"The faith of a true Christian is the same as that of Moses and the Prophets."
Letter 13. The Vicarious Sufferings and Death of the Messiah
Predicted as Well as Typified
1. In describing the eternal covenant between the Father and the Son, it was shown that the Messiah voluntarily engaged to suffer and die in the place of his people. It has also been shown that this engagement was made known to our first parents in paradise, in the promise of a Messiah, and illustrated by the institution of sacrifices, and more fully typified under the Levitical priesthood. I will now endeavor to prove that it was also predicted by the prophets, not only that the Messiah was to suffer before he entered into his glory, but that his sufferings and death were to be of a vicarious nature. The sufferings and death of the Messiah predicted in Daniel chapter 9th, have already been noticed, and will again be referred to hereafter. I shall confine myself more particularly to the predictions of David and Isaiah.
2. It is very evident that the 22d Psalm
speaks of the Messiah. It is plain from the whole of the Psalm, that one single individual person is spoken of; this person is distinguished from those called brethren, congregation of Israel, and those that feared the Lord (v 22, 23). Hence the person suffering could not be the congregation of Israel, as Kimchi would have it. And though David met with much opposition, yet there are several circumstances mentioned which are by no means applicable to him. See verses 14-18. Beside, the happiness which was to flow from his sufferings, and the conversion of the Gentiles, which was to follow, show that the sufferer was none but the Messiah, "in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed." The title of this Psalm, whether it signifies "the hind of the morning" or "the morning star," or as the Targum, "the daily morning sacrifice," points out the Messiah, and has all been fulfilled, (as we shall show, God willing,) in Jesus of Nazareth, who from his birth, like a hind, was persecuted, is called the morning star, and is the antitype and fulfillment of all the sacrifices.
Psalm 22 (To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar, A Psalm of David.)
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts. I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother's belly.
Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion's mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.
I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him. The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations. All they that be fat upon earth shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none can keep alive his own soul. A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
Several parts of this Psalm have been applied to the Messiah by our Rabbins.(85) 85. See Medrish Thillim in loco, and Yarchi in ver. 26.
Here we have a brief description of the outward sufferings of the Messiah, but we shall now consider the nature, design, and effects thereof, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah in 53d chapter
Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But 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. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.[For more on Isaiah 53 please see our online book An Exposition of Isaiah 53 by David Baron.]3. The prophecies of Isaiah contain the clearest revelations of the Messiah, and are written in the loftiest style of any part of the Old Testament; but this chapter is an eminent instance of both. It contains an exact description both of his sufferings and his glories, represented in bright and lively colors, and in a phrase exceeding lofty and sublime. The veil of the temple seemed to have been drawn aside, though not yet rent asunder, and the light of the Gospel shone forth with a brighter glory than ever it had appeared before. This chapter ought to commence with the last three verses of the preceding one, "Behold my servant." Thus Abarbanel begins it, and hath divided the whole into three parts; the first comprises the last three verses of chapter 52, the second part from verse 1-9, and the third part contains the last three verses.
4. That the prophet does not speak of himself, is allowed on all hands; and that he spake of the Messiah, will appear from the following considerations.
a. From the beginning to the end of this prophecy, there is but one and the same person spoken of.
b. He is characterized as the righteous servant of Jehovah; as a most innocent, blameless, and holy person, who deserved no punishment on his own account (52:13, 53:9,11).
c. His condition, from his birth to his death, is described as lower than any of the sons of men. Thus he is represented as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief; as wounded and bruised to death; as judicially condemned and cut off out of the land of the living, pouring out his soul unto death, and put in his grave.
d. His sufferings and death are ascribed to the purpose and immediate hand of God. "Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (v 6). "It pleased Jehovah to bruise him; He hath put him to grief" (v 10).
e. The design of God in thus dealing with the person, was to inflict upon him the punishment due to our sins, that thereby he might accomplish the work of redemption. This is such an important article, that the prophet mentions it repeatedly in a variety of expressions. Verse 4, "Surely he hath born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted"; verse 5, "But 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." Again, verse 6, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Again, verse 8, "For the transgression of my people was he stricken.'' Again, verse 10, "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin." Again, verse 11, "He shall bear their iniquities." Again, verse 12, "He bare the sin of many."
f. This sufferer is described as voluntarily putting himself in the place of the guilty, to suffer in their stead; and when actually engaged in the work, he endured his sufferings with unparalleled patience. For though "he was oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth" (v 7).
g. That because of his humble, mean, and suffering condition, many would conclude that he was a deceiver, and therefore reject him, but would afterwards acknowledge their error. "Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has born our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted" (vv 1-4). Yet after this person "was cut off out of the land of the living, and his grave made with the wicked" (vv 8, 9), he shall live again, "and shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high" (52:13); "shall sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouth at him" (v 15); "he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands, and he shall justify many" (53:10,11).
5. From the whole it appears that some eminent person is here described, under the title of the servant of the Lord, who should go through much undeserved shame and suffering, even unto death, for the sake and benefit of other people, who should endure all indignities with the greatest meekness and patience, even offering up himself, of his own accord; and at last should be highly honored and exalted, in reward of his obedience, and see the success of all his sufferings in the justification of those whose iniquities he had borne, and in their admission to divide the spoil of his enemies, and enjoy a state of glory and happiness with him. Now, my dear Benjamin, let me ask, who could the person be to whom all these characters belonged, without any strain or violence put upon the words, without any breach or violation of that unity which the whole contexture of the passage requires?
6. Surely it is not applicable to King Josiah, notwithstanding his piety. The expedition in which he fell at Megiddo, was no advantage to his character. It was rashly undertaken, not only without just provocation, but against the express warning and command of God. His death therefore was manifestly the punishment of his own sin and temerity; much less had it the virtue of an expiation or atonement; it averted not the divine vengeance from our people, but left them exposed to the ravages of the Chaldeans, who, a few years after, led them captive into Babylon.
7. No more is it applicable to Jeremiah the prophet. He was indeed remarkable for piety, zeal and faithfulness, and on that account was much hated and persecuted; still he is very far from answering the character of this prediction. He relates of himself, that he bore his sufferings very ill. He cursed the day of his birth; he expostulated with God for giving way to the treachery of his people; he prayed that he might see God's vengeance on them; and very unwilling to die, he at last capitulated for his life (Jer 12:1-4, 20:12,14,17,18). Let the learned Grotius and his followers say whether this be the carriage that suits the "meekness of the lamb, and the silence of the sheep before her shearers?" Does it come up to "interceding for the transgressors, or the making himself freely an offering for sin?" His sufferings possessed no merit. They did not procure him a seed, a long succession of disciples; nor were they the means of converting Gentile kingdoms.
8. Much less does this prophecy relate to the supposed Messiah ben Joseph. The person characterized is to suffer and die for the sins of his people, that they might be healed and justified; but our Rabbins tell us that Messiah ben Joseph is to be engaged in war, and that he and his people are to be slain in battle. Again, this person is said to rise again, to be very prosperous, to have many kings subjecting themselves to him, and to have a multitude of people as his followers; but no such things are believed concerning Messiah ben Joseph. Besides, I have already shown that the whole story of two Messiahs is without foundation in the sacred Scripture, and is a mere fiction of our Rabbins.
9. Once more I will show that this prophecy does not relate to the sufferings of our nation. It has been said that our nation's sufferings are to atone for the sins of the Gentiles, and to be the means of their becoming proselytes to Judaism. But this cannot be the case. For it has already been observed, that the sufferer is described as a most innocent, blameless, and holy person, who deserved no punishment on his own account. Has this been the character of our people at any time? Ask the prophets, and they will tell you that those in their days were a sinful and rebellious people; and they prophesied of those who should live under the second temple, that their sins would be the ruin of the city, and the cause of the dispersion of our nation. Ask our historian Josephus, and he will confirm the truth of their predictions. For thus he testifies:"If the Romans had delayed to come against them, the earth must have opened and swallowed them up, or fire been rained upon them, as on Sodom; for the Jews were then a much wickeder generation than those that had suffered these extraordinary punishments."(86) 86. Josephus De Bel. ch. 6:16; 11:30.Nor do our Rabbins differ; for, as has already been shown, they affirm that the coming of the Messiah has been delayed because of the sins of our people.
Again, the sufferer is said to put himself voluntarily in the place of the guilty, and to bear his sufferings with unparalleled patience; but this is not applicable to our people. Notwithstanding their obedience to the laws of the countries where they live, and their prayers and supplications for "the powers that be"; yet their sufferings are not voluntary. It is well known that the obstinate resistance of our fathers to the Roman power was the cause of the destruction of Jerusalem, together with our beautiful temple, and the awful calamities which succeeded, too heart-rending to be described; nor would they willingly continue any longer in exile, if the God of our fathers were to open a door for their return to the land of promise, as he will surely do in his own time, as will be shown hereafter. Hence their daily prayers for deliverance.
Again, the person is said to be cut off from the land of the living, to be buried and to rise again; which expressions are to be understood literally, as all the rest of the prophecy, and consequently are not applicable to the sufferings of our nation.
10. Before I dismiss this part of the subject, I will just take notice of "a Jewish Tract, on the 53d chap, of Isaiah, written by Dr. Montalto, in Portuguese, about the year 1650, and translated and published in London, by Philo-Veritas. Au.1790." The author agrees in the opinion just stated, that the sufferer mentioned means our people collectively; but he asserts that they suffer for their own sins, and not for the sins of any other. For in verse 8th he translates the last clause, "for the transgressions of my people were they stricken," and in his explanation he saith,"God declares that the punishments of Israel were for his own iniquities, and not for those imputed to them by different nations."Again, he saith,"It becomes us to bear with fortitude those inflictions which our own transgressions have merited."Now my dear Benjamin will easily anticipate an objection against this author's sentiment. As he acknowledges that Israel is a sinner and deserves punishment, therefore Israel cannot be the sufferer described by Isaiah; for he is said to be innocent, and to suffer on account, in the place, and for the good of others. Again, he saith that the persons speaking and the sufferer are distinct. The former he saith are the Gentile nations, and the latter our nation, spoken of collectively as one man."In the 14th and 15th verses (chap 52,) is expressed, the astonishment of all nations, to behold our redemption!In the 1st, 2d and 3d verses of the 53d chapter, their wonder breaks out at this sudden exaltation, by the hand of God, of a people, in whose countenances nought but shame and dejection had appeared during their long dispersion."But these persons contradict the author; whilst he asserts that the sufferer is afflicted for his own sin, they repeatedly affirm that he suffered for their sins. See verses 4-6, 11, 12. Yea, this author contradicts himself, for he thus paraphrases verse 4th:"the nations exclaim, that surely Israel had borne the punishment of all their sins and violations."Such is the confusion and contradiction which runs through the whole of this tract: an awful specimen of the blindness which "has in part happened unto Israel."
