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and poverty peculiarly striking - and without any general and imposing demonstrations. And why? Simply because he was to be a spiritual Teacher, a divine Redeemer, whose“ still small voice" of love and mercy was gently but irresistibly to penetrate the human heart, and transform it into the divine image.
Natural, for it was only a birth ; supernatural, for it was the birth of the Divine among men. Natural, for he seemed to glide into the race, as a new star glides into the heavens; supernatural, for a higher form of gravitation in the spiritual sphere began to act upon society, fitted to change and modify it forever. Natural, for no laws were counteracted or suspended; supernatural, for a deeper and more comprehensive law controlled them all. Indeed, it may be said, that in the unity of a higher and more comprehensive law, the natural and supernatural are one-a fact of which the incarnation is a proof and illustration.
Little is recorded of this unostentatious but august event. It was proclaimed, as has been often said, not in the streets of Jerusalem, or the purlieus of the temple, but in the quiet scenes of the country; not to the Sanhedrim of the Jewish nation, nor to the priesthood in solemn conclave, but to a few pious shepherds, as they watched their flocks by night on the plains of Bethlehem.
In all this we discern much of divine wisdom.
God, in creating and blessing, is not so much in the “ whirlwind and the storm,” as in “the still small voice.” His mightiest changes are achieved by invisible, and apparently trivial means. He works not at the surface, but at the centre; not by mechanism, but by spirit. He comes rather in the solitude and silence of night, like the dew beneath the stars, than in the glare and tumult of day.
In this respect he reverses all the expectations of man. " Without observation," like his own reign of purity and love, he accomplishes the designs of his grace. Not with the might of kings, or the tread of armies, but with the quiet majesty, the still, but resistless force of supreme and all-pervading will. He taketh “the weak things of the world to confound the mighty, and things that are not to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh may glory in his presence.” Evermore he magnifies purity and love over might and display.
Moreover, the incarnation of Jesus Christ was a veiling rather than a revealing of absolute power. Indeed, every embodiment or manifestation of God must possess this character. Properly speaking, the heaven of heavens cannot contain him; the entire visible creation, in magnitude, bears no conceivable relation to his infinity. “In all,” he
” is yet " above all,” transcendent and ineffable. Further, it was love, rather than absolute or physical might, which assumed the human form." By a new and peculiar manifestation, " grace and truth" were to be discovered as the greatest powers in the universe.' Enthroned by the death of the Son of God, they were to be proved resistless and eternal. It was meet, therefore, that in lowliness and poverty the birth of Christ should correspond with his death, the beginning with the end of his earthly career.
Indeed, we cannot judge correctly of the dignity or magnitude of any event, and especially of the glory of any divine manifestation, by its external aspects, or its immediate effects and accompaniments. Its spiritual relations and future results are the measure of its importance. If it link itself with the affections and destinies of unborn generations, turn the whole tide of human affairs, and pass on in ever-deepening and widening currents of influence, it proves itself worthy of the infinite mind. Men, it is true, from the narrowness and meagreness of their views, are more powerfully affected by brilliant and imposing demonstrations; it would seem natural to them, when the Divinity comes visibly to earth, that the heavens should how, and the earth tremble to its centre. But how different
We use the term absolute or physical here as equivalent to what is sometimes called natural, in distinction from moral, though both terms are imperfect and inadequate.
the reality, and, when duly considered, how much more affecting and beautiful!
“ Thou wast born of woman; thou didst come,
And not by thunder strewed
Was thy tempestuous road,
" The heavens were not commanded to prepare
A gorgeous canopy of golden air;
A single, silent star
Came wandering from afar,
Milman's Fall of Jerusalem. The intelligent reader will here call to mind the words of Milton, in the grandest of lyric strains :
“But peaceful was the night,
His reign of peace upon the earth began;
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean;
The stars with deep amaze," &c. Milman has given, in beautiful form, the general aspect of the case ; but we are not to forget what, perhaps, he has overlooked, that
There was a profound spiritual significance in the fact that Jesus should be “ born of a virgin," for then would it be seen that he was “the Holy One of God." The unstained innocence of the mother, her serene beauty and gentleness of character, and the entire separation of Christ, by means of his supernatural birth, from the corrupted mass of humanity, would form a peculiar attraction for all pure minds. Then, also, would it be understood by the world that he " came forth from God," the immaculate incarnation of righteousness and love. It was meet, also, that the advent of the Redeemer should be a sacred mystery, around which the affections of his followers should linger with delight and awe. This feeling, indeed, has been exaggerated and vitiated both by the Greek and Roman churches; but it is a natural feeling, and not only so, but productive of the best results.
For how could Christ come into the world as one of the race, except by a birth ? and how could he be recognized as the Divine, except by an immaculate birth? “ That 'holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” On this account, there is something inexpressibly touching in the thought expressed
“suddenly there was with the angel a multitude," perhaps more than “ a single chòir” of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will to men.”