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In fulfilling the divine decrees on this subject, our Lord was exposed to a trial of patience which it is impossible that any other being should ever be called to undergo. Hope is the great moving principle which gives life and energy to all our actions. Were we sure beforehand that all our efforts to promote any given object would be unavailing, that our words would be always listened to with indifference, or our actions always thwarted by some overruling prejudice, few among us would have sufficient steadiness of purpose to persevere long against the certainty of disappointment, or to maintain an unavailing struggle in a cause that was foreseen from the beginning to be hopeless. Among many discouragements which the ordinary labourers in the spiritual vineyard are destined to encounter, an occasional blessing from above on their industry is the charm which sweetens the task, and gives a fresh impulse to renewed exertions in the prosecution of their duty. But so far from being sustained by witnessing the acceptableness of his ministry, our Lord was perfectly aware, before be entered on it, that as
a prophet he should receive no honour in his own country. He knew the inveteracy, the extent, the insuperable nature of the opposition he should meet with; yet with all this foreknowledge of the universal rejection which awaited him by the people of his peculiar adoption, he announces to them the proffered terms of reconciliation with God, as if the whole that was to happen when his hour was come had never been revealed to his view. He foresaw that the good seed which he was scattering would not be immediately fruitful; and that although others hereafter might reap the spiritual harvest on ground which he had first broken up, yet that the generation to which he personally addressed himself would be stained with a crime, in comparison of which all that their fathers had committed was light in the balance. He foresaw that his blood would lie on them and on their children, as a kind of national curse imprecated by themselves on their own heads. Yet he set his face steadfastly to go up to Jerusalem, and laboured as patiently among thern, as if they were destined to be his crown
of rejoicing, and the blessed sons of his adoption. He offered them to the last with unshaken faithfulness all the privileges demption, and bequeathed to them by his long suffering and gracious endurance the awful responsibility of a deliberate rejection of salvation.
At the same time, though our Saviour was statedly the prophet of the Jews, yet he gave occasional pledges to the Gentiles, of the mercy hereafter designed for them. Thus he declared his Messiahship to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, and abode two days in her city, contrary to his apparent intention ; so that
many more believed, because of his own word 3.' So too, when certain Greeks desired to see him, he delivered a very remarkable hint, that the time was now at hand when all the ends of the world would be brought within the pale of salvation. Thus was witnessed in his ministry the literal fulfilment of the words of Jeremiab, “They shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest;' and of those of Isaiah, referred to by our Lord himself— All thy children shall be taught of the Lord ?.' And, however proper it may be to explain these texts in a secondary sense of the divine influences exerted upon the minds of men, and the motions of the Holy Spirit, yet our Lord's own quotation of the words, when representing himself as the bread of life, seems to make it necessary to refer them to him in the first instance.
3 John, iv. 41.
- John, xii. 20—23.
Having thus examined the predicted character of Christ as a prophet, and the manner in which the conditions of that character were actually fulfilled in our Lord's person, it remains that the objects of his prophetical mission should be briefly examined.
The several revelations which have been vouchsafed to mankind, have always been adapted in a manner worthy of the divine wisdom to the particular wants of the times at which they were delivered. Under the patriarchal dispensation the promise of some one who should hereafter bruise the serpent's head, was necessary in order to support man in his fallen state, and to save him from irrecoverable despair. Hence the promise of a future Redeemer, which formed the subject of the first revelation, was from time to time confirmed and enlarged, to the unspeakable comfort of Abraham and his descendants. Under the Mosaic dispensation the knowledge of one God was needful to preserve a nation surrounded by idolaters from polytheism; and a system of temporal rewards and punishments was wanted to supply the place of any distinct communication respecting a future state. Accordingly the Israelites were told, that the Lord their God was one God, and a code of laws was enacted, to which they were required to pay implicit attention, on pain of penal inflictions, in case of disobedience.
s Jer. xxxi. 34. Is. liv. 13, compared with John, vi. 45.