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The next remarkable passage, which I shall notice, occurred, when the tribute money was demanded of our Lord, for the use of the temple ; a duty exacted in the name of God, and for the special service of the established place of religious worship: upon this occasion our Lord again takes the opportunity of intimating his peculiar relationship to the Father. “What !” says he to Peter,“ do the kings of the earth take custom, or tribute, of their own children, or of strangers ? Peter answered, of strangers, Jesus saith unto him, then are the children free.” Matt. xvii. 25, 26. thereby inferring that he might plead the like exemption from paying tribute to God, being the Son of God. But, however, that he might give no offenoe, he chooses to wave his privilege, and to pay tribute, though at the expense of a miracle. Let any man seriously consider this, and think whether it be consistent with the regard we owe to the wisdom and humility of Christ, to imagine that he should so much insist upon his own dignity ; if he were not, in every respect, what the voice from heaven, at his transfiguration, fully and incontrovertibly proclaimed him to be “ The Son of the most high God,” inseparably and substantially united to the Father, omnipresent, immutable, and incomprehensible, strictly and essentially divine.
Whoever examines with attention the character of our blessed Lord, as it may
be collected from the various incidents and actions of his life, will soon discover, that it was, in every respect, the most perfect that ever was made known to the world. Nor was his wisdom inferior to his virtues. The doctrines he taught were the most sublime, the most important that were ever before delivered to mankind, and every way worthy of that God from whom he professed to derive them, and whose son he declared himself to be. If then he was confessedly so great and so good a man, it unavoidably follows, that he must be what he pretended to be, of a divine original. Look again at the explicit prophecies which announced his advent, and the striking circumstances which attended his incarnation
If we examine the bible, from Genesis to the commencement of the Christian'era,
we shall find that the providence of God was chiefly occupied in preparing the world for this event. If revelations from heaven be made to the patriarchs and prophets, it is to show them the day of the Messiah afar off—if Christ chose a peculiar people, it was to render them the depositories of the promises concerning his coming. Nor were indications of the divine intentions confined to the Jews only, the plan of providence extended over the whole earth. This was one great end of all the designs of the Deity, and furnishes the key to all the divine dispensations. “ If empires rose or fell, if war divided, or peace united the nations, if learning civilized their manners, 'or philosophy enlarged their views, all was, by the secret appointment of heaven, made, in some measure, to modify the world for that fulness of time, when the Messiah was to appear.” What a magnificent conception does this give us of the person of Christ, when we behold princes and kings, entering one after another upon the stage of time, to prepare the way for the King of kings !
Nor were the occurrences which immediately preceded, and attended our Lord's nativity, less remarkable,--a celestial envoy is delegated to Joseph, to tell him not to hesitate to take Mary to wife, for that which was conceived in her was of the Holy Ghost. Gabriel, the most exalted of the angelic spirits, is despatched from the throne of God to proclaim the child's birth-a heavenly choir cheer the midnight hours, with repeating "glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men ;” the long expected star is seen in the east, to direct the magi where to pay their adorations, is it prohable? is it conceivable? is it credible that heaven should bestow such honours upon any being, whose nature was not eternally and essentially divine ? But supposing that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world, of whom Isaiah prophecied—“ Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, (the Father of Eternity) The Prince of Pence;" then the magnificence of his attendants was highly graceful, and it was no wonder that all the celestial armies should unite, with harmonious voices, and accordant hearts, in applauding and celebrating a condescension and benevolence, great and illustrious beyond all example.