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on the tree, every grain of sand on the sea sword to guard the way of the tree of life, shore, is a world in miniature, possessed of but bearing the olive branch and the message qualities which a little child is capable of ob- of peace, announcing a new and living way serving and of comprehending; yet at the into the holiest of all
, into the paradise of same time containing hidden treasures which God. If there be joy in heaven over one no Solomon can find out unto perfection. sinner that repenteth, what was the joy of One object overwhelms us with its magni- heaven on that day when the great archangel tude, the minuteness of another mocks our received his commission to revisit the earth, research. The Creator here, involving him- to convey the glad tidings of great joy. self in clouds and darkness, eludes our pur- The celestial bands adoring prostrate themsuit; there, arrayed in “light inaccessible, selves before the eternal throne: contemand full of glory,” He forbids our approach. plating this new creation of God, the morning In all the ways and works of God there is a stars sing together, and all the sons of God simplicity level to the meanest understand-shout for joy. These things they have for ing, and a complexness which confounds the ages and generations been looking into, the most acute and enlarged. If all nature and great mystery of godliness, God made maniProvidence present this strange mixture, is fest in the flesh: they enjoy the exalted deit any wonder if we find it in the work of light of beholding it unfolded, and the time, redemption? That grand era, called in the set time, to favour a perishing world scripture " the fulness of time," was now arrived. Gabriel has received his instruccome; even the time for accomplishing an- tions; he flies with transport, such as angels cient predictions and promises; for display- feel, to execute the will supreme; the flaming and fulfilling the purpose of the Eternal ing portal flies open; myriads of pure spirits in the salvation of mankind, by him to whom celebrate his descent with songs of praise. all the prophets give witness, and in whom And whither does he bend his flight? To all the promises are yea and amen. learned Athens or imperial Rome? To give
In order to introduce him with more than understanding to the prudent, or to hold the royal state, God shook the heavens and the balance of power? No: but to bring to earth, the sea and the dry land; the Gentiles nought the understanding of the prudent, pressed toward the appearing of this great to humble the mighty and confound the proud. light of the world, and kings to the bright- He is sent to a country favoured indeed of ness of his rising. To prepare the way of nature and renowned in story, but sunk in the Lord, throne was shaken after throne, the scale of nations, the skeleton of ancient empire swallowed up empire. Alexander grandeur, and to a district of that despised carried his all-conquering arms into the re-country proverbially contemptible, and to one motest regions of the east; Cæsar extended of the least of the cities of that region, and his conquests as far as to France and Bri- to one of the poorest and meanest of the intain in the west; and Augustus gave peace habitants of that city—to a virgin indeed of to a troubled world. We are now led to at- royal extraction, but fallen into indigence, tend to the minuter circumstances of this all- betrothed to an obscure mechanic, a stranger important event.
in a strange place. It is thus that God We perceive from the beginning what we chooseth “ the foolish things of the world to are never permitted to lose sight of to the confound the wise, and the weak things of end, a magnificence that dazzles, connected the world to confound the things which are with a plainness and simplicity which inter- mighty, and base things of the world, and est and attract the heart; declaring at once things which are despised, yea, and things the Son of God, and the Son of man; Him which are not, to bring to nought things whom angels worship, and whom the poorest which are." of mankind consider as one of their kins- The destinations of the Almighty stamp a
Observe the exactness of arrange- dignity and importance on persons, places, ment in every part of the plan of Providence. and things which they possessed not before; Time is settled to a moment, place to a to be employed of Him is the highest dignity point. No design of heaven can be accele- which the creature can acquire; to minister rated or retarded, changed or frustrated. to him, in ministering to the objects of his God said unto the serpent, in the day that compassion or of his love, is the glory and man by transgression féll, “ I will put enmi- joy of angels and archangels. Galilee and ty between thee and the woman, and be- Nazareth now possess an eminence unknown tween thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise to the most illustrious kingdoms and the thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel;" proudest capitals. He maketh his angels and it is not an unmeaning, lifeless sentence, Spirits, but we discern, and reason, and confilling up space in the sacred page. Lo, it verse through the medium of sense. Men awakens into animation and energy, not one cannot rise to the level of angels, but angels tittle of it shall fail.
