« הקודםהמשך »
The next, and last passage I shall quote, is from the Book of Daniel, who, in the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, had a vision of four beasts, representing the four great Empires. At the close of his account of which he speaks of 66 one like the son of man" being brought into the presence of God, and receiving from the Eternal an everlasting kingdom, chap. vii. 13. “ I saw in the night visions, and behold one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and come to the ancient of days; and they brought him near before him. And there was given him Dominion, and Glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlastiag dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
I have now gone through the prophecies which are allowed both by Jews and Christians to relate to one person whom they call the Messiah. It must be evident from all these passages, that the characteristicks of this to both parties liighly interesting personage, as described by the Hebrew prophets, are these :
1. That he was to be a just, beneficent, wise, and mighty monarch, raised up and upheld, and established by God, to be the means of promoting universal peace, and happiness. That Israel should be gathered to him, and established in their own land; which was to be the seat of dominion, and the centre of union, and of worship to all the people, and nations of the earth ; who were to live under the government, and receive, and obey the laws of this beneficent Prince ; and enjoy unspeakable felicities on the earth, then changed to å universal paradise. And for all this happiness, they were to worship, and glorify the true God only, and glorify Jehovah, and give thanks to Him, “ because He is good, and his mer. cy endureth forever.”
2. That this prince was to be of the line of David, and as it should seem, called by that name, and was to reign on his throne in Jerusalem.
3. That according to Micah, Jeremiah, and Ezechiel, (see the quotations) his manifestation, and the restora-tion of Israel were to be contemporaneous. See Hosea, chap. iii. 4, 5. And from Jeremiah xxxiii. 15, and from
Micah v. 2, it should scem also, that he wus not to be born, till the time of that restoration should be nearly arrived.
The Prophecies concerning the Messiah of the Jews being now laid before the reader, we have only to apply these descriptions to know whether an individual be their Messiah, or not. For, (according to the principles laid down, and established in the preceding chapter) where the foregoing characteristicks given by the prophets do centre and agree, that person is the Messiah foretold : But where they are not found in any one claiming that character, miracles are nothing to the purpose, and nothing is more certain, than that he has no right to be considered as such ; and could he with a word turn the sun black in the face, in proof of his being the Messiah, he is nevertheless not to be regarded; for-whether such a person has yet appeared, can certainly only be known by considering, whether the world has ever yet seen such a person as this Messiah of the Hebrew prophets.
Had Jesus of Nazareth come into the world merely as a person sent with a revelation from God, he would have had a right to be attended to, and tried upon that ground. And if his doctrines and precepts were consistent with reason, consistent with one another, and with prior revelations, really such, and all tending to the honour of God, and the good of men, his miracles, with these circumstances, ought to have determined men to believe in him.
But since he claimed to be the Messiah of the Jews, foretold by their Prophets, it is requisite, that that claiń should be made out; and it is reasonable in itself, and just to him, and necessary to all those who will not take their religion upon trust, that he should be tried, by 'examining whether this claim can be made out, or not. The argument from Prophecy becomes necessary to establish the claim of the Gospel ; and as truth is con
sistent with itself, so this claim must be true, or, it destroys all others.
Besides, what notions of common morality must her. have, who pretends to come from God, and declares (Jo. v. 37,) 66 that the Scriptures testify of him," if in fact, the Scriptures do not testify of him? What honesty, or sincerity could he have, who could 6 begin at Moses, and all the Prophets, and expound unto his disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” if neither Moses, nor the Prophets ever spake a word about him? The prophets therefore must decide this question, and the foundation of Christianity must be laid upon them ; or else, to avoid one difficulty, Chris--tians will be forced into such absurdities, as no man can palliate, much less can extricate himself out of.
Furthermore, this claim must be made out to the satisfaction of the Gentile, as well as the Jew. For since the fundamental article of Christianity is, that Jesus is the Christ; (Jo. xx. 31,) that is to say, that he is the Messiah prophecied' of in the Old Testament; whoever comes into the world as such, must come as the Messiah of the Jews, because no other nation did expect, or pretend to the promise of a Messiah. Moreover, whoever comes as this Messiah of the Jews, must at least pretend to answer the character of their Messiah plainly delivered in the writings of their prophets. And the Jews themselves receiving those writings as divine, were not bound to, neither could they consistently with their duty, receive any, who did not answer in all points to the description therein given.
