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And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record, that this is the Son of God.”
It may be proper to shew that all cavilling objections, small differences, or constructions, become mere shadowy vapours when contrasted with the consistent majestic Spirit of Gospel Truth, historical fact, prophetic corroboration, fulfilled and fulfilling.
The prophet Daniel, greatly beloved of the Lord, gave to the Hebrew nation his prophecy as to the period they were to look for the Messiah, as described by Isaiah. As that period advanced, the whole Jewish nation anticipated with expectation its fulfilment. Their heathen governor Herod, also in fear for his temporal authority, issued his edict for the murder of the Innocents. The closing of the temple of Janus (in the reign of the Emperor Augustus Cæsar), the symbol of universal peace, combines to mark the year when the Prince of Peace was ushered into the wicked world he came to redeem by a perfect and entire obedience, and a full perfect expiation for the sins of the world to the offended justice of God.
Socrates, the wisest of the heathen philosophers, in whose soul some beams of truth found entrance, was so deeply moved by the depth of superstition, degradation, cruelty, and folly into which mankind had fallen, that he could not help exclaiming that, “. Nothing but a power from heaven could recal and establish Truth."
In mercy to mankind that Power did descend, and gave evidence of its divine origin by proofs incontrovertible.
By Truth, established and declared by the voice of God. By Miracles publicly performed—beyond natural means. By Wisdom unerring-Never man spake like this man. By Love unexampled-beyond the love of woman.
By Death unmerited-a pure and unblemished expiation.
By Resurrection-Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.
By Manifestation Visiting, conversing, and eating with his disciples after death.
By Ascension into heaven in presence of men and angels- “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven: This same Jesus which is taken up from you int', heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
Yes, Reader! for thy comfort or dread he will so come, however scorn or infidelity may rage and doubt. The period is rapidly advancing, according to the spirit of prophecy, combined with the testimony of our Blessed Saviour himself-see 840 Matthew, also 960 Luke. St. John also, in the power of the Spirit in his Revelations, relates, in unison with our Saviour's prophetic words, the circumstances which shall precede this second coming in Glory and to Judgment.
The Shepherd has given his warning! he has fed, nourished, entreated, persuaded, and paid the price of his blood for his flock; and still says, "Watch and pray. Trim your lamps, for ye know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of man cometh. For as the lightning cometh out of the east and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be!" And in the last chapter of the Revelations is it not said ? “Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. And, behold, I (the Alpha and Omega) come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Amen.
St. Matthew (called by St. Mark, “Levi the son of Alphæus,” and by St. John simply “Levi") was a publican, or collector of taxes under the Roman Government; he was called by our Saviour as he sat at his usual seat of custom to collect the dues; he did not evince ment's hesitation, but promptly responded to the call, abandoned his occupation, although lucrative, devoted himself to the service, was a witnesss of the miracles, a hearer of the instructions, and a faithful and humble follower of his divine Master. From these combined circumstances, St. Matthew was eminently qualified to write his pure and excellent Gospel.
He continued with the other disciples and apostles after the crucifixion, as a witness and bearing testimony of the resurrection and glorious ascension of the blessed Jesus, receiving with the other disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit, which empowered him to place in writing before mankind all that part of the doctrine and life of our Saviour which was essential to our rightly estimating the precious gift of our redemption; and especially to demonstrate to the Jews the literal fulfilment of all the scriptural prophecies in reference to the blessed Messiah, at that especial time expected and looked for by the whole Jewish nation in conformity with those prophecies.
How awfully does he detail the circumstances that led the Jews to that fearful imprecation,-"His blood be on us and on our children ;” and how manifest has been the punishment of that unbelieving, proud, and cruel nation, who washed their hands in the blood of innocency, although a heathen governor proclaimed the injustice by washing his hands and declaring himself innocent of the blood of the Holy Jesus.
St. Matthew is said to have travelled through great part of the East, by his preaching overthrowing Idolatry and establishing Christianity. The manner of his death is uncertain.
In St. Matthew's Gospel only are related the following facts, &c.:
The Visit of the Eastern Magi.
The arising and appearing of the Saints after the Resurrection,
The alleged Bribery of the Roman Guard.
The Sermon on the Mount; and some other matters more in detail than the other Evangelists.
St. Mark is not supposed to have been a personal follower of our Saviour, on account of his youth, but he was a member of the Christian community at Jerusalem (that body assembling in his mother's house); and it is considered, from the very acute and close description of every lapse of St. Peter and his close intimacy and companionship with that apostle, that this Gospel may be deemed the result, and was in most part probably written under the especial superintendence, of that zealous and bold assertor of his Master's divinity; as well that the relation of the weaknesses and presumption of St. Peter is evidently made to manifest more strongly the divine, merciful, and saving power of Jesus.
St. Mark having received the gift of the Holy Spirit, it does not of necessity follow that he required the assistance of St. Peter; nor does it detract from the Holy Truth to connect the possible and natural means by which an inspired historian acquires his information or receives his holy impulses.
St. Mark was a zealous labourer in propagating the truth, and sealed his faith and mission by martyrdom in Alexandria his persecutors, the Egyptians, dragging him through the streets till the flesh was torn from his bones, The Great Church of St. Mark, in Venice (where it is said is an autograph copy of his Gospel, now illegible) stands a memorial of the early reverence in which he was held : as does likewise St. Peter's, at Rome, become a tributary witness to the original truth, however the clouds of error and superstition may at present envelop in mental darkness the unhappy devotees who frequent its magnificent shrines.