Obrazy na stronie

mightily in this mysterious and constant strife of the flesh with the spirit. We know now that the world of matter and the body are under no malignant deity or demon at war with God; but to the believer even the other tabernacle is sanctified by Him who took it upon Him; the flesh, too, is redeemed; the "creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God;" and, while "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together," we wait in Christ who had taken our flesh "for the redemption and resurrection of our body," which is the living image and figure of His Church.

Honour and praise, then, in the Church, with Christmas anthems, with the shepherds, and the sages, and the virgin-mother, and the heavenly host, to our Emmanuel, as the Son of Man! As man He was born. As man He was a servant, was homeless, was weary, was an hungered, and wept. As man He was tempted, and as man, He was without sin. As man He endured contradiction, reviling, insult, cruelty, and yet said, “ Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children." As man He was crucified, dead, and buried. As man he rose again, ascended, and reigns. As man he shall come again, to divide, and to judge, and to reign; for "therefore is all judgment committed unto Him, because He is the Son of Man."

So well-grounded is the universal joy of this day's feast. The blessing belonging to it falls not on one day, or on a few rare and separated spots. Its light shines in through all the frost and fruitage of the year. When the star in the east came and stood over where the young child was, and looked in on the Bethlehem stable, it saw the beginning of a reconciliation which should bring rest to the world. When the songs of the angels startled the shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks by night, it was the first strain of a harmony in which we bear our unworthy part this morning, to sound on till it is completed, where it was begun,-in Heaven. The manger is a cradle for all the anxieties and sorrows and fears of our hearts, where they may sleep in childlike peace. The human nativity of Jesus is the Divine birthday and new creation of the soul.


The Old and New in Jesus.

MATT. i. I.

"The Book of the generations of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."

CHRISTMAS Comes but once a year; and it is of all the feasts and festivals the most honoured, the most generally celebrated, the most happy. The birth of the Babe of Bethlehem has taken hold of the imagination and heart of Christendom so strongly that it seems impossible for it to remit the rejoicing over it. In all lands under the sun, where Christian hearts beat, and Christian praise is heard among ice-bound northern fastnesses, and in the many isles of the sea-in India and China, and in the wild back woods, and the new cities of the setting sun, the day of Christ's nativity is a day of gladness, and peace, and kindly greetings, and good wishes, and cessation from accustomed toil, and friendly gatherings, and feastings. The union of Christendom is on no other

occasion so apparent. A common sentiment binds Puritan and Ritualist, Conformist and Dissenter in one holy Catholic association. The humanity of the Religion which was cradled in a manger, and embodied in a helpless Babe, triumphs over rival creeds and churches and sectarian bitterness, and churches are one in their manhood, which cannot agree in their sainthood.

We go out into our woods and plantations, and bring into our houses and churches bright green leaves and berries red and white; we brighten them with remembrances of the living powers of nature, its unquenchable energy and productiveness, its endurance amid wintry frosts, and storms, and desolations. And we do this, not because Druidicial mysteries and rites of our heathen ancestors had consecrated holly, mistletoe and ivy, but because we have an instinctive sense of the appropriateness of the association of the hardiest and most lasting forms of living beauty in the physical world, with the mangercradle and the person of the Babe of Bethlehem. Nature has been a preparation for his coming; nature has prophesied of him; nature has looked and longed for him, and anticipated him as her King. The earnest expectation of the creature has waited for this manifestation of the Son of God. As the evergreen defies the sharp and biting frosts, and lives through dark and sunless days, then brightest because all things else are so gloomy and sad; so the hope of Christ has lived in the world, surviving long delay, surviving the depressions and heart breakings of ignorance, cruelty, selfishness, wickedness, unjust laws, cruel oppressions of class, and base, bloody wars. Amid the wholesale destruction of human life in the ancient empires, the hope livedevergreen in human hearts-that the Deliverer, the Vindicator, the Redeemer would surely come; and strengthened by that hope, men lived on when otherwise they would have sought death rather than life.

And this beautiful custom associates our thoughts with the brightness which this Child has brought to the gloomy desolations of the times; with the changes wrought by His advent in human conditions and in human prospects; with the living energy of His spirit in recreating human society, and with the lasting influence of His life's work. The memory of the Babe of Bethlehem is fresh and green to-day, after all the Christian centuries which lie between us and the manger-cradle, as it was when His first cry thrilled His mother's heart, and angels sang in sweetest accents, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will to men. And what is true of the Memory is true of the Life itself. It was manifested then, it is manifested still. There has been no withering, no decaying, no loss of vital force. Amid changing generations Christ has remained the same, without variableness or shadow of turning. Winters have come and gone, summers have brightened, and darkening shadows have marked their decline; kings have lived and died; nations and empires have been founded, and have grown great, and have fallen, and their place has known them no more ;-but Christ lives in unchanging and immortal youth-lives the King of all men, lives the Fountain of Truth, lives the Saviour of the lost, lives the Sanctifier of humanity, lives the centre of all other life and the hope of the world's future. The Babe of Bethlehem-He is alive for evermore-the leader and guide and everlasting glory of His saints.

