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anstructions; which extorted, even from his enemies---from those who had been employed by the Jewish Rulers, to bring him before them, an acknowledgement that never man spake like this man ;-his unaffected piety to God-his unexampled disinterestedness--and his generous benevolence and philanthropy ; and, it will, in no respect, be found to be unnatural, or improbable, that they should, expressly, declare their belief that he sustained that character, though he had pot yet given them any of the proofs, which they, in common with the rest of their countrymen, had uniformly considered as inseparable from it. Besides ; it should farther be observed, that by their continuing to follow him, with such unshaken fortitude and perseverance, they pretty strongly declared their expectation that the time would, one day, come, when he would give them, the fullest satisfaction, that he was the Messiah, and perhaps, it would not be too inuch to
that it is not to be accounted for, upon any other principle!
But, this premature declaration of St. Peter, as it has been termed, that Jesus was the Messiah, is perhaps, best accounted for, by our Lord himself, in the remarkable eulogium, which St. Peter's noble confession drew from him, and fully justifies the supposition which has just been made ; that the excellent instructions which he had given them, and the wonderful works which he had wrought, in the name of his Father, and of which they had been the constant witnesses, had drawn it from him. Blessed art thou Simon Bar-jona : for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee—but my Father who is in Heaven, * As if he had said—“ had you consulted flesh
* Closely connected with this are the declarations of our Lord to St. Peter, upon which the Church of Rome hath built her extravagant claims to supremacy, &c. v. 18, 19. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this Rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it : And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven ; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, But here it ought to be particularly observed, that our Lord promised the same power to the other Apostles, and it is particularly worthy of notice, that it is introduced by a question, the answer to which totally excludes all ideas of pre-emineuce. Chap. xviii. 1. The Disciples came unto Jesus, saying, --Who is, or rather, who shall be, the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? Upon this it is said, v. 2. And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, verily I say unto you, çxcept ye be converted, or changed, from your present ambitious turn of
and blood onlyyour worldly prejudices and secular ** views, with respect to THE NATURE of the Messiah's Cha
varteryou would never, under the present circumstances ** and appearances of things, have made the acknowledgment, ** which you have now done ; but the doctrines which i * have taught you, and the miracles which I have performed, ***, in the name, and by the authority of my Father, have, " upon this occasion, plainly influenced your judgment, contrary to all human appearances, and extorted from you,
confession, which no other consideration could have . have induced you to have made.” Indeed; it is hardly possible to suppose that the Disciples of Jesus, upon the supposition that they were men of honesty and integrity, could have avoided giving Jesus a considerable degree of credit, even upon their own principles, especially after they mind, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.-W'hosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the game is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Is there any thing here which has the most distant' appearance of pre-eminence one above another ? But that all-exclusive claim of St. Peter to pre-eminence might be entirely done away, our Lord, in this chapter, uses alımost the same words of the Disciples, gencrally, as he does of Peter. V. 18. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever je shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; aud whatsoever ve shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. “All the pre-eminence therefore," to use the words of Dr. Benson, " which St. Peter had, in this respect was, " that having the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he first opened the door
of faith, or first admitted both Jews and Gentiles into the Christian * church; and according to the terms, which he, as well as the other to Apostles, was commissioned to preach, upon earth, shall every Man's vi state be finally and judicially determinerl, by Almighty God, in heaven. * But neither of these images, of his being called a Rock, or of his having the a keys of the kingilum of heaven, imply authority, power, or dominion ; though 46 they imply the honor done that great Apostle, in his being chosen first fun to lay the foundation of the Christian Church, or first to open the door of ** faithi, and admit both Jews and Gentiles into Christ's church, or kingdom. " But though this was an honor to him, he camot, in this particular, have Só any successor. One only could begin this great work-One only could 5d be the first in it, and that was the honor and pre-eminence of the Apostle $6 Peter.
