Page images




Birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus circumcised. Welcomed by saints

and angels. Worshipped by the wise men. Sought for by Herod. Carried into Egypt. Conversant at twelve years

with the Doctors. Lives in retirement until thirty years of age. Birth, character, and work of John the Baptist. Jesus baptized by him, and consecrated to the Priesthood. Christ's ministry. Abolition of the Jewish, and establishment of the Christian Church. Christ's Priesthood. His death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus, King in Zion. Evidences of his divine mission.

JESUS CARIST, the Saviour of men, was born of the virgin Mary, at Bethlehem in Judea, in the year of the world four thousand; four years before the vulgar era. His miraculous birth was foretold with astonishing precision, by the prophet Isaiah.* To Mary, it was revealed, before conception, by the Angel Gabriel. Like other wonderful works of God, it has been the scoff of the wicked; but the pure in heart, behold in it a striking correspondence with the purity and dignity of the Redeemer's 's person

and office. Mary was a direct descendant from David, through Nathan. Christ was therefore, of the seed of David, according with the language of prophecy, though not of the royal line. Her genealogy is given by Luke. Before his birth she was espoused to Joseph, a direct descendant from David in the royal line. He became his reputed father. His genealogy is given by Matthew. Hence Jesus might be called, KING OF THE Jews.

The place of his birth was predicted by Micah. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, though thou be but little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee, shall he come forth unto me, that is to be ruler of Israel, whose goings forth have been from

[blocks in formation]

of old, from everlasting." Thither his parents, who were inhabitants of Galilee, were brought in the fulness of time, by an imperial edict, to be enrolled for taxation.* Obscurity and lowliness marked his birth. He was laid in a manger.

On the eighth day from his birth, the holy child was circumcised from a sacred regard to divine institution, and called Je. sus, because he should save his people. As sent and anointed of God, to perform the work of Mediator, he was the Christ or Messiah ; and hence, he has sustained the double appellation, JESUS CHRIST.

The birth of the Saviour filled the hearts of the people of God, who had been looking for his advent, with exceeding joy. Simeon and Anna, aged saints, paid him, as he was presented in the Temple, their joyful gratulations. An innumerable company of angels were heard, by shepherds in the field, praising God and saying " Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. An extraordinary star or meteor, ap. peared in the heavens and conducted certain wise men to wor. ship him ;-going before them, as did the pillar of fire before the Israelites in the wilderness until they came to Jerusalem. No earthly prince ever entered the world in such majesty and glory. The quostion of the wise mon, Whero io he that is born King of the Jews ? troubled Herod and all Jerusalem. The bloody monarch, without delay, sought his death. And when baffled in his scheme by an overruling providence, he made havoc of all the children of Bethlehem under two years; bringing on a scene of wo, like that on which the prophet Jeremiah, ages before, had fixed his eye. “Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted.” The holy child was carried into Egypt, where he remained, until, directed by heaven, his parents returned and dwelt in Nazareth.

Such a concurrence of circumstances, must have made the infant Messiah the object of general attention, to an extent of which, we, at this distance of time, can have but faint concep. tions.

* An objection has been raised against this part of inspired history from a well authenticated fact, that Cyrenius, in whose days this taxing is said to have been, was not governor of Syria until ten or twelve years after the birth of Jesus. But the difficulty is solved, by distinguishing between the enrolment of the citizens, and the actual collection of taxes, which was not until the time of Cyrenius. The avidity with which Infidels seize such apparent contradictions, shows the weakness of their cause,

CHAP. 1.



At twelve



his parents took him with them on their annual visit to Jerusalem, at the feast of the passover. There he conversed with the Jewish doctors, and the divinity shone forth in him. “ All were astonished at his understanding and answers.” When sought by his parents, from whom he had wandered, he said, Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business !-a proof that he did not remain till manhood ignorant of the great purpose for which he came into the world. He submissively returned with them to Nazareth, where he re. mained until he was about thirty years of age, probably in the employment of his father, who was a carpenter.

“Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh." Not only the person of the Redeemer, but the lateness of his pearance, and his obscurity after the great excitement at his birth, and conversation with the doctors in the Temple, are unac. countable to many.

