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MALACHI iv. 2.
Unto you that fear my name, shall the Sun of
Righteousness arise with hcaling in his wings.
This is one of those passages of the Old Testament which refer to the approach of the Messiah, and the splendour of his spiritual reign ; which announce the appearance of the figurative Star that was to arise out of Jacob, to whose glorious light the Gentiles were to come, and kings to the brightness of his rising. The state of incurred guilt and enmity with God, in which all the world lay, after the Fall of Man, and before the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, is aptly enough described by the image of
midnight darkness, shrouding even the understandings, and obscurring the very hearts of men. They who sat in the baleful shadow of this mental darkness, enjoying merely the light of nature, and that nature dimmed by sin, and itself lost in the mists of error, were not able to discern or choose their way; they wandered out of the path which leadeth to eternal life; they mistook the very end of their creation, or pursued wrong measures to attain it; they fell from one mistake into another, plunged into deeper night, or run after those brilliant but misleading meteors, which at times shot athwart the general gloom. That this was the condition of that part of the world which conceived itself best enlightened, its historical and philosophical writings fully prove; the former of which present a shocking picture of ferocity and grossness of manners,
formed, it should seem, on the model of the fabled gods which it worshipped; and the latter afford us an example, how near the truth it is possible to come, by the help of probabilities, and by dint of shrewd guessing. One beam of light, however, illuminated the obscurity of old time; and this beam the children of Abraham, in their generations, enjoyed. But whatsoever intellectual light was derived to the Jews from the Scriptures, it had not. its due influence upon them;—not that it was not steady and pure in itself; but they, on whom it shone, had not minds adapted to its reception—" the light shined, indeed, in darkness, but the darkness comprehended it not.” The Jews read the Law and heard the Prophets; but they mistook the intention of the one, and the meaning of the other. They adhered to the letter, and could not discern the spirit of the Scriptures: they doted on types, and forgot realities : they looked on the figures of heavenly things, and not on the heavenly things themselves : they paid their tythes, but hallowed not the residue of their
property, by using it to the glory of God : they observed the ceremonial cleansing of cups and vessels, but practised abominaable excesses, and fell into uncleanness of living: they submitted to outward circumcision, but the circumcision of the heart they neither understood nor regarded: the Passover they ate with all the formalities of the Law; but they discerned not, in the Passover, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the very Paschal Lamb, the anointed of God, both priest and sacrifice,-the Messiah. They looked, indeed, for the coming of the Messiah ; but they looked with the worldly eyes of ambitious expectation, for the restoration of David's 'throne and kingdom to Israel : they looked for a temporal, and not a spiritual Prince, who was to triumph over the nations, and not over their affections; who was to reign with the splendours of an earthly sovereign, and not (the greater glory) to erect his throne in the hearts of men.
At length, the great hour, ordained by Providence,—the fulness of time, arrived, when He, who by his Spirit gave the Scriptures to his people Israel, was to prove a light to lighten the Gentiles; when the rays of glory, which fell only on the land of Judea, were to be diffused over the face of the whole world; when the Sun of Righteousness was to rise, with healing in his wings.
Like the influence of the sun, when in the spring-time of the year, he shineth in his glory on the natural world, was