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der seriously, I beseech you, what Simeon himself says to Mary, as he shewed to her the infant Jesus, Bchold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against ; yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, Luke ii. 34, 35.
What could be meant by that sword with which the mother of our Lord was to have her soul pierced through? That anguish, undoubtedly, which she should undergo on seeing her Son najled to a cross. What an object for a mother's eye! Who, among you, my brethren, has concentrated every anxious care, every tender affection, on one darling object, say a beloved child, whom he fondly looks to as his consolation in adversity, as the glory of his family, as the support of his feeble old age? Let him be supposed io feel, what no power of language is able to express : let him put himself in the place of Mary, let that beloved child be supposed in the place of Jesus Christ : faint image still of the conflict which nature is preparing for that tender mother: feeble commentary on the words of Simeon to Mary, yeu, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also. Mary must lose that Son whose birth was announced to her by an angel from heaven; that Son on whose advent the celestial hosts descended to congratulate the listening earth; that Son, whom so many perfections, whom such ardor of charity, whom benefits so innumerable should whave for ever endeared to mankind : already she represents to herself that frightful solitude, that state of universal desertion in which the soul finds itself, when, having been bereaved of all that it held dear, it feels as if the whole world were dead, as if nothing else remained in the vast universe, as if every thing that communicated motion and life had been annihilated.
And through what a path was she to behold this Son departing out of the world! By a species of martyrdom, the bare idea of which scares the imagination. She beholds those bountiful hands, which, had so frequently fed the hungry, which had performed so many miracles of mercy, pierced through with nails : she beholds that royal head, which would have shed lustre on the diadem of the universe, crowned with thorns, and that arm, destined to wield the sceptre of the world, bearing a reed, the emblem of mock-majesty; she beholds that Temple, in which dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, Col, ii. 9. with all his wisdom, with all his illumination, with all his justice, with all his mercy, with all the perfections which enter into the notion of the Supreme Being; she beholds it assaulted with a profane hatchet, and an impious spear: she hears the voices of the children of Edom crying aloud, concerning this august habitation of the Most High, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.
But if, even then, while she beholds Jesus expiring, she could have been permitted to approach him, to comfort him, to collect the last sigh of that departing spirit! Could she but have embraced that dearly beloved Son, to bathe him with her tears, and bid hin a last farewell! Could she but for a few moments have stopped that precious fluid draining off in copious streams, and consuming the sad remains of exhausted nature ! Could she but have been permitted to support that sacred sinking head, and to pour balm into his wounds! But she must submit to the hand of violence : she too is borne down by the power of darkness, Luke xxii. 53. She has nothing to present to the expiring sufferer, but unavailing solicitude, and fruitless tears: a sword shall pierce through thy own soul
also : Simeon understood, then, the mystery of the cross: he looked to the efficacy of that blood which was to be shed by the Redeemer whom he now held in his arms, and under that holy impression, exclaims, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.
3. Finally, Simeon no longer feels an attachment to this world, from any doubt or suspicion he entertained respecting the doctrine of a life to
He is now at the very fountain of life, and all that now remains is to be set free from a mortal body, in order to attain immortality. We may deduce, from the preparations of grace, a conclusion nearly similar to that which we draw from the preparations of nature, in order to establish the doctrine of a future state of eternal felicity. How magnificent are the preparations which nature makes! What glory do they promise after death! The author of our being has endowed the human soul with an unbounded capacity of advancing from knowledge to knowledge, from sensation to sensation. I make free here to borrow the thought of an illustrious modern author : “ A perpetual circulan tion,” says he, “ of the same objects, were they subject to no other inconvenience, would be sufficient to give us a disgust of the world. When a man has beheld frequently reiterated vicissitudes of day and night, summer and winter, of spring and autumn; in a word, of the different appearances of nature, what is there here below capable of satisfying the mind ? I am well aware,” adds he,“ how brilliant, how magnificent, this spectacle is; I know how possible it is to indulge in it with a steady and increasing delight; but I likewise know, that at length the continual recurrence of the same images cloys the imagination, which is eagerly
looking forward to the removal of the curtain, that it may contemplate new scenes, of which it can catch only a confused glimpse in the dark perspective of futurity. Death, in this point of view, is a transition merely from one scene of enjoyment to another. If present objects fatigue and excite disgust, it is only in order to prepare the soul for enjoying, more exquisitely, pleasures of a different nature, ever new, and ever satisfying.”
The conclusion deducible from the preparations of nature, may likewise be derived from the preparations of grace.
Let us not lose sight of our leading object. How magnificent had the preparations of grace appeared in the eyes of Simeon! This we have already hinted: the whole of the Levitical dispensation consisted of preparations for the appearance of the Messiah ; if we form a judgment of the blessings which he was to bestow upon the human race, from the representations given us of him, it is impossible to refrain from drawing this conclusion, that the Messiah was to give unbounded scope to the desires of the heart of man, was to communicate to him that unspeakable felicity, for the enjoyment of which nature had already prepared him, but which nature had not the power to bestow. There, I mean in the Levitical dispensation, you found the shadows which retraced the Messiah; there you found types which represented him ; there oracles which predicted him ; there an exhibition, in which were displayed his riches, his pomp, his magnificence; there you heard the prophets crying aloud, Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness : let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation; and let righteousness spring up together, Isa, xlv. 8. 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 Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Irince of Peace, Isa. ix. 6. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath ; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished, Isa. li. 6.
Now, what state of felicity could possibly correspond to conceptions raised so high, by preparations of such mighty import ? What ! amount to no more than that which the Messiah bestows in this world? What ! no more than to frequent these temples ? What! no more than to raise these sacred
songs of praise: to celebrate our solemn feasts: to eat a little bread and to drink a little wine at the communion table? And then to die! And then to exist no more! And can this be all that salvation which the earth was to bring forth ? And can this be all that righteousness which the skies were to pour down ? And can this be the dew which the heuvens were to drop down from above ? And can this be the whole amount of the atchievements of that Counsellor, of that Wonderful one, of that Prince of Peace, of that Father of Eternity? Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. Good Simeon, what meaning do you intend to convey by these words ? Into what peace art thou wishing henceforth to depart, if these eyes, which behold the Messiah, are going to be doomed to the darkness of an eternal night ? If these hands, which are privileged to embrace him, are going to become a prey to worms? And if that life which thou wert enjoying before thy Redeemer appeared,