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tablishment of Messiah's kingdom is the final cause. The kings and politicians of the world are not aware of this. God is not in their thoughts. But while they pursue their own ends, and make havock of the peace of mankind, to gratify their own interests and ambition, and look no higher, they are ignorantly, and without intention, acting as instruments of the will of God. The wrath of man is overruled to his praise and his purpose,* and succeeds so far as it is instrumental to the accomplishment of his designs, avd no further. While they move in this line, their schemes, however injudiciously laid, and whatever disproportion there may seem between the means they are possessed of, and the vast objects they aim at, prosper beyond their own expectations; but the remainder of their wrath be will restrain. Their best projected and best supported enterprizes issue in shame and disappointment, if they are not necessary parts of that chain of causes and events which the Lord of all has appointed. Thus Sennacherib, when sent, by the God whom he knew not, to execute his displeasure against the kingdom of Judah, had, for a time a rapid and uninterrupted series of conquests ;ť but his attempt upon Jerusalem was beyond the limits of bis commission, and therefore failed. Among the principal instruments who were appointed to prepare a way in the wilderness for Messiah, and to facilitate the future spread of his kingdom, we may take votice of Alexander ; and this designation secured his success, though the extravagancies, excesses, and rashness, which marked his character, were sufficient to have rendered his undertakings abortive, had he not been in the hand of the Lord of hosts, as an ax or a saw in the hand of a workman. By his conquests the knowledge of the Greek language was diffused among many nations ; and the Hebrew Scriptures being soon afterwards translated into that language, an expectation of some great deliverer was raised far and wide, before Messias appeared. When this service was fulfilled, the haughty, presumptuous worm who had been employed in it, was no longer necessary, and therefore was soon laid aside ; and all his proud designs, for the establishment of his own family and dominion, perished with him. His empire was divided towards the four winds of heaven, and this division likewise contributed to bring forward the purpose of God.f For each of the four kingdoms, established by his successors, being thus separated, became a more easy prey to the Roman power. This power, which had been gradually increasing and extending in the course of several hundred years, was at the height about the time of our Lord's birth. The greatest part of the habitable earth which was at that time distinctly known, was united under one empire, composed of various kingdoms and governments, which, though once independent and considerable, were then no more than Roman provinces ; and as all the provinces had an iminediate connexion with Rome, a way was thus prepared, and an intercourse opened, on every side, for the promulgation of the Gospel.
* Psalm lxxvi. 10.
# Isa. xxxvii. 26---29.
Dan. viii. 8.
Among the Jews, the prosessing people of God, a way was prepared for Messiah by the ministry of bis harbinger, John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, (as has been foretold of bim by the prophets, particularly by the last of the prophets, Malachi,) preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, and proclaiming that the Saviour and his kingdom were at hand. He who sent him accompanied bis mission with a divine power. A multitude of persons, of various descriptions, were impressed by his message, insomuch that John himself seems to have been astonished at the numbers and characters of those who came to his baptism.
When the ministry of John had thus previously disposed the minds of many for the reception of Messiah, and engaged the attention of the people at large, Messiah himself entered upon his public office, on the same scene, and among the same people. As be increased, John willingly decreased. So the morning star ceases to be seen, as the sun advances above the horizon. This distinguished servant of God, having finished his work, was removed to a better world. Not in the triumphant manner in which Elijah was translated ; but as he caine to announce a new dispensation, under which believers were to expect opposition and ill treatment, to walk by faith, and frequently to be called to seal their testimony with their blood, he was permitted to fall a sacrifice to the revenge of a wanton woman ; and though we are assured that none of the race of Adam was greater in the estimation of God than he, his death was asked and procured as the reward bf an idle dance.*
III. The latter part of my text describes the manner and immediate effects of MESSIAH's appearance during his personal ministry, with an intimation of its future and more extensive consequences.
· The valleys shall be exalted.' A valley is an emblem of a low condition. Such was the condition of most of our Lord's followers ; but his notice and favour exalted them highly. He came to preach the Gospel to the poor, to fill the hungry with good things, to save the chief of sinners, to open a door of hope
* Matib, xi. 11. siv. --U.
| Luke, vii. 37, 38.
and salvation to persons of the vilest and most despicable characters in human estimation. Such, for instance, was the woman mentioned by the evangelist Luke.* The Pharisee thought our Lord dishonoured himself by permitting such a one to touch him, nor had she a word to say in her own behall. But the compassionate Saviour highly exalted her, when he vouchsafed to plead ber cause, to express his gracious acceptance of her tears and love, and to assure her that her sins, though many, were all forgiven. Very low, likewise, was the state of the malefactor on the cross; he had committed great crimes, was suffering grievous torments, and in the very jaws of death.f But grace visited his heart, he was plucked as a brand out of the fire, and exalted to paradise and glory. The world accounts the proud happy, and honours the covetous if they be prosperous. But true honour cometh from God. They who are partakers of the faith and hope of the Gospel, and have interest in the precious promises, are indeed the rich, the happy, the excellent of the earth, however they may be unnoticed or despised by their fellow-creatures. The honour of places, likewise, is to be considered in this light. Bethlehem, though but of little note among the thousands of Judah, was rendered more illustrious, by the birth of Messiah, than Babylon or Rome. The Galileans were held in contempt by the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as a mean and provincial people ; but the places in Galilee, which our Lord frequently visited, or where he sometimes resided, are spoken of as exalted unto heaven, by the honour and privilege of his presence, though some of them were no more than fishing towns. And so at this day, if we have spiritual discernment, we shall judge, that a little village, where the Gospel is known, prized,
a and adorned by a suitable conversation, has a dignity and importance far preferable to all the parade of a wealthy metropolis, if destitute of the like privileges.
