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BEFORE ME. The messenger who was ously, very proper and important. It to be sent was John the Baptist; and was proper and important, in order the purpose, for which he was to be that a general attention might be awasent, was to prepare the way for the long kened and directed to the circumstanexpected Messiah. This is precisely cés of the grand and interesting event, the application, which is made in the and that those, who were waiting for New-Testament, of this remarkable the Consolation of Israel, and others, prophecy. Let us then contemplate, might be in readiness to give a suitable under several distinct heads, the par- reception to the long predicted desire ticular things, which were to be done of all nations. by John, to prepare the way for the 2. To prepare the way for the MessiMessiah.
ah, John was to call the people of Is. 1. John was publicly to proclaim, rael to repentance. that the Messiah was just ready to In every age and nation, repenmake his appearance.
tance has been a first duty of fallen Adam, in Paradise, had a promise mankind. It was inculcated by all of the Messiah. Abraham, in the the ancient prophets, as absolutely nestrong light of faith, saw his day and cessary for every one, who would eswas glad. David, and Isaiah, and cape from the wrath to come, and be Daniel, and almost all the prophets admitted to the favor and the everlasttestified beforehand of his coming and ing kingdom of God. kingdom. As the time appointed But for the people of Israel, at the drew nearer, the predictions respect- coming of the Messiah, the necessity ing him became proportionably more of immediate repentance was peculiar. particular and clear, until the period of|ly obvious and urgent. They were his coming. The place of his birth, || then to pass a most eventful and deci. the manner of his appearance, and the sive crisis. The Lord from heaven principal circumstances of his life, and was to dwell among them," and to be of his death, were very exactly desig- in the midst of them as a refiner's fire nated and described.
and as fuller's soap. He was to come All this, however was not sufficient near to them to judgment, and to be fully to answer the intention of infinite a swift witness against the sorcerers, wisdom. But as it was a custom of snd against the adulterers, and against ancient date, when a prince, or distin-false swearers, and against all, who guished personage was about to make would not fear the Lord of hosts. his entry into any province or city, for Those who would repent, and return a herald, or public crier, to go before unto the Lord, were to be specially him, and make formal proclamation of|confirmed in all the privileges and his approach ; so it seemed good to || blessings of the everlasting covenant, the all wise God, when he was about made with their fathers; but those who to bring bis only begotten upon the would not repent, were to be cast off public stage of the world, to send a from being any longer, in any sense, special herald, or public crier, before the people of God, were to fall under him, to make formal proclamation of the most terrible displays of divine his approaching appearance and reign. vengeance, and to be suddenly desSuch a herald was John the Baptist ;|| troyed, and that without remedy. and such a proclamation did he make. Such, so decisive and awful, was to be Accordingly he was described, as the the crisis with the Jewish nation, when voice of one crying in the wilderness, the Messiah should come; and such, or in the open country of Judea, Pre- so obvious and urgent, was the necespare ye the way of the Lord; make sity of their immediate repentance. his paths straight.
Immediate repentance was necessary, Such a proclamation of the approach in order to give a proper reception to of the Messiah and his reign,was, obvi- the holy Messenger of the covenant;
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and equally necessary in order to ise or proposal of the covenant rest escape the tremendous destruction pecting their children, they must take which was hastening to overtake the hold of the covenant by faith, sincerely obstinately impenitent.
devote their children to God and faithAccordingly, that he might prepare fully bring them up for him in holy the way before the Messiah, Johu not|nurtere and admonition. « These only proclaimed his approach, but cal words," said the Lord by Moses, led upon all the people immediately these words, which I command thee to repent. Repent,” said he, "for this day, shall be in thine heart; and the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Re- thou shalt teach them diligently unto pent ye....for the axe is now laid to try children; and shalt talk of them the root of the trees; and every tree when thou sittest in thine house, and that bringeth not forth good fruit is when thou walkést by the way, and hewu down and cast into the fire. Re- when thou kiest down, and when thou pent ye; for he that cometh after me is risest up. Accordingly the inspired mightier than 1,--whose fan is in his Asaph, in a solemn and impressive ex. hand and he will thoroughly purge his bortation, with a particular reference floor, and gather the wheat into histo_the everlasting covenant, says; garner ; but he will burn up the chaff“ For he established a testimony in Jawith unquenchable fire."
