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leave their doom unmixed, or their souls destitute of hope. He intimated to them the rise of that deliverer, by whom their adversary was to be subdued, and his works destroyed. And these were the words of promise, as conveyed in the sentence pronounced on the tempter; “ I will put enmity be“tween thee and the woman, and between thy “ seed and her seed. It shall bruise thy head, and i thou shalt bruise his heel."* But though clear and significant to us, how dark must these words have originally appeared! how mysterious this promise! and, notwithstanding the additional light which they received, from new predictions and discoveries, much of that mystery and darkness must have still adhered to them, till the promised seed had actually come.
Within the space of about four hundred years after the flood, another important step, in the great plan of human redemption, was introduced. The knowledge of the true God had then become nearly extinguished among men. To preserve a memorial of that knowledge on the earth, Abraham was separated, by a divine call, from his idolatrous kind. red; and to him, but in different terms, was the. promise of a redeemer renewed. “ Get thee out “ of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from
thy father's house : and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy
name great : and in thee shall all families of the “ earth be blessed.”+ But, though the terms were different, the purport was scarcely less mysterious. How a pilgrim, wandering in a strange land, could
4 Ibid. xü. 1, 3. H
@en. iii. 15.
be a blessing to all the families of the earth, and how his separation from the countrymen and kindred, whose support he might have enjoyed in any undertaking conducive to so important an end, should be a mean of its attainment, was not easy to conceive, or to reconcile with probability. But when both Abraham and Sarah had reached an extreme age; and when it was discovered that, in none of his progeny, either by Hagar or by others, the promise was to be fulfilled; then did the rise of a great nation from his loins, and the derivation of universal happiness from his instrumentality, apparently become not only improbable, but impossible. Even when the miraculous birth of Isaac had, in some measure, removed the seemingly insuperable difficulty, we find mysteries continually recurring, as the history proceeds. How perplexing, and how irreconcilable with the promise, now limited to this favoured child, was the command to offer him in sacrifice! and how few are there, whose faith would, like Abraham's, have supported them, till the issue of the trial had explained its -reason! But how, again, could the promise, limited anew to Jacob and his posterity, be fulfilled, when he and his household were ready to be consumed by famine? We have already called you to mark, and to admire, in this particular, the ways of God. That son, whom his brethren had sold into bondage, and whom his father believed to have been “ rent “ in pieces," was alive, and at liberty: had predicted, in a distant country, the approach of the famine, and had provided against its arrival. Thus was the chosen generation preserved: and the hope
of the universal deliverer in the family of Abraham, which appeared to be decaying, was maintained unbroken; nay, was animated and confirmed by those very events, which seemed most to endanger its accomplishment.
Again, of the tribe of Judah, and in the city of Bethlehem, it was afterwards foretold, that the Messiah should be born. But, Lo! Judah is carried captive, and dispersed in a foreign land: his “ cities
are wasted without inhabitants; their houses “ without man; and the land is utterly desolate !"* Now might the unbeliever hardily assert, while the despondent would mournfully conclude, the ful. filment of the promise to be impossible. The dispensation was truly dark; but wait the end ; God “ turned the hearts” of those who led them captive: and at the expiry of seventy years, they were restored to their country and their privileges. Nor was this all : sacred history explains this dispensation, and illustrates its wisdom, in another very
important particular. From the books of Esther and Daniel, we learn, that the long captivity of the Jews was not only a mean of breaking the power of idolatry in their minds, but of publishing, in some measure, the knowledge of the true God, over the whole Babylonian empire."
Isaiah vi. 11. + Dan. iii. 29. vi. 26.-Esth. viii. ix. x. Perhaps it was from some scattered rays of this knowledge, that the wise men of the east, who came to worship Christ, had learned that in Judea a Saviour should be born. It may here be added, that another, though not a total dispersion of the Jews, by the division of the Grecian empire, after the death of Alexander the Great, occasioned synagogues to be built, and the worship of the true God to be established in many parts of Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and Lybia. Thus did the dispensation of grace gradually unfold; and the way for the kingdom of Christ was prepared.
. And now, to come down to the fulness of time;! when he, who was to come, did come: and the mystery hid from ages, was revealed. Prophecies had been uttered, till now dark and unintelligible. Laws and ceremonies had been instituted, the design of which had hitherto been imperfectly seen, Dispersions had taken place, which had perplexed the faith, even of many of the elect. Wars, conquests, and devastations, had prevailed, which no stretch of human sagacity could reduce to any settled plan of Providence; or trace, as preparatory to one great event. But now the scene stood disclosed. A line dropped from heaven, which conducts us through every maze of the lon: Gark labyrinth : and the clouds of ignorance vanished before the brightness of the Redeemer's rising. In him the seed of the woman was found. In him was accomplished the mysterious prediction, that the Saviour of mankind should " be cut off out of the “ land of the living, and make his soul an offering “ for sin: yét should see his seed, and prolong his
In him was discovered the end of the “ law,” moral and ceremonial," for righteousness, “ to every one that believeth.”+ And to him referred every preceding dispensation, every revolution in the kingdoms of the earth. For when the most High separated the descendants of Noah, and divided to the nations their inheritance; he settled the bounds of their habitation, according to the place where the Messiah should be born. It form ed a central point to all the great divisions of the ancient world. It afforded the easiest access to * Isaiah liii. 8, 10.
| Rom. x. 4:
every important region; and the speediest communication with every celebrated or powerful people.
But even in the dispensation of “the fulness of "time,” though the explanation of every preceding step in the mighty scheme, many particulars occur, most mysterious in themselves, till also illustrated by these events.
We have already noticed the sufferings, and the decease which Jesus often foretold, he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. He came in the character of an universal Saviour: and to that character, his miracles fully justified his pretensions. Yet his birth was obscure; his life was a scene of poverty; and an ignominious death speedily terminated his
Could he, then, who delivered not himself, be a Saviour to all ? or were the remonstrances of his disciples, on the prediction of his abasement, unnatural? Yes, Christian, this was thy Saviour! and thou hast seen the mystery explained. Thou knowest that, by his thus humbling himself unto death, he satisfied the demands of a violated law : and though to the Jews “ Christ crucified was a
ştumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness;" to thee, he is “ the power of God, and the wisdom " of God."*
Again : was not this man, of whom it was prophesied that he was to be “the plagues of death, " and the destruction of the grave;”+ and who asserted of himself, that he was “the resurrection " and the life," in whom those that believed should “ never die;"I was not he laid, like others, in the tomb?: and where, then, are his victory, and his. 1 Cor. i. 23, 24. # Hes. xiii. 14.
Joha' xi. 255 26.