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kings, often hovered over that peaceful home, as still they, who are ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation, do over the humblest abodes of piety. But, so far as this world and its inhabitants were concerned, Jesus passed his days in contented obscurity, unnoticed and unknown, save to the neighbors, whose esteem he could not fail to win by his pure life, and gentle temper, and holy manners. He was to grow in favor with God and man. All Nazareth regarded him as a paragon of human virtues, and many a mother pointed to Mary's son as the pattern her own lads should copy.
How wonderful it is to transport ourselves back, in fancy, some eighteen hundred years, to that small town; and on asking, with the Greeks, to "see Jesus," to be conducted to a humble dwelling, where chips of wood, and squared logs, and unbarked trunks of trees lying about, in the oak, and olive, and cedar, and sycamore that had fallen to his axe, point out "the carpenter's.'' By the door, and under a bowering vine, which, trained beneath the eaves over some rude trellis-work, forms a grateful shade from the noon-day sun, a widow sits— her fingers employed in weaving, but an expression in her face and eye which indicates a mind engaged in far loftier objects, thoughts deeper, holier, stranger, than a buried husband, and a widow's grief. She rises, lifts the latch, and, stooping, we enter that lowly door ; and there, bending to his work, we see the carpenter—in him the Son of the Most High God! Time was, when he set his compass on the deep; time was, when he stood and measured the earth; and now, with line, and compass, and plane, and hatchet, the sweat dropping from his lofty brow, he who made heaven and earth, and the sea. and all that in them is, in the guise of a common tradesman, bends at a carpenter's bench. How low he stooped to save us!
The world was once astonished to see a king stoop to such work. The founder of the Russian empire left his palace and capital, the seductive pleasures and all the pomp of royalty, to acquire the art of ship-building in the dockyard of a Dutch sea-port. He learned it, that he might teach it to his subjects; he became a servant that he might be the better master, and lay in Russia the foundations of a great naval power. Nor has his country been ungrateful; her capital, which bears his name, is adorned with a monument to his memory, massive as his mind; and she has embalmed his deathless name in her heart and in her victories. Yet, little as many think of Jesus, lightly as they esteem him, a far greater sight is here. There, in a king becoming a subject that his subjects might find in him a king, there was much for men; but here, there is much both for men and angels to wonder at, and praise through all eternity. The Son of God stoops to toil. What an amazing scene! Henceforth, let honest labor feel itself ennobled; let no man, whatever rank he has attained, blush for the meanness of his origin, or be ashamed of his father's trade ; let the sons of toil lift their heads before the overweening pride of birth or wealth, and feel themselves stand taller on the earth; let the idle learn to do some good in this world, and turn their brains and hands to some useful purpose; above all, there let sinners behold a marvelous, most affecting exhibition of the condescension and love of God. This carpenter of Nazareth is He whom the apostle calls "the first-born of every creature;" andby him," he adds, "were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him : and he is before all things, and by him all things consist." Let us now consider the meaning of this expression, "the first-born of every creature," and let me shew—
I. What the expression does not and can not mean.
The first-born of every creature! A strange expression! and one which, seeming to assign our Lord a place among creatures, sounds so strangely that, in some degree perplexed, we are ready to ask what the apostle can mean by applying such a questionable term to the eternal Son of God? For, though he honors him with the foremost place, still he seems to place him in the rank of creatures.
Now, there are those who say that Christ was a mere man; and this expression, beyond all doubt, cuts the ground out from below their feet. The first-born of every creature—these words, assigning to our Lord, at the very least, the highest place among the highest angels, do not leave the Socinian an inch of ground to stand on. But do they not, it may be asked, seem to countenance the Arian heresy—the doctrine of those who hold that, although the highest and noblest of all created things, our Lord, notwithstanding, is still a creature? Is it so? Have we mistaken his true character? Shall we find, in going to glory, that, as ardent love is prone to do, we have exaggerated his excellences; and that while another occupies the throne of heaven, Jesus is but the first in her noble peerage, the highest and oldest of her ancient nobility? Even as being the first of creatures in point of rank and age, as one whc Iwelt with God when there was none other than himself, as one whose life dates back beyond the far remote period when seas first rolled, and stars shone, and angels sang, Jesus were an object, next to God he were the object of our deepest interest. Yet if our blessed Lord is only a creature, however great his power, exalted his rank, pure his nature, lofty his intellect, and incalculable the years of his age, I cannot trust him with my soul; I cannot depend on him for salvation; I cannot, dare not worship him, nor overleap this barrier, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
The Apostle John once saw a strange sight in heaven. Yet, if, as the first-born of every creature, our Lord be but a creature, nor hold divinity within a human shrine, I undertake to show you one yet more strange. There appeared, says the apostle, a great wonder in heaven ; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars : and she being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pain to be delivered. That in heaven! Yet, if Jesus, though created prior to all others, and in rank next therefore to God, is, after all, but a creature, this mystic woman, so superbly clad and crowned, so strangely pregnant and pained in heaven, offers no wonder so inexplicable as these angels do, who worship at the Saviour's feet; nor in that upper world, where there are neither births nor burials, do her birth-pang cries sound so strange in my ears, as that command from the excellent majesty, Let all the angels of God worship him. If he is not God, how can the law, which forbids me to worship any but God, allow to angels what it denies to man? Can that be right in them which is wrong in us? Can that be true worship in heaven which were idolatry on earth? If it be sin to render divine worship to a creature here, it appears to me that it would be but further wrong, and a deeper wrong, an aggravation of the sin, to worship one in heaven ; and, therefore, startled by an expression which seems to rank our Lord with creatures, we might, at the first blush of the thing, address Paul in the words of the men of Athens.
Having astonished her philosophers, having preached in Jesus and resurrection from the grave a doctrine which her boldest spirits had never ventured to imagine, and having, by news such as these news-seekers had never dreamed of, thrown the city into commotion, they hurried him away to the Areopagus, saying, Thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. We might be disposed to say the same to Paul. He brings strange tidings to our ears—he calls Christ "the firstborn of creatures." What does he mean? Well, what he does not mean is very plain from the way in which he conjoins this verse with the next. In the same breath, and as part of the same sentence, the apostle says that He created all things. Created all things! But he could not create himself, and he was therefore himself uncreated; and Paul therefore never could mean to say that our Lord, however high might be the rank assigned him, was to be placed in the rank of creatures. No man inspired of God, no logician like the apostle, no person even of common sense, could write, nor would men of ordinary reason and intelligence believe, a thing so absurd and self-contradictory as, that anything could create itself, or a thing created possess creating power. To create, to call something out of nothing, be it a dying spark or a blazing sun, a dew-drop cradled in a lily's bosom, or the vast ocean