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The John Newton Project

Messiah No. 11


[1]
No 11 col

Zechariah 9:9,10

[Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem:
behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation;
lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.  
– And he shall speak peace unto the heathen
.] [2]
 
The narrowness and littleness of the mind of man, is in nothing more conspicuous than in the idea he forms of magnificence and grandeur. The pageantry and parade of a Roman triumph, or of an Eastern monarch, as described in history, exhibits him to us, in what he himself accounts his best estate. If you suppose him seated in an imperial carriage, arrayed in splendid apparel, ornamented with jewels, preceded and followed by a long train of guards and attendants, surrounded by the unmeaning acclamations of ignorant multitudes, and possessed of a power to oppress and tyrannize over them at his will without control, you see the poor worm at the summit of his happiness. He has no conception of anything greater than this. And the spectators are generally of the same mind. They admire and they envy his lot, and there is hardly a person in the crowds around him, but would think himself happy to take his place, were it practicable. Yet this great little creature would surely be mortified, if in the height of self- complacence he considered, that he had the very same regard for a pre-eminence in finery, the same desire to be admired and envied, and felt the same kind of satisfaction in distinction above his fellows, when he was a child of ten years old. He is in effect a child still, only he has changed his play-things, and now acts upon a larger scale, but with the same trifling and contracted views.

How different was the Messiah's entry into Jerusalem, foretold in this prophecy, and the accomplishment of which we read in the Evangelists. And how differently was he affected with the objects around him. He poured contempt upon the phantom of human glory. This King of kings and Lord of Lords. [3] He was meek and lowly, riding upon an ass’s colt. And though a sent divine influence constrained the multitude to acknowledge his character and with some accommodation to the customs of the times to strew their garments and palm branches in the way, as they proclaimed the King who came in the name of Jehovah. He appeared unmoved by their applause. No human historian could have thought of what engaged his mind in that situation. The Saviour must be divine, his historian must be inspired – the fact must be true, for it could never have entered into the heart of man to invent it, that this meek and lowly Saviour, took no notice of the zeal and homage of his friends, because his heart was filled with compassion for his enemies who were thirsting for his blood, and were at that time actually conspiring his death. Then it was that from the brow of the hill, he beheld the city, and wept over it.

The passage of the Messiah which is next in order, after the chorus of the heavenly host, is taken from these verses – it does not include the whole. In one clause there is a small alteration in the expression but not in the sense. Instead of He is just, having salvation, it is ‘He is the Righteous Saviour’ [4]. The first news of his birth was to the shepherds. He lived in retirement for a season. But in due time he appeared in public, and perhaps at no time during his humiliation, did he permit so public an acknowledgement to his person and character as when he rode into Jerusalem upon the ass’s colt.

In the words selected from these verses to which I shall confine myself, we have:
1. The address:
Daughter of Zion and Jerusalem. That is, the inhabitants, according to the Hebrew style. They are called upon as the professing people of God. They had the prophecies and promises of his coming in their hands, and they said they were expecting him. But when he came, though he came to his own, his own nation, city and temple, the bulk of them, of his own people, received him not. Some there were who truly waited for the hope of Israel – many were convinced by his gracious words and works, that he only had the words of eternal life, and became his followers. He who was to enlighten the Gentiles, to speak peace to the heathen, was the glory of his people Israel.
2.
The call:
to great joy: Rejoice and shout.
11 rejoice
The sinner’s pressures are great – his joy therefore is proportionable in the knowledge of a deliverer. A light to them that sit in darkness, health to the sick, food to the hungry, and to the weary, rest, are desirable. Thus he was known among them and thus he is still.
 
