Page images

Writers, pretty plainly shews that when Jesus appeared, this great personage was anxiously expected by them, and that the time fixed, by the Antient Prophets, for his appearance, was about to expire. Mr. Kett, in his History, the Interpreter of Prophecy, has made an observation upon this subject, which appears to be extremely well worthy of the Reader's notice. * It is,” says he, “ a very striking fact in proof of thë “ general belief of the Jewish nation, respecting the time of the Messiah's appearance, that from the death of Herod the " Great, when Judas of Galilee and Simon first assumed the " title of Kings and Deliverers of the Jews, to the destruction of the Temple, the Jewish History is filled with the names of false Christs and false Prophets who deceived both the " Jews and the Samaritans. None appeared before this period, " and not more than one for five or six centuries after it."*

With this general expectation of the appearance of a person, under the character of the Messiah, at the time when Jesus announced that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, so fully admitted by the Jew, the Christian, and the Infidel; it might naturally have been expected, that the whole Jewish Nation would have become his willing subjects, and that nothing could

The late Sir W. Jones, whose attainments have deservedly placed him in the highest rank of intellectual eminence, after possessing himself of all that the Sages and Philosophers of all times have said and thought upon the works of nature, left the following note at the end of his Bible.

* i have regularly t and attentively read these Holy Scriptures, and am of opinion that this " Volume, independently of its divine origin, contains more true sublimity,

more exquisite beauty, more pure morality, more important history, and “ finer strains both of Poetry and Eloquence, than can be collected from * all other books, in whatever age or language they may have been composed. “The two parts of which the Scriptures consist, are connected by a chain of & compositions, which bear no resemblance in form or style, to any that

can be produced from the scores of Grecian, Persian, or even Arabian

learning: the antiquity of these compositions no man doubts; and the * unstrained application of them to events lóng subsequent to their publication, it is a solid ground of belief that they are genuine productions and consequently

The character of Sir W. Jones will bear examination, whether it is considered in a moral and literary view, and it may confidently be affirmed, it will lose nothing in comparison with that of Mr. Volney.

* See Kett's History, the Interpreter of Prophecy, 3d. Edit. Vol. I. P. 168. See also Bp. Chandler to the same purpose and nearly in the samo words, where the judicious Reader will find many other things, highly worthy of his attention, upon the subject of the general expectation of the Jews concerning the coming of the Messiaḥ, Vol. I. pages 146 147.


[ocr errors]

st inspired.

possibly have been more favourable to his reception, under that character, than such an expectation. The fact, however is, as ingenuously acknowledged by the Evangelical Historians themselves, that very few, comparatively speaking, owned Jesus to be the Messiah.He came to his own and his own received him not. And the whole of their History, as exhibited in the Gospels, shews that, as a Nation, the Jews instead of receiving him as the Messiah, considered him as an Impostor, in assuming that Character, and, as such, they put him to an ignominious and cruel death. And, even of those who did adhere to him, from a belief that he was the Messiah whom they so earnestly expected; it is, upon various occasions related, that they expressed the utmost anxiety to have those proofs of his Messiahship exhibited, which they had affixed to that Character, and ihat, even after his resurrection from the dead.

The principal cause of the Unbelief of the Jews appears to have been, their considering their Messiah as a temporal Prince, who was to conduct them to conquest and to empire. This important fact is so fully and so ably described by Dr. White, in his learned and eloquent Bamptonian Lectures, that no apology will be deemed necessary, for presenting it to the Reader, in his own words. “ In the person of the " Messiah," says he," they beheld a mighty and glorious ““ King who should appear with all the pomp of temporal greatness and all the terrors of earthly power, trampling “ upon the Enemies and Oppressors of Israel, and leading forth " his people, amidst the triumphs of conquest and splendor " of dominion. The manifest expiration of the time prescribed * by the Prophets *, the departure of the Sceptre from Judah,

rs and

* Bp. Chandler has observed, “ that it is still extant in the Talmud, as

the tradition of former times. In Daniel is delivered to us, the end of the 6. Messias, i. e. the term wherein he ought to come, as farchi explains it, * And another few of high Antiquity, R. Berachia, observed, that the end * or period of the future Redemption, was revealed to two men, Jacob 66 and Daniel. But higher than both is the age of R. Nehemias, for he lived

fifty years before Jesus Christ, yet then he declared, as he is cited by in Grotius, that the time fixed by Danjel, for the Messias could not go

beyond those fifty years."

Nor ought we to pass over the testimony of Josephus, because in that, we have the testimony of the whole Nation. Thus he writes, “ Daniel did not şi only foretel future things, which was common to him, with other Prophets, " I foresee it will be asked, why Josephus saith nothing here,” adds the learned Bishop, “ of the Messias, as well as of the Romans ? To which this is ** the answer. He believed this success of the Romans against the Jews, “ did infer that the Messias was come. For he, as well as others of his

[ocr errors]

~ and the subjection of their country to the Roman power,

were circumstances which at this time added new'weight to " the opinion which had thus been endeared by early prejudice 6 and sanctified by authoritative tradition. Every heart was

now warmed with hope, and every eye looked forward with “ anxious expectation to the moment when the glory of Zion “ should appear, and Judea be for ever exalted above the “ kingdoms of the Earth; when they should behold suppliant “ nations crouding into the sanctuary, and Rome herself, the • haughty mistress of the world, bowing prostrate at the feet “ of Jerusalem.

