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those who “ continue in sin.” He has himself declared that at the last day He will reply to all such,—“I never knew you ; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
May God give us grace to know our real state, and deliver us alike from thoughtless security, from vain presumption, and from perplexing fears.
MARY'S HYMN OF THANKSGIVING.
LUKE i. 46-50.
46. “ And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47.“ And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48. “ For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden : for, behold,
from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49. “ For he that is mighty hath done to me great things ; and holy is
his name. 50. “ And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to
generation." In the hymn of Mary here, as afterwards in those of Zacharias and Simeon, the Holy Ghost has put into the mouths of these servants of God words suited to their own situation in the first place, but also suited to God's people in all ages. The thoughts which they uttered have on that account been used by the Church to express the devotional feelings and thanksgivings which belong to every Christian.
When Mary says, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour; and that, because He had regarded her low estate ; she only utters what all have equal reason to express, to whom the mystery of godliness is revealed. For so St. Peter describes the Christian's feelings towards the Redeemer: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. The Christian rejoices in God his Saviour, as being to him all that he most needs and desires, “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. He rejoices, as the debtor, released from his obligations by the bounty of a disinterested benefactor, would rejoice in the name of him through whom he was enjoying his daily freedom. He rejoices, as a criminal at the mention of the intercessor to whose favour he is indebted for liberty and life. If we can realize to ourselves what these would feel, we can understand how our spirit ought to rejoice in God our Saviour. But we have still further reason to rejoice in Him, as strengthening and refreshing our souls day by day. He has not only relieved those who trust in Him from the consequences of past transgression, but enables them to live as those who are “redeemed from all iniquity :" He is not only the benefactor who has purchased their freedom, but He gives them power to stand fast in the liberty wherewith He hath made them free from the law of sin and death.” So that, whether the Christian looks to the natural condition out of which he is raised, or to the gracious condition in which he is placed, or to the hope which is set before him, he has perpetual cause to say, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour.
The hymn proceeds to notice the unexpected way in which the Almighty had shown his mercy to one who feared Him, and done great things for a woman of lowo degree, whom from henceforth all generations should call blessed, while the rich and powerful had been passed by.
51. “ He hath showed strength with his arm ; he hath scattered the proud
in the imagination of their hearts. 52. “ He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of
1 1 Pet. i. 8.
53." He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath
sent empty away. 54. “ He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55. “ As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.”
To this meek and humble virgin, it appeared a subject of wonder and thankfulness that God had chosen her to be the instrument of fulfilling his gracious design: He had scattered the lofty imaginations of the proud, and put down the mighty, and had exalted one of lowly station. This however is, prophetically, a description of the whole Gospel dispensation. It is in its character humbling. It puts down the mighty from their seats of pre-eminence and security, and levels them in the dust before God. Are they to be really secure?-they must have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Are they to be really strong ?--they must be strong in faith. Are they to be truly rich ?—they must be “ rich in good works.' So too must the proud, the self-righteous, descend from the imaginations of their hearts, and cease to justify themselves before God, as if they were
not as other men are ;” but must consent to pray, 66 God be merciful to me a sinner.” The Gospel has nothing for those who have need of nothing;” it sends empty away all that in their own conceit are rich and increased with goods ;" but it fills the hungry with good things : it supplies those who hunger and thirst after righteousness," with rules for godliness, with the knowledge of God's commands, with grace to “ will and to do, with a comfortable hope of divine favour. Therefore, “ let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted : but the rich, in that he is made low :" low in his own esteem, but great, through faith, in the sight of God. “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy ; I dwell in the high and holy place ; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
2 See Rev. iii. 17.
8 James i. 9.
4 Isa. lvii. 15.
Such would be the effect of that dispensation which was now about to be revealed. And in revealing it, God had remembered his mercy : had fulfilled the covenant which, in the beginning, He had made to Abraham and his seed for ever. So long a period had passed since it had been first promised that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, and that in Abraham all the families of the earth should be blessed, that it might appear as if God had forgotten to be gracious, and shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure. But now He had remembered his
and holpen his servant Israel.
And this may be our confidence, in regard to all the promises of God. They are delayed, only that they may be more surely and completely fulfilled. His mercy is on them that fear Him throughout all generations. And sooner or later, those that now may go on their way weeping,” and “ sow in tears, shall reap in joy.” “Blessed are they that mourn : for they shall be comforted."
NATIVITY OF JESUS ANNOUNCED TO SHEPHERDS BY
LUKE ii. 8—14.
8. “ And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night. 9.“ And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the
Lord shone round about them : and they were sore afraid. 10.“ And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you
good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11. “ For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which
is Christ the Lord. 12. " And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped
in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” THE expectation of the Messiah was so general amongst the Jews, that, even to these men of humble
3 Gen. iii. 15; xii. 2.
education, it was no strange thing to hear announced the birth of a Saviour. Moses, however, and Joshua, had been saviours, deliverers of the people; yet themselves were frail and sinful men. He, to whom the title was now given, is distinguished as Christ, the anointed One. But kings and priests were anointed on entering upon their high office : therefore He was more : He was Christ, the Lord : He was himself God, who" was with God in the beginning.” The prophecy had been uttered : “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given : " and his name shall be called the Mighty God." That prophecy had now been accomplished : and because He was the Lord, whatever He had undertaken He was able to perform : and his birth was a subject of congratulation, was good tidings of great joy, both to those who first received the announcement, and to all people. “For God had sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved."
Whatever men will think of this, “whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear," there were those those who were best able to appreciate its importance who were watching the whole plan of mercy with joyful interest. 13. “ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly
host praising God, and saying, 14. “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward
This short hymn declares, in few words, the effect of that great event which had come to pass, the Incarnation of the Son of God. It brought, first, glory to God in the highest, because it eminently displays the attributes which belong to God. It displays his JUSTICE, which takes account of man's character, and discriminates between righteousness and unrighteousness, between obedience and disobedience. It displays his MERCY : for, though He“ will by no means clear the guilty," He is still “ long-suffering and gracious :" He has provided a ransom, by which the penitent may be absolved ; and,