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So remarkable an introduction must be followed by an equally remarkable prophecy. The prophecy is the description of a Ruler: first, of the foundation of His government; secondly, of its effects. The effects are twofold ; saring, (verse 4,) and destroying. (Verses 6, 7.) Between these, David throws in an expression of his delight that the former (the saving results) were shared by himself and his house.
The first clause, literally translated, runs—“ A Ruler over men, just, a Ruler in the fear of God :” implying a Ruler over men generally, not over a single tribe or nation ; just or righteous, ruling in the fear of God. That the Messiah must be referred to, is abundantly plain by comparison with other prophecies. (Isai. xxxii. 1; xi. 1–5; ix. 6, 7; Micah v. 2.) In precise fulfilment of such predictions, righteousness was the foundation of all Christ's spiritual kingdom of all His mediatorial work; and the whole of that work was done in the fear of the Lord; with the highest conceivable reverence for the holy majesty of His law....... It is the grand characteristic of Christ's salvation, that it is through righteousness ; it is not less the characteristic of the life of His people, that it is a life of righteousnes
Next, the prophecy dwells on the effects of Christ's rule.
(1.) We have the saving effects (verse 4): “He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” The two emblems of this verse—the sun and the rain-are repeatedly applied to Christ in other places. Nothing could be more delightful than to follow out this beautiful imagery. As the Sun, Christ appears in His gladdening influences. The chief idea of the other emblem-grass after rain—is that of growth; fresh, healthy, beautiful development and progress.
Before proceeding to foretell the destructive effects of the Ruler's government, David throws in a congratulatory clause relating to himself, the meaning of which is sadly obscured in our translation : “Although my house be not so with God ; yet He hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure : for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although He make it not to grow.” This is commonly understood as an expression of his painful conviction that his house, or family, did not correspond to the character portrayed in the prophecy, and would not realize the emblems of the morning sun and the growing grass ; but that, personally, he was safe : God had made an everlasting covenant with him, which completely satisfied him, being all his salvation, and all his desire.
But the difficulties to this view are insuperable. It does not accord with the generous character of David. It does not harmonize with the unbounded affection he cherished for his children. It is most unsuitable to the context : when David, led by the Spirit, is describing the glorious character of the great Ruler, and the blessed effects of His rule, it were a strange comment on the gladsome picture to say that his own house had no interest in it, though, personally, he was an exception. But what decides the matter is, that such a view would be in complete contradiction to other
passages. Readers are often misled by not remembering that the term house denotes the reigning dynasty. In this sense, David's house had been the subject of most gracious promises. See 2 Sam. vii. 11-16. The terms of this passage, containing God's promise to build up "a house" to David, make it clear as noonday, that the covenant, “ordered in all things, and sure,” included David's house ; nay, that his house was even more prominently the subject of promise than himself.
Our translation is plainly at fault. The Hebrew conjunction which begins each of the four clauses of the verse, is rendered with unwarrantable diversity, although, yet, for, and although again. If it be translated uniformly for, and if the two negative clauses be put interrogatively, we get a clear and consistent meaning :
“ For is not my house so with God ?
in all things, and sure :
The facts entirely correspond with this interpretation. Was not David's house thus with God? Did not his own government, and that of many of his successors, wonderfully resemble Christ's? David—Solomon-AsaJehoshaphat-Hezekiah-Josiah : what other nation ever had such a line of Christ-like Kings? And as to the growth, or continued vitality, of his house,-its “clear shining after rain,”—had not God promised that Ho would bless it, and that it should continue for ever before Him? He knew that, though spiritually dormant at times, his house should survive, till a living Rod came out of the stem of Jesse, -till the Prince of Life should be born from it; and once that immortal Plant of renown was raised up,
* Boothroyd translates :
“ Is not my house thus with God ?
For with me He hath made an everlasting covenant,
And mine every desire will He not accomplish ? "
“ For is not thus my house with God ?
For He hath made with me an everlasting covenant,
Should He not make it to grow ?"
“ Is not my house so with God ?
For He hath inade with me an everlasting covenant,
there was no fear but the house would be preserved for ever. From this point, it would start on a new career of glory : nay, this was the very Ruler of whom he had been prophesying, at once David's Son and David's Lord,--at once “the Root and the Offspring of David, the bright and morning star.” Conducted to this stage in the future history of his house, he needed no further assurance, he cherished no further desire. The covenant that rested on Him, and that promised Him, was ordered and sure. The glorious prospect exhausted every wish of his heart : “ This is all my salvation, and all my desire.”
(2.) The remaining verses set forth the destructive effects of the great Ruler's government. In place of our translation, here also soinewhat obscure, we give that of Geddes :
VERSES 6, 7,
And to be burned, on the spot, with fire.” Some regard Christ's sceptre as a sceptre of mercy only; but there is an ominous combination of mercy and judgment in this, as in most predictions of Christ's kingly glory. In the bosom of one of Isaiah's sweetest promises, the Messiah declares that He was anointed to proclaim “the day of vengeance of our God.” A little further on, He appears in vision marching triumphantly “ with dyed garments from Bozrah,” after “treading the people in His anger, and trampling them in His fury.” Malachi saw Him at once as the Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings, and a burning furnace, consuming the proud and the wicked............ It could not be otherwise. The union of mercy and judgment is the result of that righteousness which is the foundation of His government. Sin is the abominable thing which He hates. Blessed are they who are persuaded and enabled to enter into union with Him ; but as for those who refuse to part with their sin, nothing remains for thein but destruction. “ The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
A DANGER WHERE LEAST SUSPECTED.
