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when we know already the sad, sad answer that awaits them ? Pharisee and Sadducee, priest and Levite, scribe and citizen, did not rival each other in profound homage to the King. The key of the house of David was not placed in His hand. The tribes sent not up their elders to Jerusalem to bow down in glad reverence before the prayed for Prince of Israel. The golden gates of the temple flew not back to admit its great antitype to the inner sanctuary. The entire people did not celebrate a coronation of unexampled magnificence in His honour. Herod did not on bended. knee lay his crown at His feet. There were no triumphal processions, no official hosannahs, no tribal congratulations. No. “He came unto His own possessions, and His own people received Him not.” It is a blank, weary, melancholy, repellent negative throughout. It is the most dismal story of all stories ever read by men. The Son of David, the King of Israel, the Son of God is contemptuously despised, rejected, abhorred, murdered !
With all the faults, the follies, the crimes, and the sins of men, charity would have fondly hoped that there was something good about human nature still; but now even charity can hope no longer. The last proof is given, the final evidence is furnished, that there is no good thing in man.
He has long resisted the Holy Spirit; now he kills the Prince of Life, and there is no more that he can do. In the way of guilt he can go no farther. The evidence is closed now, and will stand on the record through all the ages, for ever excluding the faintest hope of self-restoration from the abyss into which he is plunged. He must lie there in that dungeon, and die the death which has no hope in the distance, no life in the future, if-if what? What conditional sentence can possibly be used here ? for man has killed the only Saviour. Is not that conclusive as to his utter and remediless ruin? It is, so far as he is concerned. Surely he will cease now to boast of his virtue and to parade his own righteousness. His lauded free-will has
gone to its utmost limit, and he has cut down to the grave the only hope of his race. Poor, infatuated, disgraced, wrecked, ruined man! If good to the world is to come out of this, it will be entirely the work of God.
But why did the Jews reject the King ? This is a question which I ask with trembling, as it rebounds with terrible force upon ourselves, but it cannot be evaded without injustice to this great subject, and I shall knowingly evade nothing which appears to me essential. The question, then, in compact form is–Did the Jewish rulers recognise in Jesus the promised Messiah? The answer at once is, They did not. But does not this greatly palliate the enormity of their guilt ? I again reply emphatically, It does not. The reconciliation of this apparent contradiction is of the deepest moment, not merely as shedding light on one of the most mysterious passages in human history, but also because it has the strongest practical bearing upon ourselves, with regard to our manner of reading the Divine Book. As to the first question, we are not left to reason on the utter absurdity, the manifest incredibility, of the supposition that the Jews would knowingly put to death the very Being whose arrival among them was longed for through so many centuries as the hope and glory of their nation ; for we have evidence clear as sunlight on the subject. Three witnesses will suffice. Peter, having charged his countrymen with denying the Holy One and the Just, and killing the Prince of Life, adds, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” (Acts iii. 17). Paul, preaching at Antioch in Pisidia, says, “For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him" (Acts xiii. 27). And the “ True and Faithful Witness " bears testimony under circumstances which make us bend our heads and worship. Amidst the agonies of crucifixion the holy Sufferer utters this wonderful prayer : “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke xxiii. 34). These gracious words from the accursed tree reveal a depth of love for which we have no measuring line. Let them stand their own commentary, for no words of man can irradiate them with a clearer light.
As to the second question-Does not this proved fact palliate the guilt under review ? let two things be remembered, first, that the Jews were consciously guilty of the highest crime known to law. They knew that Jesus was not guilty ; they had proof positive of His innocence; their bribed witnesses contradicted each other; the bribed traitor in an agony of remorse dashed the wretched price of blood upon the ground; and the judge who handed Him over to death protested against his own act.
