The Prince of the House of David
My Dear Father:
I have had the pleasure to-day, not only of hearing from you, but of being assured of your continued welfare. The messages of parental affection contained in your letter are cherished in my heart. The costly gifts of your generous love, sent by you with the letter, and which were safely delivered from your hand into mine, by your faithful servant Elec, will be worn by me with all a daughter’s pride. I regret to hear of the death of Rabbi Israel, while I rejoice that the high office he held with so much dignity, has been bestowed upon you by the Pro-consul; for though you may not need its emoluments, dear father, such selection is a flattering proof of the estimation in which you are held by the Roman Governor. You need not fear, my dear father, that I shall be carried away from the faith of Israel by any strange doctrines; I will take counsel by your wisdom, and be cautious how I adventure in my inquiries upon sacred ground. I have freely written to you for your advice, and I trust that you will not look upon my inquiries as expressions of doubt, but as searchings after what is true. I know you are read in the law above all Jews, and that any difficulties I may meet with in observing things here in Jerusalem, especially in the worship and ceremonies of the Temple, you will remove for me. In my last letter, which will not reach your hands for some days yet, I commenced giving you the narrative of John, the cousin of Mary, who went down into the wilderness to see and hear the prophet of Jordan. I will not take it upon myself to decide or form an opinion upon any thing yet, dear father, but state facts, and let your wisdom instruct me into the truths that may grow out of them. One thing which your letter states gratifies me, and gives me confidence; it is these words: "Do not fear that the integrity of the laws of Moses, or of the worship of the Temple, or the predictions of the Prophets, can be moved by any investigations that man can make into them, They are founded in truth, and will abide forever. The worship of Israel fears nothing from inquiry. But while you ask and question about sacred things, remember that they belong to God, and must be inquired into with awful reverence and profound humility. Any inquiries made into the prophecies with an eye to search out their day of fulfillment, are proper and useful; and as this day seems to be that of fulfillment rather than that of prediction, your studies may be suggested and directed by heavenly wisdom, and, if so, they will be guided to their true issue. As I am so far removed from you, I cannot judge concerning this prophet your first letter named as being in the wilderness; yet I should not be surprised if the fullness of time indicated by Isaiah were near at hand, for the events you enumerated seem to proclaim its approach: such as the lax worship in the Temple; the worship of the Roman idols on Mount Zion; the profanation of the altar; and the rule of the heathen over the empire of David. Let us fervently pray, my child, for the fulfillment of the prophecies, which promise Messiah to our stricken people! Let us supplicate for the rising of the Star of Jacob, the Prince of Peace, who shall erect his throne on Mount Zion, and whose wide dominion Israel shall lift up her head and rule the nations. My daily prayer, with my face towards Jerusalem, is, that I may live to behold the hope of Israel, and with my eyes see the splendor of the glory of Shiloh." These words of yours, my dear father, give me courage. I believe with you that the day of fulfillment of the Prophets is dawning; and perhaps is nearer than we believe. When I have completed the history of John’s journey to Jordan to hear the prophet, you will understand why I speak with such hopeful confidence; and you will agree with me that this preacher of repentance is not one of the class of false prophets, against whose chimeras your letter so properly cautions me. "We arose at dawn," said Mary’s cousin, in continuation of his interesting narrative, "and leaving the inn, we took our way out of the city, by the eastern gate, which we easily found, inasmuch as a quarter of the city was in motion, and moving in the same direction. Here we were detained by the Gentile guards for full half-an-hour, fill the multitude had become so immense as to tread one upon another, and fill the whole street. Nevertheless, we had to wait until the indolent Captain of the Gate chose to be disturbed in his morning repose, and then bathe his dainty limbs. and then break his fast, all which he did very deliberately, before he would suffer the gate to be opened! Such slaves are we to such masters! Oh, when shall arrive the day wherein, as saith Isaiah, ‘our gates shall be opened continually; they shall not be shut day nor night, that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought captives to our feet,’ "Having passed out of the gate, my friend of Arimathea and myself separated a little from the crowd, and crossed the plain towards Jordan. The morning was balmy; the sun made all nature glad. The dew reflected a myraid lesser suns, and the earth appeared strewn with diamonds. For a little way the road lay between fields of corn and gardens; but soon it crossed the open plain, on which were droves of wild asses, which lifted their small, spirited heads on our approach, eyed us with timid curiosity, and then bounded off to the wilderness outhward with the speed of antelopes. As the great body of the people took their way obliquely across the plain, we knew the prophet must be in that direction, as it proved, for we at length found him on the banks of Jordan, below the landing and ford, which is opposite Jericho, on the great caravan road to Balbeo and Assyria, that long and weary road so often traveled by our forefathers when they have been led into captivity–the road which so many kings have watered with their tears! We gazed upon it with emotions of sadness, and with tearful prayers that Jehovah would return and visit once more the remnant of his people, and not be angry with us forever! After we had approached the Jordan some distance above the ford, we beheld the multitude listening to the prophet far to the south of us, on the edge of the desert, which approaches in this quarter very near Jericho.