are permitted, for wise and gracious purposes, To accomplish it behold Gabriel is again on to descend to the level of men, to assume an the wing; but not armed with a flaming organized body, to convey their ideas in the
accents of the human voice. But can this nary personage should be introduced upia be a degradation of their superior nature ? the grand theatre by the Almighty's creating No: it is its glory and perfection. To de- a new thing upon the earth. “The Holy scend to those who are below us, to aspire Ghost shall come upon thee, and the pover after greater resemblance to those who are of the Highest shall overshadow thee; thereabove us, in this consists the real excellency fore also that holy thing which shall be bora of a created being. We cannot imitate of thee shall be called the Son of God." Ibe ringels in their intelligence and elevation, singularity of this wonderful conception and but in their condescension and humility we birth was greatly heightened by having been inay, and we ought.
prefigured and foretold at sundry times, and What a contrast have we here, between in divers manners; such as the preternatural the rank of the messenger and of the person birth of Isaac, of Jacob, of Samson, of Joha to whom the message is addressed! But the Baptist, and the express and pointed prediepresence and purpose of God level all distinction of Isaiah, “ the Lord himself shall give tions. Mary, the mother of our Lord, rises, you a sign, behold, a virgin shall conceive and Gabriel sinks, for the Son of God him- and bear a son, and shall call his name self, the Lord of angels, is about to “take Emanuel,” God with us. All these hold up upon him the form of a servant." The evan- to us, through a succession of ages, the sub. gelists are minutely particular in detailing stance of the first threatening to the serpent, the circumstances which concurred to im- which was at the same time the first promise press the characters of truth and importance of grace to mankind was made, that He, in on this event. This spirit of prophecy had whom all the families of the earth should be lately and unexpectedly been revived in the blessed, and who should bruise the serpent's persons of Simeon and of Anna, and of others head, should be in a proper and peculiar sense who were waiting for the consolation of Is- the seed of the woman. Astonishing and rael. The extraordinary case of Zacharias instructive view of the undeviating steadiand Elisabeth, which was well known to all ness of the divine counsels! He willeth and who attended the worship of the temple, none can let it; heaven and earth may pass must have excited the public attention and away, but his word shall not pass away, but expectation. This is followed, six months every one come to pass in his season. after, by a case still more extraordinary, Mary having been referred to her cousin more out of the course of nature, and of Elisabeth, whose advanced state of pregnanstill higher moment, and of equal notoriety. cy was to be an additional confirmation of Opportunity was thereby afforded to the sus- her own faith in the promises of God, as soon picious and incredulous to inquire and exa- as the angel departed from her, retired from mine: that inquiry must lead to the discovery Nazareth into the hill country of Juda to of a cloud of witnesses, lying dormant in salute her kinswoman, and to confer with books universally held sacred, but neglected, her on the several manifestations of divine misunderstood, and misapplied: life and sub- favour to them. This interview produced stance, meaning and lustre, are in a moment another declaration of the interest that progiven to them by well known and undeniable vidence took in the event which was pressing facts. No appearance of art or industry is to its accomplishment; Elisabeth is not only discernible, but a simple, easy, natural tran- destined to be a mother in Israel, a mother sition from one thing to another. The ap- of John the Baptist, but she becomes already pearances, indeed, are out of the ordinary a prophetess; she has a sign given her in course of nature; but they are narrated as her own person equivalent to the declaration mere ordinary things; and the descent of an of the archangel. " And it came to pass archangel, and his speech and demeanour that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of are described with no more parade of words. Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and no more labour of thought, than the spring- Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: ing of an ear of corn, or the fall of a sparrow and she spake out with a loud voice, and to the ground.
