« PoprzedniaDalej »
him, as a man with his friend; but Michael appears with a glory insupportable by the mortal frame. It is evident, that one of these characters has a particular relation to the service-state of Christ, and the other to the state of exaltation. Thus, it is said of the war of Michael, that it was in heaven, that his armies were the armies of heaven, and that they overcame the adversary by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; which testimony is the truth of the kingdom of God, for which the blood of the Lamb was shed.
A good knowledge of this matter of the Mes-senger of the Covenant, or of the Elijah sent before the face of the Lord, is all important to the church; it involves essentially the truth of Messiah. The great solicitude of Moses to obtain this knowledge, ought deeply to impress our minds. In the Scriptures, this subject is always introduced with a note of attention. Exod. xxiii. 20. "Behold, I send an angel before thee." Chap. xxxii. 34. "Behold, mine angel shall go › "before thee." Mal. iii. 1. "Behold, I will send "my Messenger, and he shall prepare the way "before me." Chap. iv. 5. Behold, I will "send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.". The darkness of the Jews, respecting this matter, was the principal cause of their ruin, They never distinguished between the first and second appearing of the Messiah; or between the different characters of his Messenger, as connected with his first and last coming; and therefore, stumbling at the appearance of John Baptist, as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, they remained unprepared for the reception of Christ in his humiliation. The present expectation of the Jews, accords better with the truth. The Messiah, such as they have so long looked.
for, may now indeed be expected. There is no want of evidence in the Scriptures, that the Lord whom they seek will finally come with all the characters of majesty and glory, so deeply impressed upon their minds; and, at the present time, they appear better prepared for this greatest event, than the Gentiles who are called Christians. To see them stand at their windows, looking earnestly at the clouds for the appearing of their glorious deliverer; and, at the same time, to reflect upon the remote and vague ideas entertained in our churches, of this first object of faith; the all consummating scene, now so fast approaching; the appellation of unbelieving Christians, would seem more proper than that of unbelieving Jens. The tables between the Jews and the Gentiles, as to special covenant relation, will again be turned. With heart-rending surprise, the Jews will behold a Saviour pierced with wounds, and wearing a vesture dipt in blood; but as they will be prepared for the opening scene, their case will be very different from that of the Gentiles, who as obstinately reject the truth of Messiah as to his second coming, as the Jews did that of his first; and like them, who prefered their traditions to the word of God, have substituted the notion of a reign by a vicar, or by the spirit, or by successors, and many such fancies, to the testimony for which Christ died, that as king of the Jews, upon the throne of David, he himself, and not another person, the identical Jesus of Nazareth, shall reign upon the earth. With what awful surprise will this scene open upon the Gentile churches.
God has concluded both Jews and Gentiles in unbelief. The coming of Christ to be a sacrifice, and to suffer as the Pascal Lamb, was the prominent feature in the Jewish dispensation; but
whatever they held of truth, this they rejected, The coming of Christ to reign in his kingdom, is equally the leading and distinguishing feature of the gospel; but whatever is held relative to the truth by the Gentiles, this is generally set aside; and thus both Jews and Gentiles, have rejected the grand characteristic, and the very spirit of their respective dispensations; and at the close of both, as to the great essential of each, they will be found equally in unbelief. What the Lord intimated, Luke xviii. 8, will be equally true in relation to his first and second coming. As this was the fact as to the Jews, so finally it will prove to be with the Gentile churches. "When the Son of Man cometh, ** shall he find faith on the earth?"
SECTION III......John the Baptist.
AS the divine dispensations have been opened by hands under extraordinary commissions, in the same manner we look to see them closed. The dispensation of the law was opened under the special commission of Moses; he was a messenger of the covenant; he was a prophet, and more than a prophet; he was distinguished by the great characteristic of Gabriel, that he stood in the presence of God, and that the Lord spake with him mouth to mouth; and until John, there arose not a prophet in Israel like unto him, whom the Lord knew face to face.
John Baptist, being a priest of the sons of Aaron, was, according to the law, an ordinary high
officer in the Jewish church; so also was Samuel, being of the house of Levi; but their being men of ordinary office, was not a circumstance to prevent their bearing extraordinary commissions.
The question has often been asked, whether John was a minister of the law or of the gospel. Some have supposed that he must be considered as belonging to the new dispensation, because he did not officiate with the ordinary officers of the Jewish church; and they made enquiries concerning his mission. But this is aside from the question; for the law, the same as the gospel, admitted of extraordinary ministers; and that the mission of John was of the most extraordinary nature, has never been disputed.
This question may be clearly determined by observing the distinct characters of the two dispensations, and comparing them with the work that John accomplished. The law, as has been observed, related to the work of Christ, preparatory to his kingdom; and consisted, primarily, in setting him forth in his services and sufferings. To reveal Christ, as a sacrifice and propitiation, was the leading part of the establishment of Moses; and this was precisely the work of John. The end of his glorious commission appeared distinctly in this declaration, Behold the Lamb of God. By his pointing to Christ in person, as the lamb of sacrifice, which taketh away the sin of the world, he gave the finishing confirmation of the hope and mercy, for which the church under the law, instantly serving God day and night, had so long waited; and thus he perfected, fulfilled, and restored all things in relation to that dispensation. John, therefore, was truly the Elias in that part of his character which related to the preparatory work, as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, &c. But as the gospel consists in
setting forth the kingdom of God itself, the perfecting and fulfilling of this dispensation can be nothing short of the restitution of the kingdom, called the restitution of all things; a work very different from that of John. Let the work that John actually accomplished be compared with the distinct features of the two dispensations, and it may be clearly ascertained, that he was the Elias only in relation to the propitiatory work of Christ, as being the end of the law.
The Jews expected that when Elijah should come, he would restore all things. This sentiment our Lord confirmed. "Elias truly shall "first come, and restore all things." Matt. xvii. 11. But the restitution, in relation to the gospel, or the truth of the kingdom of God, is yet a future event. See Acts iii. 20, 21. "And he shall "send Jesus Christ, which before was preached "unto you: Whom the heaven must receive, "until the times of restitution of all things."
In all things that respected the service and suffering state, the histories of Elijah and John are strikingly comparative. For a season, both dwelt in a wilderness near to Jordan; their clothing, food, and manners, were similar, and indicated that they were called to endure hardness; they equally bore testimony against the abominations of an apostate court and people, for which faithfulness, death warrants were issued against them. But as to what relates to the second part of the Elijah character, no likeness can be traced between them. John did no miraele, Elijah did many; John baptized with water, Elijah baptized with the spirit and with fire; John was never seen, but he was crying in the wilderness, wading in Jordan, or bound or bleeding in a prison; but when Ahaziah sent to apprehend Elijah, behold, he sat on the top of an hill, armed against his enemies with the fire of