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SKETCHES OF SERMONS.
“ And they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”—MATTHEW i. 23.
The paragraph of which the text is the conclusion, states very distinctly the character and object of the events which had just before transpired. The angel of the Lord had appeared to Joseph, while troubled in his mind, and anxiously inquiring as to the line of conduct which duty required him to adopt, in the peculiar, and as they would appear to him, painful circumstances, in which he was placed in reference to Mary, his espoused wife. From this heavenly messenger he received the explanation which he sought. He was assured not only of the innocence of Mary, but of the near approach of the Lord's Anointed, and the world's Saviour.
Having related this, Matthew, speaking by the Spirit, immediately adds, "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet.”
We turn to that portion of Isaiah's prophecy here marked out. It is in the seventh chapter. We find it to be a prophetic sign given to Ahaz, at a time of danger and perplexity. Thero is some difficulty in ascertaining the connexion between the circumstances and the sign. The relevancy of the latter is, perhaps, best shown by those who interpret the whole passage on this principle,—that the kingdom of Judah in fact existed for the sake of the Messiah, who was to be, even in this more limited sense of the word, a Jew. Every solemnly renewed promise of the Messiah was, therefore, a renewed pledge of the preservation of the tribe from which he was to spring. But, however this may be interpreted, and whatever difficulty
may, at this distance of time, appear to rest upon the subordinate circumstances of the prediction, yet the application of it is clearly and definitely fixed by the Evangelist. All this was done that what the prophet said might be fulfilled.
The prophecy, as thus applied, will be seen to have two principal subjects. There is, first, the miraculous conception :
Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son.” And there is, secondly, a most significant declaration as to the name of the child whose wondrous birth is here declared: “and they shall call his name Emmanuel.” Matthew was moved by the Holy Ghost to put the interpretation of this Hebrew name upon record, thus bearing testimony both to its significance and importance: “Which being interpreted is, God with us.”
To this last portion of the prophecy our attention will now be confined. The text gives us one of the names of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us reverently inquire into its import. There is a presumptuous rushing into sacred things which is forbidden. There is an approach to them which is commanded. Let us put our shoes from off our feet, for we are now coming to holy ground: but let us turn aside, and see this great sight; and so far as is permitted to us, learn the lessons which it teaches.
I purpose to inquire into the various facts and circumstances which justify and require the unreserved application of this sacred, this divinely constructed, name to our Lord Jesus.
I. The first, and perhaps the principal, reason will appear when we consider what the Scriptures most explicitly declare respecting the person of Christ.
Look at him as he would appear to men, naturally prone to judge according to outward appearance. You see him, a man, dwelling with his parents, subject to them, increasing in wisdom and stature; susceptible of joy and sorrow; one who hungered, thirsted, felt pain, slept: evidently a man, of human body, and reasonable soul. Such he appeared to be,
But was he no more? We turn to the oracles of God, and ask. They reply, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God:” he " is over all, God blessed for ever.” The Father testifies
from heaven, " This is my beloved Son.” The Son answers from earth, “ Glorify me with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Such passages multiply upon
We see in him the true God, and eternal life. And we learn, too, the nature of his connexion with our flesh. Take the reasoning of the early portion of the epistle to the Hebrews. You have first, the proper glory of the Son. You then see him made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death. And how? He takes not hold of the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham. The children are partakers of flesh and blood : he himself takes part of the same; so that he becomes our brother, and calls us brethren. And thus, not the individual person only, with whom Deity united himself, but our whole human nature, is raised up to sacred nearness to the divine. In this sense, God having actually in Christ assumed our nature, he is properly EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US.
II. He is rightly so called, secondly, because of what he has done for the removal of the natural and necessary effect of sin,-separation from God.
