The Prince of the House of David
My Dear Father:
Although but three days have elapsed since I completed my last letter to you, I am so solicitous to have your judgment and counsel upon the remarkable events now occupying the public mind of Israel, that I cannot withhold giving you the further relation of the remaining circumstances connected with the visit of Mary’s cousin, John, to the divine prophet of Jordan.Inasmuch as his words have made a deep impression upon my mind, and moved me to believe with him in the truth of this prophet’s words, it is proper that you should know me all that he has told me, and which have influenced my feelings and opinions, in order that you may judge of the weight and value at what all I have heard is to be estimated; and be assured, dear father, that I am ready to be governed in all things by your wisdom and learning. Listen, then, with your usual goodness, to the residue of this young man’s narration. "After the prophet had ended his second discourse, and baptized full two hundred more in the sparkling waters of Jordan," resumed the eloquent cousin of Mary, "he sent them away to the city to lodge and buy meat; for few, in their eagerness to hear him, had brought provisions with them. Many, before leaving him, drew bear to receive his blessing of love, and it was touching to see venerable men, with locks shining like silver, and leaning upon the staff, bend their aged heads before the youthful Elias, as if in acknowledgment of his divine commission. Mothers also brought their infants, that he might bless them; and youths and maidens knelt reverently at his feet in tears of love and penitence. Calmly he stood upon the green shores, like an angel alighted upon earth, and blessed them in words all new to our ears, but which thrilled to our hearts with some secret power that agitated us with trembling joy. "‘In the name of the Lamb of God I bless thee!’ "What can be the meaning of these words?" asked Mary, with her gentle earnestness. Her betrothed could only reply that he knew not. "At length, one after another, the multitude departed, save a few who encamped beneath trees on the banks of the river. Joseph of Arimathea and I were left almost alone standing near the prophet, and regarding him with reverential curiosity. The sun was just disappearing over the distant towers of Jericho, and painting with the richest purple the hills between the river and Jerusalem. Jordan, catching its reddening radiance, rolled past like a river of liquid gold embanked in emerald. The brow of the prophet, lighted up by a sun-ray that shone between the branches of a pomegranate tree, seemed like the face of Moses when he came down from Sinai, a glory of light. He appeared rapt in heavenly meditation, and we stood silent and gazed upon him, not daring to speak. At length he turned towards us, smiled, and saluting us, grasped the crook of staff on which he had been leaning, for he was weary and pale with his labors of the day, and slowly walked down the shore in the direction of the wilderness. He had not advanced many steps when I felt an irresistible impulse to follow him. I burned to talk with him–to sit at his feet, and ask him questions about the great things I had heard him utter in both of his discourses! I wished him to explain and unfold what had seemed mysterious, and yet teeming with mighty revelations. I panted for light–for knowledge. I yearned to have him open the Scriptures to me, and give me that unlimited understanding of them which he possessed. I therefore said to my companion: "‘Let us follow him, and learn more of those great things which we have this day heard.’ "Joseph, like myself, being anxious to hold converse with him, at once assented, and we proceeded slowly after him, as he moved in a contemplative mood along the desert path. The sun had already gone down, and the full moon rose on the opposite shore, and the prophet stopped as if to gaze upon its autumnal beauty. We drew near to him. He beheld us, but did not avoid us; seeing which, I advanced with timid confidence, and said: "‘Holy prophet of the Most High God, wilt thou permit two young men of Israel to speak to thee, for our hearts yearn towards thee with love?’ "‘And we would fain keep thee company in the desert, Rabbi,’ added Joseph, ‘for it does not seem well for thee to dwell thus alone.’ "‘But chiefly,’said I, ‘we would inquire of thee teaching the advent of the Mighty Personage whose near running thou dost foretell.’ "‘Friends,’ said the prophet, in a calm and serene manner, ‘I am a dweller in the desert, and alone, from choice. I approach men only to proclaim my message. The delights of earth are not for me. My mission is one. Its duration is short. Its aim worthy the greatest prophet of God, yet am I, the least of them, not worthy to be called a prophet; and before the splendor of Him whom I announce to the world, I am the dust of the balance. If thou hast sought me to search after knowledge, come and sit down with me upon this rock, and let me hear what thou hast to ask of me, that I may answer thee and go my way.’ "This was said softly, gently, almost sadly, and in a tone that made me love him more and more. I could have cast myself upon his bosom and wept there; for I was deeply touched that one should be chosen by Jehovah to become his prophet to earth, and yet show such lowliness of heart and sincere humility. We seated ourselves, one on either side of him, for he refused to permit us to place ourselves upon the ground at his feet, saying reproachfully, as he did to those whom we had seen kneel to him, ‘I, also, am a man!’ The scene and the hour were well fitted for such a converse as we were about to hold. The broad disc of the moon poured a flood of orangetinted radiance full upon us, and lent a hallowed softness to the divine countenacne of the youthful prophet. The Jordan, dark as India’s dye, darted swiftly past at our feet, between its deeply-shaded banks, sending up to our ears the faintest murmur of its pebbly passage. Above our heads swelled the vaulted arch of the Temple of Jehovah, with its myriad of altar fires. To our left lay Jericho, just visible, looking like a black mass of castellated rock, unilluminated save by a single watch-fire which burned upon its loftiest tower. Behind us stretched the desert waste, cheerless and yet grand, in its desolated distances. "Afar off rose upon the air, and was borne to us at intervals, the voice of a singer in one of the camps; and near us, upon an acacia tree, sat a solitary bulbul, which ceaselessly sang its sweet and varied hymn to the listening moon. "‘All things praise God–shall we be silent?’ said the prophet. ‘Let us sing the evening hymn of the Temple.’ He then commenced, in a rich, melodious chant, such as I have never heard from the priests, our sacred psalm to the whole creation of God. We joined our voices with his, and the tide of praise floated over the waters, and echoed and re-echoed from the opposing shores, as if the banks and stream, trees, hills and sky, had found voice as well as we:
Praise! praise! praise ye the Lord!
Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him in the seas!
Praise Him men of Israel! Praise ye the Lord!
For He exalteth high His people,
And reigneth evermore!
Praise Him all ye angels! Praise Him all ye hosts!
Praise Him sun and moon, and all ye stars of light!
Praise Him fire and hail! Praise Him storm and snows!
For He judgeth the earth in righteousness,
And reigneth evermore!
Praise! praise! praise ye the Lord!
Praise Him winged fowl, and herds, cattle, and all beasts!
Praise Him kings and people, princes, priests, and judges!
Praise Him youths and maidens, old men, and children!
Praise the name, let them praise the name,
Praise the name of the Lord God of Hosts!
For His name alone is excellent,
His glory above the heavens:
Israel is His first-born–a people well beloved’
Praise! let Israel, therefore, praise Him!
Praise Him evermore,
"Never shall I forget the effect produced upon my inmost being by this hymn, sung at such a time, and in such a place, and in such company. The prophet sang as if he was leading a choir of angels. My heart leaped at the chorus, as if it would break our, take wing, and leave the earth! When we called on the winds and the fowls of the air to praise Jehovah with us, it may be fancy, but the thrilling voice of the bulbul seemed to pour from its throat a wilder, richer, more joyous tide of song, and the audible wind bent the adoring trees, and mingled its mystic whispers with the psalm of men! Surely, thought I, it is good for me to be here, for this is none other than the gate Paradise! "After a few moments’ silence, the prophet spoke and said: "‘You sought me, brethren of Israel, can I do aught for you?’ "‘We would hear more, great prophet, touching this mighty man, if man he may be termed, who is to come after thee,’ said Joseph. "‘I can tell thee but little, my brethren, save what thou hast heard from me this day. The future is veiled. I bear a message, indeed, but I may not break the seal and read. I am but the courier of God to man. To you it will be given to know what is now unknown to me. Happy, thrice happy are ye who will behold, face to face, the Divine One whom I can only behold afar off. If it be permitted me to see Him, it will be but for a brief space, for when He cometh I depart–my errand is done. Blessed are those who live to witness His glory, and to hear the gracious voice of God that proceeds from His anointed lips.’ "‘When will be His advent, and with what form and power cometh this Divine being?’ I asked. "‘As a man, but not with comeliness of form that men should desire Him. His appearance will be humble, lowly, and meek.’ "‘Yet you said today, Rabbi,’ I continued, ‘that His power should be infinite, and that of His kingdom there should be no end. You spoke of the glory of His dominions, and the humiliation of Gentile kings beneath His sceptre.’ "‘This I cannot explain–it is a mystery to me! I speak as God, by whom I am sent, gives me utterance. I know that He who cometh after me is greater than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose!’ "‘You taught us this evening, holy prophet, that He would be the Lord from Heaven; and yet that Esaias saith He will be despised and rejected of men, wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities!’ "‘The Spirit of God teaches me that these words apply to Shiloh; but I cannot comprehend how these things can be,’ he answered, with deep sadness. "‘May I remind you, good Rabbi,’ said Joseph, ‘that you taught us how that this Divine Personage should die, though Lord of Life, and be numbered in His death with transgressors, though the Holy one of God!’ "‘And such will be the events that are ordained to happen; but seek not to know what no man hath had revealed to him. The Divine Messiah Himself must be his own interpreter. Blessed will be the eyes that behold Him, and listen to the wisdom of His mouth, and keep the law of His lips!’ "‘May I ask you, holy prophet of the Lord,’ said Joseph, ‘how is it that He whom you are sent by God to bear witness to can be the Deliverer of Israel, when you predict for Him so sad a fate? Messiah is to restore Jerusalem, and the glory of the Temple, and the splendor of its worship, so saith Esaias, so say Ezra and Jeremiah. He is called a Mighty Prince, a King, the Redeemer of Israel, who shall rule the nations and have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth! We, therefore, in the Messias of the Prophets, have looked for a powerful potentate, who shall reign in Jerusalem over the whole earth, and subdue all nations, bringing their kings captive at His footstool, and binding their princes with chains: before whom every knee shall do homage–a Monarch who shall not leave a heathen sandal to tread on the sacred soil of Judea, and who shall establish the worship of Jehovah in every place where now rises a temple of idolatry.’ "‘His kingdom is not of this earth,’ answered the prophet, impressively. "‘How then can we interpret the Prophet David, who maketh the Lord to say: I have sent my King upon my holy hill of Zion? Also, how shall we interpret those saying of Esaias, who, prophesying of the blessed Christ of God, hath these words: "‘Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth, even forever?’ "‘I know not. These secrets are with God. I can reveal nothing. I am but the trumpet through which Jehovah speaks; I know not the words I utter. This I know, that the least child and lowliest hireling that liveth in the day of Messias is greater than I. I am the last of the prophets. I stand on the threshold of that glorious kingdom, the greatness and brightness of which they saw afar off, like some heavenly, indistinct vision. Nearer than they, I am permitted to catch clearer glimpses of its glory, and it may be vouchsafed to me to see more than I now see; but of this I have no certain revelation. It is for me to open the last door that leads our form the night of prophecy into the glorious dawn of the day of fulfillment; but I am not permitted to enter beyond the threshold, or share in its blessings. All who come after me will be preferred before me. But the will of Jehovah be obeyed! I am His creature, and to murmur becomes not dust. Rather let me rejoice that the day-star is about to rise, though His beams shine on all the earth but me’ This was said with the most touching pathos. "We were both deeply moved, I myself even to tears, at hearing these words spoken by him. My heart yearned towards him with the most sacred sympathy. I sank on my knees, and kissing his hand, bathed it with my tears. "He gently raised me, and said in a sweet voice: "‘Brother beloved, thou shalt see Him to whom I bear witness, and He will love thee, and thou shalt repose in His bosom!’ At this saying," continued the cousin of Mary, whose voice was tremulous with lively sensibility as he spoke hereof, "I burst into tears; and, rising, I walked a little ways apart, and lifting up my eyes towards heaven I prayed the God of our fathers that I might be found worthy of this blessed honor." "‘And shall I also behold this mighty Son of God?’ asked Joseph, with solicitude. "The prophet took his hand in his, and fixing upon him his eyes of prophetic brightness, said slowly, and in tones awe-inspiring and painfully sorrowful: "‘Thou shalt one day bear him in thine arms, and lay him upon a couch which thou hast prepared for thine own repose. Thou knowest not now what I say, but thou shalt remember it when it cometh to pass!’ "When he had thus spoken, he rose, and waving his hand to us both, he walked rapidly away towards the desert, and was soon lost to the eye in the obscurity of the darkness which hung over it. "‘Didst thou hear him?’ at length, after some minutes’ pause, asked Joseph of me. ‘What can his words mean? They are prophetic of some fearful event. His eyes betrayed some terrible meaning. My heart is troubled.’ "‘And mine rejoiceth,’ I answered. ‘We shall see Him! I shall be near Him! Oh, if He be like thus sweet prophet of God, I shall love Him with all my soul’s being. How wonderful that we are to be thus associated with this Divine Person! Welcome the hour of His blessed advent!’ "‘Wilt thou welcome the advent of a sufferer?’ said a voice so near that it startled us by its abruptness, and, looking round, we saw, standing within the shadow of a wild olive tree, a young man who was a stranger, but to whom I afterwards became deeply attached. His face was pale and intellectual, and his form slight, but of the most symmetrical elegance. His question at once made me sorrowful, for it recalled the sad prophecies of Esaias. "‘He is also to be King and Monarch of the world, and infinitely holy and good,’ I said. ‘If thou hast been near, thou hast heard the glorious things the prophet has spoken of Him.’ "‘I have been near–I was reclining beneath this tree, when you seated yourselves there. Be not deceived. The Divine Man who is to come is to be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He is to be rejected by Israel, and despised by Judah. Those whom He comes to bless will despise Him for His lowliness and obscurity. His life will be a life of tears, and toil, and heaviness of heart, and He will at last be cut off from among the living, with the ignominy due only to a transgressor. Dost thou welcome the advent of a sufferer?’ "‘But how knowest thou this? Art thou a prophet?’ I asked with surprise and admiration. "’No, brother, but I have read the Prophets. I heard, moreover, the words of this holy man, sent from God, and he dwells more on the humility of the Christ that on His kingly grandeur. Believe me, the kingdom of Shiloh is not of this world. It cannot be of this world, if such is to be His life and death; and that it is to be His life, Esaias clearly states. let me read to you his words.’ He then took a roll of parchment from his bosom, and read by the clear tropical moonlight, that mysterious nd inexplicable passage which beginneth with the words: ‘Who hath believed our report?’ When he had ended, and perceived the assenting impression he had made upon our minds, he resumed: ‘This is not the history of a prosperous earthly monarch, but rather the painful record of a life of humiliation, of shame, and of contempt.’ "‘But thou dost not say, brother,’ said Joseph, with some warmth, ‘that the sacred person borne witness to by this prophet if to be an object of contempt?’ "‘Does not Esaias say that he will be despised, beaten with stripes, rejected of men, imprisoned, and put to death like a transgressor of the law?’ "‘This prophet of Jordan now bears full testimony to Esaias, and plainly maketh application of his words to Him whom he has come beforehand to proclaim,’ answered the young man, with singularly graceful eloquence in all he said. ‘Let us who have been baptized this day for the remission of our sins, expect a Messiah of sorrows, not a conquering prince. Let us behold one who is humble Himself beneath the yoke of human infirmities, that He may be exalted and draw all men after Him to a kingdom in the heavens.’ "‘But the throne of David’–objected Joseph– "‘Is at the right hand of God.’ "‘But Jerusalem, and its rule over the nations–’ "‘Jerusalem that is above, will be over all.’ "‘But His kingdom that is to be everlasting–’ "‘Is where life is everlasting. How can He rule an everlasting realm here on earth, without living forever, and his subjects also? Read not the Prophets so. As Adam fell and lost Paradise, so Messias, like a second Adam, must, as man, humble Himself in human nature, to atone for our guilt; and having made full atonement for us by His life and His death, He will repurchase the kingdom of Paradise for the race of man; but He restores it to us not on earth, but translated on high, where the angels still guard it in the kingdom of God. It is this kingdom which this prophet proclaims as being at hand, and the path to which our leader and king can only tread through the mire of Adam’s sin, which spreads through this world; but without taint of sin upon His robes. he being the bearer of our iniquities, we shall thereby escape their chastisement. Healed by His stripes, we shall be free from th penalty which our sins demand. Laid upon Him will be the transgressions of the world; and by one mighty sacrifice of Himself, thus laden, as a sin-offering, He shall make atonement for the great family of Adam, and restore our race to reconciliation with Jehovah. Such is to be our looked for Messiah. Alas, while we look for Him, let us mingle tears with our gladness, and humble ourselves, that one so holy and excellent should be destined to endure these things for our sakes; and when we behold Him, let us sink at His feet in grateful adoration of His love and charity, of His mercy and goodness, of His noble self-denial and voluntary upgiving of Himself as a sacrifice for us; for there could be no higher or more valuable victim than Him in the Universe of God, therefore He hath offered Himself, according to the words of the prophet recording His offer, ‘Lo, I come to do thy will, O God!’ "When the young man had spoken, he walked away. Impelled by an unconquerable impulse, I followed, and took him in my arms, and embracing him, said: ‘Of a truth thou art a prophet! The words come home to my heart like the echo of ancient prophecy.’ "‘Nay. I have learned these things from the study of the Scripture,’ he said, with angelic candor and modesty. ‘But I have been aided, how much I have no words to tell thee, by one who hath wisdom and truth abiding in him above all men, and whom it is my happiness to have my bosom friend, as he is near my own age. If I am wise, or virtuous, or good, or know the Scriptures, it is that he hath been my counsellor and teacher.’ "‘What is his name?’ I asked, ‘for I also would go and learn of him.’ "‘He withdraws from the public eye, and hath little converse but with few, and shuns all notice. Without his permission I could not take thee to him. Yet I will ask him, if you desire it.’ "‘What is his appearance, and where doth he dwell?’ I inquired, more deeply interested. "‘ He abides at present at Bethany, my own city He is so beloved by us, that we detain him as our guest. But he dwelleth at other times with his mother, a holy widow of great sanctity and matronly dignity, living at Nazareth in humble conditions, and he contributes by labor to her support, with the most exemplary filial piety; thus setting an example to the young men of Judah, who in this age make a mock at parental restraint, and under the evil practices which the free license of the wicked custom of Corban giveth, neglect them, and no more do aught for their father or mother. Indeed, no person ever approaches and speaks with him, without leaving him a wiser and better ,am.’ "‘Verily,’ said both Joseph and I together, ‘you have only increased our desire to behold him. His appearance must be noble.’ "‘He possesseth neither beauty of form nor comeliness to strike the eye; but there sits upon his brow a serene dignity, tempered with mildness that commands the respect of age, and wins the confiding love of childhood. His eyes beam with a light, calm and pure, as if shining from interior holy thoughts, and they rest upon you, when he speaks, with a tenderness that is like the dewy light of the young mother’s gaze, when she bends in silent happiness and tears over the face of her firstborn. He never smiles, or rather his face is one soft sunshine of smiling rays, tempered in an indescribable manner with a settled look of sadness, an almost imperceptible shade of permanent sorrow, that seems to foreshadow a life of trial and suffering. When he reads from the Prophets, and unfolds to us with wisdom that can regard only as given him from heaven, the great truths that relate to the long-looked-for, and, as we now believe, the near-present Messiah, he seems to speak by inspiration, yet without emotion, but calmly and naturally, in a low-toned voice, that is never lifted up at any time, nor ever heard in the streets.’ "‘He must be another prophet,’ said Joseph, with deep earnestness. "‘He does not prophesy, nor preach,’ answered the young man. "‘What is his name?’ I asked. "‘Jesus, the Nazarene!’ "We both promised to remember this name; and as our way to Jerusalem lay through Bethany, we wished much to call and see him; but this step the young man mildly objected to, until, he having made known our wishes to him, he then might, if he desired to see us, send into Jerusalem for us to go to Bethany. "As the young man was then about to move away, I asked him his name, as he had greatly drawn our my heart towards him, and I felt that if I could be his friend, and the friend of the wise young man of Nazareth, who sojourned with him, I should be perfectly happy, and have no other desire–save, indeed, to live till the Messiah came, that I might behold Him, and lay my head upon His sacred bosom. "‘My name is Lazarus, the Scribe,’ he answered, as he took his leave." "What," interrupted Mary, when her cousin had spoken this name, "then I know him well. It is the brother of Mary and Martha, both my friends at Bethany, where I passed a week last year, just before the Passover." "I am glad to hear that," said John, "for this will be a closer bond of friendship between us. The next day we renewed our acquaintance, and after three days departed together homeward. Upon arriving at Bethany Lazarus learned that his friend had gone to Cana, in Galilee, on a visit with his mother, to the house of one of her kinsfolk, whose daughter is in a few weeks to be married." Having now, my dear father, communicated to you all that John related to us, you will see what grounds there are to look upon the prophet of Jordan as a man sent from God, or to believe that he is the true Elias, whom Malachi hath foretold, and who, as the most learned of the Scribes say, must first come to proclaim the approach of the Prince of Peace, the Shiloh of Israel’s hopes. My emotions, my ideas, my opinions, at present, are conflicting and full of indecision. On one hand, I am ready to become one of John of Jordan’s disciples, and be baptized of him. Looking with faith unto Him who is to come after. On the other hand, I tremble lest all should be a delusion, for it does not seem possible that it is my lot to live in that blessed age when Messiah cometh, a period towards which all the patriarchs and prophets have looked, desiring to see His day, but died without possessing the promise, beholding it only afar off. The infinite greatness of this privilege is all that causes me to doubt. Instruct me, dear father; open to me the treasures of your wisdom! Thou art read in the Prophets. Doth the youthful prophet of the wilderness truly use their predictions in their applications to Messias? Is it that the intellectual Lazarus truly drew the sad portraiture of His dark career on earth? How are the opposing prophecies to be reconciled in another manner than the young man of Bethany has unfolded them? Explain to me one other interpretation, dear father, how He can be both king and a prisoner! Lord of life, yet sufferer of death! With a kingdom boundless as the world, yet despised and contemned of men! The account brought by John has set Rabbi Amos to studying the Prophets, and indeed all men are looking into them with interest unknown before; for the multitudes that go away from the new prophet noise his predictions abroad, throughout all the land. May God be indeed about to bless His people, and remember His inheritance!