdom, there followed hinz great multitudes of people from Galilee, from Decapolis, from Jerusolm, from Judea, and from beyond Fordan. And the cause of their flocking to him, in such multitudes, is thus explained by St. Luke; for he says, Ch. iij. 15, that as the people were in expectation of the appearance of the Messiah, all men mused in their hearts whether he, viz. John the Baptist, swas O Xpises, the Christ, or the Messiah, or not.
Dr. Sykes, upon this subje&, kas well observed, " that has the Jews were so well acquainted with this language, and # were so well apprized of a kingdom which God had resolved fole to set up, that as often as Jesus talked of the kingdom of of Heaven, or of God, neither the people, nor their Rulers, sf eyer offered to ask bin the meaning of that phrasę, which
yet we cannot suppose them not to have done, if he had talked hate with and to them, in a language they were unacquainted 66 with.'
Bishop Chandler says, “ The expectation of the Messiah,
intimated in the use of this language, was not the opinion Se of a few devout people only, who are şaid to wait for the as consplation of Israel, at the time of our Saviour's birth, or of sf the meaner sort, who thought the kingdom of God (a phrase * for the kingdom of the Messiah) should immediately appears * but it was the settled judgment of the chief Priests, the hoe Scribes, and the learned in their Law. They who made the
study of the Scriptures their chief business, were unanimous #* in this belief the expection was National," †
The learned Bamptonian Ledurer, Dr. White, says, ". It is “ evident from several passages in the New Testament, that " the Jews were in expectation of the Messigh, at the time " of Christ's appearance. The Woman of Samaria, though os of a Schismatical church, yeț deriving her knowledge from " the same sources of divine prophecy, said to Jesus, -I know so that Messiak cometh, &c. John iv, 25. in Luke iii. 5.
we are informed, that the preaching of John was of so divine
a nature that all men mușed in their hearts whether he was " the Christ or not.
The message of the Jews, by the Priests sf and Levites, to John, Art thou the Christ? is a sufficient " proof of the expe&ation which generally prevailed, of the 6 advent of a divine person, sustaining this character. Johnį.g. 6 The coming of the Messiah made an express article of the 46 Jewish faith, as we are informed by Maimonides, and others
* See Dr. Sykes on the Christian Religion, Chap. III. p. 29.
** of that church ; and the denial of it was deemed a dangerous “ heresy, and a virtual renunciation of the authority and si truth of the Law of Moses." *
Mr. Richards likewise, in his incomparable Bamptonian Lectures, observes, that " the Advent of the Messiah was the “ Æra to which the Jews looked forward with pride and
joyful expectation. All their national institutions seemed " to them to be formed with a view to the appearance of this " exalted personage. This expectation was their pride in
prosperity, and their consolation in defeat ; and, at one
period of their history, it preserved their national spirit, " and, perhaps, their very existence, as a people, during the 6 desolation of their native territory, and the ignominious
captivity of its inhabitants." +
Nor is the evidence that this was the general opinion of the Jews, at the time of our Saviour's appearance,
confined to the Christian Scriptures, or to Christian Writers only. The celebrated Josephus, who was himself a Jew, and a distinguished General, in the early part of the Jewish war, which terminated in the destruction of their country, bears ample testimony to the truth of this important fact. " That," says he, “ which chiefly excited the Jews to the war, was
an ambiguous I Prophecy which was also found in their “ sacred books, that, at that time, some one, within their “country, should arise that should obtain the empire of
* See White's Bampton Lectures, pages 28, 29, in the Notes. + See Richards's Bampton Lectures, pages 191, 192.
# “ Though Josephus," says Bishop Chandler, “ calls this prophecy an " ambiguous or dark oracle, because the event did not answer to his sense of it, ** yet he owns it was so understood in the sense I am speaking of, by their “ Wise Men, and by those before them that had delivered down this sense of it. “ Very dark indeed it must be, if describing one of the royal house of David “ to be their King, it intended a Roman of an obscure family: if describing 's him, as the converter of the Gentiles to the knowledge of the true God, it was .. to be understood of one that lived and died an idolater : if describing him
as the person that should put an end to the Roman Empire, in belief, .“ whenever the Jews took up arms against them, it meaned a Roman should “ destroy the Jewish nation and religion. Josephus therefore, whatever “ motives he had for so applying the prophecy, upon second thoughts in " writing his Antiquities, returned to his first belief, and fairly hints there,
as do the rest of his nation, that Daniel's Messiah was yet to come and " subdue the - Romansi” See Bishop Chandler's Defence of Christianity, Vol. I. pages 29, 30.
the world." Tacitus likewise, the Roman Annalist, mentions the same persuasion as having existed at that period, and particularly, “ that it was found in the antient 66 books of the Priests." He adds, that “ this prediction had " taken such full possession of the common people, among “ the Jews, that they were not compelled to resign their
dependance on this Prophecy, but by a series of calamities.” And, most remarkable to the same purpose, are the words of Suetonius. “ It was,” says he, "an antient and uninterrupted " opinion throughout the East, that it was foretold in the “ Prophecies that, at that time, the people of Judea should 66 be Lords of all."
