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Respecting the Messiah. [Ess, IH. evidences that God was the author of their religion, and the conductor of that great scheme of love and providence, of which they were themselves the immediate objects.
As events have continued to unfold themselves, however, these evidences have received a variety of important additions. When we reflect on the still wild and unsocial condition of the wandering children of Ishmael, Gen, xvi, 12; on the testimony of modern travellers, that the site of ancient Tyre is, in the present day, a rock on which the fishermen spread their nets, Ezek. xxvi, 3-5; on the curious fact that Babylon, in the fourth century, was converted by the Persians into a park for wild beasts, and that its uncertain remains are still traced amidst the habitations of venomous reptiles, Jer. 1, li; Isa. xiii; on the gradual sinking down of Egypt into “the basest of kingdoms," Ezek. xxix, 15; and, above all, on the ruin and dispersion of the Jews themselves, who to this very hour are an “astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word, among all nations," Deut. xxviii,- we must confess that we are favoured with accumulated proof of the divine origin of that ancient system of religion, of which Christianity is the crown and consummation,
But there are prophecies in the Old Testament of a still higher importance than those to which I have now alluded, and still more properly applicable to the subject of the present Essay, because they afford a direct attestation to the divine origin of Christianity itself. These are the prophecies, of which Jesus Christ, the long-expected Messiah of the Jews, was either the sole or the principal subject. “Search the Scriptures," said our Lord to the unbelieving Jews, “ for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me,” John v, 39; and on another occasion, in reference to that well-known
55 classification of the Old Testament already mentioned, he spoke of the things which were written concerning him “in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms:” Luke xxiv, 44. Accordingly we find that the leading object of that series of prophecies which pervades these several parts of the sacred writings of the Hebrews was to reveal to the people of God a great moral or spiritual deliverer, who was to arise in the Lord's appointed time, not only for their salvation, but for that of the whole world.
That such was to be his character, and such the object of his mission--that Christ was to be made manifest for the benefit of mankind in general, and in order to “ destroy the works of the devil," -was indicated in obscure and general terms by the very first prophecy recorded in Scripture; a prophecy which was delivered immediately after the fall of our first parents, and which declared that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, Gen. iii, 15; and we soon afterwards read of the corresponding promise of God to Abraham, that in his seed, "all the nations of the earth" should be “ blessed :" Gen. xxii, 18. The stock from which the Messiah was to spring was pointed out with a further restriction, and the extensive influence of his scheme of mercy was again adverted to in the prediction of Jacob, that the sceptre should not depart from Judah, nor a lawgirer from between his feet, until Shiloh should come, and that to him should be the gathering of the people, or, as in the Hebrew, of the nations : Gen. xlix, 10. Moses, who was a mediator, a lawgiver, a shepherd of the people, and the meekest of men, predicted of this future ruler of Israel, that he should be like unto himself: Deut. xviii, 15—18. Job spake of Christ under the name of Redeemer, and prophesied that he should stand in the latter days upon the earth: Job xix, 23_-27.
