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EXPECTATION OF THE MESSIAH.
exclude from his followers, justice; on the soldiery s humanity, and abstinence from all unnecessary violence and pillage. These general denunciations against the vices of the age, and the indiscriminate enforcement of a higher moral and religious standard, though they might gall the consciences of individuals, or wound the pride of the different sects; yet, as clashing with no national prejudice, would excite no hostility, which could be openly avowed; while the fearless and impartial language of condemnation was certain to secure the wonder, the respect, the veneration, of the populace.
But that which no doubt drew the whole population Expectation in such crowds to the desert shores of the Messiah. Jordan, was the mysterious yet distinct assertion, that the "kingdom of Heaven was at hand "tthat kingdom of which the belief was as universal as of the personal coming of the Messiah; and as variously coloured by the disposition and temperament of every class and individual, as the character of the sovereign who was thus to assume dominion. All anticipated the establishment of an earthly sovereignty, but its approach thrilled the popular bosom with mingled emotions. The very prophecy which announced the previous appearance of Elijah, spoke of the "great and dreadful ·
Michaelis has very ingeniously observed that these men are described not merely as soldiers (σrparíwrai), but as on actual service (σTpaTevoμévo); and has conjectured that they were part of the forces of Herod Antipas, who was at this time at war, or preparing for war, with Aretas, king of Arabia. Their line of march would lead them to the ford of the Jordan.
This phrase is discussed by Kuinoel, vol. i. page 33. According to its Jewish meaning, it was equivalent
to the kingdom of the Messiah (the kingdom of God, or of Heaven-Schoetgen, Hor. Hebr. p. 1147), which was to commence and endure for ever, when the Law was to be fully restored, and the immutable theocracy of God's chosen people re-established for eternity. In its higher Christian signification it assumed the sense of the moral dominion to be exercised by Christ over his subjects in this life; that dominion which is to be continued over his faithful in the state of immortal existence beyond the grave.
COMING OF THE MESSIAH.
day of the Lord," and, as has been said, according to the current belief, fearful calamities were to precede the glorious days of the Messiah: nor was it till after a dark period of trial, that the children of Abraham, as the prerogative of their birth, the sons of God," the inheritors of his kingdom, were to emerge from their obscurity; their theocracy to be re-established in its new and more enduring form; the dead, at least those who were to share in the first resurrection, their own ancestors, were to rise; the solemn judgement was to be held; the hostile nations were to be thrust down to hell; and those only of the Gentiles, who should become proselytes to Judaism, were to be admitted to this earthly paradisiacal state.*
Compare Justin Martyr (Dial. | be as the burning of the lime-kiln, but 433), ed. Thirlby. Grotius on Matt. Israel in the time to come (i.e. the x. 28, xiv. 2. James, ii. 14. Whitby time of the Messiah) shall be left only; on Acts i. 23. Jortin's Discourses, as it is said, The Lord shall be with him alone, and there shall be no page 26. strange God." Mid. Tell, on Psalm ii. Lightfoot, iii. 47.
See Wetstein, in loc. The following passage closely resembles the language of John: "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Matt. iii. 12. The Jer. Talmud adduces Isaiah xvi. 12. "The morning cometh and also the night; it shall be morning to Israel, but night to the nations of the world." (Taanith, fol. 64, 1.) "The threshing is come: the straw they cast into the fire, the chaff unto the wind, but preserve the wheat in the floor, and every one that sees it, takes it and kisses it. So the nations of the world say, The world was made for our sakes: but Israel say to them, Is it not written, But the people shall
LANGUAGE OF THE BAPTIST.
The language of the Baptist at once fell in with and Mysterious opposed the popular feeling; at one instant it the Baptist. raised, at the next it crossed their hopes. He announced the necessity of a complete moral change,. while he repudiated the claims of those who rested their Isole title to the favours of God on their descent from the chosen race, for "God even of the stones could raise up children to Abraham." But, on the other hand, he proclaimed the immediate, the instant coming of the Messiah; and on the nature of the kingdom, though he might deviate from the ordinary language, in expressly intimating that the final separation would be made not on national but moral grounds-that the bad and good, even of the race of Israel, were to be doomed according to their wickedness or virtue-yet there was nothing which interfered with the prevailing belief in the personal temporal reign of the Son of David.
