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At length the period ordained by the Most High was accomplished, and the day arrived which“ had been determined upon his people and holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy." This great day had been foretold with so much accuracy, that we find the Jewish doctors, when consulted by Herod, expressly replied, that the Messiah should be born within 50 years; and, either from their communication with the Jews, or some cause with which we are unacquainted, a general expectation prevailed, even through the Heathen world, that some extraordinary person should come forth from the East about that period. This opinion was so prevalent, both with Jews and Gentiles, that Virgil, in his celebrated eclogue, has applied the same images to a Roman youth, which Isaiah, many centuries before, had used concerning the Saviour of mankind; and Josephus, actuated by the same expectation, for some time considered Vespasian as the promised Messiah, principally it should seem because he was by birth a Jew. These facts are of great weight, because they dispose us to receive with readiness the proofs by which our Lord Jesus Christ was so signally distinguished from the various contemporary impostors. At present, however, it is our business rather to collect acknowledged truths, than to examine the evidences.
The advent of the King of Glory in this earthly mansion, was accompanied with few marks of external greatness. The Choirs of Heaven indeed proclaimed his presence, and the wisdom of the earth bowed down before him; but the Hallelujahs of the first were chaunted in the stillness
of the night, to the ears of humble shepherds; and the presents of the second were received under the covering of a stable. The God of Truth is not to be propitiated by worldly power or advantages, and therefore the same God, when cloathed in humanity, sanctioned not by his example the splendour of an elevated station but the God of all purity was born of a pure Virgin, in the town of Bethlehem, and of the lineage of David; in a single moment fulfilling the three great features pointed out by prophecy to identify his person. On the eighth day he was circumcised, fulfilling, for our sake, the ordinances of that law, whose ritual, as it was established only to precede his appearance, or prefigure his high Oblation, vanished of course in the accomplishment. The various circumstances, which signalized the birth of our Saviour, must have pointed him out to all pious minds as an object worthy of the highest attention, long before the assumption of his office as the Messenger of good tidings to Sion. To the majority of the Jews, however, his character was unknown till near 30
At length endued with power from on high, and invested with full authority by the Spirit of God descending upon him after his Baptism, and victorious over the temptations of the evil one, by whose snares the first Adam had fallen, and whom it was therefore necessary that the second Adam should overcome, he publicly took upon himself the administration of his high office; and proclaimed to all the land of Judea, that the Kingdom of Heaven was come: by miracles and prophecies, by doctrine and example, by disputes with his enemies and lessons to his followers, confirming the truth of his Revelation: until the hour arrived, when He, our great High Priest, should “enter in once into the Holy place, by his own Blood to obtain an eternal Redemption for us.” .. On the evening of the day which preceded: his death, and which, according to the Jewish computation, formed part of the day of preparation, he kept the Passover with his disciples; and instituted the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper; then he retired with them to the garden of Gethsémane, where he endured all the horrors which the accumulated guilt of Man, and the desperate malice of Devils could heap upon him; horrors so fearful, that though his Divine nature indeed supported them, his humanity seemed almost to sink beneath the weight. From this conflict he was hurried off by the bands of the apostate Judas to the judgment hall of Caiaphas; and after being rudely dragged from thence to Pilate, and from Pilate to Herod, and after enduring in silence the mock justice and insolent blasphemy both of a Jewish and Roman tribunal, he was condemned to die by the judgment of Pontius Pilate, who in the moment of condemnation confessed his innocence. Then did they spit upon him, and buffet him; till wearied with their own malice, they led him to crucifixion, on the same spot where Isaac had been offered to death by his father Abraham. “ They gave him gall to eat, and when he was thirsty, they gave him vinegar to drink;” “they pierced his hands and his feet;" the iron entered into his soul. . “They parted his garments among them, and for his vesture did they cast lots.” Thus did the darkest vengeance of Men and Devils conspire only to fulfil the prophecies and work the work of the Lord. And thus did He, before whom the Heaven of Heavens trembles, become accursed for us; “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our
iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was-upon Him, and by his stripes we are healed.” GPS hnit:1.!
If in the hour of prosperity, our hearts should be lifted up, or in the day of adversity, depressed; if we should murmur that our good deeds are treated with contempt, and our benevolence returned with ingratitude, let us fix our eyes on the Cross of Christ, and tremble, and repent. There was the King of Glory levelled to the vilest of malefactors; how then shall pride exalt herself? From the Cross was Jesus exalted to the right hand of Power; surely then, there is hope in the depth of affliction. The victim of Jewish persecution broke not the bruised! reed, nor quenched the smoking flax; let him who can claim the like exemptions, complain of the contumely of mankind; and, above all, let those who murmur at ingra
titude, remember, that they for whom the Lord bled, : repay him with blasphemy and insult.
When Jesus had now hung upon the Cross many hours, and Heaven and Earth in their convulsions had confessed their Maker; when the veil of the Temple had been, rent
asunder, and the separation of Jew and Gentile for ever 1: annihilated; when every tittle of prophecy had been ful
filled, and the redemption of man completed; then was the awful sacrifice consummated, and “ he bowed the thead and gave up the ghost.”
On the third day he rose triumphant from the grave, victorious over sin and death, and arrayed with immortal glory. He rose, that we might rise also; to testify to an unbelieving generation, that he was indeed that Holy One, of whom David had said in the Spirit that he should 'not see corruption; and, above all, to confirm this mo
mentous truth, that after our sojourn here on Earth, a fu, ture life yet remains for us, and that eternity which is by all either feared or wished, shall by all either be suffered or enjoyed.
For forty days after his resurrection, Jesus shewed himself openly, not indeed to the Jews who had crucified him, but to witnesses chosen before of God, and sufficient both in number and character to authenticate the fact. On the fortieth day, he was received up into Heaven, having first solemnly blessed his Apostles, and commanded them to publish these truths to all nations. On them did the Holy Ghost soon after descend, to sanctify and strengthen them for their labours; and they, cheerfully accepting the task, went forth into the vineyard of Christ, “proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God;” nor was their preaching vain. The words of the prophet were fulfilled, “Bel did indeed bow down, and Nebo stooped.” “The Gentiles came to the light of their God, and Kings to the brightness of his rising, for the idols of the Heathens were confounded;" "instead of the thorn came up the fir tree, and instead of the brier came up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Thus have I given you a summary account of the great mystery of Redemption: to the serious contemplation of these facts, and their important consequences, I shall dismiss you after adding a few words of practical infer
“My Brethren,” says the beloved Apostle, “if Christ so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” It is the great reproach, not indeed of Christianity, but of