Never was there a clearer case of judicial murder. There is no link wanting in the chain of evidence that envy, jealousy, hatred, were the foul elements that urged the rulers on to destroy the great Miracle Worker, the great Teacher, the great Benefactor of the poor, the lame, the blind, and the sorrowful. The life of Jesus was a glorious attestation of His holiness. Never can His murderers be cleared of the charge of wilfully and of set purpose, long entertained and deliberately planned, shedding innocent blood ; and that, too, the blood of a man whom they knew to be the most illustrious and wonderful the sun ever shone upon.
But, secondly, the fact of their professed ignorance of His Messiahship, though admitted by apostles and used as a prayer on their behalf by the Divine Sufferer, adds to their guilt ; for they should have known. Paul gives the key to this. They knew not the voices of the prophets which were read every Sabbath-day in their hearing, and which distinctly declared that they would be guilty of this very crime. Their ignorance was therefore altogether inexcusable. As a matter of fact, the rulers who conspired the death of Jesus would not know that He was God's Anointed. They Hateful pre
hated Him without a cause, and determined to get rid of Him. "I adjure thee by the living God," said the high priest, “ that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." What was the effect of this plain avowal of His Divinity and Messiahship? A charge of blasphemy and a sentence of death! The clear utterances of their prophets availed nothing against their malignity. judice had blinded their eyes. It was in the very nature of those predictions to defeat themselves--to prevent their own accomplishment; for the people thus forewarned, had they attended to the warning, would have shrunk back in horror at the bare possibility of such a deed of infamy.
Remember, we are speaking now exclusively from the human side of the question, the side of man's freedom of action ; the Divine side, the side of God's sovereignty, will come before us hereafter, and the reconciliation of both will be found no insuperable difficulty. It is here, therefore, that the question arises, How came the Jew to be ignorant of the many utterances of his prophets respecting the sufferings of the Messiah? We have said that he gazed with fond imaginings on the sunlit mountain tops of prophetic scenery, and that he was divinely justified in so doing, but he failed to look at the valley of humiliation that lay at his feet; and for this omission, for which he has no justification, he is held up to all generations as the murderer of the King of Israel. He saw the glorious Prince, but he would not see the “man of sorrows;" he gazed on the kingly side of the vision, but he averted his eye from the victim-Lamb led to the slaughter ; he exulted in the magnificence of Israel's future in consequence of the peerless character of her coming Sovereign, but he shunned as incredible the picture of that Sovereign “ despised and rejected of men,” and “cut off out of the land of the living." These, then, are the leading facts of this unparalleled case, stated simply as facts, without reference to any theological theory.
Do we blame the Jews for their neglect of so momentously important a part of the testimony of their inspired teachers ? The great Master Himself did so. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke xxiv. 25). Had they believed all, they would have seen that depth of sorrow, crucifixion, and the grave were limned on the prophet's canvas, as well as a crown of glory, a sceptre, and an empire. Let the Master's rebuke stand. We need not add to it; for assuredly if we do the rebound will come upon us in full force. We Christians have for many centuries copied the men we blame, with this difference—that we have reversed their choice. Like them, we deserve the rebuke, “O senseless men, whose heart is slow in believing all that the prophets have said !” The royal rights of the Heir formed
the theme of Jewish thought and speech to the exclusion of His foreshown sorrows and death. His sorrows and death, to the exclusion of His royal rights, form the subjects of the sermons of Christendom. To bring evidence in support of this statement would be absurd, for it is undeniably and universally true, and has been true ever since the Church left her first love and lost her yearning desire for the return of her Lord and His accession to the throne. With few exceptions the Church is dead to the royal rights of Jesus. The grave and the cross alone meet our eye. Christ “our life," Christ in resurrection, Christ coming to raise His sleeping saints, to change the living in the twinkling of an eye, and to make both immortal and perfect human beings, preparatory to the inauguration of His world-wide kingdom-who preaches these grand verities of the blessed revelation of the ever-blessed God ? Here and there a man who understands the holy Book to mean just what it says; but the overwhelming majority stand aloof from the so-called contagion, and will not commit themselves to anything so unpopular as the regal rights of God's Anointed !
