« PreviousContinue »
like the apostate Jews referred to in our text, their carnal minds, filled with reasoning pride, reject the gospel, revile the Scriptures, deny Christ, and renounce the very name of Christian! The Lord pity them and bring them back again to his fold! But wilt thou also go away? O consider well before you go! To whom will you go? Will you go to the modern philosophers? Not for eternal life surely! They say there is no such thing; and if you do want eternal life, where will you find it but in Jesus? Will you go back into the world? Alas! it is vain, and will deceive you. Will you return to sin and folly? It will insure your eternal death. Resolve, then, with Peter, to cleave to Christ.
But pray for persevering grace. Be sensible of your own weakness, and pray, "Lord, leave me not to my own will!" You must watch and pray continually. Resist the first motions to coldness, negligence, and apostacy; guard against the seductions of the world, and the bewitching pleasures of sin. And may God fulfil his gracious promise,-"I will put my fear in their heart, and they shall not depart from me!"
"Lord, thou alone hast power, I know,
To save a wretch like me;
To whom, or whither shall I go,
If I should turn from thee?
"No voice but thine can give me rest,
And bid my fears depart;
No love but thine can make me blest,
And satisfy my heart.
"What anguish has that question stirr'd—
If I will also go?
Yet, Lord, relying on thy word,
1 humbly answer, No,!"
LUKE II. 15.
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass.
HE wise man observes, That "the eye is not
obser vation is confirmed by the experience of all ages; only it admits of one exception; there is one object, and only one, which can satisfy the eye of the mind, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. We have a proof of this in good old Simeon, mentioned in the 29th and 30th verses of this Chapter. He had long waited for Christ, "the consolation of Israel," and he lived to see the infant Saviour brought into the temple; when clasping the holy child in his feeble arms," he blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."-Some of the Turks, it is said, put out their eyes, as soon as they have seen Mahomet's tomb, because they would not defile them again by regarding any common object. Does superstition teach them so to admire the grave of a wicked impostor?-O let us, as Christians, hasten to behold a sight of real glory; let us "turn away our eyes from beholding vanities;" let us fix them upon the adorable Jesus; let us say with the admiring shepherds in our text, when just informed of the Saviour's birth, "Let us now go, even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass."
It was to shepherds: poor, honest, industrious men,
that the good news was first announced-an encouraging circumstance for the poor of this world; and an encouragement for such to be "diligent in business;" for it was when the shepherds were watching their flocks by night that these glad tidings were brought them. An Angel delivered the message; and a multitude of angels joined in chorus,-"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace; good-will towards men." Here humility and glory were joined in their extremes. He empties himself of his heavenly glory; he takes upon him human nature; his mother is a poor woman; a common inn is the place of his birth; he is born in a stable; he is laid in a manger. O deep humiliation of the Son of God, the Creator of the world!—and yet, behold the glory! A new Star directs the wise men of the East to the honoured spot; and a multitude of ministering spirits hymn his birth. Never was the birth of any earthly prince so highly honoured.
God gives us information, to put us upon action. When the shepherds were informed of what had happened, and where it happened, it put them upon action. Is the Saviour born in the city of David? Let us go then, said they, and see him. The wise men made the same improvement of their information. They saw his star in a distant country, and they followed its direction till they came to Bethlehem.
Let us learn another piece of instruction from them: "Let us go now," said they. What at midnight! Cool Reason would have said, it is an unseasonable hour; and Covetousness would have said, What must become of our flocks? But these plain men, had left their beds to attend their flocks, now leave their flocks to inquire after their Saviour. Let religion then be our first business; it is "the one thing needful:" and what we do in it, let us do it quickly: the sooner the better, without a moment's delay.
We may learn another thing from their example:
"Let us go," said they: they excited one another to this good work. Let the advantages of society be brought into religion. How many, especially in holiday seasons, will say one to another, "Let us go to such an amusement, such a public house, such a party of pleasure!"-Let us rather say, "Let us go up to the house of the Lord, and he will teach us of his ways." Let us go to Bethlehem and see Jesus.
The shepherds did as they proposed: "They came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger." They believed before they came; but now their faith is confirmed by sight. They were gratified and edified by the view; and they returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.'
Let us, then, who are here present, imitate these happy and simple-hearted men. Let us go to Bethlehem; the name signifies the house of bread; there, in the contemplation of Jesus, may we find bread for
To excite your serious attention to this divine object, let me inform you what you may expect to see : DEITY DISPLAYED, MAN REDEEMED, and
Let us go to Bethlehem, and see Deity displayed. The first promise that God made to guilty man was, that "the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head." Jesus Christ, as to the flesh, is the seed of the woman; but he is also infinitely more. Paul says, When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman." Gal. iv. 4. It was necessary to our redemption that the Saviour of men should be a man; for the same nature that sinned must bear the punishment of sin. But, had Christ been produced in the ordinary way of human generation, he must have been a partaker of a sinful nature: this was prevented by the miraculous way of his con
ception, by the power of the Holy Ghost. Thus, that holy thing, which was born of the blessed Virgin, was to be called the Son of God, "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;" fit to become "sin for us, because he knew no sin.'
In what manner the human nature was united to the divine we cannot tell :-it is enough for us, that it was so united. The testimony of Scripture is most abundant and satisfactory on this head. Let the following suffice. "His name shall be called EMMANUEL, which signifies, GOD WITH US." Matt. i. 23. "In the beginning was the WORD; and the WORD was with GOD, and the WORD was GOD. And the WORD was made flesh, and dwelt among us," John i. 1 and 14. St. Paul assures us, 1 Tim. iii. 15, 16, that this is "The pillar and ground of the truth;" and, "without controversy, the great mystery of godliness;" namely, that God was "manifest in the flesh."
O glorious and pleasing truth, God is manifest in the flesh! Surely it is highly desirable for feeble mortals to know their Maker; and, because we could not ascend to him, lo, he descends to us! Deplorable darkness had long covered the earth, and the wisest of men bowed down "to an unknown God;" but glory be to his name, "the only begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." John i. 18. This is he who is "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person ;""the image of the invisible God." Heb. i. 3. This is he "who, being in the form of God, and thinking it no robbery to be equal with God," condescended to become a man, a poor man, a servant; that we, through his poverty, might become eternally rich. By his heavenly doctrine, by his astonishing miracles,-in his lovely disposition, and especially in his divine Person, God was manifested to man. "Show us the Father (saith one of his disciples to him) and it sufficeth us." Philip wanted some visible representation of God, such