11. At the close of this tract the author has an observation which is too true, even in the 19th century. It is as follows:"I hope I may be permitted to advert with more of pleasantry than asperity to the extreme readiness of Christians to leave us in undisturbed possession of all the evil foretold us, and which we at present experience, whilst they kindly interpret of themselves those pleasing promises which hold forth with equal certainty the felicity of our latter days."12. Having, I trust, satisfactorily refuted the misapplication of this prophecy, I shall now show that our ancient Rabbins understood it of the Messiah. Instead of those words, "Behold, my servant shall deal prudently," the Targum hath it,"behold, my servant the Messiah shall be exalted, and increase and grow up, and shall greatly increase, and prevail."R. Tanchuma says,"Behold my servant, &c. this is King Messiah, who shall be established above Abraham, shall be exalted above Moses, and be higher than the ministering angels."Aben Ezra says,"This chapter is very difficult, and many have explained it of the Messiah."R. Solomon Yarchi, on the place, saith,"our Rabbins understand this of the Messiah";and the reason he assigns for their interpretation is"that they say that the Messiah is stricken, as it is written, 'He took our infirmities arid bare our griefs,'"which are the words of the 4th verse of the 53d chapter. Hence, it appears, that our ancient Rabbins joined the last three verses of the 52d chapter with the 53d, and applied the prophecy to the same person. Besides, he cites a certain Midresh out of Bereshith Rab. on Genesis 28:10, where mention is made of Zechariah 4:7,"Who art thou, O great mountain?" he answereth, "That great mountain is the Messiah."Again, he asks,"Why does he call the Messiah a great mountain?" he answereth, "Because He is greater than the fathers; as it is written, 'Behold my servant, &c. this is the Messiah.'"In the same book, on Genesis 24:67, it is said that Messiah the King was in the generation of the wicked; that he gave himself to seek for mercies for Israel, and to fasting and humbling himself for them, as it is written, "he was wounded for our transgressions," &c.(87) 87. See also the same author on Ruth 2:14. R. Moshe Alshech saith,"Behold, our doctors of blessed memory, concluded with one mouth, as they have received from their ancestors, that this is spoken of the Messiah."In the Talmud Bab. Sanhedrin the question being asked"what is the name of the Messiah?" It is answered, "the Leper, as it is written, Isaiah 53:4, Surely he hath borne our griefs," &c.Certainly, our people have no cause to blame the evangelists and apostles in applying it to the Messiah. Some of our ancient Rabbins have plainly taught that the Messiah was to suffer and die in the place of his people. In Neve Shalom it is thus written:"The purification which the Messiah will make, shall be for the expiation of sin in general, for destroying transgression and making an end of sin, which retains mankind under its yoke. For as the first Adam was the first that sinned, so Messiah shall be the last, who shall completely take away sin"(88) 88. Lib. 9. c. 5.In the same sense are the words, Psalm 2:12, explained in Medrash Thil,"This may be illustrated by a parable. A certain king was angry with his subjects. They therefore went and made his son their friend, that thus they might conciliate the mind of their king. The son departed and reconciled his father, as they had reconciled to themselves the son. They went to give thanks to the king, but the king said to them, you give thanks to me, but go and offer them to my son, for had it not been for him, I should have destroyed the province."(89) 89. Lamp. John 1:18.13. It is evident, therefore, dear Benjamin, that the prediction under consideration respects the Messiah, and describes his sufferings and death as a real vicarious sacrifice for the sins of his people; and the language is so significant, that there is no way by which it could be more clearly denoted, or more properly expressed. Thus what the Messiah had engaged in the eternal covenant, to suffer in the place of his people, was predicted by the prophets. In my next letter I will endeavor to show that Jesus of Nazareth answered all that was typified and predicted concerning the priesthood of the Messiah. May the Lord prepare your heart to receive Christ crucified, as the wisdom and power of God unto salvation. Farewell.
Letter 14. Jesus A Priest and Sacrifice
Dear Brother Benjamin,
1. It is a long time since I received a letter from you. I am very desirous to know your opinion on the important subject of my last letters. To guilty and depraved sinners, what can be of greater importance than the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah, and the application of that precious blood, which was shed for the remission of sin, upon our heart, to purge our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God? To this subject I would once more invite your attention. Having, at considerable length, shown that the Messiah was to be a priest, and that he was to offer up himself, in body and soul, by suffering and dying as a vicarious sacrifice, I will now endeavor to show that Jesus of Nazareth was such a priest, and that he offered such a sacrifice. And may you and I, my dear Benjamin, and whoever may read these letters, realize and experience the truth of the following beautiful remark:"As the sun paints the clouds with variety of glorious colors, which, in their own nature, are but dark and lowering vapors exhaled from the earth; so, when the Sun of Righteousness arises, even the carnal ordinances and commandments of the law, dark and earthly as they seem, are gilded by his beams, and wear a smiling appearance. By his kindly influence, who is the light of the world, the most barren places of the Scripture rejoice, and blossom as the rose. What portion of sacred writ is more apt to be perused without edification and delight, than what relates to the Levitical priesthood; the qualifications of their persons, their apparel, their consecration, and different parts of their functions? And, indeed, it must be confessed a very hard task to reconcile, with the wisdom of God, the enjoining such numberless rites, purely for their own sake. But when we consider that Aaron and his successors were figures of our great High Priest, we must acknowledge that these injunctions are neither unworthy of God, nor useless to man; but are profitable for doctrine, and instruction in righteousness" (M'Ewen).2. All that was excellent in Aaron and his successors, and all that was useful in the sacrifices, is to be found in Jesus Christ, but in all things he was infinitely superior both to the priests and their oblations. In illustrating and confirming this proposition, I shall appeal more frequently to the Epistle to the Hebrews, than to any other part of the Bible. It hath often been observed, that this epistle seems to have been written, in a particular manner, to elucidate the nature of the priesthood. The subject indeed, as to the substance of it, is hinted at in other passages of the New Testament; but yet, if we may so say, move sparingly than, perhaps, any other doctrine of like importance. The Holy Ghost seems to have reserved it for this epistle. And allow me, dear brother, to recommend it to your serious and careful perusal; yea, would to God that our brethren would candidly read it. How desirable that the same end might be accomplished amongst our people, as that which it was designed to effect, when it was first written and addressed to the Hebrews. It evidently appears that the author's design was to prove what our learned doctors, and scribes, and elders in Jerusalem strongly denied; namely, that Jesus of Nazareth, whom they had lately put to death, is Christ, the son of God; and that the Gospel, of which Jesus is both the subject and the author, is of divine original, and universal obligation. In this letter, all the arguments and objections by which those who put Jesus to death endeavored to set his claim aside and overturn the Gospel, are introduced, examined, and confuted; his title and authority, as a law giver, to abolish the institutions of Moses, and to substitute the Gospel dispensation in their room, is established; the absolute inefficacy of the Levitical atonements to procure the pardon of sin, is demonstrated; the reality of the sacrifice of himself, which Christ offered for sin, together with its efficacy and its acceptableness to God, are clearly proved. And on all these considerations the unbelieving brethren were exhorted to forsake the law of Moses and embrace the Gospel; and such of our nation as had embraced it, were cautioned against apostacy.
3. Let us first consider the person of Jesus Christ answerable to that of the high priest.
Here we shall notice his descent and qualifications, his call, his dress, and his consecration. To most of these the apostle had a reference in the following few verses: "Every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron: so also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest; but he that said unto him, thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek" (Heb 5:1-6).
4. a. With respect to the descent and qualifications of the high priest. According to the law of Moses, every high priest was to be of the stock of Israel, the tribe of Levi, and the family of Aaron, having his genealogy well attested, his body sound, and his life temperate. In this respect Jesus Christ is not a whit behind Aaron and his successors. Of him it is testified "that he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham; and as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise, took part of the same" (Heb 2:14-16). This was necessary, else he could not have been a fit Mediator between God and man. He must be our kinsman by nature, before he could be our Goel or Redeemer by office. It must indeed be acknowledged that he was neither of the tribe of Levi nor of the family of Aaron: for "it is evident our Lord sprang out of Judah, and Moses says nothing of the priesthood belonging to that tribe" (Heb 7:14); and this indeed disqualified him from officiating in the temple, yet it does not in the least infer his incapacity to be a priest of a higher order than that of Aaron, even after the order of Melchisedek, who joined in one person the priest and the king.
With respect to this "wonderful man," many things are concealed which are too curiously inquired after, and those things which are revealed, are "hard to be understood." Let it suffice to mention, that in the order of Aaron were many priests, who, like other mortals, resigned their breath by the stroke of death, and their priestly honor was laid in the dust with them. We know from whence they arose; with what carnal ordinances and ceremonies they received their inaugurations; what sacrifices they offered; in what holy places they officiated; who assisted them in their various functions, and who succeeded them when they died. But Jesus, the priest after the "order of Melchisedek," being possessed of immortal life, and called of God, without external ceremonies, to his high office, himself was the sacrifice, himself was the altar, himself was his tabernacle and temple, assisted by none, nor succeeded by any. Of him alone can it be said to have neither beginning of days nor end of life. Being set up from everlasting, he abideth a priest continually: for, though he died, yet, even in death, he was a priest; and now "he ever liveth to make intercession for his people." But to return.
5. Like Aaron, our Jesus was taken from among men, and was an Hebrew of the Hebrews, and no priest could ever boast of such illustrious pedigree as he: which of them all was born of a virgin? and "to which of them said God at any time, thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?" Again, the soundness of their bodies was infinitely surpassed by the integrity and perfection of the soul of our blessed Savior. This was absolutely necessary, for the least deformity here had rendered him utterly incapable of propitiating the Deity by the sacrifice of himself; for, "such an High Priest became us, who was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb 7:26) and "a lamb without blemish, and without spot," even in the pure eyes of God.
One of the most important qualifications of the high priest was to be able to minister between God, and men in such a manner as to be impartial and faithful toward the justice and truth of God, and not to be overruled by his love to men, to injure Him; and to be compassionate and merciful toward the errors of men, and not to be overruled by his zeal to God's justice, to give over the care and service of them. Such a high priest is Jesus, our Emmanuel; zealous for his Father's righteousness and glory; for he was "set forth to declare the righteousness of God" (Rom 3:25); and he did glorify him on the earth, by finishing the work which he had given him to do (John 17:4); and he was compassionate toward the errors and miseries of his people, for he was appointed to expiate and to remove them out of the way (Col 2:14). Hence, although he was to endure all sinless infirmities; such as hunger, thirst, weariness, pain, sufferings, temptations, revilings, slanders, &c. that having experience and sense of these things, he might know how to have compassion on others (Heb 4:15).
