Page images

hot and blood only—your worldly prejudices and secular 16 views, with respect to THE NATURE of the Messiab's Cha*6 varter you would never, under the present circumstances 44 and appearances of things, have made the acknowledgment, e which you have now done ; but the doctrines which I 54 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, 66. a confession, which no other consideration could have .66 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 considerabie 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 Ticaver.Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same 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 alınost the same words of the Disciples, ģenerally, as he does of Peter. V. 18. Verily I say unto you, 'whatsoever ve shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; qud whatsoever ve shall loose on earth shall be loesed in heaven. "All the pre-eminence therefore,” to use the words of Dr, Benson, " which St. Peter had, in this respect was, si that having ThIE REYS 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 *** Apostles, was commissioned to preach, upon earth, shall every Man's versi state be finally and judicially determined, by Almighty God, in heaven, to But neither of these images, of his being called a Rack, or of his having the * keys of the kingdom of heaven, imply authority, power, or dominion ; though 46 they imply the honor done that great Apostle, in his being chosen first foi to lay the foundation of the Christian Church, or first to open the door of mi faitly, and admit both Jesus and Gentiles into Christ's church, or kingdom. - But though this was an honor to him, he camot, in this particular, have

- any successor. One only could begin this great work-One only could *** 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

hierarchy, that he himself never laid claim to that extravagant dominion, $6 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 ibe being his peculiar successors, (which they never have “ 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,

6 that authority and dominion, which they, as his snecessors, have most .6. unjustly and tyranically usurped." See Benson 1 Peter, i. 3.

had 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 crucifixion, 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 all 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 samne 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 THỂ 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 (6 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 ri testimonial of the truth of his declared mission : And what did this “ request produce ? Why, he sighed deeply at their péřverseness, who were 6 so hard to be convinced, and stiled them a foolish and adulterous generation, 5 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

had indeed appealed to their nnderstandings, been so far from any thing si criminal or blame-worthy, that it had been in all' reason their indispensible “ duty; whereas it was, it seems, in Faith, an unwarrantable, presump". tuous, and wanton curiosity. Christianity not founded on argument, p. 38. 6. The coming desirous to canvas the evidence, though from no other prin"i ciple perhaps, originally, than that of gratifying a light curiosity, were, 66 one would imagine, a turn of mind to be favorably entertained, and 66 carefully cherished in a novice, by any who was solicitous to gain pros ". 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 66 no temper check'd and dicouraged with so constant an aversion, 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 " we take not in, the peculiar nature of the sign which they demanded : " The assertion, that they asked only some testimonial of his declared 66 mission that they desired a rational evidence of their discipleship-that " they came desirous to canvass the evidence--that this was the disposition " which Jesiis held criminal, are all so directly contradictory to the real « 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 there. fore, 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 circumstancial 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 i actuated by perverseness and prejudice, which had already made them " withstand the clearest evidence, and the greatest miracles, and which it " was in vain to expect to conquer by working more miracles. It was

tlierefore as reasonable 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 s 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 “: a 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 givca. Instead of giving it, it was proper to affirm expressly, " as Jesus did affirm, that it never would be given, and that it did not .6 belong to the Messiah, justly conceived. Whenever a sign was asked, 6 he appealed for the certainty of his Mission, to his own resurrection " from the dead. . So far was hé from refusing any rational evidence of hiş " mission, that even their perverseness hindered him not from voluntarily 6. pointing out the strongest. 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 * uttered by him. But there is a farther propriety in his foretelling it, 66 when they required a sign: it was a plain insinuation, that their opinion 1 of the manner of the Messiah's appearance was wronga--that he was not " such a prince as they cxpected : for by it he informed them expressly, " th:at he must be put to death, before he cntered on his kingdom. His 66 answer was, therefore, fit for leading them to a juster interpretation of "Daniel's Prophecy, and for preventing their rejccting the Messiah because

he wanted a character which was never predicted of him," See Gerard's Dissertations, p. 186, &c.

Peter Peter had made this noble confession that he was the Messiah

or rather from the time when he charged them to tell no man that he was THE MESSIAH, began Jesus to shew to his Disciples, how that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, from the Elders and Chief Priests and Scribes, and be killed and raised again the third day. .

When our Lord, as hath already been noticed at large, in the examination of the tenth chapter of this Evangelist, had førewarned his Disciples, of the great troubles, to which they would be exposed, in the execution of their commission, to announce the glad tidings of the near approach of the Messiah's kingdom-there is not the slightest intimation, of their having expostulated with him upon the subject, though he, at the same time, particularly informed them, that they were such as awaited himself--and, for this reason probably, that they could not, even upon their own principles, have expected that the great purposes of the Messiahship, could be completely attained, without both themselves and their beloved Master, being exposed to some difficulties. But, no sooner did Jesus enter into farther particulars, and foretel, in the closest connection, with an acknowledgement made by themselves, and with Jesus's decided approbation of that acknowledgment, that he was the Messiah--that such sufferings awaited him, as would terminate in a violent and ignominious death, and that, from the hands of his own countrymen from the Elders--the Chief Priests and the Scribes, whom they had been accustomed to look up to with, almost a superstitious reverence, than they immediately took the alarm. And, well they might; for sufferings like these, and from such a quarter too, were so totally incompatible, with all the ideas which they had previously affixed to the Character of the Messiah, that they could, no longer, keep silence. In. deed, if they had, the Gospel History, would have wanted one most essential and important internal evidence of its genuine authenticity ; for nothing, it must be allowed by every one, who considers the matter impartially, can be more satisfactory to the human mind, than to find the conduct of the Disciples in perfect unison with the sentiments which they are, on all hands, admitted to have possessed! And, such was the fact, upon this truly interesting and important occasion ; for the Evangelist relates that St. Peter, who seems, generally, to have been the most forward, in expressing his attachment to


« PreviousContinue »