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divine institution in the world. It appears highly desirable therefore, by way of introduction to the following work, that the reader be presented with a sketch of the general state of the world at the time of the Saviour's birth ; and that his attention be also particularly called to the state of the Jewish nation at the same interesting period.

PART I.

A View of the State of the World in general, at the

time of Christ's Birth.

The inspired historians who have narrated the life and actions of the Lord Jesus Christ, have particularly specified the time of his birth, as being under the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus, and when Herod the Great was King of Judea.* At this period the Roman Empire was in the zenith of its extent and power; that military people having reduced the greatest part of the habitable earth under the dominion of its arms; and even the land of Judca, once so renowned as the binya dom over which David and Solomon had swayed the royal sceptre, had sunk into a province of this mighty empire.

The ancient Roman Empire was at this epoch of the world a most magnificent object. It extended from the river Euphrates in the east, to the Atlantic or western ocean; that is, in length more than three thousand miles. In breadth too, it was more than two thousand; and the whole included above sixteen hundred thousand square

• Luke ü. 1. Matt. ii. a.

miles. This vast extent of territory was divided into provinces; and they comprised the countries called Spain, Gaul, (since France) the greater part of Britain, Italy, Rhotia, Noricum, Pannonia, Dalmatia, Mesia, Dacia, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Phænicia, Palestine, Egypt, Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea, with its islands and colonies. This extended territory lay between the twenty-fourth and fiftysixth degrees of northern latitude, which was certainly the most eligible part of the temperate zone, and it produced in general all the conveniences and luxuries of life. *

From the days of Ninus, who lived about three hundred years after the flood, to those of Augustus Cæsar, was a period of two thousand years; in which interval, various empires, kingdoms, and states had gradually arisen and succeeded each other. The Assyrian or Babylonian empire may be said to have taken the lead. It not only had the precedence in point of time, but it was the cradle of Asiatic elegance and arts, and exhibited the first examples of that refinement and luxury which have distinguished every subsequent age in the annals of the east. But that gigantic power gave place to the empire of the Medes and Persians, which itself, in process of time, yielded to the valour of the Greeks; while the empire of Greece, so renowned for splendour in arts and in arms, had sunk unwr the dominion of Imperial Rome, who thus became mistress of all the civilized world.

Rome is said to have owed her dominion as much to the manners as to the arms of her citizens. Whenever the latter had subdued a particular territory, they prepared to civilize it. They transferred into each of the conquered countries their laws, manners, arts, sciences, and literature. The advantages that resulted from the

* Rollin's Roman History.-Hooke's Do. Do.--and Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

bringing of so many different nations into subjection under one people, or, to speak more properly, under one man, were no doubt, in many respects, considerable. For by this means the people of various countries, alike strangers to each other's language, manners, and laws, became associated together in amity and enjoyed reciprocal intercourse. By Roman munificence, which spared no expence to render the public roads commodious to travellers, an easy access was given to parts the most distant and remote. Literature and the Arts became generally diffused, and the cultivation of them extended even to countries that had previously formed no other scale by which to estimate the dignity of man, than that of corporeal vigour, or muscular strength. In short, men that had hitherto known no other rules of action, or modes of life, than those of savage and uncultivated nature, had now before them the example of a polished nation, and were gradually instructed by their conquerors to form themselves after it. These things deserve mention, because, as they contributed in some measure to facilitate the propagation of the gospel by the labours of the apostles, they may consequently be entitled to rank among those concurring events which constituted the period of our Lord's advent, “the fulness of time.”

The subjects of the Roman Empire, at this period, have been estimated at about one hundred and twenty millions of persons, and divided into three classes; namely, Citizens, Provincials, and Slaves. The first class enjoyed ample liberty and were entitled to peculiar immunities; the second had only the shadow of liberty, without any constitutional freedom; while the last were entirely dependent on the arbitrary will of their masters, who, as best suited their purpose, either enfranchised, or oppressed, or barbarously punished and destroyed them. Enthusiastic in the cause of liberty themselves, the Romans studied the most prudent methods of rendering the

provinces of the empire insensible to the yoke that was imanyused on them. They treated willing captives with commendable liberality; and used the conquered countries with that moderation which evinced that their leading ohject was, not the destruction of mankind, but the increase of the empire. They colonized foreign countries with Romans, who introduced agriculture, arts, sciences, learning, and commerce. Having made the art of governing a particular branch of study, they excelled in it above all the inhabitants of the globe. Their history indeed, exhibits wise councils, prudent measures, equitable laws, and all classes of men are represented to us as conducting themselves so as to command the admiration of posierity.

Having thus briefly glanced at the state of civilization which prevailed in the Roman Empire at the date of the Christian æra, we shall quit the subject, in order to examine more particularly its condition with regard to morals and religion; for it is with these that the history of the Christian church is more especially concerned. And that we may have a more enlarged and distinct view of the matter, it may be profitable for us to go back in our enquiries, and take a rapid glance of the state of the Gentile world from a much earlier period. The prophet Isaiah, rapt in prophetic vision, and transported to that distant age when God should perform the mercy promised to the fathers, breaks out into the following sublime strains: “Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee."*

Much has been said of late respecting the sufficiency of reason to direct the human mind in its pursuit of the chief good, or of the knowledge of the true character of God and of obedience to his will: the enquiry on which we are entering may possibly serve to evince how far such representations are entitled to regard, and

• Isaiah lx. 2, 3.

bringing of so many diferent uations inte fuliertian under oue people, or, to speak more properly, under one mal, were no doubt, in muy respects, considerable. For by this means the people of various countries, alike strangers to each other's language, manners, and lause became associated together in amity and enjoyed reciprocal iutercourse. By Roma: marificedoe, stich spared no expence to render the public roads conmodious to travellers, an easy access was given to parts the most distant and remole. Literature and the Arts became generally diffused, and the cultivation of thein extended even to countries that had previously formed no other scale by which to estimate the dignity of man, than that of corporcal vigour, or muscular strength. In short, men that had hitherto known Do other rules of action, or modes of life, than those of savage and uncultivated nature, had now before them the example of a polished nation, and were gradually instructed by their conquerors to form themselves after it. These things deserve mention, because, as they contributed in some measure to facilitate the propagation of the gospel by the labours of the aposties, they may consequently be entitled to rank among those concurring events which constituted the period of our Lord's advent, “ the fulness of time,"

The subjects of the Roman Empire, at this period, have been estimated at about one hundred and twenty millions of persons, and divided into three classes; namely, Citizens, Provincials, and Slaves. The first class enjoyed ample liberty and were entitled to peculiar immunities; the second had only the shadow of liberty, without any constitutional freedom; while the last were entirely dependent on the arbitrary will of their masters, who, as best suited their parpose, either enfranchised, or oppressed, or barbarously punished and destroyed them. Enthusiastic in the cause of liberty themselves, the Romans studied the most prudent methods of rendering the

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