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SE R M O N CXVII.
Proving Jesus to be the Messias.
MATTH. xi. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Now when John had heard in prison the works of
Chrift, he sent two of his difciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we looke for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and fhew John again those things which ye do hear and see. The blind receive their light, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them: And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.
BOUT the time of our Saviour's appearing in the world, there was a general expectation of
a great Prince, that should come out of Judea, and govern all nations: this the Gentiles had from the prophecies of the Sibyls, which spake of a great King that was to appear in the world about that
So Virgil tells us, that the time of Augustus was the utmost date of that prophecy;
Ultima Crimai venit jam carminis atas : And Suetonius tells us, “ That all over the eastern 5 countries, there was an ancient and constant
tra, “ dition, that such a prince should spring out of Ju" dea :” And for this reason it is, that our Saviour is called by the Prophet, the expectation of the nations,
But more especially among the Jews, there was at that time a more lively and particular expectation, grounded upon the predictions of their Prophets, of à Prince whom they called the Messias, or the Anointed; and those who were more devout among them, Vol. VI,
did at that time wait for his appearance; as it is said of Simeon, that he waited for ihe confolation of Israel. Hence it was, that when John the Baptist appeared in the quality of an extraordinary Prophet, they sent from Jerusalem to enquire whether he were the mess fias? John i. 19. The Jews sent Priefts and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, who art' thou? And he confessed, and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Chrift. The Sanhedriin, to whom it belonged to judge who were the true Prophets, sent to know whether he was the Messias or not? he would not take this honour to himself, but told them the Messias was just at hand; and the next day, when Jesus came to be baptized of himn, he bare record, that he was the Son of God, and that he saw the spirit descending and abiding upon him.
So that it is plain that he knew him, and bare witness of him, which makes it the more strange that here in the text, he should send two of his disciples to enquire, whether he were the Messias or not? Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another ? that is, art thou the Messias or not? for lo he is called in the ancient prophecies of him, ó épxóuer, he that should come. Gen. xlix. 10. The Scepter Mall not depart from Judah, till Shiloh come.
For the resolution of this difficulty, it is very probably said by interpreters, and I think there is no reason to doubt of it, that John the Baptist did not send this message for his own satisfaction, but to satisfy his disciples, who were never very willing to acknowledge Jesus for the Messias, because they thought he did shadow and cloud their master. From whence we may take notice, how mens judgments are apt to be perverted by faction and interest; and that good men are too prone to be swayed thereby; for such we suppose the disciples of John to have been; they will not believe their own master, when they apprehend him to speak against their interest; for they knew that they must rise and fall in their reputation and esteem, as their master did. They believed that their master was a Prophet, and came from God; yet for all that, they could not digeft
his testimony of Christ, because that set him above their master; which they were fagacious enough to perceive, that it tended to the diminution and lefsening, of themselves. And that this was the thing which troubled them, appears plainly from the complaint which they make to their master, John iii. 26. The disciples of John came to him and said, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. This troubled them, to see him invade their master's office, and that he began to have more fol. lowers than John had; be baptizeth, and all men come to him.
This prejudice John had endeavoured to root out of their minds, by telling them, that he had always declared that he was not the Meffias, ver. 28. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. But when he perceived it still to Atick with them, and that they observed all his actions, and the miracles that he wrought, as if they had a mind to pick a quarrel with him, (for St. Luke, who relates the same story, tells us, that when our Saviour had healed the Cen. turion's servant, and raised from the dead the widow's son at Nain, the disciples of John shewed him all these things) I say, John Baptist perceiving that they watched him so narrowly, lent iwo of his disciples to him, that they might receive full fatisfaction from hini.
And St. Luke tells us, that upon their coming ta him, he wrought many of his miracles before them, to convince them that he was the true Messias. Luke vii. 21, 22. And in that same hour be cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits"; and to many that were blind he gave fight; and then faid to the difciples of John, Go your way, and tell Fohn what things ye have seeen and heard; how that the blind see, and the lame walk, the lepers are clean, fed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, and to the poor the gospel is preached; and blessed is he that is not offended in me. So that you see that the reason why John Baptist A 2
Tens sent to
our Saviour to know whether he was the Messias, was not to satisfy himself, for he had no doubt of it; but perceiving his disciples, to be ill affected towards our Saviour, and hearing them speak with some envy of his miracles, he sent them to him, that by seeing what he did, and hearing what account he gave of himself, they might receive full fa. tisfaction concerning him.
I have been the longer in the clearing of this, that men upon every appearance of contradiction in the evangelical history, may not be too forward to suspect the truth of it; but may be convinced, that, if they would have but patience to examine things carefully, they would find that the story does fufficiently vindicate itself; and though it be penned with great fimplicity, yet there is sufficient care taken to free it from being guilty of any contradi&tion to itfelf.
The occafion of the words being thus cleared, there are in them these two things confiderable :
First, What it was that John the Baptist sent his disciples to be satisfied about; and that was, whę. ther he was the Messias or not? Now when John had beard in prison the works of Chrift, he sent two of his disciples. The circumstance of his being in prifon, seems to be mentioned, to intimate to us the reason why he did not come himself along with them ; he sent two of his disciples to him, who said unto him, Art thou he that could come, or do we look for another ? And then,
Secondly, The answer which our Saviour returns to this message ; Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do see and hear'; the blind receive their fight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them; and blessed is he whosoever small not be offended in me.
So that these words contain, first, the evidence which our Saviour gives of his being the true Mes. fias. Secondly, An intimation, that notwithftanding all this evidence which he gave of himself, yet many
would be offended at him, and reject him ; blessed is he whosoever is not offended in me.
First, The evidence which our Saviour gives of his being the true Messias : And to prove this, there were but two things necessary :
1. To sew that he was sent by God; and had a particular commission from him.
2. That he was the very person of whom the Prophets foretold that he should be the Messias.
The first of these he proves by the miracles which he wrought ; and the second by the correspondency of the things he did, with what was foretold by the Prophets concerning the Messias ; the prophecies concerning the Mellias were accomplished in him.
First, by the miracles which he wrought, the blind receive their fight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up. Here is a brief enumeration of the several forts of miracles which our Saviour wrought, and thefe were a testimony to him that became from God, and was sent and commissioned by him to declare his will to the world. So he himself tells us, John v. 39. I have a greater witness than that of John, for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me that the Father hath sent me. Upon the evidence of these miracles, Nicodeinus, a ruler among the Jews, was convinced that he was sent by God, Jolin iii. 2. We know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou doft, except God be with him. Nay his greatest enemie were afraid of his miracles, knowing how proper an argument they are to convince men. John xi. 47. when the chief Priests and Pharisees were met together in-coun cil against him, they concluded, that it he were permitted to go on and work miracles, he would draw all men after him. What do we & (say they) for this man doth many miracles ; if we let him thus: alone, all men will believe on him. This they said, upon occasion of the great miracle of railing Lazarus from the dead.