But the most rejected this call – despised the gift of God, and made the foundation stone of hope a stumbling stone on which they fell and perished. Thus they did with the Scripture in their hands and under the forms of religion. The Messiah may be, has been, yea and is often opposed thus by professed Christians.
3. The cause of joy:
Thy king cometh. Jesus is a king. This title he avowed to Pilate, who affixed it upon his Cross. He is King of nations, King of worlds - but the text speaks of him as King of saints, of Zion – his kingdom is not of this world, nor like the kingdoms of the world.  Happy are his subjects, that dwell under his shadow. He rules them with a golden sceptre of love and has an iron rod to bruise and break the power of their enemies. He reigns in his own right, and, by their full and free consent, in their hearts. He reigns upon a throne of grace, having authority to pardon all sins, fullness to supply all wants, power to subdue all opposition.
  11 reigns
4. The characters of this King:
  Righteousness His kingdom is founded in righteousness – the effect and reward of his obedience unto death. All that his people receive and expect is for his sake – and in pleading their cause he is their righteous advocate – and therefore he says, Not, I ask, but, I will, that they be with me where I am that they may behold my glory. [5]
  A Saviour having salvation – in himself. Wisdom, ability, compassion, and a fixed determination to save from guilt, from Satan and sin, from and through all the snares and evils of this life – and to the uttermost, till he places them forever out of the reach of danger.

And this not to Israel only. He shall speak to the heathen. Though alienated from God by evil works and an evil conscience, he engages to reconcile them, and to bring those near who were once afar off. By the knowledge of him, their prisons shall be opened, their chains broken, their condemnation reversed, and they shall be received and accepted in the Beloved as the true children of Abraham. He shall likewise conciliate peace between Jew and Gentile, make of both one people – pulling [down] the walls of separation and prejudice – that with one heart and mind they may love, serve and praise him. In Christ Jesus all distinctions vanish. Colossians 3:11. [6]
We expect a time when this promise will be fulfilled more extensively and literally. When the kingdom shall be the Lord’s over the earth and the nations shall learn war no more. But from these characters of the Saviour we may collect the character of his people. They beholding his glory are changed into the same image. They bear every feature either in resemblance or correspondence.

They are righteous – in their principles, aims and conduct.

Their tempers, desires and hopes derived from him, prove them a saved people.

His love teaches them to love one another, and to exercise benevolence to all, raises them above the influence of names, parties and divisions – frees them from the narrow workings of self and enables them to put on as the elect of God, bowels [7] of mercy, longsuffering and Colossians 3:12. [8] Thus he speaks peace, and all their angry, tumultuous passions are hushed into a calm.

Such is the spirit and tendency of his Gospel. Let us try ourselves by this touchstone, measure ourselves by this rule – weigh ourselves in these balances of the Sanctuary. [9] They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, have put off the old man, and are renewed in the spirit of their minds. If he is your King – where is your love, reverence and obedience? If he is your Saviour, you must feel and others must observe a difference from what you once were.

If you should be convinced that you are not a Christian in deed, but only in name, it will be a good beginning. For it is not too late. He is a righteous Saviour – seek him as such, and he will speak peace to you also.
 


Endnotes:
 
[1] Since No. 10 became two sermons, Newton initially wrote No. 12 for this one, but then corrected it to No. 11. In the printed version, his double sermon for 10 was combined into one sermon, as he had originally intended, so this sermon is definitely No. 11.
[2] KJV verse 10: “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.”
[3] Revelation 19:16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
[4] The second half of Zechariah 9:9 is ‘he is just and having salvation, lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.’ whereas the libretto for Handel’s Messiah has abridged this to ‘He is the righteous Saviour’.
[5] John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
[6] Colossians 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
[7] ‘bowels’ in the AV corresponds to ‘hearts’ in modern versions – the place where affections are felt
[8] Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
[9] Daniel 5:27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. The Scriptures are the standard against which we should weigh ourselves; they are for us ‘the balances of the sanctuary’.


Acknowledgements:
Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's Messiah notebook
 

Marylynn Rouse, 07/01/2015


Article printed from johnnewton.org at 20:38 on 13 December 2019