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LECTURES ON THEOLOGY.
ON THE MESSIAH.
Predictions of the Messiah prior to the Appearance of Christ-Their Import-Evidence that
Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.
We have seen that Jesus Christ is the Surety and Mediator of the New Covenant; and, in speaking of him in these characters, it was impossible to avoid references to the mysterious constitution of his person. This, however, is a subject so important, as to be entitled to distinct consideration, both because it is the foundation upon which the whole scheme of redemption depends, and because some men of corrupt minds have, in all ages, and in various forms, exerted themselves to overthrow it. But, before we enter upon it, it will be proper to attend to the notices which were given of the Saviour to the church prior to his manifestation in the flesh, and then to show that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah.
As God was not pleased to send his Son into the world immediately after the fall of our first parents, but to defer his mission till the fulness of time, it seemed good to his wisdom to give before-hand such information respecting him, as would support the faith and hope of his people, and enable them to know him when he should actually appear. It could not have been supposed that, in the ancient Scriptures, which record the divine dispensations to the descendants of the patriarchs, and the other nations of the world, there would be no mention of an event more wonderful and interesting than the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires. We find, accordingly, that, as he is brought forward to view almost at the commencement of the sacred volume of the Jews, so it closes with a renewed prediction of his approach, and a delightful picture of the happiness which awaited our race, when the Sun of righteousness should arise upon them with healing in his wings."*
The first notice of the Saviour was given on the afternoon of the day on which our first parents transgressed, and before they were expelled from paradise. It was included in the sentence pronounced upon their seducer; and while it foretold his destruction, implied a promise of their deliverance from his power. “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel."'+ It is plain, that the person here announced was to be the adversary and the conqueror of the serpent, or the devil, who, by the instrumentality of that animal, successfully tempted our first parents, and that he was to be a partaker of their nature. It would be absurd to consider the passage as relating to the enmity which literally subsists between the serpentine race and ours;
• Mal. iv, 2.
+ Gen. ü. 15.
nor is there any reason to understand it generally of a hostility which would afterwards arise between them and the devil, with whom they had now joined in a confederacy against God. The seed of the woman denotes an individual, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom this designation is peculiarly applicable, because he has descended from her in a different manner from all her other posterity. In reference to him, an equivalent expression is used, when it is said, that, “In the fulness of the time, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”* To be made of a woman, and to be the seed of the woman, evidently signify the same thing; and hence, we may conclude this to be the import of the prediction, that the future antagonist of the serpent would be conceived and born in a miraculous manner. He is not called the seed of the man, although he was as much a descendant of Adam as of Eve, and his genealogy is traced up to him in the third chapter of Luke, because he was not derived from him in the ordinary way. He is the seed of the woman in an exclusive sense, because his mother was a virgin.
The next notice of the Messiah was given to Abraham, when God said to him, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”+ It may be supposed that this promise may be understood in a lower sense, as foretelling the benefit which mankind would derive from his posterity, who were destined to be the original depositories of divine revelation, and from whom it was to be afterwards diffused over the various regions of the earth. But an apostle has shown us that it should be applied principally or solely to the Messiah. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." I By this second notice, the people of God obtained some new information. It not only repeated what was already known, that the Messiah would be a man, a partaker of the same nature with the patriarch, but it farther taught, that he should be a Jew; because it was expressly said, that " in Isaac this seed should be called," or that he should spring from Abraham, not by Ishmael, but by Isaac. The nation was specified, in which he should appear; and as they were thus excited to look for him, his relation to them was the ground on which that system of typical services was established, which was afterwards introduced by the ministry of Moses.
The next prediction to which I shall direct your attention, is contained in the following words : “ The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be."'S Although it is agreed among Christians, that the Messiah is the person to whom this prophecy refers, yet there is a difference of opinion with respect to the import of the name or title by which he is described. Some suppose that noe, Schiloh, is derived from nsw, which signifies to send, the final n, heth, being changed into , he, and, consequently, that nbio, signifies He that is sent. In the Vulgate, it is translated Qui mittendus est, he who is to be sent. Our Saviour is elsewhere termed the angel or messenger of Jehovah, and often speaks of his mission in the New Testament: “ Say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God ?”'ll Others are of opinion, that it is a derivative of mbo, which signifies to be quiet or tranquil ; and that aboo, Schiloh, is the peaceable one, or the giver of peace; a character which is, with the greatest propriety, given to our Saviour, on account not only of the gentle virtues by which he was distinguished, but of the peace which he has happily effected between God and man by his mediation. It may be added, that, as his religion inculcates brotherly love, so it actually creates it in the
• Gal. iv 4. Gen. xxii. 18.
* Gal. iii. 16.
§ Gen. xlix. 10.
| John X. 36.
hearts of his genuine disciples. Under its influence, in the figurative language of prophecy, “ The wolf dwells with the lamb, and the leopard lies down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together."* But, whatever is the true import of the title, as there is no doubt respecting the person to whom it belongs, the words now under consideration convey this additional information with regard to the Messiah, that he was to arise from the tribe of Judah, which should subsist as a distinct political body, till the time of his appearance. This prophecy will again come under review, in the subsequent part of the lecture.
