Page images

might be understood. This could not be without some reason; and the preservation of his life, which he came now to Jerusalern on purpole to lay down, could not be it. What other reason could it then be, but the saine which had made him use caution in the former part of his ministry; fo to conduct himself, that he might do the work which he came for, and in all parts answer the character given of the Messiah in the law and the prophets? He had fulfilled the time of his ministry, and now taught and did miracles openly in the temple, before the rulers and the people, not fearing to be seized: but he would not be seized for any thing that might make him a criminal to the government, and therefore he avoided giving those, who in the division that was about him inclined towards him, occasion of tuinult for his sake; or to the Jews, his enemies, matter of juft accusation against him out of his own mouth, by professing himself to be the Mefliah, the king of Israel, in direct words. It was enough, that by words and deeds he declared it so to them, that they could not but understand him; which it is plain they did, Luke xx. 16, 19. Matt. xxi. 45. But yet neither his actions, which were only doing of good; nor words, which were myftical and parabolical (as we may see Matt. xxi. and xxii. and the parallel places of Matthew and Luke); nor any of his ways of making himself known to be the Messiah, could be brought in testimony, or urged against him, as opposite or dangerous to the government. This preserved him from being condemned as a malefactor, and procured him a testimony from the Roman governor, his judge, that he was an innocent man, sacrificed to the envy of the Jewish nation. So that he avoided saying that he was the Melfiah, that to those who could call to mind his life and death after his resurrection, he might the more clearly appear to be so. It is farther to be remarked, that though he often appeals to the testimony of his miracles who he is, yet he never tells the Jews that he was born at Bethlehem, to remove the prejudice that lay against hiin, whilft he passed for a Galilean, and which was urged as a proof that he was not the Messiah, John vii. 41, 42. The healing of the fick, and doing of good miraculously, could be no crime in him, nor accusation against him ; but the naming of Bethlehem for his birth-place, might have wrought as much upon the mind of Pilate, as it did on Herod's; and have raised a suspicion in Pilate as prejudicial to our Saviour's innocence, as Herod's was to the children born there. His pretending to be born at Bethlehem, as it was liable to be explained by the Jews, could not have failed to have met with a finifter interpretation in the Roman governor, and have rendered Jesus suspected of some criminal design against the government. And hence we see, that when Pilate asked him, John xix. 9. “ Whence art thou ? Jesus gave him no answer.”

Whether our Saviour had not an eye to this straitners, this narrow room that was left to his conduct, between the new converts and the captious Jews, when he says, Luke xii. 50. “I “ have a baptism to be baptized with, and aws curéxojecco, how am 1

« ftraitened

« ftraitened till it be accomplished,”. I leave to be considered. “I

am come to fend fire on the earth,” says our Saviour, “and what « if it be already kindled?” i. e. there begin already to be divisions about me, see John vii. 12. 43. and ix. 18. and x. 19. and I have not the freedom, the latitude, to declare myself openly to be the Messiah; though I am he, that must not be spoken out till after my death. My way to my throne is closely hedged in on every fide, and much straitened,, within which I must keep, till it bring me to my cross, in its due time and manner, so that it do not cut short the time, nor cross the end of my ministry.

And therefore, to keep up this inoffensive character, and not to let it come within the reach of accident or calumny, he withdrew with his apostles out of the town every evening, and kept himself retired out of the way, Luke xxi. 37.' “ And in the day-time he « was teaching in the Temple, and every night he went out, and « abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives;” that he might avoid all concourse to him in the night, and give no occasion of disturbance or suspicion of himself in that great conflux of the whole nation of the Jews, now assembled in Jerusalem at the passover.

But to return to his preaching in the Temple: he bids them, John xii. 36. “ To believe in the light whilft they have it :” and he tells them, ver. 46. “I am the light come into the world, that i

every one who believes in me should not remain in darkness.” Which believing in him, was the believing him to be the Melliah, I have elsewhere shewed.

The next day, Matt. xxi. he rebukes them for not having believed John the Baptist, who had testified that he was the Messiah : and then, in a parable, declares himself to be the “ son of God,” whom they should destroy; and that for it God would take away the kingdom of the Messiah from them, and give it to the Gentiles. That they understood him thus, is plain from Luke xx. 16. “ And “ when they heard it, they said, God forbid.” And ver. 19. « For they knew that he had spoken this parable against them.”

