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ness that new created star which conducted the eastern Magi to the place where the Saviour was born; witness the descent of Gabriel and a multitude of the heavenly host, to announce his arrival; and witness the other appearances of celestial spirits to minister to the Lord of glory in his temptation and agony, at his resurrection and ascension into heaven; witness the descent of Moses and Elias to the mount of transfiguration; witness too the eclipse of the sun beyond the course of nature, which marked the hour of his death, the quaking of the earth, the rending of the rocks, the rising of the dead: witness the voice from heaven. which, like thunder, oftener than once, shook the echoing air, while God himself declared his well beloved Son, and demanded attention for him. All these con-. firm the testimony of the prophet, they point it to the Lord Jesus, and inspire joy unspeakable and full of glory, on discovering the perfect coincidence between prediction and event. To this auspicious, this all important era we are now brought; and the next lecture, with the divine permission, will detail the remarkable circumstances which immediately preceded, or which accompanied the birth of Christ.
And was all this mighty preparation made to introduce a mere man of like passions with ourselves? Were the heavens from above and the earth beneath stirred to meet him at his coming? Did flaming ministers descend singly and in bands, did departed prophets revisit the earth, and the dead bodies of saints. arise to do homage to a creature, their equal, their fellow? It is not to be believed. But surely this is the. Son of God; and to receive him, coming for our salvation, what solemnity of preparation was too great, what homage of angels and men too submissive, what testimony of created nature too ample? "Hosanna to the son of David, blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest."
Is his name and description "the desire of all naVOL. IV.
tions?" how fitly applied! Is light desirable to the benighted, bewildered traveller in a land of snares and of the shadow of death? Is pardon desirable to a wretch condemned? Is the cooling stream desirable to the parched pilgrim, and bread to the hungry perishing wretch? Is the friendly haven desirable to the tempest-tossed mariner, and liberty to the languishing captive? What then to an ignorant, guilty, perishing world must that wonderful man be whom Providence has raised up to be "a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
But what if when he shall appear, desirable as he is, a blind world shall see "no form of comeliness in him, no beauty why he should be desired ?" Afflicting thought! "He was despised and rejected of men ?" "He came to his own and hi own received him not.' They "denied the holy one, and the just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto them." The cry was away with him, crucify him ;" his "blood be upon us and upon our children!" O Lord, remove the film from the eyes of those prejudiced Jews; dispose them to receive "The prince of Peace," let him be all their salvation and all their desire. Lord remove the film from my eyes that I may see in him, whom God the Father hath sent and sealed, one "fairer than the children of men; into whose lips grace is poured:" that though he may be "unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, He may be unto us who believe, Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God." Amen.
HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him he was troubled and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, fear not, Zacharias: For thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. But thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And Zacharias said unto the angel, whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well striken in years. And the angel answering, said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.-LUKE i. 11–20.
"THE prophecy came not in old time by the will of
man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Being determined through the course of these exercises to avoid every thing that
has the appearance of controversy, I take it for granted that you believe and receive the history of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as delivered in the four gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as of divine inspiration and authority. Of the four evangelists two were of the number of the twelve whom Christ called to the office of apostleship, and who recorded events of which they were witnesses and partakers, and transcribed discourses which they heard and well remembered. The other two derived their information immediately from those "who from the beginning were eye witnesses and ministers of the word." Their harmony, in every particular of any importance, is a proof of the truth and certainty of each individually, and of the whole. John, as one borne aloft on the wings of an eagle, ascends into the heaven of heavens, and begins his account of his beloved master with a sublime and interesting representatation of his divine nature; for which we refer you to Lecture I. Mark introduces "the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God," with the voice of a lion "crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Luke ushers in the great prophet, "the desire of all nations," with an account of the conception and birth of his forerunner John the Baptist, and is of course led to extract the commencement of the evangelical, out of the legal dispensation: and he sets out with exhibiting Zacharias in the exercise of the priest's office. Matthew commences at once with the history of Christ's humanity, as the son of David, the son of Abraham. For these reasons, the four sacred historians of the New Testament dispensation have been distinguished by corresponding symbolical representations, analogious to the vision of the prophet Ezekiel, Matthew by the face of a man, Mark by that of a lion, Luke by that of an ox, and John by that of an eagle.
St. Luke was by profession [a physician; he became
early a proselyte to the Jewish religion, and he is generally supposed to have been one of Christ's first disciples, and of the number of the seventy whom "He sent out two and two in every city and place, whither he himself would come." After he had concluded the history of our Lord himself, at the period of his ascension into heaven, he undertook that of the acts of the apostles, and he addresses both his books to a person of amiable character and exalted rank, named Theophilus, and in him to every lover of God, in every age of the church, who is desirous to know," the certainty of the things wherein he has been instructed." On the conversion of St. Paul to the christian faith, he seems to have attached himself with much zeal and affection to that great apostle of the Gentiles, he became voluntarily the companion of his travels and afflictions, and brought down his history to his arrival at Rome as a prisoner, on an appeal to the emperor Nero. His gospel and history of the acts were probably submitted to the inspection of his illustrious fellow-traveller, and received the seal of his approbation. In the preface to the gospel inscribed with his name, he modestly, yet with firmness, lays claim to the great, the essential qualification of a historian, namely, accurate and complete information respecting his subject, "having," says he, "had perfect understanding of all things, from the very first:" and the professed end which he had in view is no less worthy of a great and enlightened mind, that a respected friend might be established in the knowledge, faith, and hope of the gospel. The tongue of prophecy had now been silent for more than four hundred years. The last word which it had spoken announced the sending of Elijah the prophet, to precede the great and notable day of the Lord, to work a remarkable change in the temper and character of mankind, to prevent the earth from being "smitten with a
A period of darkness and disorder succeeded. The