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at length incapable of discerning truth, of appreciating the value of rational conviction, or of distinguishing the mandates of their teacher from the suggestions of their own perverted understandings.

Your people was prepared for a completion of their dispensation; the consummation looked for was grand beyond conception; and their expectation was reasonable and active. A pause succeeded. Whether this pause issued in blank disappointment, or in an indefinite protraction of their hope, or whether a consummation was given which they refused to accept, and whether the spiritual progress of the nation was therefore arrested, is the most interesting and important inquiry which can engage any who would worship the Supreme with the powers of the understanding as well as the affections of the heart.

Section II.-Spirit of Christianity. When the voice of prophecy had ceased for four hundred years, and when the expectations of your people respecting the Messiah had been exalted to a very high pitch, it was rumoured throughout the land of Judea that one was prophesying in the wilderness, and baptizing into a new faith. In proportion as this rumour spread, multitudes went out to learn what was the object of this baptism, the nature of this prophecy; and whether he who prophesied was the Messiah who had been looked for so long. They found one who answered in no respect to their expectation of a national Saviour: his mode of life being austere, his promises void of all reference to future greatness and glory, and his lineage well known not to be that of the promised deliverer. Yet there was in John the son of Zachariah a voice of authority which few resisted. He performed no miracles, but appealed to prophecy; he uttered predictions whose fulfilment he declared to be close at hand; and his doctrine and mode of enforcing it were so

, remarkable as to rivet the attention of the nation on his pro

ceedings. Like many of the ancient prophets, he appeared divested of all worldly possessions and advantages. His raiment was rude, his food simple; he avoided the familiar companionship of men, and took his station in the wilderness and on the banks of Jordan, where multitudes came from all the country of Judea, and from Jerusalem itself, to hear his doctrine and to be baptized by him. There appears to have been no distinction among those who received baptism from him, however various might be their opinions concerning his mission. Many supposed him to be the Messiah, as he taught with irresistible authority: others, who rightly perceived that the circumstances of his appearance did not correspond with the prophecies concerning Christ, yet listened to him as a mighty prophet: none looked upon him with absolute unbelief; and those who conducted the spiritual affairs of the nation sent a deputation of Priests and Levites from Jerusalem to inquire of John himself who he was and what office he had assumed. The members of this deputation found him preaching repentance and purification, as a preparation for receiving a new faith. Beyond this he did not proceed. He offered no new doctrine, delivered no new message from the Eternal, and bounded his efforts to causing a more perfect preparation, a more exalted hope of some dispensation which was still future. His endeavours were seconded by the ardent prevailing desire of the people; so that, humbling as were his reproofs, and austere as was his train of preaching, men of all ranks and offices submitted to become his disciples. The Pharisees came to him to be taught, the Sadducees petitioned to be baptized, while he rebuked their pride, and overthrew the ill-grounded confidence which they entertained because they were descended from Abraham. The Publicans were warned against extortion, the soldiers against violence and insubordination, and the multitudes generally against selfishness and evil deeds and thoughts of every kind. The exhortation was, to hasten to repent of and reform all that was sinful, that all might be purified to receive certain glad-tidings which should soon be made



known. The deputation from Jerusalem saw and heard these things; they witnessed the disputes among the multitude concerning this prophet, whether he was the Christ; and going to John, they plainly asked the question, which was as plainly answered. He declared that he was not the Christ, nor Elijah (who was expected to appear), but a messenger who should prepare the way for a far mightier prophet; that he was one who, in the words of Isaiah, lifted up his voice in the desert to command that the way of the Lord should be made straight. He declared that this mightier prophet was dwelling in the midst of his nation at that very hour; so that the expectation of the people, though still deferred, should not be again disappointed, as the kingdom of heaven was nigh at hand, and he who should introduce it was prepared for his mission, and only waiting a signal from God to open it.