As we traversed the banks of the flowing stream, we came all at once upon a pillar of stones partly in the water. ‘This,’ said my companion, stopping, ‘is the Mount of Twelve Stones, which Israel set up to commemorate the passage of Jordan. Here they crossed on dry ground.’ ‘I counted them, and found but seven of them remaining. What vicissitudes, I reflected, had not Israel passed through since the hands of our fathers placed that heap together! Generations of judges and long lines of kings; captivities succeeding captivities; wars, conquests, and defeats, and subjection, finally, till we are no longer a people; having a ruler, indeed, but whose power is a mockery–a Herod, holding his authority at the courtesy of the Imperial Monarch of Rome. Alas, with the end of the reign of such a shadow of a king, the sceptre will forever depart from Judah!" he added, bitterly. "Then will Shiloh come!" exclaimed my cousin Mary, with animation, "Yes; Judah must be abased to the lowest step, before she can rise! And with Shiloh king, her glory will fill the whole earth," responded John, with hope once more beaming in his eyes. "At length we drew near the dark mass of human beings which we had beheld afar off, assembled around a small eminence near the river. Upon it, raised a few cubits taller than their heads, stood a man upon whom all eyes were fixed, and to whose words every ear was attentive. His clear, rich, earnest tones, had reached us as we approached, before we could distinguish what he said, He was a young man not above thirty, with a countenance such as the medallions of Egypt give to Joseph of our nation, once their Prince. His hair was long, and wildly free about his neck; he wore a loose sack of camel’s hair, and his right arm was naked to the shoulder. His attitude was as free and commanding as that of a Caucasian warrior, yet every gesture was gentle and graceful. With all his ringing and persuasive eloquence there was an air of the deepest humility on his countenance, combined with an expression of the holiest enthusiasm. The people listened eagerly to him, for he spake like the prophets of old, and chiefly in their prophetic words! His theme was the Messiah:
"‘Oh, Israel, return unto the Lord thy God, for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity,’ he was saying, as we came up, as if in continuation of what had gone before ‘Take with you words, and turn unto the Lord, and say unto Him: Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously. Behold, He cometh who will heal your backsliding, and will love you freely! He will be as the dew of Israel! He shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon! His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his fruit shall be for the healing of the nations! They that dwell under his shadow shall return and dwell evermore; and it shall come to pass that whatsoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered, for beside Him there is no Saviour.’ "‘Of whom speaketh the prophet these things?’ asked one who stood near me, of his neighbor, and then of me; for by this time we had taken places as close to the prophet as we were able; for I did not wish to lose one word that should fall from the lips of a man who could thus empty cities, and people the wilderness with their inhabitants. "‘Of Messiah–listen!’ answered him a Scribe near, as if not pleased to have his attention interrupted by his side talk. ‘His words are plain. Hear him.’ "‘Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, for the day of the Lord cometh!’ continued the prophet, in a voice like that of a silver trumpet; ‘for, behold, the day is at hand when I will bring again the captivity of Judah. The day is at hand when the Lord shall roar out of Zion and utter his voice from Jerusalem.’
"‘Art thou not Elias?’ asked one, aloud.