Let us now test the character of Jesus of Yazareth by the description of the Messiah given by the Hebrew prophets. If his character corresponds in all respects with that given by those prophets, he is undoubtedly to Ele acknowledged as the King of Israel foretold: but if they do not exactly correspond, if there be the slightest incongruity, he certainly was not this Messiah. For it is evident, that some of the characteristick marks given may belong to many illustrious individuals, but the whole can belong to, and be found in only one person.
The first characteristick of the Messiah, the reader will recollect, was, according to the prophets, that he
was to be “ the Prince of Peaee,” in whose times righteousness was to flourish, and mankind be made happy. That he was to sit upon the throne of David judging right; and that to him, and their own land was Israel to be gathered, and all nations serve and obey him; and worship one God, even Jehovah.
But of Jesus we read, that he asserted, that his king. dom was 66 not of this world.” Instead of effecting peace among the nations, he said, “ Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, I have come to send a sword, I have come to put division between a son, and his father; the mother, and the daughter; the daughter in law, and her mother in law." << Think ye, (said he to his disciples) that I have come to put peace on earth, I tell you nay, but rather division." Again, “ I have come to put fire on the earth.” These are not the characteristicks of the Messiah of the prophets of the Old Testament. For of him Zechariah (ch. ix.) says, that “He shall speak peace to the nations ;' and of him Isaiah says, ch. ii. « Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." And so far from being the author of division, sword, and fire ; according to Malachi, in the times of the Messiah, “ the heart of the parents was to be converted to the children, and the heart of the children to their parents."
In the times of the Messiah wars were to cease, righteousness was to flourish, and mankind be happy. Whether this has yet taken place, the experience of almost nineteen centuries, and the present state of the world can enable every one to determine for himself.
In the times of the Messiah Israel was to be gathered, and planted in their own land, in honour, and prosperity. But not many years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish nation underwent the most dreadful calamities; and to this day, so far are they from being gathered, they are soattered to the four quarters of the globe. Instead of being in honour and prosperity, their history, since his time, is one dreadful record of unparalleled sufferings, written in letters of blood by the hands of Murder, Rapine, and Cruelty.
Again; the true Messiah was, it seems, to be called David, and was to reign at Jerusalem, on the throne
of David; but the name 66 Jesus” is not the same as “ David,” and Christians have assigned him a spiritual kingdom, and a throne in Heaven ! But was the throne of David in Heaven? No! it was in Jerusalem, and no more in Heaven, than that of the Coesars.
Lastly, it appears from the prophecies of Hosea, Micah, and Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezechiel, quoted in the last chapter, that the manifestation of their Messiah was to be contemporaneous with the restoration of Israel, and from the quotations adduced from the three first mentioned prophets, it should seem that his birth was not to take place many years before that glorious event. But Jesus of Nazareth was born alinost two thousand years ago : and the children of Israel yet expect a deliverer. And to conclude, it was foretold by Malachi, and believed by the Jews then, and ever since, that Elias the prophet, who did not die, but was removed from the earth, should precede the coming of the Messiah, and prepare them for his reception. But the pro- . phet Elias certainly has not yet appeared !
Indeed, nothing appears to be more dissimilar than the character of the Messiah as given by the Hebrew prophets, and that of Jesus of Nazareth. It seems scarcely credible, that a man who, though amiable and virtuous, yet lived in a low state, was poor, living upon alms, without wealth, and without power: and who (though by misfortune) died the death of a malefactor, crucified between two robbers, (a death exactly parallel with being hanged at the publick gallows in the present day,) should ever be taken for that mighty Prince, that universal potentate, and benefactor of the human race, foretold in the splendid language of the prophets of the Old Testament
But since one would esteem it almost incredible that the Apostles could persuade men to believe Jesus to be this Messiah, unless they had at least some proof to offer to their convietion ; let us next consider, and