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prelude to a gathering storm. Long continued submission to the oppressions of despotic power, admonish those who “bear rule,” to anticipate with certainty the ultimate and more fearful desolations of political ruptures. And in the moral world, the death-like calm which accompanies the long protracted reign of ignorance and vice over the heart and conscience, may be relied upon as the infallible precursor of some eventful change. Thus, we say, it was, in reference, I. TO THE
FIRST ADVENT OF MESSIAH; to a consideration of which, in connexion with the preceding, we now invite your attention. The Chapter of the world's history in a moral sense, receives from this period the evidence, that, till now, it had been comparatively virtuous. In defiance of the otherwise salutary influence of civilization and refinement, the mighty republic of Rome, a little previous to the FIRST ADVENT of Jesus Christ, was overhelmed with the grossest ignorance, the most degrading superstitions, the most bestial idolatry, and the most debasing and horrid crimes. A stupid and licentious paganism sat brooding over the entire civilized world, and all, except a few of the devout remnant of Israel, seemed pleased with the delusive fetters which bound them. And though in Ancient Greece and Rome, learning and the arts attained to the zenith of their glory, and the various systems of philosophy had the advantages of improvements by rejecting some of the grossest and most palpable errors of the past, yet all attempts at reformation among the commonalty proved abortive.
And then, in addition to this, the civil aspect of the world presented a state of things to human view the most astonishing. The political atmosphere of the far spreading heavens had retired to repose. The clash of arms and the din of war had ceased. Rome, the proud Empress of the civilized nations, distributed without partiality, the boon of social intercourse to the tributary provinces, which, together with that mighty empire, basked in the sunshine of peace and prospeiity. The voice of prophecy had ceased. The Shechinah, or manifestation of the divine glory, remained no longer curtained beneath the spreading wings of the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies. “The lively oracles of God,” though possessed by the Jews, by misinterpretations founded upon “the traditions of the elders,” lost all their force and power; while their morals as a nation were as corrupted and debased, as were those of the licentious heathen. These then, were among the most portentous signs of the times, which immediately preceded the “MANIFESTATION OF GOD IN THE FLESH :" And, to a reflecting mind, guided by the light of revelation, they were calculated to inspire fresh hopes of the near approach of the Prince Messiah. They intimated to such, in a manner not to be misunderstood, the necessity of the appearance of such a divine personage, who alone could bring “life and immortality to light.” This however, was not the common expectation. All were standing aghast as it were, waiting in breathless anxiety for the occurrence of some mighty revolution among the nations of the earth, the nature of which
however, they did not understand. True, the Jews had their eyes directed to the fulfilment of what the prophets had spoken in reference to their Messiah, but being in a great measure ignorant of their true import, they united with the fastidious and superstitious Roman, in consulting “the authority of the Sibylline books," and in trusting to "the decision of the sacred college of Etrurian augurs,” by which they unanimously concluded, “that this momentous event was at hand. This was equally the case in the East. At that time the Emperor of India, uneasy at these prophecies, which, he conceived, portended his ruin and the loss of his empire, sent emissaries to inquire whether such a child were really born, in order to destroy him."
What different emotions however, filled the minds of those who, from the same important events, were looking for spiritual redemption in Israel ? Yes: when they saw “these things begin to come to pass," they “looked up — they “lifted up their heads” which, from the moral darkness and desolations which every where prevailed, had been long hanging downward like the bulrush; for, they saw that their “ redemption was drawing nigh.” “The fulness of time,” when “the Son of God," " the seed of the woman,” “to whom all the prophets gave witness, Should appear, was beginning to dawn upon this guilty world. And, among the number of this remnant band of Jewish worthies in Jerusalem, was the aged Simeon. He was a just man and devout." He had long been waiting for the consolation of Israel."
"And to him it was revealed by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's CHRIST."
Thus much in reference to those events which, as the “ signs of the times,” preceded the FIRST ADVENT of the Son of God.
At this point of our advance, therefore, we would remark, that the preceding facts, if they have any meaning, certainly demonstrate the error of those who affirm that no unfulfilled prophecy can be understood till the event to which it refers transpires. Else, what had become of Noah and his family? What of Abraham and of Lot? What of the millions of the enslaved Hebrews in Egypt? What of the pious and and faithful captives of Babylon? What of the aged and devout Simeon, and those who with him had so long been “ looking for redemption in Jerusalem?" Alas, all must have been cut off from the inheritance of those mercies promised to the faithful of God in all ages, consequent upon a neglect to study prophetic “times and seasons” on the one hand, and in closing their eyes upon “the signs of the times” on the other. For, as you may perceive, the prophecies to which we have just adverted partook almost without exception, of both these characteristics. Was the commencement and termination of the predicted destruction of the ante-diluvian world limited to 120 years ? The raising of every hund, the hewing of every stick of timber, the noise echoing from the
blow of every hammer in the erection of the Noahic ark, were "signs,” indicating their approaching doom. Again,
The two angelic visitants of Sodom, and the miraculous blindness inflicted upon the marauders of the hospitable mansion of Lot, and his warning to his sons-in-law immediately upon being informed of the Lord's intention to destroy the cities of the plain, all,
"SIGNs? of coming wrath, preceded their destruction. So also, while the preservation of Moses from a watery grave, and his elevation to the court of Egypt as the adopted son of the king's daughter, indicated his high destination as the deliverer of his brethren from the iron grasp of their oppressor; and his slaying an Egyptian was designed as the first evidence of his mission as such to his brethren, at the same time acquainting them with the now almost total termination of their 430 years of affliction and servitude in a strange land; the ten plagues inflicted by the hand of Moses upon the infidel and imperious Egyptian king, presaged the final overthrow of himself and his army in the Red Sea.
The termination of the 70 years captivity seems to have been marked by no particular “signs." That period had the awakened vigilance and zeal of a Daniel to note, with infallible precision, the lapse of every year. But the termination of the 70 weeks of years was marked by the most significant "signs.” Heaven and earth united in filling the moral hemisphere with forerunners of the incarnation of the Son of God, thereby awaking expectations of an approaching crisis