תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

listened to false Christs, who never failed to promise them sovereign sway as the only method of gaining their affections. Once indeed, during the life of Jesus, the people, astonished at his miracles, but still under the influence of this mistaken notion, would have made him king by force: but this he could not suffer, either consistently with the nature of his real kingdom, or without encouraging and promoting their error. The strange perplexity, into which the Jews were thrown at the sight of his miracles, while they were unable to reconcile the humble appearance of our Lord with the pompous expectations which they had formed of the Messiah, is strikingly described in several parts of the Gospel. They were unwilling to give up their preconceived opinions, though they knew not how to account for such an exertion of supernatural power by any person inferior in point of dignity to the Messiah.'

As the Jews, in the time of our Saviour, could Bot bear to imagine that the Law of Moses was ever to have an end; so is their posterity equally blind to the connection, which subsists between the two dispensations.

II. Nearly allied to the prevailing notion of a secular deliverer were the sentiments of those Jews, who embraced Christianity during the ministry of our Lord. The national error respecting the character of the Messiah infected even the Apostles; when first converted, in common with their unbelieving brethren. ': They, too, fondly hoped one day to see the lowly Jesus, - a mighty temporal prince; and expected, that those, who had shared his humility, should be partakers of his power and glory.

hn vii. and xii.

This persuasion is sufficiently manifest from the whole tenor of the following passage.

Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the Prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully intreated, and spitted on : and they shall scourge him, and put him to death : and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.'

Such is the description, which the Messiah gives of his humiliation and sufferings ; circumstances, which had never once occurred to the aspiring and worldly-minded Jews : accordingly we find, that his Disciples were totally at a loss to comprehend his meaning

The same observation may be made on the desponding language of the two disciples, who were passing from Jerusalem to Emmaus. We trusted that it had been he, which should have redeemed Israel. The death of Christ had put an end to all their hopes, and they concluded themselves to have been mistaken in supposing him the promised Saviour. For a season, they were as blind as the other Jews to the real design of his mission; and they imagined, that such an ignominious punishment as crucifixion was utterly incompatible with the character of him, who came to restore the legal observances with additional splendor and majesty. They remained in this ignorance and perplexity, till Christ himself was pleased to remove their doubts ; first by explaining the intent of the ceremonies and prophecies, and afterwards by sending the Holy Ghost to enlighten their understandings and to enable them to comprehend the true connection of the Law and the Gospel.'

1 Luke xviii. 31-34.

III. The error of the Judaizing Christians after the death of our Lord, when their mistakes concerning his office and functions were removed, and when they no longer imagined him to be a temporal deliverer, consisted in supposing, that the Gospel was not to supersede the Law, but that the ceremonial part of it. was to remain still in force even after the promulgation of Christianity. The more moderate of these converts included only themselves as Jews under this obligation ; but the more violent insisted, that the Gentile Christians were equally bound in conscience to observe the rites and ordinances of the Mosaical dispensation.

Had this been required only as a temporary matter and solely with a view to soften the prejudices of the Jews against the preaching of the

Luke xxiv.

Gospel, the compliance with it could have involved no bad consequences; and St. Paul, whose liberality of character is remarkably conspicuous, would doubtless not have opposed it, since he himself, in more than a single instance, yielded in non-essentials, in order to avoid giving offence.' Whence then arose the Apostle's strenuous resistance to this notion of the Judaizing Christians ? The reason is clear : they wished to make the observance of the Law a condition of justification, without which not even the merits of the Redeemer himself could effect the salvation of sinners; a doctrine striking at the very vitals of Christianity, .

Perhaps the Epistle to the Galatians furnishes at once the best account and the best confutation of this error.

The Galatians, a church of Gentile converts and therefore peculiarly under the jurisdiction of St. Paul the great Apostle of the Gentiles, had been induced, by the mistaken zeal and false representations of the Jewish Christians, to adopt the rites of the Levitical church, and to endeavour to unite them with the pure and spiritual doctrines of the second dispensation under the Messiah. This error was so common in the early ages of Christianity, that we find St. Peter himself infected with it; or, at least, supposing his private sentiments to have been just, giving his countenance and support to it, from a fear of displeasing the Jewish converts.

[blocks in formation]

Under such circumstances, St. Paul judged it the best antidote against the prevailing evil, to renionstrate openly with St. Peter, and afterwards to admonish by letter those churches which had been deceived. Accordingly, in the epistle under consideration, he acquaints the Galatians with his proceedings ; and concludes his narrative with these striking words.

Knowing, that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the Law : for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.'

This passage is alone decisive of the question. However estimable the works of the Law might be in their proper place, and however their obligatoriness might rest upon the commandment of God himself: still their nature and office were altogether mistaken by those, who imagined that they could purchase justification. For, if they could do this by their own intrinsic meritoriousness, the sacrifice of Christ were plainly nugatory and superfluous : or, if they could partly do it while the sacrifice of Christ was only requisite to eke out their deficiency, the divine Saviour of the world were no less plainly degraded to the rank of a mere subordinate auxiliary. In every point of view therefore, the Judaizing tenet, that the observance of the Mosaical Law was so necessary to salvation that without it

[blocks in formation]
« הקודםהמשך »