The following from a sermon preached by John Knox, about three centuries ago, has its counterpart in modern times :
“ When we were a few in number in comparison of our enemies; when we had neither Earl nor Lord, a few excepted, to comfort us; we called upon God, and took Him for our protector, defence, and only refuge. Amongst us was heard no bragging of multitude, of our strength, nor policy; we did only sob to God to have respect to the equity of our cause, and to the cruel pursuit of the tyrannical enemy. But since that
our number has been multiplied, and chiefly since my Lord Duke's Grace, with his friends, have joined with us, there was nothing heard but, “This Lord will bring these many hundred spears ;' This man has the credit to persuade the country ;' 'If this Earl be ours, no man in such bounds will trouble us :' and thus the best of us all, that before felt God's potent hand to be our defence, hath of late days put flesh to be our arm.”
THE TEMPTATION OF OUR LORD.*
The Holy Spirit, who led Jesus to the scene of His temptation, must be the Guide of all who would approach that scene to study its meaning. He alone is the Interpreter of its sacred mystery. To those who draw near without His influence, who put not off the shoes of their unhallowed speculation, it becomes a wilderness of temptation indeed. Alas, how many have been led thither, not by the Divine Spirit, but by Satan ; not to learn the lessons which the Lord's temptations teacb, but to tempt Him anew themselves ! Let us approach, therefore, with reverence, and fear, and faith.
But what go we out into this wilderness to see? One great sight-the conflict and victory of Jesus: ta be viewed by us, however, under two different aspects.
We see, on the one hand, the Captain of our salvation in His first decisive contest with the enerny of God and man; commencing, in His own anointed might, the work of our redemption. Of this contest we are spectators merely. Our Champion is alone with our foe; for here, as everywhere in she work of redemption,“ of the people there was none with Him.” As He finished the work upon the cross after all human dependents had left Him, so He begins it before the first disciple was called. It is the beginning of a deliverance wrought out for the race of map, but wrought out without man's aid. Of this mysterious conflict we see but little, and that little dimly. The preparatory agony in the wilderness, like the final agony of redemption, is for the most part shrouded in darkness. We behold
The writer of these pages has no higher ambition for them than that they should help to turn public attention to the admirable work of Mr. Wiseman, “ CHRIST IN THE WILDERNESS. This little book has been received with much favour; but its practical value is such as to make it desirable that it should go through the press again and again. The reader will find questions, which are obscurely hinted at in this essay, amply discussed by Mr. Wiseman, and with exceeding clearness. He will also find some things presented under another aspect ; and the appearance, ibough only the appearance, of a difference of theological view. The latter part of the volume redeems the pledge of the title-page in a manner that leaves nothing to be desired. As a temperate, reverent, and earnest exposition of the practical lessons. of our Lord's temptation, it has no rival. Obviously, therefore, it is a book which every Christian should try to possess for himself ;-it is not enough to borrow and rapidly read it; it should have a place in every theological and devotional library, It is one of several works which have lately done bonour to the Methodist press
only, so to speak, its final issues at the outskirts of the desert. But we see in His absolute victory the earnest of a full redemption, and bless God for a Deliverer thus proved “mighty to save."
On the other hand, we cannot but mark that the conflict is maintained, on the Redeemer's part, in the name of man. All that the Lord Himself has seen fit to tell His Evangelists too clearly defines our own temptations to admit of regarding ourselves merely as spectators. We cannot but feel, even if the later New Testament had not taught us to understand, that the tempted Jesus is our Representative as well as our Redeemer ;that He resists and conquers as an Example to everyone of His followers.
This twofold aspect of the temptation in the wilderness will regulate the brief hints of the ensuing pages. The distinction is not adopted for the sake of eluding the essential mystery which surrounds the subject itself; still less for the sake of diminishing that mystery. It will be seen that we are driven to it by theological necessity; while, at the same time, it is a convenient refuge both for our reverence and for our infirmity.
The preparations, the process, and the issues of our Lord's temptation exhibit it to us as a necessary element in His mediatorial work.
It was PREPARED FOR by His baptism, with which it is essentially connected. The Person who was tempted was the same incarnate Son of God concerning whom—in the mystery of His two natures, never more to be separated—the Father had said, “This is My beloved Sou.” The same One Person who went down into the waters of the Jordan as the Representative of a sinful world ; who received the baptism which symbolized the washing away of the sins of all who should be “buried with Him in baptism ;” upon whom the Spirit descended, as the pledge of His descent on all who should rise again with Him into newness of life ; who thus preliminarily fulfilled all righteousness, that His people might be able to fulfil it ;-was declared also to be the Son of His Father's infinite complacency, and was glorified, even here in the likeness of sinful humanity, as the second Person in the glorious Trinity made man. It was not the eternal Son of God, nor the man Christ Jesus, whom the Spirit marked out as the Redeemer of our race-but God manifest in the flesh. Him the Father this day finally sealed. His baptism at the beginning of His public official career was the seal set upon the holiness of His past life, and was His anointing and equipment for His future course—His own Day of Pentecost; but it was at the saine time His present designation as the new Head of the human race. This He had been from the beginning, but He was now solemnly exhibited to heaven and earth as such. Buman nature in Him is once more seen in its perfection. Let Us make man after Our image has been said a second time, and with a higher meaning. The heavens open around this new Man a new paradise, wherein the second Adam hears the primitive “very good” repeated and glorified in other and loftier words. He stands there alone as yet, but representing in Himself His bride the church, which had not yet taken her beginning from Him. Into this paradise Satan cannot enter; this holy Man he cannot overcome :-not