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LUKE JI. 13, 14.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude
of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.
St. Paul, having said, “ Without controversy,
great is the mystery of godliness, God was ma“nifest in the flesh ;” adds among other things, that he “ was seen of angels.” These heavenly worshippers saw the Lord of glory, their Creator and Sovereign, clothed with human flesh, and laid as an infant in a manger ; they saw him tempted by the devil in the wilderness, and ministered to him when he had overcome the enemy; they were spectators of his transfiguration on the mount, and of his agony in the garden ; they beheld him expire on the cross; they attended his glorious resurrection and ascension ; and, when he was exalted in human nature to the mediatorial throne, they did him homage, and joined the redeemed in singing, “ Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to “ receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and “ strength, and honour, and glory, and bless
ing.”? For when the Father“ bringeth in the “ first begotten into the world, he saith, And let “ all the angels of God worship him.”l Finally they will be attendant and ministering servants, when Christ shall come to raise the dead and judge the world.
' Preached on Christmas Day, 1795. ? Rev. v. 9-14.
In taking occasion from the present festival to discourse on a subject with which we should be conversant at every season of the year, I shall,
I. Make some remarks on the event celebrated by the heavenly host :
II. Explain their song of exalted praise and adoration :
III. Endeavour to bring the matter home to ourselves by some practical deductions.
And may the Lord himself direct and bless our meditations; that we may be animated and assisted, in “keeping a day unto the Lord,” after a holy and heavenly manner; and not in conformity with the corrupt and carnal fashion of those who turn a Christian solemnity into a bacchanalian carnival !
I. Let us reflect on the event which was celebrated by the heavenly host.
A poor woman named Mary, of the family of David, espoused to a carpenter residing at Nazareth, a place branded with infamy, came with her husband to Bethlehem, in obedience to a decree of Cæsar Augustus : and, there being “ no room “ for them in the inn,” which was occupied by superior people, they were lodged in a stable. In this situation Mary was delivered of a son, whom she “ wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a
1 Heb. i. 6.
manger."—Nothing at first sight appears remarkable in this event, except the extremely mean and inconvenient accommodation made for the poor woman and her infant; and the unfeeling neglect shewn to a person in her circumstances by the inhabitants of Bethlehem. Indeed the affair seems scarcely to have been noticed in that city: and we do not find that it was heard of at Jerusalem, till the child was presented at the temple according to the law of Moses; when a few
persons of eminent piety were made acquainted with it. The rulers, scribes, and priests in general knew nothing of these transactions, till wise men from the east came to inquire after the new-born King, and to do him homage. Then indeed a considerable degree of attention was excited; and the tyrant Herod caused the infants about Bethlehem to be cruelly murdered, in hopes of destroying one whom he dreaded as the rival of his authority. Soon after, however, the report seems to have been forgotten. The child born at Bethlehem was brought up at Nazareth with Joseph the carpenter, and doubtless earned his bread at that laborious trade ; till at length he entered on his public ministry, which he closed by an ignominious death upon a cross. Thus“ he grew up “ before the Lord as a tender plant, and as a root “ out of a dry ground; he had no form or come“ liness; and, when the people saw him, there “ was no beauty that they should desire him : he “ was despised and rejected of men, a man of sor“rows and acquainted with grief."! And, if the
Jews knew little of the infant at Bethlehem, and the carpenter's son at Nazareth; the gentile rulers, conquerors, and philosophers were entirely unacquainted with him. All over the earth, which he came to bless, he was disregarded or despised : yet angels witnessed and celebrated his birth with admiring songs of praise !
These blessed spirits, free from guilt and perfect in holiness, want not a Saviour.
They excel in “strength, and do the Lord's commandments, “ hearkening to the voice of his words.”] Their capacities for wisdom and understanding are very great; their judgment and taste for what is beautiful and glorious are exactly conformable to those of the holy God whom they adore ; and the hope of being at length made like them, and equal to them, should excite a noble ambition and emulation in every human heart. But the event which had taken place at Bethlehem, and which we this day commemorate, appeared to them of the greatest possible importance, and worthy to be celebrated with their most rapturous adorations.
In the infant laid in a manger they recognized the “ seed of the woman,” the spotless offspring of a virgin-mother, who was to come and “ bruise “ the serpent's head : " and “the seed of Abraham, “ in whom all nations should be blessed.” They knew that Mary was come to Bethlehem according to the purpose of God, that the ancient prophecy might be fulfilled : “But thou, Bethlehem-Ephra“ tah, though thou be little among the thousands “ of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth
i Psal. ciii, 20.
“ unto me, that is to be ruler in Israel ; whose
goings forth have been from of old, from ever
lasting.” They saw “ the Desire of all nations' actually come ;2 and they celebrated the accomplishment of Isaiah's prediction, “Unto us a Child “ is born, unto us a Son is given; and the govern“ ment shall be upon his shoulder; and his name “shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The
mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince “ of Peace.”3 One of the company therefore said to the poor shepherds, “ Fear not, for behold I “ bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall “ be to all people : for unto you is born this day, “ in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ, “ the Lord.” They could not say, “ Child is born, unto us a Son is given :” “ for
verily he took not on him the nature of angels, “ but he took on him the seed of Abraham."4 He came into the world to be a Saviour: he was the Christ, the promised Messiah, the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King ; yea, he was “The Lord :" “ The second man is the LORD from heaven." “ His name is Emmanuel :" for “God is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” “ The Word, who was in the beginning with
God, and who was God, by whom all things “ were made, and without whom was not any
thing made that was made,” was now " made “flesh and dwelt among us ;” and angels first beheld “ his glory, the glory as of the only-be
- Unto us a
1 Mic. v. 2.
· Hag. ii. 7.