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“ I bring
us still under the curse. Whatever the merits or the virtues of this divine person, stili he would have been unable to save his people from their sins. Nor would it have been glad tidings to us, even if he had wrought out an atonement for our sins, in a measure, and left us to merit our pardon before God, by our improvement, our repentance, and our obedience: because, unable in the least, to work anything acceptable before God, utterly defective in the best of our services, had justification depended in the least on our own merit, we never could have been justified before God. And these glad tidings would have been again extinguished, nor would they have been glad tidings for us, (though justification had been free,) if we had been left to prepare ourselves by our own unassisted efforts for heaven. The blood of Christ should be our title; because our efforts would have left us corrupt; because all the motives with which the Gospel furnishes us, would have been insufficient to enlighten or subdue that great power of corruption with which we have to struggle.
But these were glad tidings of great joy, because they announced a Saviour who should be all-sufficient ; who should accomplish the work which required two natures—divine and yet human—who should atone for transgression, and make an end of sin, and justify those who believe in him, and sanctify them through faith ; making them meet for heaven, and raising them by his merit and power to a place in glory by himself, from whence they should never fall.
This blessing was not to be confined to a few. It was these simple shep"herds to whom the first tidings were brought: but the angel said, you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” And if the words “ to all people” referred chiefly to the Jews, yet the very fact that the angel would not confine the message to those few to whom it was delivered, but that it announced at once that all people should share in the joy, leads our thoughts to that which a number of other passages abundantly confirm—that he was not the Saviour of the Jew only, but the Saviour of the Gentile: and in the widest sense of the word, this would be glad tidings of great joy to ali nations, for “all nations shall be blessed in him, and all nations should call him blessed."
The last point to which our attention is called in the passage is, the view which the angels of God are represented as taking of this event. Not only did one herald angel come to announce the Saviour's birth, but scarcely had he finished his message, but “suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God.” Numbers stopped to witness that scene at Bethlehem; numbers were delighted in the hearing of men to praise God for his accomplished purposes. Since angels are the messengers of mercy to our world, (and obviously by their ministry here, they seem to take an interest in the great things of redemption,) we may believe, we may hope and rejoice in the imagination, that they conveyed this news to other worlds also ; and that as they were the heralds of God's goodness here, they are so throughout the universe; everywhere proclaiming as the result of Christ's work, in this our inferior world, Glory to God in the highest heavens, and on earth peace, good-will towards men."
These angelic beings are elsewhere represented as praising God for his mercy. Not that they were redeemed, or directly interested in his work; but as our Lord afterwards assures the disciples—“There is joy in the presence of the angels of God, over one sinner that repenteth :" and the birth of Jesus Christ promised, as they well knew, to people heaven with myriads of repentant sinners. They rejoiced with benevolent sympathy, at the unbounded happiness which he was going to communicate to others. Nor less would they rejoice, with liberal pleasure, at this manifestation of God's unbounded goodness, and delight in the manifestation of the divine perfections, unparalleled in the history of heaven; and in which they would see their Maker's glory more plainly, more refulgently, more dazzlingly than in all his other works. No wonder that they were seen by the shepherds, uniting with that herald-angel in singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men.”
My brethren, if our minds are rightly tuned—if by prayer and meditation we are ready to embrace such truths as these-how much there is which may solemnize, and aniinate, and cheer, and sanctify the heart. Let us now, in dependence on God's blessing, looking for his grace, each one for himself, and all for all, try to enter on these blessings. Let us endeavour to apply them to our own personal convictions, our sanctification, our comfort. Let us remember that the child which was at Bethlehem presented to these shepherds, was indeed, according to the testimony of the angels, the Saviour, the Christ, the Lord. He is a Saviour to us. When we think of that lowly scenc, however humble, however simple, let us remember, that He who laid there, in all the helplessness of infancy, was our Saviour-that blessed Being who came to rescue us from the cruel dominion of Satan, from the miserable penalty of sin. He was our Saviour, by unknown sufferings intending to raise us to unknown glory. He was Christ, the anointed of God, in whom you and I are called to exercise unhesitating confidence. He was the Lord; he, by all that condescension which he manifested in coming, is worthy to reign over all our hearts. You and I, my Christian friends, are his property ; we are bound to employ our faculties and time to glorify him : his will must be ours, if we are his constant disciples; for this Jesus is Christ the Lord. Nor ever, unless we mean to shape our course by his will, to follow his holy guidauce, give ourselves to his service, conform to his image, and live for his glory-never let us call him Lord. Let our lips falter in pronouncing his name, since, while we call him Lord, we do not acknowledge his dominion, we do not yield to his empire. If Christ Jesus sunk so low-so far from losing his dignity by that condescension, it was that which manifested all his glory: and by that are we bound for ever to be his. While we gaze at this manger, let us not interfere with his goodness ; but let it not make us forget his majesty.
