« PreviousContinue »
their ancestors had been already in possession for many centuries of an inalienable title to eternal life. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe. the Gospel":
Acquainted as we are through the Scriptures with the prejudices and ignorance of the age, what can we conceive of the notion which a Jew would entertain of the fulfilment of any limited time, which should be the signal for the expiration of the privileges of which they had been so long in the undisturbed enjoyment? What would they understand of any kingdom of God distinct from that of which they had been the exclusive subjects; or if that kingdom were to be renewed and extended, they would rather look for its announcement with all the dignity and grandeur of sovereignty, and would desire to welcome its claims as a release from civil slavery, and the obnoxious yoke of a foreign power. Those who had hitherto counted for
I Mark, i. 15.
righteousness the observance of the ceremonial law, would listen with little interest to a new and unexpected call to repentance, and would reluctantly exchange their actual possession of an hereditary adoption, for a promised expectancy under the Gospel which they must be born again, and lead a new life, to inherit. They would have to lay afresh the foundations of their whole faith; and while they remained shut up in the narrowness of their original creed; our Saviour's words would be as foolishness to them, and the kingdom of God, though it might come to them in exhortation, and argument, and word, would not be received in power.
It was, therefore, requisite that before bur Lord could procure admission into the hearts of his hearers, the veil of misconception should be torn away, which rested upon their darkened understandings. Pharisees and Sadducees must have previously sacrificed at the foot of his cross their respective opinions, and must have joined in the confession of one universal, though humiliating truth, that all had sinned-all had come short of the glory of God-all stood alike in need of a new way of salvation which should be as free a gift as the pardon from sin which preceded it. It behoved that the first step should be the removal of error, the purging of the heart from the doctrines of Judaism, in order to erect in their place the superstructure of the purer faith of Christianity, Jesus Christ himself being the corner-stone of the building.
And in proportion as the first dispensation was eminently a self-justifying covenant, the terms of which were not grace but works, there would be additional difficulty in bending the spirit of mankind to the reception of a diametrically opposite principle, and bringing it under the influence of the novel doctrines of the covenant of redemption, the terms of which were not works but grace. There must have been a new feeling entertained respecting the extent and tendency of the law, as the Jews emphatically termed their religious code, before they could listen in simple acquiescence to the words of one who taught in effect that the law was only a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ, and that what they could not procure a title to under the law, as a right, the Gospel, if accepted, would freely confer on the most outcast and destitute among them as a gracious boon without money and without price. To those that believed in these conditions, Christ would indeed be precious, but to the great majority of the nation he would be a stone of stumbling and rock of offence.
This state of the world would give a peculiar character to the method pursued by our Lord in the execution of his personal ministry. As a preliminary measure to the propagation of the truth, he must dispel the false medium through which the Jews would be inclined to view him, by unfolding his real character, and the real nature of his mission.
It would be objected to him by some, that no good thing could come out of Nazareth. He would challenge them to come and see, and judge by the signs that he worked and the doctrines that he preached, whether he were not indeed the Christ, although dwelling in a despised city of proverbial disrepute. Others would allege the meanness of his parentage, and the persecution with which he met, as the motives of their unbelief. He would remind them, that it was written concerning him that he should be 'meek and lowly'—' a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.' Few or none would be prepared to expect him as a prophet. He would tell them, that he was the light of the world, and that the words that he spake were spirit and life to them that believed?. A very small remnant of Israel would be found looking for a spiritual kingdom which should be neither here nor there in a local and visible appearance, but in the hearts of his servants. He would tell them that his kingdom was not of this world, and that flesh and blood could not inherit it. Scarcely any would be ' waiting like Simeon ‘ for the consolation of Israel.' He would declare himself as the salvation prepared before the face of all people. They would pride themselves upon