6. b. The call of the high-priest is the next thing which invites our attention. This call was as necessary as his personal qualifications. The former gave him a fitness, the latter authority. For no man can warrantably assume to himself the honor and dignity of the high priest's office, and offer gifts and sacrifices for sin with acceptance, but he who is called of God to that office, and authorized by his special and immediate appointment to execute it, as was Aaron at the first institution of the Levitical priesthood. In like manner, Jesus of Nazareth, our great high priest "glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but He that said unto him, thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee: as he saith also in another place, thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedek" (Heb 5:5,6). Here the apostle proves the authority of our blessed Savior to his priestly office by two testimonies from the Old Testament, both of which, as we have already shown, have been applied to the Messiah by our ancient Rabbins. This was peculiarly necessary, inasmuch as the Hebrews might be at a loss to understand how Christ could be called a high priest, unless he had descended from Aaron, in whose family the high priesthood was settled by the law; but from these words they might learn that there was a priesthood appointed of God, antecedent to, and of a more excellent order than that of Aaron, and that the priesthood of Messiah, David's Lord, was to be according to that order, namely, the order (or after the similitude, Heb 7:15) of Melchisedek's priesthood.
7. The apostle not only proves the call of Christ, but shows likewise its superiority over that of Aaron, in its being confirmed by an oath. By this oath, Jehovah honored the Messiah above Aaron and his successors, and gave strong consolation to his people in such a royal high priest, who should effectually manage all their concerns with him for ever. In the 7th chapter the apostle gives a very minute explanation of this oath, by which he sets forth the excellency and dignity of Christ's priesthood above the Aaronical; and argues from it, that as the oath mentions another priest, that was to arise according to the order of Melchisedek, it must import that the Aaronical priesthood was to be set aside, and the Mosaic law disannulled, which settled that priesthood in the tribe of Levi and family of Aaron, and by which all its ministrations were prescribed and regulated:that the reason why the Levitical priesthood was abrogated, was the weakness and unprofitableness of it for obtaining real pardon of sin, purification of conscience, and free access to God; for the law, by all its sacrifices and external purification, made none perfect in these respects; but that the oath intimates the introduction of a better hope, namely, Christ's priesthood, by which we draw near to God with acceptance. Dear Benjamin, read the whole of this seventh chapter to the Hebrews,
with fervent prayer to God for light and love. To me it hath been of invaluable benefit. It hath confirmed my faith in the truth of the Christian religion; convinced me of the ability of Jesus lo save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him; and hath powerfully encouraged me to come unto a throne of grace, where I found mercy and grace to help in time of need.
For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better. And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.
8. c. Although we cannot stay to point out the typical design of all the priestly garments, yet we must notice some. The fair miter which adorned Aaron's head, and the golden plate surrounding his temples, with the venerable inscription "Holiness to the Lord," was a figure of him who is a priest upon his throne, and is holiness itself, and the fountain of holiness to his people.
Did the high priest carry the names of the twelve tribes, both upon his shoulder and upon his breastplate; so does our blessed Jesus carry the name of every true Israelite, both upon the shoulders of his almighty power, and on the breastplate of cordial love, and from which not the smallest jewel shall ever be picked by the joined powers of hell and earth.
The Urim and Thummim placed into the breastplate of Aaron, but afterward lost, are found to greater advantage in Jesus, our great high priest. However ignorant we may be about the nature or form of those which Aaron wore, none will dispute that their names signify light and perfection; and thus they were typical of that light of wisdom and perfection of holiness which were so admirably displayed in every part of our Savior's conduct.
Aaron's beautiful girdle of costly texture, gold and purple, blue and scarlet, was but a faint emblem of the Messiah, of whom it was prophesied, that "faithfulness shall be the girdle of his loins, and righteousness the girdle of his reins. Sweet was the sound of those golden bells suspended around the hem of Aaron's under-robe, but far more sweet and pleasant was the sound of those "gracious words" which proceeded from the lips of Jesus, "who spake as never man spake." And blessed are the people who hear the joyful sound of the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.
9. d. The consecration of the high priest is next to be considered. Aaron and his sons were brought before the tabernacle of the congregation, and there they were washed with water, arrayed with the priestly garments, anointed with costly oil, and sanctified by the offering up of peculiar sacrifices, the blood of which was put upon the extreme points of their bodies. In all this, Jesus, our great high priest, is infinitely more glorious. Before he entered on his ministry, when about thirty years of age, he was publicly baptized by John, his harbinger; not indeed because he was himself polluted, but as it became him to "fulfill all righteousness." That the unction by which Christ was consecrated, was different from, but superior to that of any who had been anointed before or after him, we have already shown in a former letter.
Our Jesus, indeed, was not consecrated by having a sacrifice offered for himself, and its blood sprinkled upon his body, but this bespeaks his superiority over all other priests. Our high priest being "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners, needeth not from time to time, like the Aaronical high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, (for he had none,) and then for the sins of the people; for this he did effectually at once, when he offered up himself. For the law constitutes men high priests who have sinful infirmity, and therefore need to offer for their own sins; but the word of the oath, which was since the law was given, constitutes the Son a high priest, who is consecrated for evermore" (Heb 7:26-28).
10. We will now proceed to consider the second part of the subject, viz. to show that the office or function of the high priest was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Beside his offering up gifts and sacrifices for sin, the high priest was also appointed to bless the people; to pray for them; to instruct them in the knowledge of the divine will; to oversee the service of the tabernacle: to blow the trumpet, and to judge between the clean and the unclean. Now we see Jesus our high priest giving himself an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet-smelling savor, more grateful unto God, and more appeasing to his incensed justice, than all the victims that ever smoked in the worldly sanctuary, or than all the gifts that ever were presented there, or than all the incense that ever fumed from the golden censer. "Put off your robes, ye legal priesthood, your work is finished, your office is entirely superseded. What ye could not do by multiplied oblations, Jesus Christ hath done by one sacrifice. The veil is now rent, and the temple now destroyed. The shadow hath given place to the substance. Jesus is that priest whom God hath sent to bless us; who prays for his people; whose lips keep knowledge to instruct us in the will of God. Jesus is that priest who oversees the service of the tabernacle, being head over all things to the church, which is his body. Jesus is that priest who now blows the great trumpet of the Gospel, and who shall descend shortly from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, to gather the congregation of the righteous. Then all who have not Him for their priest, to wash and sprinkle them with his hyssop and blood, shall have him for their priest, to pronounce them utterly unclean." But to do any justice to this subject, we must particularly consider the sacrifice which Jesus offered; the intercession he makes; and the blessing he bestows. To make it evident that Christ offered up a sacrifice agreeably and answerably to the types and predictions concerning the sacrifice of the Messiah, I shall show,
11. a. That the sacrifice which he offered had respect unto God. That Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, sustains the office of a priest, as well as that of a prophet, we have already demonstrated. But the nature and design of these offices are radically different; and one of these differences is, that a prophet ministers from God to man, but a priest ministers from men to God. The apostle Paul hath taken particular notice of this distinction. Speaking of prophets and apostles, he says, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20). But the work of a priest he defines thus: "For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin" (Heb 5:1). Furthermore, Jehovah expressly and repeatedly calls the sacerdotal office a ministering to himself. "And thou shalt put them upon Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office" (Exo 28:41, 29:44, 30:30). Accordingly the Messiah engaged in the eternal covenant, to offer himself a ransom for his people; and of Jesus Christ it is asserted that he hath "given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor" (Eph 5:2). Beside, sacrificing, like praying and thanksgiving, was an act of religious worship, and therefore could have respect to God only, as its true object; and hence sacrifices were to be offered only in the sanctuary, dedicated and consecrated for the service of Jehovah. Again, as the life of the victim was surrendered to God as the price of expiation, and in order to obtain for the sinner the favor of him to whom it was solemnly presented, and on whose altar it was laid; so in like manner Jesus Christ became a vicarious sacrifice, and gave his life a ransom to expiate our sins, and to be "set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood; to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom 3:25,26). What hath been said may suffice to show that Jesus Christ, as a priest, officiated from men to God. We proceed now to show,
12. b. Wherein the sacrifice consists. It must be allowed, that whoever is a real priest, must have a sacrifice. The very nature of his employment requires it. His whole and entire office, as a priest, consists in offering sacrifices, with the performance of those things which did necessarily precede and follow the action. This, it is evident, the apostle took for granted; "for," says he, "every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer" (Heb 8:3). In a former letter it was already mentioned that the human nature of the Messiah, consisting of a real body and soul, was to be the sacrifice, agreeably to the prediction in Psalm 40:6, 7, "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened," (or a body hast thou prepared me, as the apostle explains it, Hebrews 10:5;(90) 90. See Dr. Owen in loco.) "burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me." The prophet Isaiah also speaks of the Messiah as "pouring out his soul unto death," and "his soul becoming a sin offering" (53:10-12).
13. Nor ought it to be questioned by the believer of the New Testament, that Jesus Christ offered up his body and soul as a real sacrifice. Our Lord's own language is very explicit: "I am the good shepherd the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep" (John 10:11). When he instituted the memorials of his dying love, he gave bread to his disciples, and said: Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink, ye all of it, for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins; and the same evening, when prostrated on the ground under the weight of our sins, he exclaimed, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Matt 26:26-28,38). The same truth is evident from the expressions used by-the apostles, "Who gave himself a ransom" (1 Tim 2:6), "when he had by himself purged our sins"; "when he offered up himself"; "to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself"; "through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ" (Heb 1:3, 7:27; and 9:26, 10:10); "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). Also from the application of Psalm 40
to Jesus Christ, Hebrews 10:5-9; and from the comparison between the Levitical sacrifices and that offered by Jesus Christ.
Psalm 40 (To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.)
I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.
Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.
Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me. Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil. Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha. Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified. But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.
14. I would further observe, that as it was necessary for the Messiah to have a real human nature, to be capable of dying as a vicarious sacrifice, in obedience to the will of his Father; so it was equally necessary that there should be an altar proportionate to the nature of this sacrifice. For it is the altar that sanctifies the gift, was the sentiment of our ancient Rabbins referred to by our Lord and Savior (Matt 23:19). Now this altar was nothing less than the divine nature of our blessed Immanuel; and which gave infinite value to the sufferings of his human nature, with which it was united; as gold, which hath a luster of itself, hath a greater when the sun shines upon it. Hence, we may well say that Jesus Christ was priest, sacrifice and altar. A priest in his person, a sacrifice in his humanity, and the altar in his divinity.
Upon this foundation, my dear Benjamin, rests my hope of eternal salvation. Nor shall any who rely on this sacrifice be either "ashamed, confounded, or made haste." "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God" (Heb 9:13,14).
Having already extended this letter beyond the usual limits, I shall leave the remainder of the subject to our next. Farewell.
Letter 15. The Sacrifice of Christ Vicarious
Beloved Brother Benjamin,
1. In my last letter I noticed two important circumstances respecting the sacrifice of Christ, viz. to whom he offered, and what he offered. I shall now proceed to show,
The design of his sacrifice. That Jesus Christ suffered, is believed by all, and needs therefore no proof; nor does the subject in hand require us to consider, at present, the nature and circumstances of his sufferings; but it is very necessary to show that he suffered and died as an expiatory and vicarious sacrifice, else he would not have answered the character of the promised Messiah; for we have already shown, both from the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as from the testimony of our Rabbins, that Messiah was to die an expiatory and vicarious death. It is not enough to say, as too many who call themselves Christians do, that Christ suffered and died merely that we might be thereby induced to believe the truth of the doctrines he delivered, as he confirmed them by shedding his blood, or that he might give us an example of patience and holy fortitude, under the various evils we are exposed to, either in life or in death.