But again, glorious as he is, and though he is the Saviour, Christ the Lord, the exalted Redeemer, who is the Head over all things to his Church, yet let us combine with that glory his poor condition, that we may feel an abundant assurance, that he accounts nothing beneath him to do for the humblest of his disciples. His manger, these swaddling clothes, ought to be an utter refutation to that suspicion which ever arises in the minds of many of Christ's disciples -that they are beneath his notice. Did he, all-glorious as he was, assume this infirm nature of ours to himself, and endure, in his own personal experience, tire infirmities of childhood, as well as manhood? Then who of his disciples here can say, that he is not ready to sympathize with all their feelings, and to
watch over all their interests ? In everything that you can ask him to do for you now, my Christian friends, there could be no self-denial, there can be no sacrifice: but when he became a child for us, it was a sacrifice unparalleled; it was then that he shewed the depth of his condescension. It were ungratefu. to him, instead of being humility in you, if ever you doubt that that exalted Saviour condescends to all your infirmities, and sympathizes in all your feelings.
But again : since our Lord came down to this low condition, and was a child in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger, let it teach us all to renounce for ever all high and lofty thoughts. If he consented to be thus low for us, it is utterly unbecoming the disciples of Christ knowingły to cherish pride. I might urge upon you to avoid a tyrannical disposition, against which it is said God sets himself; which is found, in fact, to be inconsistent with gratitude, and devotion, and trust, and love. Think of it in this lightthat it is utterly inconsistent in those that are the disciples of the Saviour, who was willing to be born in a manger for our sakes. Did he manifest such low. liness of heart in his whole course on earth, and in his choice of the position in which he stood on earth? How, then, can we call ourselves his disciples, if we nourish the contrary disposition? Do I address any of the people of God, who are placed by his providence in low, obscure circumstances? Never for one moment repine at that allotment of your Father in heaven, since you see, that hereby you are conformed to the condition of Christ. Do I address any here who suffer from the pride of their fellow creatures ? Let me entreat them never to repel pride with pride-which is our natural temper, which is the disposition we find rising in our souls ; but remember how Christ condescended when on earth to meet pride, ever by unconquerable lowliness. Do I address any whom it has pleased God to afflict in various ways? Never let the thought be chérished by you for one moment, that he is dealing with you harder than you deserve. Come to this scene at Bethlehem; gaze, in imagination, on the Saviour, a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger; and then feel, that, whatever God appoints to you in your course to heaven, yoụ may always take gratefully and patiently, because it is his appointment.
And may we all earnestly strive to subdue more and more each lofty thought which rises in our minds. Remember that pride is not an inference of the understanding, leading us to judge ourselves superior to others; or it would be less evil in its influence, and more easily kept in moderation : but pride is an imperious temper-perhaps I should rather call it a passion, of the heart, leading the person before examination, promptly, and in an exaggerated way, to think highly of himself; and because it is deeply rooted in our nature, it requires the greatest and the most continued exertions to remove it, or even to diminish it in the soul. Look then at the example of Jesus Christ; and let each one who is conscious that this evil prevails in his character and in his heart, earnestly set himself to eradicate it before God: let him see the wickedness of it; and let him contemplate the defilement which it causes in his soul : and in the presence of One who was once a child for him, once for him laid in a manger, let him abjure those high thoughts, confess his sinfulness as a sinner, consent to be nothing in the presence of God, and not wish to be thought highly of by his fellow men. I would wish to be understood, not to urge on any one that lie scorn the opinions of the best and of the wisest of his fellowcreatures. This were only a new, and a worse, species of pride. But I would wish that each one would consent that he should be thought to be as weak, as tempted, as sinful, as he knows himself to be ; not taking pleasure in receiving that approbation of men, which his own heart convinces him that, as a guilty sinner before God, he does not deserve.
Thus gazing on the Redeemer's lowliness at Bethlehem, until all high and swelling thoughts of ourselves are gone, may we, as guilty sinners, receiving the salvation of Christ as the effect of redeeming love, delight in glorifying the grace of God, and lose sight of ourselves altogether.
Again we find, that the birth of our Saviour is termed here “ glad tidings of great joy." It follows hence, that all who rightly understand the Gospel, must find it a source of great joy to their own hearts. Is it so with you, my Christian friends? Does the news of Christ's birth and ministry on earth, make you this day happy? Do you feel that in this one thought, you have a Saviour, Christ the Lord, you have enough to make you happy ? “I bring you," said the angel, “good tidings of great joy;" and those good tidings were, “Unto you is born a Saviour." My brethren, born for us; he is our Saviour, if we are his disciples. Do we feel it to be good tidings of great joy? If not, it is plain, either that we are not the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, or else that we have lost that realizing view of the glory of his person, and the nature of his work, and so are in a state of mind in which it is utterly unbecoming his disciples to continue. He is born as a Saviour to us; and if our faith is in lively exercise, this must make us happy. He is our Saviour, and he has, therefore, borne away the load of our sins. He is our Saviour, who shelters us from the wrath of God; and we shall have a place in the heavens when we are made lowly enough to dwell there. He is our Saviour from sin, whenever we look to him to shelter us against its power. He is our Saviour, who has all power in his hands to guard us from every ill. He is our Saviour, and unchangeably the same: he will never leave us, nor forsake us. He is our Saviour, accepted of God : angels, thrones, and powers being placed beneath his feet; and he is controlling all events for our good. He is our Saviour, and the guilt under which we lay is removed ; and the sins which we have to struggle with, shall be subdued also. If he is our Saviour, no promise of God to his people can fail to us; no good thing will the Lord withhold from us, while we are found walking in his way. He is our Saviour, and we should rejoice in all he has been, all he is, and all he will ever be to us, in all his glorious promises revealed in us by his present power and love. He is our Saviour, and the Saviour of those that are his. Parents, you should rejoice, in thinking of bim as the Saviour of your children; and the husband should think of him as the Saviour of his wife; and the friend should regard him as the Saviour of his friend. When you think of those that are dear to you, to pass so soon from this present state of being to another, 0, accompany that thought with the remembrance, that there is One mightier than you, ready to welcoine them there, and shall gather you, and those that are belonging to you, into glory with him, to be for ever happy : for this is an announcement of good tidings of great joy, not to one or to two, but to all people.
We may permit our thoughts to rest upon this blessed truth; this gracious Saviour is diffusing his blessings far and wide. When you think of the joy
that is poured into your own hearts, and anticipate the future with so much gratitude and peace, then extend your view to those whom you love best here, thanking that good and glorious Deliverer, who has snatched them from the gulf on the brink of which you were placed. Nor let this be the extent of your thoughts : remember he is prepared thus to bless the world. And when you
think how happy your home has been made, and ho x happy the heart of your child and your friend, by the love of (hrist, then say in your own mind, it is thus that he will bless the world; and unnumbered sinners, now lying in darkness and the shadow of death, shall, one day or other, acknowledge Christ the Lord, and in that acknowledgment find everlasting bliss.
Then, lastly, does this message set before us, as an example, the alacrity with which the blessed spirits of heaven conveyed this news to fallen man. My brethren, they had no such cause to praise God for redeeming love as we have, and their alacrity should not outdo ours in making the Saviour known. If Christ makes you happy this day, you feel happy, not because you are wealthy —not because you are strong—not because your time is busily and well occupied in employments you delight in—not because your friends are many, and you meet them in circumstances of comfort—but because you have a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. Remember this, too, is the highest and most enduring happiness of any sinner: and whilst so blessed of God, let it be your prayer, and let it be your effort, to communicate that happiness, so far as in you to be God's instruments in diffusing these great blessings throughout the world. And this day, while rejoicing in the love of a found Saviour, entreat a gracious God that he may be found in the whole family of man. Let us never think coldly of the extension of that great cause, which angels came down from heaven to earth thus gladly to make known to sinners.
Above all, this day, give your minds, my Christian friends, to rejoicing meditation on the person and on the work of Christ; and let not our happiness at this season of the year, be derived merely from seeing around us happy faces, or from counting up the blessings of God's providence, or taking, for one moment, a pleasing respite from the busy cares of life; nor in any of that kind of enjoyment in which the world finds delight, in unseemly revelry and merriment. Let our happiness be this—that we have a Saviour-and let tnat thought at once sanctify and endear all the gifts of Providence, and all the employments of time; and send us forth to the world again to serve him with more zeal, fidelity, and peace, than we have hitherto done.