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the vail Is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."
But he was to be a more general blessing. "It is a light thing," says God, "that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth." And hence the angel said to the shepherds, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." None therefore are excluded from hope on this blessed occasion. He is come to die for the ungodly, for enemies, for sinners. Surely here is a sufficient warrant for personal and universal application to him. Unto you—and you—and you—" is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord!" Some indeed will not eventually derive salvation from him: but he himself has assigned the reason, and beyond this we should not go: "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life." If people spurn the remedy, we need not inquire why they are not cured.
But what is the benefit acknowledged! Unto us "a child is born," unto us a "son is given." And is there any thing wonderful in this? Do we not hear of it every day? Is it not the privilege of almost every family? And is there indeed nothing wonderful in the birth of an infant? How marvellous is the union of soul and body! What a mysterious thing is human life! How admirable the provision made to relieve its wants, to support its weakness, and to rear its tender years!
The birth of any infant is a far greater event than the production of the sun. The sun is only a lump of senseless matter: it sees not its own light; it feels not its own heat; and, with all its grandeur, it will cease to be: but that infant beginning only to breathe yesterday, is possessed of reason— claims a principle infinitely superior to all matter—and will live through the ages of eternity!
But this child is all prodigy. He is miraculously conceived; and born of a virgin. His coming "shakes the heaven, and the earth, the sea, and the dry land." For what other child did ever the heavens assume a new star? Wise men come from the east? Angels descend from glory? Ye rulers of the earth, "I said, ye are gods;" but, with all your pride and vanity, at the birth of your first-born son—the stars roll on in their courses—angels pursue their work—the festivity is confined to human beings, and to a small circle of them—neighbouring countries scarcely hear of it.
What are other children at twelve years of age? The mind is only beginning to open; the ideas are trifling and unarranged; it is the transition from foolish into intelligent Behold this child when twelve years old, doing his heavenly Father's business; sitting in the midst of the doctors both hearing and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. After this he went down to Nazareth, and was subject unto his own parents. And here a large proportion of his life is concealed from our view. We only know that lie received no learned education, and have reason to believe that he laboured with his own hands; for in one place he is called "the carpenter." But when he appeared in publie, he spake "as never man spake." He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He cast out devils. "He went about doing good." "He died for our sins: he rose for our justification." And he "entered into his glory, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." What a gift was here! But this brings us,
II. To Consider His Empire: "The government shall be upon his shoulder." The utmost that a child can be born to is to fill a throne; and we deem this an enviable honour. But if we should be fortunate enough to reach the pre-eminence, what a short time does he hold the sceptre, before it drops from his feeble hand by the decays of nature; or is forced from his grasp by the effects of violence! But the child Jesus is decreed a permanent, unchangeable authority: "His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. And the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever."
And over what a molehill does the most extensive worldly monarch reign! The Babe lying in the manger claims unbounded empire. There is not a being in the universe but is either his subject, or his slave. He has "the keys of hell and of death." All the affairs of this world are under his management. Nothing occurs by chance. "It is he that determines concerning a nation, and concerning a people," to establish, or to destroy; to enlarge, or to diminish. They are all in his hands but "as clay in the hands of the potter." He is " King of kings and Lord of iords." They are amenable to his authority; they rule by his permission; tlicy are controlled by his power. He girds them and guides them, though they know him not As far as they move m the direction of his purpose, they are invincible; when they oppose it, a straw checks and overthrows them. Ha is peculiarly King in Zion. He is "a Prince" as well as "a Saviour" to his people. They that know his name not only trust in him, but submit themselves to him. And their submission is natural and cheerful, because lie puts his laws into their minds, and writes them in their hearts. While they obey his commands, they also acquiesce in his dispensations. To him they refer all their temporal concerns, and are willing that he should choose their inheritance for them. Thus he has a kingdom within a kingdom; a kingdom of grace within a kingdom of his providence —and the one is subservient to the other. "He is head over all things unto the Church, which is his body." He has every thing necessary for the defence of his people and the success of his cause. Therefore this "king shall reign and prosper. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him. His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in bom; all nations shall call him blessed."
Much has been said on the subject of government, and volumes have been written to ascertain the prerogative of princes, and the duties of subjects. While men are depraved beings, absolute power lodged in the hands of an individual would be dangerous. Authority must therefore be limited; one part of government must be a balance to another; and laws must be placed above men. But could a governor be found perfect in wisdom and goodness, who in all cases knew what was proper to be done, and would be always inclined to do it, his power could not be too absolute, nor his authority too uncontrolled. Such a being is the Lord Jesus—and therefore he is "the blessed and only Potentate; and has all power given unto him in heaven and in eartli."
