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strains which would have done honour to the muse of Homer, warbled from the lips of a dying man, of a man too, labouring under the utmost bodily decays of age, and over whose head no fewer than 147 years had past!
But the most valuable part of the prophecy, is that which relates to the incarnation of Jesus Christ: The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and to him shall the gathering of the people be.
Of all regal ornaments, the sceptre is believed to be the most ancient. And, probably, its origin was extremely simple. It seems to have taken its rise from the crook, wielded, in earliest times, by the harmless hand of a shepherd. Agreeably to which idea, the Hebrew verb significs, he fed, he exercised the office of a shepherd; and, likewise, he ruled, he governed as a magistrate. So the Greek word Tony, a shepherd, is derived from the verb which imports, both to feed, and to govern. staff, primarily the instrument and the emblem of pastoral superintendency, appears to have been, from thence, transferred to the hand of royalty. So that, whenever kings look upon their sceptre, that significant ensign of authority should remind them of the tender affection they owe to their people; and of that fine lesson, addressed to each of our English bishops at the time of their consecration (a lesson equally proper for princes, as for prelates): "Be to the flock of Christ, a shepherd, not a wolf. Feed them: devour them not. Hold up the weak. Heal the sick. Bind up the broken. Bring again the outcasts. Seek the lost. Be so merciful, that you be not too remiss: so minister discipline, that you neglect not mercy (a)." Some ancient sceptres (particularly of the earlier kings of France) are affirmed to have been considerably longer than a mo
(a) Office for Consecration of Bishops.
dern walking-stick, and to have been curved at the higher end, exactly like a shepherd's rod. The Greek word gov (from whence the Latin sceptrum, and the English sceptre) properly denotes a staff, or wand, of sufficient length for a person to lean upon : and the Hebrew aw is, in strictness, a staff, made of a shoot, or straight bough of a tree. Such as were the staves of the primitive shepherds and herdsmen.
By that sceptre, which, for a given time, was not to depart from Judah, is undoubtedly meant, the administration of temporal power. Hence the Septuagint render the passage, by Ουκ εκλείψει αρχων εξ Ιεδα, A supreme governor shall not fail out of Judah; i. e. the supreme government in that tribe, shall be Jewish, until the Messiah's advent. The words, sceptre, and lawgiver, are here explicatory of each other; and mutually denote, a series of native governors, who should rule the Jewish nation according to its own law. And the sense of the whole is, that Judah should continue a distinct tribe by itself; and that its civil jurisdiction should, under some form or other, and with a greater or less degree of authority, remain in Jewish hands, until the Incarnation of. God the Son: but that, He being come, the Jews should, soon after, lose their intrinsic power and authority, as a nation; cease to be governed, by rulers of their own; be ultimately dispossessed of the land, in which they had so long dwelt; and subjected to the dominion of the Gentiles, among whom they should be dispersed, and sifted as in a sieve, over the whole earth. Every tittle of which came, accordingly to pass.
On this illustrious prophecy, uttered almost eighteen hundred years before the birth of Christ, profane history may be considered as the best commentary. We there find, that the sceptre did (not actually depart, but) begin to depart from Judah,
or verge towards a departure, within little more than half a century prior to our Lord's Nativity, when Jerusalem was besieged and taken by Pompey; and Aristobulus II. then king of Judea, was sent prisoner to Rome.
As the manifestation of God in human flesh drew nearer, the symptoms of the departing sceptre grew still more visible. The successive expeditions of Gabinius, of Crassus, and of Cassius, against this devoted people, contributed to prepare the way for the fulfilment of Jacob's prediction: and, in fact, proclaimed, that Shiloh would soon appear.
The sceptre, however, was not hitherto departed from Judah: their civil power and independency, though checked, were not extinguished. They were still governed by magistrates of their own; and were even treated, on various occasions, not as dependants, but as friends and allies of the Roman
A few years lower, when Herod (flatteringly surnamed the Great), a native of Edom, was appointed Tetrarch (and soon after king) of Judea, chiefly by his interest with Mark Antony; the prophecy drew nearer to its accomplishment. But though the throne was now for the first time, filled by a foreigner; still, that foreigner was a professor of Judaism. Herod revered, or at least affected to revere, the Mosaic institutions; and even rebuilt the temple at a vast expence. The subordinate magistry, also, consisted of Jews; as did the sanhedrim, which was their highest court of judicature. The sceptre, therefore, though departing fast, was not entirely gone from Judah, ere Shiloh came. Christ was born, towards the close of this Herod's reign: i. e. while the political and ecclesiastical constitution of Judea were subsisting. Herod, indeed, was in some sense tributary to the Roman
empire: but the Jews themselves were, for the most part, in full possession of their civil and religious rights.
When our blessed Saviour was about twelve years of age, the sceptre totally departed from Judah. For, Herod (who died while our Lord was yet an infant) was succeeded by his son Archelaus; which Archelaus, after reigning about ten years, was deposed and banished by the emperor Augustus. From thenceforward, the tribe of Judah, which had so long been distinguished by its dignity and preeminence, was reduced to a Roman province, and became an appendage to the empire. Quirinius, prefect of Syria, was commissioned to take possession of the country, in the emperor's name; and Coponius, a Roman knight, was sent to preside over it, as lieutenant governor.
Thus did the sceptre, at length, depart from Judah, and a lawgiver from between his feet. Augustus drove the nail to the head; and Titus clinched it, within forty years after our Lord's crucifixion ; when the city and temple were utterly destroyed, and those of the Jews, who escaped immediate death, were sold for slaves into every part of the known world.
In this manner, does divine providence give completion to its eternal and immutable purposes. All the predicted events that ever came to pass, and this among the rest, are so many standing proofs of God's predestination and foreknowledge. Necessity is but another name for certainty of event; without which, there could be no such thing as infallible foreknowledge, and without infallible foreknowledge, there could be no such thing as infallible prophecy.
Such exact and wonderful accomplishments prove also the divine original of the scriptures. Most of the leading incidents, whether civil or sacred, of general importance either to the church or to the world, were foretold in the Bible. The four universal mo
narchies, for instance; the advent, the sufferings, the resurrection, and the ascension, of the Messiah; the miraculous descent of the Holy Ghost; the abolition of the Levitical economy; the ruin and dispersion of the Jews; the calling of the Gentiles; the ten general persecutions; the vast spread of Christianity through the Roman empire; the rise, progress, and continuance of Popery, and of Mahometism; with a multitude of great events beside, were circumstantially foretold in the sacred writings of the Old and New Testament. From hence results such an invincible demonstration of the truth of Christianity, as all the infidels in the world will never be able to surmount, while the sun and moon endure. We ourselves know and see, that many of the scripture prophecies have been completely fulfilled; and that others of them are now fulfilling, even at this very time. Thus, with regard to the Jews, we have all the evidence it is possible to have, that the prophet Hosea wrote by divine inspiration, when he affirmed (chap. iii. 4.), that the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without sacrifice, and without an ephod, and without teraphim. This has actually, and literally, been the case with them, for rather more than 1700 years past; and continues to be so, at this present moment. Every Jew we meet, is a living proof, that the sceptre is indeed departed from Judah, and a lawgiver from between his feet.
It is certain, therefore, that the promised Shiloh is come; and Jesus Christ the righteous, in whose childhood the sceptre departed, is both the Son of the Most High God, and likewise the true Messiah, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did
, Shiloh, may be rendered the Son; also the Saviour; likewise, the peaceable, and the prosperous one. The Septuagint translates, or rather paraphrases it, by ra arоx, i. e. he for whom [all]