The hearers of John believed that he preached to them the Kingdom predicted by the Prophets, and in the sense held by themselves.
PROPOSITION 40. The hearers of John believed that he preached to them the Kingdom predicted by the Prophets, and in the sense held by themselves.
This follows from the preceding Propositions, and is also admitted by many eminent writers.
Obs. 1. The Jewish belief in a restored Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom has been noticed (Prop. 20), as supported by the grammatical sense of the prophecies (Prop. 21), and the election of the nation (Prop. 24), etc. The preaching of John, giving no explanation of the Kingdom, indicative that the Kingdom is something well Known (Prop. 19), and the employment of current phraseology without change of meaning (Props. 22 and 23), etc.—all proves the correctness of our position.
Obs. 2. The grammatical sense was the only one then used in relation to the Kingdom, producing unity of belief in a restored Davidic Kingdom.[*]
Note. Even the Rabbins, who had already largely perverted Scripture by allegorical and mystical interpretations, still clung with unswerving faith to the plain grammatical sense when it related to the Kingdom. The testimony on this point is overwhelming; as much of it is presented under various Propositions, it need not be repeated.
Obs. 3. The unity of belief in the same restored Kingdom is evidenced by John’s preaching of the Kingdom raising up no disputation concerning it. Had he preached the modern view, it would inevitably have excited disputes and appeals to the prophets.
Obs. 4. The exclusiveness (Prop. 29) of the Jewish nation, the prophecies describing but one Kingdom (Prop. 35), etc., forbid the idea that there was an antagonism of belief between the preacher and the hearer. There might be a difference of opinion respecting the imposed condition of repentance, but there could be none concerning the Kingdom so far as related to its essential nature.
Obs. 5. This fact of a unison of view respecting the Kingdom alone satisfactorily accounts for the exceeding brevity with which it is mentioned. It is taken for granted that no difference of opinion existed.
Obs. 6. The unity of agreement also accounts for so little descriptive of the Kingdom being given in detail in the New Test. It was fully known and described in the prophets; now to have entered into a detailed statement and particularized the restored Davidic Kingdom, would unnecessarily have excited the open hostility of the jealous and persecuting Roman Empire.[*]
Note. Cimarus and others have made this feature an objection to John the Baptist and Jesus, viz.: that devoted to the Jewish ideal of a Kingdom, the restored Davidic, they virtually became conspirators against the authority of the Cęsars. This is nothing new, for it was this accusation that influenced Pilate to give up Jesus to crucifixion, and led to the just superscription of the cross. The whole matter rests upon the priority of claims, the justness of conquest, the authority of God, the manner of introducing the Kingdom, etc. Foreseeing, as we shall show, the result, the greatest prudence was exercised in this matter to avoid unnecessary persecution, and when it was finally known that the Kingdom was postponed to the Second Advent, to be introduced by the power of Jesus Christ, then, in view of the prophecies which foretold their continued existence down to the Advent, believers were taught that the existing governments were ordained or appointed of God—not that they were sacred (as claimed), but allowed as a necessary requirement, etc.
Obs. 7. This unity of agreement is also seen in John doing his preaching in the wilderness—that is, east from Jerusalem in the open country, away from the large cities. He and his hearers, both believing in a restored Davidic Kingdom, and he endeavoring by repentance to prepare the nation for its coming, those large gatherings of Jews and the preaching of such a Kingdom would necessarily have excited inquiry and the pressure of Roman power. Hence (especially in view of the foreseen rejection) the utmost caution, consistent with John’s mission, is observed.[*]
Note. If the modern prevailing view of the Kingdom is the correct one, no reason can be assigned for John’s avoidance of the centres of influence, as e.g. Jerusalem.
Obs. 8. The agreement of opinion is seen in the disciples of John, who, as far as known, held to the coming of the restored Davidic Kingdom under the Messiah.
Obs. 9. John and his hearers certainly had no other views than those entertained by following preachers of the Kingdom, as e.g. the apostles; see Acts 1:6.
Obs. 10. The agreement of opinion is frankly admitted by many of our opponents, whom we have quoted, and whom we shall hereafter quote, as e.g. Knapp (Ch. Theol.), Neander (Life of Christ, etc.), and others.
Obs. 11. It is in view of such agreement of opinion that Ecce Homo declares (p. 13, etc.) that John tried to renew the old Covenant by promising “the restoration of the ancient Theocracy,” adding, “he had renewed the old Theocratic Covenant with the nation. But not all the nation was fit to remain in such a covenant,” etc.