Page images

which few, if any, of them were ignorant of. When, therefore, they: were acquainted with the extraordinary conception of the Virgin Mary;. when all Jerusalem knew that wise men came from the East, by the, direction of a star, to worship him who was born King of the Jess; and, being sent by Herod to Bethlehem, were conducted by the same star to the very place where the young child was; when he was shortly after presented by Simeon to the Lord in the temple, and expressly declared to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of his people, Israel; they must be fools indeed, and slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets had spoken. But, their eyes being blinded with the dazzling glare of temporal grandeur, they wholly lost sight of the spiritual meaning of the prophecies, and could not discern the Re-,

beginning, saw, and which he intended the world should one day see; and which, when they should see, they might more easily acknowledge to be the work of his hand, by the secret evidence which he had enclosed from the day of old in the word of prophecy. – View this prophecy, then, with respect to those to whom it was given, it answered their want and the immediate end proposed by God; view it with respect to ourselves, and it answers ours.” And the apostle, Galat. iv. 4, evidently alludes to the fulfilling of this prediction in these words; “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman;" “ nempe sola ex Maria Virgine, absque virili complexu, sed operatione Spiritus S. formatum.” Estius. But, in order to prepare the way for the belief of this wonderful event, several extraordinary circunstances occurred, which naturally led men to the more easy reception of this important truth. The seed of the woman, which was to confer this great blessing upon mankind, was to be conveyed through the loins of Abraham; for to Abraham and his seed were the promises made: and it is expressly said to him by God, “ In Isaac shall thy seed be called;" who was born of Sarah, after it had ceased to be with her after the manner of women; it was therefore almost as miraculous as being born of a virgin. And, besides the express predictions of Isai. c. vii. 14, Jerem. c. xxxi. 22, that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin, there is another instance, of a more recent date, which greatly corroborates the credibility of this fact, and seems particularly intended for that purpose; and, in this respect, John the Baptist fully verified the prediction of Malachi; “ Behold, I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me.” For, being born of Elisabeth, who was barren, and she and her husband Zacharias were now well stricken in years, (and, as Grotius observes, “ Duplicavit mi.' raculum ad vetus vitium accedens impedimentum ætatis,") he was the proper forerunner of Christ, who was to be born of a virgin, and actually proclaimed his coming before he himself was yet born: for, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, who told her all that had been done to her as well as herself, the babe leaped in her womb for joy. “ Noverat Elizabetha filium suum præcursorem fore Messiæ. At non novit adhuc quânam fæminà nascendus Messias, donec hæc exsul-' tatio infantis in utero indicium daret.” Lightfoot.

D 2


[ocr errors]

deemer of Israel, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.* From not duly considering the gracious purpose of Christ's coming into the world, to save all the descendants of Adam by conquering Sin and Satan, and triumphing over them on the cross, they could not reconcile the seeming contradictions in the character of this great personage; nor, from comparing the several predictions together, rationally conclude, as they should, that Christ ought first to have suffered these things, and then to enter into his glory. And that the Jews were guilty of an inexcusable crime in denying the Lord that bought them, and in crucifying this King of Glory, is incontestibly evident from the sudden and unparalleled destruction which came upon the whole Jewish nation ; but particularly on the temple at Jerusalem, the foundations of which were ploughed up, agreeably to that prediction of our blessed Saviour, “ There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.p" Which marvellous event renders the infidelity of those Jews who have lived since more blameable, if possible, than that of their forefathers: for, as Shiloh, whom they themselves understood to be the Messiah, was to come before the sceptre departed from Judah and the lawgiver from Israel, and the glory of the second temple was to exceed that of the former by the appearance of God manifested in the flesh, Christ must be already come, or he never can come at all. Behold then, ye despisers, and wonder, lest ye perish; for ye

can no longer say, “ The temple of the

* “ Hac ratione Deus testatum fecit filium hunc Davidis filium esse, paremque cum eo fortunam sortitum atque expertum fuisse. Enimvero pastor erat David, qui vitam suam in stabulo forte, forte, inquam, hoc ipso in loco ubi Jesum Maria peperit, egerat, et quando ad regiam dignitatem vocabatur gregem patris sui pascebat. Vide Ps. lxxviii. 70, 71, 72. In stabulo itaque cum nasceretur filius ejus, an non patrem suum refert?” Episcopius.

