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• Whose are the fathers, and of whom, as cerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever,' Rom. ix. 5.
DIVINE grace does not extinguish natural affection. Faith worketh by love; but this love is discriminating, and has a respect to all the different relations by which we are connected both as men and as Christians. Paul desired the salvation of all men, but he felt a peculiar and most pressing concern for the spiritual welfare of his Jewish countrymen. On their account he had 'great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart.' He went so far as to say, 'I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.'
clared to be God blessed for ever;' and to make it manifest that this name was applied to him, con-not in the way of accommodation merely, nor to express an inferior and delegated authority, but to affirm his proper and supreme divinity, he is pronounced to be 'over all, God blessed for ever." We are expressly commanded to honour the Son, even as we honour the Father. He bears the titles, possesses the attributes, performs the works, and claims the worship which belong exclusively to God. He himself asserted his Godhead; he accepted the homage which is peculiar to Deity; he allowed himself to be addressed by names which are descriptive of true and proper divinity. The work which the Father had given him to do required that he should be God, and proves that he is God. To bear the iniquities of his people in his own body on the tree, and by the one offering of himself to make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in an everlasting righteousness; to act the part of Mediator between God and man, so as to sustain the honour of the former, and secure the interests of the latter; this is a work which Deity alone could execute. Jesus is a divine Saviour, and therefore mighty to save.' His obedience unto death has all the worth and efficacy which Deity could give it, and is worthy of all the confidence we can repose, of all the gratitude we can feel, and all the honour we can render.
The Jews had many strong claims to his sympathy. Some of them were united to him by the ties of blood; many of them had been endeared to him in the bonds of friendship. They were all his fellow-countrymen, members of one commonwealth, the descendants of one great progenitor. Now they were a degraded people; but the apostle looked back to their former distinction, and viewed them as a nation that had been set apart and singularly honoured of God. Speaking of them, he says: "Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever.'
As God he is the portion of his people. They have renounced every other ground of dependence; they have seen the vanity of earthly things; they have learned the guilt and folly of self-righteousness; they have abandoned all those It was the peculiar honour of the Jews that refuges of lies' which the pride of an unbelieving of them, 'as concerning the flesh, Christ came.' heart naturally prefers; they have fled to Christ His descent can be traced from Abraham down- as their only hope; they build on him as the sure wards in one unbroken line of succession. Agree-foundation; they accept of him as their all-sufably to ancient prophecy, he sprung from the ficient portion. He is precious to them as the tribe of Judah, and the family of David. When pearl of great price: they feel his service to be he came to the Jews, he came to his own, but perfect freedom, and can say, 'Whom have I in they received him not.' That which should have heaven but thee? there is none upon earth whom recommended him to their acceptance, was made I desire besides thee: thou art the strength of by them a ground of objection against him. Even my heart, and my portion for ever.' the brethren of Jesus, we are told, did not believe in him. Natural relationship is often unconnected with spiritual affinity. Many who stand highest in privilege are lowest in character, and shall be last in condition. The Jews gloried in being the descendants of Abraham, but despised the honour of being the progenitors of Christ.
The descent of the Saviour does not affect his essential dignity. He, who in his human nature could claim no higher than Jewish origin, is de
They honour him by their submission as well as their confidence, for he is at once their Sovereign and their Saviour. They confess his supreme dominion, and with the apostle declare him to be over all, God blessed for ever.' As God he is over all' in virtue of his essential and underived prerogative. But he sways the sceptre of authority as the reward of his voluntary and meritorious abasement. He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, wherefore God also hath highly
exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.' He is 'over all' inThe kingdom of nature. The earth is his, and the fullness thereof, and he giveth to every man severally as he wills. All creatures, from the mightiest to the meanest, live, and move, and have their being' in him. He rules over them as his subjects, and makes use of them as his instruments to fulfil his purposes, to protect his people, and show forth his praise. He is 'over all' in
The operations of providence. Events occur exactly in the time, and manner, and order of his appointment. He sits at the helm of affairs, and guides the stupendous vessel in her course, permitting every storm that blows, producing every calm that succeeds, working all things according to the counsel of his will. Whatsoever pleaseth him that he doeth in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath.' He is over all' inThe dispensation of grace; for he is Head over all things to the church, which is his body. Ministers possess a degree of authority, but it is derived from him, and must be exercised in subordination to him. Ordinances exert a beneficial influence, but they owe all their efficacy to his blessing. His will is our law in all matters both of faith and practice. This is a prerogative which he will not give to another, and which he will not share with another. But he has a twofold empire in the church: one external and visible, another spiritual and invisible; the former extending to all who profess the faith of Christ, the latter confined to those who possess it.