Much to the fame purpose was his next parable concerning “ the “ kingdom of heaven,” Matt. xxii. 1-10. that the Jews not accepting of the kingdom of the Mefliah, to whom it was first offered, others should be brought in.

The Scribes and Pharisees and chief priests, not able to bear the declaration he made of himself to be the Messiah (by his discourses and miracles before them, iu pocber aútwr, John xii. 37. which he had never done before), impatient of his preaching and miracles, and being not able otherwise to stop the increase of his followers (for, " said the Pharisees among themselves, perceive ye how ye prevail “ nothing ? Behold, the world is gone after him.” John xii. 19. So that "the chief priests, and the Scribes, and the chief of the “ people) sought to destroy him," the first day of his entrance into Jerusalem, Luke xix. 47. The next day again they were intent upon the same thing, Mark xi. 17, 18. “And he taught in the 2

« Temple;

jaid holdering their without the

Temple; « and the Scribes and the chief priests heard it, and « fought how they might destroy him ; for they feared him, be« caufe all the people were astonished at his doctrine."

The next day but one, upon his telling them the kingdom of the Messiah should be taken from them, “ the chief priests and Scribes « sought to lay hands on him the same hour; and they feared the “ people.” Luke xx. 19. If they had so great a desire to lay hold on him, why did they not? They were the chief priests and the rulers, the men of power. The reason St. Luke plainly tells us in the next verse, (And they watched him, and sent forth spies, " which thould feign themselves juft men, that they might take “ hold of his words, that so they might deliver him into the “ power and authority of the governor.” They wanted matter of accufation against him to the power they were under: that they watched for, and that they would have been glad of, if they could have “ entangled him in his talk," as St. Matthew expresses it, chap. xxii. 15. If they could have laid hold on any word that had dropt from him, that might have rendered him guilty or suspected to the Roman governor ; that would have served their turn, to have laid hold upon him, with hopes to destroy him : for, their power not answering their malice, they could not put him to death by their own authority, without the permission and assistance of the governor, as they confess, John xviii. 31. “ It is not lawful for « us to put any man to death.” This made them so earnest for a declaration in direct words from his own mouth, that he was the Meffiah. It was not that they would more have believed in him, for such a declaration of himself, than they did for his miracles, or other ways of making himself known, which it appears they understood well enough; but they wanted plain direct words, such as might support an accusation, and be of weight before an heathen judge. This was the reason why they pressed him to speak out, John X. 24. « Then came the Jews round about him, and said « unto him, How long dost thou hold us in suspense ? if thou be s the Messiah, tell us PLAINLY,” wapinoia, i. e. in direct words: for that St. John uses it in that sense, we may see chap. xi. 11-14. Jesus faith to them, “ Lazarus fleepeth.” His disciples faid, “ If 5 he seeps, he shall do well. Howbeit, Jesus spake of his death; « but they thought he had spoken of taking rest in sleep. Then “ faid Jesus to them plainly, murencía, Lazarus is dead.” Here we see what is meant by ozgenaix, PLAIN direct words, such as express the thing without a figure ; and so they would have Jesus pronounce himself to be the Messiah. And the same thing they press again, Matt. xvi. 63. the high priest adjuring him by the living God, to tell them whether he were the Mesiah, the son of God, as we shall have occasion to take notice by-and-by.

This we may observe in the whole management of their design against his life. It turned upon this ; that they wanted and wished for a declaration from him, in direct words, that he was the Mer< VOL. IV,



siah; something from his own mouth, that might offend the Roman power, and render him criminal to Pilate. In the 21st verse of this 20th of St. Luke, “ They asked him, saying, Master, we know « that thou fayest and teachest rightly; neither acceptest thou the 6 person of any, but tcachest the way of God truly. Is it lawful “ for us to give tribute to Cæsar, or no ?" By this captious queftion they hoped to catch him, which way soever he answered; for if he had said, they ought to pay tribute to Cæfar, it would be plain he allowed their subjection to the Romans, and so in effect dirowned himself to be their king and deliverer; whereby he would have contradicted, what his carriage and doctrine seemed to aim at, the opinion that was spread amongst the people, that he was the Messiah. This would have quashed the hopes, and destroyed the faith, of those who believed on him, and have turned the cars and hearts of the people from him. If, on the other side, he answered « No," it is not lawful to pay tribute to Cælar, they had had out of his own mouth wherewithal to condemn him before Pontius Pilate. But St. Luke tells us, ver. 23. “He perceived their craftiness, and “ Taid unto them, Why tempt ye me?” i. e. why do ye lay lares for me? “ Ye hypocrites, thew me the tribute-money:" so it is, Matt. xxii. 19. “ Whose image and inscription has it? They said, « Cæsar's. He said unto them, Render therefore to Cæfar the 5 things that are Cæfar's; and to God the things that are God's.” By the wisdom and caution of which unexpected answer, he defeated their whole design. « And they could not take hold of his « words before the people; and they marvelled at his answer, and “ held their peace,” Luke xx. 26. “and leaving him, they departed,” Matt. xxii. 22.

