Monday, March 4, 2013

Jesus Was The Messiah

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      Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ or Messiah promised under the Old Testament. That he professed himself to be that Messiah to whom all the prophets gave witness, and who was, in fact, at the time of his appearing, expected by the Jews; and that he was received under that character by his disciples, and by all Christians ever since, is certain. And if the Old Testament Scriptures afford sufficiently definite marks by which the long-announced Christ should be infallibly known at his advent, and these presignations are found realized in our Lord, then is the truth of his pretensions established. From the books of the Old Testament we learn that the Messiah was to authenticate his claim by miracles; and in those predictions respecting him, so many circumstances are recorded, that they meet only in one person; and so, if they are accomplished in him, they leave no room for doubt, as far as the evidence of prophecy is deemed conclusive. As to Miracles, we refer to that article; here only observing, that if the miraculous works wrought by Christ were really done, they prove his mission, because, from their nature, and having been wrought to confirm his claim to be the Messiah, they necessarily imply a divine attestation. With respect to Prophecy, the principles under which its evidence must be regarded as conclusive will be given under that head; and here therefore it will only be necessary to show the completion of the prophecies of the sacred books of the Jews relative to the Messiah in one person, and that person the Founder of the Christian religion.
      The time of the Messiah's appearance in the world, as predicted in the Old Testament, is defined, says Keith, by a number of concurring circumstances, which fix it to the very date of the advent of Christ, 
Gen. 49: 10. "The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his."
Mal. 3: 1. “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
Hag. 2: 7. "For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;"
Dan. 9: 24, 25. “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. 25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
Isa. 40: 3-11.  A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All people are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
The plainest inference may be drawn from these prophecies. All of them, while, in every respect, they presuppose the most perfect knowledge of futurity; while they were unquestionably delivered and publicly known for ages previous to the time to which they referred; and while they refer to different contingent and unconnected events, utterly undeterminable and inconceivable by all human sagacity; accord in perfect unison to a single precise period where all their different lines terminate at once, --the very fulness of time when Jesus appeared. A king then reigned over the Jews in their own land; they were governed by their own laws; and the council of their nation exercised its authority and power. Before that period, the other tribes were extinct or dispersed among the nations. Judah alone remained, and the last sceptre in Israel had not then departed from it. Every stone of the temple was then unmoved; it was the admiration of the Romans, and might have stood for ages. But in a short space, all these concurring testimonies to the time of the advent of the Messiah passed away. During the very yea, the twelfth of his age, in which Christ first publicly appeared in the temple, Archelaus the king was dethroned and banished; Coponius was appointed procurator; and the kingdom of Judea, the last remnant of the greatness of Israel, was debased into a part of the province of Syria. The sceptre was smitten from the tribe of Judah; the crown fell from their heads; their glory departed; and, soon after the death of Christ, of their temple one stone was not left upon another; their commonwealth itself became as complete a ruin, and was broken in pieces; and they have ever since been scattered throughout the world, a name but not a nation. After the lapse of nearly four hundred years posterior to the time of Malachi, another prophet appeared who was the herald of the Messiah. And the testimony of Josephus confirms the account given in Scripture of John the Baptist. Every mark that denoted the time of the coming of the Messiah was erased soon after the crucifixion of Christ, and could never afterwards be renewed. And with respect to the prophecies of Daniel, it is remarkable, at this remote period, how little discrepancy of opinion has existed among the most learned men, as to the space from the time of the passing out of the edict to rebuild Jerusalem, after the Babylonish captivity, to the commencement of the Christian era, and the subsequent events foretold in the prophecy.
      The predictions contained in the Old Testament respecting both the family out of which the Messiah was to arise, and the place of his birth, are almost as circumstantial, and are equally applicable to Christ, as those which refer to the time of his appearance. He was to be an Israelite, of the tribe of Judah, of the family of David, and of the town of Bethlehem. That all these predictions were fulfilled in Jesus Christ; that he was of that country, tribe, and family, of the house and lineage of David, ad born in Bethlehem, we have the fullest evidence in the testimony of all the evangelists; in two distinct accounts of the genealogies, by natural and legal succession, which, according to the custom of the Jews, were carefully preserved; in the acquiescence of  the enemies of Christ in the truth of the fact, against which there is not a single surmise in history; and in the appeal made by some of the earliest Christian writers to the unquestionable testimony of the records of the census, taken at the very time of our Savior's birth by order of Caesar. Here, indeed, it is impossible not to be struck with the exact fulfillment of prophecies which are apparently contradictory and irreconcilable, and with the manner in which they were providentially accomplished. The spot of Christ's nativity was distant from the place of the abode of his parents, and the region in which he began his ministry was remote from the place of his birth; and another prophecy respecting him was in this manner verified:
Isaiah 9:1.2."In the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, by the way of the sea beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations, the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined," Isaiah 9:1.2. 
Matt. 4:16. "the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Thus, the time at which the predicted Messiah was to appear; the nation, the tribe, and the family from which he was to be descended; and the place of his birth,--no populous city, but of itself an inconsiderable place, --were all clearly foretold; and as clearly refer to Jesus Christ; and all meet their completion in him.
      But the facts of his life, and the features of his character, are also drawn with a precision that cannot be misunderstood. The obscurity, the meanness, and the poverty of his external condition are represented,
Isa. 53: 2. "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him."
Isa. 49: 7. "This is what the Lord says - the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—
to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

