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The other violent prejudice with the Jewish priesthood would be which the minds of the Jews were closed at the advent of Christ, and possessed, was a persuasion of the that he alone was to exercise that perpetuity of the Mosaical dispen- office, and in a way peculiar to him. sation. Every one who reads the self. “ Thou art a Priest for ever, New Testament history will per. after the order of Melchizedeck." ceive how firmly this notion was The analogy between the priest. rooted in their hearts. Those of hood of Melchizedeck and that of them who opposed the Gospel were the Messiah appears to be this :transported into fury at the very As the former was sprung from a mention of the abrogation of their race different from that of Israel, worship; and those who embraced so the Messiah, as to his human it heard of such a change with sur- nature, was not to descend from the prise, and submitted with relactance. tribe of Levi, from which the JewBut this prejudice had as little ish priests were to be exclusively foundation in, and was as contrary selected; and that, as the sacred his. to, the Scriptures as the former. tory gives no account of the prede. They inform us in no equivocal cessors or successors of Melchizeterms that the whole Jewish ritual deck in the office of priesthood, so would be abolished under the reign the sacerdotal office of Christ was of the Messiah. We have an ex- to be perpetual, without successor, plicit promise of a new covenant and without end. His ministrations dissimilar, and in all respects supe- were to be essentially different from rior, to that which God bad made those of other priests. « Sacrifice with the people of Israel in the wile and offering thou didst not desire, derness. “ Behold the days come, burnt-offering and sin-offering hast saith the Lord, that I will make a thou not required.” He is not to new covenant with the house of Ju- offer the sacrifice of bulls and of dah, not according to the covenant goats, but to put away sin by the which I made with their fathers in sacrifice of himself, “ He bore the the day that I brought them out of sins of many, and made intercesthe land of Egypt, which covenant sion for the transgressors.” Scripthey brake: but this will be the co- ture also gives us the most express venant that I will make with the intimations that the sacrifices and house of Israel ; after those days, the whole Jewish ritual would be saith the Lord, I will put my law brought to a termination at the in their inward parts, and write it coming of the promised Saviour, in their hearts, and will be their and that the great event which they God, and they shall be my people.” were intended to typify would then The expression “ that day,” or be accomplished. " And he shall " those days,” every one knows, is confirm the covenant with many for generally used by the prophets to one week, and in the midst of that denote the reign of Christ, or the week he shall cause the sacrifice and days of the Gospel. This passage oblation to cease.” The church of clearly shows that the new covenant God was no longer to be contined was different from, and inconsiste to one nation, or to one country ; ent with the old, and that at the its service was to be disengaged coming of Christ, the former was to from the local peculiarities of the supplant the latter; for the esta. Mosaical economy; and its wora blishment of the new dispensation ship was to be characterized by a necessarily implies the abolition of simplicity that would render it ob. that which preceded it. We are servable in every land, and by peralso assured by the prophets that sons of every description. "And I will give you pastors according to comes to pass. The limits of this mine heart, who shall feed you essay will permit me to consider with knowledge and understanding. only a very few of the prophecies And in thosc they shall no more that relate to the time of the Sa. say, the ark of the covenant of the viour's incarnation, but even these Lord, neither shall it come to mind, few, it is hoped, will completely esneither shall they remember it, tablish the position which I have neither shall they visit it, neither advanced. The first that I shall shall that be done any more.” notice is, that remarkable expression
To destroy the validity of these of the venerable patriarch, when arguments, it has been urged by pronouncing his last benediction on the Jews, that the ceremonial laws his sons: “ The sceptre shall not and ordinances are often spoken of depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver in Scripture as if they were to en- from between his feet, until Shiloh dure for ever. But it is easy to re- come, and to him shall the gatherply, that the original word trans- ing of the people be.” The word lated everlasting or for ever is often here rendered "sceptre," primarily
sed to denote a long, but limited denotes a rod or branch of a tree, duration. Thus, the servant, who and is metonymically taken for an after being set at liberty, desired to ensign of royalty. In Scripture it remain with his master, after cer- frequently signifies a tribe, probatain ceremonies were performed, bly from the circumstance of the was commanded to serve him “for twelve tribes descending from Jaever," which can only be understood cob, as the branches spring from until the year of jubilee, or at the stock of a tree, or on account most until the end of his life. So, of the rod or staff which belonged when such terms are applied to the to each tribe as an ensign of their Jewish religion, they can extend no authority. Hence some translate farther than the period of its dura- it, the tribe, that is, the distinction tion. Thus it appears, that the and privileges of a separate tribe, Old Testament prophecies clearly shall not depart from Judah. The intimated, that the Jewish dispen- word “ Shiloh," according to some, sation would terminate at the com- signifies sent, according to others, ing of Christ; and the minds of his son, and according to others, a that people must have been miser- peace-maker. But, although there ably blinded by prejudice who is a diversity of opinion respecting would misunderstand or pervert its origin, there is a perfect harmony such plain declarations.