But where does this government, thus all his own, rest ?" Upon his shoulder." This may appear to some a coarse image. Ancient poetry, however, has beautified it by representing a man bearing upon his shoulders the pillars of the universe. But what was this fabled Atlas'. The world with all its concerns really depends on the Redeemer— he "upholdeth all things by the word of his power." And government upon the shoulder is significant: it implies burden; difficulty. It cannot be administered without much labour and care. And this is one reason among others why we are commanded "to pray for kings, and for all that are in authority!" Who can need our prayers so much!—What a charge devolves upon a parent when Providence puts into his hands a living mercy, and says, "Take this child and nurse it for me: I constitute thee its governor, and at thv hands will I require it," What an
awful task has the tutor of youth I What a weighty undertaking has the pastor of a congregation !—But think of the aflairs of a. kingdom!! Ask the rulers of this world, whether government be an easy and an enviable concern. How distracted is the head that wears a crown !" I am not able," says Solomon, "to go in and out before so great a people." "I am not able," says Moses, "to bear all this people;" hence he had assistants provided him. The weight of government is too much for one person, and therefore it is divided among many. A king lias his council, his ministers, his officers. He cannot be all eye, all ear, all hand; he therefore avails himself of the eyes, the ears, and hands of others. But the King of saints stands in need of no help: infinite as his empire is, he manages the amazing whole without fatigue, and without perplexity.
III. Ij2t I's Review His Names. Names are designed to distinguish, to describe, and to honour. In common, a single name is sufficient for a single individual. Human excellences and accomplishments ore rare and solitary. One man attends to the stars, and we call him an astronomer; a second is skilled in the species of plants, and we call him a botanist; a third speaks well, and we call him an orator. The name generally sums up all claims of each. But what a number, and what a variety of sublime titles are employed to show forth the praises of our Lord and Saviour!—" His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!"
First He is Wonderful. He is so principally in the constitution of his person. Here we see combined deity and humanity; finite and infinite; all-sufficiency and omnipotence; weariness and want This is "the great mystery of godliness" which will for ever employ the admiration of the redeemed —" God was manifest in the flesh. 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, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." Indeed his whole history appears to be unparalleled. His manner of life; his mode of teaching; his death; his resurrection; his dealings with his people in providence and grace—are all marvellous.
Secondly. He is Counsellor. He appears for us in court He is "our advocate with the Father." And while he pleads our cause above, he guides our affairs below. In "him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." He is the source of all spiritual knowledge. "I am come," said he, "a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. Counsel is mine!" Yes, blessed Redeemer, every wrong step we have taken through life, has been occasioned by our disregarding thy instructions. To thee may we henceforth bring all the difficulties we feel with regard to doctrine and duty, experience and practice, our condition and our circumstances; and daily and hourly may we ask, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
Thirdly. His name shall be called " The mighty God." And he would not be called so unless he were so. Unless he were so, the attributes which are essential to deity would not be the properties of his nature, and we should never have read of him in the Scriptures of truth, as knowing all things, as omnipotent, as everywhere present, as eternal. Unless he were so, the works which are peculiar to deity could never have been performed by him, nor the worship which is peculiar to deity be claimed for him and rendered to him. We do not here consider this doctrine controversially: it stands in a situation which shows its importance, and the connexion it has with the experience and hope of believers. Thus he is mighty to save; no case, however desperate, with regard to ourselves and creatures, can be too hard for him. This principle enters into all his offices. It gives infinite value to his righteousness, and efficacy to his death. It renders all he does for us and in us, divine.
Fourthly. He is "The everlasting Father" or, as it is better rendered, "the Father of the everlasting age." So the gospel dispensation is described, as being final with regard to this world, and in distinction from the temporary economy of the Jews. It is the meaning of the Apostle, when he says, "And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain." And hence he adds, "We," who embrace the gospel, "we receive a kingdom which cannot be moved." And hence the mi gel which John saw flying in the midst of heaven, had the "everlasting gospel to preach" unto them that dwell upon the earth. Of this dispensation he is the author, the founder. It is derived entirely from him; and therefore, in the language of a Jew, he is the "Father" of it Hence, real Christians are considered as his children—"Behold, I and the children which God hath given me." And again, "he shall see his seed." They derive their new and holy being from his word and Spirit; and they resemble him: they are "changed into the same image from glory to glory." And as he is the Father of the everlasting age, so he is "the everlasting Father:" the relation subsisting between him and his family can never be dissolved; his oflspring can never be orphans.
