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SELF, "and do not the things which I command you°?” It is by continually worshipping and serving Christ, that we shall best strengthen our faith in Christ's GODHEAD.
Is He set before us to-day as lying a helpless infant in a manger? Let us, according to the teaching of the Church, strive to consider that this Babe is the Eternal Word, the co-equal Son of God; and the more we do this, the better we shall be able to understand and feel the Angels' song, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men,” joining with them in worshipping EMMANUEL, that is, “ Gon with us.” Only, as I just said, let us look well to ourselves, that our worship be sincere; that we mean to obey Him and keep His sayings, and to copy the Pattern of humility and holiness HE has set us, that we may praise Him in our lives as well as with our lips. For in vain do they worship Him whose hearts are far from Him; and our hearts, we may be sure, are far from Him, if our lives be not conformed to His Example and His Will. And now when we are, a few of us at least, to receive that Flesh which He, as at this day, took upon Him, and that most precious Blood, which, as at this day, began to flow in His veins, waiting for the time when it should be poured forth for our Salvation ;
say, when about to receive Him for our Spiritual Food, let us remember Who He is, let us lift up our hearts unto Him in Heaven. Let us strive to think of Him as on the throne of God, with the Cherubim and Seraphim around Him, ever adoring Him with that song in which we shall now venture to join beneath their feet,—" Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God ALMIGHTY, Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy Glory.” And as He vouchsafed, for our sake, to be laid this day in a manger in a stable, may He also vouchsafe to come and dwell in the houses of our souls and bodies, though they be, alas ! through our manifold sins, in ruin and decay, and still more unworthy for that most Holy One to dwell in! When on earth He drove out of His visible Temple them that were polluting it by worldly traffic, may He now of His mercy and His zeal for our Salvation, drive out our sins and bad passions from our hearts and souls, and may He enter in again, and so may HE ever dwell in us, making us every day more fit for His indwelling! If we were but humble and contrite, full of deep and sincere sorrow, and shame for our past sins, then we might humbly hope He would be pleased to dwell in us. “ For thus saith the High and Lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, Whose Name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth"."
9 Luke vi. 46.
THE HIDDEN GOD.
St. Luke ii. 16.
" And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe
lying in a manger."
It is said in the Bible that God is a God that hideth HIMSELF : “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour ?." And yet there is nothing of which we are more sure than this, that if any man will heartily, and by all appointed means, seek and feel after the LORD, he will not fail to find HIM; for not only doth He promise that he that seeks shall find Him, but He even saith, “I am found of them that sought Me not?.” Whence we may learn, that God hides Himself from some, and makes HIMSELF known to others, as in His unsearchable wisdom and justice He thinks good.
And this appears plainly in the history of our LORD and Saviour, “God manifest in the Flesh 3.” God's own Son, being the true and eternal God, had taken upon Him our flesh, and had been born into the world. This most wondrous fact, surpassing all wonders that had ever entered into the heart of man, had actually taken place. This most holy Child was born,-born into the world of which He HIMSELF was the Maker. And yet of the many thousands, and hundreds of thousands, of the men that He had made, who were then dwelling on the face of His earth, who knew it? To the blessed Virgin, to the righteous Joseph, and to the humble Elisabeth, the mother of the Baptist, it was made known that this, the holy Child, was the Son of God, God with us, the LORD. It seems reasonable to believe, that to Zacharias, also, this great secret was revealed; but from all the rest of the world, it would appear, it was completely hidden. The same God who had hidden HIMSELF in light unapproachable in Heaven, was now hidden, as it were, in the form of a babe in swaddling clothes, in some poor stable. And even to those that were about Him, HE seemed to be no more than any other child of poor and mean parents. God was there before them in the form of man, but they knew not of His presence.
1 Isaiah xlv. 15.
2 Ibid. Ixv. ).
3 1 Tim. iii. 16.
But yet there were a few others whom even then, immediately after the birth, God chose out of the Jewish nation, that HE should make known unto them the new-born Saviour, the anointed LORD. And who were these? Were they among the great or learned among the scribes, or chief-priests, or interpreters of the Law? No; it pleased God to pass by these, and to make known His blessed Son to poor, unlettered shepherds. Neither is it said, that these shepherds were searching the Holy Scriptures, or fasting and praying, like Cornelius was when the Angel appeared to him, and told him to send for St. Paul; but they were engaged in their common work, “ doing their duty in that state of life to which God had called them,”—they were “keeping watch over their flock by night *.”
And herein our tender and merciful Father is giving great comfort for poor people who are obliged to work hard for their bread late at night and early in the morning. Let them only do their duty as in His sight, and strive, amid their earthly employments, to raise their thoughts to their MAKER, and He will be mindful of them, and visit them, and make known unto them, in the depths of their hearts, the secrets of His love. Yes; it may be He will unfold HIMSELF to them, rather than to those who have more time for the study of the things of God, and can bring much more of man's wisdom to assist them in it. Doubtless there were, then, among the scribes and lawyers, persons who knew every word of the Old Testament, and could put a meaning on it all, and who used to teach men when the CHRIST was to come, and by what signs they might know Him. But from all these Christ, when He came, was hid; when HE was among them, they knew it not; but Gon revealed HIM, made Him known to a few poor humble-minded shepherds. What, then, are the poor and unlearned to learn from this? Are they to distrust the teaching of those who are set over them, from a confidence that God will HIMSELF teach them inwardly by His Spirit, like as these shepherds were taught outwardly by a message of an Angel ? Far from it. If any refuse to listen to those whom God has set over them in His Church, they disobey a plain commandment of God, Who has said, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves': for they watch for your souls 5.” And can they, while this disobedience, this pride, is in their hearts, expect God should account them worthy that He should teach them, apart from those means, which they have in pride and wilfulness thrust away? For why are the learned rejected ? and why are the ignorant rather counted worthy of Heavenly teaching? Is it not because the ignorant are often more humble-minded than the learned ? But they are not so always. Sometimes, nay, often, you will find ignorant people, who are very confident about their knowledge of religion, very fond of their own opinions; then they have the sin that too often attaches itself to human learning. And though it be true that learning with pride only darkens the mind, yet ignorance with pride and self-will darkens it no less. The first step towards Heavenly wisdom in all men, learned and unlearned, is a deep and true lowliness of heart. They that have this are always willing to receive instruction, especially from those who are duly appointed to instruct them.
4 Luke ii. 8.
And it is to such simple souls that God has always been pleased to make known Himself and His holy will. And mark how these show their humbleness of mind and teachableness, by the way in which they receive instruction. These shepherds, doubtless, like the other Jews, expected that the Christ, or Anointed SAVIOUR, Whom their Prophets foretold, would come as a great King and Conqueror, Who should deliver their country from the power of the Romans, as Moses had
3 Heb. xiii. 17.