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HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY.
ON THE PROVIDENTIAL PREPARATION OF THE WORLD
FOR THE ADVENT OF THE REDEEMER.
In undertaking the Course of Lectures, of which this is the first, on the History of Christianity, I have been prompted by the desire of adding greater interest to our Sunday evening exercises, by treating a class of subjects which cannot appropriately be introduced into ordinary religious instruction, and by imparting a species of knowledge which can be obtained only by long study and access to ample libraries, yet which renders the records of our faith more interesting and intelligible than they can be without such collateral information. As it happens, the New Testament is almost the only record of the times and the nation of which it treats, which is accessible to
most readers. It gives a knowledge of the state of the world as it then was, only incidentally. Of the times preceding, it gives us no idea. Between the last page of Malachi and the first of Matthew, though separated by a few blank leaves of our common bibles, there intervened a period of almost five hundred years, during which the face of the world and the condition of mankind were more changed than they ever have been in the same time, if we except the period since the discovery of America.
If we look at the world as we see it through the pages of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai, the last of the Old Testament writers, we see the nation of the Jews just returned from a seventy years' captivity, recommencing their national existence after having been overrun and absorbed in the first great monarchy that swept over the earth. Their acquaintance with the rest of the world was very limited, only extending to the Chaldeans, the Phenicians, the Egyptians, and a few inconsiderable tribes. Their ideas seem to be limited likewise, and to extend but little beyond the principles of the Mosaic religion, which had been promulgated about fifteen centuries before.
We open the New Testament and a new scene presents itself. Judea and Jerusalem are filled with new people, of strange costume, manners, and language. We read that the accusation of Jesus was written over him as he hung upon the cross, in He