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on the first day of the first month of that year, were pro. claimed the sabbatical years, the years of jubilee, a release of debt to the debtor, and liberty to those who were sold for servants. Now at this season, it is presumed, JESUS CHRIST was born, in whom all the types were fulfilled, and with which all the circumstances of the shepherds watching their flocks at night in the open fields, and of Herod's assembling the people to be enrolled, will perfectly agree."
After the birth of our Saviour and circumcision we are informed of his dedication to the Lord, not in circumcision, but according to the tenor of another ordinance, verse 22. What was this rite, Thomas, and where was it performed ?
Thomas. The first born were consecrated to the Lord by various rites, and the ceremony was performed in Jerusalem. The Lord claimed the firstborn as his from the redemption of Israel out of Egypt. Hence it is written in the law, “Every male, the firstborn of his mother, is consecrated to the Lord.” The sacrifice enjoined in the law on this occasion was a pair of turtle doves and two young pigeons.
Olympas. Who were present at this dedication, Eliza ?
Eliza. Both the parents of the child, and the good old Simeon, to whom it had been revealed by the Holy Spirit that he should see the Messiah before he died. He came in at the dedication of the infant Jesus ; and, taking the babe up into his arms, blessed God, and said, “Now, Lord, thou dost dismiss thy servant in peace; for mine eyes have seen the Saviour whom thou hast provided in the sight of all the world--a LUMINARY to enlighten the nations, and to be the glory of thy people Israel.” And looking into the face of
his mother Mary, he said, “This child is set for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to serve as a mark of contradiction, that the thoughts of many hearts · may
be revealed.” Anna the prophetess at this moment came into the temple, a pious widow of eighty-four years old, who served God in fasting and prayer night and day. She also glorified God, and spake of the child Jesus to all in Jerusalem who expected redemption.
Olympas. What next do we learn, William, concerning the child Jesus?
William. Nothing more till he was about twelve years old, when, having delayed in Jerusalem after the return of his parents from the observance of the feast of the Passover, he was found by them sitting among the Doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions. His parents sought for him three days, during which time he had been thus engaged; and when asked by them why he had left them, he asked the mysterious question, “Did you not know,” said he, that I should be at my Father's house?”
Olympas. Father's business, is it not, William ?
William. In the common Testament it is business, but it is marked as a supplement; and as the question was about place, and not business, I heard you say that the supplement ought to be house; for that was implied in the form of the sentence. His parents, however, not being able to comprehend bis answer, we may be allowed to hesitate about its meaning.
Olympas. That does not follow. The style is plain enough. He certainly spoke of the temple as his Father's house. This was what they did
not then comprehend. Tell us, Susan, what is the next event or incident recorded of Jesus ?
Susan. We read next of his baptism.
Olympas. Can you tell us the position and character of this river, Susan ?
Susan. In my sacred geography I read a good deal about it, but I cannot relate it all.
Olympas. I see your geography is at hand: read the description of it that we may all hear it.
Susan. The river Jordan is a stream about ninety feet broad. The head of it, as Josephus informs us, is a round lake at Lebanon, called Phiale, which is always full, never increasing nor diminishing. From thence it runs underground about fifteen miles, and comes out in a deep stream from a cave at a place formerly called Panium, afterwards Cesaria; and passing about fifteen miles through marshes and a dirty lake called Semechonites, it falls into the lake Genezaret, a little below the city Julias. The lake Genezaret is about fifteen miles long and fire or six miles broad. It has several names, being sometimes called Genezeret; sometimes the Sea of Galilee; sometimes the Lake or Sea of Tiberias, from the city Tiberias, the capital of Galilee, which is situate on the western border of the lake. In like manner it gets a name from other cities, and from the countries or regions around it. It lies in a direction nearly north and south. From the south end of it the Jordan rushes out, and entering what is called The Great Plain, it runs from north to south, in a channel about thirty yards or ninety feet wide, at a rate of about two
miles in an honr, till it meets and looses itself in the lake Asphaltites ; alias, the Dead Sea or Sea of Sodom.
“The great plain between the two lakes is about thirty miles in length, and about fifteen miles wide. Formerly the Jordav overflowed its banks annually, near forty perches on each side. This was overgrown with bushes, and was a harbour for lions and wild beasts, which were forced out when the river rose.
• Modern travellers inform us that the case is now different: by the rapidity of the current the channel is now deepened to at least nine feet; so that it contains all the water at the swelling, without overflowing the banks as it formerly did.
“The great plain is bounded by huge barren mountains, both on the east and west side: Those on the east begin at the city of Julias, where the Jordan enters the lake Genezeret, and stretch southward to the lake Asphaltites... Those on the west side form a continued ridge from Bethsan, or Seythopolis, to the south end of the lake Asphaltites, which is about seventy-two miles long and about twenty miles wide. This ridge on the west side of the great plain and the Asphaltic lake, is what is called the wilderness-; by which term they did not mean a tract absolutely uninhabited and desert, but only in general uncultivated and thinly peopled, such as pasture grounds generally are. The southern part of this ridge is what Matthew calls the bill country of Judea.
Bethabara, or House of Passage, was- near that part of the Jordan where the Israelites, under Joshua, miraculously crossed it into the land of Canaan."
Olympas. Who baptized Jesus in the Jordan, Susan ?
Susan. John the Baptist.
Olympas. How many rites were performed on Jesus, William ?
William. Three-circumcision, dedication, and baptism. But our school-master tells some of our class that baptism now stands in room of them all ;—that in baptism we are circumcised and dedicated both. I cannot comprehend how baptism can be three times as much to us as it was to Jesus. Had he so understood it, I think he would not have deceived the people by keeping up three ordinances as though really different, while in truth they are all one and the same.
Olympas. Circumcision, dedication, and baptism are three distinct ordinances. They indicate and signify very different ideas; and no sacred writer has ever regarded them as occupying the same ground or filling the same place in any institution. But we have in the fact of the circumcision, dedication, and baptism of Jesus, 'an insurmountable argument against those who teach that the last is a substitute for the first two. Circumcision was a patriarchal institution; dedication, a Jewish, and baptism a Christian institution. Things that are as distinct as three dispensations should never be confounded, nor identified with one another. Our Lord honoured every divine institution in existence at his time, and these three were all in being then, and of divine authority. Let us learn to imitate him in his devotion to the honour of our Father and our God.