Page images

der the name of the kingdom of God,” and of “Heaven;" which the Jews well enough understood, and would certainly havę put him to death for, had the power been in their own hands. But this being no matter of accufation to the Romans, hindered him not fi omipeaking of “ the kingdoin of Heaven,” as he did : fometimes in reference to his appearmg in the worid, and being believed on by particular perions; sometimes in reference to the power that should be given hinn by the Father at the resurrection ; and sometimes in reference to his coming to judge the world at the last day, in the full glory and completion of his king 'om. These were ways of declaring himfelf, which the Jews could lay no hold on, to bring him in danger with Pontius Pilate, and get him frized and put to death.

Another reason there was, that hindered him as much as the former fiom profefling himself in express words to be the Mefliah, and that was, that the whole nation of the Jews expecting at this time their Messiah, and deliverance by him from ihe subjection they were in to a foreign yoke, the body of the people would certainly, upon his declaring himself to be the Mefiah their king, have risen up in rebellion, and set him at the head of them. And, indeed, the miracles that he did so much disposed them to think him to be the Messiah, tlrat th righ throuded under the obscurity of a mean condition, and a very private fimple life; though he passed for a Galilean (his birth at Bethlehem being then concealed), and afsumed not to himself any power or authority, or, to much as the name of the Mefliah, yet he could hardly avoid being set up by a tuinult, and proclaimed their king. So John tells us, chap. vi. 142 15. Then those men, when they had seen the miracles that Jesus " did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that thould come into “ the world. When, therefore, Jelus perceived that they would

come to take him by force to make him king, hc departed again s into a mountain himlelf alone.” This was upon his feeding of five thousand with five barley loaves and two fiihes. So hard was it for him, doing those miracles which were ncceffary to testify his mition, and which often drew great multitudes after hini, Mait. iv. 25. to keep the heady and hally multitude from such disorder as would have involved him in it, and have disturbed the course, and cut thort the time of his ministry, and drawn on him the reputation and death of a turbulent feditious malefactor ; contrary to the design of his coming, which was to be offered up a lamb blameless, and void of offence; his innocence appearing to all the world, even to him that delivered him up to be crucified. This it would have been impoffible to have avoided, if, in his preaching every where, he had openly affumed to himself the title of their Meffiah; which was all was wanting to set the people in a flame; who, drawn by his miracles, and the hopes of finding a deliverer in so extraordinary a man, followed himn in great numbers. We read every where of multitudes; and in Luke xii. 1. of myriads that were gathered about him. This conflux of people, thus disposed, would


[ocr errors]

not have failed, upon his declaring himself to be the Messiah, to have made a commotion, and with force set him up for their king. It is plain therefore from these two reasons, why (though he came to preach the gospel, and convert the world to a belief of his being the Messiah, and though he says so much of his kingdom, under the title of the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of Heaven) he yet makes it not his business to persuade them that he himfelf is the Meffiah, nor does in his public preaching declare himself to be him. He inculcates to the people, on all occafions, that the kingdom of God is come. He shews the way of admittance into this kingdom, viz. repentance and baptism; and teaches the laws of it, viz. good life, according to the stricteft rules of virtue and morality. But who the king was of this kingdom, he leaves to his miracles to point out to those who would consider what he did, and make the right use of it now; or to witness to those who should hearken to the Apostles hereafter, when they preached it in plain words, and called upon them to believe it, after his resurrection; when there should be no longer room to fear that it should cause any disturbance in civil societies and the governments of the world. But he could not declare himself to be the Messiah, without manifest danger of tumult and fedition: and the miracles he did declared it fo much, that he was fain often to hide himself, and withdraw from the concourse of the people. The leper that he cured, Mark i, though forbid to say any thing, yet “blazed it so abroad, es that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was 6 without in defart places,” being in retirement, as appears from Luke v. 16. and there « they came to him from every quarter.” And thus he did more than once.

This being premised, let us take a view of the promulgation of the gospel by our Saviour himself, and fee what it was he taught the world, and required men to believe.