God is man's proper good. He is wretched, not because God cannot bless, but because “your sins have separated between you and God.” Sin puts man in direct opposition to God. The relation which it substitutes, for that of an obedient child to an affectionate parent, is that of a guilty rebel to a rightful Sovereign and just Judge. So far as sin is concerned, there is a wide and impassable gulf between the sinner and God. The full, direct result of sin is seen there where sin is punished. As essential God, in revelation of his terrible justice and holy wrath, God is there. As the good of the soul, the fountain of living water, he is eternally far from the wicked. And why is not earth like hell? The materials of the burning are there. Why doth not the breath of the Lord, like a shower of brimstone, kindle it? So far is this from being so, that “his tender mercies are over all his works.” Who shall unravel this mystery? Man is a rebel. And yet the tabernacle of God is with men. Go to the mercy-seat, and learn the reason. It is sprinkled with the blood of atonement. The oracle explains the
enigma: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.” Hence, he is near; he may be found. The holiest place is accessible: the way to it is made manifest.
And, especially, the gracious presence of God is with men. To his sorrowing disciples Christ said, “I will come again." The promise was fulfilled by the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. As in vegetation, “ He sendeth forth his Spirit; he reneweth the face of the earth;" so in grace, “the Lord, the giver of life,” is among men; convincing them of sin, drawing them, bringing them to Christ, making them new creatures. But for God's providential presence, the earth were a wilderness. The fruits of righteousness prove his gracious presence. But this is all through Christ; through the incarnation, atonement, intercession, of EMMANUEL, GOD
III. By him, man comes to God, and God comes to man. Job asked anxiously, and in reference to prayer,
Where is he? “O that I knew where to find him!” He is on the throne
A new and living way is consecrated by the precious blood of Christ. Wherever there is the sense of guilt, the desire of mercy, the praying heart, there is a plea with which the oppressed sinner may come to God. The Lamb of God has removed the obstacle. By him man may come boldly to the throne of grace. And God draws near to him. The mercy-seat exhibits not the darkened cloud. God, the God of love, says, “I will meet with thee, and commune with thee." He that sitteth between the cherubim shines forth. The blood of expiation is sprinkled on the conscience. The believer is justified by faith, and has a real manifestation of the love of God. The indwelling Spirit attests adopting grace, and disposes the child to love and obey. He is the temple of God, because God dwells in him. He is made partaker of the divine nature. But all is by Christ; THE EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US.
IV. Thus will it be in heaven itself.
mercy of God, or trifle with his truth. The Judge will do right. Our business is with truth. He that would be saved into heavenly glory, must prepare for it by holding faithfully the true Christian
faith. In heaven there will be neither denial nor doubt. The heavenly liturgy continually involves the worship of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and of the Lamb in the midst of the throne. The river of water of life is from the throne of God and the Lamb. The heavenly city is all radiant, because the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. If heaven be a theocracy, the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple; and the Lamb is in the midst of the throne, as the centre of the glory which marks the local presence of God for the limited nature of creatures. In heaven, as on earth, is he EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US.
Such the solemn truths suggested by the text. I profess not to bring them before you devoid of mystery. But here they are; plainly revealed, and intimately connected with the whole system of religion, as to either knowledge, love, or obedience.
Acknowledge the mystery with adoring thankfulness. Receive it with undoubting faith. Bring your reason to this light of life: it will then be a living light within you. There is a light of death; but it dissipates no darkness, and only reveals its own corruption. Turn your face full on the Sun of Righteousness, that you may be made light in the Lord.
But, remember, if practical truth there be, it is here. Christ is the expiation of your guilt. It is that you may personally come to God by him. He has received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost. It is that to you, seeking the heavenly gift, he may pour out the saving influence. Rest not in speculative belief. The curse of the law, the wrath of God, abides on you, till you come to the mercy-seat for personal, present reconciliation. Then God will dwell with you, and make you like himself.
This is religion: in its belief, its experience, its practice. And thus, by EMMANUEL, GOD WITH Us, is religion on earth identified in principle with the eternal felicities of heaven.