« ÎnapoiContinuați »
heart; and that God therefore promised, yea, even swore unto him, that his house should never fail, but that the kingdom should for ever be secured to his descendants.
The history-recorded in their sacred books-informed the Jews, as did also the writings of their prophets, that their ancestors, both kings and people, disobeyed God and disregarded his commands, and were therefore punished. That first, the greater portion of the kingdom, about four-fifths, was wrenched away from the house of David, during the reign of his grandson ; and that eventually, some centuries later, the remainder was taken, the kingdom being then utterly destroyed, and the people sold into slavery or forcibly transplanted.
But prophet after prophet, from the commencement of their calamities, reminded them that their punishment was only temporary. They declaimed against wickedness, and exhorted to repentance, and sang in lofty and impassioned, though varied strains, of the impossibility of God's forgetting his promise to David he would “heal their backslidings, and love them freely." He would restore them again to their own land of Israel, would give them a king of the Davidian line, who, besides the outward anointing of oil, should be spiritually anointed with righteousness, wisdom, and power. God would also, in those days,
. bestow his Holy Spirit on the people, that they might be cleansed from their wickedness, and enabled to obey his anointed. The prophets dilated in glowing language
on the glory and bliss of these Messianic days to come, when God should indeed reign, by his anointed, over his chosen people; when “out of Zion should go forth the law, and the word of God from Jerusalem.” But the incorrigible should be utterly destroyed.
The Jews of the time of Jesus also learned from their histories, that in the days of the later prophets many thousands of their progenitors did actually return from captivity, rebuild the temple, and re-establish the worship of the one living and true God, and that neither these nor their descendants ever afterwards disobeyed him so flagrantly as their ancestors had done. They continued in their own land, though
. under foreign domination ; the voice of prophecy became mute, and a process of assimilation to their latest conquerors had commenced, when they were subjected to a fierce persecution, which aroused them to fight for entire freedom, and that successfully. Then again were they ruled by a prince of their own, an anointed one of God, being also high priest, but therefore not of the line of David, and therefore not the anointed one promised by the prophetic voices of the past, which were to them the voice of God. Gradually, having sought alliance with the Romans, this powerful people established mastery over Judæa, and at length its inhabitants, shortly before the public appearance of Jesus, found even the semblance of independence taken from them by their former friends, who, however, according to their custom, permitted the Jews the free exercise of their religion.
At this time it was that a general belief was entertained that the day was drawing nigh—the day so long looked for—when God should invest his anointed, his Messiah, with the sovereignty of their beloved Israel ; when the stranger should be extirpated, or, awestricken, should submit to learn humbly of the Jew, and to obey the anointed of God, and when the dispersed of Israel should be regathered to the land of their fathers.
It will, we presume, be generally admitted that something like this was, by very many, expected soon to happen in fulfilment of the prophecies of the establishment of the kingdom of God, and this at the time when the Gospel of “Mark ” opens.
We propose now to give a rough outline of the substance of the first and second Gospels, dwelling chiefly on the portions connected with these expectations, premising merely that the books were certainly written by persons who believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the subject of the Messianic predictions. We shall endeavour to confine ourselves to the literal sense of the text where possible, and to strictly legitimate inference therefrom.
In those days—after the lapse of several centuries -again a prophet made his appearance, in the person of John, called the Baptist. He was an ascetic, and lived in or near the Judæan wilderness, whence he came to the Jordan's banks to announce to the expectant multitudes the tidings that the heavenly kingdom, so long and so often predicted, was now about
to be set up, and that his own mission was to prepare them for it by exhortations to repentance, and by baptizing true penitents in token that their sins were forgiven (Matt. iii. 1, 2). Here we have in brief both the exhortation and the tidings—“Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." "John came, who
” baptized in the wilderness, and preached the baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins ” (Mark i. 4).
While John baptized with water all who came to him, not being able to discriminate between those who were sincerely repentant and the insincere or shallow, he told them it would be far otherwise with the Messiah, who would judge them in his baptism ; those whose actions showed true repentance, he would admit into his kingdom, baptizing them with the Holy Ghost, but the others with fire unquenchable (Matt. iii. 11, 12).
John must have preached with wondrous eloquence and power, or else the Jewish nation, believing that the time had arrived for the advent of the Messiah, was peculiarly susceptible to religious influences, for we read that almost the whole people, including many of the Pharisees and Sadducees, came to John, seeking his baptism of repentance for the remission of their sins (Matt. iii. 5, 6; Mark i. 4, 5).
Among the rest came Jesus, in whose countenance and manner there would seem to have been something to impress an observer with a conviction of his moral excellence, for John acknowledged his superiority to himself, and with exceeding humility hesitates as to
whether he shall relinquish his high position in favour of the Nazarene (“I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?”—Matt. iii. 14); but Jesus felt it his duty to make public profession of his repentance and desire of forgiveness. This evidently implies a consciousness of past sin; we need not accuse Jesus of the mere hollow conformity of submitting to a popular rite.* On the contrary, the plain inference from the narrative is that he submitted to it in all sincerity, and that he had “a realizing sense" of its efficacy, a consciousness that his sins were indeed remitted, and that he was now accepted
a beloved son of the Father. A dove which alights on him after his baptism is regarded by him (and rightly so, in the estimation of the writer of the Gospel) as an emblem of the Holy Spirit, conveying the divine peace to his soul. The evangelist does not intimate that John or the spectators heard a voice from heaven, or that they were conscious of any supernatural manifestation see Matt. iii. 15–17; also Mark i. 10, 11).
Having thus been assured by the voice of God of his special favour, Jesus now longed for communion with his Divine Parent. He therefore (following the example of the prophets, and of John) went into the wilderness, where he remained forty days and forty nights without food, without even suffering the sensation of hunger. Here, then, was a great miracle,
* “ Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in the Jordan" (Mark i. 9, see 4; and also Matt. iii. 6, 11, 13).