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Ånd behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was
Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
This was that venerable saint of Israel, who, blessed with the view of the new-born Messiah, considering the summit of his earthly hopes as attained, poured forth the ardent prayer—“ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”* And from the character given of him in my text, we may pronounce that he was not unworthy of the distinguished honour of being one of the first to welcome the glorious Saviour of the world.
It is one of the admirable excellencies of the sacred writings, that they enforce the lessons of piety and virtue, not only by the most luminous and impressive precepts, but by the still more interesting force of splendid and illustrious examples. When we attentively contemplate those holy men who were admitted to intimate intercourse with Jehovah, and were the depositories of his will and the subjects of his distinguished favour, we are strongly excited to emulate those virtues which their character and lives inculcate, and by which they rose thus high in the favour of heaven.
• Luke ii. 29, 30.
Let us now, then, seriously consider the character of him who is presented to us in my text; and when we contemplate his virtues as delineated by the evangelist, let us be excited to imitate them, by the inspiring confidence, that with him we shall then see the salvation of God.
“ There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; the same man was just.'
His whole conduct was regulated by the precepts of the divine law; and the blameless tenor of his life was marked by no actions that wounded the feelings, destroyed the peace, or injured the property of others. That sacred rule which reason has written on the hearts of all men, and which the Gospel has published with divine sanctions, of “ doing to others as we would they should do unto us,"* was the rule by which Simeon regulated his conduct. It led him to cultivate not only the virtues of integrity and uprightness, but those active virtues of benevolence and kindness which are the perfection of the exalted virtue of justice. “He did justly, he loved mercy, as well as walked humbly with his God.”+ Preserving a conscience void of offence towards God as well towards man, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, he merited and obtained the character of a just or righteous man.
Brethren, unless the unbiassed testimony of our hearts authorize us, after the faithful examination of our lives, to cherish the humble conviction, that, through the grace of God, we regulate our conduct by the precepts of the divine law; unless we can
† Micah vi. 8.
* Luke vi. 31. VOL. III.
assert the humble claim, that, as far as human frailty will permit, we are just and righteous, all our pretensions to religion are empty and vain. He who impiously presumes that the warmest professions of zeal for the glory of God, and the most punctual and regular discharge of all the public duties of religion, will atone for any acts of injustice or dishonesty, for any violation of those moral virtues that constitute the ornament, the perfection, and the happiness of our nature, however he may flatter his own heart, is obnoxious to the wrath of that almighty Being who cannot be deceived, and who has required, as the only infallible evidence of our love for him, that we keep all his commandments. The dissembling hypocrite may hope, by zealous professions of religion, and by external acts of homage to God, to conceal, or to carry more securely into effect, the purposes of injustice or licentiousness: but on him will certainly be executed the wo denounced against the Pharisees of old_“Wo unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! who cleanse the outside of the cup and platter, but within are full of extortion and excess."* “ Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?”+
But while Simeon was careful to cherish all the moral virtues, he was not unmindful that they could be rendered acceptable to God only when sanctified by the divine principle of piety and devotion; while he was sedulous and faithful in the discharge of all those duties which his fellow-men could claim from him, he felt the full force of those sacred obligations that bound him to the greatest and best of Beings, his Maker and his God. * Matt. xxiii. 25.
† Matt. xxiii. 33.
Simeon was not only just, he was “ devout."
It is one of those striking and unaccountable inconsistencies that disgrace the character and conduct of man, that while he always stamps with merited disgrace the violation of those duties which he owes to his fellow-men, he himself habitually violates, and, unconcerned, views others violate, those exalted duties which are due to the almighty Maker and Governor of the world. He is ever ready to acknowledge, that the tribute of praise is to be rendered to human excellence, and to acknowledge the lively sense of the obligations to an earthly benefactor. He brands with infamy the apaihy that, unmoved, beholds illustrious virtue--that ingratitude which spurns the hand that bestowed distinguished benefits. And yet, (strange inconsistency of human nature !) man, without any concern, forgets his sense of obligation to Him, in whom he lives, and moves, and has his being; he shrinks not from the base ingratitude which he incurs, by remaining unmindful of that heavenly Benefactor from whom cometh every good and perfect gift; he does not indignantly shun that criminal apathy which discerns not, nor adores thy excellence and glory, 0 Jehovah, from whom emanates every excellence which adorns thy creatures.
Not so the holy saint whose character we are contemplating. “ Just” to his fellow-men, Simeon was also “ devout" to his God. The contemplation of the excellence and goodness of the Maker of the universe warmed his soul, and drew forth the lively tribute of adoration and praise. The profound sense of his weakness and guilt often prostrated him in earnest confession and supplication before the throne of his almighty Benefactor and sovereign
Judge. From the view of the infinite perfections of that glorious Being who bestowed on him the countless blessings of life, the flame of pious gratitude was kindled and burnt with steady and increasing brightness.
Be it our aim, my brethren, at once to admire and to imitate the devout Simeon. Let piety to God enkindle, cherish, and exalt every moral virtue; be this the sacred spring whence shall flow all the graces and virtues that adorn our lives. Contemplating with holy admiration and gratitude the goodness and glory of him who sits on the throne of the universe, let us worship and fall down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. Be the exercises of devotion our habitual employment and the source of our highest pleasures. Let us glory in the inestimable privilege of being permitted to lay our wants before the throne of our almighty Benefactor, to repose our cares and sorrows on the bosom of our heavenly Parent, and to hold communion with the gracious Father of our spirits. Let every morning renewing his goodness, awaken in our hearts the song of praise ; let every evening, still witnessing his unfailing mercy, find us still prostrate at his throne. Daily transgressing his commands, yet daily sustained by his bounty, daily let us implore his mercy and invoke his care. In the temples sacred to his honour, where his mercyseat is unfolded to the children of men, let us ever be found humble and penitent worshippers; there let us devoutly mingle in the fervent confessions, prayers, and praises, that ascend to his throne; there let us, with penitent and obedient hearts, receive the joyful messages of reconciliation; and above all, there let us with grateful and holy emo