" So far was St. Peter from being the head and founder of the Roman 46 hierarchy, that he himself never laid claim to that extravagant dominion, fs which the Bishops of Rome have usurped ; nor ever once aimed at enforcing $ Religion with temporal and civil sanctions, So that if they could make 4 out their title, to the being his peculiar successors, (which they never have .66 done, nor ever will be able to do), yet their very foundation fails. And " that Apostle, under whom they claim, never had, nor pretended to have, * that authority and dominion, which they, as his snecessors, have most so unjustly and tyranically usurped." See Benson 1 Peter, i. 1.
had such opportunities of making their observations, upon his general character, that he would, at a proper time, give them the necessary proofs, that he actually did sustain the character of the Messiah. And that they did, in fact, give him that credit, and that their present declaration, that he was the Messiah, was founded upon it, seems to require no other proof, than the questions which they put to him, at a period, considerably subsequent to this; for, just before his crució fixion, and notwithstanding his prediction of the total ruin of their country, they asked him what would be the sign of his COMING? and even after his resurrection from the dead, they again asked him, in terms, which were free from alí ambiguity, when he would restore the Kingdom to Israel?
This remarkable cor.fession of St. Peter, was so contrary to all present appearances and to the general ideas, which then prevailed amongst the Jews, concerning the nature of the Messiah's Character, that it was, evidently, absolutely necessary that the Disciples should not be suffered to make it public. Our Lord, whose prudent attention to the circumstances of things, appears never, for a moment, to have forsaken him ; foreseeing the injurious consequences, to the, great object of his mission, of such a premature and public avowal, that he was the Messiah, thought it proper, upon the same principle, and for the same reasons, which had influenced his own conduct, to give his Disciples, upon this occasion, a strict injunction, not to tell any one that he was the Messiah. v. 20. Then charged he his Disciples that they should tell no man that he was THE CHRIST-or the Messiah.' This caution, it has just been observed, was perfectly agreeable to our Lord's general conduct, as well as to his admirable and important precept, to be wise as Serpents and harmless as. Doves. And it was, for this most obvious reason, absolutely necessary; because, if once such an opinion should be disa seminated amongst the great body of the people, by his Disciples-by those who were known to be, upon the most intimate footing with him; it might not only have created popular tumults and insurrections, in his favor; which he, at all times, appears, most carefully to have avoided—but it might, and in all human probability, it would have, entirely, defeated the great and important purposes of his mission. The Author of Christianity, not founded on argument, in his peculiar and insidious manner, has dwelt much upon
this prohibition of our Lord-but this appears to be so satisfactory a reason for the injunction of silence upon his Disciples, that even Infidelity itself, must be obliged to acknowledge its force. In short, this prohibition, is a genuine and authentic evidence of the truth of the History, and had it been wanting ; it might have been justly suspected, as deficient in evidence ; for it was, upon no account, safe or proper, under existing circumstances, to have divulged the opinion that he was the Messiah. *
But, our Lord did not stop here. He not only thought it absolutely necessary to charge his Disciples to tell no one that he was THE MESSIAH-but as he had, by his decided approbation of St. Peter's confession, plainly acknowledged that he, actually, did sustain that character; he clearly foresaw,
* It was, upon the same principle, that our Lord refused to give those who required from him a sign from heaven, and “ it has," as Dr. Gerard has observed, " particularly been alledged as a proof, that he was unwilling to “give all the evidence of his Mission, which he might have given, or to " satisfy the understandings of 'men.”