I proceed to lay before you another passage in which the family is pointed out, which should have the honour of claiming him as one of its members. ** The Lord hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it: Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.”+ I acknowledge, that there is nothing in these words themselves which would justify us in applying them to the Messiah, and that, without bringing the light of other parts of Scripture to bear upon them, they might be considered merely as a promise, that the royal authority, with which David had been invested, should descend to his children in a long succession. But, in the mind of a person who is acquainted with the Scripture, no doubt will remain that the fruit of David's body is that illustrious descendant, whom the Jews welcomed when he entered Jerusalem with this acclamation, “ Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”I There is a manifest allusion to the passage in the words of the angel who announced the birth of our Saviour to his mother. “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest ; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of David for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."S I may add the prediction of Isaiah. “ Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever."|| The seventy-second Psalm begins with a prayer of David for himself and his son ; but Solomon, if he thought of him at all, immediately vanishes from his mind, and he goes on to describe, in the sublimest strains, the future glories of the Messiah's reign. This is the king to whose manifestation the prophecies directed the attention of the Jews, and under whose administration they were taught to expect that substantial and unfading felicity, of which earthly things were only a shadow. And as he was the Son of David by way of eminence, and was appointed to sit upon his throne, he sometimes receives in prophecy the name of that monarch, of whom he is the antitype. “ Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days."
Having seen that, in his human nature, the Messiah was to be a member of the family of David, we shall find, in the following prophecy, something still more specific. “ Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."'** The Messiah would be a miraculous child, born of one of the daughters of David, according to a peculiar law. The miracle consisted, not in the exertion of extraordinary power, but in the manner of his conception ; for the difference between a miracle and a common event is, that in the latter the hand of God is concealed from superficial observers by the means which it employs, whereas, in the former it is openly revealed, The birth of every child is effected by the same power which formed the body of our Saviour in the womb of the Virgin Mary; but in the latter case, it strikes us more, because it is unaccompanied with the usual circumstances. Omnipotence appears unveiled, and admiration is excited by the naked display of it
• Is. xi. 6.
† Ps. cxxxii. 11,
* Matt. xxi. 9.
6 Luke i. 32, 33,
. It will be proper to inquire into the reason of this miracle ; and we feel desirous to know how it came to pass, that the human nature of our Saviour was so different from that of all other men, in its perfect exemption from moral impurity. The common opinion is, that its holiness was the consequence of his being born of a virgin ; and it is explained in the following manner. Let us look back to the introduction of sin, and attend to the way in which it is propagated. In consequence of the federal relation between Adam and his posterity, his sin is chargeable upon them, and is transmitted to them as they successively come into existence. The nature which they derive from him is corrupt. They are at once guilty and polluted. From this law of transmission there has been no exception since the beginning of the world. The individuals of the human race have been distinguished by important differences in their talents, their dispositions, and their actions; but all have been tainted with sin, because they have all borne the same relation to that one man, with whom they were appointed to stand or fall. He was the representative of his natural posterity, or of all who should descend from him in consequence of the blessing pronounced upon the man and the woman : “ Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.” In the representation of Adam every person was included, who was to be born according to the law of generation then established. Had our blessed Lord been born according to the same law, he also would have partaken of the general corruption; and being himself a sinner, would have been disqualified to be the Saviour of sinners. Now, the design of his miraculous conception was, to secure the innocence of his human nature, that it might be fitted for the high honour of union to his divine person, and for the holy services which were to be performed for the salvation of men. He was born of a virgin, that he might be an immaculate child. He was derived from Adam in a new channel, by which depravity could not be transmitted.
But it is a more satisfactory view of the subject to consider, that the miraculous birth of our Saviour was the consequence of a promise made after Adam had ceased to be a federal head, the promise, namely, respecting " the seed of the woman.' He was not related to Adam while he continued the representative of his descendants, and was not, therefore, subject to the effects of his fall. His relation to him, if I may speak so, was incidental and conditional, depending upon the failure of Adam to fulfil the terms of the covenant. Christ was one added to the human race, after it had been brought into new circumstances, and he was not therefore bound by the law under which it was originally placed. It was not by an aet of power in his miraculous conception, but by an act of justice, that he was exempted from the common depravity. He had no connexion with its cause; he was not more included in the representation of Adam than the angels of heaven; he would not have been born at all, if the covenant had not been broken; and that it is not our simple descent from Adam, which is the reason of the corruption of our nature, but our relation to him as our federal head, is evident from this consideration, that only his first sin is imputed to us, and all his subsequent sins were charged upon himself alone.
This I consider as the true account of the purity of the human nature of our Saviour. It was not owing simply to his being born of a virgin, although this is commonly assigned as the cause, but to his not being included in the representation of Adam. But all were included in it who were derived from him by the ordinary mode of continuing the species; and hence it was necessary that, in order to distinguish him,
our Lord, who never was in Adam as a federal head, should descend from him in a miraculous manner.
We have seen that the notices of the Messiah in his human character, be