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§ 31. Growing Consciousness of His Messiahship in Christ.

ALTHOUGH so many years of our Saviour’s life are veiled in obscurity, we cannot believe that the full consciousness of a Divine call which he displayed in his later years was of sudden growth, If a great man accomplishes, within a very brief period, labours of paramount importance to the world, and which he himself regards as the task of his life, we must presume that the strength and energies of his previous years were concentrated into that limited period, and that the former only constituted a time of preparation for the latter.

Most of all must this be true of the labours of Christ, the greatest and most important that the world has known. We have the right to presume that He who assumed as his task the salvation of the human race made his whole previous existence to bear upon this mighty labour. The idea of the Messiah, as Redeemer and King, streamed forth in Divine light, from the course of the theocracy and the scattered intimations of the Old Testament, in full extent and clearness, and in Divine light he recognized this Messiahship as his own; and this consciousness of God within him harmonized with the extraordinary phenomena that occurred at his birth.

But the negative side of the Messiahship, namely, its relation to sin. he could not learn from self-contemplation. He could not learn depravity 42by experience; yet, without this knowledge, although the idea of the Messiah as theocratic king might have been fully developed in his mind, an essential element of his relations to humanity would have remained foreign to him. But although his personal experience could not unfold this peculiar modification of the Messianic consciousness, many of its essential features were continually suggested by his intercourse with the outer world. There, in all the relations of life, he saw human depravity and its attendant wretchedness. The sight, and the sympathizing love which it awoke, made a profound impression upon his soul, and formed, at least, a basis for the consciousness of his own relation to it as Messiah.

We may assume, then, that when he reached his thirtieth year,8282   The age at which the Levites entered on their office.—Numb., iv. fully assured of his call to the Messiahship, he waited only for a sign from God to emerge from his obscurity and enter upon his work. This sign was to be given him by means of the last of God’s witnesses under the old dispensation, whose calling it was to prepare the way for the new developement of the kingdom of God—by John the Baptist, the last representative of the prophetic spirit of the Old Testament, whose relation to Christ and his office we shall now more particularly examine.8383   A promising young theologian of Lübeck, L. von Rohden, has lately put forth an excellent treatise on this subject, well adapted for general circulation, entitled “Johannes der Täufer, in seinem Leben und Wirken dargestellt.”

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