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moved by the Holy Spirit, and that they shall all be certainly fulfilled, how studious should we be to attain a right understanding of passages and events, in which we are so nearly interested, that our hearts may be duly affected by them. But, alas! experience and observation strongly confirm the remark of the poet,
Men are but children of a larger growth.
If you put a telescope into the hands of a child, he will probably admire the outside, especially if it .be finely ornamented. But the use of it, in giving a more distinct view of distant objects, is what the child has no conception of. The music of the Messiah is but an ornament of the words, which have a very weighty
This sense no music can explain, and when rightly understood, will have such an effect as no music can produce. That the music of the Messiah has a great effect in its own kind, I can easily believe. The ancients, to describe the power of the music of Orpheus, pretend, that when he played upon his harp, the wild beasts thronged around him to listen and seemed to forget their natural fierceness. Such expressions are figurative, and designed to intimate, that by his address and instructions, he civilized men of fierce and savage dispositions. But if we were to allow the account to be true in the literal sense, I should still suppose, that the wild beasts were affected by his music only while they heard it, and that it did not actually change their nature, and render lions and tigers gentle as lambs, from that time forward. Thus I can allow, that they who heard the Messiah might be greatly impressed during the performance ; but when it was ended, I suppose they would retain the very same dispositions they had before it began. And many, I fear, were no more affected by this sublime declaration of the Lord's design to shake the heavens and the earth, than they would have been, if the same music had been set to the words of a common ballad.
The Jews, when they returned from captivity, and undertook to rebuild the temple of the Lord, met with many discouragements. They were disturbed by the opposition and arts of their enemies, who at one time so far prevailed, as to compel them, for a season, to intermit the work. And when the foundation of the temple was laid, the joy of those who hoped soon to see the solemn worship of God restored, was damped by the grief of others, who remembered the magnificence of the first temple, and wept to think how far the second temple would come short of it.* In these circumstances, the prophets Haggai and
*Hag. ii. 3. Ezra, iii. 12.
obaated. ects, Mesehty derThat
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Zechariah were sent to animate the people by a promise, that
We may consider, from the words,
II. The effects of his appearance : Shaking the heavens and the earth.'
III. ·His filling the house with glory. This close of the 7th verse is not in the passage set to music; but as it is an eminent part of the prophecy, I shall not exclude it.
1. Messiah is styled “The Desire of all nations. The propriety of this title may be illustrated by two considerations.
1. Before he came into the world to save sinners, an expectation prevailed, in many nations, that a great deliverer and friend to mankind was at hand. This was, perhaps, partly the effect of some ancient traditions founded on the promises of God respecting the seed of the woman, the traces of which, though much corrupted by the addition of fables, were not worn out, but might be chiefly owing to several dispersions of the people of Israel, and imperfect notices derived from the Scriptures in their hands. The sense of many prophecies concerning Messiah, though misapplied, is remarkably expressed in a short poem of Virgil
, written a few years before our Saviour's birth. This eclogue, of which we have a beautiful imitation in our own language, by Mr. Pope, affords a sufficient proof that the Heathens had an idea of some illustrious personage, who would shortly appear and restore peace, prosperity, and all the blessings of their imaginary golden age, to mankind. The miseries and evils with which the world was filled, made the interposition of such a deliverer bighly desirable. There were even a few among the Heathens, such as Socrates and his immediate disciples, who seem to have felt the necessity of a divine teacher; and to be sen
* Hag. ii. 9,
sible that man in a state of nature, was too depraved, and too ignorant, to be either able or disposed to worship God acceptably without one. There is reason to believe that the Revelation which we enjoy, though despised by too many who affect to be called philosophers in modern times, would have been highly prized by the wisest and best of the philosophers of antiquity. Socrates thought men were not capable of knowing and expressing their own wants, nor of asking what was good for themselves, unless it should please God to send them an instructor from heaven, to teach them how to pray. And, therefore,
2. The need that all nations had of such a Saviour, is sufficient to establish his right to this title, admitting they had no knowledge or expectation of him. If we could suppose a nation involved, for ages, in the darkness of night, though they had no previous notion of light, yet light might be said to be their desire, because the light, whenever they should enjoy it would put an end to their calamity, would answer their wants, and, in that sense, accomplish their wishes; for if they could not directly wish for light, they would naturally wish for relief. The Heathens were miserably bewildered. They had a thirst for happiness, which could not be satisfied by any, or all the expedients and pursuits within their reach. They had fears and forbodings of conscience, for which they knew no remedy. They were so sensible, both of their guilt and their weakness, that being ignorant of the character of the true God, and of that forgiveness which is with him, in times of extremity they frequently offered the most expensive sacrifices to the objects of their idolatrous superstition, even the blood and lives of their children.* When Messiah appeared, as he was the glory of Israel, so he was a light to the Gentiles, as we shall have opportunity of observing more at large hereafter. He, therefore, who came purposely to bless the nations, by turning them from darkness to light, and from the worship of dumb idols to serve the living and true God, may justly be called their desire, though, in the time of their ignorance, they could form no suitable conception of him.