The course of our History will show how slowly Christianity attained the purely moral and spiritual notion of the change to be wrought by the coming of Christ, and how perpetually this inveterate Judaism has revived in the Christian Church, where, in days of excitement, the old Jewish tenet of the personal reign of the Messiah
the only consolation of degradation and été, ou qu'ils ne sont pas Juifs. Chiadespair. rini, Preface to Translation of Talmud, p. 55.
Le Judaisme est un système de misanthropie, qui en veut à tous les peuples de la terre sans aucune exception. . . . . Il n'étend l'amour du prochain qu'aux seuls Juifs, tandis que le Mosaisme l'étend à tous les hommes, sans aucune distinction (vide note), Il commande en outre qu'on envisage tous les autres peuples de la terre comme dignes de haine et de mépris, pour la seule raison qu'ils n'ont pas
Passages of the Talmud will certainly bear out this harsh conclusion; but I think better of human nature than to suppose that this sentiment was not constantly counteracted by the humane feelings to which affliction would subdue hearts of better mould, or which would be infused by the gentler spirit of the genuine religion of Moses.
DEPUTATION OF THE PRIESTHOOD.
has filled the mind of the enthusiast. Nor were the Jews likely to be more embarrassed than mankind in general by the demand of high moral qualifications; for while one part would look on their own state with perfect complacency and satisfaction, another would expect to obtain from Heaven, without much effort or exertion on their own part, that which Heaven required. God who intended to make them happy would first make them virtuous.
Such was the general excitement at the appearance, the teaching, and the baptizing of John. So Deputation great was the influence which he had obtained of the priest throughout the country, that, as we shall cerning the speedily see, a formal deputation from the of John. national authorities was commissioned to inquire into his pretensions, and to ascertain whether he limited himself to those of a prophet, or laid claim to the higher title of "the Christ." And the deep hold which he had taken upon the popular feeling is strongly indicated by the fact, that the rulers did not dare, on the occasion of a question proposed to them at a much later period, by Jesus, openly to deny the prophetic mission of John, which was not merely generally acknowledged, but even zealously asserted by the people.
How long the preaching of John had lasted before the descent of the Son of Mary to the shores of the Jordan, rests on somewhat uncertain evidence. We can decide with as little confidence on some other more interesting questions. There is no precise information, whether any or what degree of intercourse had been kept up between the family of Zachariah and that of Joseph, who resided at a considerable distance from
▾ Matt. iii. 13-17; Mark i. 9, 11; Luke iii. 21, 23; John i. 15, 18.
JOHN'S AVOWED INFERIORITY.
each other, and were not likely to meet, unless at the periodical feasts; nor how far John might be previously acquainted with the person of Jesus. But it is undoubtedly a remarkable fact in the history of Christianity, that from the very first appearance of Jesus on the shores of the Jordan, unquestionably before He had displayed his powers, or openly asserted his title to the higher place, John should invariably retain his humbler relative position. Such was his uniform language from the commencement of his career; such it continued to the end. Yet at this period the power and influence of John over the public mind were at their height; Jesus, humanly speaking, was but an unknown and undistinguished youth, whose qualifications to maintain the higher character were as yet untried. John, however, cedes at once the first place in the strongest language he declares himself immeasurably inferior to him, who stood among the crowd, unmarked and unregarded; whatever his own claims, whatever the effects of his initiatory rite, Jesus
The discrepancies between the different Evangelists as to the language of John, on several occasions, with regard to Jesus, appear to me characteristic of the dim and awe-struck state of the general mind, which would extend to the remembrance and the faithful record of such incidents. It is assumed, I think without warrant, that John himself must have had a distinct or definite notion of the Messiahship of Jesus he may have applied some of the prophetic or popular sayings supposed to have reference to the Messiah, without any precise notion of their meaning; and his conception of the Messiah's character, and of Jesus him
| self, may have varied during different passages of his own life. If the whole had been more distinct and systematic, it would be more liable, according to my judgement, to suspicion. The account of John in Josephus is just as his character would be likely to appear to a writer of the disposition and in the situation of the Jewish historian.
a The remarkable expression, "whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose," is illustrated by a passage in the Talmud. (Tract. Kidduschin, xxii. 2.) Every office a servant will do for his master, a scholar should perform for his teacher, excepting loosing his sandal thong."