'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,' John i. 14.
WORDS are the signs of our ideas, and the means of intercourse and communication between man and man. The bible is the word' of God, because it conveys to us the expression of his mind or will. But when the evangelist declares that the Word was made flesh,' it is evident that he speaks of a person, and it is equally obvious that he speaks of the person of Christ. In him from eternity were hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and in the fullness of time he appeared on earth, in the character of a teacher sent from God to unfold the mysteries of his kingdom, to display the glories of his character, and reveal his purpose of mercy for the instruction and salvation of a benighted and perishing world.
But to fit him for his work it was necessary that the Word should be made flesh. The term flesh,' expresses the reality of our Lord's human nature, and embodies the great fact of his incarnation. He emptied himself of the glory which he had with the Father, and took upon him, not the nature of angels, but the nature of man, for he came to save not angels but men. His obedience could not have answered the end for which it was designed, had it not been the obedience of a man. He, therefore, became literally 'bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh,' having a true
His people are they who have been made will-body and a reasonable soul, endued with the ing that he should reign over them. They bear his image, and bow to his sceptre, and live in dependence upon him, and hold themselves at his disposal, and offer up the daily homage of their united ascriptions, saying, 'Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.' 'Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people. O visit me with thy salvation: that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.'
same faculties, performing the same functions, and subject to the same infirmities which are common to men. But his flesh had no mixture of depravity in it. He was in reality made flesh, but he was made only in the likeness of sinful flesh.' Because he had no sin of his own, he could offer himself a sacrifice for the sins of his people. It was a pure and perfect sacrifice that he presented; and the righteousness which he wrought out, in his life and by his death, was strictly and properly the righteousness of a man, and such as might be imputed to man for the ground of his justification and acceptance with God. Wherefore in all things it behoved him. to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.'
In his incarnation Christ emptied himself, but by thus emptying himself he acquired a fullness which he could not otherwise have possessed; a
mediatorial fullness, a fullness of all spiritual excellencies and blessings; not the fullness of a vessel which is diminished by communication, but the fullness of a fountain which is ever flowing, yet ever full. He is ‘full of grace and truth.' These words are descriptive of the character of Christ, and attribute to him the
Perfection of all moral excellency. Grace expresses, in particular, the benevolence or compassion of Christ. The apostle has employed it in this sense in writing to the church at Corinth, 'Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he who was rich for your sakes became poor, that ye by his poverty might be rich.' It was grace that brought him down from heaven to earth; grace appeared in all that he said, and did, and suffered; grace was infused into his lips, and breathed in all his discourses; his miracles were all acts of grace; his submission to the death of the cross exhibits a manifestation of sovereign, disinterested, unparalleled grace. He not only had grace, but was full of it; he possessed not one gracious property merely, but had grace in all its varieties, combining the estimable in character with the amiable, things pure and excellent with things lovely and of good report. But he was also ‘full of truth.' This marks the sincerity and uprightness of his character. The Jews called him a deceiver, yet none of them could convince him of sin. He taught the way of God truly, and proved himself to be the faithful and true Witness. In him grace and truth were blended together in beautiful consistency, and absolute perfection. But the terms grace and truth,' apply to the redeeming work of Christ, and ascribe to him a—
Plenitude of all spiritual blessings. Grace expresses generally the privileges of God's favour and family, including pardon and acceptance, a new heart and a right spirit, deliverance from the bondage of corruption, the victory which overcometh the world, a title to heaven, and a meetness for it. In particular grace very frequently denotes the influences of the Holy Spirit. These and all other spiritual blessings are contained in the fullness of Christ. They are his by the appointment of the Father, for it pleased the Father that in him all fullness should dwell; they are his by the purchase of his own blood, in terms of the everlasting covenant whose conditions he fulfilled. To him especially has been committed a dispensation of the Spirit, and what he said to Paul he says to every disciple: My grace is sufficient for thee.' Truth, on the other hand, is expressive of knowledge or doctrine, and in this view of it Jesus could affirm, I am the truth.' He is the
essence of eternal truth, and the substance of revealed truth. He must, therefore, have a perfect comprehension of truth, as well as be supremely qualified to make it known to others.
