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OF CHRIST'S PROPHETICAL OFFICE.
Acts iii. 22.—A Prophet shall the Lord your
unto you, of your brethren like unto me: him shall ye hear in all things what
soever he shall say unto you. Having shewn that the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Redeemer, is invested with, and actually executes the offices of a Prophet, Priest, and King, I come now to speak of these offices distinctly; and shall begin with his prophetical office, which is plainly asserted in the words now read.
Here the apostle Peter shows the Jews, Moses pointing to Christ as the great Prophet of the church. Moses had told the Israelites in the wilderness, Dent, xviii. 15. ^ The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.' Peter tells the Jews, that this eminent Prophet was now come, and exhorts them to submit unto his instructions. In the words we have,
1. A description of Christ as to his prophetical office, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you.
Where 1st, Christ is described by his title, a Prophet, and that the Prince of all the Prophets, or the 'great,' or 'chief Shepherd,' as he is styled by the apostles. It belongs to a prophet, by virtue of his office, to expound the law, declare the will of God, and foretel things which are to come. All these meet in Christ our great Prophet in a singular and eminent manner.
2dly, He is here described by his type; 'a Prophet like unto me,' says Moses; who therein typified and prefigured Christ. But you may say, is it not said of Moses, Deut. xxxiv. 10. There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. I answer, It is true indeed of a mere man there never arose so great a prophet in Israel as Moses was, either in respect of his familiarity with God, or of the miracles which he wrought by the efficacy of the divine power. Moses, however, was but a servant, and Christ a Son: Moses was but a star to this Sun, and derived all his light and knowledge from him. All the prophets under the Old Testament, however eminent were but Stars, and borrowed all their light from the Sun of righteousness. Nevertheless there were several things wherein Christ was like to Moses ; such as, Moses and Christ were both persecuted in their infancy, Moses was a deliverer from the temporal, but Christ from the spiritual Egypt, of which the former was a figure. But more particularly, Christ was like to Moses,
(1.) In this great intimacy and familiarity with God. It is said, Exod. xxxiii. 11. that 'the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.' He spake with Moses freely, familiarly, and immediately; not by an angel, in a dream or vision, as he did to other prophets. Now Christ was like Moses in this respect, and far excelled him in it; for he was intimate with God from all eternity, Prov. viii. 30; he was with God,' John i. 1. and lay in his bosom, knowing all his counsels and purposes.
(2.) Christ was like to Moses in the excellency of his ministration, and his great faithfulness in the discharge of it. It is said, Heb. iii. 2. • He was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. As the office of Moses extended to the whole house of God under the law, and to all the service of it; so did Christ's reach to the whole church of God, and to all the service of it under the gospel. As Moses was appointed of God to give out what ho delivered; so was Christ appointed by his Father to institute what he did institute, and abrogate what he did abrogate. As Moses was faithful to him that appointed him in all the matters of God's house, keeping back nothing that he was commanded to reveal; so was Christ faithful to the Father, who did appoint him in like manner; yea, Christ far excelled Moses, as the apostle shews, Heb. iii. 3. 4. 'For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, in as much as he who hath builded the house, hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.'
(3.) Moses was a prophet that mediated between God and the people, He carried God's mind to them, and returned their mind to God, because they were not able to hear the voice of God immediately themselves, Deut. xviii. 16, 17. So Christ is a Mediator between God and man; he deals with God for man, and with man for God.
(4.) As Moses confirmed his doctrine by many miracles which he wrought in the presence of the people to their full conviction ; so our great Prophet is like unto Moses in this also: for ho wrought many mighty miracles in the view and face of the world, which could not be denied, and thereby confirmed the doctrine which he preached, and verified the divinity of his person and mission.
, 3dly, Christ is here described by his stock and lineage from which he sprung according to the flesh, 'A Prophet shall the Lord raise up of your brethren; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came,' says the apostle, Rom. ix. 5. Ile was an Israelite: and it is evident that ho sprang from the tribe of Judah, lleb. vii. 14. He put great honour and dignity upon that people and nation by his nativity and descent from them.
2. There is a strict injunction given of obedience to this Prophet: Him shall ye hear in all things. By hearing, in this place, we are to understand obedience : and this obedience is required to be given to this Prophet only, universally, and under great penalties. (1.) It is required to be given to him only; for so him in the text must be understood as exclusive of all others. It is true, we are commanded to obey the voice of his messengers and ministers, Heb. xiii. 17. but still it is Christ speaking by them to whom we are to pay our obedience. He that heareth you (says he), heareth me.' We are to obey them in the Lord,' i. e. commanding and forbidding in Christ's name and authority. (2.) This obedience must be given to him universally: 'Him shall ye hear in all things.' Whatever he enjoins must presently be complied with; his commands are to be obeyed, not disputed. It is true, a judgment of discretion is allowed to Christians, to judge whether it be the will of God or not. We must 'prove what is the holy, good, and acceptable will of the Lord,' Rom. xii. 2. And whenever his will is understood and known, we have no liberty to chuse, but must conform ourselves to it, be the duty commanded ever so difficult, or the sin forbidden ever so pleasing and tempting. (3.) This obedience is required under a very severe penalty, even no less than being cut off and destroyed from among the people, and of God's requiring it at our hands, Dent, xviii. 19. Acts iii. 22. 'I will require it of him;' i. e. revenge myself in the destruction of the disobedient. This obligation laid on men to obey the great Prophet, is not a prediction, more than the commands, ' Thou shalt not kill, Thou shall not commit adultery,' &c.
