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Lecture Fifty-First.

In yesterday’s Lecture I explained my views of the seventy weeks. I now return to the words of the Prophet, on which I touched but briefly. He first says, Seventy weeks have been cut off upon thy people, and upon the holy city By these words he implies first, the Israelites should be under the care and protection of God until the arrival of Christ; and next, Christ would come before the completion of the seventy years. The angel announces these two points, to assure the faithful of God’s perpetual remembrance of his covenant, and to sustain them in the midst of all their anxieties and distresses. A remarkable passage now follows concerning the office of Christ. The angel foretells what they were to expect from Christ. First of all, he announces remission of sins; for he points this out by the form of expression, to prohibit or close up wickedness, to seal up sinfulness, and to expiate iniquity. It does not surprise us to find the angel using many phrases in a matter of such importance. Such repetition in the language seems to us superfluous, but the knowledge of salvation is comprehended under this head. We are thus informed how God is reconciled to us by gratuitous pardon, and this is the reason why the angel insists on this subject by so many words. (Luke 1:77.) But we must remember what I said the day before yesterday-there is a tacit contrast between the remission now offered to us under the Gospel, and that formerly offered to the fathers under the Law. From the creation of the world no one could call upon God with a tranquil mind and with sure confidence, unless by relying upon the hope of pardon. For we know the door of mercy to be closed against us all through our being deservedly under God’s wrath. Hence, unless the doctrine of gratuitous remission of sins shone forth, we should enjoy no liberty of calling upon God, and all hope of salvation would be at the same time extinct. It follows, therefore, the fathers under the Law had this benefit in common with us, namely, a certain persuasion of God’s being’ propitious to them, and of his pardoning their transgressions. What, then, is the meaning of the phrase, Christ at his advent will seal up sins, and expiate iniquities? Here, as I have said, a difference is shewn between the condition of the old and the new Church. The fathers indeed had hopes of remission of their sins, but their condition was inferior to ours in two respects. Their teaching was not so plain as ours, nor were their promises so full and steadfast. We excel them also in another respect. God bears witness to us that he is our Father, and so we flee to him with the utmost freedom and fearlessness; and, in addition to this, Christ has already reconciled us to the Father by his blood. (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6.) Thus we are superior to them, not only in our instruction, but in effect and completeness, since at this day God not only promises us the pardon of our sins, but testifies and affirms their entire blotting out and becoming abolished through the sacrifice of Christ his Son. This difference is openly denoted by the angel when he says, Sins should be closed up and sealed, and iniquities also expiated when Christ came. Hence we stated previously how something better was promised than the fathers experienced before the manifestation of Christ.

We here perceive the sense in which Christ shut up sins, and sealed wickedness, and expiated iniquity; for he not only introduced the doctrine of gratuitous pardon, and promised that God would be entreated by the people, through his desire to pardon their iniquity, but he really accomplished whatever was needful to reconcile men to God. He poured forth his blood by which he blotted out our sins; he also offered himself as an expiatory victim, and satisfied God by the sacrifice of his death, so as entirely to absolve us from guilt. Moses often uses the word חטא, cheta, when speaking of sacrifices; but the angel here teaches us indirectly how all the expiation’s under the law were only figurative, and nothing but shadows of the future; for, had sins been then really expiated, there would have been no need of the coming of Christ. As, therefore, expiation was suspended until the manifestation of Christ, there never was any true expiation under the law, but all its ceremonies were but shadowy representations. He afterwards adds, To bring in eternal righteousness This righteousness depends on the expiation. For how could God reckon the faithful just, or impute righteousness to them, as Paul informs us, unless by covering and burying their sins, or purging them in, the blood of Christ? (Romans 4:11.) Is not God himself appeased by the sacrifice of his Son? These phrases, then, must be united, Iniquity shall be expiated, and eternal righteousness brought manifestly forward No righteousness will ever be found in mortal man, unless he obtain it from Christ; and if we use great accuracy of expression, righteousness cannot exist in us otherwise than through that gratuitous pardon which we obtain through the sacrifice of Christ. Meanwhile, Scripture purposely unites together remission of sins and righteousness, as also Paul says, Christ died for our sins, and rose again for our justification. (Romans 4:25.) His death procured satisfaction for us, so that we should not always remain guilty, nor be subject to the condemnation of eternal death, and then by his resurrection he procured righteousness for us, and also acquired eternal life. The reason why the Prophet here treats justice as perpetual or “of the ages,” is this: the fathers under the Law were compelled to please God by daily sacrifices. There would have been no necessity for repeating sacrifices, as the Apostle admonishes us, if there had been any inherent virtue in a single sacrifice to appease the Almighty. (Hebrews 10:1.) But since all the rites of the law tended to the same purpose of foreshadowing Christ, as the one and perpetual victim for reconciling men to God, daily sacrifices must necessarily be offered. Whence, as we formerly said, these satisfactions were plainly insufficient for procuring righteousness. Therefore Christ alone brought in eternal righteousness, — his death alone sufficed for expiating all transgressions. For Christ suffered, not only to satisfy for our sins, but he sets before us his own death in which we should acquiesce. Hence this eternal justice depends upon the enduring effect of the death of Christ, since the blood of Christ flowed as it were before God, and while we are daily purged and cleansed from our pollution, God is also daily appeased for us. We observe, then, how righteousness was not completely revealed under the law, but is now set before us under the Gospel. It follows, To seal up the vision and the prophecy

This clause may have two senses, because, as I said before, Christ sealed up all visions and prophecies, for they are all yea and amen in him, as Paul says. (2 Corinthians 1:20.) As, therefore, God’s promises were all satisfied and fulfilled in Christ for the salvation of the faithful, so with propriety the angel affirms of his advent, It shall seal up the vision and the prophecy. This is one sense. The other is, the vision shall be sealed in the sense of its ceasing, as if the angel had said, Christ shall put an end to prophecies, because our spiritual position differs from that of the fathers. For God formerly spoke in many ways, as the Church had to pass through a variety of conflicting states and circumstances. But when Christ was manifested, we arrive at the close of prophetic times. Hence his advent is called the fullness of times, (Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 1:1;) and elsewhere Paul says, we have arrived at the last days, (1 Corinthians 10:11,) since we are waiting for the second advent of Christ, and we have no need of fresh prophecies as formerly. Then all things were very obscure, and God governed his people under the dark shadow of a cloud. Our condition is in these days different. Hence we are not surprised at the angel pronouncing all the visions and prophecies sealed up; for the law and the prophets were until John, but from that time the kingdom of God began to be promulgated; that is, God appeared much more clearly than before. (Matthew 11:13; Luke 16:16.) The very name of vision implies something obscure and doubtful. But now Christ, the Sun of righteousness, has shone upon us, and we are in meridian brightness; the Law appears only like a candle in the government of our life, because Christ points out to us in full splendor the way of salvation. Without doubt, the angel here wished us to distinguish between the obscure teaching of the Law, with its ancient figures, and the open light of the Gospel. Besides, the name “prophecy” is taken as well for the prophetic office as for the predictions delivered.

He afterwards adds, To anoint the Holy of Holies The angel here alludes to the rite of consecration which was observed under the Law; for the tabernacle with its appendages was consecrated by anointing. It is here shewn how the perfect and truly spiritual anointing was put off until the advent of Christ. He is himself properly and deservedly called the Holy One of holy ones, or the Tabernacle of God, because his body was really the temple of deity, and holiness must be sought from him. (Colossians 2:9.) The Prophet here reminds us of the anointing of the sanctuary under the Law being only a figure; but in Christ we have the true exhibition of the reality, although he was not visibly anointed with oil, but spiritually, when the Spirit of God rested upon him with all his gifts. Wherefore he says, (John 17:19,) For their sakes I sanctify myself.

It now follows, Thou shalt know and understand, from the going forth of a word, (or decree,) for the bringing back of the people and the building of Jerusalem, until Christ the Leader, shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks, and the people shall returns, (or be brought back,) and the street shall be built, and the wall, (or trench,) and that too, in the narrow interval of the times; for thus I resolve the copula. As we have already said, the time which had been fixed beforehand for the perfect state of the Church is divided. In the first place, he puts seven weeks by themselves; he then adds sixty-two weeks, and leaves one, of which we shall afterwards speak. He immediately explains why he separates the seven weeks from the rest, rendering every other interpreter unnecessary. Next, as to the going forth of the edict, we have stated how inadmissible is any interpretation but the first decree of Cyrus, which permitted the people freely to return to their country. For the seven weeks which make up forty-nine years clearly prove this assertion. From the beginning of the Persian monarchy to the reign of Darius the son of Hystaspes, the hostility of all the neighboring nations to the Jews is notorious, especially in interrupting the building of their temple and city. Although the people had free permission to return to their country, yet they were there harassed by hostilities, and were almost induced to repine at this mark of God’s favor. A great part of them preferred their former exile to a harassing and perplexing life spent among their most cruel foes. This is the reason why the angel informs them of the seven weeks to elapse after the people should be brought back, for they must not expect to spend their life in peace, and build their city and temple without any inconvenience; for he announces the occurrence of this event in the narrowness of the time By the word צוק, tzok, he does not mean “shortness,” but rather signifies the anxious nature of the times, in consequence of the numerous troubles which all their neighbors should bring on the wretched people. It was worth while to support the pious by this previous admonition, lest they should cast away the desire of building the temple, or become utterly desponding through the weight of the afflictions which they must bear. We know what glowing predictions the prophets uttered concerning the happy state of the Church after its return; but the reality was far different from this, and the faithful might have been quite drowned in despair unless the angel had raised their spirits by this prophecy. We thus perceive the great utility of this admonition, and at the same time it may be applied as a practical example to ourselves. Although God’s loving-kindness to us was wonderful, when the pure Gospel emerged out of that dreadful darkness in which it had been buried for so many ages, yet we still experience the troubled aspect of affairs. The impious still ceaselessly and furiously oppose the miserable Church by both the sword and the virulence of their tongues. Domestic enemies’, use clandestine arts in their schemes to subvert our edifice; wicked men destroy all order, and interpose many obstacles to impede our progress. But God still wishes in these days to build his spiritual temple amidst the anxieties of the times; the faithful have still to hold the trowel in one hand and the sword in the other, as we find it in the book of Nehemiah, (Nehemiah 4:17,) because the building of the Church must still be united with many contests. It afterwards follows: —

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