תמונות בעמוד

to the prevailing gloom. There, indeed, the ancient oracles of God were yet extant; but their still small voice, heard only, at any time, by the attentive listener, had been long since overpowered and silenced by the dogmas of their professed interpreters, and the clamours of rival sects. The spiritual import of the sacred volume, like the sevensealed roll of the Apocalypse, had long been closed to the Jew; and when the lion of the tribe of Judah prevailed to open it, the aversion with which they turned from the sight, showed how unaccustomed they were to gaze on the truth. The darkness was universal and complete. It had settled down, like a pall, over the face of the whole earth. Truth looked down from heaven; but from no part could she behold her image reflected. If she would relieve the gloom, she must descend, and shine, and dissipate it with her actual presence. All things proclaimed the urgent necessity that the world should be visited by 'a teacher sent from God.'

Not only did this awful exigence exist, it was extensively felt and acknowledged; and, by many of the more enlightened heathens, a Divine Instructor was ardently desired. In illustration of this, the language of Plato has been often cited; nor is it easy to conceive of any thing more conclusive and striking than his picture of Socrates advising his pupil to forego the usual sacrifices until a teacher should be sent from on high. In another place, speaking of such an inspired teacher, he represents, with prophetic sagacity and precision, that he must be poor, and void of all qualifications but those of virtue alone; that a wicked world would not bear his instructions and reproofs; and therefore, within three or four years after he began to preach, he would be persecuted, imprisoned, scourged, and at last be put to death.' In this remarkable passage, we behold the divine philosopher, rising from a

mournful survey of human ignorance, turning with an air of despondency from every earthly resource, yet eagerly thirsting for a knowledge of God, and virtue, and futurity, till his thirst grows into a desire for celestial aid, and his desire matures to an anticipation, and even a prediction, which God was actually intending to fulfil; perhaps, indeed, we err in not cordially recognising in his language the presence of heavenly inspiration. And in uttering the desire which his words disclose, we may take it for granted, he was clothing the thoughts of a thousand bosoms, venting the secret and cherished longings of unnumbered hearts. If we, though standing in the radiance of the Sun,' which has since risen on the world, are yet sometimes conscious of impatience, and complain of obscurity, what must have been the wishes and aspirations of those who, with a keen perception of their exigence, were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death?

Now the appearance of a Divine Instructor, thus absolutely necessary, and ardently desired, might have been warrantably expected. Indubitable evidence existed that God already had spoken to man, at sundry times, and in divers manners; and as the ignorance of the world was still unreclaimed, and there was no intimation that his voice had been final, there was ground to anticipate that, in his own time, he would break the silence again. Besides, the very presence and nature of the Jewish economy was standing evidence that such was his gracious intention. Bearing the marks of a celestial origin, and fraught with important truth, it yet veiled its meaning in types and enigmas, the solution of which remained to be given. Here were mysteries—where was the interpreter? Here were shadows-the substance, the very things themselves,' must be at hand. Here were proofs that, in a former age, God had said, 'Let there be spiritual light-was it not


every soul,

likely that, in the process of his new creation, the time would come when he would collect, and embody, and augment this light into a glorious sun? Here was a system of divine intimations, an unfinished economy_was it likely that he would leave it incomplete ? was it not more accordant with the character of a perfect being, that, putting his hand a second time to the work, he would bring it to perfection?

But, beyond this, the spirit of prophecy had distinctly foretold that an inspired instructor should appear. "For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your

God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass,

that which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Thus a prediction was to be found, at the very opening of the prophetic roll, announcing the advent of a distinguished teacher, whose words would demand universal regard; while his authority would be supreme, and his power invincible. Unfolding it farther, we read, that he should preach the gospel to the poor, and proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord; that he should set judgment in the earth, and the isles should wait for his law; that the Gentiles should come to his light, and kings to the brightness of his rising. And as he was its earliest, so he was also its latest theme. For, reading on to its closing lines, we find it predict him as the Messenger of the covenant who was yet to come ; and the Sun of Righteousness yet to arise. His name was the first which prophecy had uttered; as often as it spoke, it resumed the inspiring theme; and when at length it expired, his name lingered on its lips. When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son.' 'Hear, o heavens; and be astonished, 0 earth!' the appointed Instructor appears,


proves to be no less a being than the Son of God himself. It is true, the deep necessities of man, the riches of the divine benevolence, and the glowing colors of prophecy, might have kindled and justified the expectation of a most illustrious teacher; but that he should have appeared in the person of the Eternal Word, exceeds the highest flight of human hope; that he should have come from the bosom of the Father, was an excess of goodness, one of those splendid surprises of grace, by which mercy delights to melt the obduracy, and to win the confidence of our guilty race.

The circumstances attending the advent of so illustrious a Prophet, must be entitled to receive our profound attention. With the outlines of these we are all familiar, The condescending object of his mission required that, for a time, he should hold the essential glories of his nature in abeyance: accordingly, he mysteriously allied himself to our condition; the Word was made flesh. The strain of prophecy had assigned the scene of his life and labors to Judea; and in that favored land he appeared. That he should have grown in wisdom as he rose to maturity, was only according to a law of our nature an ordinance of his own divine appointment--since it is only by a gradual development that the faculties of man arrive at perfection; but the office he had come to assume, and the divine qualifications he brought to it, supposed him superior to human tuition; and accordingly he sought it not. When, in childhood, he mingled a moment with the doctors of the temple, "they were astonished at his understanding ;' his inquiries were more instructive and replete with wisdom than their replies. On an after occasion, their surprise at his stores of sacred science was augmented by their knowledge of the fact, that he had never learned, never approached the schools of human instruction. He had access to a tree of knowledge they knew not of. As his dignity was of an order distinct from earthly pomp, incapable of being diminished by its absence, or of being embellished by its presence, he entirely dispensed with it. The various gradations of human condition were all open and free to his choice, but of these he selected the lowliest; and however astonishing the selection may appear to those who place distinction in opulence and rank, to him who had already stooped from an infinite height in becoming man the varieties of earthly rank were as nothing, were only minute degrees of littleness. The place of his birth, like a place constructed from the very wrecks of poverty, was entirely swept of every trace of luxury, every vestige of indulgence, and seemed sacred to humility alone. And the lowliness of all his subsequent life strictly accorded with the humbleness of his birth. Had he come in the pomp

of outward state, the multitude would have been debarred from his presence, and the regards of men would have been divided between the attractions of his earthly rank, and the claims of celestial truth ; but by choosing the low condition of the great majority, and declining the tinselled drapery which charms the eye, he graciously made himself accessible to all, while he seemed to put forward truth alone as the only object demanding their notice-to challenge their whole attention to the native worth, the intrinsic importance of the doctrines he announced.

But though, for the reasons assigned, he assumed the most bare and unpretending simplicity, as the hour for opening his divine commission drew nigh, the public mind was apprized of the event by wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath.' A herald, preceding his steps, aroused the nation, by the solemn announcement that

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