« PreviousContinue »
or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High.” “Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering." But when “sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, when burnt-offering and sin-offering were not required, then said I, lo, I come, I delight to do thy will
, O my God.” This, christians, like the star which conducted the wise men of the east, leads us directly to the Saviour of the world. Would you behold the superiour glory of the latter temple, look to Simeon visiting it, looking and longing for the consolation of Israel; behold him with the babe in his arms, exulting with joy unspeakable and full of glory, in having seen the salvation of God. Look to Jesus at the age of twelve years “ sitting in the temple in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions," displaying at that tender age, a wisdom and dignity far superiour to that of Solomon in his zenith. Look to that same Jesus, in his zeal for the honour of the sacred edifice, purging it of those impurities which a worldly spirit had introduced into it. Listen to the divine eloquence which there flowed from the lips of him who spake as never man spake. Hear him predicting its destruction, and establishing the truth of his own mission in denouncing against it, and devoting it to, total and irrecoverable ruin. Behold Him on those ruins, rearing an everlasting and a spiritual building, on a rock against which the gates of hell shall never prevail; and in all this, behold as in a glass the glory here spoken of, the advent of “the desire of all nations,” the star of Jacob" arisen, Shiloh come, to whom the gathering of the nations shall be," the Prince of Peace," by whom peace is proclaimed, and through whom peace is given to him that is afar off and him that is nigh.”
In order still farther to justify the application of this prophecy to the person and character of the Redeemer, we may inquire into the import of the other expressions
here employed to describe the appearances of nature and providence, which signalized the era of his manifestation in the flesh. “Yet once, it is a little while.” The reign of prophecy was hastening to a conclusion. Haggai was one of the last on whom that spirit rested; with Malachi, who lived probably somewhat later, it entirely ceased; and a dark period of five hundred years without a vision, intervened, till it was revived in one who came in the spirit and power of Elias, the forerunner of the Messiah, “ the voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God,” Isaiah xl. 3, and it shone in all its lustre in the Messiah himself, “the great prophet that should come into the world.” him it is here intimated that God should speak“ once" for all; that he should be the full and final declarer of the will of God to mankind : “ yet once” but no more.
“ It is a little while.” With God what is purposed, is begun to be executed, his agents are already at work, time is lost with him who sees the end from the beginning. « The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness ;" " beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord, as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The interval between the prediction and the accomplishment, though a period of five centuries, is, in the sight of God, “ a little while ;” and five centuries, · when they are past, are but“ a little while” in the eyes of man also. But to what circumstances attending the coming of our Saviour refers the prophet, when he represents the great God as “shaking the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land, and all nations ?" It is well known that the sacred writers frequently employ, by a bold figure, the appearances of the natural world to represent and explain moral objects. In the case before us, it will be found that both the literal and figurative sense of the words are strictly applicable to the subject. Every one, who is at all acquainted with the history of mankind, knows that the whole course of things has been a constant and successive concussion and convulsion, a shaking of the nations, struggle for dominion, the progress of empire from east to west; and an aspect of the heavenly bodies and influence, analagous to the state of the moral world. The observer of nature endeavours to trace all these up to their native causes in the great system of the universe; the moralist looks for them, in the nature and constitution of man, and the politician, in the combinations and exertions of passion and interest. The believer, the christian refers all to God, sees him in the cloud, in the sky; hears him in the wind, in the thunder, in the songster of the grove: and he sees the swelling tide of nature and providence labouring with one object of peculiar importance; all things are shaken and composed in subordination to the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Let me compress what I mean to say, within a narrow compass: and I shall do it nearly in the words of an elegant preacher whom I have oftener than once had the honour to quote in this place. The eastern part of the world was, in the wisdom of Providence, first peopled, great and extensive empires were first formed there, and there learning and the arts were first brought to perfection. But while science and empire flourished in the east, a power was rising by degrees in the western world, which was one day to surpass all that had gone before it. Unknown to the proud empires of the eastern hemisphere, which vainly flattered themselves that they divided the world amongst them, this power was then silently advancing from conquest to conquest, and the Roman eagle was by degrees strengthening her wing, and preparing to take her flight round half the globe. The succession of those great monarchies, those shakings of the heavens and the earth, this shaking of all nations, led gradually and imperceptibly to that happy conjuncture, that fulness of time, that maturity of divine counsel, which suited the introduction of christianity. They arose one after another, they enlarged one upon another, till at length the genius of Rome, under the permission of heaven, triumphed over and swallowed up all others, and expanded, opened, united, consolidated, that wide extended, well informed civilized empire, through which the gospel of Christ was destined to make a progress so rapid and so successful. To favour this great event, to procure attention to the Author and Finisher of our faith, and to render the first appearance of our holy religion at once more august and more secure, the struggles of ambition, which had so long shaken the world, those restless contests for superiority, subsided at last, suddenly and unexpected, into universal peace.
That stormy ocean, which had been for ages and generations in continual agitation, now all at once sunk into a surprising calm; the bloody portal of Janus, which had so long emitted unrelenting destruction to mankind, was shut, and the globe was instantly overspread with tranquillity, relieved from the din of arms, from the confused noise of the warrior, and the horrid sight of garments rolled in blood, in order to receive the Prince of Peace.
The shaking of the nations, as paving the way for the desire of all nations, is striking to the contemplative mind in another point of view. Philosophy rode triumphant, every question relating to physics, morals, politics, science, religion, was freely canvassed: and the noise of the schools in many instances drowned that of the ensanguined plain. The introduction of christianity was preceded by a remarkable diffusion of knowledge, and the radiance of science ushered in the gospel day, as aurora announces the approach of the sun, and prepares the world for it. Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome, poured from their separate urns, those distinct rills of science, which meeting in one great channel, became a mighty flood, and overspread the vast Roman empire.
And thus was revelation enabled to
give a most illustrious proof of its coming down from above, by diffusing over the world, all at once, a light superiour to all collected human wisdom in its brightest glory. And need we ask who it was that thus shook and settled the sea and the dry land, who regulated the vast engine, who conducted all these great events, and brought them to one issue, concurrence and conclusion? At the same period of time, the promised Messiah came: the greatest empire that ever existed was at the height of its glory : learning flourished beyond what it had done in any former age : and the world was blessed with universal peace. A coincidence of facts, every one of which is in itself so extraordinary that it cannot be paralleled by any other times, clearly points out the hand of that supreme, over-ruling power, who from eternity beheld the great plan of his providence through its whole extent, who alone “ can declare the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things which are not yet done,” saying, “ My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.
To put this beyond all doubt, let it be observed, that these events took their rise in remotest ages, and were prepared in times and countries far distant from and unknown to each other. Empire which sprang up amidst the seven hills of Rome; science nurst in the academic groves of Greece; and religion from the obscure vales of Judea, all met at one grand crisis. To one another unknown, they must have been conducted by the hand of Providence. But meet they did, and peace from heaven crowned them with her olive. And thus were the nations shaken, to prepare the way of the Lord; thus “the valleys were exalted, and the mountains and hills laid low, the crooked made straight, and the rough places plain,” and the high and aspiring thoughts of men were brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
But the heavens and the earth were literally shaken, at the coming of “the desire of all nations." Wit