Page images
PDF
EPUB

been

works of a serious nature: It may be said to give a melancholy picture of the state of mankind, who are living in general under the power of fatal mistakes. But has not the general state of mankind, in every age, a most afflicting consideration to every thoughtful and benevolent Christian? Can you believe “there is a God who judgeth in the earth, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity;” or that they only “who have done good shall come forth to the resurrection of life,” and see the general state of mankind in a pleasing light? Next to their own offences and depravity, nothing has ever so much imbittered this world to the greatest lovers of the human species, as seeing the headlong pursuits in which the multitude are seeking death, eternal death! What sighs, what tears in secret before God, have they not, after the example of Christ, poured out, because men are contentious and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness! What fervent intercessions have they not offered up in their behalf, who have reproached them at the same time for their uncharitableness! What hard and long struggles have they gone through, before they could cease from quarrelling with the determinations of infinite wisdom, out of love to their perishing fellow-creatures ! How

would they wish, were it lawful, which they know it is not, that every individual, whatever he has been or done here, might escape the wrath to come. On the contrary, the purity of God, the honour of his law, the end of his government, the truth of his word, the interest of his upright creatures, for ever exclude all hope of happiness from them “who love darkness rather than light;" and, in the language of Isaiah, “hold fast a lie in their right hand.” And in this case, what does good-will to men, or faithfulness to God demand from us? Surely not insinuations of impunity to the unbelieving and disobedient. Not, but to alarm them, if possible, by proving, that neither numbers, nor fashion, nor presumption, can destroy the eternal connexion there is in the nature of things between unbelief and misery, hell and incorrigible wickedness. In no other way can effectual opposition to wide-spread immorality and error be made; because the greater necessity there is from the prevalence of both to insist on their final issue, doubtless, the more melancholy must the general condition of man

kind appear.

Is nothing to be feared beyond the grave, let men think, speak, and act as they please? No longer then ascribe unto God the perfec

tions of his nature, or profess belief of a resurrection, both of the just and the unjust. But if men can be saved only through Christ, in the way of faith and obedience, then true benevolence must be inseparable from earnest contention for Christian faith and practice; must animate us openly to oppose every

deviation from either, as full of danger; and engage us to join with interpid zeal for the doctrine and precepts of Christ, fervent prayer to him, “who openeth the eyes of the blind, and bringeth prisoners out of their prison,” that all who err may be led into the way of truth, and knowledge increase to make men wise anto salvation,

AN

ESSAY

ON THE

PROPHECY OF ZACHARIAS.

CHAP. I.

ON THE CHARACTER OF ZACHARIAS.

THE spirit of prophecy, one peculiar glory of the Jewish church, was entirely withdrawn for some ages before our Saviour's birth. It ceased with Malachi, who closed the canon of ancient scripture, and was not again vouchsafed for more than three hundred years. Judge then, what a subject of discourse, surprise and joy, it must have been among the true Israelites, when it was publicly known, that God had once more raised up a prophet amongst his people: That Zacharias, a priest long distinguished for piety, and excellency of life, was become, by miracle, a parent in his old age, his wife being old also, and full of the Holy Ghost, proclaimed the approaching appearance of the Messiah.

Such was the striking prelude, appointed to prepare the Jews for the reception of Christ, who by signs and wonders from his birth, was powerfully proved to be the Lord.

Yet Zacharias, excellent as he was, “walking in all the commandments and ordinances of God blameless,” greatly offends on this occasion. For though assured by an angel, that he should embrace a son of his own, he could not believe the marvellous promise. His unbelief is punished upon the spot In a moment he loses his speech and his hearing, and is cut off from all sweet intercourse with his friends, till the very fact, which he deemed incredible, came to pass. Nine whole months he remained a most affecting specta. cle; a monument of the sin of doubting divine declarations, which we are bound to honour, by believing apparent impossibilities to be no obstacle to the execution of God's purposes.

But what are the chief of saints before sudden and violent temptations ? How lamentably do they discover, no less than others, the power of corrupt nature, and stain their characters which appeared almost without a spot before! This teaches us, that the best have ever need to pray...."lead us not into temptation. Otherwise, if left to our

« PreviousContinue »