All the spiritual wants of his people have been provided for in the fullness of Christ. They are by nature ignorant, having the understanding darkened by the god of this world, who leads them captive at his will. But Christ is full of truth to open the eyes of their understanding, to turn them from darkness to light, and to train them up 'unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.' By nature also, and by wicked works, they are enemies to God, exposed to his wrath, destitute of his image, averse to his service, incapable of honouring or enjoying him. But Christ is full of grace to pardon their sins, and restore them to favour, to purify their hearts, and fit them for duty. There is in him a fullness of all that they should desire, or can stand in need of either in time or for eternity. And his fullness is like himself-infinite and inexhaustible. As it is sufficient for all so it is accessible to all.
'Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.' But as it was with him, so is it in some measure with his people. Grace and truth are combined in them as they were in him. He first opens the blind eyes by the light of his truth, and then subdues the stubborn and stony heart by the power of his grace. Truth is the instrument to prepare the way for grace, and grace is the agent to apply and give effect to the truth. Neither of them can be dispensed with, and in the experience of every true Christian both are combined. There may be truth in the understanding without grace in the heart, but grace cannot exist without the accompaniment of at least some portion of the truth. Hence the necessity of prayer in order to the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom. The light of truth may be diffused by mere human efforts, but the truth can be made effectual only by the operation of grace promised and put forth in answer to prayer. Truth is mighty and shall prevail, but the might of truth comes into operation through the omnipotence of grace,
It is our privilege, as it was that of his personal followers, to behold in the flesh and fullness of Christ the glory as of the only begotten of the Father. We behold the antitype of that glory which overshadowed the mercy-seat, and which shone forth permanently, then first in the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple. We seo not a material glory which dazzles the external
eye like that which the worshipping Israelites | carefully observed, and gratefully remembered. contemplated in the wilderness of Sinai, and which He is a child born unto us,' that is, for our caused even Moses to exclaim, 'I do exceedingly benefit. He was given to us that he might be fear and quake,' but a glory equally real, and given for us a sacrifice to God of sweet smelling incomparably more effulgent; the concentrated savour. The gift was perfectly free, and is inglory of all the divine perfections, not dimly sha-estimably precious. God had no greater or dowed forth, but clearly and intelligibly mani- better gift to bestow. And he gave it not befested. Let us behold his glory by making it the cause he might not honourably have withheld it, object of our devout contemplation, the theme of but because sinners could not be saved without our study, and our song of praise; and 'behold-it. Truly in this was manifested the love of ing, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord,' 'let us God toward us, because that God sent his only seek to be changed into the same image, from begotten Son into the world, that we might live glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the through him;' and 'herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.'
The humiliating circumstances of the Saviour's birth must not be overlooked. These were all expressive of extreme indigence and lowliest abasement. His mother was the wife of an
Unto us a child is born, and his name shall be obscure and humble carpenter. His first dwellcalled, The mighty God, Isa. ix. 6.
'Or whom speaketh the prophet this?' There is only one Being in the universe to whom this language can with any appearance of truth or consistency be applied. It is he who was in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God, but who took upon him the form of a servant, and was found in fashion as a man;' who is at once the Creator and a creature, the everlasting Father and an infant of days; who combines in one mysterious person supreme dignity with the deepest abasement, the majesty of heaven with the meanness of earth, the peculiar attributes of Deity with the common properties of humanity.
The Old Testament saints were enabled to view the birth of Christ as an event already past. Regarding it in the light of inspiration Isaiah foresaw its certain approach, and could anticipate the angel's message to the shepherds of Bethlehem: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.' Jesus is said to be the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; with equal propriety he may be pronounced the child born from the foundation of the world. Jewish patriarchs and prophets realized the fact of the Saviour's birth, not only as an object of hope, but a source of joy and thanksgiving. What was to them an article of faith, is with us a matter of history. We do not anticipate a future, but commemorate a past event, when we say, 'Unto us a child is born.'
ing was a stable, and a manger his bed. Even ordinary comforts and accommodations were denied him. But in the birth of Christ the lowliness of assumed humanity was connected with intimations of essential divinity. A voice from heaven declared him to be the Son of the Highest. An angel from before the throne descended to announce the event of his birth, and a host of angels joyfully hailed the announcement with a song of celestial melody, proclaiming 'glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, goodwill to men.' The inhabitants of Bethlehem regarded him not, but eastern sages, travelling from a distant land, and guided by a supernatural star, hastened to do him homage.
