Imágenes de páginas

Jews, when Christ is represented entering in triumph into Jerusalem mounted on an ass.

But contemptible as an ass, or a man riding on an ass, may be at present, from the beginning it was not so. In many countries, and particularly in Judea, persons of the highest distinction were usually so mounted. The governors of Israel are described in the Song of Deborah as riding on white asses, Judg.

And the thirty sons of Jair, who was judge and prince over Israel twenty-two years, are said to ride on thirty asses, Judg. X. 4. And another judge of Israel is recorded to have had forty sons, and thirty nephews, that rode on seventy ass colts, Judg.

V. IO.

xii. 14.

Were it at all necessary, it would be easy to confirm this observation with many more authorities: but this passage of Scripture will furnish other inquiries, and of a more serious consideration.

For, supposing it to have been an usual thing to ride on an ass, how comes this usual thing to be mentioned in relation to the Messias as a mark of diftinction? Might not the prophet upon this supposition as well have said, he should come walking on foot ? And would he not have been as well known by one character as by the other ? Besides,

If you turn to the book of Zechariah, where this prophecy is to be found, you will see the person there described to be a king, a juft King, and one having falvation : and what is there in this character of riding on the foal of an ass that is peculiar to a King, to a juft King, and to one who was to bring salvation and deliverance to his people ?

If we look into the present, or into the ancient world, we shall not find reason to appropriate this character to kings: those of Egypt, Affyria, and of other nations, neighbours to Judea, rode in another manner : much less shall we be able to find any connection between the justice and ability of a prince to save his people, and this circumstance of riding on the foal of an ass.

Since then this prophetical character can never be accounted for by considering the state and condition of kings in general ; there must needs have been something very peculiar in the circumstances of a king of Israel, on which the propriety of this character is founded.

I shall therefore endeavour to trace out this pecuhar circumstance, and to set this prophecy in a proper light, which has been very greatly abused ; and, perhaps, only because it has been very little underftood.

If we look into the history of the rise and fall of nations, we shall generally find that their prosperity and success have borne some proportion to their force and power, and to the conduct and ability of their leaders. But with the Jews, who from slaves in Egypt became a great and powerful people, the case was not so. The best and greatest of their kings, and he who carried the empire to the greatest height, has left us another account of their affairs. The people says he, got not the land in podelion by their own fword, neither did their own arm Jave them : but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadt a favour unto them, Psalm xliv. 3. When we read this, and other like passages,


we are apt to ascribe them to the piety and devotion of the Psalmist, and to look upon them only as acknowledgments of God's general providence in the affairs of the world ; and this makes us apt to overlook, or not sufficiently to attend to the historical truth which they contain. It is true indeed, that all success may in a just sense be ascribed to God; that it is he who giveth victory unto kings : but yet he ordinarily makes use of natural means; and it is no offence to his providence, that princes lift their thousands of horse and foot to secure themselves and their dominions. But with the Jews it was otherwise : they were never so weak, as when they made themselves strong; never so certainly ruined, as when their force was great enough to create in them a confidence in themselves. For God had taken the defence of Israel upon himself; and whenever the people took it out of his hands, and placed it in their own, they were sure to be undone.

Nay, so tender was God of his honour in this refpect, and so concerned to justify his promise, to defend Israel in the eyes of the world, that he would not always permit natural causes to interfere in their deliverance, left the people should grow doubtful to whom they should ascribe their victories. When Gideon stood up to deliver the people from the Midianites, he raised an army of thirty-two thousand men : God refused to go forth with so great an host, and the reason given for it is this; The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, left Ifrael vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me, Judg. vii. 2. Accordingly, the thirty-two thoufand were reduced to three hundred, and by them the host of Midian was overthrown.

To come nearer to our present purpose. For the same reason it was that God would not permit the people to have horses and chariots of war for their defence; not because they were thought useless in war, for it is well known that the strength of the ancient militia confifted chiefly in them, as appears in the Scripture history, and in the oldest writers of profane story. Such was the strength of Egypt, and such the force of the Assyrians, and of the other eastern nations. And it is observable, that when God is introduced in the book of Job setting forth the great works of the creation, he describes the horse as if made on purpose for the day of battle. Hast thou, says God, given the horse strength? haft thou clothed his neck with thunder?

Canft thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible.

He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men.

He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword.

The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering Spear and the shield.

He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the found of the trumpet.

He faith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

But this courage, this aptness for war in horses, was the very reason why God would not fuffer his people to make use of them for their defence. He himself had undertaken their cause, and he wanted neither horse nor foot to fight his battles. Of this he gave sufficient proofs in the first instance of their deliverance. When he brought them out of Egypt, they were a mere crowd of women and children, and of men trained up in flavery, under hard and cruel tatk-masters. On the Egyptian's fide were the ancient foldiery of the kingdom, a mighty power of chariots and horses, led on by princes and by nobles. And what was the issue? The strength of Egypt was destroyed, and the people saved. And the glory which God took to himself, in saving a weak people against the strength of the chariots and horses of Pharaoh, is finely described in the song of Moses :

I will fing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into

the sea.

The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name: Pharaoh's chariots and his hof hath he cast into the sea.

It may be thought perhaps no wonder that the people at this time had neither chariots nor horses; for where should they have them ? they were themselves but flaves, and doubtless their masters were cautious enough not to put the power of war into their hands. Let us go on then, and see how the case stood afterwards, when the people had an opportunity of furnishing themselves with horses and chariots, if it had been lawful for them fo to do. After the death of Mofes, Joshua was in command · over the people : his victories over the Canaanites so alarmed the neighbouring princes, that with one

« AnteriorContinuar »