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The fulness of the time, in which our Lord appeared, has been justly made the subject of devout admiration, and pious praise. Antecedently to that blessed event, it is impossible to fix upon any period, in which, humanly speaking, a scheme of general importance to mankind could be carried into execution; and therefore the dispensations of divine grace were, till then, confined to a single nation, selected for the purpose; or, at most, extended to favoured individuals in other regions of the earth. But at the advent of the Messiah, the whole civilized world was, for the first time, in a state of perfect tranquillity, under the same government; and mankind, at last, enjoyed that security and composure, which are indispensably necessary to a due reception of heavenly truth. With these advantages were naturally connected freedom of intercourse, both by travelling and correspondence; and such a degree of uniformity in manners and language, that the advocates for the Gospel might expect a cordial reception and hearing in all the principal cities of the Roman empire. What might still be wanting to this purpose was supplied by the dispersion of their countrymen, the Jews, in every corner of the world, accustomed to the voice of revelation, and living in expectation of the Messiah. Such a choice of time could be made by him alone, “ with whom a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years; who sees the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, the things that are not yet done."

But there is another view of this subject, that will convince us not only of the fulness of the time, but also of the necessity of the interposition. Not only was the fulness of time come, but the cup of iniquity was also running over: not only was the period fit for the appearance of a divine instructor, advocate and redeemer, but all hope of human aid was at an end. These are the two points, which first claim our serious consideration.

To trace the progress of sin throughout the annals of history, would be to do an unwarrantable violence to your feelings; and to give a sufficient idea of the prevalence of vice at the incarnation of Christ, I need only refer you to St. Paul's account of his contemporaries, in his Epistle to the Romans. The boasted public virtues of their forefathers, which dazzle the mind of the student, were often no better than splendid crimes, and were then broken down and dissolved in one mass with those private vices, to which they were naturally prone, and which, by long indulgence, had grown to an excess of corruption, that shocks even the most flagitious of modern sinners. From the imperial throne to the dregs of the populace, they present a spectacle, that would disgust a people like you, accustomed to the quiet and security, and the orderly and be

nevolent regulations of social life; the abundant charity, and equal liberty, the general diffusion of religion, and the universal abhorrence of atrocious crimes, which bless and adorn modern society, and for which we are indebted to our Redeemer.

But avhat is more immediately connected with our present subject is, that all hope of reformation from human virtue or human wisdom was at an end. The grace of God had inspired the patriarchs with such a portion of divine light and truth, as might have given a bias toward virtue and piety to their immediate descendants; and through them to the whole human race, of which they were the progenitors. The chosen people were constrained to become the instruments of Providence, in maintaining some sense of religion in the world, and were planted in a country peculiarly favourable to that purpose, The wise men of Egypt and the East may have been assisted and enlightened for the same gracious purpose: we know that persons of extraordinary elevation of mind, greatness of soul, and extent of intellect, arose in those celebrated nations of Greece and Rome, through whose extensive dominions their wisdom might be disseminated to the most distant regions. But we also know, that all these splendid eras were past, and that not a ray of light remained to illuminate a benighted world. Except in the writings of a

few retired students, scattered over remote ages and distant countries, we cannot discern a trace of their path, or a glimpse of their light. We know, too, that men were growing more and more depraved; and that, except through the medium of the Christian religion, not even the faintest effort has ever yet been made to reclaim the world. This was the crisis foreseen in the divine counsels, which forcibly and effectually called for the interposition of some superior intelligence; and it was to this glorious display of divine benevolence, that the course of political events was compelled to be subservient. The gradual expansion of the Roman power, and the suppression of those civil broils, in which the conquerors of the world were involved, were all preparatory to the appearance of the Prince of peace. Thus the inefficacy of laws without morals, of philosophy without piety, of religion without revelation, had been fully proved; and from a retrospect of human affairs, we may now assert, that no reformation could have been effected, nor even the precipitancy of vice and impiety been checked, by any human means. But at that moment, the Holy Spirit of God seemed to call aloud to the world: “ Arise; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. Behold, darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee; and his glory shall be seen upon

thee; and the Gentiles shall come to his light, and kings to the brightness of his rising."

What then was the condition of mankind with regard to God? They were all guilty in his presence. Every individual was notoriously deficient in all his duties to his Creator, and his fellow creatures; and the whole human race had forfeited every privilege, to which, in a state of innocence, they may have had a claim; and every destination, for which they may have been originally designed. They had not only forfeited their privileges and destination, but had also exposed themselves to the displeasure of their Creator; and subjected themselves to those evils, which might be justly incurred by a violation of the eternal principles of right, and an opposition to the divine will. That such penalties might be justly incurred, and that the infliction of them might be consistent not only with justice, but even with the benevolence of the Most High, were principles, the truth of which their own natural reason, however perverted and degraded, gave them sufficient room to apprehend. That misery is actually consequent upon

uent upon the commission of sin, under the visible providence of God, was also a fact, of which they were witnesses every day. But what other evils might be suffered, and to what period in duration they might be prolonged, were questions, which they could only contemplate with fearful apprehension.

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