said, Blessed art thou among women, and This majestic, dignified ease marks the blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence presence of a God, with whom nothing can is this to me, that the mother of my Lord be extraordinary or miraculous; who exhi- should come to me? For lo, as soon as the bits persons and events as they really are, voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, whether men will hear or whether they will the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And forbear. The angel represents none but ob- blessed is she that believed; for there shall jects of the highest interest and importance. be a performance of those things which were He announces the approach of a great prince, told her from the Lord." This fills the virwho should ascend the throne of David, who gin's mouth with a song of praise dictated was to exercise unbounded authority, and by faith, piety, humility, and gratitude; and enjoy everlasting dominion ; who should be these are the rapturous strains which fow distinguished by the state and title of the from her lips, “My soul doth magnis the Son of the highest; and that this extraordi- Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my
Saviour. For he hath regarded the low es- | heard crying in the wilderness, the foreruntate of his handmaiden : for, behold, from ner of the Lord has begun his course, the henceforth all generations shall call me Saviour comes. But other messengers, of blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to whom we have not yet heard, precede him. me great things; and holy is his name. Behold yonder comet glare in the eastern And his mercy is on them that fear him, sky, it performs a track untrodden before, from generation to generation. He hath the wise men of distant lands are summoned showed strength' with his arm: he hath scat- to meet him at his coming, to lay their gifts at tered the proud in the imagination of their his feet; Augustus Cæsar, the sole regent of hearts. He hath put down the mighty from half the globe, is pressed into the ministertheir seats, and exalted them of low degree. ing train, an unconscious, unintentional serHe hath filled the hungry with good things: vant to the Prince of the kings of the earth. and the rich he hath sent empty away. He But here we must once more pause and hath holpen his servant Israel, in remem- inquire, Is this a cunningly devised fable, or brance of his mercy; as he spake to our fa- a real history? Is it a fanciful representathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. tion, or the simple truth? If it be a fine tis.
The course of nature now takes place, and sue woven by a luxuriant imagination, say so at he who made man, the first man Adam, per- once, unbeliever, and renounce the fiction in fect at once, from dust of the ground, and whole, as a rule of faith, or as a ground of who is able of these stones to raise up chil- hope. Say unreservedly that the mission dren to Abraham, raises up first John and and message of the angel is merely a bold then Jesus in a way at once miraculous, and eastern metaphor: and the whole mere ornatural, according to the way of sovereign, dinary facts, related with somewhat more irresistible power, and according to the time than the usual pomp of diction, but to set of life. Glorious in establishing and support- forth only a man of like passions with ouring the laws of nature, glorious in suspend- selves, whom the credulous, prejudiced, and ing and dispensing with them, we behold illiterate are disposed to receive as a superior thee, O God, subduing all things to the coun- being—in a word, give up the evangelists as sel of thy will, that all should be to the praise plain men conveying, to plain men like themof thy glory. At the end of three months selves, simple matters of fact, and recur at more, Elisabeth, as it was predicted of the once to unmixed, undisguised deism. But angel, delive of a son; the name of are these things indeed so? Were angels John, as the heavenly messenger directed, sent from God to declare the approach of was imposed on him, the father's speech was what prophets had of old predicted? Did suddenly restored, and the first use which he the Son of the Highest vouchsafe to be born makes of it is to celebrate the high praises of a woman, and thereby become partaker of that God, who had made him such an il- of flesh and blood? David's son, yet David's lustrious example of both mercy and judg- Lord, then let earth prepare to receive its ment. He was filled with the Holy Ghost king. Lo, the angels of God worship him. and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord He is the Son of God, he is our Lord, and let God of Israel; for he hath visited and re-us worship him. deemed his people. And hath raised up an This history assists us in correcting the horn of salvation for us in the house of his false scale of human greatness. Here we servant David; as he spake by the mouth of behold the princes and the potentates of this his holy prophets, which have been since the world sinking to their proper level; Herod, world began ; that we should be saved from Augustus Cæsar, and persons of their characour enemies, and from the hand of all that ter and station are thrown into the back hate us; to perform the mercy promised to ground of the piece, while Zacharias, Elisaour fathers, and to remember his holy cove- beth, and Mary are brought forward with honant, the oath which he sware to our father nour, and to fill a higher destination than Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that that of kings. Respect, by all means, the we, being delivered out of the hand of our powers that are, as the ordinance of God, enemies, might serve him without fear in but respect with higher, with supreme veneholiness and righteousness before him, all ration, Him who ordained them, to carry on the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt the purposes of his wisdom and his love. be called the Prophet of the Highest : for Learn, Christian, to make a just estimate thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to of thy own importance in the scale of being. prepare his ways; to give knowledge of sal- Thou art a creature of God, formed after his vation unto his people, by the remission of image, a partaker of immortality, destined to their sins, through the tender mercy of our glory and honour. An origin so dignified God: whereby the dayspring from on high confers true nobility; faculties so superior, hath visited us, to give light to them that sit prospects so extended, denote a being of high in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to estimation in the sight of God, and who ought guide our feet into the way of peace." to be of high estimation in his own eyes.
