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of his Ministry? We assume, without further discussion, that the fulfilment here spoken of, was only the ANOINTING ; not that it was then applied; the Saviour received the anointing of the Spirit at His baptism, (Mat. iii. 16, &c.;) but having received it before, it was now fulfilled, actually accomplished. But we shall see the peculiar and wonderful appropriateness of the Saviour's first text and His application of it to Himself, on this occasion.
From the passage before us, and from Acts xiii. 14, 15; xvii. 1–3; xv. 21, &c., it is certain, that the Saviour, and his Apostles after Him-as well, no doubt, as many others, not of the tribe of Levi, were permitted, and invited, by the Jews, to preach in their synagogues, though they did not acknowledge the Mission, either of the Lord himself, or His Apostles, by him. But this was, on their part, a clear breach of the divinely appointed disci. pline of the ancient, Mosaic Church, according to which, none could be public Teachers, but members of the tribe of Levi only,—except when a Prophet was raised up by the Lord, for a special purpose, who gave ample proof of his mission, as did also the divinely raised Judges; though these did not interrupt the ordinary and established discipline; but rather enforced it, and reproved those who neglected, or violated it.
How great stress the Sacred Scriptures lay on this subject, we learn from the fact, that though the wicked Jeroboam led the whole ten tribes into the worst idolatry, and was guilty of the greatest abominations, by the side of which a small matter could scarcely be expected to be noticed, yet is this reckoned as a special sin in him, that he "made priests of the lowest,” (it should have been, “from the mass”) “ of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.” (1 Kings xii. 31; xiii. 33.) And the same kind of sin is often dwelt on, and has sometimes been severely punished, (2 Chron. xxvi. 16-19; Ezek. xiii. &c., &c.,) but note especially these passages, Levi. x. 8—11; Deut. xvii. 11, 12; Mal. ii. 7, and even Jer. xviii; Heb. v. 4; and they will readily suggest to the intelligent reader many others of the same import;* all teaching, that God had appointed the tribe of Levi only,
* Readers cannot be too much cautioned against the use of Bibles with references, which are published by Dissenters and their allies. They cover the margin with references; but in all cases of discipline, &c., rather refer the reader to every passage that looks like an exception to the rule, than to those passages, which go to prove the rule. This has been a great cause of their success with the unlearned. Instances of this may be found in “ Bagster's Comprehensive Bible;" and far more glaring and iniquitous, in a small 8vo. edition, published in Ireland, with an index at the end. Let any one in the latter, carefully examine the article,“ Missionaries. Every Man a Missionary." 'Look at the references.
whose members were to instruct, the people,--publicly, of course; for parents were enjoined to teach their own children, they themselves being under the priests. But, as in other things, so in this, the Jews made the “ commandment of God, of none effect, by their own tradition.” To this day, this rule is found, broadly laid down in the Talmud, (the great source of all the traditions of the Jews at this time,)“ If there be a high priest who is unlearned and a bastard who is learned, the bastard is to be preferred to the high priest.” (Compare with this, Deut. xxiii. 2, and Numb. vi. 22—27, &c.) And to this day, the learned Jew will defend this monstrous proposition, on the ground of the well known wickedness of high-and low, priests, towards the decline of the Jewish Church. God's prophets themselves often enough declaim, with the greatest acrimony, against wicked priests; but never hint at such a thing, as to set the priests aside, and to choose Teachers and other Ministers from among "the mass of the people,” after the fashion of the wicked Jeroboam. And the last of the prophets, while reproving the priests, the tribe of Levi, for their faithlessness, at the same time clearly predicts, what actually happened. (Mal. ii. 8, 9.) The Jews made themselves the willing executioners of God's righteous sentence against the priests : their own sin, in rejecting God's appointed Ministers, became the well deserved scourge of the priests; while, at the same time, it brought its own punishment along with it; for, as we shall soon see, it was by their departure from the divinely appointed discipline, that they were not only brought to a more awful course of sin than even idolatry itselfto crucify the Lord of Glory; but, by that very course, contributed towards propagating and establishing that faith, which they were so madly bent upon destroying; and at the same time, brought to dissolution that very religion and piety of their own, which they were so determined to uphold, and even to die for.
Who were the real, recognized Teachers of the Jews at the time of Christ ? Not “the priests, the Levites;" but the scribes, the lawyers, the self-sufficient Pharisees,—who were not necessarily of the tribe of Levi. And although there still were priests and Levites amongst the people, they occupied not their posts on the ground of their divine right, but only in so far as they were of the ruling party for the time being, whether pharisees or sadducees. Thus we are told, “The Jews sent Priests and Levites from Jerusalem, to ask him (John,) who art thou ?" but the Evangelist significantly adds, “and they which were sent were of the Pharisees.” (John 1.19-24.)
Let us then admire the wonderful wisdom of God. We máy here see bis providence handling a vast complication of circumstances, the most heterogenous, and acting upon them all with an exactness and a promptitude, that the most skilful machinery could scarcely imitate. A new covenant had to be established, and a new religion propagated; an old polity had to come to an end, and an almost apostate Church to be subverted: the former was abhorred, and the latter most vehemently clung to, by the people that were to be employed to bring it all to pass; a wicked priesthood had to be degraded; while they who, still sinfully on their part, degraded them, must be punished; all this is brought about in an apparently natural course of things, without any violence or constraint-every party acting deliberately and with perfect freedom, in their characteristic temper.