2. Now with respect to the former, viz. "that Christ died to confirm his doctrine," I would observe, that this is altogether without a warrant from the sacred Scriptures. Nor could his death be an evidence of the truth he taught; for many, doubtless, have laid down their lives to confirm doctrines that were evidently false. It may prove the sincerity of their heart, but it is no proof of the soundness or correctness of their creed. Nor did Jesus want such evidence, for his miracles were abundantly sufficient for that end. And if the latter, viz. of setting us an example of resignation to the will of God, and patience under afflictions, was all that was to be accomplished by the life and death of Jesus, then I ask, what greater obligation are we under to him, than to the "cloud of witnesses," or martyrs that went before him, and those that have followed after him? What did he more for us than they have done? Nay, dear Benjamin, I declare, without hesitation, that if this be all that Jesus did for poor sinners, I should no longer consider him as "the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely." Can his obedience be compared with that of our father Abraham, who, in obedience to the command of God, took his son, his son Isaac, his only son, in whom all the families at the earth were to be blessed, and laid him bound on the altar, to offer him up as a burnt offering? Did not Isaac know the intention of his father? and was not his will bound with the cords of love and obedience to the sovereign will of God, before his hands and feet were bound, and laid on the altar of burnt offerings? Hath he given us a specimen of meekness like that of Moses, who, for the space of forty years, bore with our nation, a people stiff-necked and rebellious, and yet spake only once unadvisedly with his lips? Are his sufferings worth naming, whilst we read of the sufferings and patience of Job? "And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of those that were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others, that had trials of cruel mocking and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented" (Heb 11:32, &c.). But on the supposition that Christ, the Son of God, died as a vicarious sacrifice, his obedience to the will of his Father, and his sufferings to atone for our sins, eclipse all the excellences of men and angels, as the light of a taper is eclipsed by the splendor of the sun at noon-day. Beside, how inconsistent the sentiment of these men, who strenuously maintain that Christ died for the good of all mankind, in all ages, and yet as strenuously maintain that he died only to bear witness to the truth, and give us an example of humility, patience and submission to the will of God, which certainly could have been of no service to those who were dead before Christ was torn; who neither heard the doctrines he delivered, nor saw the example he set.
3. I will therefore proceed to show that Christ suffered and died as our substitute and surety, not barely for our good, but in our room and stead. This is taught in the sacred Scriptures in a variety of ways.
Our reconciliation is ascribed to the sufferings and death of Christ. "If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (Rom 5:10). "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor 5:19). "Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself" (Col 1:19,20).
Again, his sufferings and death are said to be the price of our redemption. "For ye are bought with a price"(1 Cor 6:20). "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt 20:28). "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible thingsbut with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Peter 1:18,19). Hence, Christ is called a propitiation, "whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood" (Rom 3:25; 1 John 2:2). Jesus Christ is called a propitiation, which answers to the word Caphporeth, i. e. mercy-seat. And as that covered the ark in which were the tables of the law, so Christ, by his complete righteousness, appeased his Father, and satisfied his law and justice for all our transgressions. He is also said "to be made a curse for us" (Gal 3:13). As the sins of the children of Israel were laid on the head of the sacrifice, and as the Messiah was to bear the sins and iniquities of his people, so the apostle informs the Hebrews "that Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many" (Heb 9:28). And the apostle Peter evidently refers the 53d chapter of Isaiah to Jesus, saying, "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). The Scriptures assert "that Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor 15:3); "that he gave himself for our sins" (Gal 1:4), and "that he hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust" (1 Peter 3:18). For the same reason, Christ as the antitype of the Levitical sacrifices, is said "to have offered himself without spot to God, when he shed his blood for us, or to have put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and to have given himself for us, a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling-savor." We have formerly observed that the great end and design of the apostle in his Epistle to the Hebrews, is to exalt the priesthood of Christ above that of Aaron. Now that which only metaphorically possesses any quality, is clearly and evidently less than that which possesses it properly and directly. If Christ be metaphorically only a priest, he is less than Aaron.
It is worthy of remark, that when Jesus Christ entered on his public ministry, at his first appearance, John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, pointed him out as a propitiatory sacrifice, saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The apostle Peter ascribes our redemption to this sacrifice, which he calls "a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19). St. John describes him as appearing in heaven in the same character, saying, "I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne, and the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as it had been slain." Again "And they fell down before the Lamb, and they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood" (Rev 5:6,9).
4. I would further observe, that we have already proved, in a former letter, that sacrifices were appointed by God to make a real atonement for sin; and we have also shown that those expiatory sacrifices were typical of the Messiah; this was also predicted as well as typified; hence it followeth, that if Christ did not die an expiatory and vicarious death, he was not the promised Messiah, but a deceiver. May those who profess that Jesus is the Christ, and yet deny his vicarious death, lay this subject to heart, and may God have mercy upon their souls.
5. In addition to what hath already been said, the following remarks shall close this part of our subject. The expressions used in the sacred Scriptures in favor of the atonement or satisfaction of Christ, are so plain, if they do not prove it, no other words can. The natural meaning amongst illiterate people is, the doctrine of a satisfaction. This doctrine is represented to us in a great variety of lights, and under a multitude of figures, all pointing to the same thing, a satisfaction for sin. This doctrine hath its proofs in every part of the Scriptures; and is so incorporated with every part of it, that it cannot be separated from it without altering the whole. Further, in order to disprove this doctrine, such a force is put upon words and phrases, and they are so distorted from their natural form and meaning, that by such rules of interpretation nothing can be certainly conveyed by writing or speech; and if the sacred writers did not design to convey to us the doctrine of an atonement or satisfaction for sin, their conduct is inexplicable, and writers so obscure and ill-qualified to convey their ideas, and more, likely to lead readers wrong, did never appear. Nor ought we to overlook the remarkable fact, that Christians in all ages, with but few exceptions, have received this doctrine, as one contained in the sacred Scriptures, and of the first importance. Our next inquiry is,
6. For whom did Christ die? I would answer, first, negatively, he could not be a sacrifice for himself. "The Messiah was to be cut off, but not for himself" (Dan 9:26). He needed no sacrifice for himself, as the other high priests, did; they were sinners, he was harmless (Heb 5:2,3). He was "a lamb without blemish" (1 Peter 1:19), "who knew no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth." As the sacrifices which were types of him could not be for themselves, being not capable of sinning; so the sacrifice of Christ could not be for himself; being "conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost," and "anointed with the same spirit without measure," he was not capable of sinning. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners." In the second place, I would answer positively that the persons for whom and in whose stead Christ offered himself to God, were the whole number of the elect, which were given to him by the Father; and neither more nor less. It must be acknowledged that such is the dignity of the person who is the Redeemer, that he might have offered himself effectually for every individual of the human race as for the elect, had it been the will of Jehovah to make the stipulation of the covenant of redemption thus extensive. But the Scriptures teach us otherwise, as has already been stated in a former letter. Christ himself has informed us that he laid down his life in obedience to the commandment received of his Father; but he laid down his life for the sheep; but all are not his sheep, and therefore it could not be the will of his Father that he should lay down his life for every individual of the human race. See John, chapter 10th.
Nor can it be denied that some benefits in this life, flow, from the death of Christ, to those who are not his sheep. As our fathers who came out of Egypt, though they did not enter the land of promise, yet were benefited by that deliverance, being freed from bondage, and supplied with manna from heaven, and water out of a rock, &c, so the non-elect, though they derive no saving benefits from the death of Christ, yet they enjoy all their temporal blessings as the fruit of that sacrifice. And in this way those seemingly contradictory Scriptures, which speak on the one hand of Christ dying for his sheep, &c. and on the other, that he died for the world, &c. may easily be reconciled. Such, my dear Benjamin, is my undisguised sentiment on this doctrine, which has been the subject of so much controversy, conducted too often with a spirit very unbecoming the followers of the meek and humble Jesus.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. And many believed on him there.
7. The following remarks of my venerable tutor, Dr. Bogue, may throw some light on the subject. In speaking on the question, "For whom did Christ make satisfaction?" he observes,"this question is agitated with considerable heat, more than it deserves. Accurate distinctions will, in a great measure, supersede the necessity of controversy. Sometimes it is said in sacred Scripture, that Christ died for all men, for the world, &c. The natural unforced meaning of the expression, some think, is the whole human race (John 3:16, 6:51,52; 2 Cor 5:14; 1 Tim 2:4-6; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2). In other places it is said Christ died for the church, for the elect, for his people, &c. the natural unforced meaning of these expressions limits the certain benefits of his satisfaction to a part only of the human raceIn my next letter I will endeavor to point out the effects of Christ's death. Meanwhile, I pray, my dear Benjamin, that both you and I may manifest, by our life and conduct, that we belong to the number of Christ's sheep who hear his voice and follow him; and may the happy time speedily come, when our dear people, the scattered sheep of Israel, shall be gathered into one fold, under one shepherd, Christ Jesus the Lord. Amen. Farewell.
(John 10:15; Eph 1:22, 5:25). The former of these is called universal, and the latter particular redemption, or general and particular atonement. Now, it is not consistent with sacred Scripture to deny either the one or the other, when they are both so plainly revealed; nor does it give the sacred Scripture the honor that is due, to twist and torture these expressions to make them suit a particular system. It is plain from the word of God, that there is a sense in which Christ died for all, and a sense in which he died for his people only. All the expressions in the Bible may, perhaps, be easily reconciled, if we consider the different points of view in which the subject is represented to us. If we fix our eyes on the divine decrees, Christ died for the elect (Rom 8:29,30). If we take a view of the covenant of redemption, then Christ died for those who were given him by the Father (John 6:37). If we take a view of the sufficiency of Christ's satisfaction, he may be said to die for the world, for all, for the whole world (Isa 45:22). If we consider the invitations of the Gospel, then Christ died for all who hear the Gospel preached; and salvation is offered to them, if they will receive it (Acts 2:30). If we consider the efficacy of Christ's satisfaction, and its saving influence on those that receive it, then Christ died for believers, for his people (John 15:13; 1 Cor 1:30). If we look at the transactions of the day of judgment, then Christ died for all holy souls that persevered in faith, holiness, and obedience, to the end of life, or for a peculiar people, zealous of good works
(Matt 25:44,45)."(91) 91. M. S. Lectures.
Letter 16. The Effects of Christ's Death
Dear Brother Benjamin,
1. We will now proceed to consider the effects of Christ's death, or sacrifice. As the deliverance of our fathers from the Egyptian bondage was accomplished immediately after the paschal lamb was slain, so when "Christ our passover was sacrificed for us," the whole work of redemption was completed. Hence the Lord Jesus, with his dying breath, but with a loud voice, cried, ''It is finished!" The full meaning of this comprehensive and triumphant exclamation of the Redeemer will be better understood when we shall see him "no more through a glass darkly, but face to face." The prophecies of his humiliation were accomplished; the prefigurations and shadows of his death were substantiated; the battle with the powers of darkness was over; the righteousness of the law was fulfilled; the payment of the price of redemption was completed; and the work which the Father gave him to do was finished in the highest degree of perfection.
