Page images
PDF
EPUB

mind must be dispossessed of whatever belief is in opposition to the fundamental truths of religion, before the doctrines of Christianity can make an effectual lodgement in the heart, or assume an adequate influence over the tenor of human conduct.

There is another peculiarity observable in our Lord's preaching, which, like the subject of the preceding remarks, is also in some degree incidental to the prior religious belief of bis Jewish auditors.

The opposition which the rulers of the nation offered to the introduction of the Gospel, was for the most part ostensibly founded on their attachment to their own hereditary creed. It was important, therefore, for the teacher of the Christian revelation to show that had they rightly understood their own prophets, the actual appearance of the Messiah would have been found in no respect at variance with the promise of his coming, and that the law might have become the schoolmaster to bring them to

Christ, had they suffered it to occupy

the

province for which it was originally designed. Hence the references to Jewish partialities and writers, to Jewish history and opinions, to well known and acknowledged facts, which occur so frequently in our Saviour's discourses. To the traditions indeed with which the Scribes had corrupted the Scriptures, there is no allusion, except for the purpose of disapproval or refutation, because our Lord would not sanction what had rendered the written word of none effect even by indirectly availing himself of their authority.

But when he addresses himself to the rational faculty of the Pharisees,-a mode of teaching very common with him,--he sends them at once to the law and to the prophets, and brings his arguments home to their understandings by enlisting on his side the weight of their undisputed testimony.

In this way he proved the resurrection of the dead from the language of Moses at the bush 5.

5 Luke, xx. 37, compared with Ex. iii. 6.

He defended the disciples from the charge of profaning the sabbath day, by quoting the conduct of David on a similar emergency”. He silenced the displeasure of the high priests when the children received him with Hosannas in the temple, by asking, with apparent surprise, whether they had never read that out of the mouths of babes and sucklings God had perfected praise?. He had just before availed himself of the authority of a text from Isaiah, on cleansing his Father's house from the profanations which had defiled it. And in general it may

be remarked, that there was no mode by which he so often defended himself against accusation, or suppressed rising opposition, as by referring to the Jewish Scriptures, and thus protecting himself from the bitterness of their hatred under the shelter of their own pretended standard.

Again ; we know from the best authority, that a comparison of the life and ministry of our Saviour with the circumstances predicted of him in the Jewish writings, was the line of argument most commonly resorted to by the apostolical preachers.

6 Matt. xi. 3-6.

1 Matt. xxi. 16.

It was thus that Philip converted to the Christian faith the Æthiopian eunuch; preaching unto him Jesus from the Scriptures, and ex-plaining the perfect agreement of the facts which had actually taken place within the knowledge of living witnesses, with the prophecies delivered so many centuries before 8. St. Peter also discussed the life of Jesus Christ, testifyiny Hit to him gave all the prophets witness 9.' The same was St. Paul's custom in the synagogues ; alleging that Jesus 'must needs have suffered and risen again from the dead''-or in other words, that Messias, when he came in the flesh, must of necessity fulfil the things spoken of him in the prophets.

But it must be remembered, that the apostles, in following their master's practice in this

9 Acts, x. 43.

8 Acts, viii. 35. 1 Acts, xvii. 3.

respect, spoke as Jews unto Jews; and thus judiciously availed themselves of the prepossessions of their hearers to create an interest in favour of the Gospel of the Messiah. But the situation of the Christian preacher is so dissimilar, that he will find it requisite to make use of a sound discretion in imitating their example under a state of things entirely different. For it is of consequence to remark, that Christ has given us a pattern of the ministry, not with an intent that it should be servilely copied through succeeding ages, without respect of persons or times; but to be observed in spirit and meaning, under the exercise of a reasonable judgement, and with a due consideration to the change which an alteration of circumstances may render expedient.

Frequent evils have resulted from a want of attention to this obvious principle-language inapplicable to the existing state of the world has been used indiscriminately, by which some have been perplexed, others offended,-a confusion of terms has been created, often tending to the

« PreviousContinue »