Finally. He is " The Prince of Peace." And of all kinds of peace. Peace above us— by reconciling us to God. Peace around us —by reconcilmg us to our fellow-creatures,
destroying our pride and envy, and inspiring us with humility and benevolence. Peace within us—by reconciling us to ourselves: not to our sins—but to our remedy, our dependence, our duty, and condition. When this takes place, the troubled conscience is calmed; the tumultuous passions cease from their raging; tormenting fears and distracting anxieties give way; we are careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication we make known our requests unto God, and "the peace of God which passeth all understanding keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
It was thus that he addressed his sorrowing disciples when he was departing from them: "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." And remember that there is no peace worth having but his. The ungodly and the people of the world may be insensible of their danger; they may banish reflection from their minds; they may live in what they call pleasure, and say to their soul, take thine ease— but "There is no peace, saitli my God, unto the wicked." But Jesus procures, reveals, produces a peace the most valuable. "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up all their wounds." Ye weary and heavy laden—let your burdens be what they may —go to him—he will "give you rest: and his rest shall be glorious."
Such is the Saviour, whose arrival in our world we this day celebrate. And what think you of him? I know what some think of him. There are some who have this morning by faith embraced the new-born Messiah, with a rapture expressive of this language; "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." They no longer feel a void within: they no longer rove, asking, "Who will show us any good?" They have found the pearl of great price. His character and his claims have fixed and filled their minds. The manger, the cross, and the throne—these are their attractions. Here they feel obligations the most solemn and pleasing; here they find consolation the most refreshing and pure. It is here they can live, it is here they 1can die. Here it is that they can say, with David, "Thou art fairer than the children of men;" —with the Church, "Yea, he is altogether lovely;"—with the Apostle, "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge .of Christ jesus my Lord!"
But what do you think of him? Has he "no form nor comeliness; no beauty that you should desire him?" Do you feel no love to his name? Do you never pray, " Lord, save, or I perish V—What then are we to think of you* What are we to think of the blindness of your understandings, and of the depravity of your affections? Indifferent to him?— What are we to think of your regard to your own safety and happiness? Can you find salvation in any other? What will you do without him when you come to die! How will you appear before him when he is seated on his great white throne?
For—once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of hnnself, and "to them that look for him will he appear a second time, without sin unto salvation." See the Babe of Bethlehem, the Judge of all! "Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him. But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth! Happy those who have loved and followed him "in the regeneration!" He will receive them to himself, "that where he is there they may be also."
"But where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear V
THE DESIGN OF OUR SAVIOUR'S COMING.
Jlnd the thall bring' forth a ton, and thou shai! call his name JESUS: for he thall tave his people from their tint.—'Matt. i. 21.
It is a wonderful event which we have this day been called to commemorate. The fulness of time is arrived: the prophecies are accomplished : the promises are fulfilled: the expectations of the Church are realized: "the desire of all nations is come—and we have been with the shepherds at Bethlehem, and have seen "the babe wrapped in swaddlingclothes, and lying in a manger."
For what' purpose has the son of God assumed our nature, and in circumstances of the deepest humiliation entered our world? A new star has graced his birth: "wise men" have traveled from the East to do him homage; "and a multitude of the heavenly host have praised God and said, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men!" Thus heaven and earth have borne witness to the importance of this event. But wherein does the importance of it appear? By what title answerable to his character shall we acknowledge him? Wherein lies our concern with him? And why are we so interested in his birth, us to make it the subject of our greatest joy?
Let us call to mind the address of the angel to Joseph, when he announced his conception of the Virgin Mary—"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name
JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."
Here is a "name above every name :** a name which " is as ointment poured forth"— it is Jesus. This name was not only given by the order of God, but explained by the same order. Jesus signifies Saviour. But this name was not peculiar to him—others had worn it. The Hebrew name which answers to Jesus is Joshua; and two persons had this name expressly given them under the Old Testament: the commander who succeeded Moses; and the high priest concerned in the building of the second temple. The Levites also in the days of Nehemiah confess to God; "According to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies." Such a saviour was Gideon and Samson, with many others.
The name then is common; but not the reason of the imposition—" For he shall save his people from their sins." As if he had said—" Others have been called saviours because they have rescued the body; they were temporal deliverers; they saved the Jews frojo the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Midtanites. But this child is called a Saviour for a nobler reason—he rescues the soul—he is an eternal Deliverer. 'He saves his people from their sins.'"
By this explanation, the angel not only distinguishes Jesus from every other saviour, but opposes the favourite prejudices of the nation to which he belonged. The Jews expected a Messiah who should be called a Saviour; but by this name they understood a hero, a conqueror who should break the civil yoke, free them from the tyranny of Rome, and if not lead them to universal empire, at least restore them to all their original dignity in their own land. "But, O ye Jews," says the Angel, "the Saviour is come to restore you, not to an earthly Canaan, but a better, even a heavenly country. He is come to deliver you, not from civil bondage, but from spiritual slavery: not from Ca.sar, but Satan. He is come to save you from your greatest enemies; and these are—not the Romans—but your sins."
