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that salvation can flow only through the merits and mediation of Him who became incarnate at Bethlehem! Whilst the name and the dominion of Jesus has spread from country to country, and his cross is still extending his triumphs, thousands and tens of thousands have subjected their souls unto him, have blessed and adored him during their lives, and with rapture have pronounced his name and triumphed in his perfections in the agonies of death. Unnumbered myriads have experienced the saving efficacy of his blood; and every day and every hour multitudes are ascending to glory from the remotest corners of the globe, to swell the chorus of heaven in his praise. Ah! how little is earthly grandeur when compared with spiritual.
Though man was silent at the birth of the Saviour, the inhabitants of heaven announced to the world the precious benefit which had been conferred upon it. In the same fields, and perhaps in the very same spot in which David, under the canopy of heaven, and in the silence of the night, enjoyed delicious intercourse with the Lord and his angels; in which he composed and sang many of those delightful psalms which still cheer and animate the souls of believers ; in which, smitten by a prophetic ray, he looked down the long current of years, beheld Messiah, his son and yet his Lord, ushered into the world, and with rapture announced his future advent;—in these very fields, consecrated by the prayers and praises, the prophetic views and holy joys of David, were some shepherds sitting by night, guarding their flocks, and meditating on the works of the Creator, when an angel, surrounded with light, descended to bring them the welcome tidings that the Saviour had appeared on earth, whose distant approach David, when engaged in the same occupations with them, had hailed with so much joy. The presence of the angel filled them with apprehension; for since the apostacy of man the presence and the voice of God and his angels, instead of inspiring us with joy, fills us with terror. Until we have peace with God, we fear on beholding the heavenly host, that they are sent on that message of death and malediction which our conscience tells us that we have deserved. Even to the children of God, these supernatural appearances have something terrible. Zechariah feared at the view of the angel; and Mary herself was troubled when Gabriel appeared. The angel, perceiving their fright, hastens to comfort them. “ Fear not,” he exclaims, I come not the messenger of wrath and indignation to you; “ for, behold I bring you good tidings :" I, an angel sent from God, that by the dignity of my nature I might attest the importance of my message, and by the veracity of my character secure your assent to my testimony: I come with news worthy an angel's mouth, and becoming a descent from heaven. “ I bring you good tidings of joy :" not merely some cold, philosophical instructions, to gratify your curiosity and amuse your reason; but such as are calculated to awaken and interest all your feelings, and to inspire you with the most exalted satisfaction.
“ All people” are interested in these tidings, for they lay the foundation of happiness to all the world. All mankind is interested in knowing, that “ unto you," men, and not for the angelic race, who were passed by without proffers of mercy; unto you, shepherds, how lowly and poor soever your situation in life may be, is born, “ this day is born,” the promised and long expected “ Saviour Christ,” the anointed of God, “ the Lord" of all things. Such was the consolatory message of the angel to the shepherds. It banished all their apprehensions; it filled them with rapture. Their hearts burning with gratitude to God, were prepared to unite with the multitude of the heavenly host, that suddenly elevated that hymn of praise to the great Eternal,
Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.” No sooner had the angels departed, than the happy shepherds hastened to behold him whom “ so many prophets and kings had desired to see, and had not seen.” Having found him, they returned, praising and glorifying God.
My brethren, this relation is far from being the only one which shows us how deeply interested the blessed angels feel in the salvation of the world by Jesus Christ. But if they who were perfectly happy in the enjoyment of God, who had no need of the incarnation and atonement of the Saviour, so admired and celebrated the grace of God in giving his Son for mortals; with what burning gratitude, in what elevated strains, should mortals, who, without the advent of this Redeemer, must have sunk for ever under the wrath of God, bless the Lord for this astonishing display of divine compassion. Come then, my brethren, let us meditate for a few moments on the words of the angel; they present a subject of contemplation at all times useful to Christians, and especially suited to the season of the year in which
we now are.
1. Consider the situation into which sin had brought our race, and then say whether better tidings could ever be communicated to mortals than that Christ was born. We had rebelled against God; we were exposed to eternal torments; no arm of flesh could save us; the mightiest angel of heaven could not
have atoned for the smallest of our sins; unless the Son of God assumed our nature, to expiate for our sins, there could be no bound to our misery except eternity. With what raptures of joy then' must we hear that this Almighty Saviour has come into our world; with what fervour should every mortal tongue shout, “ Hosanna to the Son of David ; blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”
2. Consider how illustriously this birth displays the love of God to man, and you will acknowledge it to be good tidings of great joy. Well might the angels sing, 6 Good will to man;" well might John cry, “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son to us, and sent him into the world that we might live through him.” How will this enliven our devotions and animate our prayers. By the gift of Jesus we are assured that we go to a God who loves the children of men, and is ready to bestow upon them what they need. No mercy is now too great for us to ask, no blessing too precious for us to expect from God.
3. Consider the blessings which Christ brings with him; and then say whether his birth is not tidings of great joy. He comes loaded with heavenly gifts and celestial benedictions; with every thing that is requisite to secure our felicity, or save us from wo. By him our ignorance concerning God and our dearest interests is dispelled, and the treasures of divine wisdom opened to us. By him the Holy Spirit is procured to deliver us from the dominion, and an expiation made to save us from the guilt, of sin. By him heaven is purchased for his followers, and the flames that were kindling around them for ever quenched. He brings with him, in one word, (for
the enumeration of particulars would be endless,) all that God has most precious; he offers us God himself, as the adequate and eternal portion of our souls.
Surely then we must rejoice at this birth of our Saviour. Simeon, Zachariah, the shepherds, all to whom it was announced, shouted the praises of God. The prophets, who beheld it but at a distance, predicted it with transport and ecstacy. The angels descended from heaven to felicitate the earth upon it, and to celebrate it by their songs. The blessed inhabitants of heaven, in the midst of the ravishing objects which surround them, shouted forth their praises and acclamations to the eternal Son that became incarnate. Whilst all nature is thus affected, shall we remain cold and insensible ? No: let our hearts expand with joy, and unfeignedly praise the Father of mercies, who has given a Saviour to the world, a King to the church, a Protector and Friend to all that call upon him.
But it is not sufficient for us merely to indulge the emotions of joy on this event. We should also diligently and perseveringly strive to secure an interest in this Redeemer. Though he offers salvation to all mankind, yet many thousands shall perish for having neglected him; they shall perish under accumulated guilt; they shall sink down in deeper perdition, for having added to their crimes, against the light and law of nature, the rejection of an offered Jesus. And shall this be the case with
you, my brethren? Though you have heard of the birth of a Saviour, will you live and die without any right to him, any interest in him? If so, wo to you that ever you were born! Wo to you that Jesus ever became incarnate ! Wo to you that your
lot had not been cast among