cob, and appointed a law in Israel, 3. To prepare the way for the Mes- which he commanded our fathers, that siah, John was to call the attention of they should make them (i.e. the words the Jewish church and nation to the and works of God) known to their gracious covenant of God.
children; that the generation to come “ When Abraham was ninety years might know them even the chil: old and nine, the Lord appeared to dren which should be born, who should Abraham, and said unto him, I am the arise and declare them to their chilAlmighty God; walk before me and dren; that they," the children, might be thou perfect....And I wilt establish | set their hope in God, and not forget my covenant between ine and thee; the works of God, but keep his com and thy seed after thee, in their gene- mandments." rations, for an everlasting covenant, Such, in brief, was the tenor of to be a God unto thee and to thy seed God's gracious covenant with Abraafter thee.” This covenant with Abra-|| ham and his seed; such were the duham and his seed was the grand char- ties required, and sach the blessings ter of all the privileges and blessings, which were to follow. appertaining to the church throughout But of this covenant the descendall generations. A capital part of this ants of Abraham became strangely covenant was the promise, on condition forgetful. They valued themselves, of faith and obedience, of blessings, indeed, highly, on their relation to their temporal and spiritual, to descend fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from parents to children, from genera- and on their outward standing in the tion to generation, down to the latest|| covenant and church of God; and they periods of time. In correspondence even held the confidence, that, because with this we are assured, that “the they were descendants of Abraham, Lord is a faithful God, who keepeth and, in a sense, children of the covecovenant and mercy with them that nant, they and their seed would cerlove him and keep his commandments|tainly be blessed* Yet we have a unto a thousand generations.
bundant evidence, that they were but But it was with such only as would very little attentive to the important love him and keep his commandmente, that the Lord stood engaged to keep had a station near the gate of hell, and would
* The Jews had a tradition, that Abraham covenant and mercy. If parents would not suffer any of his 'descendants to go down avail themselves of the gracious prom- to that dismal abode.
conditions on which the blessings of and thus as it is expressed in the gospel, the covenant were promised. They make ready a people prepared for the became ignorant of God's righteous- Lord.” But what can we understand ness, that righteousness of faith, of by this, more or less, than that under which circumcision was the visible | his ministry, a remarkable reformation seal; and presumptuously went about was to take place in respect to the cov. to establish their own righteousness.epant? Parents were to consider, and Observant as they were of the exter- to fulfil their covenant obligations with. Dal rite of circumcision, they became respect to their children, and in consestrangely unmindful of its spiritual im- quence of this the hearts of the chile port. Though they circumcised their dren, by the gracious influences of the childreu according to the letter of the Spirit, in covenant faithfulness vouch: covenant; yet they were not careful safed, were to be so effectually turned, to walk in the faith of their father Abra- || as seriously to hear, and dutifully to ham.
obey, the parental instructions which They did not give up their children they should receive. It was thus, in A to God in faith, nor train them up in that special sense that John was to prepare holy nurture and admonition which the way for the Messiah ; and it wag the covenant required. With respect, thús, according to the words of the anindeed, to this most interesting con-gel to his father Zachariah, he was to cern, there was evidently, among the make ready a people prepared for the Jews, for many generations before the Lord. coming of the Messiah, a most crimi. Such a reformation, with respect to pal and lamentable defection. the covenant, was evidently of prima
But to prepare the way for the Mes-||ry necessity ; for it was in pursuance siah, it was of the first necessity, that of the covenant, that the Messiah was à reformation should take place in this to come; and it was in pursuance of important particular. It was of the the covenant, that the blessings comhighest importance that a serious attenprised in him, both for Jews and Gention should be awakened in the Jew.tiles, were to be conferred. He was ish church and nation, to the true tenor to come to perform the mercy promof the covenant, in which they profes-lised unto the fathers, and to remember sedly stood.
the holy covenant. And it deserves Accordingly John was especially to especially to be considered, that, at his call their attention to this all import-coming, a great and important change ant concern. On this point ancient in respect to the church, and the outprophecy was particularly explicit.- ward appendages of the covenant, was “ Behold I will send you Elijah the to take place. The law of commandprophet before the coming of the great |ments contained in ordinances, which and dreadful day of the Lord; and he was added to the covevant at Sinai, and shall turn the heart of the Fathers to which is commonly called the Mosathe children, and the heart of the chil-ic dispensation, was to be abolished. dren to their fathers, lest I come and The middle wall of partition between smite the earth with a curse.” These Jew and Gentile was to be broken were the last words uttered by the down. The blessing of Abraham was Spirit of prophecy before the ar- to be extended to the Gentiles, and rival of the important era to which a new dispeňsation adapted to all the they referred ; and in the New Testa-nations of tlie earth, was to be introdument, they are expressly applied to ced. Surely, to prepare the way for John the Baptist. A principal pur-changes so great, for an era in the pose, then, for which John was sent, || church so eventful, it was of the highwas, " that he might turn the heart of est importance that attention should the fathers unto the children, and the be called to the tenor and essential heart of the children unto their fathers, provision of the covenant. It was of
high importance, in order that the truth || nant, previously to the introduction of and faithfulness of God, in the perfor-the Christian dispensation, those,
of his covenanted mercy, whose hearts were turned to walk in "might be attentively remarked and the steps of the faith of Abraham their gratefully recognized; and in order, father, and who were to be reserved especially that, after the introduction as the people and church of the Lord, of the Christian dispensation, the ten- were also to be baptized. This was or and provision of the covenant might to be done under the ministry of John. be well understood, and religiously ob- If any thing more than the considerserved among all the nations of theations now before us be necessary to earth, and to the latest periods of time. make it evident, that the baptism of
4. To prepare the way for the Mes-John was a rite of confirmation, instisiah, John was to confirm the covenant tuted for those, who had already a vi&with the true members of the Jewish ||ible. standing in the covenant and church, by an outward rite, instituted church of God, and for the purpose for that special purpose.
of preparing the way for the Messiah, The Jews had alla nominal standing and the introduction of a new dispen: in the church of God; but, as a body, sation: a passage, in the ixth of Dan. they had become extremely corrupt. icl, may, in this connexion, be worthy God had borne with them long; but of particular attention. the period of his patience was limited. Seventy weeks are determined As already observed, on the coming upon thy people and upon thy holy of the Messiah, the church was to be city, to finish the transgression and to shaken, and the Jews, as a body, were make an end of sins, and to make re to be rejected. In this dreadful catas- conciliation for iniquity, and to bring trophe, however, a precious remnant in everlasting righteousness, and to was to be reserved. Though the dead seal up the vision and prophecy, and branches were to be broken off and to anoint the Most Holy. Know, there, cast away, the living olive-tree was fore, and understand, that from the gonot to be plucked up by the roots'; ing forth of the commandment to rebut was to remain under the special store and to build Jerusalem, unto the care of the divine husbandman, was Messiah the Prince, shall be seren to receive ingrafted branches from the weeks, and three score and two weeks, olive by nature wild, and was to grow the street shall be built again, and the and spread, until all the nations of wall, even in troublous times. And the earth should repose under its re- after threescore and two weeks shall freshing shade.