+ " Maimonides Taanith, cap. 5. Nono, inquit, isto die mensis Ab, ob vindictas fatali Turnus Rufus impius aratro templum fudit, et circumjacentia, ut illud adimpleretur, Sion ut ager arabitur. Jerem. xxvi. 18. Mic. iii. 2." Lightfoot, &c.

Sceptrum non recedet a Juda, &c. donec Shilo venerit. Hæc prædictio impleta sub Tito, in cxcidio reip. Judaicæ. Hanc veram esse applicationem hujus prædictionis non solum ostendit eventus, sed docet Christus in prædictione ruinæ Judaicæ reipublicæ, Matt. xxiv. 14, quam Deus ante dissolvi noluit, quâm novam inter gentes erexisset.” Medus.


[ocr errors]

Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord:” but, looking up to Jesus with the eye of faith, ye may join in that devout hymn of Zacharias : “ Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he liath visited and redeemed his people.”

But, whilst we pity and lament the unhappy obdurateness of the Jews, let us be truly sensible of the blessings we enjoy through the tender

mercy of our God, whereby the Day-spring from on high hath visited us. And, to set a just value upon the signal favours which heaven has vouchsafed us, we should take a transient view of the deplorable state of ignorance and error in which we, with the rest of the heathen nations, lay for many ages, having no hope and without God in the world. But, no sooner did the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, than his light was diffused over all the dark corners of the earth, and the door of faith was opened unto the Gentiles ; so that, in the space of forty years, the Gospel of Christ was preached to every nation under heaven,* and the first Christian emperor, Constantine, was crowned in this island.

But, the churches of the Gentiles did not long continue stedfast in the faith ; for, in a few 'centuries, they were over-run with heresy and superstition, the man of sin, the son of perdition, being revealed ; and gross darkness covered the face of the Christian world till the dawn of the reformation, which, from the faintest glimmerings, gradually increased into a shining light, which shined more and more unto the perfect day; and this happy isle may exult in the language of the prophet'; “ Arise, shine, 'for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” As, then, we are blessed, above all other nations, with a 'superior degree of illumination, we should let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven. Enjoying the glorious Gospel of Christ in its fullest puri

* " Hierosolymæ non 'vástandæ erant ante perlatum per totum orbem Evangelium, sic providente Deo, ut Catechumeno priùs in doctrina Christi terrarum orbi insigne tandem testimonium de Christo exhiberetur; cum iram tam diram audirent omnes effusam in urbem gentemque istam, á qua ille crucifixus est." Lightfoot.


[ocr errors]

ty and splendor, we should adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all holy conversation; and, as we are a wise and understanding people, by adding to faith and knowledge, godliness and virtue, we should prove ourselves a holy and righteous nation, and shew forth the praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light, that we might be, as the Israelites of old, a kingdom of priests to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation to the ends of the earth. For which great purpose providence seems to have intended that extensive communication we have with almost every part of the habitable globe, by which a great door of faith in Christ seems, through the divine interposition, to be opened ; and, if we, by our intercourse with them, approve our holy religion in the uniform practise of all godliness and honesty, truth and sincerity, virtue and charity, millions of souls, which now wander in the mazes of ignorance and error, may be brought back into the flock of God and to the knowledge of his Son Jesus Christ.

It is foretold, by St Paul, that, before the final conversion of the Jews, the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in; and, how far that prediction of Isaiah, relative to this period, may be now fulfilling, is known only unto God. But, there is a great similarity between the, signs of the times, expressed in these words; “ So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the West, and his glory from the rising of the sun ; when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” And, if we would hope for the continuauce of the favour and protection of heaven, which hathi so remarkably distinguished us with all spiritual blessings as well as temporal, we must take heed that the light which is in us be not darkness; for, how great will that darkness be, should our candlestick be removed, as were those of the seven churches of Asia.

We have lately seen, in a neighbouring nation, a most extraordinary and melancholy transition from superstition to avowed atheism ; and our great care and fear should be, that we do not run from immorality to infidelity, for then our last state would be worse than the first ; but, being the children of light, let us walk honestly as in the day, not in ri


oting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof. This might be one means to prepare


for the fulness of the Gentiles and to remove the blindness which, in part, hath happened to Israel, that so all men may be saved and be fitted for the appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, when the sun shall be no more our light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto us ; but the Lord shall be unto us an everlasting light and our God our glory.

[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »