Page images
PDF
EPUB

teuch. Now whether Moses found it in some ancient document or received it through Noahic tradition, or more directly by Divine inspiration, little matters to our present argument. The point of that argument lies in the fact that fifteen centuries at any rate before the strange Messianic ideal was realized in an actual character, the essential features of it were foreseen, foreshadowed, and foretold.

Who foresaw them ? Certainly not Moses or the prophets by mere human intelligence, for they understood not their own predictions, but searched “what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when It testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow." There is but one rational explanation of the early existence and long continuance of this Messianic ideal. It was the hope set before the lost and ruined human family, by their compassionate and omniscient Creator; “ holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” This primitive germ of a prophetic character, which afterwards occupied so ruling a position in the hearts and minds of men for ages before it was realized in history, and the actual appearance of which on the stage of human life, not only forms the greatest and most widely spread era of mundane chronology, but has proved by far the most influential event that ever happened in human experience—this first Messianic prediction must have come "by inspiration of God." From this first prophecy of the Redeemer right on to the last prediction of Christ prior to His advent, this leading feature of triumph preceded by defeat, glory introduced by suffering, redemption for man secured by self-sacrifice, is uniformly kept in view and gradually developed. So markedly is this the case, that after His resurrection Christ could reproach His incredulous disciples with being “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken,” and “ beginning at Moses and all the prophets” He could expound to them “in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself," putting to them the un

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

answerable question, “Ought not the Christ (or the Messiah) to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?He reminded them that not only had He Himself told them that suffering and death were to befall Him, but that it was predicted in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, adding, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day : and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations." The oak tree of Messianic prediction lies latent in the acorn of this Eden prophecy. Judaism and Christianity alike are the outcome of this ideal,

-the one of the mere prediction of it, the other of the fulfilment of the prediction. These are facts that cannot be gainsaid. How are they to be explained ? Whence came the embryo if not from God?

The only alternatives seem to be either frankly to admit the inspiration of the Eden promise, or else to deny, not only that it has ever been fulfilled, but that Messianic predictions as a whole have been so. This would be to assert that they were one and all—though so exactly answering to notorious and universally influential facts,-unmeaning Jewish speculations; and even then there would remain to be explained the difficulty that the Jews who wrote and treasured these predictions did not understand them, had not the true ideal before their minds, and when it was realized in history actually failed to perceive that a suffering Saviour was a fulfilment of their own prophecies, or a realization of their long-cherished hopes.

Now it must be freely granted that Messianic prophecy as a whole has not yet received its full accomplishment,—that only a part of it has done so. “ The woman's seed” has not yet completely crushed the serpent's head, as is evident from his present tremendous and universal activity in our world, where the tempter is undeniably still alive and at large! He is still in our day what our Saviour called him in His day,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“the prince of this world,” and what Paul called him, “ the god of this world,” “ the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” 1 Sin still reigns unto death. No one contends that the work of human redemption is as yet complete. It stands indeed to reason that it could no more be accomplished in a few centuries than was the work of creation. This Christian age, though fast nearing its close, has not yet run its course ; and according to Scripture, another age-the millennial-is to succeed the one in which we live before the old serpent will be fully destroyed, before redeemed humanity will rest and rejoice in the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

But it may nevertheless be boldly asserted that the prophetic programme presented by inspiration at the beginning of the Adamic age has, even in this its first point, the promise of redemption, been largely fulfilled, and that the unfulfilled portion is so closely linked and indissolubly connected with the fulfilled, as to warrant the confident expectation that it also will in due season become matter of history instead of prophecy. In order to show this, we must consider a little more fully each of its three points: the COMING, SUFFERINGS, and TRIUMPHS of the woman's “Seed."

1. THE COMING OF THE SEED. It cannot be questioned that among all those born of woman one individual stands out solitary, supreme, pre-eminent; that though there have been many heroes among men, He rises above them all high as the vault of heaven above the hills of earth. Rightly or wrongly He is this day believed in and beloved, esteemed to be Divine as well as human, obeyed as Lord, worshipped as God, and trusted as Saviour, by over four hundred millions of mankind—that is, by a third of the entire human family; that He holds this place, not among the more ignorant, superstitious, and degraded nations of the earth, but on the contrary among the most advanced, intelligent, and highly cultured.

John xiv. 30 ; 2 Cor. iv. 4; Eph. ii. 2.

And why? He holds it because He is believed to have sacrificed Himself for the salvation of men, to have died and to have risen from the dead, to be evermore the living, loving, almighty Saviour of the human race, who will yet return to earth and finish the work He has begun. Let all this be truth or error, it matters not to our present argument.

We are not now defending the faith of Christians, but calling attention to the fact of its existence as a proof of the fulfilment of the Adamic programme. We point to the fact that a great Deliverer has, in the judgment of the most enlightened part of mankind, appeared among men in the person of one who was emphatically the woman's Seed—“born of a virgin "one who Himself professed that He came into the world to save it, who engaged in a personal struggle with the tempter and defeated him, whose mission it was to destroy him and his works, who resisted his temptations, delivered his victims, exposed his delusions, endured his malice, and who finally yielded to his power of death that He might—by rising again-destroy both it and him.

He hell in hell laid low,

Made sin He sin o'erthrew ;
Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,

And death by dying slew.” It is over one thousand eight hundred years since this great Deliverer appeared, and each generation as it passes beholds His name becoming a greater and greater power in the earth. The influence of His life and death, of His words and example, increases year by year continually, and at the present rate of progress will soon fill the world. The greatest intellects of all ages have owned the unique excellence and felt the unequalled power of the character and teaching of Christ. Kepler, Bacon, Newton, Milton, Shakespeare, in our own land ; Goethe, Schelling, Hegel, Kant, in Germany, even the infidel Jew Spinoza, have left on record their hearty recognition of His matchless personality. Jean Paul Richter speaks of Him as “the holiest among the mighty, and the mightiest among the holy, who lifted with His pierced hand empires off their hinges, turned the stream of centuries out of its channel, and still governs the ages."

In a word, we may say that all men, no matter what their faith or what their indifference and unbelief, who have considered carefully this subject, admit that the man Christ Jesus stands high above all. Napoleon's well-known testimony shows how profoundly the character and worth of Jesus of Nazareth impressed a leader among men, though himself the very opposite of Christlike, a destroyer and not a saviour of his fellows. “No man will accuse the first Napoleon of being either a pietist or weak-minded. He strode the world in his day like a colossus, a man of gigantic intellect, however worthless and depraved in moral sense. Conversing one day, at St. Helena, as his custom was, about the great men of antiquity, and comparing himself with them, he suddenly turned round to one of his suite and asked him, Can you tell me who Jesus Christ was ?' The officer owned that he had not yet taken much thought of such things. Well, then,' said Napoleon, ‘I will tell you.' He then compared Christ with himself and with the heroes of antiquity, and showed how Jesus far surpassed them. I think I understand some

• what of human nature,' he continued, and I tell you all these were men, and I am a man ; but not one is like Him : Jesus Christ was more than man. Alexander, Cæsar, Charlemagne, and myself founded great empires; but upon what did the creations of our genius depend ? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions would die for Him.' The gospel is no mere book,' said he at another time, but a living creature, with a vigour, a power, which conquers all that opposes it. Here lies the Book of books upon the table (touching it reverently); I do not tire

; of reading it, and do so daily with equal pleasure. The soul, charmed with the beauty of the gospel, is no longer its own;

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »