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BY THE REV. HENRY HUNTER, D. D.
THE name of SAURIN, as a preacher and a Scripture critic, is so well known, and so highly respected, as to render any panegyric or recommendation of mine altogether unnecessary. His great work, entitled "Discourses Historical, Critical, Theological, and Moral, on the most memorable Events recorded in the Old and New Testaments," is in the hands of almost every Protestant Divine who understands the French language. Of this the first volume only has been given to the English public, by a respectable layman, John Chamberlayne, Esq., of the city of Westminster, presently after the publication of the original at the Hague, in 1723. Unhappily for the world, Mr. Saurin did not live to accomplish that arduous undertaking: his valuable labours being interrupted by the stroke of death, before he had quite finished the sixth discourse of vol. iii., which contains the period of Solomon's piety and prosperity. The work was, however, very creditably continued and completed by Messrs. Roques and De Beausobre. A republication of Mr. Chamberlayne's volume, and a translation of the other five,bers of the subject. would be an important, and no doubt an acceptable addition to English literature.
The late Reverend Robert Robinson, of Cambridge, has given a very good translation of five volumes of the "Sermons" of "Saun," selected from twelve, of which the original consists; to these he has prefixed "Memoirs of the Reformation in France," and of "Saurin's Life." This work has been so well received all over Great Britain, that a third large impression of it is already nearly exhausted: a striking proof, surely, of the author's extraordinary merit as a Christian orator, especially if it be considered that this approbation is expressed in an age and a country daily enriched with original displays of pulpit eloquence, and whose taste is rendered fastidious by profusion and variety of excellence.
But the public, it would appear, is still disposed to receive more of Mr. Saurin's Sermons, for I have been frequently and importunately solicited to undertake the translation of what remains: a request with which, I acknowledge, I felt no great reluctance to com
ply; being thoroughly convinced that no compositions of the kind are more calculated to be useful to mankind. By the reception given to this volume I shall be enabled to determine whether it is proper to desist, or to go on.
The attentive reader will readily perceive that I have made the arrangement of the subjects part of my study. When I found any of the links of my chain anticipated by my respectable predecessor in the works of translation, I refer to it, that those who choose to read in a series may be saved the trouble of tracing it from volume to volume.
As the originals are much longer than the generality of modern sermons, and as I suppose these may probably be adopted by families as part of their serious domestic reading, I have taken the liberty to divide most of them into two, and some into three parts, in the view of relieving the exertion of the person who reads, and the attention of the hearers: introducing nothing of my own, except sometimes a few lines of recapitulation, where it seemed necessary to connect the several mem
To one advantage only over my predecessor, do I presume to lay claim, congeniality of sentiment with my author on certain points of doctrine, of rites and ceremonies, of church discipline, and some others, in which Mr. Robinson differs from him. There must be many passages, accordingly, which he disapproved while he translated; and some sermons he probably omitted altogether, because they coincided not with his religious belief. Under this disadvantage I did not labour in executing my task; as I agree in almost every point with my great original, and possibly translated with peculiar satisfaction what Mr. Robinson had reluctantly, or saw it his duty entirely to leave out. His readers and mine will, undoubtedly, exercise the same right of private judgment, and, I trust, practise the same candour and forbearance which he and I thought ourselves obliged by precept and by example to recommend. H. H.
THE SONG OF SIMEON.
LUKE ii. 25-30.
And behold there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law; then he took him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.
"Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive," Gen. xlvi. 30. This was the exclamation of an affectionate father; might I not have said, of a weakly affectionate father, on a memorable occasion in his life. If such an emotion savour not of heroism, it is at least an effusion of nature. Joseph had been the centre of a fond parent's tenderest affections. Jacob had for more than twenty years been impressed with the belief that this dearly beloved son was devoured by an evil beast. He displayed every token of affliction that could be expressed by the paternal heart, on the loss of a child, a darling child, thus cruelly torn from him. After so many years of mourning, he is informed that his son is yet alive, that he is exalted to the most eminent state of power and splendour which the king of Egypt could bestow; that he had sent to bring his father down to him. Every instant now appears an age to the good old man, till the period of their reunion arrives. Every thing that retards the accomplishment of his wishes seems to defeat it. He trembles to think on the length of the way, on the dangers of such a journey, on his own debilitated frame. He departs at length, he reaches the desired haven: he beholds with his eyes the endeared object of so many earnest prayers. He feels himself in the embrace of his Joseph, he feels his visage bedewed with the tears of filial love. Joy deprives him of the powers of utterance, and with difficulty the faultering tongue can pronounce the words which Moses, if I may be allowed the expression, seems to have derived from the bowels of paternal tenderness: "Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive."