Respecting the Messiah. [Ess. 111. This general outline is filled up in the book of Psalms, and in those of both the major and minor prophets, by a great variety of yet more definite declarations respecting the filiation, the history, the nature and the offices of the Messiah. In various parts of those sacred writings it is foretold, that this longexpected deliverer should come forth out of the root of Jesse, Isa. xi, 1; and out of the family of David, Jer. xxiii, 5—that his coming should be preceded by the mission of another inessenger, who is denominated Elijah the prophet, Mal. iii, 1; iv, 5, 6—that he should arise during the continuance of the second temple, Hag. ii, 6–9; and seventy weeks, or four hundred and ninety years, from a fixed historical period, Dan. ix, 25-27-that he should be born miraculously of a virgin, Isa. vii, 14; and in the town of Bethlehem, Mic. v, 2—that his condition in life should be one of a very humble description, Isa. lüi, 2—that he should be anointed of the Spirit, and engaged in proclaiming glad tidings, and in comforting the distressed, Isa. xlii, 1; lxi, 1-4--that his character should be remarkable for gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, and all-righteousness, Isa. xi, 1; xlii, 1-3--that, on his coming, there should take place miraculous cures of the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the dumb, Isa. xxxv, 3--6; nevertheless, that the Jews would refuse to believe in him, Isa. liii, 1–that he should be despised, rejected, and persecuted of men, Isa. liii, 3, 4; Ps. cxviii, 22, 23- that the rulers should take counsel together against him, Ps. ii, 2—that he should be betrayed by one of his familiar friends, Ps. xli, 9-that his flock should be scattered, Zech. xiii, 7- that he should be led as a lamb to the slaughter, and be as a sheep, dumb before his shearers, Isa. liii, 7-that his hands and his feet should be pierced, Ps. xxii, 16-that he should be cut off, yet not for himself, Dan. ix, 26-that his
57 body should not see corruption, nor his life be left in the grave, Ps. xvi, 102—that he should ascend into heaven, Ps. Ixviii, 18; sit at the right hand of the Father, and be a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek, Ps. cx, 1—4—that he should be the object of faith and allegiance to the Gentiles, Isa. xi, 10. xlii, 1,7—and finally, that he should be the good and gracious Shepherd of his people, Ezek. xxxiv, 23; and exercise a peaceable and never-ending government over the children of men: Ps. lxxii; Isa. ix, 7; Dan. vii, 14, &c.
In addition to these numerous and principal circumstances, there are predicted in the Old Testament several minor particulars respecting the life, sufferings, death, and burial, of the Messiah, see Ps. xxii, 1, 8, 18, lxix, 21; Isa. liii, 9; Zech. ix, 9; and, to crown the whole of their wonderful statement, the prophets, while they so exactly depict the circumstances of his human nature, and especially his humiliating sufferings and violent death, frequently describe him, nevertheless, as one possessing the name, and exercising the attributes of Jehovah himself: see Isa. vii, 14, ix, 6, 7, xxxv, 1-6, xl, 3, 10, 11; Jer. xxiii, 5, 6; Zech. ii, 10-13; Mal. iii, 1-3, &c.
On the series of predictions now cited, I beg leave to offer two general observations.
In the first place, it may be remarked that, in the religion of the ancient Hebrews, the system of prophecy was very closely connected with the system of types. Not only did many of the ceremonies prescribed by the Jewish law represent, in a very striking manner, the principal features of the Christian dis
The words in Ps. xvi, 10, rendered “ Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell,” may with more propriety be rendered, “ Thou shalt not leave my life, or person, in the grave.”
Double Application. [Ess. III. pensation; but, several of the individuals, whose lives and characters distinguish the page of Jewish history, and especially Moses, David, and Solomon, may justly be regarded as having been, in some respects, personal types of the Messiah. There are various passages in the New as well as in the Old Testament, which appear to countenance this idea, and from which we may gather, that it was currently received among the Jews; and the probability of its correctness is amply evinced by the correlative points to be observed in the comparison between the types and the antitype. Such being the case, it is by no means surprising, that a few of the prophecies now cited as relating to the Messiah are partially capable of a subordinate application to some typifying person. This is the case more particularly with certain passages in the Psalms, in which David describes the circumstances of his divine descendant, under the figure or shadow of his own: see, for example, Ps. xvi, xxii, xl, xli, comp. Isa. vii, 14–16. It is, however, a very curious and confirming circumstance, that we may almost uniformly observe, in prophecies which are thus capable, to a certain extent, of a double application, particular parts which are totally unsuitable to the type, and which can be explained solely of the antitype. Nor is it to be forgotten, that a considerable proportion of the evangelical prophecies contained in the Old Testament are susceptible only of a direct and exclusive application to the Messiah himself.
These numerous prophecies, secondly, were uttered by persons who lived in very different ages, occupied a variety of stations, manifested a great diversity of character, and had in general no connexion with one another. Among the prophets whom I have now cited, are to be observed the names of Jacob, Moses, Job, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah, Hag.