The testimony of Writers of such respectability in the antient and modern world, cannot but be deemed of considerable importance in establishing the fakt, that there was a general expectation of a great Personage, who should appear about the time of our Saviour's coming into the world, as a most distinguished and extraordinary character. And that this testimony should be confirmed, by a writer who denies that there is any evidence worth notice, of the very existence of Jesus Christ, is not a little remarkable. But such is the fact. Mr. Volney himself, the noted Author of a work entitled, Ruins,--the daring and intrepid Mr. Volney, is compelled, by the force of truth, to own the general expectation of a deliverer to come. - From the time,” says he, “ that the “ Assyrians had destroyed the kingdom of Samaria, some “ sagacious Spirits - foresaw, announced, and predicted the
same fate to Jerusalem ; and all their predictions were “ stamped by this particularity, that they always concluded “ with prayers for a happy re-establishment and regeneration, 66 which were, in like manner spoken of in the the way of “ Prophecies. The enthusiasm of the Hierophants had figured $6 a Royal Deliverer, who was to re-establish the nation in “ its antient glory. The Hebrews were again to become a “ powerful and conquering people, and Jerusalem the capital of
an Empire that was to extend over the whole world. Events “ having realized the first part of those predictions, the ruin so of Jerusalem; the people clung to the second, with a se firmness of belief proportioned to their misfortunes; and the 66 affli&ted Jews waited with the impatience of want and desire, for that Victorious King and Deliverer that was to come, P?
" in order to save the nation of Moses and restore the throne 66 to David.” *,
This general expectation of the Jews, so manifestly pointed out, by the effects which John's announcing the approach of the Kingdom of Heaven had upon them, and so fully confirmed, by the testimony of Jewish, Christiani, and even Infidel
Writers Šee Volney's Ruins, 3d edit. English Translation, pages 285, 286.
The infidelity of the French Philosophers, as they are fond of calling themselves, is truly wonderful; fot to disbelieve the existence of Jesus Christ is to refrder Historical evidence useless; før aš has been very justly observed, there is not an hundredth part of the evidence for the existence of Julius Cæsar, that there is for that of Jesus Christ; and the man who has the hardiness
to deny such evidencé, is not fit to be reasõned withi. The Author of the Pursdits of Literatute, speaking of Voiney's Ruins, says, “ it is written with some spirit, and not without eloquence in some o parts, and abounds with what is now called Philosophy. The intent of “ this book is to attack every principle of religion in the heart; even the “ principles of the religion now termed natural. Mr. Volney wishes to & convince mankind that every prétence to revélation, in every age and in every “ Country, is equally false and equally unfounded, and by a jargon of * language, and antiquity, and mythology, and philosophy, he labours to os confound and blend them all 'in uncertain tradition and astronomical * allusions. The reál ignorance of this man on the subject of true Religion, " is as conspicuous as ti te puny literature which appears to support his strange “ doctrines and foolish opinions. Upon the subject of what he calls the
filiations of Religions, (for the French must have their new jargon of words
in every subject) he says, We acknowledge in one word, that all the * Theological Doctrines on the origin of the world, on the nature of God, * on the Revelation of his Laws, and the appearance of his person, are nothing • Inote than recitals of astronomical facts, and figurative emblematical stories
of the play of the Constellations, (du Jeni des Constellations p. 167:') * The chapter on the subject of Christianity is the strangest of all; for he ** declares that Christianity consists in the allegorical worship of the Sun, " in the cabalistical names of Chris en, Yes us, or Jesus. And this is a * formidable opponent! This is one of the guides to whom we are to give
up our prejudices! Read any one of the four Evangelists, and give your
own answer! The impudence of Mr. Volney is at least equal to any other * power he possesses ; for ħe tequires of his Reader only the surrender of t his common sense, and the common principles of any knowledge ; yet « he demands the admission of all his ałtegories and mystical meanings of “ which, in the true French style, no doubt is to be entertained, and then as the world is to be emancipated and delivered! From what? From * tredulity and superstition ! O. E. Ď. Upon this, Mr. Volney ohsetves, " the Priests murmur. I think the Laity will at least do as much, ất the " words of this Apostle of nonsense, blasphemy, folly, and the rights of
which the French never fail to introduce, when they have laid them ks all prostrate, civil, moral, and mental. This is but a specimen of such “ writers whom we are to obey as the deliverers of mankind from “ superstition, and the directors of our minds in the way of truth, Professing themselves wise, they are become fools."