Such is the virtue and efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ, that every thing formidable and burdensome is removed, every thing great and glorious procured; justice with all its vengeance appeased; the law with all its retinue of curses silenced; sin with all its demerits expiated; the covenant with all its benefits ratified; peace with its blessings restored; the spirit with all its treasures bestowed; our services purified from their filth; our consciences pacified from their fears; whatsoever is grievous abrogated; the veil of the temple, with all the heavy weight of ceremonies, rent in twain; hell quenched, and heaven prepared and furnished for all that imitate God in his valuation of this sacrifice.
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men," which was the (prophetic) song of a multitude of angels at the birth of Jesus, was effected by his vicarious sacrifice on the cross. In a former letter I have staled that the sentence pronounced in Paradise on the tempter was a curse to Satan, and included a promise of the Savior; and I will now show its accomplishment in the death of Christ. This may be considered,
2. a. In regard to Jehovah. Satan aimed to rob God of his glory, and to restore the glory of God was that which Jesus aimed at when he came into our world, and that which he perfected when he bowed his head and gave up the ghost. The glory of all the attributes of God appeared in the face or manifestation of Christ. They all centered in him, and shone forth from him in all their brightness, and in a full combination set off one another's luster; not only in his incarnation, but also, and that chiefly, in his sacrifice. Mercy could not be glorified, unless justice had been satisfied; and justice had not been evident, if the tokens of divine wrath had not been upon him; grace had not sailed to us, but in the streams of his blood"without the shedding of blood there is no remission." Justice had not been so fully known in the eternal groans of a world of creatures, nor could sin have appeared so odious to the holiness of God, by eternal scars upon devils and men, as by the deluge of blood from the heart of the sacrifice. Wisdom, in the contrivance, had not been evident without the execution. The cross of Christ, which is "foolishness to the Greeks, and a stumbling-block to the Jews," is the wisdom as well as the power of God unto salvation. Here unsearchable depth of wisdom was unfolded, a depth more impossible to be comprehended in our minds than the whole heaven and earth in our hands. Such a wisdom of God shines in the cross as the angels never beheld in his face upon the throne, wisdom to cure a desperate disease by the death of the Physician; to turn the greatest evil to the greatest glory; to bring forth mercy by the shedding of blood. But the death of Christ is a display of power as well as of wisdom. Dear Benjamin! turn your eye toward Calvary, where our Lord was crucified, and behold exertions greater and more marvelous than the creation and support of the universe: Almighty God strengthening his dear Son with his arm, and bruising him under his wrath, sustaining him under a weight which would have crushed the creation, and by his weakness breaking the forces of earth and hell, which were in opposition. Revenging wrath is a weight which creatures are not able to bear. Principalities and powers sunk beneath it, into outer darkness and endless misery. The wrath which crushed them hung over man, who was seduced to join their rebellious powers. Men, chosen to everlasting life, were by nature children of wrath, even as others. But for the chosen generation the Lord Jesus Christ was made under the law, and endured the wrath which their sins deserved, endured it all, endured it all at once, and in the strength and glory of his weakness endured it all alone! The beams of holiness, which is the essential glory of the nature of Jehovah, and revealed glory of his will, shine bright and awful in the death of Jesus. In the triumph over Egypt, on the banks of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel sang, "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, glorious in holiness?" and, in remembering the triumph of the cross over principalities and powers on Calvary, the song of Moses rises into the song of the Lamb, and transmits the praise of the glory of his holiness from generation to generation. The light of the knowledge of the glory of the holiness of God never broke forth in such luster and majesty. The punishment of angels, the destruction of the old world, the overthrow of the cities of the plain, the drowning of Pharaoh and his hosts, the pools of Nineveh, the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar, and the ruins of Babylon, are manifestations of the glory of his holiness and righteousness; but these are all in a manner eclipsed by the brighter and more awful glory that beams from the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why was that just one wounded and bruised? why was his righteous soul filled with sorrow? his blessed head crowned with thorns? his glorious face defiled with spittle? and his holy body nailed to a tree, and lifted up on a cross, between two thieves? It was because God is glorious in holiness, hates iniquity, and punishes it wherever it is found. Lastly, "God is love!" and the sacrifice of Christ is the manifestation of this glory of his nature. "In this," saith the apostle, "was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10). When the believing eye turns toward the cross, the love of God to sinful, guilty, and miserable men, shines forth, and becomes the object of contemplation, and theme of discourse, which can never be sufficiently praised and adored. May you and I, my dear Benjamin, "be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge" (Eph 3:18,19).
3. b. In the next place, we may view the effects of Christ's death in regard of himself as Mediator.
It hath already been shown from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, that in the stipulations of the covenant of redemption a variety of promises were made to the Messiah, particularly as relating to his exaltation; all these are applied, in the New Testament, to Jesus Christ. Thus the apostle informs us, that beside the essential native power and dominion over all which Christ hath as God, but which was, as it were, veiled during his state of humiliation, the Father hath exalted him, as Mediator, to the highest dignity and universal sovereign dominion over every thing in heaven, and earth, and hell. From the many precious passages which relate to this all-important and most interesting subject, I have selected but a few, and pray that my dear Benjamin may feel the sweet truth they contain. "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him" (John 17:2). "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man; and being formed in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:6-11). "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all" (Eph 1:20-23). "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb 12:2).
By the death of Christ the covenant was ratified, confirmed and sealed, and the blessings of it put into his hands, to be disposed of at his pleasure. "For it has pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell" (Col 1:19). I have already shown that the covenant which was made known to Adam immediately after the fall, was accompanied with the sacrifices of beasts, both to show to him a token of that punishment which he had merited at the hands of justice, and in what a bloody way his recovery was to be accomplished. The repetition of it to Abraham was confirmed by sacrifices (Gen 15:18), and the solemn covenant between God and the Israelites was also confirmed by sacrifices, and the blood of them is called the blood of the covenant (Exo 24:5,8); i. e. a type of that blood which should be shed for the confirmation of that blessed covenant, whereby the soul shall be purified from sin. Hence, Christ, in the institution of the supper, calls his blood the New Testament in his blood, i. e. the true blood shed for the ratification of the covenant, which was only typified by the blood of all former sacrifices.
4. c. We next notice the effects of Christ's death upon his people. It will easily occur to your mind, my dear Benjamin, that in my letter on the covenant of redemption, I stated that it contained blessings to the seed of the Messiah, as well as to himself. It has also been shown in another letter, that the curse pronounced on the tempter (Gen 3:15), contained a revelation of the Messiah, signifying our deliverance from the misery brought into the world, and in another letter I explained the promise made to our father Abraham, that in his seed, which is the Messiah, all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. I will now point out to you the fulfillment of all this in Jesus Christ, my blessed Lord and Savior, as the effect of his atoning sacrifice. The cross of Christ has often been compared to "the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (Rev 22:2). Here is food in rich abundance, great variety and perpetual growth; together with a healing influence on all nations: yet the effects and fruits of the death of Christ, of whom the tree of life in paradise was but a type are infinitely superior. As the seed of the woman, he delivers from all misery, and as the seed of Abraham, he confers numberless blessings. No sooner is the sinner delivered from the wrath of God, but he is also restored to the favor of the Most High, which is life, and his loving-kindness, which is better than life; no sooner is he delivered from the curse of the law, than he is interested in all the blessings of the new and everlasting covenant; no sooner freed from the reigning power of sin and Satan, than he is under the happy influence of grace, has his fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life; no sooner delivered from the fear of death, through which he was all his life subject to bondage, than he enjoys a good hope through grace, and desires to depart to be with Christ, which is far better.
5. Before I close this letter, permit me, my dear Benjamin, to detain you for a few moments on the last particular just named, viz. that deliverance from the fear of death is one of the happy fruits and effects of the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah. This has a particular reference to the sentence pronounced in paradise on the tempter Satan, and fulfilled by the death of Jesus Christ. I have mentioned in a former letter, that the sufferings of Christ, and his ignominious death, were the great stumbling-stone of our nation, and the chief cause of their rejecting him as a deceiver and impostor. Hence, to convince our brethren of the necessity of such sufferings and death, the apostle, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, uses a variety of arguments, from which I select but one, contained in verses 14 and 15, chapter 2d, viz. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage." Now you will perceive that in these words the apostle asserts that Satan has the power of death; that death produceth a fear which brings men into bondage; that Messiah Jesus came to deliver us from this fear; that he was to effect this by destroying Satan; and that, to accomplish the destruction of Satan, it was necessary for him to become incarnate, to suffer and to die.
6. Now I wish you, my dear Benjamin, particularly to observe, that the apostle, in his other Epistles, especially to the Romans, always produces proofs to establish his positions, but not so here; and the reason doubtless is, because he well knew that these propositions were the received opinions of our nation. That our ancient Rabbins believed that Satan had the power of death, is evident from the names by which they call him. The most general is, that of Malach Hammaveth, i. e. the angel of death; another is, Ashmadi, i. e. destroyer; again, they call him Abaddon, i. e. the angel of the bottomless pit (Rev 9:11). Targum Jonathan on Genesis 3:6, saith,"And the woman saw Samael, the angel of death."R. Simicon saith,"the same is Satan, the angel of death, and the evil figment."(92) 92. Tal. Bava Bathra. See a former letter.The reason assigned by our Rabbins for calling Satan the angel of death, is because that by his means death entered and came upon all the world. Hence, called a liar and murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
b. Because he is employed, they say, in great and signal judgments, to inflict death on men. They represent him as the head of those evil angels which slew the Egyptians (Psa 78:49). Hence those words, Psalm 9:5, 6, are rendered by the Targum,"from the arrows of the angel of death, which he shooteth by day, and from the troops of devils that walk at noon day."Probably the apostle alludes to this, 1 Corinthians 10:10, "neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer."
c. Because he taketh away the life of every individual. For you know, my dear Benjamin, that it is a common received opinion amongst our people, that when a person is to die, the angel of death appears to him in a most terrible manner, with a drawn sword in his hand, from which he drops some poison into him, and of which he immediately dies; and therefore all the water in the house and neighboring houses is instantly thrown away, lest Satan should have washed his sword in it and poisoned it.
d. They say that the angel of death has power over men even after death. R. Elias, in his Tishbi in Chivbut Hackever from Midrash of R. Isaac ben Parnaer says,"When a man departs out of this world, the angel of death comes and sits upon the grave. And he brings with him a chain, partly of iron, partly of fire, and making the soul to return into the body, he breaks the bones, and torments variously both body and soul for a season."(93) 93. Sepher Jereh chattaim. Cit. in Stehel. Trad. vol. 1, p. 235-238.David Levi, the late oracle of our people in London, on that part of the funeral prayer,"O have compassion on the remnant of the sheep of thy hands; and say to the angel, stay thy hand,"has this note,"Meaning the angel of death."Another part of the Chivbut Hackever arises from the pain occasioned by the worms eating up the flesh of the dead body. Hence the common saying, "Rema bebazar Hammeth temachad bebazar Hachy," i. e. a worm in a dead body is as painful as a needle in a living one.(94) 94. Tract. Shabbath 152a. Time would fail to speak of the torments of the soul to be endured in Gehinom, i. e. purgatory.(95) 95. See Maim. de Fundam. Legis. p. 48.
