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restore the kingdom of Israel; that Herod no sooner heard of the magi's inquiry after “Him that was born king of the Jews,” Matt. ii. but he forth with “demanded of the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah should be born, ver. 4. Not doubting but, if there were any king born to the Jews, it was the Messiah : whose coming was now the general expectation, as appears, Luke iii. 15, “The people being in expectation, and all men musing in their hearts of John, whether he were the Messiah or not.” And when the priests and Levites sent to ask him who he was; he, understanding their meaning, answers, John i. 20, “ That he was not the Messiah ;" but he bears witness, that Jesus “is the Son of God,” i. e. the Messiah,
34. This looking for the Messiah, at this time, we see also in Simeon; who is said to be “waiting for the consolation of Israel," Luke ii. 21. And having the child Jesus in his arms, he says, he had “seen the salvation of the Lord,” ver. 30. And “ Anna coming at the same instant into the temple, she gave thanks also unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Israel,” ver. 38. And of Joseph of Arimathea, it is said, Mark xv. 43, That “he also expected the kingdom of God :" by all which was meant the coming of the Messiah ; and Luke xix. 11, it is said, “ They thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.”
This being premised, let us see what it was that John the Baptist preached, when he first entered
his ministry. That St. Matthew tells us, chap. iii. 1, 2, “In those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This was a declaration of the coming of the Messiah: the kingdom of heaven, and the kingdom of God, being the same, as is clear out of several places of the Evangelists; and both signifying the kingdom of the Messiah. The profession which John the Baptist made, when sent to the Jews, John i. 19, was that she was not the Messiah ;” but that Jesus was. This will appear to any one, who will compare ver.
26—34, with John iii. 27, 30. The Jews being very inquisitive to know, whether John were the Messiah, he positively denies it; but tells them, he was only his forerunner, and that there stood one amongst them, who would follow him, whose shoe-latchet he was not worthy to untie. The next day, seeing Jesus, he says, he was the man; and that his own baptizing in water was only that Jesus might be manifested to the world ; and that he knew him not, till he saw the Holy Ghost descend upon him : he that sent him to baptize, having told him, that he on whom he should see the Spirit descend, and rest upon, he it was that should baptize with the Holy Ghost ; and that therefore he witnessed, that “this was the Son of God,” ver. 34, i. e. the Messiah ; and, chap. iii. 26, &c. they come to John the Baptist, and tell him, that Jesus baptized, and that all men went to him. John answers, He has his authority from heaven; you know I never said, I was the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. He must increase, but I must decrease ; for God hath sent him, and he speaks the words of God; and God hath given all things into the hands of his Son. “ And he that believes on the Son, hath eternal life ;” the same doctrine, and nothing else, but what was preached by the Apostles afterwards: as we have seen all through the Acts, v. g. that Jesus was the Messiah. And thus it was, that John bears witness of our Saviour, as Jesus himself says, John v. 33.
This also was the declaration given of him at his baptism, by a voice from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matt. iii. 17. Which was a declaration of him to be the Messiah, the Son of God, being (as we have showed) understood to signify the Messiah. To which we may add the first mention of him after his conception, in the words of the angel to Joseph, Matt. i. 21. “ Thou shalt call his name Jesus," or Saviour ;
or Saviour; “ for he shall save his people from their sins.” It was a received doctrine in the Jewish nation, that at the coming of the Messiah, all their sins should be forgiven them. These words, therefore, of the angel, we may look upon as a declaration that Jesus was the Messiah ; whereof these
words, " his people,” are a farther mark : which suppose him to have a people, and consequently to be a king.
After his baptism, Jesus himself enters upon his ministry. But, before we examine what it was he proposed to be believed, we must observe, that there is a threefold declaration of the Messiah.
