« PreviousContinue »
glad.” When, “ Lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them! and the glory of the Lord shone round about them !”
And this angel, by his example, teaches us, however much we may be placed above them, not to overlook the poor, nor refuse to visit them, especially God's poor ; for they are rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him.
Instructed by the heavenly herald, the shepherds would have set off instantly in order to ascertain, and to report the fact announced by the angel of the Lord. But there suddenly descended a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, “ Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will toward men.”
The coming of the Messiah was called, “ The truth of God.” Many things evince the Divine veracity; but this was the main pledge. It was the chief promise ever given to man.
It was also the earliest assurance; it was given as early as the Fall. And what a length of time the assurance to hang in suspense; a year,
years, -a thousand years—another thousand and another, before the seed of the woman appeared ! Hath He forgotten to be gracious ? Doth his promise fail for evermore ? But at the end of four thousand years, it was proclaimed, 6 His councils of old are faithfulness and truth.” How many, also, were what we may call the minute parts of the promise. It was foretold that he should descend from a particular nation—the nation of the Jews: a particular tribe— the tribe of Judah: a particular family—the family of David: a particular mother—a virgin. On how many things does the veracity of God now depend, the failure of any one of which would prove him a liar. The place of his residence was foretold; it was Bethlehem. The prophecy had been recorded for ages, and was acknowledged at the time of his birth. But how many things were necessary to this, and how accidental seemed the fulfilment! For Joseph and Mary were residing at Nazareth. And had not Judea been under the Roman dominion, and had not Cæsar Augustus proudly wished to know the number and wealth of his subjects, and had Mary been delivered a few days sooner or later, he would have been born elsewhere, and the word of God would have been of none effect. All these occurrences appear casual, and they were so to the parties themselves, but not to God; he knows all his works from the beginning.
We see in the thing which has come to pass a wonderful combination. A combination of natures —I admit his humanity ; and why should I question his Divinity ? I find many things ascribed to him, which cannot belong to him as God; and I find others ascribed to him, which cannot pertain to him as man: and here is the solution of the difficulty, “ God was manifest in the flesh.” A combination of grandeur and abasement !
Even at the very festival, which is the commemoration of it, men will be found any where rather than at Bethlehem. They will be attracted to every thing, rather than to that sight, which the Shepherds left their flocks, and made haste to see, which the Eastern sages came such a vast distance to behold, and which drew all heaven down to earth. Let us call off our attention from the little, debasing, vexing, defiling things of the world, and repair to the Infant of Bethlehem, the desire of all nations. Let us give him the glory which is due unto his Holy Name; and say,
Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Let us behold in him provision made for our recovery, the most suitable to our wants, and adequate to our relief, and placed entirely within our reach. Let us embrace him, and exclaim, “ Lo! this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord ; we have waited for him ; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Rev. W. JAY.
There was a prophecy of Balaam famous in all the Eastern country, and recorded by Moses, “ There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel: out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion.” Which although in its first sense it signified David, who was the conqueror of the Moabites; yet, in its more mysterious and chiefly intended sense, it related to the Son of David. And in expectation of the event of this prophecy, the Arabians, the sons of Abraham by Keturah, whose portion, given by their patriarch, was gold, frankincense, and myrrh, who were great lovers of astronomy, did with diligence expect the revelation of a mighty prince in Judea, at such a time when a miraculous and extraordinary star should appear : and therefore, “ when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the King, there came wise men," inspired by God, taught by art, and persuaded by prophecy, “ from the East to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews ? for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him.”
God, who is the universal Father of all men, at the nativity of the Messiah, gave notice of it to all the world, as they were represented by the grand division of Jews and Gentiles : to the Jewish shepherds by an angel ; to the Eastern Magi by a star.
These Magi presented to the holy babe gold, frankincense, and myrrh, protesting their faith of three articles, by the symbolical oblation : by gold, that he was a King; by incense, that he was a God; by myrrh, that he was a man, And thus, in one view and two instances, God hath drawn all the world to himself by his son Jesus, in the instance of the shepherds and the Arabian Magi, Jews and Gentiles, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, noble and ignoble; that in him, all nations, and all conditions, and all families, and all persons, might be blessed; having called all by one star or other, by natural reason or by the secrets of philosophy, by the revelations of the Gospel or by the ministry of angels, by the illuminations of the Spirit, or by the sermons and dictates of spiritual fathers; and hath consigned this lesson to us, that we must never a appear before the Lord empty,” but if we cannot bring gold with the rich Arabians, we may with the poor shepherds come and “kiss the Son lest he be angry;" and in all cases come and “ serve him with fear and reverence,” and spiritual rejoicings.
BISHOP JEREMY TAYLOR.
Let us observe, with pleasure, this further honour which God did to his only-begotten Son, in ordering a new star to appear, as the signal of his birth, and in calling these illustrious persons from afar, to pay
their early adorations to him. No doubt they thought such a discovery as brought them to the feet of their infant Saviour, an ample recompense for all the fatigue and expense of such a journey. They were exceedingly transported when they saw the star. So let us rejoice in everything which may be a means of leading our souls to Christ, and disposing us to cast ourselves down before him with humility and resignation.
Let us look upon this circumstance of the sacred story as a beautiful emblem of that more glorious state of the Christian church, when the Gentiles shall come to its light, and sages and kings to the brightness of its rising ; when the abundance of the sea shall be converted to it, and the wealth of the Gentiles shall be consecrated to its honour. The multitude of camels shall cover it, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord.”—Isai. lx. 3. 5, 6.
How wonderful was the honour conferred upon so obscure a town as Bethlehem, when it was made thus illustrious among the thousands of Judah! Happy they who consecrate not only gold and their other possessions, but also their souls and their bodies, to that Great Ruler, whose office it is to feed and govern the Israel of God; under whose conduct and care they shall receive blessings infinitely more valuable than all the treasures of the east or the west !
God does not leave unnoticed and unrewarded those who desire to discover his will, and comply with the suggestions of his Spirit upon their hearts. You observe how the star which they had seen in the east, appeared again to the wise men, as they pursued their search from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and went before them, till it came and stood over where the young
child This illustrates the way in which the “ Spirit prevents us, that we may have a good will, and works with us when we have that good will.” The star which advertised the strangers of the birth of Christ, is like the Spirit warning us, as we hear or read the word, that the same Jesus is the author of eternal life to all them that obey him. Are our hearts awakened by this truth ? — do we desire to know him “ of whom Moses and the prophets did write ?". do we desire more fully to understand “what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance ?”—Here again the star appears, and guides us on our way: “ the eyes of our understanding” are gradually “ enlightened ;” and “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, gives unto us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” does not leave us, till it has conducted us safely to the Son of God: as the star did not desert the wise men, till it came and stood over here the young child was. “ The mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh," is more and more unfolded to us, and its wonderful adaptation to the circumstances and wants of our state, is more and more perceived, till we
The Spirit whom you
entirely and cordially receive him as “ made unto us of God, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."
Has the Spirit done this for you? Is he thus leading you ? Has he brought you to acknowledge Christ as the author of your salvation, by
6 have access to the Father ?” The history gives us one more lesson of instruction. The wise men, when they were come into the house, and saw the young child with Mary his mother, fell down and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. You must resemble them in this: you must offer him gifts ; not once only, when
you first approach him ; but constantly offer him, out of the treasure of your heart, the best gifts you have of active service and obedient love. These are the gifts which he requires, and this is the least return which
you can pay—that the “ life which you live in the flesh,” you should “ live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved you,
himself BISHOP J. B. SUMNER.
Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,