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the holy patriarchs, were before him ; and as all his disciples are called to be after him.
Shepherds, watching their flocks in the field by night, were selected as proper persons to receive the glad tidings of his birth. Their office represents that of the ministers of God, who are to make known abroad what is told them from heaven : and those shepherds will always have the preference, who are found in their office, watching over their locks.
Even the time of the year in which our Saviour was born was not without its meaning. This happened on the night when the sun passed the winter solstice, and was returning to bring back the increasing light of the spring. The birth of John the Baptist had happened six months earlier; at the season when the sun begins to shorten the days, and his light is daily decreasing. These two seasons are respectively agreeable to the characters of the two persons, and the event of their ministry: with a view to which, it was predicted of both by the Baptist himself, he must increase, but I must decrease*.
If we go from the season of his birth to that of his passion, most of the circumstances, preparatory to it and attending it, have their
propriety and signification : of which one single
fact will be sufficient to convince us. For, as his birth was witnessed by a new star lighted up in the heavens; so at his passion the light of the day was extinguished at noon, and
its testimony, that He was the true light who was then expiring upon the cross at Jerusalem. .
The disciples were directed to the house where the passover of the Lord's supper was to be eaten, by a man bearing a pitcher of water*, whom they were to follow, and where he entered they were to enter and make ready. The same direction will serve to the end of the world: for where the water of baptism is found with the living waters of the word and spirit of God, there is the house of God, and there are his mysteries to be celebrated : as, on the other hand, where there is no baptism, there is no church, nor can be any supper of the Lord.
The agony of our Saviour in a garden, and the treason of Judas there committed, and his burial in a garden, where he appeared after his resurrection, and was taken for the gardener of the place, are so many natural signs, which refer us back to the garden where that sin began, which brought him to his sufferings. The wood of his cross, which is called a tree t, upon which he bare our sins, answers to the fatal tree of Paradise which brought sin into the world: the one tree was the instrument of out ruin, the other of our salvation. It was, therefore, ordained, that Jesus Christ should suffer death under the Roman power, and not under the Jewish. When the Jews refused to put him to death in their own way, (which would have been by stoning) out of flattery to the Roman governor they ignorantly contributed to the great plan of Providence, and proved Jesus Christ to be the true Saviour, who died for Adam's sin. Thus will it ever happen: the perverse ways of man shall fulfil the righteous designs of God. The crown of thorns, which they put upon his head, was another mark to the same effect, and shewed him to be the person upon whom the curse of our sin was transferred. This case is singular; the history of mankind does not inform us that this act of cruel mockery was ever practised upon any other sufferer, except of late, amidst the murderous executions in that devoted country, France ; where, as we are told, one poor sufferer was crowned with thorns, and treated with the indignities peculiar to the death of Jesus Christ.
* Mark xiv. 13.
t i Pet, ii. 24.
The whole race of mankind, for whom Christ suffered, are divided into the two parties of Jews and Gentiles; frequently signified by two
individual persons. To represent these, two malefactors suffered with him ; of whom one, a pattern of the Gentiles, repented of his error, glorified a suffering Saviour, and received a promise of being taken into Paradise : while the other, like the Jews, went on reviling him, and, in the insolent language of the Jews, bade him save himself. The rending of the veil of the temple, when he gave up the ghost, was a sign that his death was the removing of that partition which excludes man from the residence of God, and opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. As to the place or spot on which he suffered death, we suppose it to have happened on that very mountain (Moriah) where Isaac had been offered up by Abraham, as a prelude to his death and resurrection ; according to the words of a prophecy founded on that event, which strictly signify, in this mountain the Lord will provide * ; i. e. will provide that true lamb for a sacrifice, which shall take away the sins of the world. Certain it is, his death happened without the gate of Jerusalem, as the sacrifice was carried without the camp to be burned; to shew, in a figure, how he should be rejected as an alien and an outcast by his own people, and delivered over to the Gentiles. The apostle, in
his Ģen. xxii. 14.
bis epistle to the Hebrews, hath thus applied this circumstance of our Saviour's death; grounding upon it this important lesson, that we must prepare ourselves to be rejected as he was, and go to him without the camp*, bearing the like reproach of being cast out by the world for his sake, as he was for ours.
As the lights of Heaven had borne their testimony to his birth and his death ; so did nature still correspond with his resurrection. He rose from the dead at the springing of the morning, when the day-light was going to appear: on which consideration the rising of every morning should remind us of Christ's resurrection, and of our own deliverance from the grave, when the day of life shall dawn upon us.
When Christ was apprehended by his enemies in the garden, in consequence of the treason of Judas, a remarkable occurrence fore-shewed to the spectators what the event should be; that is, how these indignities should terminate in his resurrection. At the time when he was seized, to be led away to the high priest, this singular circumstance is related by St. Mark, that he was followed by a certain young man, with a linen cloth cast about his naked body, (who he was, or whence he came, it is not said) and that,
* Heb. xiii. 13.