« ForrigeFortsæt »
expressed the faith for which the imaginative world is now zealously contending -SPIRIT-VISION ACROSS THE GRAVE. I should be reluctant to relinquish my own hold, instinctive rather than philosophical though it be, of faith so precious. -N. P. WILLIS.
THE JEWISH IDEAL OF CHRIST.
BY THE EDITOR.
THERE are many saints in bliss now who lived and died under the Old Testament dispensation. The number of those who died in faith not having received the promise, but who saw it afar off and embraced it, is like the stars of heaven and the sand on the sea-shore, innumerable; these now are represented as bending down, like the spectators in an amphitheatre, around us, to witness our conflicts and triumphs in the Christian race. These all, now clothed in white, washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. These all were saved by Christ as well as we, for there is no other name given under heaven whereby men may be saved but the name of Jesus. Abraham saw his day and was glad, and all the patriarchs, and prophets, and saints were saved believing on him who should come.
If these saints believed in Christ unto salvation they must have had him before the eye of their faith. The Saviour promised and expected, in some form, moved before their minds and lived in their faith. Some representation of him floated continually before them in prophetic vision. It becomes a matter of interesting inquiry what was this IDEAL Messiah which they loved and upon which they rested their faith with such ardent and saving firmness? Our minds are so constituted that they give form to every unseen object upon which they are intensely directed. As the poet, painter, and sculptor desires to give form and tangible existence to their conceptions, so do our thoughts seek to corporealize themselves. The word became flesh. There is nothing hid that does not reveal itself. The inner world always struggles towards a manifestation. It is only natural, then, that the saints under the Old Testament should clothe their conceptions in flesh and blood, and place this created ideal before their faith as their hope and consolation.
To the formation of this ideal Messiah, all the hints of him, made through Divine revelation at sundry times and in divers manners, contributed. "To him give all the prophets witness." All their revelations, indistinct and fragmentary as they were, aided in painting the image of him who should come as Israel's consolation. If we hear of a person whom we have never seen, but whom we expect to see, we immediately represent him to ourselves, and everything we hear of him afterwards seems to modify and perfect
the idea we first formed of him; so in the case of the Jews in reference to Messiah, every new truth and promise concerning him revealed by the prophets had its influence upon the ideal Messiah, as he stood before the faith of pious Jews.
Our ideas of an unseen person will be erroneous or correct according as the representations are obscure or clear which we have of him, and according as we are able to apprehend these representations in our minds, and form them into the conceptions of a harmonious ideal. We are often disappointed when we see a person of whom we have previously heard; this is because either his character was vaguely represented to us, or vaguely apprehended by us. So, many of the Jews had been so dull and obtuse to prophetic announcements of Christ, and had permitted their own subjective and selfish ideas to enter so largely into their conceptions of him, that he for whom they looked was quite another Messiah than the one which the prophets saw and which actually came; and when he came they crucified him in their ignorance, not recognizing in him the "Holy One and the Just." He came to his own, and to those who looked for him and desired him to come; but so far did the actual Messiah differ from the ideal of him in their minds that he was as a root out of dry ground, and they cried, away with him, not this man, preferring that a murderer and a robber should be granted to them rather than the Prince of Life. This, however, was their own fault. Had they carefully looked upon the prophetic canvass they might have seen his portrait more clearly drawn. All the prophets, at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke of him, and drew his portrait before the Jewish people. They spoke of him in the animated inspiration of prophecy; he was revealved to them in his true character in types, shadows and ceremonies of the law. Many stupid souls, however, stood before the altar in dumb amazement, looked upon the significant ceremonials of the tabernacle as empty forms, and listened to the announcement of prophetic visions as a relation of pleasant dreams. Or at least these things were considered merely as serving the purposes of present devotion, instead of being a shadow of good things to come, the substance of which was Christ.
Others there were, however, who had studied the character of the promised Messiah to some effect. They had such correct views of him that they knew him immediately. Such was old Simeon; he was a man just, devout, full of the Holy Ghost, waiting for the consolation of Israel. He came by the spirit into the temple, at the time that Joseph and Mary brought the holy child to be circumcised. Long and ardently had he waited for a sight of him who should come; and now, though the Messiah appeared before him in the form of an infant, so correct were his views of him that he immediately recognized the divine babe, took him into his arms, and blessed God that he could now die in peace because he
had been permitted to see with his own eyes the salvation of Israel. Such, also, was Anna, a devout prophetess, who departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. She coming that instant into the temple, gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spoke of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Such was also Andrew and the other disciple who immediately followed the Saviour when John pointed to him and said, "Behold the Lamb of God!" "We have found the Messiah," he exclaimed to Simon, "which is, being interpreted, the Christ." Such was also Philip. Jesus said to him: "Follow me," and he did, and soon he said to Nathaniel, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathaniel, a little dark in his ideas of the promised Messiah, thought at first that no good could come out of Nazareth; but one sight of him, and one or two questions to the Saviour, and as many answers from him, were sufficient, and he exclaimed: "Rabbi, thou art the son of God; thou art the king of Israel."