Let us not pass over this. Jesus came, not to suggest improvements in agriculture; . plans of commerce; theories of civil policy. He left the governments of the world as he found them: these are things which fall within the reach of our wisdom to devise, and our power to accomplish.—But who could save a soul from sin?
Let us, I. Consider Sin As An Enemy. And, II. See In What Manner The Sayiour
DELIVERS I S FROM IT.
We talk of enemies. What should we think of an adversary, who, filled with malice, and armed with power, should invade our country, ravage our fields, destroy our cot
tages and mansions, our palaces and temples; who should despoil us of our goods, tear us from our families, deprive us of our liberty, and lead us away in irons, to terminate a wretched existence in a dungeon or a mine! And oh! were a deliverer to arise to crush the foe, and to save the captives—how should we prize him! If he had suffered in the struggle, his wounds would be deemed scars of honour. When the ear heard him, it would bless him; and when the eye saw him, it would give witness to him. Our very children, made familiar with the story, would never see him pass along without exclaiming, "Hosannah, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" But this enemy would be a friend, compared with sin: and such a deliverer, therefore, would be nothing, compared with the Saviour of sinners. How is it then that we feel so much indifference towards him; that we are not continually uttering the memory of his great goodness! that we are not daily praying "Let the whole earth be filled with his glory!" It is because—we do not believe the enemy to be so dreadful. The reason is—that we entertain slight notions of sin. To judge of the importance of a remedy, it is necessary to know the malignity of the disease: to ascertain the claims of a benefactor to our gratitude and love, it is necessary for us to know the evils from which he delivers us.
Every thing turns upon this. If sin be our worst enemy, it is easy to prove that he who saves us from it is our best friend. Let us then look at sin, and take three or four views of its evil and malignity.
Behold sin with regard to God. That must be the greatest evil, which is most opposite to the greatest good. In forming our estimate of sm, we are not to judge of it so much by the relation it bears to us, or to our fellow-creatures, as by its relation to God; for against Him it is committed; and every sin strikes at God as much as if no other being was affected by it; and notwithstanding its fatal eflects with regard to mankind, we may say to God, of every transgression, "Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight" Sin is enmity against God; against his attribates; against his government God never yet revealed a design which sin hath not withstood; nor gave a command which sin has not trampled under foot Sin deposes God from his sovereignty, abuses his goodness, abhors his holiness, vilifies his wisdom, insults and denies his omniscience, his justice, and his power. And hence nothing is so offensive to God. It is called the "abominable thing which he hates." And we read that he is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity." It is a metaphor, taken from a person who has such a perfect abhorrence of a thing, that he cannot bear the sight; the very thought of it shocks
him. This is that which renders man, though the work of his hands, filthy and abominable; and constrains even the God of love, the Father of mercies, to say, concerning him, "The wicked shall not stand in my sight, I hate all the workers of iniquity."
Behold sin in its names. For what term is there, expressive of reproach or misery; what image is there, that can produce aversion or fear; that is not employed by the Scriptures to represent sin i Sin! it is disobedience: it is rebellion: it is treason: it is murder: "it is the work of the devil." Sin! it is ignorance: it is folly: it is madness. Sin! it is blindness: it is deafness: it is dumbness: it is sickness: it is poison: it is slavery: it is plague: it is death: it is hell! Now, as it is said of Nabal, "as the name is, so is the man;" the same may be observed of sin: as the name is, so is the thing. Sin is not libelled by any of these dreadful representations; they are all given us by One who perfectly understands sin, and they fall infinitely short of the subject For if we compare sin with other evils, it will be found substantially to contain them all, and to be the cause of all. This is the fountain which has imbittered all our streams, aid the seed which has so thickly sown the world with wretchedness.
Behold therefore again the effects of sin. How different is man from what he was originally !—But sin has made this change. Sin has stripped him of his glory, and taken the crown from his head: "wo unto us that we have sinned!"
Observe the soul of man—it is sin that has debased it, defiled it, robbed it of the image, and banished it from the presence of God—it is this that has filled it with confusion and regrets—it is this that has produced unruly passions, tormenting anxieties, a terrified conscience, a wounded spirit
Take the body of man. This was once all immortal, without a defect, a disease, a danger. But "by sin death entered into the world," and was crowned "king of terrors." And now "man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble." At his birth he enters a labyrinth of thorns and briers, and cannot move without "piercing himself through with many sorrows." Even every comfort has its cross, and every blessing its curse. And how little of the misery of the world comes under our observation! Oh! could we witness all the pains of the diseased at this moment: could we behold all the effects of war, pestilence, and famine! Could we see the bones of all the human race, from the death of Abel to this very hour piled into one immense heap—oh! what could we think of an enemy capable of producing such mischief as this! •
Behold Adam and Eve, expelled from Paradise. Behold the Deluge, sweeping away