The occurrence of events is resolvable only into the divine sovereignty. God brings every thing to pass according to his own pleasure. Yet to the inquiry, Why did not the Saviour appear hundreds and thousands of years before ? it may be re. plied, that by delay, time was given for a full exhibition of the evil nature and power of sin, and of the utter insufficiency of all ordinary means to reform the world ;-while his character and offices, life and death, were marked out by a great variety of typical and verbal predictions, by which the world were at once qualified to judge of his character and work, whenever he should appear. On the subject of his retirement, it may be remarked, that he came to be an High Priest in the Church of God, and that he refrained from becoming a preacher of righteousness, until he had attained his thirtieth year, and might strictly conform to the Jewish law. It is manifest, from the astonishment produced by his conversation with the doctors, that he might, at any period, have called to himself the attention of the world. The rulers were alarmed at his birth, but they soon died, and the power passed into the hands of others, who knew him not. The mass of the people were ignorant and vicious. They looked only for some great temporal prince, who should deliver them from Roman bondage. If their attention had once been excited by a wonderful child, who appeared amid many signs, it would soon subside, as he passed from their notice. Especially as it was an age of general expectation, when others were probably held up to view as the long expected deliverer. But he was not unknown and forgotten by the pious. His mother treasured up every thing in her heart, which developed

[ocr errors]

his greatness. And had we a more minute history of his course, we should doubtless find many of the people of God looking anxiously toward him as a wonderful messenger from heaven. “ He increased in wisdom and stature, and was in favour with God and man."

Malachi the last of the ancient prophets, closed his writings and the canon of the Old Testament, with a prediction of John the Baptist, under the character of Elijah the prophet.

That holy man was born six months before the Saviour, of Ze. charias, an aged priest, and Elizabeth. He was to be the fore. runner of Christ. In apparel, temper, austerity, boldness in reproving vice, and zeal for God, he strongly resembled that eminent prophet whose name he bore. In about the twentyeighth year of Christ, he began to proclaim to men the approach of the gospel kingdom; to call sinners to repentance, and to baptize such as confessed their sins and turned to God.

His baptism was not Christian baptism. was not adminis. tered in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. It was not an initiation into the Christian Church; for the gospel dispensation was yet to come. It was one of those divers washings, which belonged to the Jewish economy. He disclaimed a baptism like to that of Christ. Some, therefore, who had been baptized with the baptism of John, afterwards re. ceived Christian baptism from the hands of Paul. They had not so much as heard of the Holy Ghost.*

While John was baptizing at the river Jordan, Jesus came be baptized of him. He came, not as a sinner confessing hi sins, to be baptized unto repentance, for he was perfectly holy; not to receive any emblem of regeneration, for he needed no change of heart;—not to be admitted into the Christian Church, for this was not yet established ;-but to be legally and solemnly consecrated as High Priest to his people. Under the law, the priests were consecrated to their office by baptism and anointing with oil.t John, evidently not fully understanding the purpose of Jesus, hesitated at a compliance with the request, think. ing that he, as a sinner, had need to be baptized of him; but Christ told him to suffer it, for he must fulfil all righteousness. He had been circumcised in infancy, and had shown respect in all his conduct, to those divine institutions which were still bind. ing upon the people, and he would not force himself into the priesthood in a way which would be illegal. He was therefore

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

baptized by John and anointed, not with oil, but by the Holy Ghost. For “lo! the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove and lighted upon him.” Immediately he retired into the wilderness, where he spent forty days in fasting and prayer, and was tempted by Satan. With detes. tation and abhorrence, he baffled, by scripture, all the enticemeats of this arch seducer, who, in his malignancy, had de. stroyed the first Adam, but who was now to be bruised in the head by the seed of the woman, the second Adam, the Saviour of the world.

Fully qualified for his arduous work Jesus went forth in the power of the Spirit, to set up the Gospel kingdom, and to unfold that salvation to a dying world which he would soon effect through his own death.

For three years and an half he went about through all the cities and villages of Palestine, preaching doctrines which the world had never before heard, and giving in works of benevo. lence, the most amazing manifestations of Almighty power. As no nation had ever been visited by such an exalted personage, so none was ever thus engrossed, astonished and gratified. Vast crowds thronged him, so that they trod one upon another; and, had the common people been heard and gratified, he would have received the adoration of the nation. But the rulers and heads of contending sects, jealous of their rights and envious, perpetually persecuted him; and ultimately, though according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God* put him to the

cruciating death of the cross.
Jesus Christ was, in all respects, a man.

He had a human body and a reasonable and immortal soul. He had all the hu. man appetites and affections; all our emotions of joy and sorrow. He hungered and thirsted. He slept. He suffered, bled and died. At the same time, he knew all things.; could do all things ; had all power in heaven and on earth, and was LMMANUEL, God with us. Sometimes the actings only of the human nature were seen in him ; he was found eating, drinking, sleeping, praying, dying. Again, he was seen putting forth the powers of the divine nature ; raising the dead ; casting out devils ; forgiving sin ; rising from the grave ; ascending to heaven, and sitting on the right hand of the majesty on highangels, principalities and powers being made subject to him.

As the PROPHET predicted by Moses, he improved every

* Acts ii. 23.

« PreviousContinue »