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which it injoins ; 4thly, the rites and worship which it prescribes or implies; and, 5thly, the means which it has instituted for its preservation and extension in the world. I mean to enter into no controversy in regard to the authenticity of certain portions of the scriptures now contained in the volume of the New Testament; but to consider as complete the sacred canon of that branch of the Bible which is received among all Protestant churches, and as transmitted to them from the most early times. I cannot help thinking, that it is rather late to raise disputes on this subject, to which there can be no end or limitation. Besides, such controversies have no connexion with the main design of this work ; and, in fact, I consider the points in question as completely settled by writers of superior talents.
OF THE FACTS ON WHICH CHRISTIANITY IS
John the Baptist was the harbinger of Jesus of Nazareth. Miraculous circumstances attended the birth of John. His father and mother had
a Luke i.
both passed the period of life which admitted any hope of offspring. The birth of this child, however, was announced to his father Zacharias by the angel Gabriel, who further informed him that, on account of his unbelief in this intelligence, he should be dumb till the period of its accomplishment. Accordingly, as soon as he had written, in conformity to his wife Elizabeth's desire, that his son's name should be John, (signifying the grace or gift of the Lord,) he recovered the use of speech, and praised God. The birth of John the Baptist and that of Isaac bore to each other a striking resemblance, having been both announced by divine messengers, and in the preternatural conception of their respective mothers. John, leading a recluse and austere life, after the manner of the ancient prophets, and constituting the link which connected the old and the new dispensations, preached and administered the baptism of repentance, as the preparation for the Messiah's terrestrial reign; boldly reproved the vices of his age, in every station of life, and even those of the throne ; and died à martyr to truth and righteousness. His violent and iniquitous death seemed to exhibit a type or symbol of the sufferings and tragical conclusion of the lives of Christ, of his apostles, and of many thousands of their disciples, who were sacrificed for the cause of God and of religion. The birth of Christ was supernatural, and such as never before happened to any human being, nor could happen without divine intervention. The same angel who had appeared to Zacharias declared also to the Virgin Mary that she should bring forth a son, and should call his name Jesus, which signifies a Saviour. When “ Mary said, how shall this be, seeing I know not a man ? the angel answered, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." As a sign also of the truth of his message, he added, “ Behold! thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.” “ When Joseph, the husband of Mary, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David ! fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”
a Luke i. 64.
b Gen. xviii. xxi.
c Mat. iii. Johni.
On Mary's visiting Elizabeth, the latter, “ filled with the Holy Ghost, said with a loud voice, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is
a Luke i. 26,
b Ib. 34, 38,
c Mat. i. 19, 20.
the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo! as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”a Mary replied in that devout and grateful hymn which is contained in the verses immediately following those now quoted. Zacharias also, under the influence of a dis vine impulse, employed his recovered speech in effusions of praise to God, and in expressions of the high office which his new-born son was to sustain, as the forerunner of the Messiah," whose birth was now approaching. The birth of Christ was announced by the angel of the Lord, encircled with celestial glory, to the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks in the fields by night. They pointed out to them, as a sign, that “they would find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger; and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men !" What human birth was ever before celebrated in this manner ? At the creation of the world, “ the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”d The heavenly host resound, in the most rapturous and benign strains, the entrance of
a Luke i. 41-44.
b Luke i. 67-79.
the Prince of eternal peace into that corrupt and perishing world which he was to renovate, and render capable of enjoying that bliss for which its gracious Creator designed it, but which it had lost by moral corruption and voluntary subjugation to the insidious enemy of the human race!
The wise men, or magicians of the east, were led by a star to Bethlehem, where they paid reverence to the new-born babe, and offered him their gifts. They were divinely admonished not to return to Herod, who wished to destroy the child, and took another road to their own country. The child's life was again saved by divine direction to Joseph, to carry him and his mother into Egypt.
Another striking testimony to the high destination of Jesus was borne by Simeon, “ a man just and devout, who waited for the consolation of Israel; and by aged Anna the prophetess.” To Simeon "it had been revealed by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death till he had seen the Lord's Christ. When, therefore, the days of Mary's purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, and Jesus was also, according to the injunction of that law, presented in the temple, he took him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord ! now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, accor
a Luke ii. 25.
b Luke ii. 26.
e Luke ii. 22.