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There were many, doubtless, at this period indulging this joyful expectation. Our Saviour's preaching was attended with the same success, though the purposes of providence for man's final salvation had not yet been fulfilled. When our Lord taught in the temple that Christ was David's son, intimating that he was the prophetic successor of their most spiritual king, "the common people heard him gladly:" not less so than some of his own disciples, who trusted that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel. There seems no reason to doubt that, after his resurrection, this preconceived opinion operated on the primitive converts of the Gospel. After St. Peter's discourse it is said, "then they that gladly received his word were baptized"—the word gladly is peculiarly expressive of their feeling-they had looked for a Redeemer, and behold him here!" And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls 1."
Do not our hearts catch fire at the accession of so many Christians to the flock of the Saviour? If we are led by sympathy to rejoice in so holy an unison, let our sympathy be improved by faith. We have even superior motives for our direction; for though we see the world still wicked, the evidence of the truth of Christianity is every day increased. The completion of prophecy, as the days of our years roll on, presents, as it were, a supernatural confirmation of the great object of our belief. Whether, when our
1 Acts. ii. 41.
Lord cometh the second time, he shall find faith on the earth, is a personal consideration, of which every man individually must render an account. May our expectation be as vivid, as effectual, as that of those who beheld the first rising of the star of Bethlehem ; so may we be accepted in him whose "life is the light of men !"
IV.-The Approach of the Messiah.
THE foundation of all true religion consists in a right apprehension of the approach, arrival, and reception of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are many who welcome his coming as a prophet, as an exemplary man, as a divine teacher, who do not receive him as the author and finisher of our faith, as a sacrifice for our sin, as "the Lord our righteousness.' If he did not visit us in the character of Mediator, Redeemer, Intercessor, in what would he excel Plato or Socrates among the ancients, Abraham or Job among the patriarchs, Isaiah or Jeremiah among the Jewish prophets, or the best of men among ourselves? His spotless character, indeed, outrivals all these, and stands in contradistinction to all of woman-born. But it was this comparison which occasioned St. Paul's lamentation that "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, were called "
not that men of these qualifications were not or might not be of Christ's flock, but that the aspiring idols of human reason, or rather of exclusive opinion and self-conceit, were the objects of their ambition; and for the gratifying, if I may so say, this self-idolatry, they rejected the sublimest revelations of the Almighty. "Thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones 1."
If it be a moral maxim of common life that "pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall," how doubly fatal is it in religion? It affects the teacher as well as the taught. Presumption is a weed of every soil; for even those who imagine themselves "masters in Israel," and congratulate themselves on the progress of wisdom, are in the greater danger of mistaking wisdom for folly, and safety for destruction.
The peril of this aspiring state of mind would be much corrected by a calm, dispassionate study of the Bible. Instead of finding the best characters supported by heroism, or the best principles by a sceptical scrutiny into causes and effects, that would be the best wisdom, which prostrates itself before the throne of God, and that the best religion, which rejects all righteousness but the righteousness of
1 Isaiah lvii. 15.
2 Prov. xvi. 18.
Christ. The approach of Christ, therefore, should be hailed as a common blessing, as it is, in every respect, the announcement of a common salvation.
It is not the habitual knowledge of the most important truths, but the application of them to ourselves, which must make such an impression on our minds, as must give a new tincture, not to our actions only, but to the inward principle which is to influence those actions. It is not a familiar acquaintance with every evidence, even of the creed itself, which will accomplish the purpose of a renewal of the whole man, but such a sense of these truths as is personal to ourselves: not such a general belief that every article is true, but such an one as makes it true to us, such an one, as warm, as if it was delivered specifically to every one to whom the Gospel is preached. This indeed is the hidden wisdom of the apostle's injunction, " Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your ownselves." There are many who can join the Jewish multitude, as at our Lord's entrance into Jerusalem, and exclaim"Hosannah in the highest ;" there are many who can weep with Mary at the foot of the cross, oppressed with sympathy at the melancholy tale of the sufferings of Jesus, who are inanimate at their own danger and unmindful that he suffered for them: unmindful that he, of whom the prophet said, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given," is the same of whom
he declares, that he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities '.'
Here, then, we have the very essence of what is required of us at our Lord's approach. that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings"." The approach of Christ to an Infidel-what an awful interview! The approach of Christ to a wilful sinner-how terrible! The approach of Christ to a careless Christian— though he may think well of himself when he compares himself with the desperate-his final danger is no less than theirs. The approach of Christ to a true believer is of a very different description :-we have the picture drawn by a divine pencil. “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile "."
Before, Christ was in expectation. Here, he is in reality. And to those who receive him, what a change!
The approach of Christ to one callous to his appearance, and destitute of the better feelings of
1 Isaiah liii. 5.
2 Mal. iv. 3.
3 John i. 45, 46, 47.