The first beginning of his ministry, whereby he shewed himself, seems to be at Cana in Galilee, foon after his baptisin; where he turned water into wine: of which St. John, chap. ii. 11. fays thus, 66 This beginning of miracles Jesus made, and manifested his glory, « and his disciples believed in him.” His disciples here believed in hiin, but we hear not of any other preaching to them, but by this miracle, whereby he “manifested his glory;” i. e. of being the Meffiah the prince. So Nathanael, without any other preaching, but only our Saviour's discovering to him that he knew him after an extraordinary manner, prefently acknowledgs him to be the Messiah ; crying, “ Rabbi, Thou art the son of God, Thou art

the king of Ifrael."

From hence, staying a few days at Capernaum, he goes to Jerufalem to the paftover, and there he drives the traders out of the temple, John ii. 12-15. saying, “ Make not my father's house a « house of merchandize.' Where we fee, he uses a phrase, which, by interpretation signifies that he was the “Son of God," though at that time unregarded. Ver. 16. Hereupon the Jews demand,

" What

« What sign dost thou shew us, since thou doeft these things ? « Jesus answered, Destroy ye this temple, and in three days I will « raise it again.” This is an instance of what way Jesus took to declare himielf: for it is plain by their reply the Jews understood him not, nor his disciples neither ; for it is laid, ver. 22.

« When « therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered " that he said this to them: and they believed the scripture, and “ the saying of Jesus to them.”

This therefore we may look on, in the beginning, as a pattern of Christ's preaching, and Thewing himself to the Jews; which he generally followed afterwards, viz. such a manifestation of himself, as every one at present could not understand; but yet carried such an evidence with it to those who were well-disposed now, or would reflect on it when the whole course of his miniftry was over, as was sufficient clearly to convince them that he was the Messiah.

The reason of this method used by our Saviour, the scripture gives us here, at this his first appearing in public, after his entrance upon his ministry, to be a rule and light to us in the whole course of it: for the next verse takes notice that many believed on him « because of his miracles" (which was all the preaching they had). It is said, ver. 24. “ But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, « because he knew all men;" i. e. he declared not himself to openly to be the Mediah, their king, as to put himself into the power of the Jews, by laying himself open to their malice, whom he knew would be so ready to lay hold on it to accuse him; for, as the next verse 25. fhews, he knew well enough what was in them. We may here farther obferve, that “ believing in his name," fignifies believing him to be the Meffiah. Ver. 22. tells us, That “ many " at the paftover believed in his name, when they saw the miracles " that he did.” What other faith could these miracles produce in them who saw them, but that this was He of whom the scripture spoke, who was to be their deliverer?

Whilft he was now at Jerusalem, Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, comes to him, John iii. I--21. to whom he preaches eternal life by faith in the Messiah, ver. 15. and 17. but in general terms, without naming himself to be that Messiah, though his whole discourse tends to it. This is all we hear of our Saviour, the first year of his ministry, but only his baptisin, fafting, and temptation in the beginning of it, and spending the rest of it after the pallover in Judea vith his disciples, baptizing there. But " when he knew “ that the Pharisees reported that he made and baptized more difu ciples than John, he left Judca," and got out of their way again into Galilee, John iv. 1, 3.

In his way back, by the well of Sichar, he discourses with the Samaritan woman; and after having opened to her the true and {piritual worship which was at hand, which the woman presently underítands of the times of the Messiah, who was then looked for; thus the answers, ver. 25. « I know that the Messiah cometh : when * he is come, he will tell us all things.” Whereupon our Saviour,


though we hear no such thing from him in Jerusalem or Judea, or to Nicodemus, yet here to this Samaritan woman, he in plain an! direct words owns and declares, that he himself, who talked with her, was the Messiah, ver. 26.

This would seem very strange, that he should be more free and open to a Samaritan than he was to the Jews, were not the reason plain from what we have observed above. He was now out of Judea, with a people with whom the Jews had no commerce, ver. 9; into were not disposed out of envy, as the Jews were, to seek his life, or to accuse him to the Roman governor, or to make an insurrection to set a Jew up for their king. What the consequence was of his discourse with this Samaritan woman, we have an account, ver. 28, 39-42. “She left her water-pot, and went her

way into the city, and faith to the men, Come, fee a man who « told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Messiah? and many

of the Samaritans of that city BELIEVED ON HIM for the « saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I « did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they be« fought him that he would tarry with them : and he abode there

two days. And many more believed because of his own word; « and faid unto the woman, Now we believe not because of thy « saying; for we have heard him ourselves; and we know” (i. é. are fully persuaded) “ that it is indeed the Messiah, the Saviour of « the world.” By comparing ver. 39, with 41 and 42, it is plain, that “ believing on him," signifies no more than believing him to be the Messiah.

