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wrapped him in swaddling clothes,” and with gest, to elucidate the case ; to secure posses the humility and resignation becoming her sion to himself
, and to erush every riraldestitute condition, “ laid him in the manger,” He summons the chief priests and scribes of leaving it to Providence to unveil its own the people, consults them respecting the desecret counsels and accomplish its own gra- terminations of prophecy, as to the birth-place cious purposes. And thus the Saviour of of the expected King of the Jews, he cost the world entered upon that state of depres- pares their opinion with the report of the sion, poverty, and suffering, which terminated wise men, and acts upon the result of that only with his life.
comparison. A coincidence of persons and But the affectingly humiliating scene in circumstances so striking, and all relating to the stable at Bethlehem of Judah is relieved one person and one point, must lead to the by the glory of the Lord shining round about acknowledgment and adoration of that God, it. That Babe neglected, unknown, despised, in whose hand are the hearts of princes, the outcast of men, is declared, by the concurring deliberations of councils, the number and testimony of patriarchs and prophets, of motions of all the host of heaven. He angels and men, by the shaking of the hea- telleth the number of the stars; he calleth vens and the earth, of the sea and the dry them all by their names; great is our lod land, to be “ the Son of the Highest.” His and of great power; his understanding is parentage, his name, the time and place of infinite.”. Augustus Cæsar, Herod, the Magi, his birth, the condition of his infant hours the Jewish Sanhedrim, the inhabitants of have all the seal of heaven upon them. For Bethlehem, of Jerusalem, all concur to give what end did Isaiah prophesy, Alexander witness to yonder Babe laid in a manger, and conquer, and Augustus give laws, but to they involuntarily assist in demonstrating the point out to the world the instant, the spot, certainty of those things wherein ye bare the descent, the estate in which the Son of been instructed: that ye might have strong God assumed our nature, in order to enter on consolation in having fed for refuge to the the work of our redemption?
hope set before you. Preparation is making in another quarter But higher testimony still than that of the of the globe, to bring a tribute of praise to potentates of the earth is given to the Lord the Redeemer of mankind. The East is of glory. Angels descend with songs to ready to contribute its gifts, is preparing its meet him at his coming : the gloom of oight gold and frankincense and myrrh to lay them is dispelled by celestial radiance; silence, at his feet. The wise men of distant nations, well-pleased, hears the sweet melody of anoccupied in the study of nature, and atten- gelic notes chanting the glad tidings of great tive to the signs of the times, are awaked to joy,“ unto you is born this day, in the city of inquiry by a silent but shining monitor. The David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." appearance of the starry heavens was well The harmony of a thousand heavenly voices known to them, they can calculate the dis- in chorus join to celebrate the advent of the tances and revolutions of each little star that Prince of Peace; to announce to a slumbersparkles in the expanse of heaven; but in a ing world Him in whose light they shine, by moment all their science is confounded, all whose power they are supported, in whose their experience is overthrown, by the ap- praise they unite, to whose will they are depearance of a new created light, in motion voted. What a wonderful contrast! A deand at rest by a law peculiar to itself, to ful- serted, friendless mother, a helpless infants fil a transitory indeed, but a most important stable, a manger! What humiliatisa like purpose, and which having pointed to "the this humiliation! A throne above the heaplace where the young child lay," is blotted vens, the homage of princes, the effulgence out of nature, and disappears for ever. of a star to mark the way to his cradle, the
Now none of these things were done in adoration of the glorious host of heared, the a corner." Christianity did not steal in up- arm of the Lord revealed! What design but on the world, without warning; all charac- the salvation of a lost world, what event but ters and descriptions of men were called in the birth of a Saviour, what person but the to give testimony to it, and without acquaint- Son of God, could warrant all this display of ance, concurrence, or co-operation they es- majesty and might? Christian, keep these tablish the same truth. The eastern Magi astonishing extremes continually in sight. on their arrival at Jerusalem, and on explain. This is bone of our bone, and flesh of our ing the reason of their journey thither, are flesh ; " as children are partakers of flesh and not treated as visionaries, who dreamed of blood, he likewise himself also took part of things that never existed, but are listened to the same; verily, he took not on him the naand respected as reasonable men inquiring ture of angels, but the seed of Abraham. In after important truth. The attention of all things it behoved him to be made like anHerod, and of all Jerusalem with him, is to his brethren, that he might be a merciful roused; that jealous and sanguinary tyrant, and faithful high priest, in things peraining takes every precaution, sets on foot every in- to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of quiry that his reigning passions could sug-l the people; for in that he himself bath suf
fered being tempted, he is able to succour | and let the whole earth be filled with his them that are tempted.” The subject teach-glory." Amen and amen. es us,
Augustus, in the pride of his heart, and an 1. How incompetent judges we are of the abject world in flattery to him, prefixed his ways and works of God. Few events if any, name to the age in which he lived—and let correspond to our preconceived opinions of this piece of vanity have its scope. With them. From the glimmering that we have, the classical, philosophic scholar, let the Auwithout any light at all save the sparks of gustan age boast of a Cicero, a Virgil, a Livy, our own kindling, we take upon us to arrange a Mæcenas; the humble Christian will rather and decide, and to limit the holy one of Is- glory in its having produced light from hearael. Like Naaman the Syrian, we have ven, which eclipsed all human eloquence and settled the mode of cure in our own mind, wisdom in their highest splendour, and, redressed it in proper parade and ceremony, signing to the schools their favourite historiand fall out with the prophet because the sim- ans, orators, and poets, will rejoice in revolvplicity of the process confounds the airy vi- ing in their place the hallowed page of sion with which our imagination had amused Luke, the beloved physician, and in listening itself. Not knowing the scriptures nor the to the fervid, native, inartificial eloquence power of God, the carnal Jews had dressed of Paul of Tarsus, and above all, in attend. out, for Messiah the prince, a throne like ing to the dignified wisdom which flowed Solomon's, of ivory overlaid with gold, had from the lips of Him who “spake as never placed him at the head of armies, had sur- man spake." rounded him with guards, had crowned him 3. Finally, this wonderful child born teachwith laurels. When the event belied their es us the value and importance of little chilgroundless expectations, with Naaman they dren. What human sagacity could penetrate turned away in a rage, saying, “ Are not Abana the thick cloud which shrouded his nativity? and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than what but the spirit of prophecy could draw all the waters of Israel ?" “Away with this aside the veil which concealed his future man, crucify him, not this man but Barab eminence? Who but a Simeon could discern bas."
in him the salvation of God, and foretell that 2. Observe here in how many instances “this child was set for the fall and rising God writeth vanity on all the glory of man. again of many in Israel; and for a sign In the pride of their hearts, the princes and which should be spoken against ?" And potentates here mentioned, vainly imagined who but He who “ declareth the end from a prostrate world to be all their own. Every the beginning, and from ancient times the will must bend to theirs; to their pleasure things that are not yet done, saying, My every power and possession must minister; counsel shall stand, and I will do all my all the while they are the mere attendants pleasure ; who but He knows what the inon the royal state of the real Prince. Their fant, now drawing its first breath, is one day names are indeed some of them still had in to become ? What dormant powers may remembrance but their power is annihilated, there lie hid! What a germ of wisdom ready their consequence is swallowed up, or if any to expand! What godlike faculties, which remain, it is derived from the relation which are at length to astonish, to delight, to bless it bears to the superior, the commanding, the mankind! Watch over the expansion. The undiminished importance of Him to whom precious seed is sown by the hand of the they gave witness, and whose state, in spite Creator. Mark its springing: mark its proof themselves, they continue to support. The gress. God has done his part
, parent, master, empire of Augustus speedily fell under its minister, see that thou dost thine. “It is not own weight, and the downfal of Rome quick- ihe will of your Father which is in healy followed that of Jerusalem, and both ap- ven, that one of these little ones should proved the truth, and power, and justice of perish.” God: while that child born, that Saviour The next Lecture will have for its subject given, holds undivided empire, and exercises the history of the infancy and childhood of unbounded sway. Eighteen centuries have Jesus Christ. May he who condescended to confirmed, not shaken his authority, and time become a little child for our sakes; who, as has discovered another hemisphere, far more He" went about doing good," encouraged extensive than the former, and added it to the approach of little child en, saying, “sufhis dominion. Let us again sing, “ His name fer them and forbid them not to come unto shall endure for ever. His name shall be me: for of such is the kingdom of God :" may continued as long as the sun : and men shall he bless us with the spirit of adoption, and be blessed in him; all nations shall call him endow us with the lovely simplicity, the doblessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God cility, the submissiveness of little children, of Israel
, who only doth wondrous things; that we may enter into the kingdom of heaand blessed be his glorious name for ever, ven.
HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
And the child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon hima
LUKE ii. 40.
Of all the wonders presented to us in the rent's heart is overwhelmed with joy. Now world of nature, man is the greatest wonder he can distinguish the face of her that suckles to himself. His body dust of the ground, him from that of a stranger, at least she faiand mouldering back to dust; reduced to the ters herself he can, while the soft murmur level of the beasts of the field; but that dust of infantine satisfaction expresses his gratianimated with the breath of life, a living soul, tude. The figure by degrees becomes erect, exalted to the rank of angels, an emanation every limb is in motion, the uncertain toogue from God himself. In him are blended, in attempts to imitate the sounds which strike a most wonderful manner, three distinct the opening ear, and the feet press downkinds of life, forming one glorious individual ward to the supporting earth; tremblingly formed " after the image of Him who created he totters into walking, and stammers into him." As the tree in the forest impercept- speech. The powers of recollection and ibly rises, increases from lowness and feeble comparing appear, the symptoms of passion ness to stateliness and strength, and having become visible, love and aversion, desire and attained full maturity imperceptibly decays, gratitude. The moral sense at length begins so the feeble infant gradually increases in to dawn, and the man in miniature fads stature, changes the grovelling into the erect himself a limited, dependent, subject, ac. form, rears his head to the vault of heaven, countable being; hence hope and fear, selfexulting in the greatness of his strength; he complacency and remorse. begins to verge towards decay, he bends to We are this evening to contemplate infiney the ground from whence he was taken, and and childhood in their loveliest and most alat length sinks into it again. But he is not tractive form, and in their most interesting like the plant rivetted to one spot, uncon- and affecting circumstances. Look yet again scious of existence, incapable of self-motion. to Bethlehem of Judea, and behold the noWith the other animals around him he feels thingness of human greatness; the offspring himself among his fellows, he rejoices in so- of kings a stranger in his paternal city, the ciety, he possesses consciousness, he is di- heir of David without a place where to lay rected by motives, he aims at a determinate his head, a Sovereign destitute of all things. end. But he is not, like the beasts that perish, When God, at the fulness of time, seat forth impelled by instinct merely, the slave of ap- his own Son, as he was made of a woman, so petite and sense. To the animal, the good was he “made under the law,” subjected to ness of the Creator has superadded the ra- all its rites and restraints however painful tional life, the faculty of contemplating that and humiliating, and the Saviour of mankind, great universe of which he constitutes a part that he might fulfil all righteousness, and be so essential, the capacity of rising from the come a perfect pattern of obedience, first poseffect to the cause, from the work to the Au- sively submitted to every ordinance of religion, thor: Man enjoys the gift of speech, whereby and then by an active and exact conformity, he is rendered capable of communicating his magnified the law and made it honourable. reflections and reasonings, of forming com- The minuter circumstances of this period of binations of power which awe, control, and our blessed Lord's life are not left on record; direct the subject world.
those excepted which relate to his public chaTo mark the progress of a human being racter and divine mission, for as to these is an interesting and delightful employment; Scripture is most exact and particular. Of to observe how the limbs acquire firmness and the progress of his infant mind no traces restrength, how the mental powers unfold them- main ; not a word is said even of the beauty selves, and all the passions of the man, in suc- of his person; though the general terms which cession, stand confessed. See the fond mother the evangelists employ warrant us in thinkbending with delight over her infant, at first; ing, that never in child born of a woman did a little pliant lump of animated clay, every such early dawnings of superior wisdom up power lying dormant save one, that of draw- pear, that never was human form so perfect. ing its nourishment from her breast. By and The modest reserve of the historians of Jesus by the eye begins to feel and follow the light, Christ, in this respect, seems to minister a the slender neck strengthens and sustains the severe reproof of the ridiculous details to be reclining head; the babe smiles, and the pa- found, in modern biography, of infantine actions and sayings, the supposed prognostics | eyes to heaven, blesses God, saying, “ Lord, of future eminence and distinction. We can now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, forgive a fond mother, nay love her the more according to thy word : for mine eyes have for the amiable weakness, when we hear her seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared repeat the pretty sayings, interpret the sig- before the face of all people; a light to ligbten nificant looks, and describe the wonderful the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Isdeeds of her soul's darling; but it excites pity, rael.” He then points him out to the byif not an ungentler feeling, to be told gravely, standers as the person spoken of by ancient from the press, of the insipid nothings which prophecy, “who should be set for the fall and a great man said and did, when he was an rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign ignorant and silly, perhaps a pert and petu- which should be spoken against;" a prediclant boy, who probably merited correction tion descriptive of the reception the Messiah where he obtained praise.
should meet with from that world which he Of our divine Master we are told what was came to redeem. The same important truth done to him, not what he did ; what was said is immediately confirmed by an ancient proby others concerning him, not what he said phetess, who, coming in the instant Simeon concerning either himself or others. And had done speaking, gave public thanks likethus was he early an instructer of parents to wise unto the Lord, and “ spake of him to all abstain from partial and excessive admiration them that looked for redemption in Jeruof their children; and to little children to salem.” cultivate that modesty, docility, and humble- Thus He, whose birthplace was determined ness of mind, which are the real ornament many ages before, by prophetic illumination, and honour of their tender age. Behold in whose natal hour was announced by one him then, parents, children, a helpless infant angel, and celebrated by a multitude of the at the disposal of others. It is of importance heavenly host: to whose feet a company of to the world to know that, at the appointed shepherds is led, with their simple offering, period, the terms of the Abrahamic covenant by a voice from heaven, and to whom eastern were complied with ; that the name of Jesus sages are conducted by an extraordinary star, was given him, according to the direction of is in the most public place of resort in the the angel; that as the first-born of his mother, Jewish metropolis, declared aloud, a few being sacred to God, he was solemnly pre- weeks after his birth, at a public religious sented to the Lord in the temple at Jerusa- service, by testimony on testimony, the aclem; for these things admonish us of the complishment of God's great purpose of mercy divine truth and faithfulness in keeping cove- to mankind. nant and promise with his people, and of the While so many illustrious personages were right which he has to expect and require producing their concurring evidence to the faithfulness and obedience on their part; of truth as it is in Jesus, exalting him to endless the character and offices annexed to that honours and universal dominion, one iscruelly sacred, precious, and venerable name, and of plotting his destruction. Agitated by jeathe self-dedication which not the first-born lousy as groundless, as it was barbarously puronly, but even all owe unto God. On the sued, Herod determines to crush at once this eighth day, then, he was circumcised, and pretender to a throne, whom so many signal named, according to the commandment, and and splendid appearances in heaven and earth on the fortieth day he was presented with the were striving to display in superior glory. accustomed offering in the temple.
To make sure of his blow, his dark remorseProvidence lays hold of this latter occasion less mind enlarges the circle of suspicion to procure a noble testimony to the high rank from a few days to two years, and from a and character of the Son of God. The spirit single feared, hated individual, to all the male of prophecy had lately revived, and many in children of a great city. Humanity sickens Jerusalem were waiting for the consolation at the thought of the dreadful tragedy of of Israel," and considered it as near at that day, when “ in Rama a voice was heard, hand. Of this number was a just and de- lamentation and weeping, and great mournvout man named Simeon, to whom it was ing, Rachel weeping for her children, and communicated by a special revelation, that, refusing to be comforted, because they are old as he was, his eyes should not be closed not.” By aiming at too much, the tyrant in death, till he had seen the Lord's Christ. misses his aim altogether. The vigour of Heaven-directed he goes up to the temple, his pursuit exerted in one direction, confined probably to entreat the speedy accomplish to one object, might have overtaken it; but ment of this gracious promise at the very in- extending the sphere, dividing the pursuit, stant when the ceremony of the law was the captive of the mighty is taken away, and performing, and the spirit that was upon him the prey of the terrible is delivered, for thus instantly points to Jesus as the fulfilling of saith the Lord, I will contend with him that the word in which God had caused him to contendeth with thee." And how was this hope. Filled with holy joy he takes the ex- deliverance effected ? Providence employs pected child into his arms, and lifting up his not extraordinary means, to fulfil its designs, wantonly and unnecessarily, but makes ordi- | not indeed by any particular text that apnary instruments to produce mighty events. pears in the sacred code, but by its whole The bloody intention of Herod is hardly con- spirit and tenor, which represent him as ro ceived in the gloomy hell of his own breast, luntarily submitting to every species of rethan it is seen of that eye which nothing can proach and indignity; the carpenter's son, a escape, and no sooner is it seen than pre- Galilean, a Nazarene, can any good come vented. In a dream, in a vision of the night, out of Nazareth! It was in this obscure vilwhen deep sleep falleth on men Joseph is ad- lage, of a region of a conquered country, monished of the danger which threatened the proverbially contemptible, that the childhood child's life, and warned to shun it, by fleeing of Christ passed unseen, unnoticed of the into Egypt. Thus at every stage of his life great world; but carefully observed of an was the Saviour of mankind hated and per- attentive mother, who, to the tender solicisecuted of men; thus the all-wise Ruler tudes of that relation, was inspired with of the universe knows how to deliver, and hopes, and animated with prospects, and torn finds a way to escape; thus' He “confounds with anxieties which no mother before or the wisdom of the wise, and brings to nought since ever could know; there this wonderthe understanding of the prudent."