A greater than Jacob, my brethren, or rather a greater than Joseph, is here. Simeon had received from God the assurance of having his life prolonged till his eyes should see the promised Messiah. On the accomplishment of that promise depended the solution of these anxious inquiries, so interesting to the wretched posterity of Adam:-Is there any mitigation to be expected of that fatal denunciation, "in the day thou eatest of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, thou shalt surely die?" Gen. ii. 17. Did so many oracles, which announce a Redeemer, proceed from God, or
from men? Is it possible that the love of God should rise so high, as to immolate his own Son in the room of the guilty? In a word, is the expectation of Israel well founded, or is it chimerical? The promise is at last fulfilled: that divine infant at last appears, whom God had "prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of Israel," Luke ii. 31, 32. Already has an angel of the Lord announced his advent to the shepherds: already has a multitude of the heavenly host made the air resound with these triumphant strains, "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men," Luke ii. 14. Already have the sages of the east arrived to render him supreme homage, as to their sovereign. What remained to Simeon, after having seen the Saviour of the world, but to take possession of the long expected salvation? He accordingly takes the child in his arms: his faith is now changed into vision, and his hope into enjoyment, and he in transport exclaims, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy sal
This devout rapture is to be the subject of our present discourse, and its import we shall attempt to unfold, after having made a few reflections of a different kind, tending to elucidate the text.
I. We are to make a few preliminary reflections, for elucidating the text. And here it is natural, in the first place, to inquire, who this Simeon was, who acts such a distinguished part, at this period of the gospel history? But all that can be added to the narration of the evangelist is merely a tissue of conjectural traditions palpably false, or, at best, extremely uncertain. Cardinal Baronius, on the authority of some ancient doctors of the church, insists that he must have been of the sacerdotal order. This they attempt to prove from the words of the passage under review, “He took the infant Jesus in his arms," as if to present him to the Lord; an idea not supported by any one of the circumstances recorded in the gospel. Certain modern doctors believe him to been the son of the celebrated Hillel, who was chief of the sect of the Pharisees. They even go so far as to assert, that he was the father of that Gamaliel at whose feet Paul was brought up. With respect to his condition, a variety of fables are retailed descriptive of his person; such as that he was blind, and recovered his sight on receiving our Saviour into his arms: and that other, of his being one of the interpreters of the Septuagint version;§ that having found many passages which predicted that the Messiah was to be born of a Virgin, he refused to translate them; nay, that he substituted the term Woman in place of Virgin, in translating the noted prediction of Isaiah vii. 14: that having closed his tablets, on opening them to resume his labour, he found the word Virgin miraculously substituted in place of Woman; that he besought
Baronius ut supra.
Allatius de Eccl. Occid. Col. 1648. Niceph. Hist. Eccl. lib. i. cap. 2. Paris, 1630.
God to grant him an explanation of this wonderful phenomenon, and his prayer was answered: once more; that having seen in the temple various women presenting their children, he had distinguished the holy Virgin by certain rays of light which surrounded her person, on which he thus addressed the other mothers: "Wherefore do you present these children before the altar? Turn round, and behold this one, who is more ancient than Abraham." Fictions, of no higher authority than what is farther related of him, namely, that the Jews, jealous of his talents and virtues, and, more especially, scandalized at the testimony which he had borne to Jesus Christ, had refused him the honours of sepulchre: that his remains, after having reposed a long time at Constantinople, in a chapel dedicated by James, denominated the Less, were conveyed to Venices in the thirteenth century.
Dropping, then, legends of such doubtful authority, let us satisfy ourselves with exhibiting Simeon under three authentic characters, which while they lead us to an acquaintance with the man himself, will give us an idea of the state of the Jewish nation, at the era of the Messiah's birth. The first respects the faith of Simeon; "he waited for the consolation of Israel." The second respects his piety and moral conduct; "he was just and devout." The third respects his gifts and privileges; "he was divinely inspired, and it was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ."
1. "He waited for the consolation of Israel," that is, for the Messiah. This phraseology was adopted by the ancient Jews, and is still in use among the modern. "The years of the consolation," is a usual expression employed by them to denote the years of the Messiah. One of their most solemn oaths is that which appeals to the consolation: and one of their most common formularies is to this effect; "So may I see the consolation, as I have done such or such a thing; so may I see the consolation, as my testimony is consistent with truth." The prophets themselves employ the same style: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God: speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem," Isa. xl. 1. "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek. . . . to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord; and to comfort all that mourn," Isa. lxi. 1, 2. 'Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains; for the Lord hath comforted his people," Isa. xlix. 13. It were easy to prove, that these are so many oracular predictions, which the inspired authors of the New Testament, the only infallible interpreters of the Old, understood as descriptive of the Messiah. And proofs would multiply upon us without end, were we more particularly to undertake to demonstrate, that the title of the consolation is peculiarly adapted to our Lord
Jesus Christ: but however instructive such reflections might be of themselves, they would carry us too far from the present object of pursuit.
We could only wish, that the faith of Simeon might assist you in forming an idea of the state of the Jewish church prior to the coming of the Messiah. Believers, under that dispensation, entertained the same expectation with Simeon: like him they waited for "the consolation of Israel."
We by no means presume to affirm that their ideas on this subject were exempted from prejudice. We well know that they assigned to most of the oracles, which announced a Redeemer, a sense conformable to the colour of their passions. Isaiah, who represented him as "despised and rejected of men," Isa. liii. 3, had, undoubtedly, a more just conception of him than the sons of Zebedee adopted, Mark x. 37, when they requested of him the most distinguished honours of his kingdom. Daniel, who predicted that "Messiah should be cut off," Dan. ix. 26, entered, undoubtedly, much more profoundly into the view of his coming into the world, than Peter did, who having heard him speak of the death which he was to suffer, "began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee," Matt. xvi. 22; Job, who contemplated him by the eye of faith," as standing at the latter day upon the earth," Job xix. 25, 26; and who hoped to behold him eye to eye, even after worms should have destroyed his body," knew incomparably better the blessings which he was to purchase for mankind, than those grovelling spirits who expected from him temporal enjoyments merely. Even those of the Jews whose understanding was most clearly enlightened, had much less penetration into the mystery of the cross than the meanest of Christians, and according to the saying of Jesus Christ, "He that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is, in this respect, greater than John Baptist," Matt. xi. 11, and then all the prophets; nevertheless they all lived in expectation of a deliverer: they all considered him as the centre of every divine grace: they all waited for him as "the consolation of Israel." This is the first character given us of Simeon.
2. He was just and devout. The epithet just must not be taken in a literal and exact sense. Beware how you give a lie to revelation, to experience, to your own heart, whose concurring testimony evinces that "there is none righteous" upon the earth, no not one;" imagine not that Simeon by his virtues merited the privilege of "seeing the Lord's Christ," and of partaking of the fruits of his incarnation. The righteousness of Simeon consisted in the efforts which he made to work righteousness: his perfection, in the desire with which he was animated to go on to perfection, and in the regret which he felt that his attainments were so inconsiderable. The sacrifices which he made to God, derived all their value from the mercy of that God who was the object of his fear. Let this great principle of Christian theology be deeply impressed on your minds: lose sight of it, no not for a moment, and be constantly vigilant lest the impure doctrine of the merit of good works find admission among you.
But wherefore suggest cautions to this effect? | wherein we come to announce the revival of Wherefore should these walls so frequently the reign of Jesus Christ in the midst of us, by resound with truths of this class? My brethren, the celebration of his incarnation and birth; by you have so effectually excluded, by your cold- the commemoration which we are to make ness in the performance of good works, the next Lord's day in the sacrament of the supper: doctrine of their merit, that there is little room if at this season, when we are crying aloud to to entertain the apprehension of its ever finding you in the words of St. John, "prepare ye the an establishment in the midst of us. And it is way of the Lord:" should you with the multian undeniable fact, that this error has gained tudes who attended his ministry, inquire, sayno partisans in our churches; at least, if thereing, "and what shall we do?" We would be any, they have kept themselves invisible. reply, wait for "the consolation of Israel," as We have seen many persons who, under the Simeon waited for it: "bring forth fruits worthy power of illusion, imagined they had fulfilled of repentance." the conditions upon which the promises of sal- Prepare the way of the Lord," ye great vation are founded; but never did we find one ones of the earth; lead the way in a procession who advanced a plea of merit. But what we of penitents, as the king of Nineveh did, when have seen, and what we have cause every day the preaching of Jonah_thundered impending to deplore, and what is involving multitudes in destruction in his ears, Jon. iii. 4. 9. "Humutter ruin, is our frequently deceiving ourselves ble yourselves under the mighty hand of God," with the belief, that because righteousness and 1 Pet. v. 6, "by whom kings reign, and princes the fear of God are not meritorious, they are decree justice," Prov. viii. 15. Employ the therefore unnecessary. What we have seen, power with which Providence has intrusted and what we have cause every day to deplore, you, not in a vain display of furniture more is the unhappy persuasion prevailing with magnificent, or of equipages more splendid; many who bear the Christian name, that be- not by assuming a deportment more lofty and cause the advent of the Messiah is a dispensa-intimidating; but in curbing bold and insolent tion of grace, it gives encouragement to licen- vice; but in maintaining the cause of truth and tiousness and corruption. Let us not employ justice; but in wiping away the tears of the such ingenious pains to deceive ourselves.- widow and the orphan; but in rewarding serMultiply without end, ye "disputers of this vices rendered to the state; but in procuring world," your questions and controversies, it respect to the solemn institutions of religion; will never be in your power to prevent my but in preventing the circulation of indecent clearly discerning, in the doctrine of the gospel, and corruptive publications; and, as far as in this twofold truth: on the one hand, that the you lies, in levelling to the ground that monbest preparation for receiving the reign of ster infidelity, which is rearing its daring foregrace, is that which Simeon made; "he was head in the midst of you. just and devout, and he waited for the conso- "Prepare the way of the Lord," ye pastors lation of Israel." On the other hand, that the of the flock. Distinguish yourselves from primost insurmountable obstacle which can be vate individuals, not only by the habit which opposed to this reign, is impiety and injustice. you wear, and by the functions which you disPrepare ye the way of the Lord, make charge; but by your zeal for the church of straight in the desert a highway for our God. Christ; by your unshaken firmness and fortiEvery valley shall be exalted, and every moun- tude in opposing those who impudently transtain and hill shall be made low: and the crook-gress; but by preserving a scrupulous distance ed shall be made straight, and the rough places from every thing characteristic rather of the plain, and all flesh shall see the salvation of slaves of this world, than of the ministers of God," Isa. xl. 3; Matt. iii. 3; Luke iii. 6. This the living God. was the voice of the forerunner of Jesus Christ, and wherein did he make this preparation to consist? The preparation of him who had "two coats" was to "impart to him who had none," Luke iii. 11. The preparation of him who had meat was to act in like manner. That of the publicans was to "exact no more than that which was appointed them," ver 13. That of the soldier was to "do violence to no man, to accuse no one falsely, and to be content with his wages," ver. 14. The preparation of all
was to "
"Prepare ye the way of the Lord," professing Christians. Celebrate your solemn feasts, not only by frequenting our religious assemblies, but by a holy abstinence from those secret abominations, and those public scandalous practices which have so long inflamed the wrath of heaven against us; which even now are scattering the seeds of discord through these provinces; which are draining the resources of our country, which are tarnishing her glory, which present to our eyes, in a lowbring forth fruits worthy of repent-ering futurity, vicissitudes still more calamiance," ver. 8. Without these, the reign of tous and more deeply ensanguined than those grace was the reign of wrath: without these, which have already cost us so many tears, and the axe was already laid unto the root of the so much blood. tree; and every tree which brought not forth good fruit was to be hewn down, and cast into the fire," ver. 9; and this Messiah, this Redeemer of mankind, was to come with "his fan in his hand, thoroughly to purge his floor; to gather the wheat into his garner; but to burn the chaff with fire unquenchable," ver. 17. Ah! if at this period of the gospel dispensation, when we are exercising, in some manner, the functions of John Baptist, if in these days
This, this is the only effectual method of waiting for deliverance and redemption. Far removed from us be those frivolous terrors, which would suggest, that to be subjected to the yoke of Jesus Christ, is to derogate from his merits! And let us not deceive ourselves; there is not a single particular in the system of the gospel; there is not a single article of Christian theology, but what preaches terror, if we are destitute of that righteousness, and of that
fear of God with which Simeon "waited for the consolation of Israel." In order to our having an interest in the pardoning mercy which the Messiah has purchased for us, we must "fear God," as Simeon did; we must be just as he was; we must hold sin in detestation; we must be "of a poor and of a contrite spirit," Isa. Ixvi. 2, because of it; we must "cease to do evil, and learn to do well," Isa. i. 16, 17. In order to our having an interest in sanctifying grace and in the spirit of regeneration, communicated to us by the Messiah, we must "fear God" as did Simeon; we must be just like him, we must love wisdom; we must "ask it of God. . . . nothing wavering," James i. 5, 6; or, as the passage of St. James to which I refer might be rendered, not halting, or hesitating between the choice of wisdom and folly; we must not be like "a wave of the sea," which seems to be making a movement towards the shore, but anon returns with impetuosity into the gulf from which it issued.
