Page images

<< should come ?And St. John Baptist came, " saying, Repent, « for the kingdom of heaven is at hand :" a phrase he would not have used in preaching, had it not been underttood.

There are other expressions that fignified the Meffiah, and his coming, which we shall take notice of as they come in our way.

3. By plain and direct words, declaring the doctrine of the Merfiah ; speaking out that Jesus was He : as we see the apostles did, when they went about preaching the Gospel, after our Saviour's resurrection. This was the open clear way, and that which one wculd think the Mefliah himself, when he came, should have taken; especially if it were of that moment, that upon mens believing him to be the Mefliah, depended the forgiveness of their sins. And yet we see that our Saviour did not; but, on the contrary, for the moit part, made no other discovery of himself, at least in Judea, and at the beginning of his ministry, but in the iwo former ways, which were more obscure ; not declaring himself to be the Meffiah, any otherwise than as it might be gathered from the iniracles he did, and the conformity of his life and actions with the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning him; and from some general difcourses of the kingdom of the Melliah being come, under the name of the kingdom of God,” and “ of heaven.” Nay, so far was he from publicly owning himsek to be the Mewah, that he forbad the doing of it: Mark viii. 27. 30. “ He asked his disciples, Whom do " men say that I am ? And they answered, John the Baptist; but “ fome say, Elias, and others one of the prophets.” (So that it is evident, that even those who believed himn an extraordinary perfon, knew not yet who he was, or that he gave himself out for the Meliah ; though this was in the third year of his ministry, and not a year before his death.) « And he faith unto them, But < whom (ay ye that I am ? And Peter answered, and said unto him, - Thou art the Meli'ah. And he charged them that they should u tell no man of himn.” Luke iv. 41. 6 And devils came out of w many, crying, Thou art the Mediah, the son of God: And he s rebuking them, suffered them not to speak, that they knew him " to be Mcíliah.” Mark iii. 11, 12. “ Unclean spirits, when they " saw hiin, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the “ son of God: And he straitly charged them that they should not « make him known.” Here again we may observe from the comparing of the two tcxts, that “Thou art the son of God," or « Thou art the Mentah,' were indifferently used for the same thing. But to return to the matter in hand.

This concealment of himself will seem strange, in one who was come to bring light into the world, and was to suffer death for the teftimony of the truth. This reservedness will be thought to look as if he had a mind to conceal himself, and not to be known to the world for the Meffiah, nor to be believed on as such. But we shall be of another mind, and conclude this proceeding of his according to divine wisdom, and suited to a fuller manifestation and evidence of his being the Melliah, when we consider, that he was



to fill out the time foretold of his miniftry; and, after a life illuftrious in miracles and good works, attended with humility, mecknefs, patience, and sufferings, and every way conformable to the prophcfies of him, should be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and with all quiet and submillion be brought to the cross, though there were no guilt nor fault in him. This could not have been, if, as foon as he appeared in public, and began to preach, he had presently profelled himself to have been the Meiliah, the king that owned that kingdom he publisned to be at hand. For the Sanhedrim would then have laid hold on it, to have got him in their power, and thereby have taken away his life; at least, they would have disturbed his ministry, and hindered the work he was about. That this made him cautious, and avoid, as much as he could, the occafions of provoking them, and falling into their hands, is plain from John vii. 1. “ After these things Jesus walked in Galilee;' out of the way of the chief priests and rulers ; “ for he would

walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.” Thus, making good what he foretold them at Jerusalem, when at the first Paffover, at his beginning to preach the gospel, upon his curing the man at the Pool of Bethesda, they fought to kill him, John v. 16. “ Ye have not," fays he, ver. 38, “his word abiding amongst

you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.” This was spoken more particularly to the Jews of Jerusalem, who were the forward men, zealous to take away his life: and it imports, that becaule of their unbclief and oppofition to him, the “ Word of God," i. e. the preaching of the kingdom of the Mefliah, which is often called the Word of God, did not stay amongst them: he could not ftay arr.ongst them, preach, and explain to them the kingdom of the Meffiah.