The doctrine natively arising from the text is, Doct. ' Christ is a Prophet, and, as the Redeemer of his people, exe
cutes that office, in revealing to them, by his word and Spirit, the will of God for their salvation. In discoursing this doctrine, I shall shew,
I. What is implied in Christ's revealing the will of God for our salvation.
II. What is that will of God that Christ reveals.
IV. For what ends he reveals the will of God, and the necessity of this revelation in order to our salvation.
V. Lastly, Make some improvement.
1. I am to shew what is implied in Christ's revealing the will of God for our salvation, wherein Christ's prophetical work lies. It implies, 1. That as it is God's determined will and purpose that some of
mankind shall be saved, so he has laid down a certain way and method for their salvation, out of which none can be saved, and in which all that take it shall be saved.
2. That the discovery of this method of salvation was a secret of God that man could never have found out, John i. 18. It was a counsel in the breast of God, which, for man or angel, might for ever have lain hid.
3. That our Lord Jesus was intimately acquainted with this will of God, John i. 18. He was in the bosom of the Father.' He was privy to his eternal counsels, as being the eternal Son of God. And therefore he needed not be carried to heaven, to hear and learn from God what he was to teach ere he began to preach to the world, being 'God manifested in the flesh,' 1 Tim. iii. 16. Neither did he ascend unto heaven oftener than once, and that only after he had suffered, Heb. ix. 12.
4. That unto Jesus Christ we owe the discovery and revelation of the divine will. He is the fountain of all that light which points out the way to salvation, Isa. lv. 4. I have given him, (says the Lord), for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. He is that true pillar of cloud that guides to the heavenly Canaan; and no beams of saving light shine on the world but from him, John iii. 13. and in the face of Jesus, 2 Cor. iv. 6.
II. I proceed to shew what is that will of God that Christ as a Prophet reveals. It is the will of God for the salvation of sinners, and that the whole will of God in all things concerning their edification and salvation. It is the word of his grace which is able to build them up,' Acts xx. 32. It is written, that ye might believe, —and that believing ye might have life.'
This may be reduced to two heads.
1. Faith. Man was broken off from God and his favour and fellowship. 'It was the will of God, that man should come and be reunited to him in the way of believing in a slain Redeemer. This Christ has revealed in the gospel. Therein he has laid open the mystery of reconciliation, as laid down betwixt the Father and him from eternity, in all the parts thereof, and this by his word and Spirit to teach his own children.
2. Obedience. Man, as he could not, so he knew not how to serve acceptably. Christ has also fully discovered that point. And therefore we find him at his prophetical work, expounding the law, and vindicating it from the false glosses of the Pharisees, Matth. v. vi. vii. and every where not only shewing men what to do, but how to do it.
More particularly, as the will of God denotes all that God would
have us to know, believe, and do, in order to our salvation; and as there are some things to be known as the foundation of our faith, some things to be believed, and some things to be done in point of duty, as the fruits and effects of true saving faith; so these particulars being the objects of Christ's teaching, I shall mention a few of them very briefly.
1. Christ makes known to us our original state, that holy and happy condition in which man was made; of which I gave you a specimen in the discourse concerning the creation of man. Man was then a holy and happy creature, the peculiar favourite of heaven, and endued with choicer prerogatives than all the creatures in this lower world. It is necessary for us to know this, that we may not accuse God of that sin and disorder which now prevails in our constitution, and renders us objects of the divine abhorrence ; and may be unwearied till we regain our forfeited felicity. This is a matter of pure revelation, and is accordingly taught us in the inspired volume.
2. Christ reveals to us our misery and wretchedness by the fall. This I also endeavoured to open up to yon in the course of this work. Man, by sin, lost communion with God, fell under his wrath and curse, and is liable to temporal and eternal miseries. This miserable state, though also a matter of revelation, is well known to all the descendants of Adam, so that they feel it in their sad experience, and they have no need to be taught it. But Christ teaches his people this doctrine in a manner that the rest of the world are strangers to. And therefore,
3. Christ reveals to us our woful impotency and inability to help ourselves. This is the fatal consequence of the fall, and has been partly mentioned in the foregoing part of this work. 'O Israel, (says the Lord), thou hast destroyed thyself; but in mo is thine help,' Hos. xiii. 9. which says, that though our ruin is of us, our help is not in us. Hence men in their natural state are said to be without strength, incapable to deliver themselves from the wretched state into which they are plunged by sin. Man is so deeply sunk in the horrible pit, that it passes the skill and ability of men or angels to pull him out. He cannot atone offended justice, or expiate his sin. This deplorable state of man is revealed in scripture, and savingly only to the elect, by the Saviour of sinners.
4. Christ reveals as a Propliet, that there is a way found out, and a method laid down in the adorable depths of divine wisdom, whereby poor sinners may be delivered from sin and wrath, and obtain eternal salvation. For this discovery we are indebted to divine revelation Of this I have spoken under the covenant of grace.