« PreviousContinue »
Lord sent Haggai to comfort them with this prediction. The second temple was inferior also to the former in regard to its mystical glory. The Ark of the Covenant, the Tables of the Law, the Manna, the Urim and Thummim, the Holy Fire which fell from heaven, and above all, the Divine glory on the MercySeat, were wanting. It received, however, a far superior glory, when the Lord of Life and Glory entered and exercised his ministry there; and when he put the seal of truth on its mystical services by the oblation of his body, and by becoming the end of the law for righteousness to those who believe. The transient glory of the law was then lost in the unfading glory of Christ. The shaking of all nations coincides with all the other scriptures, which speak of his removing all the obstructions to the spread of the gospel, by the conyersion and destruction of unbelievers : then will the Lord give permanent peace to Zion.
Many more prophecies remain, but the explications already given will throw sufficient light upon them. Hence we shall only name some of the most distinguished. Micah predicted Bethlehem as the place of our Saviour's birth, and his prosperous reign as insuring the peace of the land, v. 1, 5. Zechariah saw his priesthood and kingdom in the figure of a flourishing branch, vi. 12, 13. He saw the inexpressible joy of the disciples, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, ix. 10. He saw him betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, and the purchase of a field with the money, xi. 12, 13. He saw also the pierced side of the Messiah ; the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness; the shepherd smitten, and the sheep scattered, xiii. l, 7. Malachi, the latest of the Jewish prophets, in the canonical scriptures, predicted, in unison with the former prophets, the conversion of the Gentile nations from the rising to the going down of the sun, i. 11. He distinctly predicted the ministry of John as preparatory to the ministry of Jesus, whom he calls Jehovah, and the messenger of the covenant, iii. 1. And he addş, to cheer the persecuted church, that the Sun of Righteousness should arise upon them with healing in his wings, iv. 3. Thus all the holy prophets unite their testimony concerning his sufferings and glory and with increasing evidence, until the baptist could say “ Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
It shall be the subject of the two subsequent sections, to show more distinctly the completion of these prophecies, and the mystical significancy of the Jewish law in the life of Christ, and in the first and general spread of the gospel.
OF THE INCARNATION—THE MINISTRY-THE DEATH—AND ASCENSION OF
OUR BLESSED LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.
Adam having violated the first covenant, and involved his whole posterity in ruin, it pleased God to invest the new covenant in surer hands by incarnating his beloved son, that he might perfect our redemption by sustaining our punishment, and vanquish our foes by the power of righteousness. The law had been dishonored by transgression, and it became Jesus to fulfil all righteousness. The holy patriarchs and prophets had carried many virtues to admirable perfection, but they were all tainted with sin; hence we wanted a model of the divine rectitude, that we might be followers of God as dear children. The ancient institution of sacrificing clean beasts, instructed mankind, that God would not be approached without the shedding of blood; it was requisite that Christ should have a spotless human body, that he might expiate our sin, and vanquish death by the sacrifice of himself. Satan having seduced and depraved our first parents, had reigned as a prince over their apostate and sensual offspring; on this account, it was requisite to vanquish his temptations, and sustain the punishment due to our sins, that the crown and sovereignty might lawfully revert to the Son of God. The dark and depraved race wanted a glorious head and chief, replete with wisdom and grace; they wanted a prince allied to them by consanguinity and co.venant, that they might approach him with confidence, and rely on him with assurance for salvation and eternal life. To accomplish all these gracious purposes of the divine wisdom and love, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, veiled his godhead in human nature, and mani. fested himself to the world.
The time, the manner, and circumstances of our Saviour's nativity, highly accord with his offices and character. The Romans had extended their empire from Britain in the west, to Persia in the east; and proudly enjoyed their conquests in perfect repose. The Jews had many proselytes to their religion almost in every city, and the Greek and Latin languages were in considerable use throughout the world. On these accounts, this was the most favorable era which had occurred in history for the propagation of pure religion. . In this age of imperial peace, the angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a virgin espoused to Joseph, for God would honor the marriage covenant; and both were of the house and lineage of David. “ Hail,” said he, “ thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great; and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David ; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, how shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered, and said unto her, the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. And Mary said, behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy
This is the simple but sublime account of our Saviour's incarnation. He took not upon him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham, uniting in his adorable person all the incommunicable attributes of JEHOVAH, and all the infirmities of our frail humanity. But though he was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, he was perfectly free from the Adamic corruption, his human substance being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
St. Paul, in the whole of the first chapter to the Hebrews, demonstrates his character and offices to be appropriate to the Deity only; and that he is in every view incomparably superior to prophets and angels. “God," says he, “ who at sundry times, and in diverse manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who, being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For upto which of the angels said he at any time, thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth his
first-begotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him.”
Similar to this is St. John's account of the divine and human nature of Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld bis glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The terms Son, begotten, and God, here applied to Christ, are indeed applica, ble to creatures; but we are here taught, that they are not applicable to Jesus Christ, either as angel or prophet; being the Creatorof men,and of all angelic worlds, he is entitled to the adoration of all his creatures. Hence, “ to day have I begotten thee," does not mean that Christ was then produced; but that God in our gospel-day announced bim to be his beloved Son. These are the early opinions respecting Christ, which, by the grace of God, we hope to cherish, till we see him as be is.
I. The incarnation of our Lord was attended with such a series of sacred prodigies, as indicated him to be the character expected by pious men in all nations. His birth was announced to a few poor shepherds in the vicinity of Bethlehem, by a mission of angels; and to those who waited for redemption in Israel, by the predictions of Simeon and Anna. It was announced to the Magi of Babylon by the phenomenon of star, and by a delegation of the Magi to the king and ru, lers of Judea: and that their testimony was believed, is apparent from the slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem.
II. His entrance on the ministry was marked with every qualification proper to demonstrate the divinity of his mission. John was sent to prepare the way, and institute the baptism of water for the remission of sin. This extraordinary man, having been tutored in the wilderness, led an austere and mortified life;