These glad-tidings were spread on the tongues of thousands to the remotest corners of the kingdom. Herod listened to them in his palace; the priests communed of them in the temple; the despised Samaritans looked for the decision of the controversies respecting the appointed place of worship; and the Galileans, who had no idea that one of their towns had sent forth the Deliverer, heard from afar that the name of the Messiah had been spoken on the banks of Jordan.

The promise given by John was ere long seen to be fulfilled. As the prophet was standing beside the river, teaching and baptizing, one approached him who came out of Nazareth in Galilee, and desired also to be baptized. For the first time, the prophet hesitated to discharge his office, declaring that he had more need to be baptized by the stranger than the stranger by him. The stranger, however, explained his desire to submit to all established ordinances without making any distinction of persons; and John therefore went down with him into the water. When the rite was ended, those assembled beheld in one moment that the promise of ages was fulfilled, and the patience of their expectation rewarded. They beheld the first miracle which succeeded a pause of many centuries, and



acknowledged that once again God had plainly spoken to his people. They saw the heavens opened; they witnessed the descent of the spirit on the stranger from Galilee, and heard the same voice which had spoken to Moses out of the burning bush announcing a higher dignity than had been conferred on the greatest prophet of the first dispensation. The stranger, being the son of Joseph and Mary, was of the offspring of David, a branch of the root of Jesse, and he was now pointed out as the Messiah by the voice from heaven, which said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The expectation of those who beheld was not immediately fulfilled by the appearance of the Messiah in Jerusalem or in any of the cities of Judea. He was not yet fully prepared for his office, and withdrew into the wilderness for forty days, where alone, and probably in communion with Him who sent him, he might be informed of all things respecting his mission, and exercised and strengthened for the labours and sufferings he was to undergo. When after a time he heard that his forerunner John had been thrown into prison, because he had rebuked the vices and therefore incurred the vengeance of Herod, Jesus withdrew into Galilee, where he first opened his mission. He taught in their synagogues, proving that the prophecies of the Messiah related to a period which had then arrived, and that the glory which had long been promised had at length risen upon Israel. As he taught with the power of the spirit, his fame spread through the whole country of Galilee.

His teaching was already confirmed by miracles. The first of these was performed at Cana, where some who had heard from John that Jesus was the Messiah were present to have their faith confirmed by this first display of miraculous power. This miracle, of changing water into wine at a marriage-feast, was followed by so many cures of the sick and infirm and lunatic, that he was believed on, not only by his immediate followers or by the dwellers in the towns where he

wrought his miracles, but by many inhabitants of Jerusalem and of the whole territory of Judea, and of the country beyond Jordan, who came to witness his words and actions. He had already made provision for securing ample and durable testimony to the nature of his preaching, of his private conduct and public acts. If he had gone from place to place alone, or accompanied by a multitude who followed him from curiosity, and who could not attend his steps everywhere, there must have been uncertainty and incompleteness in all the testimony, however strong, which could have been obtained. A fuller testimony was therefore secured. As Jesus walked on the shore of the lake of Tiberias, he saw Simon and Andrew (wh had learned from John that this Jesus was the Messiah,) pursuing their occupation of fishing. He called them, and after

, wards James and John, the sons of Zebedee, to follow him and remain with him. They did so; and from that day beheld his works, listened to his teachings, and received his private instructions during his life; and after his death bore testimony to what they had seen and heard by their preachings, by their writings, and by laying down their lives for the Gospel they taught. Various and competent witnesses having thus been appointed from the very commencement of his mission, we are furnished with evidence respecting the life and doctrine of Jesus which may be relied on, whatever may be thought of the innocence of the life and the divinity of the doctrine.

Some of the acts and words of the new prophet had already given offence to those religious teachers who could not conceive the idea of relaxing any of the religious observances to which they had been accustomed, of separating the ordinances of the priests from the commands of Moses, or of paying more regard to the spirit than the letter of the Law. Such men had suffered from the long protraction of the national hope, from the long absence of higher religious aims than the first dispensation had set before them. They had acquired the habit of magnifying what were merely the accessories of their institutions at

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