I. By miracles. The spirit of prophecy had now for many ages forsaken the Jews : and, though their commonwealth were not quite dissolved, but that they lived under their own laws, yet they were under a foreign dominion, subject to the Romans. In this state, their account of the time being up, they were in expectation of the Messiah, and of deliverance by him in a kingdom he was to set up, according to their ancient prophecies of him : which gave them hopes of an extraordinary man yet to come from God, who, with an extraordinary and divine power, and miracles, should evidence his mission, and work their deliverance. And, of any such extraordinary person, who should have the power of doing miracles, they had no other expectation, but only of their Messiah. One great prophet and worker of miracles, and only one more, they expected; who was to be the Messiah. And therefore we see the people justified their believing in him, i. e. their believing him to be the Messiah, because of the miracles he did ; John vii. 31, “ And many of the people believed in him, and said, When the Messiah cometh, will he do more miracles than this man hath done?” And when the Jews, at the feast of dedication, John X. 24, 25, coming about him, said unto him, “ How long dost thou make us doubt ? If thou be the Messiah, tell us plainly; Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye
, believed not; the works that I do in my Father's name, bear witness of me." And, John v. 36, he says, “I have a greater witness than that of John; for the works, which the Father hath given me to do, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” Where, by the way, we may observe, that his being “ sent by the Father,” is but another way of expressing the Messiah ; which is
evident from this place here, John v. compared with that of John x. last quoted. For there he says, that his works bear witness of him: And what was that witness ? viz. that he was “ the Messiah."
Here again he says, that his works bear witness of him: And what is that witness ? viz. “ that the Father sent him.” By which
s we are taught, that to be sent by the Father, and to be the Messiah, was the same thing, in his way of declaring himself. And accordingly we find, John iv. 53, and xi. 45, and elsewhere, many hearkened and assented to his testimony, and believed on him, seeing the things that he did.
2. Another way of declaring the coming of the Messiah, was by phrases and circumlocutions that did signify or 'intimate his coming; though not in direct words pointing out the person. The most usual of these were, “ The kingdom of God, and of heaven;" because it was that which was often spoken of the Messiah, in the Old Testament, in very plain words: and a kingdom was that which the Jews most looked after and wished for. In that known place, Isaiah ix. “ The GOVERNMENT shall be upon his shoulders; he shall be called the Prince of peace : of the increase of his GOVERNMENT and peace there shall be no end; upon the THRONE of David, and upon his KINGDOM, to order it, and to establish it with judgment, and with justice, from henceforth even for ever.” Micah v. 2, “ But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to be the Ruler in Israel.” And Daniel, besides that he calls him " Messiah the Prince,” chap. ix. 25, in the account of his vision “ of the Son of man,” chap. vii. 13, 14, says, “ There was given him dominion, glory, and a KINGDOM, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and his KINGDOM that which shall not be destroyed.” So that the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of heaven, were common phrases amongst the Jews, to signify the times of the Messiah. Luke xiv. 15, “ One of the Jews that sat
at meat with him, said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Chap. xvii. 20, The Pharisees demanded, “When the kingdom of God should come?” And St. John Baptist came, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, a phrase he would not have used in preaching, had it not been understood.
There are other expressions that signified the Messiah and his coming, which we shall take notice of, as they come in our way.
3. By plain and direct words, declaring the doctrine of the Messiah, speaking out that Jesus was he; as we see the apostles did, when they went about preaching the Gospel, after our Saviour's resurrection. This was the open clear way, and that which one would think the Messiah himself, when he came, should have taken; especially if it were of that moment, that upon men's believing him to be the Messiah, depended the forgive. ness of their sins; and yet we see, that our Saviour did not : but on the contrary, for the most part, made no other discovery of himself, at least in Judea, and at the beginning of his ministry, but in the two former ways, which were more obscure; not declaring himself to be the Messiah any otherwise than as it might be gathered from the miracles he did, and the conformity of his life and actions with the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning him; and from some general discourses of the kingdom of the Messiah being come, under the name of the “ kingdom of God, and of heaven.” Nay, so far was he from publicly owning himself to be the Messiah, that he forbid the doing of it: Mark viii. 27-30, “ He asked his disciples,
. Whom do men say that I am ? And they answered, John the Baptist; but some say Elias; and others, one of the prophets.” (So that it is evident, that event those who believed him an extraordinary person, knew not yet who he was, or that he gave himself out for the Messiah, though this was in the third year of his ministry, and not a year before his death). " And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am ? And Peter answered and said unto him, Thou art the Messiah.