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and the Jew, all, all alike disobey their Creator, and violate his law, whether written on the tablet of the conscience and the heart, or on the stone tables of Moses.
It would seem, that in view of this universal destitution of righteousness among men,. that the prophets began to proclaim another righteousness of God. David said that righteousness should "look down from heaven." "That the righteousness of God was an everlasting righteousness." He declared that there should "Come forth a branch out of the root of Jesse, and the Spirit of the Lord should rest upon him, and righteousness should be the girdle of his loins." Isaiah, as an herald, proclaims a coming King-saying, “Behold a King shall reign in righteousness." "The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness sake. He will magnify the law, and make it honorable."
As the prophet seems to obtain fuller views of the righteousness which was to come from heaven, he says, "Drop down, ye heavens, from above, let the skies pour down righteousness; "—and his emotions kindling in prospect of a coming ransom for sinners, he exclaims, "Surely shall men say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength, in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified." Again, he says, "The righteousness of the servants of the Lord is from Him. For He, who came when there was no intercessor, put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head." When in vision, he foresees the coming King of Righteousness, as a conqueror, rejoicing in the apparel of victory over his enemies, he asks, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah-this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?" and the response is, "I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save."
An hundred years after this, Jeremiah repeats the prophecy, saying, "The days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David, a righteous branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."
Ten years later, the same prophet renews the promise of Jehovah, saying, in nearly the same words, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised, I will cause the branch of righteousness to grow, * and this is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."
About fifty years later, a still more wonderful annunciation of this great truth was made. In a far distant land, many hundred miles from the scene of the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel, a revelation was made unto Daniel, under circumstances of interest and sublimity, not surpassed by any that had preceded it. The Jewish captive, in the court of the King of Babylon, was singled out as an object of the most extraordinary interposition of heaven, and of one of the most interesting missions to our world that is on record, in all the history of the ministry of angels. Daniel was humbling himself in
prayer and fasting, in sack-cloth and ashes, confessing to God, with unfeigned self-abasement and sorrow, his own sins, and those of all his people, deploring their utter destitution of righteousness in his sight. While he was speaking, and praying, and confessing, the archangel Gabriel was sent quickly from the court of heaven, on his errand of tender consolation to this mourning captive. He announces still more distinctly the advent of the Messiah, and more emphatically declares this great object of his mission.
Gabriel says to Daniel, "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon the holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in EVERLASTING RIGHTEOUSNESS: that is, the Most Holy, the Messiah, should come; He would make reconciliation for iniquity, and not only for the iniquity of Judah, but of all mankind. He would bring in to this dark world of sin, an everlasting righteousness, a righteousness sufficient for the justification of every sinner to the end of time.
Finally, as the canon of the Old Testament closes, and the spirit of Prophecy departs from the Jewish church and nation, Malachi, about four hundred and fifty years previous to the coming of the Messiah, in anticipation of his advent, and of the brightness of his spotless character, proclaimed, as the last strain of prophetic inspiration, that the day of the Lord was at hand, when the SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS should arise with healing on his wings.
In the fulness of time, in accordance with the prophecies, the SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS did rise upon our world. The Messiah came, and made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in everlasting righteousness. The holy child Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and the angel declared to the mother of our Lord, that he would save his people from their sins.
II. Let us in the second place, consider this view of the character of our Lord Jesus Christ as it is exhibited in the Gospel. It is truly remarkable how clearly and distinctly the Savior himself declares this great object of his coming. Scarcely had he commenced his first public discourse on the mount when with great emphasis, he says, Think not I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For, verily, I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
And he did fulfil the law. The Lord from heaven in mysterious union with the son of Mary, fulfilled every jot and tittle of the eternal law. It would be interesting and important to dwell on the perfect fulfilment of law, which characterized the life of our Redeemer. Not a single act of violation of law ever escaped him. He discharged in immaculate perfection every obligation under which a human being can lie, in the relations of life which he sustained, and that, too, in circumstances of difficulty, temptation, danger and suffering, such as no other individual was ever called to meet.
If you ask, how did he fulfil the moral law, embodied in the two commands, "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself! How was his love to the Father manifested? and his love to man?
I answer, his love to the Father was manifested by his perfect obedience to the Father's will. The whole tenor of his life was in accordance with the frequent prayer, "Father not my will, but thine be done." "Not as I will, but as thou wilt."
His spirit was so stirred within him, when he witnessed the profanation of his Father's temple, that his disciples applied to him the prophecy. The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. And he said himself, near the close of his life, "The Father hath not left me alone, for I do always those things that please him." And just on the eve of his death, he added, almost as his dying testimony, "I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."
How did he fulfil the law of love to man? you ask. His whole life, and his agonizing death, were in fulfilment of this law. For it is written greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. But Christ manifested his love for man in laying down his life for enemies.
How did he fulfil the ceremonial law? In the rites of circumcision and baptism were recognised his exact conformity to the Mosiac ritual and Jewish custom. Joseph and Mary took him to the temple, to do for him, after the custom of the law. And not until all things were performed, according to the law of the Lord, did the infant Savior and his earthly kindred return to their own city Nazareth.
