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to a height never before attained. The Grecian tongue was almost every where read or spoken. Free access was had to all nations, and the Gospel could easily be preached to every creature under the whole heaven.
In concluding the second great period of the history of the Church, let us pause and reflect on the wonderful providence of God. He had now protected and preserved her during a period of 4000 years, while nation after nation had risen and sunk like the waves of the ocean. All the prophecies respecting her and the nations of the earth, which were due, had hitherto been strictly fulfilled. The four great empires had risen in succession, and had been the rod of God's anger, or instruments to her good. All the sacrifices and offerings of the law, had fully shadowed forth the one great sacrifice, which was now to make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness. “ Her walls had been continually before him.” The past was a pledge for the fulfilment of promises of future good. He who raised up the four vast monarchies of the earth, would now set up a kingdom which should never be destroyed, and which should break in pieces and consume all kingdoms." Well might all people exclaim with an heathen prince, “How great are his signs, and how mighty are his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.”
FROM THE BIRTH OF CHRIST TO THE PRESENT TIME.
Birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus circumcised. Welcomed by saints and angels. Worship
ped by the wise men. Sought for by Herod. Carried into Egypt. Conversant at twelve years with the Doctors. Lives in retirement until thirty years of age. Birth, character, and work of John the Baptist. Jesus baptized by him, and consecrated to the Priesthood. Christ's ministry. Abolition of the Jewish, and establishment of the Christian Church. Christ's Priesthood. His death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus, King in Zion. Evidences of his divine mission.
Jesus Christ, the Savior of men, was born of the virgin Mary, at Bethlehem in Judea, in the year of the world four thousand; four years before the vulgar era. His miraculous birth was foretold with astonishing precision, by the prophet Isaiah.* To Mary it was revealed, before conception, by the angel Gabriel. Like other wonderful works of God, it has been the scoff of the wicked; but the pure in heart behold in it a striking correspondence with the purity and dignity of the Redeemer's person and office.
Mary was a direct descendant from David, through Nathan. Christ was therefore of the seed of David, according with the language of prophecy, though not of the royal line. Her genealogy is given by Luke. Before his birth she was espoused to Joseph, a direct descendant from David in the royal line. He became his reputed father. His genealogy is given by Matthew. Hence Jesus might be called, KING OF THE JEws.t
The place of his birth was predicted by Micah. - But thou, Bethlehem Epahrata, though thou be but little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee, shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler of Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Thither his parents, who were inhabitants of Galilee, were brought in the fulness of time, by an imperial edict, to be enrolled for taxation. I Obscurity and lowliness marked his birth. He was laid in a manger.
* Isaiah vii. 14.
+ Isaiah v. 2. An objection has been raised against this part of inspired history from a well authenticated fact, that Cyrenius, in whose days this taxing is said
'On the eighth day from his birth, the holy child was circumcised, from a sacred regard to divine institution, and called Jesus, because he should save his people. As sent and anointed of God, to perform the work of Mediator, he 'was the Christ or Messiah; and hence, he has sustained the double appellation, Jesus Christ.
The birth of the Savior filled the hearts of the people of God, who had been looking for his advent, with exceeding joy. Simeon and Anna, aged saints, paid him, as he was presented in the Temple, their joyful gratulations. An innumerable company of angels were heard, by shepherds in the field, praising God and saying, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”. An extraordinary star or meteor appeared in the heavens, and conducted certain wise men to worship him;—going before them, as did the pillar of fire before the Israelites in the wilderness until they came to Jerusalem. No earthly prince ever entered the world in such majesty and glory. The question of the wise men, where is he that is born King of the Jews? troubled Herod and all Jerusalem. The bloody monarch, without delay, sought his death. And when baffled in his scheme by an overruling providence, he made havoc of all the children of Bethlehem under two years; bringing on a scene of wo, like that on which the prophet Jeremiah, ages before, had fixed his eye. “ Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted.” The holy child was carried into Egypt, where he remained, uni til, directed by heaven, his parents returned and dwelt in Nazareth.
Such a concurrence of circumstances must have made the infant Messiah the object of general attention, to an extent of which, we, at this distance of time, can have but faint conceptions.
At twelve years of age, his parents took him with them on their annual visit to Jerusalem, at the feast of the passover. There he conversed with the Jewish doctors, and the divinity shone forth in him. “ All were astonished at his understanding and answers.” When sought by his parents from whom he had wandered, he said, Wist ye not that I
to have been, was not governor of Syria until ten or twelve years after the birth of Jesus. But the difficulty is solved, by distinguishing between the enrolment of the citizens, and the actual collection of taxes, which was not until the time of Cyrenius. The avidity with which infidels seize such apparent contradictions, shows the weakness of their cause.
must be about my Father's business? a proof that he did not remain till manhood ignorant of the great purpose for which he came into the world. He submissively returned with them to Nazareth, where he remained untill he was about thirty years of age, probably in the employment of his father, who was a carpenter.
“Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh.” Not only the person of the Redeemer, but the lateness of his appearance, and his obscurity after the great excitement at his birth, and conversation with the doctors in the Temple, are unaccountable to many
The occurrence of events is resolvable only into the divine, sovereignty. God brings every thing to pass according to his own pleasure. Yet to the inquiry, Why did not the Savior appear hundreds and thousands of years before? it may be replied, that by delay, time was given for a full exhibition of the evil nature and power of sin, and of the utter insufficiency of all ordinary means to reform the world;—while his character and offices, life and death, were marked out by a great variety of typical and verbal predictions, by which the world were at once qualified to judge of his character and work, whenever he should appear. On the subject of his retirement, it may be remarked, that he came to be an High Priest in the Church of God, and that he refrained from becoming a preacher of righteousness, until he had attained his thirtieth year, and might strictly conform to the Jewish law. It is manifest, from the astonishment produced by his conversation with the doctors, that he might, at any period, have called to himself the attention of the world. The rulers were alarmed at his birth, but they soon died, and the power passed into the hands of others, who knew him not. The mass of the people were ignorant and vicious. They looked only for some great temporal prince, who should deliver them from Roman bondage. If their attention had once been excited by a wonderful child, who appeared amid many signs, it would soon subside, as he passed from their notice. Especially as it was an age of general expectation, when others were probably held up to view as the long expected deliverer. But he was not unknown and forgotten by the pious. His mother treasured up every thing in her heart, which developed his greatness. And had we a more minute history of his course, we should doubtless find many of the people of God looking anxiously toward him as a wonderful messenger from heaven. "He increased in wisdom and stature, and was in favor with God and man."
Malachi, the last of the ancient prophets, closed his writings and the canon of the Old Testament, with a prediction of John the Baptist, under the character of Elijah the prophet.
That holy man was born six months before the Savior, of Zecharias, an aged priest, and Elizabeth. He was to be the forerunner of Christ. In apparel, temper, austerity, boldness in reproving vice, and zeal for God, he strongly resembled that eminent prophet whose name he bore. In about the twenty-eighth year of Christ, he began to proclaim to men the approach of the gospel kingdom; to call sinners to repentance, and to baptize such as confessed their sins and turned to God.
His baptism was not Christian Baptism. It was not administered in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It was not an initiation into the Christian Church; for the gospel dispensation was yet to come. It was one of those divers washings, which belong to the Jewish economy. He disclaimed a baptism like to that of Christ. Some, therefore, who had been baptized with the baptism of John, afterwards received Christian baptism from the hands of Paul. They had not so much as heard of the Holy Ghost.*
While John was baptizing at the river Jordan, Jesus came to be baptized of him. He came not as a sinner confessing his sins, to be baptized unto repentance, for he was perfectly holy; not to receive any emblem of regeneration, for he needed no change of heart;—not to be admitted into the Christian Church, for this was not yet established; but to be legally and solemnly consecrated as High Priest to his people. Under the law, the priests were consecrated to their office by baptism and anointing with oil.f John, evidently not fully understanding the purpose of Jesus, hesitated at a compliance with the request, thinking that he, as a sinner, had need to be baptized of him; but Christ told him to suffer it, for he must fulfil all righteousness. He had been circumcised in infancy, and had shown respect in all his conduct, to those divine institutions which were still binding upon the people, and he would not force himself into the priesthood in a way which would be illegal. He was
* Acts xix.
+ Exodus xxix.