How quick their conceptions! What a difference between them and those dull Jews whose ideas of him were so distorted by carnal fancies, and so unenlightened by the prophetic revelations concerning him, that all the mighty works which he did in their midst, and before their eyes, could not open their eyes to his true character. Those who had heart-wants, received him as naturally as a wound receives the healing balm. He comes, thought the carnal Jews, to restore at this time the kingdom of Israel, and to put his foot upon the neck of Cæsar, and his hand upon the Roman yoke now galling the necks of Abraham's freemen, who were never in bondage to any man. No! exclaimed the blind, he comes to open the blind eyes. No! exclaimed the dumb, he comes to loose our tongues. No! said the possessed, he comes to destroy the power of the devil and to cast out legions. No! said weary and heavyladened penitents, whose sense of guilt the cold ritual of the Scribes and Pharisees, and the teachings from Moses' seat could not remove, he comes forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin; he comes to heal the broken-hearted, to preach to the poor, to give deliverance to the captives of sin, and to be wounded, pierced, and to receive stripes that we may be healed. Thus there was a division among them. The one party knew him not, and therefore crucified him. The other knew him and exclaimed: Hosanna in the highest, blessed is he that cometh according to the testimony of Moses and the prophets as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
All wrong conceptions of the Saviour were grounded in a partialand fragmentary view of him. All wrong conceptions of him among the Jews harmonized themselves in the central and prevailing notion that he should be a great temporal deliverer. Around
this idea all their conceptions of him clustered; toward it all their hopes were made to bend, and with it all prophecy was made to agree. Of him under this form they dreamed; with this image before them they looked into the prophetic revelations; for him in this character they longed as the long-promised hope of Israel. The grand object of his mission having been thus conceived to be temporal, it is only natural that their notions of him, in every detail, took a carnal and earthly form. Thus, then, the ideal Messiah of this class was only a mighty HERO. If he was a law-giver it was to give laws to the conquered; if he was a teacher it was to teach the conquered submission and obedience to his laws; if he was a king it was to be king of the world on the Jewish throne; if he was a priest it was of a Jewish priesthood; in short, if he was a Saviour it was a Saviour of the Jewish nation and of the Jewish religion. In this heroic, royal character he stood in the eye of the Jews in large and mighty relief against all earthly power. Here, then, was an ideal Christ-but, alas! with what disappointment were those whose cenceptions created this picture doomed to meet, for this ideal never became incarnate. True, he was a hero, but not of this world; and this was not the central, around which all his other attributes should cluster.
The humble, pious class of Jesus had a different ideal of the promised and expected Messiah. What this ideal was, would be difficult in one sentence to say. Perhaps we might say it was the living embodiment of a perfect Being. He was all that heart could wish in all the varying circumstances and in all the multiform wants of life. He would be
"A sovereign balm for every wound."
As heaven is now to our hopes, so was the coming Messiah to the hopes of the devout Israel. Heaven lies before the eye of our faith as a full and perfect portion, adapted to every want. To the poor riches, to the stranger home, to the exile an inheritance, and to the weary rest! So Christ was to them all in all. To the oppressed a deliverer, to the ignorant a teacher, to the sick a physician, to the sinner an atonement, to the blind sight, to the lame feet, to the dead life, and to all that came to him salvation! The feeling and the conceptions of the entire devout portion of the Jewish believers finds voice and expression in the enraptured declaration of the wisest among them. Ask them what their beloved is more than another beloved, and they will with one heart and one voice reply: My beloved is the chiefest among ten thousand; he is altogether lovely!
Truth, it must not however be forgotten, has a history. Life manifests itself in a process. The rising of the sun of righteousness is first in a gleam, then in a twilight, then a glimmer, rising higher and higher, and shining more and more unto the perfect day. The
picture is not transferred to the canvass by one touch. God through successive revelations gradually created in the Jewish mind the conception of this perfect ideal, which afterwards became incarnate. He taught them as fast as they could bear, hence he chose sundry times and divers manners. How interesting is the sun of righteousness, rising gradually higher and higher in the firmament of the Jewish cloudy and shadowy dispensation. As, after his incarnation, it was necessary that his character should be developed, from the babe in the manger on through all the intervening stages of human life, so it seems to have been necessary that the true idea of him should have a development from the first promise in Paradise through all the stages of typical, ceremonial, and prophetic representations until he lay incarnate as the divine babe in the manger at Bethlehem.
THE TURF SHALL BE MY FRAGRANT SHRINE.
ЯY THOMAS MOORE.
THE turf shall be my fragrant shrine,
My choir shall be the moonlit waves,
I'll seek, by day, some glade unknown,
Thy heav'n, on which 'tis bliss to look,
I'll read thy anger in the rack
Of sunny brightness breaking through !
There's nothing bright, above, below,
There's nothing dark, below, above,