Jesus journeyed from Gallilee to Jordan, to be baptized of John. But the greatest of the prophets remonstrated, saying, "I have need to be baptised of thee, and comest thou to me?" Jesus answered, suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteous
On one occasion, when the collectors of tribute for the Temple service came to his disciples and asked, if "their Master paid tribute?" Jesus said, "of whom do the kings of the earth take tribute, of their own children, or of strangers ?", as if he had said, "Doth my Father, KING OF HEAVEN, take tribute, for the service of his Temple, of me, his only son? The children of a king are free," said the Savior. Nevertheless in fulfilment of every duty which law required of a Jew, he directs Peter to go for the fish, who would bring in his mouth, the tribute silver, both for the Lord and the apostle.
And all the requisitions of the temple service, and the appointed attendance at the feast of the passover, we notice are faithfully observed in the life of our Redeemer.
Even in all the duties of civil law, we find a full and perfect discharge of every obligation. Tribute to Cæsar he did not refuse to pay.
But perhaps you say, He was not subject to the temptations that we are, and that in his exalted nature, he was able to obey.
Yet it is written, that he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him our nature, the seed of Abraham, and became man, uniting in himself, the Lord from heaven in mysterious union with the son of Mary. "God manifest in the flesh." "The Lord from heaven, in union with a human body and a human soul; the man Christ Jesus tempted in all points, like as we are, and yet without sin.
And he was tempted as we are. Read the story of his temptation and see. Was he not tempted by the offer of all earthly good, if he would worship and serve Satan rather than God? Is not this the same kind of temptation, for which thousands plunge into sin, and make shipwreck of all hope of heaven. Analyze the subject of your Redeemer's temptations, and see if they do not accord with the temptations to sin, which have always been the lure and the ruin of our race. Jesus alone has resisted them, and conquered Satan, and fulfilled God's eternal law.
Or, if we consider the course of his life, as marked by the performance of all duties towards God and man, how striking and wonderful it appears. With what assiduity must he have studied the prophets and the law! The wondering people, in view of his attainments, exclaim, how knoweth this man letters, having never learned? With what just and pungent reproof, he tells the people, "Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures." How perfect his acquaintance with all the word of God! How apposite his quotations in every scene of life! and to the various subjects of his instructions! and how intimate his knowledge of all things that were written in the law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning himself! How wonderful the spirit of devotion that characterized his life. His was no more a life of sorrow, than it was of prayer!
How uniform and consistent his observance of the Sabbath day, in an era and among a generation of the deepest darkness as to its spiritual meaning. How constant and unwearied his attentions to the sick, the dying, and the mourners. How perfect his fulfilment of the law of love, even under the greatest provocation that insult and injury can give.
In his own country, when he taught the neighbors of Joseph and Mary in the Synagogue, so that they were astonished at his doctrine, they derided him as only the carpenter's son.
Some esteemed him as the friend of publicans and sinners, because he mingled with the common people, eating and drinking with them, at their own tables. Some called him a glutton and a wine bibber, because as a prophet, he conformed in meat and drink to the customs of the people, and did not practice the abstemiousness and austerity of prophets, who roamed in the wilderness, clad in the coarse apparel of camel's hair, and living on the locusts and wild honey of the desert.
He was often derided and was laughed to scorn. They called him a Sabbath breaker and a blasphemer, and a despiser of the law. They charged him as a madman, with being possessed with the devil. They called him Belzebub himself, the very chief and prince of devils.
Yes, they declared the Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, the most holy, the blessed and glorious One, to be no other than Satan, the prince of devils, the father of lies, the murderer from the beginning, the worst and most hateful of all the creatures of God.
Here is personal abuse, to which the records of injustice and calumny among men, can show no parallel. But his only reply was, "I have not a devil; ye do dishonor me."
How many personal indignities did he receive? They mocked him, they provoked him, they laid in wait to catch him in his words. Spies watched, feigning specious pretences to entangle him in his speech. His disciples, even, who had solemnly declared, that should they die with him, yet would they not deny him, yet all forsook him and fled. One denied cursing and blaspheming, and another betrayed him to his murderers with a kiss!
The crucifiers hurry him to the High Priests. The men around mock and buffet him. They blindfold and smite him in the face. They deride and blaspheme him.
At early dawn, they urge him to the council, and lay grievous but groundless accusations against him. The drag him to Pilate and to Herod, and repeat and multiply the tokens of their derison, scorn and hate. They set him at nought, and deck his brow with a piercing crown, and array him in a gorgeous robe, and place a sceptre in his hand, in mockery of his royalty.
But this was not enough. It was not enough that they hunted him as a thief, with weapons and torches :-not enough, that they suborned witnesses with false accusations of blasphemy :-not enough, that they buffetted him and smote him with the palms of their hands, and spit in his face, and that at the very tribunal of justice and of law, in utter defiance of every principle of both.
No. Malignity was not satisfied with the blood, which the strokes of the scourge might draw. To Calvary, to Calvary he must go! Crucify him, crucify him, is the cry. With thieves he must suffer, and with thieves expire. His must be the ignominious and agonizing death, which rebels, robbers and assassins only were condemned to die! And yet he was guiltless. He had violated no law, human or divine. Pilate, the recreant arbiter of justice and of law, washed his hands and said, "I find no fault in him;" and yet delivers him over to death.
One of the dying thieves said to the others, "We receive the due reward of our deeds, but this man hath done nothing amiss."
The Roman Centurion, who conducted the execution, and his band, who watched the last moments of the sufferer, and heard his dying words, felt the trembling of the earthquake, and saw the darkness over all the land, and knew of the rending of the temple vail, and the solemn pause throughout all nature, they even exclaimed, "certainly this was a righteous man: truly this was the Son of God."
Judas the betrayer, went out and hanged himself, leaving his dying testimony, "I have betrayed the innocent blood."