regarding its application. All inJI. Our next object is to show terpreters, ancient and modern, unthat the period which the prophets derstand it as referring to the Mesfixed for the advent of the Messiah, siah. He was sent by the Father exactly corresponded with the time in the fulness of time; he was the when Jesus of Nazareth actually son of Judah according to the appeared.
flesh; and he was the Prince of These predictions are not, like Peace, through whom pardon and those of the heathen oracles, vague peace were proclaimed to the sons conjectures, clothed in ambiguous of men. The language indisputor indefinite language; the period, ably expresses this fact, that the dison the contrary, is precisely de- tinction of a tribe, and sovereign termined, or at least many of its legislative authority, would continue attendant circumstances are so dis among Judah's posterity till the tinctly described, that we are at no coming of the promised Saviour. loss to recognize the event when it This tribe was to retain its name and dignity, though the others subsisted, but it was deprived of might be confounded, or merged some of its former privileges. The into it. The Messiah was to ap- power of inflicting capital punishpear before the destruction of its ments was taken out of their hands. privileges or pre-eminence, before “ It is not lawful for us,” said they its judges or rulers should be com- to Pilate, “ to put any man to pletely deprived of their jurisdic- death.” The sceptre was then detion, The argument which this parting, and about forty years after, passage affords for the truth of our it was completely wrested from position is clear and unanswerable. them. It is undeniable, that at the Every part of the prophecy has destruction of Jerusalem every been strikingly fulfilled. It is cer- trace of their independence was antain that this tribe continued for nihilated, that the distinction of many ages after the rest were ex- their tribes and families was irretinguished. And it is no less cer- trievably lost, and that they have tain, that it was totally destroyed remained in that condition to the about, or a very little after, the present day. They exist almost time of our Lord's appearance. To everywhere, but they rule nowhere. define the exact year is now per- It necessarily follows, therefore, haps impossible, but it is a matter either that this prediction of the of little importance. The power venerable patriarch has failed, or and independence of this people that the Messiah appeared a little gradually decayed. Their national before the destruction of Jerusalem; authority received a shock by the and if he did appear at that period, Babylonish captivity; but even dur. who can doubt that Jesus of Nazaing that period it was not altoge- reth was the person? ther subverted; for we read of the To wrest this text out of our rulers or heads of the captivity. hands, some of the Jews maintain They lived as a distinct people, and that the word rendered sceptre, is enacted laws and festivals of their to be understood not of the rod of own. And when Cyrus issued the authority, but the rod of correction, proclamation for rebuilding the tem- or chastisement. But this cannot ple, we are told, that "there rose be the sense of the term, because up the chief of the fathers ;” and the Patriarch is here speaking of a this emperor,
it is said in the book privilege peculiar to the tribe of of Ezra, ordered the vessels of the Judah, whereas calamities were temple to be delivered to the Prince common to all the tribes. And of Judah." After their return from the subsequent word lawgiver, asBabylon, they were never indeed sociated with sceptre, implies indeso independent as before; being pendence and prosperity, rather generally considered as vassals of than suffering and depression. Be. the Persian or Grecian empires. sides, it was not true that chastise. But their subjection was more no. ment would cease under the reign minal than real. They lived under of the Messialı, which seems to be their own laws, and were governed the consequence of this strange inby their own judges and councils. terpretation. He himself was to In the time of the Maccabees they suffer and die, and the disciples regained somewhat of their former could not expect better treatment power, and rather ruled than obey- than their master.
“ If they"ed their surrounding enemies. But that is the subjects of Christ's kingafter the death of these heroes, dom—" break my statutes, and they rapidly declined. And in our keep not my commandments, then Saviour's time, the Sanhedrim still will I visit their transgressions with
VOL. XXIII. NO. V.
the rod, and their iniquities with probable. The edict of Cyrus, as stripes."
