« PreviousContinue »
ness, and bounty: his awful justice and holiness are displayed in his perfect law and righteous judgments, and his patience and kindness, even to sinners, may be learned from his dealings with our fallen race in general. These glories the heavenly host had witnessed and celebrated for four thousand years.
But the birth of the infant in the stable, viewed in its causes and consequences, discovered to them glories so resplendent, that in some respects they eclipsed all former displays; and with rapturous joy and admiration they sang “Glory to God in the highest :” in the highest heavens among all its exalted inhabitants, and in the loftiest strains, which they can possibly reach. Here the glories of the divine justice, holiness, truth, wisdom, knowledge, power, love, and mercy, which they had viewed separately in other objects, shone forth with collected beams in most adorable beauty and splendour. The perfections, which before appeared irreconcilable, now harmo. nized, and reflected glory upon each other. The distinct honours of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, were displayed at once to their admiring view. And as they were always ready, with glowing love, zeal, and gratitude, to celebrate the high praises of God: so they were peculiarly excited to this reasonable and delightful service, on this interesting occasion. Never did JEHOVAH appear in all respects so glorious in holiness, justice, truth, and wisdom, as in his wonderful love to Adam's guilty polluted race. If God so hates sin, that his well-beloved Son shall become man and bear the curse, rather than it shall go unpunished; and yet so loves sinners, as to em
ploy such an expedient, rather than leave them to perish without remedy: if his wisdom could form such a plan of reconciling justice and mercy, and of taking occasion from sin itself to glorify his name in the most distinguished manner: and if his faithfulness accomplishes such a promise, as that relating to the incarnation of his own Son for these most gracious purposes : how transcendantly glorious must He be! How worthy of universal love and adoration ! Let all creatures then say “ Glory to God in the highest !"
Angels “rejoice over one sinner that repenteth :” because every event of this nature is a new display of the divine glory in the work of redemption; a new trophy of the Redeemer's beneficent victories; a new worshipper to join the heavenly choir to all eternity ; and a new instrument to excite other sinners to seek for the same blessings. -For alas ! men are blind, wilfully blind, to the glory of God in all respects. Even the displays of his being and perfections in the works of creation fail of suitably affecting their hearts ; “ They "glorify him not as God, neither are thankful.” But the gospel, professed, adorned, and preached in the world, calls their attention to an interesting subject : and when “ God who commandeth the light to shine
out of darkness, shines into our hearts to give the
light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Je. “ sus Christ, *" that light is reflected, as it were, on every other object; and we learn by degrees to glorify God for all the displays he hath made of himself; and
• 2 Cor. iv. 4-6.
as a “ spiritual priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifi“ ces acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Thus sinners on earth are trained up for the worship of heaven; of which the highest and most delightful strain will be, “ Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, " and hath redeemed us to God with his blood ;? “ Salvation to our God that sitteth on the throne, and “ unto the Lamb.” Hallelujah. Amen. The adoring praises of the heavenly host may therefore be also considered, as an affectionate expression of their longing desire, that by the gospel of Christ, the divine glory might fill the earth as well as heaven; while peace with God and with each other should be enjoyed by all its inhabitants, through the adorable good-will shewn to guilty man.
III. Then, let us endeavour to bring this matter home to ourselves by some practical deductions.
We may learn from this subject how insignificant all earthly distinctions are, in the judgment of the heavenly host. They see no glory in them, nor dishonour in the want of them. The Lord of all descends to dwell on earth, to be a Prince and Saviour: and angels celebrate the august event, the most important that had ever occurred from the beginning of the world. But he appears not in an imperial palace, or with the appendages of royalty; but in a stable, and laid in a manger! And let us not forget, that this was the settled purpose of unchangeable wisdom and everlasting love; in order to pour contempt on all that splendour, which we are prone to idolize.
Not only are vanity and vexation inscribed on the pomp, wealth, and luxuries of the world, by this remarkable appointment; but they are pronounced mean, ensnaring, and polluting. We should there. fore enquire, how far our judgment coincides, in this respect, with that of angels and the Lord of angels? The rich and noble should remember that their distinctions are as withering flowers; at the same time that they are talents entrusted to their stewardship, of which a strict account will shortly be demanded. Let them not then “ be high-minded, or trust in un“ certain riches, but in the living God.” “Let not “ the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the
mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man “ glory in his riches.” Yea, “God forbid that” any of us “ should glory, save in the cross of our Lord “ Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to “ us, and we unto the world. *» We should well consider the words of the apostle, “ Let the brother “ of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted; but the “ rich in that he is made low.t"-"Mind not then," my brethren,“ high things, but condescend to men “ of low estate :” cultivate humility, courteousness, indifference about the world, and self-denying benefi. cence, in the midst of abundance: this will abate envy, secure you from the snares and perils of your situation, and render the talents entrusted to you a blessing to many, and more abundantly to your. selves.--" How hardly,” says our Lord, “thåt have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” But “ the things that are impossible with men are
possible with him.” Yet this consideration, should
- shall they
• Jer. ix, 23, 24, Gal. vi. 14.
James i, 9-11,
excite in you peculiar caution, watchfulness, and prayer, that your riches may not prove the ruin of your immortal souls.
Think, my brethren, of the stable, the carpenter's shop, the feast on barley-bread, and small fishes, the well in Samaria, and of him who had not where to lay his head : that you may learn not to despise the poor, lest you reproach your Maker and disdain the Sa. viour of the world. Heavenly glory and excellency may be clad in coarse raiment, or lodged in a mean cottage. Learn not to judge of men by outward appearance; but to estimate characters according to their intrinsick worth: and let it not be thought any disparagement to prefer the company of pious Chris. tians, who are almost as poor as their Master chose to be, above that of the most accomplished persons who are strangers to his saving grace.
And, my brethren of low degree, let me exhort you to be contented and patient in your humble condition : watch against envy, repining, coveting, and distrust. Seek the true riches, “ the ornament which “ in the sight of God is of great price,” the “ honour " that cometh from him,” and the pure pleasures which he bestows. With these, the meanest accommodations will make your hearts thankful : and if your children be poorly provided for, and you are overlooked in times of difficulty by your neighbours; think of the virgin-mother and her holy infant in the stable; reflect on your sinfulness; and, instead of mur. muring, lift up your hearts in joyful thanksgivings: for few of you are so poor as the divine Saviour of sinners was, during the whole of his humiliation.