Well! Is the King to be rejected a second time? It would seem So. Nay, it has been done already,—done for some fifteen centuries, at least, throughout the length and breadth of the cluster of nations called Christendom. “Jesus is not good enough for the world,” said Judea; “therefore cast Him out.” The world is not good enough for Jesus,” says Christendom ; "therefore keep Him out." And so the royal rights of the King are rejected by Christendom as they were by Judea. The Christian has united with the Jew in the protest against the reign of this man.” As the Jew explained away the prophetic descriptions of the Messiah's sufferings, or applied them to some other person, so the Christian has explained away the prophetic descriptions of Messiah's kingdom, or applied them to another world. The Jew thought he honoured his promised King by refusing to believe that he should be poor, and lowly, and despised ; the Christian thinks he honours his Redeemer by refusing to believe that the “ Son of man is coming His glory
to rule over His own world. In the former case the Divine testimony was set aside to make room for a predilection ; in the latter case it is set aside to make room for a false canon of interpretation. In both cases the word of God is made void by tradition; and in both the will of man blinds the eye to the meaning of inspiration. The eye of the Jew was dazzled with the glory of the King, so that he saw no Priest offering sacrifice; the eye of the Christian is fixed on Gethsemane, Calvary, and the Cross, so that he sees no victorious Prince ruling the nations, and receiving the homage of all mankind. A portion of the truth separated from the rest was the cause of Israel's blindness ; a portion of the truth separated from the rest is the cause of the sleep of Christendom. Let Messiah come, said the Jews, and we shall expel the Romans and be masters of the world. Let Him stay where He is, say Christians, and we shall bring the world to His feet. “ The unbelieving Jew," indeed! A thousand facts entitle Him to retort, “ The unbelieving Christian !” for as the King was rejected by Judea, so the King is rejected by Christendom.
It is in vain to tell us that Christians admit the regal rights of Jesus, by saying that He “reigns in their hearts," for that is not the question under review; and it is equally irrelevant to say that He reigns in heaven, for that is not the locality in which the prophets of both Testaments behold Him on His throne. Nor is it any nearer the mark to say that Christians are anxious to see Him in possession of His rights by their efforts to convert the world to His truth, because from our hands he could not accept the kingdom even if we had it to offer. Twice already has He had the offer of royalty and refused it, because it came not from the proper quarter. On one occasion a great multitude were so deeply impressed by His miracles of mercy that they exclaimed, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” And the historian immediately adds, “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone" (John vi. 14, 15). He would not accept the throne of David, though He was Heir to it, through any popular movement of this kind. The other occasion was when the Devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and said that he would give them all to Him on the condition of doing him homage (Matt. iv. 8, 9); but though Jesus was truly Heir of all that appeared in that magnificent vision, He indignantly rejected the offer. Not from the people, not from Satan, will He receive His throne. And neither from the hands of the Church can He accept the regalia of His great empire. Indeed, so far is this from being possible, she is a constant dependent upon His grace, and can take no step in the right direction without His constant guidance. In her case boasting is most effectually excluded, and she will never call His attention to a restored world with the words, See, I have recovered this for Thee.” Only from the hands of the Father, who hath appointed unto Him a kingdom, will He receive that kingdom, and all its glory. It is clear, then, that neither the reign of Jesus over the hearts of His people, nor the fancy that heaven is the locality the prophets assign for His kingdom, nor the theory that the Church is bringing the world to His feet, meets the charge that the teaching of Christendom is a rejection of God's Anointed. In fact, the doctrine of the pre-millennial return of the Lord is not only discredited by the great majority; it is opposed, scorned, maligned, hated, laughed at, caricatured by Christian ministers, just as the regal rights of Jesus were opposed, scorned, maligned, hated, laughed at, caricatured by Jewish priests.
I am not quite a stranger to the literature of this subject; and, were it not that I find the fact predicted in Scripture, I should be amazed