On the contrary, Every mountain and hill shall be brought low. Messiah came to pour contempt on all human glory. He detected the wickedness, and confounded the pride of the Scribes and Pharisees, and rulers, and made it appear, that what is highly esteemed among men, 50 trdov, the summit of their boasted excellency, is worthless, yea, abomination in the sight of God. I And by living himself in a state of poverty, and associating chiefly with poor people, be placed the vanity of the distinctions and affluence which mankind generally admire and envy, in the most striking and humiliating light. Such, likewise, was and will be the effect of his Gospel. When faithfully
Luke, xvi. 15.
* Luke, vii. 37, 38. Vol. III.
+ Luke, xxiii. 42.
preached, it is found mighty, through God, to the pulling down strong holds, high thoughts, and every species of self-exaltation. When the convincing word touches the heart, it has an effect like the hand-writing which Belshazzar saw upon the wall.* In that day the lofty looks of man are humbled, and his haughtiness bowed down ;t he dares no longer plead the goodness of his heart, or trust to the work of his hands. A sense of forgiveness and acceptance through the Beloved, received by faith in his atonement, lays him still lower : he now renounces as loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord, all that he once esteemed his gain, and is glad that he has nothing to trust or glory in but the cross. Further, every mountain that opposes the kingdom of Messiah, in due time must sink into a plain ;|| though the nations rage, and the rulers take counsel together, he who sitteth in the heavens will support and maintain his own work, and all their power and policy shall fall before it.
• The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places smooth. He came to rectify the perverse disposition of the hearts of men, to soften and subdue their obstinate spirits, and to form to himself a willing people in the day of his power. The Jewish teachers, by their traditions and will-worship, bad given an apparent obliquity to the straight and perfect rule of the law of God, and deformed the beauties of holiness, binding heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, upon the conscience; but he vindicated the law from their corrupt glosses, and made the path of obedience plain, practicable, and pleasant.
· Thus the glory of the Lord was revealed.' Not to every eye; many, prejudiced by his outward appearance, and by the low, mistaken views the Jews indulged of the office and kingdom of Messiah, whom they expected, could see no form or excellence in him, that they should desire him ; but bis disciples could say, “We beheld bis glory.' He spake with authority. His word was with power. He controlled the elements. He raised the dead. He knew, and revealed, and judged the thoughts of men's hearts. He forgave sin, and thus exercised the rights, and displayed the perfections of divine sovereignty in his own person. But the prophecy looks forward to future times. After his ascension he filled his apostles and disciples with light and power, and sent them forth, in all directions, to proclaim his love and grace to a sinful world. Then the glory of the Lord was revealed, and spread from one kingdom to another people. We still wait for the full accomplishment of this promise, and expect a time when the whole earth shall be filled with his glory ; for the mouth of the Lord bath spoken it. It is to the power of his word that we owe the continuance of day and night, and the regular return of the seasons of the year. But these appointments are only for a limited term ; the hour is coming, when the frame of nature shall be dissolved. Heaven and earth shall pass away ; but not a jot or tittle of what he hath declared concerning his kingdom of grace shall fail, till the whole be fulfilled.
* Dan. v. 6. + Isa. ii. 11.
| Phil. iji. 7, 8.
|| Zech. iv. 7. John, i. 14.
Those of you who have heard the Messiah, will do well to recollect, whether you were affected by such thoughts as these while this passage was performed ; or whether you were only captivated by the music, and paid no more regard to the words than if they had no meaning. They are, however, the great truths of God. May they engage your serious attention, now they are thus set before you !
THE SHAKING OF THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH,
HAGGAT, ii. 6, 7.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Yet once, il is a little while, and I will
shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land: And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.
God shook the earth when he proclaimed his law to Israel from Sinai. The description though very simple, presents to our thoughts a scene unspeakably majestic, grand, and awful. The mountain was in flames at the top, and trembled to its basis. Dark clouds thunderings, and lightnings, filled the air. The hearts of the people, of the whole people, trembled likewise ; and even Moses bimself said, I exceedingly fear and quake. Then, as the apostle, referring to this passage, observes, The voice of the Lord shook the earth.t But the prophet here speaks of another, a greater, a more important and extensive concussion. a little while, and I will shake not the earth only, but the heavens.
If we really believe that the Scriptures are true, that the prophecies were delivered by holy men who spake as they were
* Exod. xix. 16--19.
| Heb. xii. 26.