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the altar, the priest, and the sacrifice, pointed to loftier views, which were then but inadequately conceived ; and not only in the raptures of prophecy, but in the contemplations of uninspired wisdom, every voice was listened to which seemed to proclaim the approach of one mighty to instruct and to save.
It is from this circumstance that, in the tone of ancient wisdom, we frequently discover a character of thought infinitely superior to much of what has been termed philosophy, in the present age. The wisest men of antiquity felt the darkness whịch surrounded them, and their own inability to explore it; yet they reposed with humble hope on that Divine Providence which had not left itself without a witness, and looked forward to that hour when the “ day should dawn, and the day-star arise
in their hearts.” In this glorious expectation, they were even inclined for the time to reverence the superstitions of their age, and to believe that, amidst all their seeming absurdities, they yet involved some secret links of communication with Heaven.—How different, alas! the disposition of those who have, in our time, claimed to be the lights of the world! They have too often vainly imagined that their own unassisted powers were equal to discover the secrets of divine wisdom, and have presumptuously rejected those intimations from above, which sought to guide them into “ the way of “ the Lord.” Instead of being willing to trace the footsteps of a heavenly instructor, amidst the religious institutions in which their infancy was reared, they have set themselves at once in opposition to every form of established faith, and without even the hope of raising any thing in their room, have attempted to level with the ground the most venerable fabrics of Religion !
The Evangelist now proceeds to make us acquainted with that holy teacher, whom the Prophets had foretold as about to precede the Messiah.—“John,” sayshe, “ did baptize in the wilderness, and preach
the baptism of repentance, for the remis66 sion of sins. And there went out unto “ him all the land of Judea, and they of Je“ rusalem, and were all baptized of him in “ the river Jordan, confessing their sins. “ And John was clothed with camel's hair, “and with a girdle of skin about his loins, “ and he did eat locusts and wild honey: and preached, saying, There cometh one
mightier than I, after me, the latchet “ of whose shoes I am not worthy to
stoop down and unloose. I indeed “ have baptized you with water, but he “shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.”
The religion of the Jews had, for a long time, degenerated into the mere observance of rites and ceremonies, and was, in this view, almost as little able as the heathen superstitionsthemselves to satisfy the longing desires of the human heart. One of the constant endeavours of the inspired Prophets had been, to guard their religious system against this tendency to degenerate ; but when that order of men had ceased, both the priests and the people seem equally to have lost sight of the whole spirit of their creed. A corruption of this nature might indeed for a length of time: men might be pleased with the delusion that they could keep their sins, if they would only perform some stated rites of expiation ; but when such a notion had been long prevalent, the state of publicmanners must at last have become so offensively vicious, and conscience must all the while have been so uneasy under the cheat, that it is not surprising, when
a better and truer view was presented, it should have been hailed with the utmost eagerness, and almost looked upon as a discovery of something quite unheard of and unknown. 6 John
preached the baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins," a doctrine, it would seem, sufficiently simple and obvious, yet there was something in it so unlike the religious instruction of that
appears to have immediately excited a deep interest in the Jewish people ;-of a similar kind, perhaps, with that eagerness with which the first preaching of the Protestant Reformation was received, when the corruptions of the Church of Rome had reached their height. After the dark and unsatisfactory services which had constituted the whole circle of their religious duties, it must have been delightful to them to come once more into open day, and to be taught the simple truths of pure de