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with hope, and shrinks from with horror, overtakes her; and unsupported, unassisted, as it should seem, she brings forth her first-born son, and is able at once to perform the earliest duties of a mother. "She wrapped him in swaddling cloathes," and with the hu mility and resignation becoming her destitute condition, "laid him in the manger," leaving it to Providence to unveil its own secret counsels and accomplish its own gracious purposes. And thus the Saviour of the world entered upon that state of depression, poverty, and suffering, which terminated only with his life.
But the affectingly humiliating scene in the stable at Bethlehem of Judah, is relieved by the glory of the Lord shining round about it. That babe, neglected, unknown, despised, outcast of men, is declared, by the concurring testimony of patriarchs and prophets, of angels and men, by the shaking of the heavens and the earth, of the sea and the dry land, to be " the Son of the Highest." His parentage, his name, the time and place of his birth, the condition of his infant hours, have all the seal of heaven upon them. For what end did Isaiah prophecy, Alexander conquer, and Augustus give laws, but to point out to the world the instant, the spot, the descent, the estate in which the Son of God assumed our nature, in order to enter on the work of our redemption.
Preparation is making in another quarter of the globe, to bring a tribute of praise to the Redeemer of mankind. The east is ready to contribute its gifts, is preparing its gold, and frankinsence, and myrrh, to lay them at his feet. The wise men of distant nations, occupied in the study of nature, and attentive to the signs of the times, are awakened to inquiry by a silent but shining monitor. The appearance of the starry heavens was well known to them, they can calculate the distances and revolutions of each little star that sparkles in the expanse of heaven; but in a moment
all their science is confounded, all their experience is overthrown by the appearance of a new created light, in motion and at rest by a law peculiar to itself, to fulfil a transitory indeed, but a most important purpose, and which having pointed to "the place where the young child lay," is blotted out of nature, and disappears for
Now none of " these things were done in a corner." Christianity did not steal in upon the world, without warning; all characters and descriptions of men were called in to give testimony to it, and without acquaintance, concurrence, or co-operation they establish the same truth. The eastern Magi on their arrival at Jerusalem, and on explaining the reason of their journey thither, are not treated as visionaries, who dreamed of things that never existed, but are listened to and respected as reasonable men inquiring after important truth. The attention of Herod, and of all Jerusalem with him, is roused; that jealous and sanguinary tyrant, takes every precaution, sets on foot every inquiry that his reigning passions could suggest, to elucidate the case; to secure possession to himself, and to crush every rival. He summons the chief priests and scribes of the people, consults them respecting the determinations of prophecy, as to the birth-place of the expected king of the Jews, he compares their opinion with the report of the wise men, and acts upon the result of that comparison. A conincidence of persons and circumstances so striking, and all relating to one person and one point, must lead to the acknowledgment and adoration of that God, in whose hand are the hearts of princes, the deliberations of councils, the number and motions of all the host of heaven. "He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names; great is our Lord and of great power; his understanding is infinite." Augustus Cæsar, Herod, the Magi, the Jewish Sanhedrim, the inhabitants of Bethlehem, of Jerusalem, all concur to give witness to
yonder babe laid in a manger, and they involuntarily assist in demonstrating the certainty of those things wherein ye have been instructed: that ye might have strong consolation in having fled for refuge to the hope set before you.
But higher testimony still than that of the potentates of the earth is given to the Lord of glory. Angels descend with songs to meet him at his coming; the gloom of night is dispelled by celestial radiance; Silence, wellpleased, hears the sweet melody of angelic notes, chanting the glad tidings of great joy, "unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord." The harmony of a thousand heavenly voices in chorus join to celebrate the advent of the prince of peace; to announce to a slumbering world Him in whose light they shine, by whose power they are supported, in whose praise they unite, to whose will they are devoted. What a wonderful contrast! A deserted, friendless mother, a helpless infant, a stable, a manger! What humiliation, like this humiliation! A throne above the heavens, the homage of princes, the effulgence of a star to mark the way to his cradle, the adoration of the glorious host of heaven, the arm of the Lord revealed! What design but the salvation of a lost world, what event but the birth of a Saviour, what person but the Son of God, could warrant all this display of majesty and might? Christian, keep these astonishing extremes continually in sight. This is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; as children are partakers of flesh and blood he likewise himself also took part of the same; verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham. 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; for in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." The subject teaches us,
1. How incompetent judges we are of the VOL. IV.
works of God. Few events, if any, correspond to our preconceived opinions of them. From the glimmering that we have, without any light at all save the sparks of our own kindling, we take upon us to arrange and decide, and to limit the holy one of Israel. Like Naaman the Syrian, we have settled the mode of cure in our own mind, dressed it in proper parade and ceremony, and fall out with the prophet because the simplicity of the process confounds the airy vision with which our imagination had amused itself. Not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God, the carnal Jews had dressed out, for Messiah the prince, a throne like Solomon's, of ivory overlaid with gold, had placed him at the head of armies, had surrounded him with guards, had crowned him with laurels. When the event belied their groundless expectations, with Naaman they turned away in a rage, saying, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" "Away with this man, crucify him, not this man but Barabbas."
2. Observe here in how many instances God writeth vanity on all the glory of man. In the pride of their hearts, the princes and potentates here mentioned, vainly imagined a prostrate world to be all their own. Every will must bend to theirs; to their pleasure every power and possession must minister; all the while they are the mere attendants on the royal state of the real prince. Their names are indeed some of them still had in remembrance, but their power is annihilated, their consequence is swallowed up, or if any remain, it is derived from the relation which it bears to the superior, the commanding, the undiminished importance of Him to whom they gave witness, and whose state, inspite of themselves, they continue to support. The empire of Augustus speedily fell under its own weight, and the downfal of Rome quickly followed that of Jerusalem, and both proved the truth, and power, and justice of God: while that child born, that Saviour given, holds undivided empire, and exercises unbounded sway. Eighteen
centuries have confirmed, not shaken his authority, and time has discovered another hemisphere, far more extensive than the former, and added it to his dominion. Let us again sing, "His name shall endure for ever. His name shall be continued as long as the sun and men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doth wondrous things; and blessed be his glorious name for ever, and let the whole earth be filled with his glory." Amen and Amen.
Augustus, in the pride of his heart, and an abject world in flattery to him, prefixed his name to the age in which he lived-and let this piece of vanity have its scope. With the classical, philosophic scholar, let the Augustan age boast of a Cicero, à Virgil, a Livy, a Mæcenas; the humble christian will rather glory in its having produced light from heaven, which eclipsed all human eloquence and wisdom in their highest splendour, and, resigning to the schools their favourite historians, orators and poets, will rejoice in revolving in their place the hallowed page of Luke, the beloved physician, and in listening to the fervid, native, inartificial eloquence of Paul of Tarsus, and above all, in attending to the dignified wisdom which flowed from the lips of him who "spake as never man spake."
3. Finally, this wonderful child born teaches us the value and importance of little children. What human sagacity could penetrate the thick cloud which shrouded his nativity? What but the spirit of prophecy could draw aside the veil which concealed his future eminence? What but a Simeon could discern in him the salvation of God, and foretel that "this child was set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which should be spoken against ?" And who but He who "declareth the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure," who but He knows what the infant, now drawing its first