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looking the whole plain. Hark! a cry, sonorous, wild, and shrill, piercing like a trumpet, goes forth above the scattered band of seekers; a cry, ringing from rock to rock, and waking a thousand echoes from their startled caves; a cry that fascinates the ear, and draws, as by a spell, around one common center the far-distant pilgrims. And what is the burden of that cry?
“REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT
“Repent! Three ancient dynasties have rolled away, the fourth is at its climax, the hour of birth of a final kingdom is at hand!"
What singular proclamation is this ! in what a scene, by that old sulphur lake of Sodom and Gomorrah; to what an audience; by what a herald!
Gathering from every side below the elevated point where he stands, clustering in every rug. ged defile, in every precipitous chasm, scaling every accessible rock, swarming on every tree, and even crouching on the sandy plain that stretches far away to the shores of the sea upon his right, every eye riveted upon one form, relieved against the clear, deep sky, every ear strained to catch his musical tones, haste the seeking seed of Abraham.
That landscape, a few hours since a lifeless desert, is now dark with forms; a sea of turbans, swart-bearded visages, and purple tunics, as though by enchantment the wizard earth had disclosed the hidden brood.
And now, into the very heart of this attentive throng sink down the lightning words of this inspired herald. In all that assembly not one lives who has not heard of a coming Messiah, and panted for his hour; who has not, with more or less of ardor, pictured forth the splendor of his triumphal reign, and the long-deferred deliverance of his native soil. And what news now strikes upon their ears? What mighty conviction shoots with electric searching through the mazy sympathies of that impulsive, glowing population ?
“ Behold!” he cries, “I am the voice of one. crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!"
Here, at length, has arrived in view the great era! The time is at hand; the promised glory soon to be unveiled.
“Behold!” he exclaims, “I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee; every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain brought low; the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
But what agitating doubt rebukes the presumptuous security of each carnal heart; what alarm mixed with triumphant announcement, what invective, burning in the midst of words of promise, spreads panic through all hearts, and crimsons manly cheeks with shame? With rapid allusion to the stirring present, to the traditionary past, weaving from the familiar voices of their prophets utterances of might, he flashes on their quickened sense a view of coming judgments ushering in the glory of the Lord.
“Repent!” he cries; “prepare to meet the purging splendors of the coming judge; for, behold, the Lord whom ye seek, even the messenger of the covenant whom ye delight in, shall suddenly come to his temple. But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth ; for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap, and he will come near unto you to judgment.
“Wo, therefore, unto you that desire the day of the Lord! To what end is it for you, ye sorcerers, ye adulterers, ye false swearers, and ye oppressors of the hireling in his wages, and of the widow and fatherless, and that wrong the stranger! The day of the Lord is darkness and not light, as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him, or fled into his house, and
leaned his hand on the wall, and a scorpion bit him! Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness unto
that are at ease in Zion ? that say, let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it, and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it; shall it not be very dark, and no brightness in it?
“ Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand; as a day of destruction from the Al. mighty shall it come; a day of darkness and gloominess; a day of clouds and thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, and there shall be wonders in heaven, and in the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke. For lo! the day that cometh shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall burn them up: it shall leave them neither root nor branch; but they that fear his name shall tread the wicked as ashes under their feet. Repent ye, therefore, and be purified, lest he come and smite you with
Such in substance, doubtless, are the appeals that make all that hear them tremble.' Prepared by birth, by hope deferred, and by the exigencies of the time, for the reception of some startling intelligence, yet living in flagrant iniquity and proud formality, such message bursts apon them with all the effect of novelty, and all the resistless movement of awakened conscience and remorseful terror.
Destitute of any suspicion of a dispensation intervening before the resurrection of the dead, and the kingdom of Messiah thereby to be ushered in; wholly incapable of assigning their just succession to the mighty events crowding dark about the gloomy grandeur of the approaching day; with nothing to defer, and thus defeat the application of all its solemn insignia of judgment to themselves in person, the power of his announcement must be all incalculable. The waves of that living sea surge sighing to and fro under his stormy eloquence, and forth from that gathering goes out upon the hills a kindling rumor. Leaving, as by universal consent, their daily employments, enthusiastic thousands throng from far and near, and, when he reaches the fords of Bethabara, his progress seems the triumphal movement of a conquering host.