Farther, in order to our having a knowledge of the doctrines which were taught by the Messiah, we must "fear God" as did Simeon, we must be just like him; for "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant," Ps. xxv. 14, and "if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself," John vii. 17. In order to our having an interest in the promises of the glory to be revealed, which are made to us by the Messiah, we must "fear God" as did Simeon, we must be just like him, for "without holiness no man shall see the Lord," Heb. xii. 14, and "having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit," 2 Cor. vii. 1. If we would attain the assurance of salvation, we must "fear God," as did Simeon, we must be just like him: "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall," 1 Cor. x. 12, and "if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee," Rom. xi. 21. 3. Finally, we are informed by the evangelist, that "the Holy Ghost was upon Simeon; and it was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ."
have the commencement of the latter days. Here we behold the prophetic illumination reappearing in all its lustre. Here the hallowed fire is rekindling, and celestial revelations enlighten a dark world. These exalted privileges are communicated first to Zacharias, who beholds an angel of the Lord "standing on the right side of the altar of incense," Luke i. 11. They are next bestowed on the blessed Virgin, whom the angel thus addresses, "Hail thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women," ver. 28. They are extended even to the shepherds, to whom another angel announces the birth of the Saviour of the world, and who "suddenly hear a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men," Luke ii. 13, 14. They are poured down upon Simeon; and we shall presently behold the whole Christian church inundated with an overflowing flood of divine irradiation. Let this suffice as to the character of Simeon.
*Talmud Hieros. Taanith, fol. vi. 1. Babylon. Joma,
fol. xxi. 2.
II. We are to attempt to unfold the import of the devout rapture which he felt. And here let us give undivided attention to the object before us, and let every power of thought be applied to discover, and to display, the emotions by which this holy man of God was then animated. He takes Jesus Christ in his arms: he blesses God, and says, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." "Lettest thou thy servant depart:" the Greek phrase literally rendered, is, thou unloosest, or settest free thy servant. The sense of the expression cannot, in my apprehension, be disputed in this place. To unloose, in the writings of certain profane authors, and the meaning is the same in our text, signifies that act of Deity which separates the soul from the body. Thou liberatest thy servant in peace, that is, thou permittest thy servant to die in peace. This object which strikes the eye of Simeon, is to him a complete security against the terrors of death. Wherefore should he wish to live longer in this world? Could it be to behold some wonderful event, or to acquire some valuable possession? But his whole soul is rapt in admiration of the object with which his eyes are feasted; the delight he feels
On this particular, I shall confine myself to
a single reflection. It supplies us with an ex-in contemplating the Redeemer, "the Lord's plication of several ancient oracles, and parti- Christ," absorbs every faculty. Could the fear cularly that of the prophet: "And it shall of the punishment of sin suggest a wish to live come to pass afterward, that I will pour out longer? He holds in his arms the victim which my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and is going to be offered up to divine justice. your daughters shall prophecy, your old men Could he desire longer life from any doubt he shall dream dreams, your young men shall see entertained respecting the doctrine of a life to visions," Joel ii. 28. The Jews themselves come? He is at the very source of life, and acknowledge,* * that the spirit of prophecy was needs only to be released from a mortal body, one of the prerogatives, which had been denied to arrive at immortality. Three sources of to the second temple. This gift seems to have meditation, well worthy, I am bold to say, of expired with Malachi. For an uninterrupted all the attention you are able to bestow. series of more than four hundred years no prophet had arisen. This high privilege was not to be restored to the church till the latter days should come; and conformably to the style of the Old Testament, the latter days denote the dispensation of the Messiah. Here then, we
1. The desire of beholding some wonderful and interesting event, is one of the most usual causes of attachment to life. There are certain fixed points, in which all our hopes seem to be concentrated. Nothing is more common among men, even among those whose character as Christians is the least liable to suspicion, than to say, could I but live to see such and such an event take place, I should die content: