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HISTORY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT,
We have now brought the Sacred History down
to the re-establishment of the Jews in their own land. The time that elapsed between the last events recorded in the Old Testament, and the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, was about four hundred years. The transactions of those times might very properly be introduced in this place; but, as the Almighty has not been pleased to give us an inspired history of that period, I thought it most proper to place the account of those events, together with the destruction of Jerusalem, and the final dispersion of the Jews, at the end of the volume, that it might not interfere with the sacred records.
The facts recorded in the Scripture History have a peculiar claim to our attention; whether we consider their antiquity, their undoubted certainty, the beautiful simplicity with which they are related, or the important instruction they afford: but, most of all, as they are calculated to make us wise unto salvation, by teaching us those great truths, of which, without such information, we must have remained in total ignorance: for, whatever proud philosophers may boast of having discovered by the light of reason, they are all of them bewildered and perplexed in their attempts to account for a variety of things: such as, the nature and perfections of God, the fall of man, and the misery brought into the world thereby. Wherever they may seem to cast any light upon these subjects, it will be found, upon a closer inspection, that they derive all their knowledge from that fountain of truth, the Scripture, which they affect to despise.
We are now entering upon an epoch, the most important of any that ever appeared in the annals of history, and from which we think it our honour to date our time. We are come to the birth of Him, after whose name we esteem it our highest privilege to be called, and in the events of whose life and death, it will be our greatest happiness to be interested. The sun in our system is a glorious object, nor could
the world subsist without it; but how much more glorious is the Sun of Righteousness arising on the intellectual world; without whom, we must have been left in that horror of darkness, into which the fall of man had plunged us!
Should the infidels of the present day endeavour to blot this sacred epoch from the records of time, let the facts, by which it is so eminently distinguished, be indelibly engraven on our hearts. With joy and gratitude may we remember, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lord of Glory, condescended to be born into the world, to live a mean and despised life, and to die a painful and ignominious death, for the salvation of sinners. Then shall we account it our greatest honour to profess the religion of Christ, and look with pity and with horror upon those, who reject that worthy name by which we are called.
A Christian is the highest style of man.
And is there, who the blessed cross wipes off,
Lucy. WE are happy to see you, my dear aunt, after so long an absence, and hope you will renew the subject of our conversations.
Aunt. I shall esteem it a pleasure to gratify you, my dear children. Though the New Testament is a history you are acquainted with, yet we may obtain much profit by collecting the historical facts of the four gospels, and comparing them with the prophecies of the Old Testament, by which it will appear, that Christ is the Messiah therein predicted; but as John was his forerunner, we must begin with him.
George. Was John prophesied of?
Aunt. He was; particularly in Malachi iii. 1. Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me; and, chap. iv. 5, 6. Behold, 1 will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers. We will now see whether the history of John accords with this prophecy. His father Zacharias was a priest of the order of Aaron, and his mother Elizabeth, was also descended from Aaron; they were both very holy persons, walking in the commandments of God; they were advanced in years, and had no child. As Zacharias was burning incense in the temple, there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord.
Maria. Was he not afraid when he saw the angel? Aunt. He was filled with consternation, which the angel perceiving, said, Fear not, Zacharias; for thy prayer is heard: thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John: thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth, for he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost; and many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God: and he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Zacharias doubted the accomplishment, and said, Whereby shall I know this? And the angel said, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God, and am sent to shew thee these glad tidings.
Maria. Did the angel give him a sign?
Aunt. He did; and one that was a severe rebuke to his unbelief; for he was struck dumb, and remained so till the promise was fulfilled.
George. Were the people in the temple at this time?
Aunt. No; they were without, in the courts of the temple, and wondered at Zacharias staying so long. When he came out, he could not speak to them; but he made motions, whereby they understood he had seen a vision: and when the days of his officiating in the temple were finished, he departed to his own house, where he continued till the birth of John, which took place in the appointed time. And their relations and neighbours rejoiced with them. And they called the child Zacharias, after the name of his father; but his mother said,