« AnteriorContinuar »
And in Jesus Christ, &c.
THAT JESUS IS THE TRUE MESSIAS.
ACTS, CHAP. IX.-VERSE 22.
Proving that Jesus is the Christ.
What is the true notion of the name or title Christ, we in discoursing formerly on this text) did explain. That one person, to whom that notion signally doth agree, was by God's especial determination to come into the world, we did also in the next place, from prophetical instruction (backed with the common tradition and current opinion of God's people) declare. We farther in the sequel did propound to show that Jesus (whom we acknowlege) was that very person ; the Messias predicted by the prophets, and expected by the Jews. This we have already (in the foregoing discourses) proved from several circumstances of his birth and coming among men ; from his personal qualifications, and froin divers illustrious performances managed by him, in correspondency to what the prophets foretold concerning the Messias. The same we now proceed to confirm from other very considerable particulars foretold by them, and suiting to him; and first from those things, which the Messias was to undergo and suffer.
That the Messias was to come in a humble and homely manner, (without appearances of worldly splendor or grandeur ;) that he was to converse among men in a state of external poverty and meanness; that he was to be disregarded and de
spised by men; that he was to cause offences, and to find oppositions in bis proceedings; that he was to be repulsed and rejected, to be scorned and hated, to be disgracefully and hardly treated, to be grievously persecuted and afflicted; yea, that at last he was to be prosecuted, condemned, and executed as a malefactor, is a truth which the Jews (although they firmly believed and earnestly expected the coming of a Messias) did not, and indeed were hardly capable to entertain. It was a point repugnant to the whole frame of their conceits, yea inconsistent with the nature and drift of their religion, as they understood it. For their religion in its surface (deeper than which their gross fancy could not penetrate) did represent earthly wealth, dignity, and prosperity as things highly valuable; did propound them as very proper (if not as the sole) rewards of piety and obedience; did imply consequently the possession of thein to be certain arguments of the divine good-will and regard ; they could not therefore but esteem poverty, affliction, and disgrace, as curses from heaven, and plain indications of God's disfavor toward those on whom they fell : they particularly did conceit that to be rich was a necessary qualification to a prophet, (no less necessary, than to be of a good complexion, of a good capacity, of a good life ;) Spiritus Dei non requiescit super pauperem ; 'the Spirit of God rests not on a poor man,' (that is, no special communications of grace, wisdom, goodness, are ever by God afforded to persons of a low or afflicted condition,) was a rule they had framed, and which passed among them. That he therefore, who was designed to be so notable a prophet; who was to have the honor of being so special an instrument of promoting God's service and glory; who therefore must be so highly favored by God, should appear despicable, and undergo great afflictions, was a notion that could not but seem very absurd, could not otherwise than be very abominable to them. They had also (in congruity to those prejudices, abetted by that extreme self-love and self-flattery, which were peculiar to that nation) raised in themselves a strong opinion that the Messias was to come in a great visible state and power; to do acts of great prowess and renown, to bring the nations of the world
into subjection under him, and so to reign among them in glorious majesty and prosperity. When Jesus therefore (however otherwise answerable in his circumstances, qnalifications, and performances to the prophetical characters of the Messias) did appear, such as he did, with pretences (or intimations rather) that he was the Messias, their stomach rose at it, they were hugely offended at bim, they deemed him not only a madman (one possessed or distracted) and an impostor, but a blasphemer; for to be no less than blasphemy they took it, for so pitiful a wretch to arrogate unto himself so high a dignity, so near a relation to God, as the being the Messias did import. We see even the disciples of our Lord so deeply tainted with this national prejudice, that (even after they had acknowleged him to be the Christ) they could not with patience hear him foretelling what should befall him, (St. Peter, on that occasion, even just after he had confessed him to be the Christ, did, as the text says, take him, and began to rebuke him, saying, · Be it far from thee, Lord.) Yea, presently after that he most plainly had described his sufferings to them, they could not forbear dreaming of kingdoms, and being grandees in them; yea, even after our Lord's passion and resurrection this fancy still possessed them ; for even then they demand of him whether be would ' at that time restore the kingdom unto Israel,” (meaning such an external visible kingdom.) . This hence of all things notifying the Messias seems to be the only particular which in general the Jews did not, or would not, see and acknowlege; and this caused them to oversee all the rest, how clearly soever shining in and about the person of Jesus. This cloud hindered them from discerning the excellency of his doctrine, from regarding the sanctity of his life, from being affected with the wonderfulness of his works; from minding or crediting all the testimonies ministered from heaven unto him. This, as St. Paul tells us, was the great scandal which obstructed their embracing the gospel. We cannot therefore here, as in other particulars, allege the general consent of God's people, in expounding the prophets according to our sense ; this being one of those points, in respect to which the prophets did foresee and foretell their perverse stupidity
and incredulity; that they should look and not see, hear and not understand ;'yielding herein special occasion to that complaint, Who hath believed our report ?'