“ The Pharisees, it is said, tempting him, asked a sign; that is, some "i testimonial of the truth of his declared mission; And what did this “ request produce ? Why, he sighed deeply at their pétverseness, who were “ so hard to be convinced, and stiled them a foolish and adulterous generation, " for their presumption. Now this desiring a rational evidence for their
discipleship, the seeking after a sign, as the Scripture terms it, had, if he ss had indeed appealed to their nnderstandings, been so far from any thing « criminal or blame-worthy, that it had been in all reason their indispensible “ duty; whereas it was, it scems, in Faith, an unwarrantable, presump“ tuous, and wanton curiosity. Christianity not founded on argument, p. 38. “ The coming desirous to canvas the evidence, though from no other prin“i ciple perhaps, originally, than that of gratifying a light curiosity, were, “ one would imagine, a turn of mind to be favorably entertained, and " carefully cherished in a novice, by any who was solicitous to gain pro“ selytes by such means, and conscious of having any thing of the kind to
produce to him But, on the contrary, we find our Master ever disclaim“ ing, with the severest resentment, all followers of that complexion; and
no temper check'd and dicouraged with so constant an avession, as this “ of, as it is opprobriously termed, seeking a sign.” Ibid. P 49.
To this objection Dr, Gerard replies, " That it almost refutes itself, though si
we take not in, the peculiar nature of the sign which they demanded : “ The assertion, that they asked only some testimonial of his declared “ mission that they desired a rational evidence of their discipleship-that “ they came desirous to canvass the evidence that this was the disposition " which Jesus hield criminal, are all so directly contradictory to the real s circumstances in which the demand was made, that they can scarce be “ imputed to other principles than want of candour, and an intention to “ mislead : From these circumstances it is plain, that far from being pos
the farther necessity, of effectually checking, any propensity which they might have, to break through his injunction, and of repressing any worldly and secular views, which might now, with redoubled force, begin to operate upon the minds of the Disciples, with respect to their expectations of their beloved Master's coming in that character; for it must, most carefully be noted, that though they had acknowledged Jesus to be the Messiah-they still retained all their worldly prejudices concerning the nature of his character. It was therefore, most evidently, for the purpose of checking their worldly views, that he, with the most consummate wisdom, chose this opportunity of informing them, in a very particular and circumstantial manner, of the sufferings which he himself, in the course of his ministry, was to undergo. And nothing surely could have been more admirably adapted to the obtaining his purpose; than such a discovery. 'V. 21. From that: time forth, says the Evangelist, i. e, from the time that St. "i sessed of this laudable temper, they were not impelled to make the “ demand even by a principle so little blameable as light curiosity, but were " altuated by perverseness and prejudice, which had already made them "s withstand the clearest evidence, and the greatest miracles, and which it
was in vain to expect to conquer by working more miracles. It was ", therefore as rcasonable to refuse to work more, as it is, not to persist in " reasoning with a man, who shows that he reasons only for the sake of " contention, without any concern to discover truth. But when we recollect ss what was the sign which they desired, the objection is even absurd, it
was a sign which they were led to expect, only by their false notions of
4 temporal Messiah ; it was absolutely inconsistent with the truth of the * Messiah's
' Character; to have given it, would have been to become just “ such a deliverer as the Jews expected : it was therefore impossible that "" it could be given. Instead of giving it, it was proper to affirm expressly,
as Jesus did afhrm, that it never would he given, and that it did not .“ belong to the Messiah, justly conceived. Whenever a sign was asked, " he appealed for the certainty of his Mission, to his own resurrection " from the dead.' So far was he from refusing any rational evidence of his " mission, that even their perverseness hindered him not from voluntarily " pointing out the sirongest. His resurrection was, in itselt, the inost “ stupendous miracle ; and its force was increased by its being in this " manner appealed to; for it thus became the accomplishment of prophecies is uttered by him. But there is a further propriety in his foretelling it, “ when they required a sign: it was a plain insinuation, that their opinion " of the manner of the Messiah's appearance was wronga--that he was not " such a prince as they expected : for by it he informed them expressly, s that he must be put to death, before he cntered on his kingdom. His 6 answer was, therefore, fit for leading them to a juster interpretation of "". Daniel's Prophecy, and for preventing their rejecting the Messiah because he wanted a character which was never predicted of himn" See Gerard's Dissertations, p. 186, &c.