His riding in humble triumph into Jerusalem; his being betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, and scourged, and buffeted, and spit upon; the piercing of his hands and of his feet; the last offered draught of vinegar and gall; the parting of his raiment, and the casting lots upon his vesture; the manner of his death and of his burial, and his rising again without seeing corruption, were all expressly predicted, and all these predictions were literally fulfilled,
Zech. 9:9. Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. " and in 11:12. "I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord."
Isaiah 1:6. “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many.
The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

“Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: Instruction will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations.
My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.

Psalm 22: 16. " Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce my hands and my feet. and 69: 21. " They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst."  and 22: 18. "They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment."
Isaiah 53: 9. "And they made His grave with the wicked—But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth."
Psalm 16: 10. "because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay."
If all these prophecies admit of any application to the events of the life of any individual, it can only be to that of the Author of Christianity. And what other religion can produce a single fact which was actually foretold of its founder?
      The death of Christ was as unparalleled as his life; and the prophecies are as minutely descriptive of his sufferings as of his virtues. Not only did the paschal lamb, which was to be killed every year in all the families of Israel, which was to be taken out of the flock, to be with out blemish, to be eaten with bitter herbs, to have its blood sprinkled, and to be kept whole that not a bone of it should be broken; not only did the offering up of Isaac, and the lifting up of the brazen serpent in the wilderness, by looking upon which the people were healed, and many ritual observances of the Jews, prefigure the manner of Christ's death, and the sacrifice which was to be made for sin; but many express declarations abound in the prophecies, that Christ was indeed to suffer. But Isaiah, who describes, with eloquence worthy of a prophet, the glories of the kingdom that was to come, characterizes, with the accuracy of an historian, and the humiliation, the trials, and the agonies which were to precede the triumphs of the Redeemer of a world; and the history of Christ forms, to the very letter, the commentary and the completion of his every prediction. In a single passage, (Isaiah 53: 13, &c. 53.) the connection of which is uninterrupted, its antiquity indisputable, and its application obvious, the sufferings of the servant of God (who, under that same denomination, is previously described as he who was to be the light of the Gentiles, the salvation of God to the ends of the earth, and the elect of God in whom his soul delighted, Isaiah 42: 10. 49: 6.) are so minutely foretold, that no illustration is requisite to show that they testify of Jesus. The whole of this prophecy thus refers to the Messiah. It describes both his debasement and his dignity; his rejection by the Jews; his humility, his affliction, and his agony; his magnanimity and his charity; how his words were disbelieved; how his state was lowly; how his sorrow was severe; how he opened not his mouth but to make intercession for the transgressors. In diametrical opposition to every dispensation of Providence which is registered in the records of the Jews, it represents spotless innocence suffering by the appointment of Heaven; death as the issue of perfect obedience; God's righteous servant as forsaken of him; and one who was perfectly immaculate bearing the chastisement of may guilty; sprinkling many nations from their iniquity, by virtue of his sacrifice; justifying many by his knowledge; and dividing a portion with the great and the spoil with the strong, because he hath poured out his soul in death. This prophecy, therefore, simply as a prediction prior to the event, renders the very unbelief of the Jews an evidence against them, converts the scandal of the cross into an argument in favor of Christianity, and presents us with an epitome of the truth, a miniature of the gospel in some of its most striking features. The simple exposition of it sufficed at once for the conversion of the eunuch of Ethiopia. To these prophecies may, in fact, be added all those which relate to his spiritual kingdom, or the circumstances of the promulgation, the opposition and the triumphs of his religion; the accomplishment of which equally proves the divine mission of its Author, and points him out as that great personage with whom they stand inseparably connected.

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