II. I will shake the heavens and the earth.' This part of the prophecy has been, in a measure, literally fulfilled. At his birth a new star appeared. At his death the sun withdrew bis shining, the earth quaked, the rocks rept, and the dead arose. During his life, he often suspended and overruled the stated laws of nature, and exercised supreme power over the visible and invisible worlds. He shook the kingdom of darkness, spoiled principalities and powers, triumphing over them by his cross. He
* Micah, vi. 6, 7.
shook the kingdoms of the earth ; the idols trembled and disappeared before his Gospel, till, at length, the Roman Empire renounced Heathenism, and embraced the Christian name.
But the language of prophecy is highly figurative. Mountains and trees, land and water, sun and moon, heaven and earth, often signify nations, people, and governments. And particularly, beaven and earth are used to denote the religious and political establishment of Israel; or, as we say, their constitution in church and state. This, without doubt, is the primary sense here. The appearance of MESSIAH shall be connected with the total dissolution of the Jewish economy. The whole of their Levitical institution was fulfilled, superseded, and abrogated by Messiah, which was solemnly signified by the rending of the vail of the temple, from the top to the bottom, at his death. And, a few years afterwards, the temple itself was destroyed; by which event
, the worship of God according to the law, of which the temple-service was an essential part, was rendered utterly impracticable. Their civil state, likewise, was dissolved; they were extirpated from the promised land, and dispersed far and wide among the nations of the earth. Though, in one sense, they are preserved by the wonderful providence of God, as a distinct people, unaffected by the changes and customs around them; in another sense, they are not a people, having neither settlement nor government, but living as strangers and foreigners in every country where their lot has been cast.* Nothing like this can be found in the history of mankind. It is an obvious, striking, and perpetual proof of the truth of the Scriptures. What was foretold, concerning them, by Moses and the succeeding prophets, is accomplished
, to a demonstration, before our eyes. How unlikely was it once that it should be thus ! yet thus it must be because the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. And all that he has spoken is equally sure. He will yet again shake the heavens and the earth, dissolve the frame of nature, and execute his threatened judgments upon all those who do not receive and obey his Gospel.
III. · He shall fill this house with glory. He did so when he condescended to visit it in person. The blind and the lame came thither to him, and he healed them.t. Children felt his power, and sung Hosanna to the Son of David, a title appropriate to Mesa SIAH ; and when the Pharisees rebuked them, he said, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would cry out.' As the Lord in his own house, he purged the temple, and drove out those who profaned it; and not one of his enemies durst offer the least resistance to his will. And when he left it the last time, with
* Hosea, iii. 4.
Matth xxi. 15, 16.
I Luke, xix. 40.
sovereign authority he denounced that awful sentence which was soon afterwards executed by the Romans, both upon the temple and the nation.* His glory filled the temple when he was an infant, so that Simeon and Anna then acknowledged bis character, and spake of him to those who were waiting for the consolation of Israel. Especially bis glory was manifested when he proclaimed himself the fountain of life, and invited every thirsty, weary sidper to come to him, to drink and live for ever. I
The temple of Jerusalem has been long since destroyed. But he has still a house, “A house not made with hands. Tbis is bis church, comprising all the members of his mystical body. He dwells in each of them individually; he dwells in and among them collectively. Where two or three are met in his name, where his ordinances are administered and prized, where his Gospel is faithfully preached and cordially received, there he is present in the midst of them. There his glory is seen, his voice heard, his power felt, bis goodness tasted, and the savour of his name is diffused as a precious ointment, which refreshes the hearts of his people, renews their strength, and comforts them under all their sorrows and cares. The glory and magnificence of the temple-worship, even in the days of Solomon, was faint, compared with the glory displayed to the hearts of believers, who worship him in spirit and in truth, under the New Testament dispensation. But it can only be perceived by an enlightened and spiritual mind. To outward appearance all may be low and humiliating. The malice of their enemies has often constrained his people to assemble in woods and on mountains, in places under ground, or in the dead of the night, to secrete themselves from informers. But vaulted roofs, and costly garments, the solemn parade of processions, music, and choristers, and the presence of nobles and dignitaries, are not necessary to constitute ihe glory of Gospel-worship. It is enough that he, in whose name they meet, condescends to visit them with the power and influence of his Spirit, to animate and hear their prayers, to feed them with the good word of his grace, and to fill them with joy and peace in believing. If they have these blessings they desire no more, they are compensated for all their difficulties and hardships ; and however unnoticed and despised by the world, they can say, “This is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven.'S For they approach, by faith, to the city of the living God, the Jerusalemn which is above, to the worship which is carried on, day without night, by the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect.||
* Matt. xxiii. 37. + Luke, ü. 25-38. | Johd. vii. 37. $ Gen. xxviii. 17. | Heb, xii. 29.