To the eye of sense, indeed, the birth of Christ presented a scene of abject poverty and wretchedness. The child lay in all the helplessness of infancy, needing support, and imploring sympathy. But to the view of an enlightened faith the stable of Bethlehem exhibited a spectacle of sublime and surpassing interest. In any circumstances the birth of a child is an event of incalculable importance. It is the production of an immortal spirit, destined to spend an eternity, either in the light of God's countenance, or in the misery of outer darkness, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. can tell to what extent he may become the instrument of good or of evil! Of unspeakably greater importance is the birth of a prince, the heir of a throne, the guide and the guardian of a nation's destinies! But how momentous beyond all comparison, and above all comprehension, must be the birth of Him who is the Prince of The gracious design of Christ's birth should be all the kings of the earth, and of whom it was
predicted, and his name shall be called, The | Shield, he will give grace and glory, and will mighty God.' withhold no good thing from them.
This name has been given to him, not by the wisdom of fallible man, but by the word of the true God; not in obscure and doubtful terms, but in language plain and unequivocal; not in a few, but in many instances. As his name is, so is his character. He proved himself to be the mighty God by the words of truth which he uttered, and the wonders of power which he performed. At his bidding the waves ceased their raging, and devils abandoned their victims. His word gave health to the sick, hearing to the deaf, eyes to the blind, speech to the dumb, feet to the lame, and life to the dead. A virtue went out from him which produced immediate cures upon all to whom it extended, how distant soever in place, or hopeless in condition. His omnipotence reached to the souls of men as well as their bodies, and discovered itself in tranquillizing the troubled mind, in healing the wounded spirit, in converting the heart of stone into flesh, and the principle of enmity into a spirit of love.
But as he is theirs, so they are his. If they may warrantably expect so much from him, how much is he entitled to demand from them. Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.' 'Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.' As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.'
And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him,' Heb. i. 6. THE scriptures afford little information with regard to the angels of God. Yet some interesting particulars have been recorded. We read of 'the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,' and are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment The believing followers of Christ have learned of the great day. Hence we learn that there are to call him by the name of the mighty God.' fallen angels as well as men. But their apostacy They have seen its inscription written by the was not universal. Those that maintained their finger of God, and shining forth as with the light allegiance are called 'holy angels.' With respect of a sunbeam on the page of inspiration. To the to their residence we are told that they dwell in evidence of scripture has been added the testi- the more immediate presence of God, before mony of experience. By revealing his Son in whom they offer up the homage of their united them, God has effectually convinced them of his and unceasing devotion. We read of 'an innumerdeity, and constrained them with Thomas to ex-able company of angels,' all of whom are animated claim, My Lord and my God.' They have the with one spirit of reverence, humility, zeal, and witness in themselves, and from what they have gratitude. They excel in strength,' and they felt of his gracious power they know and acknow- exert their strength in fulfilling the pleasure of ledge him to be indeed the mighty God.' This their Creator, and in promoting the ends of his conviction is at once strong and unanimous. On government both in providence and grace. Anmany other points they differ in opinion, but gels are God's messengers to declare his will, and with respect to the deity of Christ they are all his ministers to execute it either for mercy or of one mind. They all repose in him an un-judgment. God's church and people derive imlimited confidence, and render to him, supreme honour.
What may they not expect from him who is the mighty God! All things are his in nature, providence, and grace. But all that he is and has is theirs, for he is not ashamed to be called their God.' Therefore all things are theirs, whether the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come. His infinite resources are pledged to supply them with all necessary good, as well as to support and deliver them from all existing evil. He hath provided for them a city. And he is preparing them for it, and will put them in personal and everlasting possession of it. He is their Sun, and their
portant benefits from their instrumentality; for 'are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them which are the heirs of salvation. The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.' But it is their highest privilege to serve him of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named;
And when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.'
It is to the period of our Lord's incarnation that this emphatic injunction obviously refers. In his pre-existent state he had been the object of worship to angels who saw his glory, and acknowledged his divinity by presenting to him in common