"‘I am he of whom it is written, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight a highway for our God. The day of the Lord is at hand. I am but the herald who is sent before to prepare the way of the Lord!’ "‘Art thou not the Messiah?’ asked a woman, who stood near him, and seemed to worship his very lips. "‘He who cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear!’ he responded, in the deepest humiliation of manner. ‘He who cometh after me hath his fan in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor and father the wheat into the garner; but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Therefore, repent ye, repent ye, take words and return unto the Lord your God. Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins; for the day cometh which shall burn as an oven, and take heed that ye be not consumed! The axe is laid at the root of the tree; therefore every tree that bringeth forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire.’ "‘Master,’ saith a Levite, ‘dost thou speak these things to us, who are of Israel, or to these Gentiles and Samaritans?’ for there were not a few Roman soldiers among the multitude, drawn hither by curiosity, and also many people from Samaria, nay, even from Damascus. "‘Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saith the Lord, for my people hath committed two evils; they have forsaken me, the fountain of the living waters, and hewn them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. The Lord hath made me this day an iron pillar and brazen wall against the whole land–against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priest thereof, and against the people of the land! And yet thou sayest, O, Israel, thou hast not sinned! Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backsliding shall reprove thee. Repent and do works meet for repentance, every one of you, for ye have polluted the land; neither say, where is the Lord that brought us up our of the land of Egypt? I am provoked to anger every day by your hardness of heart and stiff-neckedness. Amend, amend your doings! Trust not to lying words, saying the Temple of the Lord, The Temple of the Lord, The Temple of the Lord! Ye have made it a den of robbers! Your sacrifices therein are become an abomination to the Lord!’ "‘This would touch us who are priests, masters, and ’said a priest, with a crimson brow.‘We are not robbers.’ "‘Thus saith the Lord,’ answered the youthful prophet, as if it were God Himself speaking from Horeb, so that we trembled as we heard him: ‘Woe be unto the pastors that destroy my sheep; I will visit upon you the evil of your doings. How is the gold become dim–how is the most fine gold changed! The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed? Her priests were purer then snow! They were whiter than milk; they were more ruddy in body than rubies; their polishing was of sapphire! Their visage is blacker than coal; they feed the children of my people with ashes for bread! Woe to Zion, for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests! Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and seek in the broad places thereof, saith the Lord, if you can find a man that executeth judgment, that seeketh truth! Though they say the Lord liveth, surely they swear falsely. Hear ye this, O priests, and hearken, ye house of Israel! Woe unto you, ye priests, for ye have transgressed. I have seen in the prophets of Jerusalem a horrible thing; they commit adultery and walk in lies, saith the Lord. My people have transgressed for lack of knowledge! Therefore I will reject thee, saith the Lord; thou shalt be no priest to me since thou hast forgotten the law of thy God. Like people, like priests! Therefore doth the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein languisheth. Therefore do swearing and lying, and killing and stealing, and committing adultery, break our in the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. Woe unto you, ye priests!’ Many of the Levites then turned and left him, and went away greatly murmuring; and they would gladly have done the prophet a mischief, but they feared the multitude, who said he had spoken only the truth of them, ‘But the elders of Israel, who are not priests, who spring from Abraham, shall be saved by Abraham, master?’ asserted, or rather inquired, a rich ruler of our city, after the tumult caused by the withdrawal of the Levites had a little subsided. The youthful prophet rested his dark eyes, like two suns, upon the old man’s face, and said impressively, ‘Begin not to say within yourself, we have Abraham to our father, for I say unto your,’ he added, pointing to the pebbles at his feet, ‘that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. He is of Abraham who doth righteousness; therefore repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance.’ Here was heard some murmuring among a group of many Pharisees and Sadducees at these words, when, sending his lightening glance towards them, as if he could read their very hearts, he cried: "‘O generation of vipers! Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? The day cometh when he who is to come shall sit as a purifier by his furnace. Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance. Wash thy heart form wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. And ye, daughters of Judah, repent ye of the vain thoughts that lodge within you,’ cried he, addressing many females in rich apparel and plaited hair; ‘gird ye with sackcloth, lament and howl; put away these abominations out of my sight, and fear the Lord. Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thyself with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; for I hear the voice of the daughters of Zion bewailing themselves, and spreading forth their hands in the day when they are spoiled and despised for their iniquities. Repent ye for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! "‘Hear, O Israel! Am I a God at hand and not a God afar off, saith the Lord. Hear ye the message of the Most High, for the day hath come when Jehovah shall once more visit the earth and talk face to face with His creatures. Behold the day hath come saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David, a righteous branch, and a king to reign and prosper, who shall execute judgment and justice on the earth. "‘Behold the day hath come, saith the Lord, in which Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely, when I will set up shepherds over them, which shall feed them, and they shall lack nothing! "‘Arise! shine, for thy light is come! Hear, O Israel! for Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace; I will not rest until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. Arise! Shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee! Darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the people, as saith Esaias; but the Lord shall rise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. The Gentiles shall come to His light, and kings to the brightness of His rising. He shall be called THE LORD OF OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, and shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to proclaim the acceptable year of His coming. He hath set me a watchman upon thy walls, O Israel, and I may neither hold my peace day nor night, nor keep silence, nor seek rest, till He come, who hath sent me forth His messenger before His face. How can I refrain from my message of joy? How shall I not speak of His fame? His sons shall come from afar, and His daughters shall be nursed at His side. The people of the nations shall fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows, to behold, fall down, and adore Him. The isles shall wait for His law, and kings shall minister unto Him, even unto the Holy One of Israel. Saith He, I, the Lord, am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Say ye to the daughters of Zion, Behold thy salvation cometh; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. Ho, every one that thirsteth,’ he now cried, raising his voice like the chief of a host, till the farthest heard, ‘come ye to the waters; yea, come buy wine and milk, without money and without price. Incline your ear and come unto Him. Hear, and your soul shall love. Repent, keep justice and judgment; and prepare a contrite heart to offer Him when thou shalt behold Him; for thus saith the High and Lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place with him, also, that is of a contrite and humble spirit. Peace, peace to him that is afar off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord. "‘Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the ends of the earth: for thus saith Cod the Lord, He that created the heavens and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: Behold my servant whom I uphold–mine elect in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my spirit upon Him; he shall bring forth judgment tot he Gentiles; a bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench. I, the Lord, saith Jehovah, addressing the only begotten, I have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand and keep thee, and will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison. I am the Lord, that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another; yet have I made Him my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth. Look unto Him, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for unto Him every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Our Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel!’ "All this was spoken with an enthusiasm and fire that made every pulse bound.”Such," said John, "was the extraordinary style of this mighty prophet’s preaching; and to those who read the books of the Prophets, every word shone with the brightness of the sun. I fancied I had only to look around to behold the Messiah! The immense multitude stood awed and silent when he had ceased. I gazed upon him with adoring reverence. My heart filled with holy joy; for I now believed and knew that God had remembered Zion, and was about to display his wonders more remarkable on earth than ever had been witnessed before. Leaving the eminence, he said, and I thought he fixed his eyes on me, ‘Ye who desire to be baptized for the remission of sins, that your hearts may be cleansed for the visitation of this Holy One of God, follow me to the river side!’ Thousands obeyed, and I one of the first. I trembled all over with a sweet pleasure, when he took me by the hand, and asked me if I believed in Him who was to come, and would prepare the way for His abode in my heart by being baptized, which rite also was to be a sign and pledge that when I should behold the Shiloh rising, I should acknowledge Him. Not less than one thousand were baptized by him that day in Jordan, confessing their sins, and hopes of pardon through the name of the Unknown One, who was soon to come. Among these were Pharisees and Sadducees, rulers and lawyers, and one gray-headed Roman soldier. Joseph of Arimathea was not baptized, as he said he wished to examine into the extraordinary subject fully before he could believed. "After the baptism, the whole company dispersed in groups, and the prophet returned into the wilderness till the cool of the evening, where his repast was locust and the wild honey of the desert. When he re-appeared, he again spoke to an increased multitude. In this second sermon, he explained more clearly the application of the glittering chain of prophecies he had given utterance to in the morning, to Messias, and thus enabled me to discern more clearly the true character of the expected Messias than I had before done."
With this remark of his, dear father, I close my long letter. I make no comments. I will only say, that my expectations are actively awake, and that I am looking, with thousands of others, for the near advent of the Messiah.