« ПредишнаНапред »
the same, their hopes the same. They had gained numerous proselytes in heathen lands about the time which preceded the advent of Christ. Hence the universal expectation of this event, cherished through the Oriental world. Hence, especially, the existence of this hope among the sages of Babylon, or Arabia, according to some, and its final realization by the Magi, who came to Jerusalem to worship the new-born King.*
See Appendix, Note C.
THE CENTRAL RACE. - PRELUDES AND PREPARATIONS.
That the Hebrews, as 6 a peculiar people," possessed the character and performed the functions ascribed to them in the preceding chapter, can admit of no reasonable doubt; for the fact stands before us, account for it as we may, that ancient history, in its higher relations, revolved around them, and finally converged at Jerusalem in the cross of Christ.
The most inveterate sceptic, at all familiar with the annals of the past, must allow that one of the great purposes, served by this old Hebrew stock, was the preparation of the world for the Messiah, and his actual advent, in the fulness of the times, from the very bosom of the race that rejected him as their king. Strange that they should reject him, and yet give him to the world. Yet such is the actual fact. So that they and all other nations have been “as clay in the hands of the potter,” for the production of this sublime result. Let the rationale of the thing be as it may in the view of speculative minds, the hand of God is visible in the whole history of the Jews, and of the reighboring nations, who actually do homage to this politically insignificant race; the consequence of which is not only a Messiah, but a pure and perfect religion, a new era in history, a new power in the heart of society, a new life in the soul of man. Great is Rome, on account of her colossal power, complete organization, martial energy, and legal force. Great also is Greece, greater even than Rome, from the breadth and grandeur of her philosophic thought, and, above all, from the exquisite beauty of her poetry and art. The power of law, and the grace of form, are represented by these, the most highly cultivated of all the ancient nations, but all this, as even the merest tyro knows, has been drawn into the Christian civilization. Blending with the idea of the divine, and the hope of a glorious immortality, and especially the spirit of universal charity, the purest product of faith, all that is really valuable in ancient civilization has been perpetuated through Christ, and not only so, but sublimed to higher use. Law now is recognized as having its seat in the bosom of God, and beauty shines upon us, radiant and immortal, from the face of Jesus. Both are discovered to us as eternal powers.
The character and position, then, of the Hebrew race, are to be estimated with especial reference to Christ, and the amazing influence thence exerted in the history of mankind. It is obvious, even to the most superficial view, that the elementary forces of modern society are derived from this peculiar nation. Scattered and peeled as they have generally been, and as they still, to some extent, are; often dispersed and trampled upon by the nations, and, indeed, with many obvious defects of character, which their own writers freely acknowledge, they have done a work for the world, the stupendous consequences of which can be estimated only at the close of time. The old forms of religion in the East are dead or dying. All their civilizations are undermined, and tottering to their fall. Not one of the pagan nations is making the slightest progress. To such progress idolatry and polygamy, the power of caste and the power of superstition, oppose effectual barriers. All are stationary, or absolutely dying out. The religion of the crescent, with some elements of power, but more of weakness, has long since reached its culmination. Its rapid decline is obvious to the world. All Mohammedan communities are suffering from sterility and weakness. A vigorous blow from without would dash them to pieces. Judaism, shorn of its early strength, and standing simply as the nominis umbra, the shadow of a reality, which has passed into Christianity, is ready to vanish away. Christianity and the Christian form of civilization, yet imperfectly evolved, alone are strong and progressive. Every where they penetrate with their new views, new aspirations, and activities. Under their influence, industry and the arts, science and social life
prosper. Especially is this the case in those nations and communities which have formed the clearest and loftiest conceptions of Christianity, as a living, practical power. God is in them, because Christ is in them. And where God is, there charity, freedom, and activity abound.
Now to whom, under God, do we owe all this, but to that old Hebrew stock, or, at least, that portion of it who are “the true Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the services of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever?” (Rom. ix. 45.) And even if, by their rejection of Christ, the modern Jews, as a nation, are “cast away,” have they not become, on this very account, as St. Paul shows, "the riches of the
world ? " *
If, then, among the nations at large, we find a general preparation for Christ; if in this respect Jesus, as “God manifest in the flesh,” is proved to be the centre of a new spiritual sphere,
* In the eleventh chapter of his Epistle to the Romans.