7. These various interests of Satan in the power of death, both keeps our people in dismal bondage all their days, and has put them upon the invention of several ways for their deliverance. Hence, you know, that one of their solemn prayers, on Yom Kivbur, i. e. day of expiation, is to be delivered from Chivbut Hackever, i. e. the punishment of the devil in the grave. Hence, on the preceding day, a cock is offered to the devil, for his pacification, accompanied by the following prayer,"That it may please thee (good Lord) to deliver us from evil decrees, from poverty, from contempt, from all kinds of punishment, from the judgment of hell, and from the beating in the grave."This cock is a substitute for the scape goat, which our Rabbins say was offered to the devil, by which he who was before their accuser, becomes their friend; and the punishments due to their sins are laid upon the Gentiles.(96) 96. See Yalkut Rubeni, fol. 129, c. 3. Emeck. Hammelech, fol. 146, c. 4.
Is it then to be wondered, my dear Benjamin, that a firm belief of these, and a thousand similar dogmas of our Rabbins, of blessed memory, should produce that fear which makes our people subject to bondage all their life-time? You have probably not forgotten how often we have talked about the fear of death, and sometimes even hesitated to eat our necessary food, lest we should grow bulky, and suffer the greater pain from the worms that would consume our flesh after death. To some, indeed, it may seem strange that any one in his right senses should believe such things. But you know how our dear father and teachers instructed us, that it was our duty to receive all the dogmas and maxims of the Rabbins, not only without evidence, but even against evidence. For thus it is written,"Thou shalt not depart from their words, even though they should tell thee of the right hand, this is the left; or of the left hand, this is the right."Again,"Whosoever scorns the words of the wise men, shall be cast into boiling dung in hell." "Whoever breaks the words of the scribes, is worthy of death."(97) 97. See, among others, Cad. Hackem, fol. 77:3. Yarchi Exp. on Gittin f. 57:1. on Deut. chap. 17:11. Caph. Uverech. fol. 121:1. Mid. on Prov. fol. 1:3. Tal. Eruvim. fol. 21:2. Bux. Syn. Jud. c. 3. p. 73. Bartoloc. Bib. Rab. tom. 4. p. 361.8. You will remember, my dear Benjamin, that in a preceding letter I have shown, both from the Scriptures and from the writings of our Rabbins, that the design of Satan in seducing our first parents, seems to have been to destroy them, and so to have put an end to the human species. But the Messiah, who was promised to come of the seed of the woman, was to bruise the head of the serpent, i. e. frustrate this malicious design. I will only refer to one prediction on this subject, delivered by the prophet Isaiah 25:8, "He will swallow up death in victory,"(98)
or for ever, i. e. the Messiah shall, by his death, and resurrection from the dead, obtain such an entire victory over death, not only for himself, but for all his people, that in the resurrection-morn, when they will be all raised from the dead, death will be so swallowed up, that it will be no more for ever. This prediction is applied, by our Rabbins, to the resurrection of the dead in the days of the Messiah. They say
98. David Levi, in the prayer at the burial of the dead, which contains this passage, has the following notes.
Note I. "The Almighty will, in the days of the Messiah, swallow up death for ever; i. e. there will he no more death, because there will be no more sin; not ever, the ravenous beasts, such as the lion, wolf, and leopard, nor the venomous creatures, as the asp, and cockatrice, will have power to hurt or destroy; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11:6-8)."
Note 2. "It is worthy of remark here, that according to the English translation, this passage is, 'he will swallow up death in victory!' (Isa 25:8). What it was that was the occasion of leading the translators into this gross error, is impossible for me to determine; but thus much I must say, that it argues either a total ignorance of the holy language, or something worse, that of perverting the sacred text for some sinister use. This is a heavy charge indeed, and which, both in law and equity, I ought lo prove; this I shall most certainly do, and that to every one's satisfaction, I trust. For I abhor and detest the idea of bringing a charge without good and substantial proof; and that I have such, will presently appear; for the Hebrew word here translated, is Loenazoch, whereas the word for victory is Nauzyach, the first having the vowel points of Koemots, Seygle, and Pausach, and the second (and which is the proper word for victory) the vowel points of Pausach, Tsyry, and Pausach, But what puts this matter beyond all dispute, is the former having the letter Lamed at the beginning, and which is equally the same in Hebrew as the particle for in English; and therefore, although there had been no vowel points to have determined the matter, yet the number of letters, and the manner in which they are placed, with the context, would have plainly shown the true reading thereof to any one that thoroughly understands the Hebrew, and means to act in an upright and impartial manner. Thus, having in a most dear and impartial manner (I presume) stated my charge, let those whose province it is, answer it in the same clear and impartial manner, if they can." (Rites and Ceremonies of the Jews).
I am truly sorry to see such bombastic language, such a "heavy charge" about such a trifling criticism, from the pen of one whom I have ever esteemed as one of the best informed writers amongst our modern Rabbins. The very same word, Lanezech, used in Isaiah, is used in the same form, both letters and joints, in Proverbs 21:28, and Hab 1:4; and in neither of which can it mean literally and strictly, for ever, but must mean to succeed, triumph, or obtain victory. In Proverbs, the testimony of the liar, and that of the faithful witness are compared; the testimony of the former "shall perish," i. e. be rejected, and come to naught, but that of the latter "speaketh constantly," Lanezech Yedabbair, i. e. speaketh successfully, triumphantly. In Hab. the prophet bitterly complains of the wickedness of the people, and describes the evil consequences, viz. "the law is slacked, and judgment does never go forth,'' i. e. is not executed, does not triumph; "for the wicked does compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth," i. e. prevails. Strange that a Hebrew scholar, like David Levi, should assert that the mere particle Lamed alone is sufficient to decide that it means for, when every Tyro in Hebrew knoweth that the primary use of the particle Lamed is to characterize the dative case to and unto; but is used only occasionally to denote of and for. Beside, I really can see no difference produced in the prediction of Isaiah, whether it be translated for ever, or unto victory. The meaning is precisely the same. Death is always represented as an enemy, the king of terror; but Messiah was promised to overcome death, put a stop to its power and tyranny, and completely triumph over it for ever."that the Messiah shall descend from Pharez, and in his day the holy blessed God will cause death to be swallowed up," as it is said, Isaiah 25:8, "He shall swallow up death in victory."(99) 99. Shemoth Rab. S. 20, fol. 131:4.Again,"When thy King Messiah comes, the holy blessed God will raise up those that sleep in the dust; as it is written, he shall swallow up death in victory."(100) 100. Zohar, in Gen 73:1. Exo f. 108, 1, 2, 4. Lev f. 46. 3. Mish. Moed. Caton, c. 3. S. 9. Yade Mose in Shir. Hash. Rab. f. 20:1. Echa. Rab. f. 48:2.It is also applied to the Lord Jesus by the apostle, 1 Corinthians 15:54, "Death is swallowed up in victory." Now all this has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, whose death, as has been shown in former letters, was an atoning sacrifice for the sins of his people; it has fully satisfied divine justice on their account, dissolved their obligations to the punishment of eternal death, procured pardon and acceptance with God, and a restoration from death, by a blessed resurrection, to the enjoyment of eternal life and glory in heaven. In the hope of that glory and immortality brought to light by the Gospel, the believer in Christ, even in the house of his pilgrimage, can sing the triumphant song, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 15:55-57). Farewell.When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies
I bid farewell to every fear
And wipe my weeping eyes.
Should earth against my soul engage,
And hellish darts be hurl'd,
Then I can smile at Satan's rage,
And face a frowning world.
Let cares like a wild deluge come,
And storms of sorrow fall;
May I but safely reach my home,
My God, my heav'n, my all:
There shall I bathe my weary soul
In seas of heav'nly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast.
Letter 17. Crucifixion of Christ
We will now consider the evidence of the Messiahship of Jesus, arising from the predictions fulfilled at his crucifixion. The death of Christ is an event most singular, as well as most important. We have already seen, from the Scriptures of the Old Testament, that the Messiah was to die a peculiar death, the death of an expiatory sacrifice; and that Jesus Christ died such a death. We shall now point out the predictions which relate to the peculiar circumstances of the suffering, death and burial of the Messiah, and their fulfillment in Jesus Christ our Savior.
1. That he was to suffer from the multitude, was particularly foretold by the royal Psalmist, and the princely prophet Isaiah. By the former the Messiah is introduced saying, "I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me, laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip; they shake the head, saying, he trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him; let him deliver him. Many bulls have compassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me" (Psa 22:6-8,12,13,16). Isaiah having foretold the wonderful success the Gospel would have amongst the Gentiles, bitterly complains of the unbelief of our nation, and mentions the cause of their conduct, saying, "Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (53:1-3). Now all this has been literally fulfilled in Jesus Christ. During the whole of his public ministry he was slighted and disesteemed on account of his mean parentage and education, his outward poverty, and the meanness of his disciples and followers; and when hanging on the cross, "bearing our sin in his own body on the tree," the mob mocked him in the very words mentioned by the Psalmist.
2. The soldiers' conduct was not more cruel than agreeable to prophecy. The judge of Israel was to be smitten with a rod upon the cheek (Micah 5:1). The declaration of the Messiah by the prophet, Jesus fulfilled, viz. "The Lord God has opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away my back. I gave my hack to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spittings" (Isa 50:5,6).
3. The conduct of Messiah's professed friends, during his sufferings, as well as that of his enemies, was predicted by the prophets, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
By one of his disciples he was to be betrayed, and sold into the hands of his enemies. Of this treachery the Lord Jesus informed his disciples beforehand, to confirm them in their faith of the Messiahship. "I speak not of you all; I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, he that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye, may believe that I am he" (John 13:18,19). This prediction is evidently taken from Psalm 41:9, "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me." I am aware, my dear Benjamin, that it has been objected that this Psalm is inapplicable to the Messiah, because it is said in the 4th verse, "Lord, be merciful unto me, and heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee." But it may be answered, that in many cases two original Psalms have been joined into one; and it is more than probable that verse the 5th commenced a new Psalm. Beside, it may well be considered as the language of the Messiah, expressing his confidence in his Father's promise, to uphold him in his sufferings and death and to raise him again from the dead, because he had, in obedience to his will, died as a sin-offering; for the last clause of the verse, "Ki chatathi lach," may be read thus: "For I have made an atonement for sin unto thee." For you well know, my brother, that the word chata frequently, especially in Piail, signifies to expiate, atone, or make an offering for sin. See Leviticus 5:7,11, 6:26, 9:15; Exodus 29:36; Psalm 51:7. Hence the noun chattath is frequently used for a sin-offering. See Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:3, 8, 21, 24, 29, 33, 34, particularly Isaiah 53:10. Hence Jesus is said to be made sin for us, i. e. a sin-offering. 2 Cor 5:21. Now, that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, one of his disciples, is not only mentioned by the evangelists, but also in the history of our Lord compiled by the Jews, called Tol-doth Yeshu.(101) 101. P. 15:10.
