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“ 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.t” Finally they will be attendant and ministering servants, when Christ shall come to raise the dead and judge the world.
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,
1. 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 to the conrupt and carnal fashion of those, who turn a Chris. tian 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 Da. vid, 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 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 inhabi. tants 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 enquire after the new-born King, and to do him homage. Then indeed a consi. derable 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 dread. ed 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 publick 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 comeliness; 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 sorrows and acquainted with grief.*"
* Rev. v. 9-14.
† Heb. i. 6.
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, heark" ening 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-Ephratah, though “ thou be little among the thousands of Judah; yet " out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to
Ps. cüi. 20.
"be ruler in Israel ; whose goings forth have been “from of old, from everlasting. *" They saw " the “ Desire of all nations,” actually come ; † and they celebrated the accomplishment of Isaiah's prediction, “ Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; “ and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and “ his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, “ The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The “Prince of Peace. I." 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, “ Unto us a 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. ” 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 is that was made," " was now made flesh and dwelt “ among us ;” and angels first beheld “his glory, " the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father. || " They saw him, “who being in the form of God, " thought it not robbery to be equal with God," "make himself of no reputation, take upon him the
* Mic. v. 2
+ Hag. ii. 7. Isa. ix. 6.
1 John, i, 1-14.
y leb. ii. 14-16.
“ form of a servant, and the likeness of man; that be« ing found in fashion as a man, he might become “ obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. *" With astonishment, they witnessed him, “ by whom “ all things were created that are in heaven, and that “ are in earth, whether they be thrones, or dominions, " or principalities, or powers ;--for whom all things " are created ;--and by whom all things consist;” they witnessed this glorious Creator and Lord of all " come in the flesh;” that he might be the visible “ Image of the invisible God;” and as Head of the church, inherit all things, and have “in all things the “ pre-eminence : for it pleased the Father that in him « should all fulness dwell. t» .
Into “ these things the angel sdesire to look :" here they contemplate with fixed attention and unwearied admiration; for they behold " in the church the “ manifold wisdom of God.” The heavenly host knew who the infant in the manger was, and for what ends he came : they were ready to adore the Child born as the mighty God: they recognized their Creator and Lord, under this disguise; and with good old Simeon they viewed him as “ the Light of the gen“ tiles and the Glory of his people Israel.”
In this humble scene they saw the opening of that grand design, which had been shadowed forth by the ceremonies of the law, and of which the prophets from the beginning had excited the highest expectations : that design which had been obscurely intimated when Adam sinned, and gradually unfolding for about four thousand years. “ The great mystery of godliness,
* Phil. ii. 6–8.
† Col. i. 15.-19. Heb. i. 1 -3.