The Jews certainly were bent upon preserving their own religion, such as it then was; and would, by every means in their power, prevent the establishment of the religion of Christ. Had they adhered to the Mosaic discipline, of having no synagogues in every place, and refusing the right of public preaching to all who were not of the tribe of Levi, then, so long as they did not acknowledge the Lord Jesus as the Christ, they would naturally have hindered, both, Him, and His disciples, in teaching the people; as neither He, nor they (generally,) were of the priestly tribe; and this natural discipline could have been the more easily enforced, if there were no synagogues, and the temple at Jerusalem the only place of public worship and teaching. But now every thing was otherwise : the Jews cared not who their teachers were, provided they were deemed pious and competent; and there were plenty of synagogues every where. On their own acknowledged principles, they could not refuse, either to the Lord Jesus bimself, or to his disciples after him, the right to preach and teach among them; and the synagogues furnished ample opportunities; and now what followed ? The wickedness of the self-elected, or mob-made Teachers, the Pharisees, whether Lawyers, or Scribes, was exposed to scorn and derision ; tlieir hypocrisy arraigned, and their sophistry laid bare, while the prophecies were expounded, and rightly applied to Christ; the heavenly teaching of the blessed Saviour experienced no check, and his wondrous miracles were every where proclaimed: thus Phariseeism was undermined, and the religion of the glorious Gospel established,,in spite indeed of the Pharisees, and to their confusion, but by dint of their own principles. The intelligent reader will readily add many other reflections, which
scarcely need to be pointed out. How wonderfully do we, in all this, see the divine denunciation of the prophet Isaiah accomplished ! (Isaiah v, 1–5.) The Church became faithless, and deserved her candlestick to be removed; but all God does towards this is, to bring about, or rather, permit, a neglect of discipline, and all goes to ruin; "I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down,” &c. —such is the importance of what some people call, “NONESSENTIALS!"
But while the Jews, on the supposition that Jesus was not the Christ, were guilty of violating the divine discipline of their Church, in allowing the Saviour, and bis apostles after Him, to preach in their public assemblies, the Lord Jesus was not content merely to profit by the disorder, and to give sanction to it, by His own example. Although they did not acknowledge his right to preach, on the ground of his being the Messiah, He still had that right;—and he had also the authority, to commission His disciples to do the same; and hence the appropriateness of His first text, and His first sermon. He then, as it were, regd His license to preach, in the synagogue of Nazareth. It meant as much as to say, “I do indeed preach amongst you, as many of yourselves do, though they have no right to do so; but I do not claim that right on the ground on which you might grant it me; I have an authority which ye know not; and on that authority I preach.”
It is a fact, worth being pointed out; that while the Saviour so often denounced the “blind leaders of the blind,” so often said, “Woe unto you, SCRIBES AND PAARISEES, HYPOCRITES," He never once addressed such language to the priests, as such; and the apostles themselves seemed to have shown the same respect to the priests. (Acts xxiii. 5.)
We shall now then understand the full force of the words of the Saviour; after reading the text from Isaiah, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me," to say, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears ;” which means, "I am anointed to preach in the Church,” &c,
If any shall see in all that has now been said, a wonderful analogy between the Pharisees of old and the luct of certain parties in our sad times, let them profit by the well-timed lesson.
THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST IN THE BOOK OF COMMON
The greater part of our Common Prayer Book, now in the hands of every child among us, is the work of saints and holy men who died while the Church of Christ was yet in its infancy. The greater part of the services which it prescribes have been in use with our forefathers, in their public worship, twelve or fifteen hundred years; from the very earliest period of the establishment of Christianity in this country.—The Apostles' Creed is so ancient, that history cannot fix its date ; and (to say nothing of the prescriptive authority, derived from the use of centuries, which our Morning and Evening Prayer, and especially our Litany, possess, having been so long used nearly in their present form,) the separate prayers, the individual petitions of which they are composed, are relics of remotest Christian antiquity. And why do I mention this ? Not merely because it is in the heart of man, especially in matters of religion, to venerate the works of former ages, works of piety and saintly temper, which have adorned the church militant of Christ; not because it is a noble and spirit-stirring thought, that the same offering has been presented to the Throne of Grace by the body of Christ's church on earth from generation to generation; not because it is a noble and awakening thought, that this whole body, though spread over distant ages, is hereby so closely united, that the all-seeing comprehensive view of the Almighty beholds His universal church, as at one and the same moment, praising, blessing and entreating, pleading the merits of Christ, making profession of the faith He has revealed, expressing their hopes of heaven, their thankfulness for heavenly bounty, all, as it were, with one mouth and one spirit; not merely because, in the knowledge that such is the case with the prayers we now use, we deem it a privilege to pray as our fathers have prayed, to repent and confess as they have done ; not because, in our thankfulness for so high a privilege, we are zealous to transmit this privilege and blessing to those who shall come after us, and look forward to the time when lips that have joined in the same prayer and praise from age to age on earth, shall unite in " a new song" for ever in the courts of heaven;—it is not only for reasons such as these that the Prayer-Book demands our veneration; it is not for these reasons that I now point to it. The humble and devout heart,