we learn from the book of Ezra, It is further alleged, that in a referred only to the building of the certain country east of the Caspian temple ; whereas Daniel makes Sea, (they do not say how far,) where particular mention of the restoraa multitude of Jews reside, the tion of the cily. The same objec. order and distinction of their tribes, tion applies to another edict of Da. and the authority of their patri- rius recorded in the same book; it archs, are still regularly preserved. relates expressly to the “ house of But this is a mere figment of a God," and not to Jerusalem. We Jewish Rabbi, and intended to de- read of two commissions granted prive Christianity of the argument by Artaxerxes (commonly called furnished by the prediction of Jacob, Longimanus,) for repairing the city, and it is contradicted by the tes. the one to Ezra in the seventh, and timony of all travellers and geo. the other to Nehemiah in the graphers, both ancient and modern. twentieth year of his reign. Many
The second passage which I shall learned men have fixed upon the adduce is taken from the prophe- former as the commencement of the cies of Daniel : “ Seventy-weeks seventy weeks, and have satisfacare determined upon thy people, torily shown, that four hundred and and upon thy holy city. Know, ninety years elapsed from this petherefore, and understand, that from riod to the death of Christ. Acthe going forth of the commande cording to them, seven weeks, or ment to restore and build Jerusalem forty-nine years, transpired during unto the Messiah the Prince, shall the repair of Jerusalem, which is be seven weeks, and threescore and said to be in “ troublous times," two weeks.” Every one knows that and we see from the book of Nebe. in the language of prophecy a day miah how truly this was verified. is put for a year; and that conse. From the rebuilding of the city, quently the seventy weeks are four or threescore and two weeks" were hundred and ninety years. It is to pass away before the Messiah admitted by all, that there is a con- was cut off. The sum of these siderable difficulty, and of course a periods is sixty-nine weeks, or four variation among chronologers, in hundred and eighty-three years, computing this period, and perhaps One week or seven years still reit is not possible at this distance of mained ; and the chronologers al. time to determine to a few years. luded to suppose, that in the midst But such difficulties and variations of this week our Saviour died ; are of little importance, and do not “ And he shall confirm the covediminish the evidence which the nant with many for one week, and prediction affords to the truth of in the midst of that week he shall our position. Some suppose that cause the sacrifice and oblation to the seventy weeks commenced when cease;" that is, as to their binding Cyrus issued the proclamation per- force upon the conscience. And mitting the Jews to return and re- this corresponds with the period of build the temple. This computation his public ministry, which was a differs by one hundred years from little more than three years. Other the account which profane history interpreters, however, contend, that gives of the duration of the Persian the words of the prophet warrant and Grecian empires, and therefore and even require us to refer this it is not rashly to be adopted. And, last “ week” to the destruction of besides,there are other circumstances Jerusalem, because the seventy that render this interpretation im- weeks are determined not only up
on the people, but upon “ the holy denly come to his temple.” The city; and the people of the Prince latter house is obviously the second that shall come, shall destroy the temple, and the desire of all nations, city and the sanctuary, and the end the Lord whom the Jews sought, thereof shall be with a flood, and can be no other than the Messiah. unto the end of the wars desola. The verse, therefore, expressly in.. tions are determined.” And im- timates that the Saviour was to apmediately after the sacrifice and ob- pear in his human nature during lation are made to cease, it is add- the existence of the second temple. ed, “ And for the overspreading of His presence alone could render it abominations he shall make it de- more glorious than the first. It is solate, even until the consumma- admitted that no convincing argulion, and that determined, shall be ment could be drawn from this poured upon the desolate." These passage, during our Lord's personal chronologers date the beginning of ministry, and for some years after; the seventy weeks considerably because the Jews had no apprehenlater than the former ciass, and sion, and there was little probabiliperhaps there is no insuperable ob- ty that that splendid edifice would jection to their calculations. One so soon be laid in ruins. But after thing, however, is certain, that whe- the destruction of the city and temther the one or the other be adopt- ple, this divine prediction must have ed, the fulfilment of the prophecy come home to their minds with overwould be expected in one genera- whelming force; and as they were tion. At whatever period we begin unable to give any other rational the seventy weeks, they will be or plausible interpretation to the found to terminate some time be- passage, they were reduced to the tween the birth of Christ and the alternative of admitting that“ Jesus destruction of Jerusalem. It is no was the Christ," or of denying the wonder then, that about the time of inspiration of the prophecy. Acour Saviour's advent, there was an cordingly we find, that after that expectation of some extraordinary awful catastrophe some of them bepersonage throughout the East, at lieved in the Saviour, and the greatleast so far as the knowledge of the er number began to diminish their Jewish Scriptures extended; but it reverence for this and other parts of is truly a wonder that the Jews the prophetic writings, till at last could blind their minds and harden they denied the divinity of all but their hearts to such a degree as to the five books of Moses. Such is reject that Saviour whose character the clearness and strength of the was so fully described, and the pe. evidence from the Old Testament riod of whose appearance was so prophecies that Jesus of Nazareth exactly defined, in those books was the true Messiah, and such was which they believed to be given by the power of prejudice and of pas. inspiration of God. *
sion to render it of no avail. I shall only advert to another We may also remark, that the passage of Old Testament prophe. realization of many events repre. cy, which furnishes a clear evidence sented by the prophets as contem. of the truth of our position. “ The poraneous with, or immediately subglory of this latter house shall be sequent to, the Messiah's advent, greater than of the former, and the is a source of the most convincing desire of all nations shall come- arguments for the truth of the posithe Lord, whom ye seek, shall sud- tion which we have advanced.
* See Prideaux's Connexions, and Newton on the Prophecies.