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cision, that signet on the flesh of his position in the family of Israel ; and his mother had to be purified, according to the ordinance for females after child birth, in the temple. He was there accepted, in this his early infancy, as one who while shedding light upon the Gentiles, was to be the glory of God's people Israel ; he was to be a testing point "for the fall and rising again of many in Israel,” and was upheld to view as the appointed divine agent “to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." When he entered upon his ministry the healed leper was sent by him “ to the priest to offer for his cleansing the gift "according as Moses commanded;" the centurion's servant is dealt with exceptionably, because of his faith surpassing what was found “in Israel ; the woman bowed with infirmity for eighteen years is restored as “ being a daughter of Abraham ;” Zacchæus is accepted “ for as much as he also is a son of Abraham.” The saved are to find themselves in association with “Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets ;” God is the God of these patriarchs, and heaven is a Jewish realm. The beggar of the parable, at his death, is “carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom ;" the testimony to the world below continues to be “Moses and the prophets ;” Jesus suffers as the reputed King of the Jews; the redemption expected of him by his forlorn followers met with at Emmaus was that of “ Israel ;” and in his future kingdom thrones were promised to his apostles whereupon they should sit and rule over the twelve tribes of Israel.
There is in these scriptures a maintained course of doctrinal teaching, embracing none of the specialities afterwards attaching to Christianity, but consisting simply of precepts, based on natural religion, which a Jew might recognize. The mission of the precursor, John, was "to give knowledge of salvation ” to the people of God, which was to be effected by the remission of their sins” (Luke i. 77). He accordingly baptized those who came to him “confessing their sins," "with water unto repentance (Matt. iii. 6, 11)—thus sealing their acceptance. Such was the consummation of his offices. The teaching of Jesus was to the same effect. In what is termed the Lord's prayer the condition of acceptance is good conduct. “If we forgive men," his people had to say, their heavenly Father would “also forgive" them (Matt. vi. 12-15). “When ye stand praying,” he told them, “ forgive, if ye have aught against any : that your Father also, which is in heaven, may forgive you your trespasses ” (Mark xi. 25, 26). Forgiveness begat forgiveness, and the process was to be carried on perpetually
seventy times seven” times, if necessary (Matt. xviii. 21, 22); and the forgiveness was to be granted freely, without conditions or consideration. This is illustrated in the parable of the unforgiving servant, whom his master rebukes for his illiberality to his fellow-servant, saying, “ O, thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me” (Matt. xviii. 32). That was the sole governing circumstance. He had asked for forgiveness, and therefore got it. This appears also in the parable of the two debtors, whose creditor, “when they had nothing to pay”—when they could offer nothing in consideration of the obligation—"frankly forgave them both (Luke vii. 42). It is illustrated, moreover, in the parable of the prodigal son, who no sooner repents and turns to the father, than the father receives him, without stipulation or condition, with open arms.
This is described as a repentance unto life, meaning eternal life, the father saying, “ It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad : for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again ; and was lost, and is found ” (Luke xv. 32). The poor publican, who had no plea whatever to raise but “God be merciful to me a sinner," was held amply "justified” (Luke xviii. 13, 14).
Jesus, in the confidence in his own mission imputed to him, is represented as dispensing forgiveness of his own proper authority. In healing the man sick of the palsy, he alleged that he had “power on earth to forgive sins," and said, showing what were the conditions, “Go ye, and learn what that meaneth ; I will have mercy, and not sacrifice; for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” The sick man accordingly rose, with his sins forgiven bim (Matt. ix. 2-13). In the like way he also absolved the woman who anointed him, saying, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven ; for she loved much” (Luke vii. 47).
In keeping with this line of doctrine, he made the final condition of man to depend upon his maintaining righteous conduct. · Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord,” he said, "shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. vii. 21). The good tree and the corrupt tree are to be known severally by their fruits (Matt. vii. 16-20). The wise man is he who hears these sayings of his, "and doeth them;" and the foolish man is he who hears them, “and doeth them not." The one is as a man building “his house upon a rock,” so sound are his foundations; and the other is as one building
upon the sand” (Matt. vii. 24-27). “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt xii. 37). “Whosoever,” said Jesus, discriminatively, “shall do the will of my Father, which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt. xii. 50). So entirely did salvation depend upon personal qualification, that the figure was used of undergoing dismemberment, so as to “enter into life" maimed, rather than, by retaining the offending members, incurring the risk of “everlasting fire” (Matt. xviii. 8, 9). The parable of the sower teaches that upon personal fruits a man's fate in the final judgment depends (Matt. xiii. 18-23). The parable of the net distinguishes the personally wicked and the personally just, as bad and good fishes (Matt. xiii. 47-49). The parable of the sheep and the goats is to the same purport. Those who have done wellfeeding the hungry, sheltering the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned—are accepted ; and those who fail in these duties are rejected (Matt. xxv. 31-46). These are throughout the conditions of the judgment, which is according to works.
