« AnteriorContinuar »
CHAPTERS XVII, XVIII.
the last lecture we accompanied St. Paul from Antioch, through Asia and part of Macedonia, till he left Philippi; after which, passing through Amphipolis and Apollonia, he 6 came to Thessalonica, the capital of Macedonia, where was a synagogue of the Jews. And, as his manner was, he went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures; opening and alledging that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead.”—These important doctrines are in some parts of Scripture expressly laid down, in others shadowed out. I have already had occasion to speak of the resurrection of our Lord, as prophetically declared in the sixteenth psalm of David. With respect to his sufferings, I will detain you with two or three passages only, which establish this part of our Saviour's character and destiny beyond all contradiction. The first of them you will meet in the twenty-second Psalm, ** They pierced my hands and my feet, I may
all my bones ; they stand staring and looking upon me : they part my garments among them, and upon my vesture they cast 'lots."-Now, although David underwent many sufferings in his own persont, yet no part of his history agrees in any sort with the circumstances here alluded to ; neither can we well imagine how or when they could have happened to him : whereas they every one concur in our Lord's death and passion. When at the same time we consider the particular and minute nature of those circumstances, with their accurato completion, it is enough to fill us with wonder. The piercing of his hands and feet was made by crucifixion, a mode of punishment not in use among the Jews. And yet the Jews were his only enemies, and the authors of his death. So, like, wise, the disposal of his clothing was ordered by the providence of God in such a manner as strictly to correspond with the prediction of the Psalmist. Yet how improbable was the division here spoken of, part into distinct shares, and the remaining part by lot!
The next passage I would wish you to consider, is to be found in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, of which the following is a short abstract ; íí He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him ; and with his stripes we are healed. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a
sheep before her shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth. He was cut off out of the land of the living ; for the transgression of my people was he stricken." - This illustrious and conclusive prophecy was delivered seven hundred years before the coming of Christ, and was by the ancient rabbins applied to their expected Messiah. But the modern Jews, perceiving it to have been literally and completely fulfilled by Christ, have resorted to another explanation; as though it meant nothing more than the severe visitation and judgment of God upon his people. In order to establish this meaning of the words, they are obliged to represent the Jewish people under the character of a single person ; and (what is much more difficult to conceive) they confound all distinction of persons in the prophecy, making the sinner and the sufferer one ; whereas the import of it clearly exhibits the punishment of an individual for the transgressions of a people, freely incurred,“ because he poured out his soul unto death ;" and patiently endured, with such a wonderful degree of meakness and resignation, as could only be found in an innocent and voluntary sufferer, and never did nor could belong to that stiffnecked and rebellious nation. In truth, the Jewish interpretation is so forced and unnatural, that it offers violence to the whole tenour of the prophecy; while the application of it to Christ is close and perfect in every part. And, accordingly, many of
them acknowledge themselves to be pressed so hard by the writings of Isaiah, and this passage in particular, that they cannot well evade the force of the argument : only it seems they are scandalized by the doctrine of a crucified Messiah.
The last passage which I shall bring to your notice upon the subject is taken from the prophet Zechariah ; “ And they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced.”—This, like the foregoing prophecy, was interpreted, by the ancient Jews, of Messiah, the son of David; but the later writers among them refer it to the death of Messiah, the son of Joseph. Thus you see they betray an incorrigible blindness ayd obstinacy; resisting at once the plainest accomplishment of predictions in the person of Christ, and also the authority of their ancient teachers, which they so highly revere on all other occasions.
The effect of Paul's preaching at Thessalonica was, that some believed ; while others 6 took unto, them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort,"' (who used to idle and loiter in the market place,) and by their means assaulted the house of Jason, where Paul had been received. In consequence of which outrage the brethren sent away Paul and Silas by night to Beræa. Here the Jews were found to be more noble, that is ingenuous, in hearing the word of God; but for the present lost the advantage of further instruction, a persecution being raised
against Paul by the Jews of Thessalonica, who followed him to Beræa : so that it was thought prudent to remove him towards the sea. However he was conducted to Athens ; where we shall continue with him for some time, this being a very important scene of his ministry. In the sixteenth verse we read that Paul's 66
6 spirit was stirred in him," or, in other words, his mind was greatly disturbed and exasperated, 66 when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." He began, therefore, to dispute not only with Jews upon the subject, which particularly concerned them, but likewise with devout Greeks, upon the objects of their devotion. 66 Then certain philosophers, of the Epicureans, and of the Stoies, encountered him.”These two sects were very opposite in their principles ; yet each of them ill disposed to receive the doctrines and precepts of Christianity. For the Epicureans denied a providence, the subsistence of the soul after death, and a future state of rewards and punishments. And to these tenets the conduct of their lives was answerable ; for they addicted themselves entirely to pleasure and present enjoyment. The Stoics, on the other hand, though professing, and sometimes practising a severe morality, were filled with notions quite inconsistent with the meek and humble religion of Christ. For, not to insist on their false sentiments of God, whom they held to be corporeal, and un