Christmas is, also, especially the children's festival, the festival of the family. To-day there will be gatherings under the roof tree which sheltered the scattered brothers and sisters in their childhood and early youth. Where they

survive, the father and the mother will live in the gladness of children and children's children. Where they have been gathered home there will to-day be sweet but tearful recollections of their tenderness, gentle love, holy fidelity, and perfect ways. Some of us who are getting on in the life's way, to whom it is nearly midday or evening, cannot live through the day without seeing faces we would give much to see in the flesh, looking down upon us from the home of the many mansions, without hearing whisperings which none hear but ourselves, without some tears of memory for the loved who are for the time lost to us. I do not know how it can be otherwise, or why it should be sad for us thus to think. Heart wounds do often on such days bleed afresh; still these experiences are not only recollections, they become, more and more, anticipations. "We shall go to them!" becomes more and more firmly, untremblingly, almost joyously, the silent song of our hearts, as amid the play and merry glee of the youngsters who know not what we think, we commune with the friends who have gone before us to the unseen world; and, as we grow older, we sing on these days ever more and more. Some become almost desolate before their turn comes, and even the younger go before them. Some places will be felt to be vacant to-day which were filled last year, and some chords will be struck and will vibrate, O, so painfully, for a few moments, when it is once more realized, as only at such times it can be, that they are not here. We set the funereal urn upon our table with the feast. But can we do otherwise, when so many guests have gone away? But do you think that because they are not with us in the flesh, that the Babe of Bethlehem is nothing to them, that they have ceased to be interested in our Christmas celebrations and Christmas joys? Oh, no, brethren, it could not be. The Lord who became a little child, where He is now, is the source of their life, the fulness of their joy. They see His face as His mother, and the wise men from the East, and the shepherds, and angel visitants saw it; and they sit with Him at His table, and their joy is unspeakable, lacking only our presence with them and resurrection glory to perfect its fulness. In thinking of Him and in worshipping Him-in looking and longing for Him-we are in sympathy and concord the most perfect with them. The same Lord is theirs and ours, and we are nearer to each other, though our eyes are holden, than we sometimes think. There is only the thinnest veil of sense between us and them;—lifting it, one single step would carry us to their embrace. One day it will be so, and when the earthly celebrations of the Saviour's Birth are going on again, we shall be spectators of them from above, we shall be engaged in the higher and more perfect communion and worship of the heavenly, with those whom now we miss, and for whom we sorely long.

They feast and play, and they abandon themselves They do not comprehend,

But our family festival, it is the children's, as well. sing songs, and the elders tell tales of long ago, and to happiness because of the Babe born in Bethlehem. as yet, the reason of it all. But, as in all such cases, they are of the weightiest character. This Child brought life into a dead world, and recreated society. He made the earth a place to live in while it was becoming only a valley of Ideath. He laid His hand on the fountains of life and unsealed them. He brought blessedness for child life, which, without Him, had been dark and sad. He prepared for it a home in the Kingdom of God and He sanctified it. He lived and suffered and wept as a child that He might wipe away the tears of

childhood, soothe its sorrows, chasten its joys, and relate the Divine power and grace to the weakness and immaturity and helplessness of infancy. Christ, the Lord, was once a Babe-from what small beginnings do mightiest powers grow? Christ, the Lord, was once a Babe-then inexperience and immaturity are not unblessed conditions of life. Christ, the Lord, was once a Babe-then, in every stage of human development may mortals receive His grace. Christ, the Lord, was once a Babe-then may we assure ourselves that He is interested in our's, that He is ready and able to bless them, that when we cannot teach or influence them, He can guide, uphold, and save them. Christ, the Lord, was once a Babe, and therefore we can understand why He said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." But while such thoughts as these rise almost unbidden on this Day of glad Festival, we must not overlook the wondrous significance of the words with which the record of its great event opens. The first New Testament testimony about Jesus Christ is a genealogical table. The first record is the book of the generations of Jesus Christ. What are we to understand by this? What does such a fact signify?

