By James H. Snowden
ear events may have remote causes. The river that sweeps by us cannot be explained without going far back to hidden springs in distant hills. The huge wave that breaks upon the ocean shore may have had its origin in a submarine upheaval five thousand miles away.
A wide circle of causes converged towards this birth; all the spokes of the ancient world ran into this hub. When Abraham started west as an emigrant out of Babylonia, “not knowing whither he went,” he was unconsciously traveling towards Bethlehem. Jewish history for centuries headed towards this culmination; this was the matchless blossom that bloomed out of all that growth from Abraham to Joseph and Mary. Priest and prophet, tabernacle and temple, gorgeous ritual and streaming altar, sacrifice and psalm, kingdom and captivity, triumph and tragedy were all so many roots to this tree. These were the education and discipline of the chosen people, preparing them as soil out of which the Messiah could spring. The great ideas of the unity and sovereignty, spirituality and righteousness of God, the sinfulness of sin and the need of an atonement were in flaming picture language emblazoned before the people and burnt into their conscience. Christ could do nothing until these ideas were rooted in the world.
Pagan achievements, also, “the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome,” were roots to this same tree of preparation for the coming of Christ, though they knew it not. Greece with all the glories of its philosophy and art showed that the world never could be saved by its own wisdom; and all the laws and legions of Rome were equally impotent to lift it out of the ditch of sin. Neither a brilliant brain nor a mailed fist can save a lost world. Yet both Greece and Rome made positive contributions to the preparation for Christ. Greece fashioned a marvelous instrument for propagating the gospel in its highly flexible and expressive language, and Rome reduced the world to order and hushed it into peace and thus turned it into a vast amphitheater in which the gospel could be heard. Greece also contributed philosophy that threw light on the gospel, and Rome gave it a rich inheritance of law.
God thus set this event in a mighty framework of preparation. He got the world ready for Christ before he brought Christ to the world. He was in no haste and took plenty of time before he struck the great hour. The harvest must lie out in the showers and sunshine for weeks and months before it can ripen into golden wheat, and the meteor must shoot through millions of invisible miles for one brief flash of splendor. The centuries seemed slow-footed during that long and dreary stretch from Abraham to Mary, “but when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son.”
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