ful “child grew and waxed strong in spirit, By a strange, perhaps unaccountable di- filled with wisdom,” exhibiting unequivocal rection of the supreme will, the land of signs of a superior nature, without courting Egypt frequently serves as an asylum to per- the public notice, or attracting preinature secuted goodness, protects and cherishes the homage; and thus humility, from the beprecious seed of the church. Thither Abra- ginning and throughout, marked the characham fees from the pressure of famine, and ter of the condescending friend of mankind, is thence dismissed with riches and honour. who became of no reputation, sought not Here Joseph finds refuge from the malice of glory of man, took on him the form of a serjealous and cruel brothers; from hence Ja- vant; he “strives not, nor cries, neitber cob and his starving family are repeatedly doth he lift up his voice in the streets;" and fed. Here sprung up Moses, in times of from the return out of Egypt, which was extreme danger and distress ; here he was probably not beyond his second year, up to miraculously preserved, and reared to un- the twelfth, history is entirely silent as to the exampled eminence and usefulness. Here particulars—but Ó how much is conveyed in Israel miraculously increases into a great the strong general terms employed by innation, and from hence triumphantly departs; spiration, to impress on our hearts the disco and here, finally, He whom all the rest pre- very and progress of these vailed ten years figured, and in whom their several glory May not the history of them be one of the united as in their centre, sought and found precious arcana which “ the Father bath protection from the rage of an incensed king. kept in his own power," and reserved for
This too was ordered of Him who sceth the the information, wonder, and joy of an imend from the beginning. He went down into proved state of existence, when things hard Egypt that in his return the Scripture might to be understood shall be fully explained; be fulfilled, which saith, "out of Egypt have and things known in part shall be unfolded in I called my Son." Surely, O Lord, the wrath all their connexions and dependencies; and of man shall praise thee, and the remainder infinite intelligence shall supply all the deof wrath thou shalt restrain."
ficiencies of man understanding. A vail is drawn over the sojourn in Egypt, It was in that fameless village, and in and it were presumption to attempt to draw those trackless years that the foundation was it aside: neither is it possible exactly to as- laid of a greatness which should eclipse all certain its duration. The infamous Herod created glory; of a kingdom that should meanwhile paid the debt of Nature, leaving swallow up every other; of an enterprise behind him a name loaded with the execra- which should extend its influence to the retions of the age in which he lived, and with motest ages of eternity: the detestation of every future generation to The next Lecture will, if God permit, take which the history of his enormities shall de- up the next recorded period of our Saviour's scend. His death was the signal of return history, his assuming for a moment a public to the land of Israel; but prudence suggested character at the age of twelve years, and his the retirement of the poor and despised town sliding away from it again into silence and of Nazareth, as a residence more suitable to retirement, iill his thirtieth year, the time the circumstances of the times than the noise of his final manifestation unto Israel, as the and hurry of a metropolis, the seat of faction great “ Prophet that should come into the and intrigue, or the suspiciously observed world.” city of David, to which the jealous eyes of Shall I degrade my subject, by saying it successive tyrants had been attracted by well suggests to parents many useful hints reknown prophecies and by recent portents. specting the early treatment of their chil.
As the place of Christ's birth, so that of dren? Be as tender and attentive as you his up-bringing was prophetically marked, will; listen to the voice of nature and learn