And now the way is prepared, the voice is Defile not ihat fair temple, discredit not ihat
illustrious descent, dishonour not a father's body, and all members have not the same name. But well does it become a creature office: so we being many are one body in so dependent, so frail, so fallen, so lost, to be Christ, and every one members one of another. clothed with humility. O man, thou stand- Having then gifts, differing according to the est in need of every thing; what possessest grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, thou that thou didst not first receive? Thoư let us prophecy according to the proportico hast been forgiven all; by the grace of God of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our mithou art what thou art. The religion of nistering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; Jesus Christ alone effectually teaches a man or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that to descend without degradation, and to rise giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that without pride; redteces him to the level of ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth merhis natural guilt and misery, and exalts him cy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without to the glorious liberty, and the heavenly in- dissimulation. Abhor that which is evi, heritance of the sons of God.
cleave to that which is good. Be kindly We have here a preternatural, a miracu- affectioned one to another with brotherly lous conception. It reminds us of our com- love; in honour preferring one another!"mon origin, of our common feebleness, of our" Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep mutual connexion and dependence. God with them that weep. Be of the same mind “hath made of one blood all nations of men, one towards another. Mind not high things for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” but condescend to nen of low estate"- If Every man therefore is a brother, and bound it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live to entertain the affections, and to perform the peaceably with all men.” “ Be not overcome part of a near kinsman to every man. This of evil, but overcome evil with good." consideration I press upon you in the words The subject of the next Lecture will be and the spirit of the Apostle of the Gentiles: the history of the nativity of our blessed " For I say, through the grace given unto Lord, and of the more remarkable circumme, to every man that is among you, not to stances which accompanied that all-important think of himself more highly than he ought event. May what has been spoken become to think; but to think soberly, according as a profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for corGod hath dealt to every man the measure of rection, and for instruction in righteousness." faith. For, as we are many members in one! Amen.
HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustas, that all the wicht
should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria) And J went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was of the house and lineage of David,) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country, shephenis apeding in the field, keeping watch over their fock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came osoa them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel sud unto them, Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And ihis shall be a sign unto you : ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will tward men.--Luke H. 1–14.
From the first instant of time until now, ( of his power, and pronounces every thing every instant has been displaying some new good. The Lord gives the word, and ocean wonder, unfolding some new design of the again covers the earth, chaos and ancient Eternal mind. God gives the word. Light night resume their empire, the breath of arises, the earth emerges out of ocean, the every living thing expires. Again he sends firmament is expanded, sun, moon, and stars forth his word, the windows of hearen are appear, nature teems with life, man starts up stopped, the seas retire to their appointed out of the dust, rears his erect form to hea- bed, the dry land appears, the bow is seen in ven, shines in his Maker's likeness; the the cloud, the sign of God's covenant of Creator contemplates the progressive glories peace. The period of every event is seitled
to a moment, the instrument is provided, the vided, to a home from which he had been hand is prepared. But of all the events long exiled, and to visit kinsmen to whom which have taken place since the beginning he had become a stranger. of the world, the most illustrious and im- But this removal was wholly ordered by portant surely is that recorded in the words the supreme will of Heaven. The Son of now read. The moment of every child's David, who was to re-establish his throne, birth, is highly interesting, at least to the could be born no where but in Bethlehem mother.—The birth of an heir, to a title, to the city of David. Thus the great Ruler of an estate, to a crown, is felt by thousands, the world had willed, and thus prophecy had by regions, by empires.
