Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

wisdom from the wise, and courage from the brave and to confound all his devices.

He knew also, that it was equally easy for God to turn again his captivity. He knew that his wisdom is infinite, his power almighty, his resources endless; he knew that "his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure." It would be well for us to remember this in our difficulties, and to view a change in our distressing circumstances, as turning simply on the will of God. "If he speaks the word, I shall be healed. If he favours my cause, I am released. He knows how to deliver. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.' It does not become his people ever to despair. He cannot come too late. Balaam may prepare altars, and offer sacrifices; but how can he 'curse whom God hath not cursed?' Nebuchadnezzar may heat the furnace, and the faithful servants of God may be even thrown in; but the God whom they serve is continually able to deliver them. Had he interposed earlier, the salvation would not have appeared so marvellous and divine. He often makes our extremity his opportunity. For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself of his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left."

murmur.

Thus Eli before him had said, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good." And thus his Son and his Lord long after, and almost on the very same spot, exclaimed, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me except I drink it-thy will be done."

I have been thinking what helped to produce this disposition in David. Now there were two things in himself, and two in God, which promoted this resignation: and I mention them because they ought equally to influence us in our calamities.

There were two things in himself. The one was a sense of his own Unworthiness. A consciousness of our desert is necessary to our submission under the afflictive dispensations of Providence. When this prevails, instead of wondering at our trials, we only wonder at our exemptions and mitigations; and say, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not." It was thus with David. A recollection of the ungrateful and guilty part which he had acted, stopped his mouth, and

made him silent in the dust. "I have behaved more undutifully towards my father and my sovereign, than ever Absalom did towards his. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him. Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sin? Surely it is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more. That which I see not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do so no more.'

99

There were also two things in God which aided this acquiescence. First, his Sovereignty. "Has he not a right to do what he will with his own? Did not he find me a poor shepherd? Did not he raise me to the throne?

III. He professes A FULL ACQUIESCENCE IN THE DISPOSAL OF THE ALMIGHTY. "But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee: behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good to him." Here are no imprecations of vengeance against seditious subjects, and a-And if he requires me to lay down the rebellious son; no bitter complaints of instru- sceptre, and reduces me back again to humble ments; no 66 charging God foolishly;" no life-he is righteous: his authority is un"teaching God knowledge." He falls down questionable. I have nothing that I can call at his feet, wishing to be raised up, but will- my own: and he can take nothing that is not ing to remain. He mourns, but he does not his."

The other was his Ignorance. For while the former convinced him that he had no right to choose, this persuaded him that he had no ability. He knew that he had often been deceived; deceived both by his hopes and fears; that he had desired things which would have been his ruin, and dreaded things which had proved some of his chief mercies; that "the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Hence he referred himself to God, as to one who knew what was best for him, saying, " Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother, my soul is even as a weaned child."

"Peace, all our angry passions then ;
Let each rebellious sigh
Be silent at his sovereign will,
And every murmur die."

Secondly, his Goodness. The authority of God awes us, and we say,

But it is something else that produces the cheerfulness of submission. It is the principle which actuates him—which is love; it is the end he has in view-which is our profit: it is a belief that however things may be determined, with regard to our feelings they "shall all work together for our good;" it is a conviction that if we suffer, these sufferings are as necessary as the knife to the vine; as the furnace to the gold; and as medicine to the body. This, and this alone can enable us cordially to say, "Behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him."

Let us be followers of David in this holy resignation of ourselves to the pleasure of God. There are two reasons why you should aspire after this state of mind.

First. It will be very advantageous to yourselves. In passing through a vale of tears

you must expect to weep; but as you cannot | present-let us view God's hand in all events escape afflictions, surely common prudence and that we may not be afraid of the future will lead you to ask, how you are to bear-let us view all events in God's hand. Amen. them? Now this acquiescence in the will of God is the preparation of the Gospel of peace, with which you are to be shod. Thus prepared, you may travel on through the wilderness—but what will you do if barefooted, when you meet with thorns and briers? To vary and enlarge the metaphor-impatience turns the rod into a scorpion. While the yoke presses the neck, patience lines it with down; and enables the man to say, It is good for me to bear it. There is nothing so likely to obtain the removal of your afflictions, as this submissive frame of mind. In chastising a child, what would move you like this yielding; like the ingenuous confession, "My father, I deserve this; and I hope it will be useful to me through life?"-I borrow the image "I have surely heard Ephraim bemoan himself thas; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustom-ders it peculiarly seasonable. Let us thereed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be fore indulge ourselves in a few reflectionsturned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely upon his Incarnation-his Empire-and his after that I was turned, I repented; and after Names. that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth. Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord."

To "him gave all the prophets witness." But what testimony was ever borne him like this!-Here we have a prediction at once the most clear in its application, the most glorious in its contents, the most consolatory in its design. And the return of this day ren

I. WE HAVE HERE HIS COMING IN THE FLESH. "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given."

It is remarkable, that all this should be spoken of as present. In the time of Isaiah, the event could only be prophecy-but it is proclaimed as history. The Church of those days could only have expected this blessing; but they mention it as actually enjoyed—a child is born: a son is given! Purpose and execution, promise and accomplishment, are the same with God. "One day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." The divisions of time which with us mark the past, the present, and the future, are nothing to him, whose being is one continual now, and who says of himself, "I AM is my name, and this is my memorial in all generations." And faith, uniting us to God, elevates us into his views, and makes us partakers of his excellences: "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

But for whom is this blessing designed? Who are authorized to say, unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given? The persons to whom he was immediately sent were "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." "He came first unto his own, and his own received him not." This was not, however, universally the case. There were some "who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem." Simeon, Anna, and others, eagerly embraced him as "the consolation of Israel." Some, affected by his preaching and miracles, also believed in him. All his first followers and his twelve Apostles also were Jews. Since then, an awful blindness has happened to this singular people: and "even unto this day, when Moses is read,

Secondly. Nothing can be more honourable to religion. To surrender ourselves to the Divine disposal is the purest act of obedience: to subdue our unruly passions, is the greatest instance of heroism. It ennobles the possessor. It renders him a striking character. Nothing is so impressive as the exercise of the passive graces. It carries conviction into the minds of beholders, and forces them to acknowledge that there is a reality, and an excellency because there is such an efficacy in "the glorious Gospel." "The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in the sight of God of great price."

But you say Is all this attainable? It is. We readily confess that it is no easy thing thus to refer ourselves to God; especially in practice. We here see the Christian in his best frame, and in his best moments. But it is practicable-it has been exemplified by thousands of the same nature and infirmities with yourselves. It is practicable-I mean by Divine grace. And this grace is sufficient for you, and is promised to you. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For whoso asketh receiveth; and whoso seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." We conclude with the remark of an old Divine. That we may not complain of the

DISCOURSE XXII.

THE CHILD JESUS.
(CHRISTMAS.)

For 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 Won
derful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The
everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.-
Isaiah ix. 6.

the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."

But he was to be a more general blessing. "It is a light thing," says God, "that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth." And hence the angel said to the shepherds, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." None therefore are excluded from hope on this blessed occasion. He is come to die for the ungodly, for enemies, for sinners. Surely here is a sufficient warrant for personal and universal application to him. Unto you and you-and you-" is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord!" Some indeed will not eventually derive salvation from him: but he himself has assigned the reason, and beyond this we should not go: "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life." If people spurn the remedy, we need not inquire why they are not cured.

But what is the benefit acknowledged? Unto us "a child is born," unto us a "son is given." And is there any thing wonderful in this? Do we not hear of it every day? Is it not the privilege of almost every family? And is there indeed nothing wonderful in the birth of an infant? How marvellous is the union of soul and body! What a mysterious thing is human life! How admirable the provision made to relieve its wants, to support its weakness, and to rear its tender years!

What are other children at twelve years of age? The mind is only beginning to open; the ideas are trifling and unarranged; it is the transition from foolish into intelligent. Behold this child when twelve years old, doing his heavenly Father's business; sitting in the midst of the doctors both hearing and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. After this he went down to Nazareth, and was subject unto his own parents. And here a large proportion of his life is concealed from our view. We only know that he received no learned education, and have reason to believe that he laboured with his own hands; for in one place he is called "the carpenter." But when he appeared in public, he spake "as never man spake." He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He cast out devils. "He went about doing good." "He died for our sins: he rose for our justification." And he "entered into his glory, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." What a gift was here! But this brings us,

II. TO CONSIDER HIS EMPIRE: "The government shall be upon his shoulder." The utmost that a child can be born to is to fill a throne; and we deem this an enviable honour. But if we should be fortunate enough to reach the pre-eminence, what a short time does he hold the sceptre, before it drops from his feeble hand by the decays of nature; or is forced from his grasp by the effects of violence! But the child Jesus is decreed a permanent, unchangeable authority: "His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. And the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever."

The birth of any infant is a far greater event than the production of the sun. The sun is only a lump of senseless matter: it sees not its own light; it feels not its own heat; and, with all its grandeur, it will cease to be: but that infant beginning only to breathe yesterday, is possessed of reasonclaims a principle infinitely superior to all matter-and will live through the ages of eternity!

But this child is all prodigy. He is miraculously conceived; and born of a virgin. His coming "shakes the heaven, and the earth, the sea, and the dry land." For what other child did ever the heavens assume a new star? Wise men come from the east! Angels descend from glory? Ye rulers of the earth, "I said, ye are gods;" but, with all your pride and vanity, at the birth of your first-born son-the stars roll on in their trolled by his power. He girds them and courses angels pursue their work-the fes-guides them, though they know him not. As tivity is confined to human beings, and to a far as they move in the direction of his pursmall circle of them-neighbouring countries pose, they are invincible; when they oppose scarcely hear of it. it, a straw checks and overthrows them. He

And over what a molehill does the most extensive worldly monarch reign! The Babe lying in the manger claims unbounded empire. There is not a being in the universe but is either his subject, or his slave. He has "the keys of hell and of death." All the affairs of this world are under his management. Nothing occurs by chance. "It is he that determines concerning a nation, and concerning a people," to establish, or to destroy; to enlarge, or to diminish. They are all in his hands but "as clay in the hands of the potter." He is "King of kings and Lord of lords." They are amenable to his authority; they rule by his permission; they are con

is peculiarly King in Zion. He is "a Prince" | awful task has the tutor of youth! What a as well as "a Saviour" to his people. They weighty undertaking has the pastor of a conthat know his name not only trust in him, but gregation!-But think of the affairs of a kingsubmit themselves to him. And their sub-dom!! Ask the rulers of this world, whether mission is natural and cheerful, because he government be an easy and an enviable conputs his laws into their minds, and writes cern. How distracted is the head that wears them in their hearts. While they obey his a crown! "I am not able," says Solomon, commands, they also acquiesce in his dispen- "to go in and out before so great a people." sations. To him they refer all their temporal "I am not able," says Moses, "to bear all this concerns, and are willing that he should people;" hence he had assistants provided choose their inheritance for them. Thus he him. The weight of government is too much has a kingdom within a kingdom; a kingdom for one person, and therefore it is divided of grace within a kingdom of his providence among many. A king has his council, his -and the one is subservient to the other. ministers, his officers. He cannot be all eye, "He is head over all things unto the Church, all ear, all hand; he therefore avails himself of which is his body." He has every thing ne- the eyes, the ears, and hands of others. But the cessary for the defence of his people and the King of saints stands in need of no help: infisuccess of his cause. Therefore this "king nite as his empire is, he manages the amazing shall reign and prosper. He shall have do- whole without fatigue, and without perplexity. minion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him. His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed."

III. LET US REVIEW HIS NAMES. Names are designed to distinguish, to describe, and to honour. In common, a single name is sufficient for a single individual. Human excellences and accomplishments are rare and solitary. One man attends to the stars, and we call him an astronomer; a second is skilled in the species of plants, and we call him a botanist; a third speaks well, and we call him an orator. The name generally sums up all claims of each. But what a number, and what a variety of sublime titles are employed to show forth the praises of our Lord and Saviour!" His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!"

First. He is Wonderful. He is so principally in the constitution of his person. Here we see combined deity and humanity; finite and infinite; all-sufficiency and omnipotence; weariness and want. This is "the great mystery of godliness" which will for ever employ the admiration of the redeemed "God was manifest in the flesh. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." Indeed his whole history appears to be unparalleled. His manner of life; his mode of teaching; his death; his resurrec tion; his dealings with his people in providence and grace-are all marvellous.

Much has been said on the subject of government, and volumes have been written to ascertain the prerogative of princes, and the duties of subjects. While men are depraved beings, absolute power lodged in the hands of an individual would be dangerous. Authority must therefore be limited; one part of government must be a balance to another; and laws must be placed above men. But could a governor be found perfect in wisdom and goodness, who in all cases knew what was proper to be done, and would be always inclined to do it, his power could not be too absolute, nor his authority too uncontrolled. Such a being is the Lord Jesus and therefore he is 66 the blessed and only Potentate; and has all power given unto him in heaven and in earth."

