Religious Studies, Sketches and Poems
Гарриет Бичер-Стоу

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"I will declare the decree.
The Lord hath spoken:
Thou art my Son;
This day have I begotten thee:
Ask of me and I will give the heathen for thine inheritance,
And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession."

This mighty king, this glorious defender, is celebrated as the All-Loving One. His reign is to be a reign of truth and love. All the dearest forms of human affection are used to shadow forth what he will be to his people. He is to be the royal bridegroom; his willing people the bride. So, in the forty-fifth Psalm, entitled "A Song of Love," we have the image of a mighty conqueror – radiant, beloved, adored, a being addressed both as God and the Son of God, who goes forth to victory: —

"Thou art fairer than the children of men.
Grace is poured into thy lips.
Therefore God hath blessed thee forever.
Gird thy sword on thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and majesty.
And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of thy truth and meekness and righteousness.
Thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.
Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.
A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
Thou lovest righteousness and hatest iniquity.
Therefore God – thy God – hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."

Then follows a description of the royal bride, the king's daughter, who is all glorious within – her clothing of wrought gold – who with gladness and rejoicing shall be brought to the king to become mother of princes.

It is said by some that this is a marriage hymn for the wedding of a prince. It may have been so originated; but in the mind of the devout Jew every scene and event in life had become significant and symbolical of this greater future. Every deliverer suggested the greater Deliverer; the joy of every marriage suggested the joy of that divine marriage with a heavenly bridegroom.

So the seventy-second Psalm, written originally for Solomon, expands into language beyond all that can be said of any earthly monarch. It was the last poem of David, and the feelings of the king and father rose and melted into a great tide of imagery that belonged to nothing earthly: —

"Yea, all kings shall fall down before him;
All nations shall serve him.
He shall deliver the needy when he crieth;
The poor also, and him that hath no helper.
He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.
He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence,
And precious shall their blood be in his sight.
And he shall live, and to him shall be given the gold of Sheba.
Prayer also shall be made for him continually, and daily shall he be praised.
His name shall endure forever.
His name shall be continued as long as the sun.
Men shall be blessed in him.
All nations shall call him blessed."

But in these same Psalms there are glimpses of a divine sufferer. In the twenty-second Psalm David speaks of sufferings which certainly never happened to himself – which were remarkably fulfilled in the last agonies of Jesus: —

"All they that see me laugh me to scorn.
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
He trusted in God that he would deliver him.
Let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.
I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax – it is melted in my bosom.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd.
My tongue cleaveth to my mouth.
Thou hast brought me into the dust of death.
For dogs have compassed me,
The assembly of the wicked have inclosed me;
They pierced my hands and my feet.
I may tell all my bones. They look and stare on me.
They part my garments among them
And cast lots for my vesture."

In this Psalm, written more than a thousand years before he came into the world, our Lord beheld ever before him the scenes of his own crucifixion; he could see the heartless stare of idle, malignant curiosity around his cross; he could hear the very words of the taunts and revilings, and a part of the language of this Psalm was among his last utterances. While the shadows of the great darkness were gathering around his cross he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It would seem as if the words so bitterly fulfilled passed through his mind, as one by one the agonies and indignities followed each other, till at last he bowed his head and said, "It is finished."

As time rolled on, this mingled chant of triumph and of suffering swelled clearer and plainer. In the grand soul of Isaiah, the Messiah and his kingdom were ever the outcome of every event that suggested itself. When the kingdom of Judah was threatened by foreign invasion, the prophet breaks out with the promise of a Deliverer: —

"Behold, the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son and shall call his name Immanuel [God with us]."

Again he bursts forth as if he beheld the triumph as a present reality: —

"Unto us a child is born
Unto us a son is given.
The government shall be upon his shoulders.
His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end,
Upon the throne of David and his kingdom,
To establish it with justice from henceforth and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this."

Again, a few chapters further on, he sings: —

"There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse
A Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him;
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and might,
The spirit of knowledge, and fear of the Lord.
With righteousness shall he judge the poor,
And reprove with equity for the meek of the earth."

Then follow vivid pictures of a golden age on earth, beneath his sway, when all enmities and ferocities even of the inferior animals shall cease, and universal love and joy pervade the earth.

In the fifty-third of Isaiah we have again the sable thread of humiliation and sorrow; the Messiah is to be "despised and rejected of men;" his nation "hide their faces from him;" he "bears their griefs, and carries their sorrows," is "wounded for their transgressions," is "brought as a lamb to the slaughter," is "dumb before his accusers," is "taken from prison to judgment," is "cut off out of the land of the living," "makes his grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death," and thence is "raised again to an endless kingdom."

Thus far the tide of prophecy had rolled; thus distinct and luminous had grown the conception of a future suffering, victorious Lord and leader, when the Jewish nation, for its sins and unfaithfulness, was suffered to go to wreck. The temple was destroyed and the nation swept into captivity in a foreign land.

But they carried everywhere with them the vision of their future Messiah. In their captivity and sufferings their religious feelings became intense, and, wherever they were, the Jews were always powerful and influential men. Daniel, by his divine skill in spiritual insight, became the chief of the Chaldean magi, and his teachings with regard to the future Messiah may be traced in those passages of the Zendavesta which predict his coming, his universal dominion, and the resurrection of the dead. Everywhere through all nations this scattered seed of the Jews touched the spark of desire and aspiration – the longing for a future Redeemer.

In the prophecies of Daniel we find the predictions of the Messiah assuming the clearness of forewritten history. The successive empires of the world are imaged under the symbol of a human body, with a head of gold, a breast of silver, body and thighs of brass, legs and feet of iron. By these types were indicated the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman nations, with their successive rule. In prophetic vision, also, a stone was without hands cut out of the mountains, and it smote the feet of the image, so that the whole of it passed away like the chaff of the threshing-floor.

How striking this description of that invisible, spiritual force which struck the world in the time of the Roman empire, and before which all the ancient dynasties have vanished!

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