4. The conduct of this disciple was more clearly described by the prophet Zechariah 11:12, 13, "And I said unto them, if ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, cast it unto the potter; a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord." Now this prediction was literally fulfilled with respect to Jesus. For Judas having agreed with the chief priests to deliver Jesus into their hands for thirty pieces of silver, and having fulfilled his engagement, he received his wages. But his conscience afterward accusing him, he returned them the money, acknowledging his guilt; but they not judging it lawful to put the money into the treasury, because It was the price of blood, bought the potter's field with it, as a burying-place for strangers. See Matthew 27:3-10.
Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.
5. Another prediction, fulfilled during the sufferings of Messiah Jesus, relates to the conduct of his disciples. He was not only to be mocked by the multitude, and betrayed and sold by one of his disciples, but all the rest were to forsake him at that time. This was foretold by the prophet Zechariah 13:7, "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts, smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." Many of our Rabbins refer this prediction to the days of the Messiah, yea, to the Messiah himself.(102) 102. See Aben Ezra and Michlol Yophi in loco. And in that awful but all-memorable night in which Jesus was betrayed, he told his disciples that in that very night they would all forsake him, reminding them of this prediction, and it was verified by their conduct (Matt 26:31,56).
6. We next consider the predictions which relate to the sufferings which Messiah was to endure from the hands of his own Father. I acknowledge, my dear Benjamin, that there is something inexpressibly awful and deeply mysterious in the idea that the Father should put his best beloved Son to any sufferings or pain; yet it was nevertheless foretold, and literally fulfilled in the immaculate Jesus, of whom the Father testified again and again, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The royal Psalmist introduced the Messiah saying, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Psa 22:1). The prophet Isaiah not only declared repeatedly "that the Lord laid upon him our iniquities," i. e. dealt with him as we sinners deserved to be dealt with, but expressly declared, "It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief" (Isa 53:10). And Zechariah introduces Jehovah as giving the awful commission, "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts; smite the Shepherd," &c. (Zech 13:7). That these predictions had a reference to the Messiah, is acknowledged by our ancient Rabbins, as we have shown already; and that they have been literally fulfilled in Jesus Christ, is abundantly evident from the history of his sufferings related by the evangelists who were eye witnesses. John, the beloved disciple, stood beneath the cross when Jesus exclaimed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Peter, James, and John witnessed his agonies in the garden of Gethsemane, where the Son of God lay prostrated on the ground, "like a worm, and no man," groaning, sighing, weeping, praying, and being in an agony, sweating as it were great drops of blood, and exclaiming, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death!" Here another prediction was fulfilled, which says, "when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin," or, according to the original, "when his soul shall make an offering for sin." These sufferings may well be styled the soul of all his other sufferings. As they infinitely exceeded in degree, so likewise, in the motive and design of the immediate agent. Whatever were the motives of our people that falsely accused him, of the judge that unjustly condemned him, of the soldiers that cruelly treated him, of his disciples, that either treacherously betrayed him, or unfaithfully denied him, or timorously forsook him; yet we are sure, from the unerring word of God, (as has been shown in the letter on the covenant between the Father and Son) that the motive and design, both of the agent and the patient, in all these mysterious transactions, was, as declared by the multitude of the heavenly host, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men" (Luke 2:13,14). And O, my beloved Benjamin, my heart leaps for joy at the prospect of the time when the spirit of grace and supplication shall be poured upon our dear people, and they shall look unto him whom they have pierced; then will they adopt the language recorded in this most remarkable prediction of the Messiah's sufferings, saying: "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But 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" (Isa 53:4,5). Oh! Lord, hasten it, for thy name's sake. Amen.
7. From the sufferings of Christ we proceed to notice the predictions which relate to his death. That he was to die a judicial death, we have already seen and considered on the prediction of Daniel 9:24, where it is said, "Messiah shall be cut off"; Carath, which relates to a judicial sentence. The same was declared by the prophet Isaiah, saying, "He was cut off out of the land of the living" (53:8). This was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who was tried and condemned at Pilate's bar. In the same prediction the prophet Isaiah foretold the cruel and unjust treatment the Messiah was to meet with in withholding from him the privilege granted to every criminal. "He was taken from prison and from judgment; and who shall declare his generation?" (Isa 53:8); or rather, as translated by the learned bishop Lowth, "By an oppressive judgment he was taken off; and his manner of life, who would declare?" The word "generation" frequently means manner of life. Hence, said our Lord, when speaking of the conduct of the unjust steward, "the children of this world are in their generation," i. e. manner of transacting business, "wiser than the children of light." Now you know, my dear Benjamin, that it was a custom in Israel, that when a criminal was condemned to die, a crier was sent round the city, saying, "if any one knoweth any thing in favor of this person, let him come forward"(103) 103. Tract Sanhed. 43. Surenhus, part 4, p. 233. This privilege was denied to Jesus; and no doubt, if, according to custom, the usual proclamation had been made, thousands and tens of thousands of the blind, the lame, the deaf, the dumb, and the sick, whom he had cured, the dead whom he raised to life, and the multitude whom he fed, all would have come forward and spoken in his favor, and interceded for his life; and no doubt the majority would have prevailed. And it is more than probable that our Lord complained of this partial and unfair treatment, in his answer to the high priest, when he asked him of his disciples and doctrines, saying, "I spake openly in the world; I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said" (John 18:20,21). I am aware, my dear Benjamin, that our Rabbins tell us that the usual proclamation had been made for 40 days, but no defence could be found. But this is only one of their falsities, contrary to facts.
8. We next observe the manner of Messiah's death, as foretold. This was to be crucifixion, the last we should have expected. No such death was appointed by the God of Israel. It was inflicted only among the Romans, and never inflicted on one free born, but only on slaves, and that only for the worst of crimes. Who should have expected that our people, notwithstanding their rooted hatred of a foreign yoke, would voluntarily acknowledge their subjection to the Romans, merely to be gratified with seeing the blessed Jesus die the most lingering, painful, and ignominious of all deaths? But the Scriptures cannot be broken. For "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14,15). That the brazen serpent was not a mere remedy for our wounded forefathers, but an emblem of spiritual things, and a type of the Messiah, is acknowledged by our Rabbins. Philo makes it a symbol of fortitude and temperance, and the author of the apocryphal Book of Wisdom, calls it a sign of salvation. In Mish. Rosh Hashshuna,(104) 104. C. 16:6. it is asked,"Could the serpent kill or make alive? But at the time that Israel looked up, and served with their hearts their Father which is in heaven, they were healed; but if not, they were brought low."(105) 105. See Jer. Targum.Jonathan Ben Uziel saith,"And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it on a high place; and it was, when a serpent had bitten any man, and he looked to the serpent of brass, and directed his heart to the name of the (Memrah) word of the Lord, he lived."The word of the Lord is used in the place of Messiah. This healing is understood of the spiritual healing of the soul."As soon as they said, we have sinned, immediately their iniquity was expiated; and they had the good news brought them of the healing of the soul; as it is written, make thee a seraph, and he does not say a serpent; and this is it: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it shall live, through the healing of the soul."(106) 106. Zeror Hammor fol. 123:2.Hence they compare the Messiah to a serpent;"The Messiah shall come forth from Jesse's children's children, and his works shall be among you as a flying serpent."(107) 107. Targum on Isaiah 14:29.Hence we read of "the other serpent of life," and "the holy serpent."(108) 108. Zohar. Gen f. 30:2. Tickune Zohar in Yezira, p. 134.
9. You will further observe, my dear Benjamin, that it was predicted as well as typified that Messiah was to die the death of crucifixion. David, in the 22d Psalm, saith, in the name of the Messiah: " I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones; they look and stare upon me" (vv 14-17). How striking the description of the nature and effects of crucifixion, and how remarkably fulfilled, in the death of Jesus! By his hands and feet he was nailed to the cross, his bones were distended and dislocated, and became visible, so that they might be counted. The intenseness of his sufferings dried up all the fluids, and brought on a thirst tormenting beyond description. In addition to these outward sufferings, there was a fire from above, to the burning heat of which Christ, our paschal lamb, was exposed, as it is written by the prophet: "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. From above hath he sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them" (Lam 1:12,13). Thus forsaken and stripped, naked and bleeding, the adorable Jesus was a spectacle to heaven and earth; the object of foolishness to the Greeks, and a stumbling-block to the Jews; but, blessed be God, the wisdom and power of God to all them that believe. Surely nothing is half so attracting and lovely as a believing view of Christ crucified. Multitudes, who, like Saul of Tarsus, before their conversion, did wish themselves accursed from Christ, i. e. would have nothing to do with him, did, after their conversion, like Paul, the apostle, exclaim, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal 6:14). Thus the prediction of our blessed Savior which was fulfilled in the nature of his death, is also constantly fulfilling in reference to its happy effects. "And I," said he, "if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (This he said, signifying what death he should die.") (John 12:32,33).
10. The time of Messiah's death is the next part of our subject. We learn from the unerring word of God, that there is an appointed time to man upon the earth; that his days are determined, and his bounds appointed that he cannot pass (Job 7:1, 14:5). This, my dear Benjamin, is equally true of the Messiah. The time of his death was appointed, as well as that for his birth. That the time of his birth was predicted, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ, has been proved in former letters. With respect to the time of his death, I do indeed not recollect any express prediction; but it was eminently typified in the death of the paschal lamb, and fulfilled in a remarkable manner in Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. As the passover lamb was to be slain on the 14th day of the first month, between the evenings, i. e. about 3 o'clock P. M. so did Christ die on the 14th day of the first month, about the 9th hour, i. e. 3 o'clock P. M. This is evident from the testimony of the four evangelists. I am aware that the subject has occasioned considerable controversy, and it would exceed the limits of this letter to remove the difficulties; I must therefore refer my dear Benjamin to my Essays on the Passover. I would only remark, that the Lord Jesus well knew the time of his death, and repeatedly told his disciples of it; and just before his death he said, "Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son" (John 17:1). All the envy, malice, and stratagems of our nation could not take away his life. Often they sought to apprehend him, but he either passed through the midst of them unobserved, or the officers, struck with wonder and astonishment, instead of executing their commission, returned, and said, "Never man spake like this man" (John 7:46). Nor could all the persuasions and intreaties of his disciples keep him from going up to Jerusalem, to deliver himself up to be crucified, when the hour had arrived.
11. I will close this letter by noticing the place of the Messiah's death. As the first sin was committed in the garden, so in the garden the Messiah suffered, to atone for sin; and as the sin-offering on the day of atonement was carried without the camp, and burned to ashes, so did Christ bear his cross without the gates of Jerusalem, to suffer the most painful, ignominious, lingering, and accursed death. May you and I, my dear Benjamin, never be ashamed to go forth unto him, without the camp, bearing his reproach, to whom be glory and praise for ever. Amen. Farewell.
