The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.…
A positive preparation of the race itself was necessary, before the plan of redemption could be successfully revealed. This preparation was gradually going forward at the same time that our moral helplessness was so amply illustrated. If we reflect upon the nature of the Christian revelation we shall be convinced that its conceptions belong to an advanced period of civilisation. It addresses itself exclusively to the spiritual nature of man. But, in the earlier periods of our race, our conceptions are all from without; they have to do almost exclusively with sensible objects. The Gospel has to do with thought, feeling, sentiment, motive, and all their various attributes; and it could not be well understood until the mind of man had become somewhat at home in these conceptions. Nor is this all. The Christian religion addresses itself to the moral nature, the conscience of man.
I. Hence, a remedial dispensation would naturally be delayed, until the moral character of man, both individual and social, had been fully displayed; and MANKIND HAD BECOME IN SOME DEGREE CAPABLE OF APPRECIATING THE FACTS THUS PRESENTED TO THEIR NOTICE. But, besides this, the Gospel is a revelation communicated to man by language, and its authenticity, as is meet, is attested by miracles. Now, considerable progress must have been made in civilisation before such testimony could be given as we would be willing to receive on a question of so vital importance. Until the laws of nature are to some extent known, we cannot determine whether the Creator has or has not in a particular case departed from them. And this leads us to observe, again, that a revelation from God to man, informing him of this wonderful change in the conditions of his probation, — a revelation designed for all ages to the end of time, and destined to work a perfect transformation in the moral character of our race, — could not have been completed until language had arrived at a considerable degree of perfection. It was necessary that the doctrines and motives peculiar to the new dispensation should be promulgated with all possible explicitness, and yet guarded from all tendency either to incompleteness or excess. Amidst all the agitations of society, throughout all the overturnings of empire, the human mind, during this long period, had been gradually attaining maturity. Each nation, during its brief existence, had either added something to the stock of human knowledge, or made some contribution to the materials for human thought. Every revolution had illustrated in some new phase the principles of conduct, and had bequeathed the lesson to succeeding generations.
II. We see, then, that God not only prepared a language in which this revelation for all coming ages could, be written, but HE DIFFUSED THAT LANGUAGE OVER THE CIVILISED WORLD. He created a suitable vehicle for the truth, and He made that vehicle, as far as was necessary, universal. And this work was accomplished by means of the ambition of Alexander, and the all-grasping love of dominion of the citizens of Rome. Men ignorant of the existence and character of the true God, bowing down to the senseless images which their own hands had fashioned, indulging without restraint their own corrupt passions, were thus advancing His purposes, and opening the way for the advent of His Son.
III. One other condition remains yet to be observed. The nations inhabiting the shores of the Mediterranean were originally distinct in government, dissimilar in origin, diverse in laws, habits, and usages, and almost perpetually at war. To pass from one to the other without incurring the risk of injury, nay, even of being sold into slavery, was almost impossible. A stranger and an enemy were designated by the same word. It was necessary that these various peoples should all be moulded into one common form; that one system of laws should bind them all in harmony. This seems to have been needful, in order that the new religion might be rapidly and extensively promulgated. In order to accomplish this purpose WAS THE ROMAN EMPIRE RAISED UP, AND ENTRUSTED WITH THE SCEPTRE OF UNIVERSAL DOMINION. In many respects it resembled the dominion of Great Britain at the present day in Asia. We perceive that the overturnings of forty centuries were required in order to prepare the world for the advent of the Messiah. The same omniscient wisdom has ever since been engaged in carrying forward the work which was then commenced.
(D. Wayland, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.