He having by this reply (and what he answered to the Sadducees concerning the refurrection, and to the lawyer about the first conimandment, Mark xii.) anta'ered so little to their satisfaction or advantage, they durft ask him no more questions any of them. And now their mouths being stopped, he himself begins to question them about the Messiah, asking the Pharisees, Matt. xxii. 41. “ What « think ye of the Mefliah, whole son is he? They say unto him,

6 The son of David :” wherein though they aniwered right, yet he shews them, in the following words, that however they pretended to be studiers and teachers of the law, yet they understood not clearly the scriptures concerning the Melliah ; and thereupon he sharply rebukes their hypocrisy, vanity, pride, malice, covetoulness, and ignorance; and particularly tells them, ver. 13. « Ye shut “ up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in « yourselves, nor suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” Whereby he plainly declares to them, that the Mefliah was come, and his kingdom begun; but that they refused to believe in hiin themselves, and did all they could to hinder others from believing in him, as is manifest throughout the New Testament; the history whereof fufficiently explains what is meant here by “ the kingdom " of heaven,” which the Scribes and Pharisees would neither go

into themselves, nor suffer others to enter into. And they could not chufe but understand him, though he named not himself in the cale.

Provoked anew by his rebukes, they get presently to council, Matt. xxvi. “ Then allembled together the chief priefts, and the “ Scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the " high-priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they “ might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him. But they said, Not « on the feaft-day, left there be an uproar among the people. For “ they feared the people,” says St. Luke, chap. xxii. 2.

Having in the night got Jesus into their hands, by the treachery of Judas, they presently led him away bound to Annas, the fatherin-law of Caiaphas the high-priest, who probably having examined him, and getting nothing out of him for his purpose, sends him away to Caiaphas, John xviii. 24. where the chief priests, the Scribes, and the elders, were assembled, Matt. xxvi. 57: John xviii. 19, 20. « The high-priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his “ doctrine. Jesus anfwered him, I spake openly to the world; I “ ever taught in the Synagogue, and in the Temple, whither the " Jews always resort; and in fecret have I said nothing." A proof that he had not in private to his disciples declared himself in express words to be the Messiah, the prince. But he goes on. «Why « askelt thou me? Alk Judas, who has been always with me. “ Ask them who heard me what I have said unto them; behold, « they know what I said.” Our Saviour, we see here, warily declines, for the reasons abovementioned, all discourse of his doctrine. The Sanhedrim, Matt. xxvi. 59.“ sought false witness againft him," but when they found none that were sufficient; or came up to the point they desired, which was to have something against himn to take away his life; (for so I think the words isai and ion mcan, Mark xiv. 56, 59.) they try again what they can get out of him himself, concerning his being the Meffiah; which if he owned in express words, they thought they should have enough against him at the tribunal of the Roman governor, to make him « Læsæ majestatis “ reum,” and so to take away his life. They therefore say to him, Luke xxii. 67. “ If thou be the Messiah, tell us:" nay, as St. Matthew hath it, the high-priest adjures him by the living God to tell them whether he were the Messiah. To which our Saviour replies, “ If I tell you, ye will not believe; and if I ask you, ye will < not answer me, nor let me go.” If I tell you, and prove to you, by the testimony given of me from heaven, and by works that I have done among you, you will not believe in me, that I am the Meffiah: or if I should ask you where the Messiah is to be born, and what state he should come in, how he should appear, and other things that you think in me not reconcilable with the Meffiah; you will not answer me, and let me go, as one that has no pretence to be the Messiah, and you are not afraid should be received for such. But yet I tell you, “ Hereafter shall the son of man-fit “ on the right-hand of the power of God,” ver. 70. “ Then said

E 2

« they

« PreviousContinue »