That the word of God, here, signifies “ the word of God” that should make Jesus known to them to be the Meffiah, is evident from the context: and this meaning of this place is made good by the event. For after this, we hear no more of Jesus at Jerutalem, till the Pentecoft come twelvemonth; though it is not to be doubted but that he was there the next pallover, and other feasts between, but privately. And now at Jerusalem, at the feast of Pentecost, near fifteen months after, he lays very little of any thing, and not a word of the kingdom of heaven being come, or at hand; nor did he any miracle there. And returning to Jerusalem at the feast of Tabernacles, it is plain, that from this time till then, which was a year and a half, he had not taught them at Jerufalem.

For, 1. it is fa:d, John vii. 2. 15, that he teaching in the Temple at the feast of Tabernacles, « The Jews marvelled, saying, How “ knoweth this man letters, having never learned ?” A sign they had not been used to his preaching; for if they had, they would not now have marvelled.

2. Ver. 19. He says thus to them; “ Did not Mofes give you “ the law, yet none of you keep the law? Why go you about to u kill me! One work," or miracle, “I did” here among ft you, C4

us and

« and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision, « and ye on the Sabbath-day circumcile a man: if a man on the “ Sabbath-day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should « not be broken, are ye angry with me, because I have made a man “ every way whole on the Sabbath-day?” Which is a direct defence of what he did at Jerusalem a year and a half before. The work he here speaks of we find reported John v. 1-16. He had not preached to them there from that time till this, but had made good what he then told them, ver. 38. “ Ye have not the word of c God remaining among you, because whom he hath sent, ye be« lieve not.” Wliereby, I think, he signifies his not staying and being frequent amongst them at Jerusalem, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, because their great unbelief, opposition, and malice to him, would not permit it.

This was manifestly so in fact. For the first miracle he did at Jerusalem, which was at the second paflover after his baptism, brought him in danger of his life. Hereupon we find he forbore preaching again there till the feast of Tabernacles immediately preceding his last pallover: so that till half a year before his pailion, he did but one miracle, and preached but once publicly at Jerusalem. These trials he made there; but found their unbelief such, that it he had staid and persisted to preach the good tidings of the kingdom, and to fhew himself by miracles among them, he could not have had tiine and freedom to do those works which his father had given him to finish, as he says, ver. 36, of this sth of St. John. They all imaginable ways attacked him, and he as readily eluded all their attempts by the wondersul quickness and conduct of an unparalleled wisdom. Here at this feast of Tabernacles, “ The Scribes « and Phariseçs brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; " they say unto him, Maiter, Mofes in the law commanded us that « such should be stoned, but what layeft thou? This they said s tempting him, that they might accute him.” John viii. 3—6. It is plain they hoped that this criminal cause of a woman just taken in the fact, brought before him in the light of the people, would draw him, if he would preserve the opinion of being the Mefliah their king, to give judgment in it, and by the exercise of such an authority expose him to the Roman deputy. Some such accusation they watched for; but they could never get any such advantage against him : he marvellously defeated their design, and, without Teilening himself, fent them away covered with shame and filence.

When, upon the curing of the withered hand on the Sabbathday, « The Pharisees took counsel with the Herodians how they « might destroy him; Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to « the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him, and " from Judea, and from Jerusalein, and from Idumea, and from " beyond Jordan, and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multi“ tude; when they had heard what great things he did, came unto “ him, and he healed them all, and CHARGED THEM THAT .66 THEY SHOULD NOT MAKE HIM KNOWN ; that it might be ful

" filled

* filled which was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, saying, Behold « my servant whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul “ is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew “ judgement to the Gentiles : he shall not strive, nor cry, neither “ Thall any man hear his voice in the streets.” Mat. xii. and Mark iii.

