Imagini ale paginilor

Sabbath, perhaps working for his bodily sustenance during the week (Mark i. 21).*

He now wished, as it were, to multiply himself, the harvest being so plenteous, and the labourers so few, and induces four fishermen, Simon, and his brother Andrew, and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, to leave their avocations, and to come with him that he might instruct them with a view to their also preaching the good tidings (Matt. iv. 18-22 ; Mark i. 16–20).

While at Capernaum (according to Luke, before the call of the disciples, which, indeed, seems perhaps most probable), a man possessed by an evil spirit was freed by Jesus, whose fame soon spread over all Syria (Mark i. 23–28; Luke iv. 33–37 ; Matt. iv. 24).

There were probably by this time a great many who helped to maintain Jesus and his four disciples (Luke viii. 3); he therefore went with them about all Galilee, and found he had power to heal all diseases, which power he freely used, so that wherever he went he attracted vast numbers.

It would seem that the crowds who came to hear him were too great for the synagogues, so that he had to preach, like John, in the open air, on the sides of a mountain, or by the sea-shore.

* The record is very meagre as to this part of his history. We may, perhaps, assume that by degrees he extended his mission to the neighbouring towns on the lake, and the villages adjacent, as continued meditation and practice in speaking made him more efficient, and that when some of his hearers contributed to his support, he abandoned himself entirely to the work of preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

He explained to his disciples the nature of the kingdom that was coming—that is, who would be its most worthy subjects—and, avoiding altogether its external aspects (of which we may presume he knew nothing, and that his trial herein consisted), he saw clearly that God reigned in every soul that was conformed to His righteousness.

There was, therefore, something to be done by each person. Each should seek the kingdom, and enter, as Jesus had done, individually therein, leaving the rest in God's hands. To explain the nature of the kingdom was, therefore, to explain the nature of true righteousness. Having searched the Scriptures, and having meditated thereon, he was soon able to expound them as they had never been expounded before. Beginning with repentance, the gate of the kingdom, he had Scriptural warrant for pronouncing its . blessings on such as, overwhelmed by a sense of their own guilt and insufficiency, were humbled in spirit before God. In such souls would God specially dwell (Isa. lvii. 15; lxvi. 2).

Thus the gospel of the kingdom, as preached by Jesus, was truly good tidings to all those who were mourning because of their sins, who were contrite and broken in heart before God. He felt that he entered fully into the most spiritual sense of the psalmists and prophets, and that therefore the Spirit of God was with him, anointing him to preach comfort to such mourners ; " to heal the broken in heart, and to bind up their wounds;” yea, to proclaim the glad

tidings that even they were God's chosen ones, for whom was reserved “the oil of joy,” and “the garment of praise,” “ that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord.”

Those who were thus contrite in the sight of God would be meek towards men, but where would the meek be in the stirring times that were coming, when stout-hearted warriors might expect to be called on to advance to victory under the banner of the heavenchosen king ? Yet these are not pronounced blessed, the blessedness is reserved for the meek, to them the announcement of the coming kingdom is good tidings, since they are, as it is written, to inherit the earth (Ps. xxxvii. 11).

Those who truly repent of past sin will bring forth fruits meet for repentance, they will “hunger and thirst after righteousness ” (Isa. lv. I); these also are blessed, for the desire of their hearts shall be granted them.

Special blessings there were also for the merciful, for the pure in heart, and for the peacemakers, while those who had attained to such strength of righteousness as would admit of no compromise with sin, and who would therefore be likely to suffer persecution for its sake, were called on to rejoice as possessors of the kingdom, and worthy successors of the prophets.

Jesus warned his hearers that the righteousness practised by the most strict observers of the law fell far short of what was required in the new kingdom

He pointed out the imperfections of some of the commandments of the law : thus, it allowed men to return evil for evil ; but Jesus, it is presumable, finds a higher law than this in the Book of Proverbs (xx. 22; xxv. 21, 22), and he betters its instruction by insisting that men should not only refrain from retaliation, but should do so from love to the offenders, and should, from the same all-conquering love, earnestly seek to bless them. He taught his disciples that they would thus prove themselves the children of God, if they were animated by His spirit of love towards all, towards the evil and the good.

He was careful to explain that he was not speaking against the ancient law, but rather using it as a stepping-stone to a higher; where no higher could be discerned, the written law was still to be literally obeyed.

But all depended upon the motive, the spring of action. The ruling principle, the strongest desire of the heart, should be that God might reign therein. Whoever had this was truly in and of the kingdom ; he that had it not, however literally he obeyed the multitude of precepts of the Mosaic law, could not enter into the kingdom, his state of mind being clearly incompatible with citizenship therein. On the other hand, he who had such a desire, but yet was unwise enough to attack the law, or any part of it (say, as not being of divine origin, or as not being now binding), though he would still be in the kingdom, yet would be in the lowest rank; one, for instance, who, instead of spreading great principles or opposing gross wickedness, should denounce any one of the precepts of the law because he could discern in it nothing worthy of God-say, for example, that forbidding the seething of a kid in its mother's milk (Ex. xxxiv. 26). For such a course, even if successful, would produce but a small benefit, and most probably would create an antagonism which would require all one's energies to combat.

The sincere desire to do the will of God from the love of it was to govern all actions. Hypocrites, who affected righteousness, who indeed performed right actions, but not from such a motive, were of no account in God's sight, could expect no reward or recognition from him. Did they act religiously to win the applause of those who could only form a surface judgment ? Then, having this, they had all they had bargained for. The honours of the kingdom were not for these. Weighed in God's balances they are lighter than vanity.

It is clear, from the Hebrew writings, that the idea of God as the Father of men was not new to the Jews. He is the Father of all, being their Creator.* He is specially the Father of his peculiar people, his son Israel whom he called out of Egypt. In 4 Ezra (2 Esdras, though this book was probably not written till after the time of Jesus), we find Israel complaining thus to God of the heathen (vi. 58): “But we thy people, whom thou hast called thy firstborn, thy only

* Malachi ii. 10; Isa. Ivi. 5; Ixiii. 16; lxiv. 8.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »