« הקודםהמשך »
discharged our duty to the subject, and the inquiry according to the measure of our faculties and opportunities ; and the assurance, that having done this, neither ignorance, nor doubt, nor error, will be imputed to us as voluntary offences—that although they may sometimes perplex, as they will do, or distress us here, we have nothing to fear from their conse. quences hereafter. Much, I say, will after all be gained; and in no article of satisfaction shall we perceive the advantage of a contemplative life more than in that fixedness of temper by which we shall be taught to view the changes and chances of a transitory world. Many secular studies have this tendency. When a philosopher surveys the magnificence and stability of nature, seen in regions of immeasurable space---worlds revolving round worlds with inconceivable rapidity, yet with such exactness as to be found to circumvolve at the point where they are expected ; or when he sees upon the globe which he inhabits the same nature proceeding in her grand and beneficial operations with unconcerned regularity--when from these speculations his mind is carried to observe the strifes and contentions of men, the rise and decline of their institutions and establishments, what does he experience in the greatest of these changes but the little vicissitudes of little things ?Again, when he advances his meditations from the works of nature to its Author, his attributes, his dispensations, his promises, his word, his will,-most especially, when he looks to the wonders and the mercies of a renovated existence,
to the tutelary hand of his Creator conducting him safely through the different stages of his beingthrough the
and gate of death to an order of things disposed and appointed for the reward of faith and virtue, as the present is for trial and improvement; when he reflects how entirely this change supersedes all others, how fast it approaches, and how soon it will take place-in what a state of inferiority, I had almost said of indifference, is every interest placed in which it is not included? And if ever there was a time when that stedfastness of mind, which ought to result from the study and contemplation of divine subjects, is more wanted than at another, it is the present. It is our lot to live in disturbed and eventful period. During the concussions which have shaken, and are yet shaking, the social edifice to its foundation ; in the fate which we have seen of every thing man calls great, of power, of wealth, and splendour-where shall thought find refuge, except in the prospects which Christianity unfolds, and in a well-grounded confidence that Christianity is true? And this support will not fail
Erect amidst the ruins of a tottering age, the pilgrim proceeds in his course without perturbation or dismay: endeavouring, indeed, according to his power, and interceding earnestly for, the peace and welfare of a world, through which he is but directing bis constant eye to a more abiding city,—to that country beyond the great river, to which the sojourning tribes are bound, and where there remaineth rest for the people of God.
MATTHEW XI. 3.
Art thou he that should come, or do we look for
The Advent of Jesus Christ into the world, which the order of our public service proposes at this season to our thoughts, the appearance he made, and the character he assumed, compared with the circumstances and expectations of the age and country in which he lived, contain attestations to the truth of the evangelical history which I shall make it my business, , as it will not be unsuitable to the occasion, to lay before you ; and suggest reflections which will serve, both to confirm the truth of our religion, and to explain some points and passages of the New Testament which are well deserving of observation.
It is clearly to be collected from Scripture, that about the time of our Lord's coming, some great person, who was to be called Messiah or Christ, by the Jews, was expected to appear amongst them, who also would prove a mighty chief and conqueror; and by the aid, it should seem, of supernatural powers, not
only deliver the Jewish nation from the subjection into which they had been brought to the Roman government, but place that nation and himself at the head of them, in the highest condition of prosperity, and in possession of the universal empire of the world. Traces of this opinion, both of the coming of this extraordinary person, and of what he was to do when he did come, are dispersed in various parts of the New Testament :-“ Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another ?”—“When Christ cometh, will he do more (or do more miracles) than this man doeth ?” “ I know,” saith the woman of Samaria, o that Messias cometh ; when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is : tell us whether thou be Christ or no." Herod demanded of the wise men where Christ should be born. It was revealed to Simeon that he should not die before he had seen Christ. 66 Shall Christ come out of Galilee ?"
« Hath not the Scripture said that Christ cometh of the seed of David ?" “ We know that Christ abideth for ever." “ Men mused in their hearts of John, whether he was the Christ.” From these, and some other similar expressions, it is manifest that there was a previous and prevailing expectation that an extraordinary person, who was to be called Christ, or the Messiah, was at that time to appear.
Then as to the second point, what he was to do when he came : “ We trusted it had been he,” said his two disciples, " who should have saved Israel.” And again, upon his appearance to them after his
resurrection, “ Wilt thou at this time,” they asked him, “ restore again the kingdom to Israel ?” And this notion of theirs, that he was to set up a kingdom upon earth, and become a mighty prince and conqueror in the world, is proved by, and accounts for, great number of incidents recorded in the Gospels.
It was this that alarmed Herod so much when he heard reports of the miraculous birth. Herod then possessed the kingdom of Judea. Now he, together with the other Jews, expected the Christ which should appear would become a king, by conquering and taking Herod's kingdom from him ; and this apprehension urged him to the desperate expedient of destroying all the children in Bethlehem who were about the age that agreed with the supernatural circumstances that had been talked of. Had Herod looked for no more than a moral teacher, a spiritual ruler, he would have had nothing to fear. This opinion likewise accounts for their attempting to make him a king, when they were convinced by the miracle of the loaves and fishes, “that he was, of a truth, that prophet that should come into the world,” John vi. 15. And also for their receiving him with the pomp and ceremony of an earthly prince when he entered into Jerusalem, cutting down branches, and spreading their garments upon the road, and crying, “ blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord.”
This same reason also accounts for the sudden and seemingly strange revolution in the sentiments of