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We can hardly imagine a more natural mode of honor: ing the event than this, that illustrious persons should proceed from a far country to visit the child which was born Saviour of the world. They came, as it were, in the name of the Gentiles, to acknowledge the heavenly gift, and to bear their testimony against that nation which rejected it. They came as the representatives of the whole heathen world; not only of the heathens in the East, but also of the heathens in the West, from: whom we are descended. In the name of the whole world, lying “ in darkness, and in the shadow of death," they came inquiring for that Light which, they had heard, was to visit them in the fulness of time. “And the Star which they saw in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. And when they were come into the house, they fell down and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh ;' and they departed into their own country
Do you ask how the Star of Christ was understood in the East? Or why providence ordained that peculiar mode of intimation :
Christ was foretold in old prophecy, under the name of the “ Star that should arise out of Jacob.;" and the rise of the Star in Jácob was notified to the world, by the appearance of an actual star,
We learn from authentic Roman history, that there prevailed « in the East" a constant expectation of a Prince, who should arise out of Judea, and rule the world. That such an expectation did exist, has been confirmed by the ancient writings of India. Whence, then, arose this extraordinary expectation, for it was found also in the Sybilline books of Rome?
The Jewish expectation of the Messiah had pervaded the East long before the period of his appearance. The Jews are called by their own prophet, the “ Expecting people,»* (as it may be translated, and as some of the Jews of the East translate it,) the “people looking for and expecting One to come.” Wherever, then, the
* Isaiah xvii. 2. “ The people meted out,” in our translation:
ten tribes were carried throughout the East, they carried with them their expectation. And they carried also the prophecies on which their expectation was founded. Now one of the clearest of these prophecies runs in these words : « There shall come a Star out of Jacob.” And as in the whole dispensation concerning the Messiah, there is a wonderful fitness between the words of prophecy and the person spoken of, so it pleased the Divine Wisdom that the rise of the Star in Jacob should be announced to the world by the appearance of an actual Star, (for by what other means could the great event be more significantly communicated to the remote parts of the earth ?) and this actual Star, in itself a proper emblem of that « Light which was to lighten the Gentiles," conducted them to Him who was called in a figure the Star of Jacob, and the glory of his people Israel ;" and who hath said of himself, (Rev. xxii. 16,) “I, Jesus, am the bright and morning Štar."'*
But, again, why was the East thus honoured ? Why was the East and not the West the scene of these transactions ? The East was the scene of the first revelation of God. The fountains of inspiration were first opened in the East. And, after the flood, the first family of the new world was planted in the East; I mean the East in relation to Judea. Besides millions of the human race inhabit that portion of the globe. The chief population of the world is in these regions. And in the middle of them the Star of Christ first appeared. And, led by it, the wise men passed through many nations, tongues, and kindreds, before they arrived at Judea in the West; bearing tidings to the world that the Light was come, that the « Desire of all Nations” was come. Even to Jerusalem herself they brought the first inti. mation that her long-expected Messiah was come..
Now, my brethren, as the the east was honored in the first age in thus pointing out the Messiah to the world; so now again , after a long interval of darkness, it is bearing witness to the truth of his religion ; not indeed
*The Jews used to speak of their Messiah under the appellation of Bar Cocab, or “ the Son of the Star;" and false Christs actually assumed that name.
by the shining of a Star, but by affording luminous evidence of the divine origin of the Christian Faith. It affords evidence, not only of the general truth of its his. tory, but of its peculiar doctrines ; and not of its doctrines merely, but of the divine power of these doctrines in convincing the understandings and converting the hearts of men. And, in this sense, it is, that " we have seen his Star in the East, and are come to wor ship him.” . And when these evidences shall have been laid before you, you will see that the Time is come for diffusing His religion throughout the world ; you wi} “ offer gifts” in His name for the promotion of the work ; and you will offer up prayers in its behalf, « that God would be pleased to make his ways known, his saving health unto all nations."
In this discourse, we propose to lay before you,
1st. EVIDENCES of the general truth of the Christian Religion, existing in the East. • 2dly. EVIDENCES of the divine power of that Religion exemplified in the East.
1. The general truth of the Christian Religion is ilJustrated by certain evidences in the East. Of these we shall mention the following
1. Ancient writings of India, containing particulars of the history of Christ. :
2. Certain doctrines of the East, shadowing forth the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, and manifestly derive ed from a common origin.
3. The state of the Jews in the East, confirming the truth of ancient prophecy.
4. The state of the Syrian Christians in the East, subsisting for many ages, a separate and distinct peo. ple in the midst of the heathen world.
These subjects, however, we must notice very briefly. i . Hindoo history illustrates the history of the gospel. There have lately been discovered in India, certain Shanscrit writings containing Testimonies of Christ, They relate to a Prince who reigned about the period of the Christian æra; and whose history, though mixed with fable, contains particulars which correspond, in a
surprising manner, with the advent, birth, miracles, death, and resurrection of our Saviour. The event mentioned in the words of the Text is exactly recorded, namely, That certain holy men, directed by a Star, journeyed toward the West, where they beheld the incarnation of the Deity.*
These important records have been translated by a learned Orientalistt, and he has deposited the originals among the archives of the Asiatic Society. From these, and from other documents, he has compiled a work, entitled, 56 The History of the introduction of the Christian Religion into India ; its progress and decline :" and at the conclusion of the work he thus ex. presses himself: “ I have written this account of Chris. tianity in India with the impartiality of an Historian ; fully persuaded that our holy. Religion cannot receive any additional lustre from it."
Thus far of the history of the Gospel.
2. We are now to notice certain doctrines of the East, shadowing forth the doctrines of Christianity.
The peculiar doctrines of the Christian Religion are so strongly represented in certain systems of the East, that we cannot doubt the source whence they have been derived. We find in them the doctrines of the Trinity, of the incarnation of the Deity, of the Atonement for sin, and of the influence of the Divine Spirit. .: First, The docirine of the Trinity. The Hindoos believe in one God, Brahma, the creator of all things : and yet they represent him as subsisting in three persons; and they worship one or other of these persons throughout every part of India. And what proves that they hold this doctrine distinctly, is, that their most ancient representation of the Deity is formed of one body and three faces. Nor are these representations confined to India alone ; but they are to be found in other parts of the East.
Whence, then, my brethren, has been derived this
* This testimony of the Hindoo writer accords with that of Chal-' cidius, the ancient commentator on Plato, who adds that the infant Majesty being found, the wise men worshipped, and gave gifts suita. ble to so great a God.'
+ Mr. Wilford.
idea of a TRIUNE God? If, as some alledge, the doctrine of the Trinity among Christians be of recent ori. gin, whence have the Hindoos derived it? When you shall have read all the volumes of Philosophy on the subject, you will not have obtained a satisfactory answer to this question.
Secondly, The doctrine of the Incarnation of the Deity. The Hindoos believe that one of the persons in their Trinity, (and that, too, the second person,) was “ manifested in the flesh.” Hence their fables of the incarnation of Vishnoo, of which you may have heard. And this doctrine of the incarnation of the Deity, is found over almost the whole of Asia. Whence, then, originated this idea, that “God should become man, and take our nature upon him ?” The Hindoos do not consider that it was an Angel merely that became man, but God himself. The incarnation of God is a frequent theme of their discourse. We cannot doubt whence this peculiar tenet of religion has been derived. We must believe that all the fabulous incarnations of the Eastern Mythology are derived from the real incarnation of the Son of God, or from the prophecies which went before it.
Thirdly, The doctrine of Atonement for Sin, by the shedding of blood. To this day, in Hindostan, the people bring the Goat or Kid to the Temple ; and the Priest sheds the blood of the innocent victim. Nor is this peculiar to Hindostan. Throughout the whole East, the doctrine of a sacrifice for sin seems to exist in one form or other.
How is it, then, that some of you in this country say that there is no atonement! For, ever since « Abel of. fered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain;" ever since Noah, the father of the new world, « offered burnt offerings on the Altar," sacrifices have been offered up in almost every nation ; as if for a constant memorial before the world, that « without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.”..
Fourthly, The doctrine of the influence of the Spirit of God. In the most ancient writings of the Hindoos, some of which have been lately published, it is asserted that the “ diyine spirit or light of holy knowledge,” in.