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And let us not forget that this was the settled purpose of unchangeable wisdom and everlasting love, in order to pour contempt on all that splendour, which we are prone to idolize.
Not only are "vanity and vexation" inscribed on the pomp, wealth, and luxuries of the world, by this remarkable appointment; but they are pronounced mean, ensnaring, and polluting. We should therefore inquire how far our judgment coincides, in this respect, with that of angels and the Lord of angels? The rich and noble should remember that their distinctions are as withering flowers; at the same time that they are talents entrusted to their stewardship, of which a strict account will shortly be demanded. Let them not then "be high-minded, or trust in uncertain riches, "but in the living God." "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches." Yea, "God forbid that" any of us "should glory, save in the cross of our "Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified "to us, and we unto the world." We should well consider the words of the apostle, "Let the "brother of low degree rejoice in that he is ex"alted; but the rich in that he is made low."2"Mind not then," my brethren, "high things, "but condescend to men of low estate :" cultivate humility, courteousness, indifference about the world, and self-denying beneficence in the midst of abundance: this will abate envy, secure you from the snares and perils of your situation, and render the talents entrusted to you a blessing to
'Jer. ix. 23, 24. Gal. vi. 14.
James i. 9-11.
many, and more abundantly to yourselves." How hardly," says our Lord, "shall they that have "riches enter into the kingdom of God!" But "the things that are impossible with men are possible "with him." Yet this consideration should excite in you peculiar caution, watchfulness, and prayer, that your riches may not prove the ruin of your immortal souls.
Think, my brethren, of the stable, the carpenter's shop, the feast on barley-bread and small fishes, the well in Samaria, and of him who had not where to lay his head: that you may learn not to despise the poor, lest you reproach your Maker, and disdain the Saviour of the world. Heavenly glory and excellency may be clad in coarse raiment, or lodged in a mean cottage. Learn not to judge of men by outward appearances; but to estimate characters according to their intrinsic worth: and let it not be thought any disparagement to prefer the company of pious Christians, who are almost as poor as their Master chose to be, above that of the most accomplished persons who are strangers to his saving grace.
And, my brethren of low degree, let me exhort you to be contented and patient in your humble condition: watch against envy, repining, coveting, and distrust. Seek the true riches, "the orna"ment which in the sight of God is of great
price," the "honour that cometh from him," and the pure pleasures which he bestows. With these, the meanest accommodations will make your, hearts thankful: and, if your children be poorly provided for, and you are overlooked in times of difficulty by your neighbours; think of the virginmother and her holy infant in the stable; reflect
on your sinfulness; and, instead of murmuring, lift up your hearts in joyful thanksgivings: for few of you are so poor as the divine Saviour of sinners was, during the whole of his humiliation.
But, my friends, what do you think of this lowly Redeemer? Do your ideas of his dignity, excellency, love, and salvation, accord to the views of these holy angels? Or do you see in him no form or comeliness; nor any beauty for which you should desire him? Do you heartily sing, "Glory to God in the highest, and peace on "earth, good-will towards men?" or is there nothing in this great event to excite your attention and admiration? You can never be meet for the joys of heaven, unless you learn on earth to see and admire the glories of redeeming love. The songs of angels would grate in your ears, and discompose your hearts; were it possible for you to enter the mansions of the blessed, without having felt your need of a Saviour, and acquired a disposition to love and adore him. And how will the conduct of angels, who, though they never sinned, and need no pardoning mercy or renewing grace, yet glorify God with all their powers for his love to fallen men, rise up in judgment against the ingratitude and perverseness of perishing sinners; who make the very condescension of Emmanuel the pretence for refusing him the glory due unto his name.
Let us also inquire how far we resemble these heavenly worshippers in the temper of our minds. Exalted and holy as they are, they despise not sinful worms, "dwelling in houses of clay;" while they adored the Son of God, as tabernacling in human flesh, and thus "made a little lower than
"the angels for the suffering of death." They complain not of the special honour shewn to worthless man, by this union of the Deity with our nature, not with their's: they are not reluctant to our felicity, and object not to our being made equal with them. Yea, they willingly and joyfully minister to the heirs of salvation, in the meanest cottage, workhouse, or dungeon; nor do they deem the poorest believer an unmeet object of their condescending and compassionate services. This is genuine excellency but have we been taught to resemble and imitate them? Are we thus attentive to the needy, ready to sympathize with the afflicted, and freed from selfishness, envy, and contempt of inferiors?-Above all, let us remember and imitate "the grace of the Lord Jesus, who, though he was "rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through "his poverty might be made rich." He hath said, "The poor ye have always with you; and "when ye will ye may do good to them." He hath appointed his needy disciples to be his representatives and receivers; that in supplying their wants we may express our love and gratitude to him, and copy his most endearing example.
This season is generally attended with an interruption of secular business, and some additional expense yet the time and money are generally worse than thrown away, while professed Christians, like Israel worshipping the golden calf, "sit "down to eat and drink, and rise up to play." But, if we have a spiritual taste, and judge as angels do, we shall rather abridge ourselves of customary indulgences, than "make provision for the flesh," when commemorating the humble birth of the
self-denying Saviour. We shall express our joy, and employ our leisure, in acts of solemn worship and grateful praises: and, instead of expensive feasts for the wealthy, we shall abound in hospitality and kindness to the poor, and be glad to contribute to promote the cause for which the Son of God became incarnate.
The sensual and ungodly mirth of vast multitudes, at this festival, is madness. They abound in the works of the devil, because the Son of God was manifested to destroy them! when the very event thus commemorated will increase the weight of their condemnation, unless they can be persuaded to follow the apostle's counsel; "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, 66 ye double-minded; be afflicted, and mourn, and 66 weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into heaviness. Humble "yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall "lift you up.
But" let the heart of those rejoice that seek the "Lord." Let the poor in spirit, the weeping penitent take encouragement from the astonishing instance of the Lord's good-will to sinful men, this day commemorated. And let all that have tasted this grace, and can rejoice in the love of God our Saviour, remember that they are subjects to the Prince of peace; that they may be animated, to pray for universal peace, and by all suitable means, to follow after peace, to seek the peace of the church, and the peace of the world; and "by "well doing to put to silence the ignorance of "foolish men."
1 Jam. iv. 7-10.