Messiah be cut off, but not for himself. On the approach of an era so event-And he shall confirm the covenant ful, when the nominal people of God with many for one week; and in the were, as a body, about to be rejected, midst of the week he shall cause tho it was obviously very proper and in sacrifice and the oblation to cease."portant, that some special mark should Upon this remarkable passage of an: be set on those, who should be found cient prophecy a few concise observafaithful, and be reserved as his true tions only can be offered. people ; and some outward signifi. Under the ancient dispensation there cant rite be administered to them, as were weeks of years as well as weeks a token of their confirmation in the of days. The weeks of the prophecy covenant made with their fathers.now before us were undoubtedly Previously to the introduction of the weeks of years. Seventy weeks, then, Mosaic dispensation at Horeb, the the total number specified, were equal whole congregation of the Lord were to a period of 490 years. This period haptized, in token of their confirma- of seventy weeks, or 490 years, was tion in his gracious covenant. In con- the whole period which was to elapse, Grmation of the same gracious cove.between the going forth of the com
mandment, giren by Artaxerxes king|| tism of John was a-rite not of initiation of Persia, to Ezra the scribe, to re- but of confirmation; that by the adstore and build Jerusalem, and the ma-ministration of this, the covenant was king of reconciliation for iniquity, by confirmed with many ; and that this the death of Messiah the Prince.* was done to prepare the way for the
This total period of seventy weeks, Messiah and his new dispensation. or 490 years, is divided, in the proph
(To be continued.) ecy, into three parts; the first, of seven weeks, or forty-nine years, the sec- ON MIS APPLICATION OF SCRIPTURE. ond, of sixty two weeks, or 434 years, I am pleased when I hear Scriptures and the last of one week, or seren adduced in prayer, sermons, or in reliyears. The first period was from the gious conversation, according to the time when Ezra received his commis- apparent meaning of the Holy Ghost, sion to the close of the administration But when texts are used in a different of Nehemiah ; a period of just forty sense from what they bear in their connine years, in which the city was built nexion, it excites feelings, which tend again, and the wall, even in troublous to the injury of devotion. We readily times. The second period' was from grant, that no writer should be quoted the close of Nehemiah’s administra- differently from his own sense and tion to the commencement of the min-| meaning. Authors are not pleased to istry of John the Baptist; a period of see or hear their words turned from just 434 years. The last period, the their plain and original design. Is one week, or seven years, was from this accuracy, in justice, due to fellow the commencement of the ministry of creatures ? Then surely we ought to John to the crucifixion of Christ. cite the Holy Scriptures with accuracy
It is especially to be observed, that and due attention. If any man speak, of the last period it is said, “ and he || let him speak as the Oracles of God. sball confirm the covenant with many As a specimen of the many texts, for," or during, one week; and in the which are often misapplied, I will menmidst, (or, as it should have been ren- tion a few instances. dered, the half part) “ of the week, he Many religious persons, when conshall cause the sacrifice and the obla-sidering themselves near the close of tion to cease.” That is, in the close | life, have been heard to repeat these of the last week, he shall abolish the words, Why is his chariot so lung in rites of the Mosaic economy, and shall coming ? Why tarry the wheels of his introduce a new dispensation. chariot? They are found in Judges John continued in his ministry three 5th, 28th. No one
can read the years and a half; then the Messiah words understandingly, in that excelhimself preached three years and a lent song of Deborah and Barak, and half more; making, in the whole, sey-not admire their beauty. But what is en years, or one prophetic week. Du-their subject? They represent Sisera's ring this week, agreeably to the proph-|| mother looking out at a window imecy, the covenant was confirmed with patiently waiting for the return of her many. Many of the children of Is- son, loaded with the rich spoils of rael were turned unto the Lord their God's covenant people. The words, God, and by the baptism of John were in their connexion, express the pre. confirmed in the holy covenant, made sumption, the vanity, and the pride of with their fathers. At the close of the her heart. God was not in her thoughts. week the Messiah was cut off, the sac- Is it not improper thus to misapply the rifice and oblation were made to cease, || sacred text and use it in a sense very and the Christian dispensation was in different from its original meaning ?troduced. So plain it is that the bap-Christians are not reduced to the ne. • Prideaux Connection, Part 1. Book 5. cessity of such habitual misapplication ş Prid. Con. ibid
for the want of suitable portions of