Letter 18. The Burial of Christ
Having in the preceding letter considered a variety of predictions and types relative to the sufferings and death of the Messiah, literally fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, I will now notice some other predictions relative to some remarkable circumstances which attended the death and burial of Christ.
1. Isaiah predicted that Messiah was "to be numbered with transgressors" (Isa 53:12). This was fulfilled in Jesus Christ; although he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners during the whole course of his life, yet in death he was numbered with transgressors. Not only condemned to die a death inflicted only for the worst of crimes, but crucified between two thieves, as if he had been the chief of sinners. O blessed Jesus, how great was thy condescension to die the most ignominious death, that the chief of sinners may live!
2. It was the privilege of the soldiers who attended the execution of a criminal, to divide his garments. Hence we read that they took the garments of Jesus and divided them among themselves. But that which particularly deserves our notice is, that the upper garment, the vesture of Jesus; they did not divide, nor cut in pieces, but cast lots. Now the soldiers, doubtless, were actuated by pecuniary motives, for the coat being without seam, would have lost its value had it been cut in pieces and divided; but the providence of God watched over the prediction which is written in Psalm 22:18, saying: "They part my garments, and cast lots upon my vesture."
3. We notice the prediction respecting Messiah's behavior under his afflictions, especially under his sufferings of death. The prophet Isaiah describes it thus: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth" (53:7). Nothing can exceed the beauty and propriety of the images by which the Messiah's patience is here illustrated; and yet as the shadow falls short of the substance, so fall these images infinitely short of the real temper and disposition of our blessed Lord during his sufferings and death. As a sheep, when the shearer is stripping it of its clothing, makes neither noise nor resistance; and as a lamb sports about even while driving to the slaughter, yea, and licks the very hand that is lifted up to slay it; so the adorable Jesus endured all his sufferings willingly, silently, and perseveringly. He not only willingly undertook the work of a Mediator, "saying, lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart." But even when the hour and power of darkness had come, he did not draw back, but with great earnestness did he desire to eat the last passover with his disciples, and to be baptized or immersed in the ocean of God's wrath; yea, he was greatly straitened till it should be accomplished. Well might the poet say,"This was compassion like a God,"He opened not his mouth," either to murmur, complain, or find fault. The most eminent saints have opened their mouth in complaints both against God and man. The patriarch Jacob exclaimed, "All these things are against me"; Job "cursed the day of his birth"; Moses "spake unadvisedly with his lips"; Paul "reviled God's high priest." But Jesus was without spot or blemish; "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:22,23). But I wish you, my dear Benjamin, to observe likewise, that the righteousness of Christ was not merely negative, as some people boast, "that they have done no harm"; but positivehe came to do good, even to his enemies. I now allude particularly to the last prediction of Isaiah, in that famous chapter to which I have already so often referred, viz.
"That when the Savior knew
"The price of pardon was his blood,
"His pity ne'er withdrew."
4. "He made intercession for transgressors." Jesus exemplified his precepts by practice. The heathen philosopher said, "revenge is sweet"; but Christ said, "to forgive is godlike." "I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt 5:44,45). How strikingly did the dear Jesus illustrate this divine precept in the whole course of his life, till he bowed his head in death! When he came within sight of that city where he had met with so many insults, and where he knew they would speedily treat him most cruelly, and condemn him unjustly, instead of feeling or expressing any resentment, he wept over it, and most pathetically lamented the invincible obstinacy which would shortly involve it in utter ruin. And while he yet hanged on the cross, instead of accusing his murderers, he prayed for them, and ever pleaded their ignorance in extenuation of their guilt; saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Thus "he made intercession for transgressors." I shall name another circumstance, viz.
5. The prediction which relates to their giving him gall and vinegar. Psalm 69:21, "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink." This prediction relates to two different events. The first was fulfilled, as described by Matthew 27:33, 34, about the 6th hour just before Christ was nailed to the cross: "And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, they gave him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall; and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink." The second part of the prediction was fulfilled about the 9th hour, just before Christ died; and is recorded by the four evangelists: "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar; and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, it is finished; and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost" (John 19:28-30). You will observe, my dear Benjamin, that the first vinegar, which was mixed with gall, offered to Jesus, he refused to take; you know that it was a custom in Israel to give to criminals, just before they were put to any pains of death, a potion to benumb their feelings; this potion, says Maimonides, was prepared by the pious women.(109) 109. Sanhed. 43a. But as Jesus came for the purpose of suffering death in all its bitterness, or as Beza expresses it,"Christ being about to drink the most bitter cup of his Father's wrath against our sins, refused this solace; being so mindful of his Father's command as to be unmindful of himself; and only solicitous at once to expiate our sins, even to his latest breath."But when Jesus had cried, "I thirst," they gave him pure vinegar, which was the common drink of the soldiers, and he took it, and thus finished the last prediction to be fulfilled, before he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.
6. Having briefly considered the predictions which were to be fulfilled in the sufferings and death of Messiah and shown their accomplishment in Jesus Christ, I will now proceed to point out some predictions which relate to the time between the death and the resurrection of Messiah. Although the Messiah was to suffer both in body and in soul, yet "not a bone of him was to be broken." This was both predicted and typified. In Psalm 34:20, it is said, "he keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken." Now, although it be true that God exercises a peculiar care over his people, yet they meet with such accidents as well as the wicked; but it has been literally fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, in a remarkable manner. It was a law in Israel, expressly prohibiting the bodies of those who were hanged, to remain all night on the tree (Deut 21:22,23). For this reason, as well as because the Sabbath was at hand, the Jews begged the favor of Pilate, that the legs of the three crucified persons might be broken, to hasten their death. Pilate consented, and gave the order they desired. But the soldiers appointed to execute it, perceiving that Jesus was dead already, did not take the trouble of breaking his legs. Now, whatever was the motive of the soldiers, the evangelist John, who was an eye witness, observes, "these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, a bone of him shall not be broken" (John 19:36). This circumstance was also typified by the law, which prohibited the breaking of a bone in the passover lamb (Exo 12:46).(110) 110. See my Essays On the Passover.
7. We observe next, the prediction delivered by the prophet Zechariah 12:10, that Messiah should be pierced, "and I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him," or rather for it, i. e. the act of piercing him. This prediction also was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but neither by himself, nor by any of his friends, but by one who could have no idea of making the event fulfilling the Scriptures; but God knows how to bring good out of evil. "One of the soldiers," more cruel than the rest, "with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water" (John 19:34). That our Rabbins referred this prediction to the Messiah, we have already seen; and as surely as the former part which relates to the Messiah has already been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, whose side was pierced, so in like manner shall the second part of the prediction be fulfilled in the conversion of our dear people, when the Messiah Jesus shall come a second time, to reign for a thousand years upon the earth. Great will then be their mourning, for having pierced him so long with their unbelief. But, "blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." For "in that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness" (Zech 13:1).
8. Permit me now, my dear Benjamin, to invite you to the solemn funeral of the Messiah. It was no less foretold that Messiah was to be buried, than that he was to die. David, speaking of the Messiah, saith, "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope: for thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," (or rather my body in the grave, as shall be shown in our next letter) (Psa 16:9,10). And in Psalm 22:15, he saith, "thou hast brought me into the dust of the earth." But the plainest prediction we have in Isaiah 53:9, "And he made his grave with the wicked, and" or much rather but "with the rich in his death." The former circumstance was a part of Messiah's humiliation, connected with the 8th verse, "for the transgression of my people was he stricken"; but the second part, "but with the rich in his death," was an honorable testimony to the Messiah; and the reason follows, "because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth." Now all this was remarkably fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the true Messiah. From the account given by the four evangelists, it appears that among the disciples of Jesus who beheld his execution, there was one named Joseph of Arimathea, a man remarkable for his birth, and fortune, and office. Though he was a member of the council who condemned Jesus, he did not join them in this unjust sentence. This man went unto Pilate, and begged that he might take away the body of Jesus (because if no friend had obtained it, it would have been ignominiously cast out among the executed malefactors.(111) 111. See Mish. Sanhed. c. 6. S. 5, 6. Maim. Hil. Sanhed. c. 14. S. 9.). And when Pilate had ascertained for a certainty that Jesus was really dead, he gave the body to Joseph. In discharging this honorable duty, Joseph was assisted by another disciple, named Nicodemus, the ruler who formerly came to Jesus by night, for fear of the Jews. These two, taking down the naked body, wrapped it with the spices in the linen furnished by Joseph, then laid it in Joseph's sepulcher, which happened to be nigh the place of execution. On the next day the chief priests and Pharisees, remembering that Jesus had predicted his own resurrection more than once, came to the governor and informed him of it, begging that a guard might be ordered to the sepulcher, lest the disciples should carry his body away, and affirm that he was risen from the dead. Having obtained a guard of soldiers, the priests went with them, placed them in their post, and sealed the stone that was rolled to the door of the sepulcher, to hinder the guards from combining with the disciples in carrying on any fraud. Now, my dear Benjamin, I rejoice that I can appeal to you for the correctness of this statement, for you know that our Rabbins, both in the Talmud and elsewhere, have given the very same account, with the addition, "that whilst the guard of soldiers were asleep, the disciples came and stole the body of Jesus"; and which is believed by our people even to this day. That the soldiers did make such a report, is confirmed by the evangelists. But what evidence did they produce? None whatever. Why did they not prevent it? Because they were asleep. Was it not death to sleep whilst on guard? How came they not to be afraid of making such a statement? The mystery is unravelled. The secret is revealed. They were instructed by the high priest what to say, secured from any ill consequences, and well rewarded for their services. Such, my dear Benjamin, was the character of these soldiers, by which the grave of the blessed Jesus was guarded. Well might the prophet say, "he made his grave with the wicked." But the Lord honored him, and raised up a rich man to own and honor him in death, or as the word may be rendered, "with the rich man was his tomb." Now surely this was the Lord's doing, for to all human appearance it was not very likely; for not many rich, not many noble believed in him during his ministry; how could it be expected that they would honor his body mangled on the ignominious tree. But the Scripture cannot be broken. Yea, another scripture was fulfilled, which says: "his rest shall be glorious" (Isa 11:10). This passage is translated in the vulgate, "Erit sepulchrum ejus gloriosum," i. e. his grave shall be glorious, and it is applied by our Rabbins to the Messiah. Abarbanel saith"that it may be expounded of the Messiah's honorable burial."9. I cannot close this first series of letters, my dear Benjamin, without beseeching you, most affectionately, to consider the many and various predictions which have been so literally and remarkably fulfilled in the history of Jesus Christ, and judge whether I should not have been guilty of sinning against the dearest light and strongest evidences, if I had not adopted the language of one of our brethren, who said, "We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth," and may the Ruach Hackadesh, the Holy Spirit, lead you to confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. Amen. Farewell.
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