Imatges de pÓgina


divine nature was effected, was distinctly foretold, also, by the annunciation of an angel to the Virgin Mary, in these remarkable words"Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God."

When the birth itself of our blessed Lord took place, however humble it might have been, in some respects, it was celebrated by the song of angels, proclaiming, "Peace on earth, and good-will to man;"-by a star, or fiery meteor, that glided through the skies, till it came and rested over the place of his nativity; and by the journeying of wise men from the east, who came to worship the infant Saviour, and to present the appropriate offerings of "gold, frankincense, and myrrh."

Such, indeed, was the illustrious series of prophecies relating to the promised Messiah, and such were the preparatory measures adopted by the wisdom of Divine Providence for establishing his kingdom of holiness on earth, that

both Jews and Gentiles were led to believe that a sovereign, a Saviour, and deliverer, would at this time make his appearance in the world.

The interval between the birth of Christ and the commencement of his divine ministry was, as we learn from the evangelist, St. Luke, about thirty years; and, as this also was an event of the deepest interest to all mankind, not only as "sealing up the vision and the prophecy, but as making reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in everlasting righteousness," the people of Judea were prepared for it by the singular appearance, and the energetic preaching, of John the Baptist; whose character and office had been predicted by the prophets, and who avowed -himself to be the person described by Isaiah in the words of the text.

Let us now, as a subject not unfit for our meditation during the holy season of Advent, -notice some of the few passages in the Gospelhistory respecting the remarkable character of John the Baptist, and offer such comments, and occasional illustrations, as may, by God's blessing, be interesting and instructive. The first thing that deserves particular attention is, the singular prediction, which his father, Zacharias, received with relation to him, while ministering

in the temple, in these express words;-" Thy prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; for he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God;" that is, to the Saviour of the world. "And he shall go before Him" (meaning the Messiah)" in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Such was the extraordinary prediction respecting the venerable Baptist, even before he was conceived in his mother's womb; and the literal fulfilment of it may be considered as one of the many irrefragable proofs of the truth of Christianity for, in the fulness of time, John went into all the country about Jordan (called the Wilderness) preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, and saying, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven" (that is, the kingdom of righteousness and true holiness announced by the prophets, and about to be

[ocr errors]

established by the heavenly Messiah) "is at hand."

Here, we may observe, that the great and essential preparation for receiving the Gospel of Christ, for believing its doctrines with effect, and performing its duties with fidelity, is Repentance but this must not consist merely of sorrow and contrition for past omissions and transgressions;-it must lead to the forsaking of sin; and be so far efficacious, in future, as to bring forth fruits meet for repentance;" that is, habits of piety and virtue, suitable to what we feel and profess, and indicative of our stedfastness and sincerity. There must be no compromise between the pleasures of sin, and the dictates of conscience, or the commands of God. No evil habits must continue to be indulged, in consideration of some real, or supposed virtues; and no vain attempt must be made to unite "light with darkness," or to establish a sort of fellowship between "righteousness and iniquity:" but if any sinful indulgence seems as dear to us as an eye, we must pluck it out, or if it appear as necessary as a hand, we must cut it off, and cast it from us. To paraphrase, or rather, to give the spiritual interpretation of the holy prophet's symbolical expressions;-the


lofty assumptions of vanity, of pride, and selfconceit, must be mortified and brought low. Prejudices, and inveterate errors, that furnish barriers and impediments to all improvement, as formidable as mountains are, in the way of the benighted traveller, must be removed. The poor and humble that are now oppressed, and sunk to the lowest state of degradation, by the tyranny of their rulers, shall be gradually exalted to their proper level in society. The crooked mazes of selfish policy, and aspiring ambition, must be converted into paths of rectitude and truth; and whatever in manners, and in conduct, may be rough, harsh, and forbidding, must be exchanged for habits of gentle ness and peace, brotherly-kindness, and charity.

Those who confessed their sins, and gave the holy Baptist reason to believe, that they were sincere in their repentance, were baptised by him in the waters of the river Jordan: but when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, knowing their corruption and hypocrisy, he rejected them, exclaiming, with all the bitterness of reproof, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ?" and, at the same time, censuring them for their vain

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »