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ON THE PRESENTATION OF CHRIST IN THE
LUKE, ii. 29.
Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in
peace, according to thy word.
THESE words call us back to that interesting event in the early history of our Lord, his presentation in the Temple; upon which occasion, as you know, the aged Simeon broke out into that rapturous song of triumph, which now forms a part of the daily service of our Church. “Behold,” says the Evangelist, “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 unto 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 took he 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 which thou hast prepared before the face of all people,-a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph, and his mother, marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.” It is impossible, by any attempt at illustration, to add to the effect of these simple words. There is a mingled character of Divinity and Humanity about them which, of its own accord, wins its way to the heart, and which all language of man would only profane while it endeavoured to expound. All, therefore, which I shall aim at in the following observations, is to derive from this incident such reflections as may have a holy and beneficial influence upon our hearts, particularly as applicable to the present season, in which the Lord seems again to be entering into his Temple !
* Preached on Christmas-day,
1. The first observation which here presents itself respects the grandeur of the scene which we are contemplating. It is the entrance of the King of Glory into his earthly Temple: the first visible manifestation of a Divine Nature unto a world of ignorance and sin. Throughout all the universe of creation, indeed, the Deity has ever been made known in his works. Day has unto day uttered speech, and night unto night shewn forth knowledge.” “ He has never left himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from Heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with joy and gladness.” Among the chosen people of old, more distinct manifestations still, were made in the miracles of their history, and in the mysterious sanctity of their Temple. But this was the first time in which a Divine Nature appeared personally among men. He appeared in the Temple at Jerusalem, which had been hallowed by the worship of many ages; but this was only as an earnest, that He was now appearing in the wider Temple of the world, and was from henceforth even to dwell with fallen man. It was this triumphant union of Heaven with earth which inspired the song of the holy Simeon ; he felt that that heavenly peace which had been promised in the long inspiration of prophecy had now descended among men; and he longed to depart in the midst of it, and not to outlive that gracious hour in which his eyes actually saw the salvation of God,—saw that light beaming around the Divine and Innocent Form before him which was yet to spread over the nations, and to carry the glory of Israel “ before the face of all people.”
Can there, my brethren, be a contemplation more calculated to awaken our piety, and our sense of the Holy Presence in which we stand, than the feeling, that to us, too, that light has come, --that it has penetrated the distance of climes and of ages, and now shines around us with all its original brightness, far removed as we are from the place and the time of its memorable rise ; and are we not called to purify our souls in so blessed a presence,-to feel that it is not
now alone the world of man in which we live, but that we are, in truth, surrounded by a Divine Spirit; and in the greatness of this contemplation, to have our hearts filled with the high exultation of Simeon, and to rejoice that that light is still continuing to spread, and is going on, in the steady course of Providence, “ to lighten the Gentiles ?” We cannot, indeed, too much enure ourselves to those glorious conceptions; and, under the impression of them, seek to throw away all the weights which fetter our souls,—to look round upon the world as, indeed, the world of God,—as the Temple in which His real presence dwells,—and in which we, amid the glory which surrounds us, are called to utter the voice of praise, and gratitude, and joy!
II. If the grandeur of this contemplation be the first view which it presents to us; there is, in the second place, something no less interesting, and, perhaps, no less instructive in its simplicity. While the glory of a Divine Nature is revealed to us, still the course of human existence seems to suffer no interruption. Nothing appears to outward view, but the Temple,