And John xi. 47. Upon the news of our Saviour's raising Lazarus from the dead," the chief priests and Pharisees convened " the Sanhedrim, and said, What do we? for this man does many « miracles.” Ver. 53. “ Then from that day forth they took « counsel together for to put him to death.” Ver. 54. « Jesus « therefore walked no more openly among the Jews.” His miracles had now so much declared him to be the Mefliah, that the Jews could no longer bear him, nor he trust himself amongst them; « but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into « a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.” This was but a little before his last pasiover, as appears by the following words, ver. 55. “ And the Jews paffover was nigh at hand:” and he could not, now his miracles had made him so well known, have been secure the little time that remained till his hour was fully come, if he had not with his wonted and neceffary caution within drawn, " and walked no more openly among the Jews,” till his time (at the next passover) was fully come; and then again he appeared amongst them openly.

Nor would the Romans have suffered him, if he had gone about preaching that he was the king whom the Jews expected. Such an accufation would have been forwardly brought against him by the Jews, if they could have heard it out of his own mouth; and that had been his public doctrine to his followers, which was openly preached by his apostles after his death, when he appeared no more, And of this they were accused, Aets xvii. 5. 9. « But the Jews “ which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain s lewd fellows of the baser fort, and gathered a company, and set « all the city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jafon, and « fought to bring them out to the people. And when they found “ them [Paul and Silas) not, they drew Jason and certain brethren « unto the rulers of the city, crying, There that have turned the « world upside down, are come hither also, whom Jason hath re56 ceived : and these all do contrary to the decrees of Cæfar, lay« ing, That there is another king, one Jelus. And they troubled « the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these " things : and when they had taken security of Jason and the , other, they let them go.”

Though the magistrates of the world had no great regard to the talk of a king, who had suffered death, and appeared no longer any where; yet if our Saviour had openly declared this of himself in his life-time, with a train of disciples and followers every where owning and crying him up for their king; the Roman governor of Judea could not have forborn to have taken notice of it, and have made


ule of their force against him. This the Jews were not mistakert in; and therefore made use of it as the strongest accusation, and likelieft to prevail with Pilate against him for the taking away his life; it being treason and an unpardonable offence, which could not escape death from a Roman deputy, without the forfeiture of his own life. Thus then they accuse hiin to Pilatc, Luke xxiii. 2. * We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding 10 « give tribute to Catar, saying, that he himlelf is a king;” or rather, the Messiah the king.

Our Saviour indeed, now that his time was come (and he in cuftody, and forsaken of all the world, and to out of all danger of railing any fedition or disturbance,) owns himself to Pilate to be a king; after having first told Pilate, John xviii. 36. « That his « kingdom was not of this world;" and for a kingdom in another world, Pilate knew that his master at Rome concerned not himleif. But had there been any the least appearance of truth in the allegagions of the Jews, that he had perverted the nation, forbidding to pay tribute to Cæsar, or drawing the people after him as their king, Pilate would not to readily have pronounced him innocent. But we see what he said to his accusers, Luke xxiii. 13, 14, « Pilate, ff when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers of

the people, faid unto them, You have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people; and behold, I have ex** amined him before you, have found no fault in this man, touchsing those things whereof you accuse him; no, nor yet Herod, 66 for I sent you to him; and lo, nothing worthy of death is done « by him.” And therefore, finding a man of that mean condition and innocent life (no mover of feditions, or disturber of the public peace) without a friend or a follower, he would have disinised him, as a king of no consequence; as an innocent man, falsely and maliciously accuted by the Jews.

How necellary this caution was in our Saviour, to say or do nothing that might justly offend, or render him suspected to the Roman governor, and how glad the Jews would have been to have any juch thing againit him, we may fee Luke xx. 20. The chief priests and the fèribes « watched him, and fent forth spies, who ihould 4 feign themselves just men, that might take hold of his words, « that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of * the governor.” And the very thing wherein they hoped to entrap him in this place, was paying tribute to Cæfar, which they afterwards falsely accused him of. And what would they have done, if he had before them professed himself to have been the Metliah, their king and deliverer? · And here we may observe the wonderful providence of God, who had so ordered the state of the Jews at the time when his fon was to come into the world; that though neither their civil conItitution nor religious worship were diffolved, yet the power of life and death was taken from them; whereby he had an opportunity to publish the kingdom of the Meiliah; that is, his own royalty, un


« PreviousContinue »