But where does this government, thus all his own, rest? 66 Upon his shoulder." This may appear to some a coarse image. Ancient poetry, however, has beautified it by representing a man bearing upon his shoulders the pillars of the universe. But what was this fabled Atlas? The world with all its concerns really depends on the Redeemerhe "upholdeth all things by the word of his power." And government upon the shoulder is significant: it implies burden; difficulty. It cannot be administered without much labour and care. And this is one reason among others why we are commanded "to pray for kings, and for all that are in authority!" Who can need our prayers so much! What a charge devolves upon a parent when Providence puts into his hands a living mercy, and says, "Take this child and nurse it for me: I constitute thee its governor, and at thy hands will I require it," What an

66

Secondly. He is Counsellor. He appears for us in court. He is "our advocate with the Father." And while he pleads our cause above, he guides our affairs below. In "him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." He is the source of all spiritual knowledge. "I am come," said he, "a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. Counsel is mine!" Yes, blessed Redeemer, every wrong step we have taken through life, has been oc Icasioned by our disregarding thy instructions.

To thee may we henceforth bring all the difficulties we feel with regard to doctrine and duty, experience and practice, our condition and our circumstances; and daily and hourly may we ask, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"

Finally. He is "The And of all kinds of peace. by reconciling us to God. -by reconciling us to our

destroying our pride and envy, and inspiring us with humility and benevolence. Peace within us-by reconciling us to ourselves: not to our sins-but to our remedy, our dependence, our duty, and condition. When this takes place, the troubled conscience is calmed; the tumultuous passions cease from their raging; tormenting fears and distracting anxieties give way; we are careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication we make known our requests unto God, and "the peace of God which passeth all understanding keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

It was thus that he addressed his sorrowing disciples when he was departing from them: "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." And remember that there is no peace worth having but his. The ungodly and the people of the world may be insensible of their danger; they may banish reflection from their

Thirdly. His name shall be called "The mighty God." And he would not be called so unless he were so. Unless he were so, the attributes which are essential to deity would not be the properties of his nature, and we should never have read of him in the Scriptures of truth, as knowing all things, as omnipotent, as everywhere present, as eternal. Unless he were so, the works which are peculiar to deity could never have been performed by him, nor the worship which is peculiar to deity be claimed for him and rendered to him. We do not here consider this doctrine controversially: it stands in a situation which shows its importance, and the connexion it has with the experience and hope of believers. Thus he is mighty to save; no case, however desperate, with regard to our-minds; they may live in what they call pleaselves and creatures, can be too hard for him. sure, and say to their soul, take thine easeThis principle enters into all his offices. It but "There is no peace, saith my God, unto gives infinite value to his righteousness, and the wicked." But Jesus procures, reveals, efficacy to his death. It renders all he does produces a peace the most valuable. "He for us and in us, divine. healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up Fourthly. He is "The everlasting Fa- all their wounds." Ye weary and heavy ther," or, as it is better rendered, "the Fa- laden-let your burdens be what they may ther of the everlasting age." So the gospel-go to him-he will "give you rest: and dispensation is described, as being final with his rest shall be glorious." regard to this world, and in distinction from the temporary economy of the Jews. It is the meaning of the Apostle, when he says, "And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain." And hence he adds, "We," who embrace the gospel, "we receive a kingdom which cannot be moved." And hence the angel which John saw flying in the midst of heaven, had the "everlasting gospel to preach" unto them that dwell upon the earth. Of this dispensation he is the author, the founder. It is derived entirely from him; and therefore, in the language of a Jew, he is the "Father" of it. Hence, real Christians are considered as his children—“Behold, I and the children which God hath given me." And again, "he shall see his seed." They derive their new and holy being from his word and Spirit; and they resemble him: they are "changed into the same image from glory to glory." And-with the Church, "Yea, he is altogether lovely ;"-with the Apostle, "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord!"

Such is the Saviour, whose arrival in our world we this day celebrate. And what think you of him? I know what some think of him. There are some who have this morning by faith embraced the new-born Messiah, with a rapture expressive of this language; "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” They no longer feel a void within: they no longer rove, asking, "Who will show us any good?" They have found the pearl of great price. His character and his claims have fixed and filled their minds. The manger, the cross, and the throne--these are their attractions. Here they feel obligations the most solemn and pleasing; here they find consolation the most refreshing and pure. It is here they can live, it is here they can die. Here it is that they can say, with David, "Thou art fairer than the children of men;"

as he is the Father of the everlasting age, so he is "the everlasting Father:" the relation subsisting between him and his family can never be dissolved; his offspring can never be orphans.

Prince of Peace."
Peace above us―
Peace around us
fellow-creatures,

But what do you think of him? Has he "no form nor comeliness; no beauty that you should desire him?" Do you feel no love to his name? Do you never pray, "Lord, save, or I perish?"What then are we to think of

« VorigeDoorgaan »