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which he had announced to be at hand; it must be evident that the primary obječt of Jesús, in the exercise of the duties of his office, must have been to give, both to the one and the other such proofs.of his being the Messiah, as the real nature of that Character would admit of, such as .were sufficient to satisfy an impartial enquirer; such, in a word, as would have a tendency, gradually to correct their prejudices, without too severely wounding their feelings! And, what mode of conduct was it proper
fór him, as a wise man, to pursue, in order to ensure these important purposes ? The extreme delicacy of the situation of Jesus; and the difficulties which he had to encounter in consequcence of those prejudices, in unfolding to them the true 'nature of his Character, must, from his very entrance upon his public Ministry, be sufficiently revident: Every one must immediately perceive, from a due consideration of the nature of the expectations of the Jews, at the time of his appearance, the absolute necessity which Jesus was under, of acting with the utmost prudence and circumspection ; of his being very sparing of his declarations, on the one hand, that he was himself the Messiah ; least the too great eagerness of the people should frustrate the important purposes which he had in view ; and on the other, least, while he checked their ardor, he should totally destroy their hopes of his being the Messiah, by not giving them the necessary assurances of his coming in that Character, and thereby induce them to forsake him.
If this was the mode of conduct which it was natural for Jesus to pursue, and, if it was the only one which it was possible for him, in such circumstances, to pursue with success, it will follow, as a necessary consequence, that it is the only view in which the Gospel History can possibly be “studied, to the fullest advantage. The New Testamerit has sometimes been termed a seated book, and the numerous and unsuccessful controversies concerning its genuine meaning, has bat too much justified the use of this epithet ; but, if the Gospel History be examined, in the manner here proposed, as an History of the proofs which Jesus exhibited of his being ihe Messiah, and of the manner of his producing those proofs, the judicious and attentive Reader will not only be furnished with an important fund of entertainment and instruction, which no other method of studying the
New Testament can possibly afford him ; but he will have a sure clue to the right understanding of it, particularly upon the subject of the objections of the Historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, respecting the toming of Christ, which cannot fail to produce the highest and most heartfelt satisfaction, to all. who are competent judges of the nature of evidence. 2. If the Gospel History be examined, with a close and impartial attention to the circumstances, which in the preceding pages have at large been described ; the judicious and attentive Reader cannot fail to observe, the most unequivocal and decisive proofs of our Lord's having conducted himself in such a manner, as to consult, with an unexampled tenderness and humanity, the prejudices of his countrymen, and at the same time to check the eagerness which naturally arose from the extreme ardor of their expectations of the coming of the Messiah as a temporal Prince ! Far from being forward in declaring himself to be the Messiah, even to his most intimate friends and associates; it was highly to the credit of his Character, and an unequivocal proof of his
consummate wisdom and prudence, that, in general, he left this to be inferred, from the excellence of the doctrines which he taught, from the many wonderful works which he performed, and from the perfect purity and integrity of his moral and religious conduct. Occasionally, however, and as circumstances and events more particularly required, he gave them the most direct and unequivocal assurances of the coming of the Messiah, which answered the purpose of keeping up their expectations of his coming in that Character, and of insuring their attachment to him, until, by the full disclosure of the important, and particularly interesting events which were to take place during his abode upon earth, they should be led to perceive, how much they had mistaken the nature of his character. And it is particularly worthy of remark, that even when Jesus did think it necessary to make these assurances of the coming of the Messiah, it was in a language the most cautious and guarded that can well be imagined. For example, he did not say, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel before I shall declare MYSE IF to be the Messiah ; but ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till THE SON OF MAN, the Messiah be come. He did not say, there be some standing here. who shall not taste of death till they see Me coming in my Kingdom; but till they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.
This cautious, mode of proceeding, though it, perhaps, disappointed the schemes of the adversaries of our Lord, and prevented their laying hold of his words to his prejudice ; though it probably did not answer the sanguine expe&ations even of his own disciples; though it sometimes threw them into the greatest perplexity, when they compared what he had said to them, with their own preconceived opinions, concerning the nature of the Messiah's Character and Kingdom, though, in a word, it did not fully satisfy them of what they most wanted to be informed ; yet it was evidently the only method which prudence dictated, or, which the peculiar circumstances in which he was placed permitted him to adopt, whether it respected friends or enemies; for he well knew what was in Man, and was thoroughly aware that 'the latter, when they found that he did not answer their ideas of the Character of the Messiah, would gladly have laid hold of any favourable opportunity of destroying him, and that the prejudices of the former were not to be removed, but by the most gradual and gentle means. It was evidently upon this account, that he appears to have consulted those prejudices, and with so much tenderness and humanity to have sympathized with their weakness ; well knowing that in the course of his Ministry, he should have information to give them, which was very different from that which they had been led to expect, and events to unfold, which were totally incompatible with all their ideas of the nature of the Messiah's Character.
