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It will be useful to bear in mind, as we proceed, what notions of Messiah and of his kingdom prevailed in the minds of men, both Jews and disciples, during all this period of our Lord's intercourse among them. The former, from his very humiliation and affliction, concluded he was not the Messiah; the latter, though taught of God that Jesus was, indeed, “ He that should come into the world,” yet could not reconcile the actual circumstances of their Master, with the expectations, they had imbibed from Scripture prophecies respecting his reign upon earth; and, therefore, were evidently watching for some change in his person and in his operations. They followed him in his humiliation ; but with the expectation that he would, ere long, throw off his assumed disguise, and appear as the Son of God and as the King of Israel. Their hope was not formed in vain: though it came not to pass in the manner, and at the time, that they at first imagined.
In the next passage that comes to be considered, Nathaniel's acknowledgment of Jesus, * how plainly do we discover the notions mentioned above, to have been those of the convinced disciple! and in our Lord's reply to him, how plain is the reference to that distant period, when, whatever he might witness in the intermediate
John, i. 45, &c.
season, the believer's expectations would not be dis'appointed! Nathaniel, convinced by what had fallen from our Lord in his address to him, that he the Searcher of hearts,” that Being — though he saw him habited as man -- who seeth in secret, concludes immediately that it can be none other than that incarnation of the Deity, which the ancient Scriptures taught him to expect in the person of the Messiah. He exclaims,
Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel."
Our Lord's answer implies a commendation of his faith,- that he was not offended at his poor and lowly appearance, which, in the eyes of his countrymen, would appear so incompatible with the predicted glories of Israel's manifested Elohim and King. He assures him that in due time his faith should realize its expectations in the heavenly vision of his manifested glory:
“ Because I said to thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith to him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Such was the state, in which, they might reasonably expect, from the ancient prophecies, the God-MAN would appear; and his believing followers, who were not offended in him - contemplating him at the season of his humiliation — should hereafter behold his glory. Our Lord's introduction of this declaration, by his double asseveration “ verily,” “ verily,” marks, in a peculiar manner, the great importance, as well as the certainty of the event foretold.
Some Expressions in the Sermon on the Mount, and in our
A REFERENCE, also, to our Lord's second advent, and to his kingdom, at that time to be manifested on earth, we may discover in the opening of his sermon on the mount:
“ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,”-_ “ blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
Poverty of spirit” and “ meekness," so nearly allied to each other, are evidently characteristic of the same renewed minds — fruits of the same regenerating spirit. How those, who are thus manifested to be children of God, may be said to have the kingdom of heaven,' without a necessary reference to the events of the second advent, it were not difficult to show; because the spiritual privileges of the Gospel church are a first-fruits and an anticipation of the privileges of the future kingdom, and are sometimes called by its naine.
But how the same persons can be said, in present circumstances, to `inherit the earth,' it is impossible to conceive, or to reconcile the declaration with the general style of Scripture. The followers of the Lamb are there described to be “ pilgrims and strangers upon earth,” not having their good things now, but sorrowing while the world rejoices: at nost, in the intervals of persecution, “ holpen with a little help.” Knowing, however, as we do, from the ancient prophecies, that the Messiah is to come again to reign upon that earth, which had been the scene of his former humiliation, we
naturally refer the promise to that period; especially as we know that “ the saints of the Most High" are, with HIM, at that time,“ to take the kingdom under the whole heavens.”. Agreeably with this, we read, in Hannah's .
, prophecy, concerning the exaltation of the afflicted Saviour and of his people :
He raiseth up from the dust a poor, exhausted' one,'
The passage before us will still more remind us of a prediction in the thirty-seventh psalm: 7. For evil doers shall be cut off,
And they that wait upon Jehovah shall inherit the earth.
Again; when our Lord, in another part of this discourse,+ says, “Swear not by heaven, for it is God's throne; neither by the earth, for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the GREAT King;”—who can forbear to conclude, that he has before his eyes the future destinies of Jerusalem ? according to what we have read in the former prophets of the Old Testament: # for at the period when our Lord delivered his discourse, Jerusalem could not be called “ the city of the GREAT Kixg."
† Matt. v. 33. Psalms xlviii.; Ixviii.; Ixxvi.; cx.; Isaiah, Ix.; Joel, ïïi. 17 ; Jer, xxx, 23, and xxxi, 38; Ezek, xxxiv. &c. &c.
When we consider, too, the circumstances under which our Lord dictated his prayer to his disciples, the petitions, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven," must have seemed, in their views and expectations of the promised kingdom, and of its happy consequences to mankind, to embrace the prospect of Messiah's personal reign on earth. So they would understand the clause; such would be the meaning of the petition from their lips; and such would have been its meaning on the lips of all Christians, had they not, in these latter ages, so strangely forgotten the promise of their Lord's coming, and lost sight of the expectation of that happy day, when
"A King shall reign in righteousness," &c. *
For certainly the prayer of the petition is not granted till "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ."
That such was the view which our reformers took of this petition of the Lord's prayer, has been already pointed out by Dr. Hales, from King Edward's Catechism. "Scholer: In the second part we require that Hys kingdome come,' for we see not all things in subjection to CHRIST,' (Psalm cx. 1, 2; 1 Cor. xv. 25-27; Eph. i. 22; Heb. ii. 8.) We see not the stone hewed off from the mountayne without work of man, which also bruised and brought to nought the image which Daniel descryeth, (ii. 34-41,) that the onlye Rock, CHRIST, may obtayne and possess the dominion of the whole world, graunted hym of his Father, (Dan. vii. 13-27; 1 Cor. x. 4; Mat. xvi. 18.) Antichrist is not yet slayne, (Dan. vii. 10; 2 Thess. ii. 8—10;
Isaiah, xxxii. 1.