1. A man's beginnings, a man's ancestors have something to do with both his character and his life. Men are not separate units. Men do not each in turn begin at the beginning. There is in each an independent will; but each inherits the past. In each the past is brought forward. We are not absolutely new creations, but partly old and partly new. We not only come into a world that is made, but we come bearing marks of the men and women who have gone before us in the long procession of life. We all have peculiarities of character, which we have made for ourselves. We have others which have been made for us, and which we cannot help. If our ancestors had been different, we should have been different. We also have a book of the generations. We read it in bone, and sinew, and muscle, and colour of the hair, and brightness or dimness of the eye, sluggishness or activity of the limbs, quickness or heaviness of intellect, strength or weakness of feeling, and in a thousand traits of character which mark us off from all the world. And Christ was thus involved and mixed up with the life of the world. He was bone of its bone, flesh of its flesh. He had a clearly defined ancestry. Whatever difficulties lie in the way of the perfect understanding of the genealogies—they are genealogies, lines of His descent from old world ancestors whose blood ran in His veins, and whose impress was more or less on His character.

2. Christ was the sacred heir of all the ancient world. All the past centred itself in Him as it had existed for Him. There was in the world a curse and a blessing, they were in ceaseless antagonism. The seed of the woman was to bruise the serpent's head. Christ was the promised seed. But there was a preparation for His coming, and He inherited, embodied, and consummated the blessing, but was also touched by the curse. There were Abel and Cain, Shem and Ham, Abraham and the heathen world. Through the Abrahamic line, the promise of the Abrahamic covenant, Christ, came. His descent is traced from Abraham to David, from David to His mother and adoptive father. In His ancestors He had lived through all previous history, and He treasured all up in His own person. He was of the seed of Abraham. The promise was "in thee and thy seed shall all the earth be blessed." The blessing was one hereditary. Christ sprang from the Fathers. All the grace of their spiritual manhood was in

Him. He inherited their nobility. But with all this we see also the operation of the curse. There were faithless patriarchs, there were fallen women, in the line of the promised seed. The fallen nature asserted itself once and again in the case of those who were ancestors of the Royal Prince who was to unite in Himself both kingship and priesthood. It is at first sight a startling fact. Thamar, Rahab the harlot, Ruth, the Moabitess, Bathsheba, all stand in the genealogy. But is not this fact of immense importance, as showing us how absolutely identified our Lord is with us. He was human as we are human, He had to take upon Him the infirmities and weaknesses, and sicknesses of the past. He inherited both the blessing and the curse in His own person, as we all must and yet do. He was in all things made like unto His brethren. It was not a sacred and holy pedigree working itself out into perfectness, then, which produced the Holy Child, Jesus. There was nothing physical merely in His perfectness. He bore the curse as men have ever borne it, and as men never could bear it. Because of this, He was indeed the Man of Sorrows. But in spite of the imperfect descent, the flaw in the pedigree, He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. The goodness of Jesus had nothing necessary, nothing mechanical about it. In spite of the failure of His ancestors He did not fail. In spite of the transmitted influences of the family, he was "without sin." In our very physical conditions He kept Himself. Here is the great lesson of the past. It is not constitution, but spirit that creates perfect goodness. It is not hereditary sanctity but perfect choice that ennobles character. Salvation was wrought out for the race amid all manner of hereditary disqualifications, but it was wrought out perfectly. We may inherit broken constitutions, and feel how much more difficult our probation is on that account. But, when we are tempted thus to excuse sin and failure, let us never forget that in such circumstances Christ achieved mightiest triumphs over the power of wickedness.

3. The genealogy reminds us how all the past was preparing for Jesus, Abraham saw His day, but it was afar off. He sowed seeds which ripened with Isaac; but he lived not with the Promised Deliverer, and so he sowed the newly ripened seeds again. Each generation of the fathers tried some new experiments in living, discovered some new weakness of humanity, laid hold of some new ideas essential to the reign of the promised King, and the atonement of the promised Priest. The line was a long one, but necessarily so. There were experiments in patriarchy, in theocracy, in monarchy, in despotism, in priestly rule, in heathen philosophies and economies, to be tried before human helplessness could be ascertained, human necessity felt, to the full, human power be disciplined for the Kingdom of God. The Book of the Generations suggests the Divine Education and training of the children of promise, and the children of the world and the flesh, for the coming of the Great Teacher, and Saviour, and Lord. There was preparation going on for Him in all nations, in all families. One nation was working out one series of experiments, and another another. But all tended in one direction, to exhaust the unassisted human capability, to show the necessity of Divine interposition, to demonstrate how far man could go alone, how inevitably the most favoured nations must break down under the stress and strain of temptation; and then, when the world was thus actually proved to be "without strength," when the world was worn out when the fulness of the times had come, Jesus, the world's Saviour and King was born in Bethlehem,

« PoprzedniaDalej »