[ocr errors]

“ but also set a time for their coming to pass. He did not only foretel “ the calamity that befel our Nation from Antiochus many years before it " happened; but he also wrote, of the Dominion of the Romans, and of the

great desolation they should hereafter bring upon our people. These things, “ revealed by God, he delivered in writing, to be read by posterity, that “ they might by comparing the event with the prediction, admire the “ high honour (intimacy) the Prophet was admitted to by God, and also * be able to refute the Epicurean error (he might have added, and that of " the blind Fatalists) that would exclude God out of the government of “ human affairs for how is it possible, the event should correspond with " the prediction, if things below were moderated by chance and not a wise "prescience." No where else, but in this prophecy of LXX Weeks doth Daniel speak of the devastation the Jews were to suffer from the Romans ; no where else is a term fixed for these events; we may therefore be assured that Josephus referred to this very prophesy, for what he writes ; and that Jesus Christ had the Authority of the Jews with him, when he interpreted, the same prophecy of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans.

conntrymen, were led from the progress of the Roman arms, to relinquish " the national notion of the Messias, and bestow that tittle on Vespisian. “ The text said, from the going forth of the decree, to Messia the Prince, " shall be sixty-nine weeks--and again, the Prince's future people, or as it may be rendered, the people of the Prince that shall be, or shall come, shall destroy " the City and the Sanctuary. From hence, baulked in their hope of a " temporal deliverer among their own people, they imagined, on the other *6 extreme, that he must become the Emperor of the World, that should • subdue their Nation, and that it was enough, to answer the prophecy " that he was saluted Emperor in their land. Grounding his opinion, on " this interpretation, Josephus told Vespasian, while he was General only, " at the begining of the War, that he would be Emperor; and Jerusalem “ being destroyed, he professes, that the Oracle which foretold one of their “ country should have the Empire, was fulfilled in the creation of Vespasian " to be Emperor in Judea.” With respect to the calculation of Daniel's LXX Weeks, See this valuable Writer, Vol. I. pages, 141---4.


h Nor were these glorious expectations confined to the " chief rulers of the Jews, whose superior stations seeming to un entitle then to the first honours and emoluments of the "Messiah's Kingdom, might have induced them the more readily 66 to embrace, and the more industriously to disseminate, an que opinion which promised so complete a gratification to their of ambition. Even the Disciples of our Lord who had been, " in general, selected from the lowest and the meanest of the " people, long retained the same delusive opinion, and indulged « The same fallacious hopes with the rest of their countrymen.

Nay, so firmly was this belief impressed on their “ minds, that not all the frequent and solemn declarations of " their master to the contrary, were able to efface it entirely: « Nor indeed do they seem to have been effectually roused " from the pleasing dream of temporal grandeur which had

captivated their imaginations, till his death had tried the “constancy of their faith, till his resurrection had revived " their dooping spirits, and his ascension into heaven had " rectified their errors and invigorated their resolution.

th From this mistaken opinion arose the frequent struggles • for superiority among them, which they have so ingenuously recorded. Hence the petition of the Mother of Zebedee's “ Children. Hence too, the impatient and misguided zeal of « Peter, who when Christ pathetically related his approaching “ humiliation, his sufferings, and his death, took him and

began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from the Lord, " this shall not be unto thee.

To this may be added the words of one of the Disciples, with as whom our Lord, in his way to Emmaus, conversed after his " resurrection. We trusted that ít had been he who should have

redeemed Israel. This reflection arose from the same prejudice ** that had long flattered the national vanity, and expressed the “ most painful sense of disappointment.'"*

“ The expectation of the coming of the Messiah, about the fr time

the appearance of Jesus," says the judicious Lardner, was universal, and had been so for some while. But with the * idea of a Prophet, or extraordinary Teacher of Religion,

they had joined also that of a worldly king and conqueror, « who should deliver the Jewish people from the burdens has under which they laboured, raise them to a

state of " independence; and bring the natìons of the Earth into * See White's Bampton Lectures.

6 subjection

[ocr errors]

“ subje&tion to them, to be ruled and tyrannized over by them. 6. And because our Lord did not perform, nor attempt this, " they rejected and crucified him. If he would but have " assumed the state and character of an earthly Prince ; Scribes "and Pharisees, Priests and People, would all have joined • themselves to him, and have put themselves under his banner. Of this we see many proofs

, in the Gospels. This u disposition prevailed to the last."! *

These observations of these learned and ingenious writers, it must be observed, do not relate to matters of doubtful (spéculation, about which different opinions have been entertained. They are fully admitted, by Christians of all denominations, as fakts, which are indisputable. They are fakts, which are believed by all who belieye that there was such a person as Jesus Christ, or, who think there is any degree of credit due to the History of the New Testament. Nay more, they are facts which, as has been observed, the testimonies of Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and even the Atheistical Volney, fully corroborate. And, what is particularly worthy of the Reader's notice, they are faits which have for their vouchers, all Modern Jews ; for they entertain, precisely, the same sentiments, and, as Christians term them, the same prejudices, concerning the Nature of the Messiah's Character, with their remote ancestors, and consequently they are living toitnesses that these facts are built upon such a solid foundation of genuine historical Evidence, as to leave no room for doubt, upon the mind of the intelligent and impartial enquirer,

From these premises; it will naturally and necessarily follow, that if the Gospel History be genuine ; it must be an History of the Controversy between Jesus and the Jews; not only whether Jesus himself was the Messiah but what was the true nature of the Messiah's Character ; the one supposing that he would be a temporal Prince to raise them to Universal Empire; the other declaring that his Kingdom was not of this world, but was wholly of a Spiritual Nature,

Such being the acknowledged sentiments and prejudices of the whole Jewish nation, in general, and of the Disciples of Jesus, in particular, concerning the nature of that Kingdom

* See Dr. Lardner’s Antient Jewish and Heathen Testimonies, Vol. I.

P. 69.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »