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FIRST SUNDAY EVENING.
PREPARATIONS FOR THE COMING OF THE SAVIOUR.
MAMMA. It is now some time, Edward, since we have had any conversations on the subject of Sacred History. Should you like me to renew them with you on a Sunday evening?
EDWARD. Indeed I should, Mamma; for I want you very much to assist me in understanding the New Testament.
M. I am most willing and anxious to lend you my help here, as I did in the Old Testament; for important as that is, we cannot hesitate to call the history which the Gospels contain still more so. When we left off our conversations on the former, 1 told you that the promise of the Redeemer was the chief and distinguishing privilege of God's people in old time, even from the very fall of our first parents. The patriarchs looked anxiously for Him; to Him the law and the prophets bare witness. Indeed from the earliest ages of the world, preparations were made for [Second Series.]
our Lord Jesus Christ; for what in fact is the world without Him? For who is Christ, and for what purpose was He to come? St. John in the first chapter of his Gospel, will answer this question. He tells us that Christ, whom he calls the WORD, was in the beginning with God, nay that He was Himself the great and glorious God, and that by Him all things were made, and without Him was not any thing made that was made; no, not even one, from the highest archangel to the meanest worm. Most meet was it that for so great and mighty a Saviour, preparations should be made long before. He was the Deliverer promised to Adam and Eve; the blessing held out to Abraham; the great Prophet of whom Moses wrote; the end to which the law pointed in almost all its ordinances. It was expressly to pave the way for Christ, that the Jews were separated from the rest of mankind, and set apart as God's peculiar people, and of Him it was that their prophets continually spoke.
But prophecy had now, for four hundred years, been silent. After Malachi, no prophets appeared to keep the people of God in mind of the promised Messiah or Christ. It pleased God however, when the coming of our Lord drew nigh, to send before Him a greater messenger than any of the prophets had been; one who should speak of Christ still more clearly than they did; who should plainly declare Him as the Son of the Highest, and directly point to Him as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
E. But, Mamma, you have passed over four hundred years of the history: does not the Bible tell us
what happened to the Church and people of God in all that time?
M. No, Edward; not only did prophecy become silent after Malachi, but the sacred history pauses then, and no more lifts up its voice until it has to announce to the world the joyful news of the Saviour's approach. The Bible is altogether a sacred volume; the word of God uses history only as subservient to religion.
E. But, dear Mamma, could you not just tell me in a few words what became of the Jews in those four hundred years ? They were restored I know to their own land; their city and their temple were rebuilt; but were they never again carried into captivity, or did they become their own masters, and live under their own laws?
M. At the time of which you are speaking, they were, you will remember, under the dominion of the kings of Persia, of whose empire Judea formed a part. Under the Persian dominion they continued for about eighty years longer, until the time of Alexander the Great, king of Macedon, so famous in history for his rapid and extensive conquests, first in Greece, and then in Asia. He was the founder of the third great monarchy or kingdom which was to be in the world, as foretold in the prophecies of Daniel.
When the empire of Alexander was divided (as upon his death it was) into four parts, the Jews became subjects of the kings of Egypt; then of the kings of Syria. After this, they were sometime independent of foreign rule, and governed by princes of their own, till the Romans conquered them and made them tributary to themselves; still allowing