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ters of truth. They took place in a manner too public for the introduction of an imposture, and in an age too enlightened to admit of the circulation of any fabricated tale of wonders.
We are told, in the preceding part of this chapter, that, when Mary brought forth her first-born son," she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Thus cold, inhospitable, and contemptuous was his re. ception, whose birth was so great a blessing to the world. But while earth was silent, and men were careless, the air was illuminated by the glory of the Lord, “ the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” An angel is sent to announce the joyful event to shepherds watching their flocks, and the text is the message which he brought. It is without controversy the most important intelligence that ever was conveyed to the ear of man, and tidings at which the world kindles into rapture, appear despicable when compared with it. It is deeply interesting to the whole human race, and will continue to bless when vice tories are forgotten, and their memorials are dust. This message is brought to us by mortals like our. selves, but though the mode of communication is more humble, it is more interesting, as delivered by creatures requiring to the same extent as we do. the grace and power of the Saviour, and often we trust animated by the experience of his mercy.
The belief of this message will diffuse through this assembly the most delightful feelings, and, enibracing the infant Saviour with the arms of our faith, and glorying in the cross.of a dying Redeemer, our souls will be sanctified and blessed in the exercises of Christian devotion, and, like the shepherds, we will return glorifying and praising God for all the things which we have heard and seen,
The text calls our attention to the messenger, to the message, to its character, and to the persons to whom it was addressed, and for whom it is intended.
1st, The messenger was the Angel of the Lord. It was an honour to the highest angel to bear this mes. sage, and to do homage to the infant Saviour. To minister to the Son of Man, and to the heirs of salva. tion, is the series of services by which angels are appointed to testify to the glory of God, and to their own honour, how different their spirit is from that pride, jealousy, and envy, by which their companions fell into condemnation. Thus also Providence hath taught us, that, however meanly a carnal mind may think of such an employment, it is the highest honour for persons in the most elevated stations, and of the brightest powers, to communicate to their fellow-creatures the knowledge of salvation, and that in such a duty the ministers of the gospel should " be instant in season, and out of season.”
It is delightful to mark the compassion of this mese senger. The vain and the haughty enjoy the embarrassment and terror which their greatness excites in their inferiors, but this angel soothes the fear of the shepherds by the kindest language, and wished to inspire them with the idea, that, though he was a messenger from heaven, he was their guardian and their friend.
His benevolence also claims our notice. Had he been sent to the dungeons where fallen angels are re. served to judgment, to say to them that for them a Sas viour was provided, his promptitude would not have been so surprizing ; but it is for man alone that mercy is destined, and yet he delights to proclaim the incare nation of him who « took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham."
This messenger appears very solicitous that his message should be attended to, and he deemed it worthy of the highest admiration. Into the mysteries of grace, which were now opening, he looked with eager inte. rest, and he could not bear that human beings, for whom this salvation was provided, should remain carea less. Here is a subject worthy of the study of the no« blest faculties; and while the pride of science, and the spirit of the world, turn away from it with disdain, let. us rejoice that, in contemplating it with adoring wonder, our feelings are akin to those of angels and archangels, and our exercise is the employment of heaven.
Let us now consider the message itself.
1st, It announces a most important event. viour is born. The name Saviour is, of all titles, the most eminent in benevolence and true glory, It has been sometimes applied by venal flatterers to those whom they wished to idolize; but this prostitution of it should only strengthen our admiration of those who are entitled to it by their generous deeds. It has been applied by the grateful to their deliverers from temporal calamity or destruction. The man who has been rescued by another from a watery grave calls him, in the transports of his gratitude, “ his saviour," and nations apply this title to the man by whom their foes have been scattered, and their chains broken ; but there is one only who has a full claim to this appellation, and to him it shall be ascribed through eternity.
Jesus is a Saviour from the guilt of sin, which he put away by the sacrifice on the cross-from its power, which he subdues by the energy of his grace from its pollution, which he washes away in his own blood and from its punishment, which he endured in our stead. He saves us from the tyranny of Satan, whose
empire he subverted, and whose works he destroyed delivers us from the world, whose evils he converts into means of improvement; and he hath deprived death of its power to do us any real injury, or to detain us for ever in its dark abode. He saves us from the ven. geance of eternal fire. But in this title it is intimated that he bestows upon us the blessings which are oppos. ed to these evils. He raises us to the possession of a divine righteousness, a holy nature, and a glorious liberty-gives us the spirit of peace-places us under the gracious care of the Most High--and calls us to an inheritance in heaven.
Now, this Saviour did not come to our earth in the full maturity of our nature, or enter at once on his great work, but made his first appearance in it as an infant. To human view little was to be expected from a babe born in circumstances so obscure and neglected. The sanguine imaginations of parents have anticipated, in the opening talents of their children, that they will be the ornament of their family, and the benefactors of their country, and have felt all the mortification which disappointment and ridicule could produce; but in this babe, lying in the manger, angels beheld, with prophetic eye, the conqueror of hell, the peace-maker betwixt heaven and earth, the healer of the nations, the im. prover of the moral world, the propitiation for sin, and the destroyer of death. Even now they hail him as the Captain of salvation, and apply to him a name which he values above every name.
2d, But let us consider the names by which the Saviour is described. He is called Christ the Lord. The first of these intimates his appointment to this office. When a man, from the impulse of humanity, interposes in behalf of a fellow-creature sinking under calamity, the generous promptitude with which he rushes forward to
do it heightens our praise of the compassionate deed; but when a malefactor is about to suffer the punishment of his crime, the interposition of another in his behalf must be sanctioned by the magistrate or judge, and requires, in order to its efficacy, the offer of an ade. quate satisfaction in his room. Man was the victim of divine justice, and that victim it would not relinquish unless another was provided and substituted in his stead. Now Jesus came cheerfully forward to occupy our place. “ I will give thee for salvation to the ends of the earth," was the Father's appointment; “ I will go in thy name to save,” was the Son's consent; and « blessed is he that cometh in the power of the Lord as a Saviour,” is the welcome with which he should be received.
But this name points out his qualifications for this office. The Spirit was given him without measure. He was endowed with all the wisdom which was requisite for shewing the path of life, the benevolence which was necessary for his labours of love, that faith, patience, and courage by which he might endure the cross and despise the shame, and that power by which he wrought the astonishing miracles by which his mission was confirmed, the wretched were blessed, and his foes subdued. We observe with regret an important office in the hands of one not qualified for it, and while we may give him credit for good intentions, we condemn his rashness and presumption in undertaking what he hath neither wisdom nor vigour to execute; but in con. templating the character of Christ, we behold our eter, nal interests committed to Him who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working.
But he is also the Lord. The task of salvation is arduous, and by far too great for created power to ac. complish ; but let us not imagine that Jesus will fail in