From Sichar Jesus goes to Nazareth, the place he was bred up in, and there reading in the Synagogue a prophecy concerning the Messiah out of the Ixist of Isaiah, he tells them, Luke iv. 21. " This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears."

But, being in danger of his life at Nazareth, he leaves it for Capernaum: and then, as St. Matthew informs us, chap. iv. 17. “ He began to preach, and say, Repent, for the kingdom of hca

ven is at hand.” Or, as St. Mark has it, chap. i. 14, 15. « Preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, « The time is fulfilied, and the kingdom of God is at hand, re« pent ye, and believe in the gospel;" i. e. believe this good news. This reiroving to Capernaun, and seating himself there in the borders of Zabulon and Napthali, was, as St. Matthew obferves, chap. iv. 13-16. that a prophecy of Ifaiah might be fulfilled. Thus the actions and circumstances of his life answered the prophecies, and declared him to be the Meffiah. And hy what St. Mark lays in this place, it is inanifest, that the gospel which he preached, and required them to believe, was no other but the good tidings of the coming of the Meffiah, and of his kingdom, the time being now fulfiled.

In his way to Capernauin, being come to Cana, a nobleman of Capernaum came to him, ver. 47. “ and befought him that he " would come dow; and heal his son, for he was at the point of

" death."

death." Ver. 4.8. « Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye fee « signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” Then he returning homewards, and finding that his son began to “mend at the same “ hour in which Jesus said unto hiin, Thy son liveth; he himself “ believed and his whole house." Ver. 53,

Here this nobleman is by the apostle pronounced to be a “Be« liever.” And what does he “ believe ?” even that which Jesus complains, ver. 48. « They would not BELIEVE, except they law figns and wonders; which could be nothing but what those of Samaria, in the same chapter, believed, viz. that he was the Meffiah. For we no where in the gospel hear of any thing else that had been proposed to be believed by them.

Having done miracles, and cured all their fick at Capernaum, he says, “Let us go to the adjoining towns, that I may preach there also; w for therefore came I forth.” Mark i. 39. Or, as St. Luke has it, chap. iv. 43. he tells the multitude, who would have kept him, that he might not go from them, “I muft evangelize," or tell the good tidings of the “ kingdom of God,” to other cities alio, for therefore ain I fent. And St. Matthew, chap. iv. 23. tells us how he executed this commission he was sent on. “ And Jesus went « about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching " the gospel of the kingdom, and curing all diseases.” This then was what he was sent to preach every where, viz. the gospel of the kingdom of the Melliah; and, by the miracles and good he did, let them know who was the Melliah.

Hence he goes up to Jerusalern, to the second passover since the beginning of his ministry. And here discoursing to the Jews, who fought to kill him, upon occafion of the man whom he had cured, carrying his bed on the Sabbath-day, and for making God his father, he tells them, that he wrought these things by the power of God, and that he fall do greater things; for that the dead shall, at his fummons, be raifed; and that he, by a power committed to him from his father, shall judge them; and that he is sent by his father; and that whoever shall hear his word, and believe in him that sent him, has eternal life. This, though a clear description of the Messiah, yet we may observe, that here to the angry Jews, who sought to kill him, he says not a word of his kingdom, nor lo much as names the Messiah ; but yet that he is the fou of God, and sent from God, he refers them to the testimony of John the Baptist

, to the testimony of his own miracles, and of God himself in the voice from Heaven, and of the scriptures, and of Mofes. He leaves them to learn from these the truth they were to believe, viz. that he was the Messiah sent from God. This you may read more at large, John v. 1-47.

The next place where we find him preaching was on the mount, Matt. v. and Luke vi. This is by much the longest sermon we have of his any where; and, in all likelihood, to the greatest auditory: for it appears to have been to the people gathered to him from Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem, and from beyond Jordan; and that came


« PreviousContinue »