As belonging to this primitive stage of Christianity, we may place those descriptions of Jesus, which involve that he was no more than one of the human family. The genealogies in Matthew and Luke are destitute of purpose, unless to connect him lineally with David, through Joseph. The words in brackets in Luke, to the effect of his “ being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph,” are probably interpolated. The writer could have had no object in framing the genealogy but in the assurance of its applicability. Luke had, in fact, just before, distinctly referred to Joseph and Mary as “his parents” (ii. 41), and had made Mary, in addressing him, speak of Joseph as his “father” (ii. 48). The people accordingly knew him as the
was a mere man.
son of Joseph, the carpenter (Luke iv. 22; Matt. xiii. 55), whose calling he himself pursued (Mark vi. 3). At his birth, Mary had to "purify” herself, "according to the law of Moses,” as in the case of any ordinary birth, and to make for her son the offering in redemption, as prescribed for all the first-born of the stock of Israel (Luke ii. 22-24); and, as any ordinary mortal, be grew, not only in “stature,” physically, but “in wisdom,” mentally and morally (Luke ii. 52). He declined the imputation of that goodness which belongs to God alone (Matt. xix. 17); he was devoid of the omniscience pertaining to God (Mark xiii. 32) ; he disclaimed the ability to rule the appointments in the hereafter (Matt. xx. 23); he withdrew to pray in private, as feeling the need of divine support from a source external to himself (Mark i. 35 ; Luke v. 6); the circumstances to which he was reduced brought him to anguish, so that he repeatedly entreated God to deliver him out of them (Matt. xxvi. 38-44); and on the cross, in his abject misery, he concluded that God had forsaken him (Matt. xxvii. 46). His position was not very determinate, but it amounted to no more than that he
He referred to himself as a prophet (Luke iv. 24); he was taken for no more even when he raised one from the dead (Luke vii. 16); he was greeted simply as a prophet when he made his public entry into Jerusalem (Matt. xxi. 11); the Pharisees were deterred from laying hands on him, because it was in this light of being a prophet that the multitude had accepted him (Matt. xxi. 46); and after his death, certain of his followers, who had hoped for great things from him, showed that they had viewed him as no more than a prophet (Luke xxiv. 19). Who he might be was not exactly apparent. He had been taken to be John the Baptist come to life again, or one of the other prophets (Mark vi. 14-16).
The book of Acts exhibits the operations of the earliest followers of Jesus. We therefore get in it the form of doctrine such as purports to have flowed from the founder of the faith to its first commissioned disseminators. And as these are said to have been specially empowered for their work from above, their teaching is presented with professed completeness and authority
On the notable day of Pentecost, we have, from the lips of Peter, the proclamation of the first message communicated to
man, founded upon the accomplished work of Jesus.
If ever we were to expect the fulness of the gospel testimony displayed with power, it would be on such an occasion as this.
That the message was an effectual one, we are given to understand, as “about three thousand souls were at once gained over by it. we are to recollect, a Jewish audience, addressed, in respect of their faith, by one of themselves. They were, we are expressly told, “ Jews, devout men, out of every nation,” to whom the apostle made his appeal as "men of Israel,” and “the house of Israel.” The message in no way went beyond the bounds of such a position. The leader they were called upon to acknowledge was presented to them as one who was to fill the throne of David. He was “a man ” approved of God by miracles, wonders, and signs, whom wicked men had killed, but whom God had raised from the dead, in order to give him his appointed standing, in headship, over the nation. They were to signify their adherence to him by being baptized in his name, and their passport to acceptance was repenting of their sins (ii. 1-36).
After restoring a lame man in the temple, Peter again preached Jesus.
He held him to view as that “prophet” of whom Moses had spoken as one who should be raised up unto them of their brethren, like unto himself. That is, he described him as of human origin, such as themselves. In Jewish aspect, God is referred to as “the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob,” glorifying his son Jesus. Him God had raised from the dead, to establish him in the headship appointed for him. Repentance was again declared to be the qualification for acceptance (iii. 12-26). On this occasion about five thousand converts were added (iv. 4). Subsequently, he renewed his discourse, showing the special and limited range of the office of Jesus, as raised up to be “a Prince and a Saviour" for “Israel.” Repentance was all that was needed to secure forgiveness (v. 31).
We then have the discourse of Stephen, ending with his martyrdom. It is altogether Jewish in complexion. He runs over the history of the nation, from the call of Abraham to the building of the temple by Solomon. Jesus is adverted to as the prophet foretold by Moses, who was to be one of themselves, as he was. Stephen accused the people of having slain