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“ gotten of the Father.”! They saw him“ who, “ being in the form of God, thought it not rob
bery to be equal with God,” “ make himself of “no reputation, take upon him the form of a ser“ vant, and the likeness of man; that being found “ in fashion as a man, he might become obedient “ unto death, even the death of the cross.' 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."3
Into “these things the angels desire 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 gentiles and the glory “ of his people Israel.”
· Phil. ü. 6-8.
John i. 1-14.
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, God manifest “ in the flesh,” now actually realized, called forth the amazement, and enlivened the affections of these heavenly worshippers ; and dictated that zealous song of adoring praise, which is the subject of our present meditation.-We proceed then,
II. To explain the song itself: “Glory to God “ in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will to “men.” The angels celebrated the praises of God, and congratulated the happiness of man, with most fervent love and joy. "To you, O ye sons of men, ‘is born “a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord :”
we exult in your felicity, we “rejoice over one ““ sinner that repenteth:” how much greater then must be our joy and gladness at the nativity of * Him who is come to stoop, suffer, and die, that ' he may be exalted as “a Prince and Saviour, to ““give repentance and remission of sins?”:
It is very affecting to compare the conduct of the heavenly host, in this respect, with that of men in general, who neglect or oppose the message of salvation, and despise the glorious Redeemer. But angels know our real character and condition : while we are blinded with pride and prejudice, and are extremely unwilling to be convinced that we deserve destruction ; or so taken up with “ the “world, and the things that are in the world,”
that we disregard the important interests of eternity!
In considering the hymn of praise before us, we may perhaps begin to best advantage with the concluding sentence, “Good will to men.”—The blessed angels had witnessed the creation of the earth, when these “morning-stars sang together, “ and all the sons of God shouted for joy;" for in that august transaction they saw the immensity of their Creator's power, wisdom, and goodness. With astonishment and awe they beheld also the fall of their compeers; and, when “ God spared not “ the angels that sinned, but cast them down to
hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness “ to be reserved unto judgment,”? they adored his righteous severity against the rebellious, and his holy abhorrence of sin ; and they received instruction of inestimable value from the impressive solemn scene. They saw too the fall of man: and probably expected that vengeance would, with unabated vehemence, seize in like manner upon him ; not conceiving that a God of infinite purity and justice could possibly shew mercy and kindness to rebels and apostates.' No doubt they heard the first intimation of favour to our offending parents, mixed with the solemn denunciation of death and all the woes that preceded it: and this must have excited a peculiar attention to so new and interesting a discovery of the divine perfections.
From that crisis they had been witnesses and messengers, both of the Lord's mercy and of his indignation, towards the human race. Numerous
Job xxxviii. 7.
2 2 Pet. ii. 4.
opportunities had been afforded them, in the history of mankind, of learning the fatal effects of transgression, and the power of the divine wrath. The deluge; the tremendous doom of Sodom and Gomorrah ; the desolations of Egypt; the severities inflicted on the devoted Canaanites ; the judgments executed even on offending Israel, in the wilderness and in Canaan, and by the Babylonish captivity ; were so many illustrations of the justice of God, and of his holy abhorrence of iniquity. But at the same time his patience and bounty towards sinful men, his gracious interpositions in behalf of his people, the intimations and predictions of a Saviour, the promises given to believers, and the actual salvation of numbers, shewed his “
good“ will” to mankind; and his readiness to pity, help, and relieve them, as far as could consist with the honour of his name, and the interests of his universal and everlasting kingdom.
Yet in the infant lying in the manger at Bethlehem the angelshad such a discovery of the Lord's “ good-will to men," connected with his detestation of their sins, as had never hitherto attracted their notice or raised their expectations. They no doubt, before this, had some general conception of the plan formed by infinite wisdom and everlasting love: perhaps the whole had been fully notified to them. Yet, when the stupendous design was thus far accomplished, their previous admiration of the ineffable condescension, compassion, and love of the holy and glorious Lord God towards lost sinners, whose multiplied and heinous crimes had so long called loudly for vengeance, was far exceeded, and as it were swallowed up in inexpressible astonishment. Good-will to man ! to guilty, polluted, ungrateful man! to idolatrous, impious, and blaspheming man! This overwhelmed the blessed angels with amazement, and tuned their hearts to adoring praise. And these reflections must have the same effect on all, who have just views of the majesty and glorious holiness of God, the nature and desert of sin, and the wonderful plan of redemption. “God commendeth his love to us, in “ that while we were yet sinners Christ died for “ us."
“ Herein is love, not that we loved God, “ but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."}
This good-will of God to men is mere compassion and benevolence, not approbation or complacency. The crimes, dispositions, and characters of the creatures, thus beloved, were unspeakably hateful in his holy eyes : and none of his protestations against sin are so decided and energetic, as that which principally declares his love to sinners. The compassion and tenderness, which induce virtuous and pious persons, at great expense, to relieve those pitiable objects whose crimes have rendered them miserable ; in order that an attempt may be made to rescue them from temporal and eternal ruin ; form a very distant imitation of the love shewn by our God to sinners, in giving his Son to be their Saviour, even while he declares them to be deserving of his everlasting wrath and abhorrence. The heinousness of our crimes, the contrariety of our dispositions, to the divine purity, the great things he hath done to make way for
! Rom. v. 6-10.
1 John iv. 10.