declared. And thus Cæsar was merely the Here we have the birth of the * first unconscious, unintentional minister of the among many brethren,” of “the heir of all Son of Mary; furnishing a link to the chain things," of the Prince of the kings of the of evidence respecting the truth and divine
Toward this eventful hour, time, original of Christianity, and exhibiting an from the first dawn of light, began to flow in illustrious instance of the sovereign control one rising, swelling tide, here it came to its which the great Jehovah possesses and exerfulness, and hence it began to bend its aw- cises over the counsels of princes, the conful course to lose itself in eternity again. vulsion of nations, the fate of worlds. Toward this, as to their common central We hasten from proud Rome to humble point, all the powers of nature are attracted; Nazareth, from a haughty despot to uncomfrom this, as from the sun, the central light plaining sufferers, from unfeeling power to of the universe, glory is in all directions patient submission. Behold that delicate diffused. In the birth of this wonderful woman, in the most delicate and interesting child, all the children of men who lived be- of all female situations, forced from home, fore, or who arose after it, have a serious, an constrained to undertake a painful and everlasting concern. Is it any wonder, then, anxious journey in a condition which renthat by so many signs in heaven and signs dered ease, and attention, and tenderness, on earth, that by the tongues of prophets, and the accommodations of sympathy, pecu
the decrees of princes, the revolution of liarly desirable. See her advancing by slow $ empires, the descent of angels, the finger of and distressing stages towards the residence
God should have pointed it out to mankind ? of her forefathers, once illustrious, but now
The evangelist, at the beginning of the fallen into decay; to the city of her anceschapter, conveys us to Rome, the proud and tors, but not to receive the attendance of puissant mistress of the world; the enslaver royal state, not to usher into the world the of the nations, sinking, sunk herself into sla- heir of David's throne, amidst the prayers, very: From what particular motive we are and expectations, and kind wishes of the not informed, nor is it of much importance myriads of Israel: no, not so much as to to determine, Augustus Cæsar thought pro- enjoy the consolation and support which even per to issue a decree for making an exact the poor enjoy in such a case, to deposit the enrolment of all the subjects of his vast solicitude of approaching child-birth in the empire. A vainglorious monarch, who could bosom of a fond mother, or sympathizing exultingly call a subjugated hemisphere his friend ; alas, not even to partake of the ordiown, might be prompted by pride to ascer- nary conveniences which a traveller has reatain the number of slaves destined to obey son to expect, the general hospitality, and him. As it was the boast of this magnifi- mercenary comforts of an inn :-but to know cent prince that he had found Rome a city of the heart of a stranger, to swallow down the bricks, and was leaving it a city of marble, bitterness of neglect, to feel the insult of the splendour of the capital was no doubt the proud, and the merciless pity of the extracted out of the ruins of the provinces, mean. “ There was no room for them in the and enrolment probably was intended to pre- inn.” Bethlehem was crowded with guests, cede taxation. However it was, and on but lo, the lineal heirs of the royal house of whomsoever beside the decree of the em- Judah, in the city of David, are so unconperor fell, it affected one little, poor family in nected, so forlorn, so friendless, that not a circumstances of singular delicacy, and fell door will open to let them in, not a tongue upon it with uncornmon severity. Behold say, “God relieve you” as they pass by; and the messenger of Cæsar at the door of an so poor that an apartment in the stable is all obscure carpenter at Nazareth of Galilee, the accommodation which, by intreaty, or summoning him with all his family to repair promise, or by presenting the face of misery, to his native city, to be enrolled in their pro- they are able to purchase. per district: and as the commandments of The inevitable hour, to which nature at kings require haste, and do not always stoop once looks with hope and shrinks from with to consult the feelings of the humble and the horror, overtakes her; and unsupported, unmiserable, he must depart on a moment's assisted, as it should seem, she brings forth warning, with his tender companion, now in her first-born son; and is able at once to perthe last week of pregnancy, poor and unpro- form the earliest duties of a mother, “she