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the polytheism of the latter. But though thus cured of their rage for idols, they grossly perverted the design of their economy, adhering rigidly to the letter of the law, whilst they utterly disregarded, nay, contravened its spirit. Hence they became notoriously profligate and abandoned in their conversation and conduct. As they declined in piety and morality, the corruption of the Gentiles increased more and more. The world exhibited a scene of greater moral darkness, wickedness, and abominations, than had been witnessed since the flood. In this deplorable state, whilst Jews and Gentiles were adding iniquity to iniquity, and drinking in sin like water, God pitied the nations, and caused the Sun of righteousness to arise and shine

upon

them. 3. With the birth of our Lord commenced a new period, in which there was an increase of spiritual light and of general improvement granted unto mankind.

Of this period the prophets had given the most splendid descriptions. In the loftiest

a Rom. i. 11. Mosheim, in his Eccles. Hist. vol. 1, gives a full account of the state of Jews and Gentiles before the birth of Christ.

strains of imagination they announced its arrival as the jubilee of the world. Corresponding with these intimations of its nature and effects, was the manner in which it was ushered in by holy angels. They sung,

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth

peace, good will towards meno.Now it was that the believing expectations of the pious Israelites were answered': The mystery which had been hid from ages and generations was made manifest. Christ, the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, was revealed". The Jewish dispensation gave place to the Christian. The former being typical in its nature, received its accomplishment by the establishment of the latter. Jerusalem was no longer the place of God's peculiar presence, , but in every place incense was henceforth to be offered

up

unto God, and a pure offering. As the Christian dispensation was the last which God gave unto men, so it was the most perfect, and intended to continue until the end of time. It is admirably calculated for the varieties of human wants, and adapted

c Luke ii. 25.-28.

d Col. i. 26, 27.

b Luke ii. 14. e Mal. i. 11.

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to the progress of intellectual improvement in the human family. Under this dispensation the canon of revealed truth was closed by the “ holy men of God, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghosta.”

In the writings of the New Testament we have full and satisfactory information concerning the “ Seed of the woman,” the Messiah. He is proved to be Jesus of Nazareth, who, according to the angel's declaration, is Emmanuel, God with us. His divine and human nature; his states of humiliation and exaltation; his offices of Prophet, Priest, and King; the work of redemption through his blood; the forgiveness of sins through the riches of his grace, are satisfactorily explained, so as to agree

with the information which God gave under the law. The obscurity of ancient oracles is dispelled, the ambiguity of types is removed, and the design of sacrifices published. The fulfilment of the prophecies, types, and sacrifices, in his work of redemption, is established beyond a doubt'. The character and condition of mankind; the way of becoming

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d 2 Pet. i. 21.

e Matt, i. 23. f This is abundantly proved in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

interested in the great salvation; the nature of faith in our Lord Jesus, and repentance towards God; the duties of holy living; the means of dying in peace and hope; the glories of heaven and the miseries of hell, are all unfolded in minute detail, and with admirable perspicuity, so that the wayfaring man, though a fool, cannot mistake their meaning and importance. Directions are given about the form of external worship, rendering it more spiritual than it was. The priesthood was abolished; the ministry of reconciliation appointed ; baptism and the Lord's supper introduced in place of circumcision and the passover.

The Sun of righteousness rising in his strength, scattered the shadows of the Jewish economy, and poured light upon the darkness of pagan delusions. Enlightened by his

rays, the apostles went forth, proclaiming peace through the blood of the cross, exhorting all men every where to repent, and offering eternal life to as many as believed on the name of the Lord Jesus. Their success was great: so great indeed as to prove that God was with them, and that their cause was his own. Within seventy years from

66

the commencement of the Christian æra, ,

the Gospel had been so extensively propagated, as to warrant the apostle of the Gentiles to say,

that it was come in all the worlds ;” that is, in all the Roman empire”. They who embraced it had to contend with every opposition and persecution. Jew and Gentile were arrayed in arms against Christ and his followers. But the Lord was with them and they prospered, by faith subduing nations. In the reign of Constantine, the then civilized world owned the authority of Messiah: and beyond it, many barbarous people afterwards did homage to him, by calling themselves by his name '.

The effects of Christianity upon the morals, the customs, and the happiness of society at large, were astonishing. So far as its power was experienced in any degree, changes were produced of the most pleasing kind. The apologists for the word of God to pagan emperors, and those who in Christian times wrote concerning the Church, ap

& Col. j. 6.

h Mosheim's Ecc. Hist. vol. 1. i Mosheim, Milner, Millar, Fox, and others, give abundant information on this subject.

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