Yet notwithstanding their (affected) blindness, there is no particular concerning the Messias, in the ancient Scripture, either more frequently in way of mystical insinuation, or adumbration) glanced at, or more clearly in direct and plain language) expressed, or which also by reasonable deductions thence may be inferred more strongly than this. St. Peter affirms that God had foreshowed it by the mouth of all his prophets' (not only of some, but of all his prophets :) the same our Lord himself did signify before his departure to his disci. ples out of Moses, the Prophets, and Psalms, showing them this particular, and opening their minds to understand the Scriptures concerning it; concluding his discourse to them thus, "Ότι ούτω γέγραπται, και ούτως έδει παθείν τον Χριστόν, “Thus it was written, and thus ought Christ (according to the prophetical presignifications and predictions) to suffer.'
For the explaining and confirming of which truth, let us presume here to make a preparatory discourse or digression (not unseasonable perhaps, or improper to our purpose) concerning the nature of divine presignifications, which may serve to declare the pertinency of many citations produced out of the ancient Scripture in the New Testament, (the which, together with others connected to them, or bearing analogy to them, we also, being assured of their design by the authority of our Lord and his Apostles, may safely presune after them to apply to the same purposes.) We may then consider that the allwise God (who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, and to whom all things are present) having before eternal times, as St. Paul speaketh, determined in due time to send the Messias for accomplishing the greatest design that ever was to be managed in this world, (which should bring the highest glory to himself, and procure the greatest benefit to the principal of his creatures here,) did by his incomprehensible providence 90 order things, that all the special dispensations preceding it should have a fit tendency and advantageous reference thereto; so that when it came on the stage, it might appear that the main of the plot consisted therein, and that whatever before was
acted, had a principal respect thereto. As therefore from the beginning of things God did in a gradual method make real preparations toward it, by steps imparting discoveries of his mind about it, or in order to it, (somewhat to Adam bimself, more to Abraham and the patriarchs, somewhat farther to Moses, much more yet to divers of the prophets among his chosen people, who not only foretold largely concerning it, but delivered several instructions conformable to it, and nearly conducing to the promoting thereof;) so he did also take especial care by many apposite resemblances, handsomely inserted into all his dispensations, to set it out, and to insinuate his meaning about it; that so at length it might show itself with more solennity, and less surprise. The most eminent persons therefore, whom he raised up and employed in his affairs tending to that end, as they did resemble the Messias in being instruments of his particular grace and providence (being indeed inferior Christs and mediators, and partial saviours of his people, as they are sometimes called,) so they were ordered in several circumstances of their persons, in divers actions they did, in the principal accidents befalling them, to represent him; as also the rites and services instituted by them were adapted to the same purpose; they and all things about them being fitted by God's especial wise care, so
as to be
congruous emblems and shadows presignifying the Christ, and what appertained to him; his circumstances and accidents, his performances, his institutions. Thus was Adam, as St. Paul calls him, a type of Christ; Abel, Melchizedek, Isaac, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Zorobabel, are also intimated to have been such ; the most signal things done by them, or befalling them, having been suited to answer somewhat that was remarkable concerning him; we may say of them all, as the Apostle to the Hebrews says of the Jewish priests; • They served to the subindication and shadowing of heavenly things” (οίτινες υποδείγματι και σκιά λατρεύουσι των επουρανίων.) In David particuJarly this relation is so plain, that because thereof often (as we before noted) in the prophets, (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea,) the Messias is called by his name. It indeed well suited the dignity of this great person, and the importance of his business, that he should have such notable ushers, heralds, and har