It is not the object of these remarks to amuse the Reader with a fanciful theory, or, to present him with a romantic, but ill founded view of the Gospel History ... for the following examination of the Gospels themselvesy will afford unquestionable proofs, of our Lord's having conducted himself in the manner here described ; of which every one who is disposed to give attention to it, will be capable of forming an accurate and decisive judgment.
The first notice which St. Matthew appears to have given of our Lord's having entered upon the arduous and important work of correcting the prejudices of his countrymen, with respect to the nature of the Messiah's Character, is in his celebrated Sermon upon the Moumt. And as it has already been observed that those prejudices were common to the whole Jewish Nation, the Disciples of Jesus themselves.' not excepted; it is natural to expect that it would have been addressed to the multitude in general, and not exclusively, as some have supposed to the Apostles. The Evangelical Historian has been very particular in stating this to have been the fact; for at the close of the chapter, immediately preceding this Sermon, after having observed that Jesus went about Galilee preaching THE COSPEL or good news of THE KINGDOM, i. e. of the Kingdom of the Messiah; he says, Chap. iv. 25. there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, from Decapolis, from Jerusalem, from Judea, and from beyond Jordan. And in the beginning of the vth Chapter, the Historian says, that seeing the multitudes which flocked to him from these different places, he went up upon a mountain and addressed this Sermon to them. It is true, indeed, the Historian adds, that when Jesus was seated, HIS DISCIPLES came to him ; but not to lay any great stress upon the observation, that the term Disciples is often, in the New Testament, used in a very enlarged sense; this only proves, what will not be controverted, that the Disciples made a part of his audience. But this matter appears to be put out of all reasonable doubt, by the Historian's remark at the close of the Sermon; for he there says, that when Jesus had ended these sayings the people were astonished at his dotrine; and that it might clearly be understood, who were meant by the people, the Historian adds, that when Jesus was come down from the mountain GREAT MULTITUDES followed him.
It being clear from this representation of the Evangelist, that the Sermon upon the Mount was addressed to the people at large, and not exclusively to the Disciples; it will, upon examination
appear, that there is the strongest internal evidence that the first object of our Lord, in this Sermon, was to correct the erronneous opinions : of his hearers, concerning the true nature of the Messiah's Kingdom. This will be evident from the following short paraphrase of the Beatitudes ; which though, perhaps, not absolutely necessary to the principle design of this work, will not be thought wholly unconnected with it, or unworthy of the judicious Reader's attention, and more particularly as it will lead to the consideration of a few verses, which immediately succeed them; the beauty, propriety, .force, and true meaning of which, seem not hitherto to have been sufficiently attended to.
The Jews in consequence of their expectation that the Messiah would be a temporal Prince, naturally enough, entertained the fond imagination of enjoying high distin&tion, and of possessing places of great trust and importance under his reign ; insomuch, that even two of his own Disciples aspired to those of the greatest dignity, requesting him to permit them to sit one on his right hand and the other on his teft in his Kingdom; i. e. most indisputably in the Kingdom of the Messiah. But Jesus, who was thoroughly aequainted with the human heart, instead of directly opposing their prejudices upon this head, and saying that such an ambitious turn of mind, was contrary to the Chara&ter which became the subjects of the Messiab's kingdom, wisely contented himself with simply discribing the disposition which would qualify them for becoming such.-v. 3. Blessed, or happy; are they who are poor in spirit, or who are unambitious and humble minded, for their's is the kingdom of Heaven. ..
With the possession of universal dominion, under their Messiah, the Jews, it is propable, connected great pleasures and enjoyments of every kind; but Jesus knowing the extreme depravity of their Character as a Nation, and foreseeing the awful calamities, which were about to happen to their country, taught them that, a state of sorrow and mournimg, was best suited to the circumstances of the times, and most agreeable to the declaration which he had originally made, that Repentance was an absolutely necessary preparation, in persons of their description, if they really wished to enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom of the Messiah, so anxiously expected by them.-Blessed are they that mourn ; for they shall be comforted. In the midst of the calamities which are coming upon the Jews, as a Nation, they shall have their peculiar consolations, arising from the enjoyment of the blessings of the Messiah's Kingdom ; while those who have in view, no higher objects, than worldly pleasures, under his reign, shall have their expectations completely frustrated, and shall
involved in the general ruin which is approaching.
The Jews considered a War-like spirit, in their Nation, as essential to the promotion of their aspiring and ambitious views, with regard to the conquests which, under the banners of their Messiah, they expected to make, in order to their becoming the Lords of the World. But to this, Jesus opposed a spirit, which, both in its principle and in its effects, was in its nature