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pleasantry than asperity to the extreme readiness of Christians to leave us in undisturbed possession of all the evil foretold us, and which we at present experience, whilst they kindly interpret of themselves those pleasing promises which hold forth with equal certainty the felicity of our latter days."
12. Having, I trust, satisfactorily refuted the misapplication of this prophecy, I shall now show that our ancient Rabbins understood it of the Messiah. Instead of those words, "Behold, my servant shall deal prudently," the Targum hath it, "behold, my servant the Messiah shall be exalted, and increase and grow up, and shall greatly increase and prevail." R. Tanchuma says, "Behold my servant, &c. this is King Messiah, who shall be established above Abraham, shall be exalted above Moses, and be higher than the ministering angels." Aben Ezra says, "This chapter is very difficult, and many have explained it of the Messiah." R. Solomon Yarchi, on the place, saith, our Rabbins understand this of the Messiah;" and the reason he assigns for their interpretation is "that they say that the Messiah is stricken, as it is written, 'He took our infirmities and bare our griefs,' which are the words of the 4th verse of the 53d chapter. Hence, it appears, that our ancient Rabbins joined the last three verses of the 52d chapter with the 53d, and applied the prophecy to the same person. Besides, he cites a certain Midresh out of Bereshith Rab. on Gen. 28: 10, where mention is made of Zach. 4: 7, "Who art thou, O great mountain ?" he answereth, "That great mountain is the Messiah." Again, he asks, "Why does he call the Messiah a great mountain?" he answereth, "Because He is greater than the fathers; as it is written, Behold my servant, &c. this is the Messiah.' In the same book, on Gen. 24: 67, it is said that Messiah the King was in the generation of the wicked; that he gave himself to seek for mercies for Israel, and to fasting and humbling himself for them, as it is written," he was wounded for our transgressions," &c. See also
the same author on Ruth, 2: 14. R. Moshe Alshech saith, "Behold, our doctors of blessed memory, concluded with one mouth, as they have received from their ancestors, that this is spoken of the Messiah." In the Talmud Bab. Sanhed. the question being asked what is the name of the Messiah? It is answered, "the Leper, as it is written, Isa. 53:4, Surely he hath borne our griefs," &c. Certainly, our people have no cause to blame the evangelists and apostles in applying it to the Messiah. Some of our ancient Rabbins have plainly taught that the Messiah was to suffer and die in the place of his people. In Neve Shalom it is thus written: "The purification which the Messiah will make, shall be for the expiation of sin in general, for destroying transgression and making an end of sin, which retains mankind under its yoke. For as the first Adam was the first that sinned, so Messiah shall be the last, who shall completely take away sin." Lib. 9. c. 5. In the same sense are the words, Ps. 2: 12, explained in Medrash Thil. "This may be illustrated by a parable. A certain king was angry with his subjects. They therefore went and made his son their friend, that thus they might conciliate the mind of their king. The son departed and reconciled his father, as they had reconciled to themselves the son. They went to give thanks to the king, but the king said to them, you give thanks to me, but go and offer them to my son, for had it not been for him, I should have destroyed the province." Lamp. John, 1: 18.
13. It is evident, therefore, dear Benjamin, that the prediction under consideration respects the Messiah, and describes his sufferings and death as a real vicarious sacrifice for the sins of his people; and the language is so significant, that there is no way by which it could be more clearly denoted, or more properly expressed. Thus what the Messiah had engaged in the eternal covenant, to suffer in the place of his people, was predicted by the prophets. In my next letter I will endeavor to show that Jesus of Nazareth answered all that was typified and predicted concern
ing the priesthood of the Messiah. May the Lord prepare your heart to receive Christ crucified, as the wisdom and power of God unto salvation. Farewell.
JESUS A PRIEST AND SACRIFICE.
Dear Brother Benjamin,
§ 1. It is a long time since I received a letter from you. I am very desirous to know your opinion on the important subject of my last letters. To guilty and depraved sinners, what can be of greater importance than the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah, and the application of that precious blood, which was shed for the remission of sin, upon our heart, to purge our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God? To this subject I would once more invite your attention. Having, at considerable length, shown that the Messiah was to be a priest, and that he was to offer up himself, in body and soul, by suffering and dying as a vicarious sacrifice, I will now endeavor to show that Jesus of Nazareth was such a priest, and that he offered such a sacrifice. And may you and I, my dear Benjamin, and whoever may read these letters, realize and experience the truth of the following beautiful remark: "As the sun paints the clouds with variety of glorious colors, which, in their own nature, are but dark and lowering vapors exhaled from the earth; so, when the Sun of Righteousness arises, even the carnal ordinances and commandments of the law, dark and earthly as they seem, are gilded by his beams, and wear a smiling.
appearance. By his kindly influence, who is the light of the world, the most barren places of the Scripture rejoice, and blossom as the rose. What portion of sacred writ is more apt to be perused without edification and delight, than what relates to the Levitical priesthood; the qualifications of their persons, their apparel, their consecration, and different parts of their functions? And, indeed, it must be confessed a very hard task to reconcile, with the wisdom of God, the enjoining such numberless rites, purely for their own sake. But when we consider that Aaron and his successors were figures of our great High Priest, we must acknowledge that these injunctions are neither unworthy of God, nor useless to man; but are profitable for doctrine, and instruction in righteousness." M'Ewen.
§2. All that was excellent in Aaron and his successors, and all that was useful in the sacrifices, is to be found in Jesus Christ, but in all things he was infinitely superior both to the priests and their oblations. In illustrating and confirming this proposition, I shall appeal more frequently to the Epistle to the Hebrews, than to any other part of the Bible. It hath often been observed, that this epistle seems to have been written, in a particular manner, to elucidate the nature of the priesthood. The subject indeed, as to the substance of it, is hinted at in other passages of the New Testament; but yet, if we may so say, more sparingly than, perhaps, any other doctrine of like importance. The Holy Ghost seems to have reserved it for this epistle. And allow me, dear brother, to recommend it to your serious and careful perusal; yea, would to God that cur brethren would candidly read it. How desirable that the same end might be accomplished amongst our people, as that which it was designed to effect, when it was first written and addressed to the Hebrews. It evidently appears that the author's design was to prove what our learned doctors, and scribes, and elders in Jerusalem strongly denied; namely, that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had lately put to death, is Christ, the
son of God; and that the Gospel, of which Jesus is both the subject and the author, is of divine original, and universal obligation. In this letter, all the arguments and objections by which those who put Jesus to death endeavored to set his claim aside and overturn the Gospel, are introduced, examined, and confuted; his title and authority, as a lawgiver, to abolish the institutions of Moses, and to substitute the Gospel dispensation in their room, is established; the absolute inefficacy of the Levitical atonements to procure the pardon of sin, is demonstrated; the reality of the sacrifice of himself, which Christ offered for sin, together with its efficacy and its acceptableness to God, are clearly proved. And on all these considerations the unbelieving brethren were exhorted to forsake the law of Moses and embrace the Gospel ; and such of our nation as had embraced it, were cautioned against apostacy.
3. Let us first consider the person of Jesus Christ answerable to that of the high priest.
Here we shall notice his descent and qualifications, his call, his dress, and his consecration. To most of these the apostle had a reference in the following few verses: "Every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron: so also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest; but he that said unto him, thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek." Heb. 5 1-6.
4. 1. With respect to the descent and qualifications of the high priest. According to the law of Moses, every high priest was to be of the stock of Israel, the tribe of Levi, and the family of Aaron, having his genealogy well attested.