Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

in his Father's name, and the accomplishment of their ancient prophecies, ought, surely, to have acknowledged the arrival of their long-promised Messiah, and to have received the Gospel with all readiness of mind. Whereas, on the contrary, had he appeared immediately to the gentiles, who were bewildered in the errors of polytheism, his character and person must have been utterly unknown to them. His miracles and doctrine, without due preparation on their part, would, in all probability, have been misunderstood, and could only have served to increase their delusion.

In Christ's primary mission, therefore, to the house of Israel, we perceive the direction of the divine will, that no imperfect impression of his character and office should go into the world; and that his Gospel should not be exposed to misrepresentation, by vague and uncertain report. The same care appears upon another re. markable occasion. Our Lord having demanded of his apostles, their opinion of his character, Simon Peter answered, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus applauding this true confession, said

|

ven.

unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in Hea

This was, then, the true faith, upon which the church was to be established: but it is addedThen charged he his disciples, that they should tell no man that he was Jesus, the Christ. (Matt. xvi. 16.)

These apostles were the chosen witnesses of our Lord, set apart for the propagation of that

very

faith which they had now confessed. Why are they, then, forbidden to publish that he was the Christ. ?

To this question it may be replied, that, although the apostles had been nominated to the office of propagating the Gospel, they had not, as yet, received their commission to enter upon this office, nor do they appear to have been duly prepared and qualified for the discharge of their important trust. They had not, as yet, been witnesses of all that Jesus did and taught: and they had not overcome certain prejudices, which they had imbibed in common with their countrymen, who expected that their promised Messiah would appear as a mighty and victorious temporal prince. Had they,

[ocr errors]

then, at this time, been permitted to publish those truths which they had already learned, the imperfection of their knowledge would have exposed them to the danger of debasing their doctrine with some portion of error, Our Lord, there fore, who came to bear witness to the truth, prohibits their proclaiming his character, till they should be more fully instructed in the nature of his religion, and should be otherwise duly qualified for the sacred office which they were to undertake. Thus it appears to have been the will of Christ, that his Gospel should not be published by vague report, or proclaimed by any missionaries who were not fully competent to the task.

And here, it must be conceded to our adversaries, that the apostles, in the early stage of their discipline, laboured under some peculiar, and many common infirmities, which disqualified them for the work to which they were called. Let us consider what these were.

One of the greatest infirmities of the apostles consisted in the pertinacious retention of a false opinion, which they held, in common with the Jewish nation, rela.

[ocr errors]

tive to the character of Christ, and the nature of his kingdom. It was under the influence of this opinion, that this people rejected our blessed Lord ; that, when he came to his own, his own received him not. The house of Israel, overlooking those prophecies which described the humble and afflicted condition of the Messiah at his first advent, turned their views only to some glorious and triumphant prince—a prince whose great achievement it should be, not So much to redeem them from their iniquities, as to instate them in the temporal sovereignty of the promised land, and to subdue all nations to their dominion.

Of the prevalence of this opinion amongst the people at large, we have a striking proof in the conduct of the five thousand, whom our Lord had fed by a miracle. No sooner were they convinced, by this exertion of the divine power, that Jesus was the Christ, or that prophet that should come into the world, than they attempted to take him by forcè, and make him a king. (John, vi. 14, 15.)

And such, evidently, was the idea of the multitude which preceded and followed

[ocr errors]

our Lord at his entry into Jerusalem, cutting down branches from the trees, spreading their garments in the way,

and shouting Blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord ! and, Blessed be the kingdom of our Father David! (Luke, xix. 58, &c.) And we find the evangelist, St. John, im-. plicating himself, and his fellow apostles, in the common error. These things, says he, understood not his disciples at the first ; but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him, (John, xii. 16.)

The same expectation, of an earthly dominion, was cherished by the apostles during the whole period of our Lord's ministry: for, after his crucifixion, we hear them saying, in despair, We trusted that it had þeen he, which should have redeemed Israel. (Luke, xxiv. 21.) And, after his resurrection, they ask him, Lord, wilt thou, at this time, restore the kingdom to Israel ? (Acts, į. 6.) To thiş persuasion we must refer the disputes which had arisen amongst them, respecting precedence in their Master's kingdom, (Matt. xviii. 1, &c.); as well as the am

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »