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in his palsied hands. It is necessary that Jehoshaphat —for this old king is he—have a coadjutor and successor; and in seven sons who stand before him, we should think that he had room for choice. What is his decision? To the six younger he gave great gifts of silver, and of gold, and of precious things, with fenced cities in Judah, but the kingdom, it is said, gave he to Jehoram. And why? What moved him to that? His princely qualities? He had none. He was a bloody monster; for his father's ashes were hardly cold, when he murdered, in cold blood, all these, his brethren. The kingdom, it is said, gave he to Jehoram; because he was the first-born. And there, again, you see, that to be the first-born, or to get the rights belonging to that position, was to be heir and lord of all.
Thus, springing from the customs of the country, and by long use and wont, the expression "first-born" became among the Jews just another word for head, lord, sovereign proprietor of all. Of this fact, let me add, we have a most remarkable example in the language of some Jewish rabbins. They have not hesitated to apply the very term to God himself, callingJehovah The First-Born of the World; and that in honor, in deepest reverence—meaning thereby to exalt him above all creatures, as prince, and king, and Lord of all. See now, how that which seemed at first sight contrary to our Lord's divinity, is not only consistent with it, but confirmatory of it. In pronouncing him "the first-born of every creature," my text exalts Jesus above all creatures, and crowns him divine Head, and Lord, and Sovereign of all. It proclaims one of his many royal titles, and invests him with the insignia of universal empire. Revealing the divine heights from which he descended to the humiliation of Calvary, how should it endear him to our hearts, and recommend
him to our glad and grateful acceptance! Calvary grows in wonder, our sins sink deeper in guilt, and our souls rise higher in value, as we contemplate the glory from which he stooped, to bow his head in death upon an ignominious cross; dying, as is never to be forgotten, " the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."
III. Our Lord, as in this sense, " the first-born of every creature," existed before all.
One day the door of Egypt's palace is thrown open, and Joseph—a model of beautiful manhood, mind in his eagle eye, strength in his form, majesty in his manner, and on his countenance that lofty look which bespeaks high virtue and integrity—enters, accompanied by his father. The old man's step was slow and feeble; the old man's eyes were dim with age; a few thin silver locks mingled with the snowy beard that flowed down his breast, as he came forward leaning on Joseph's arm, and bending beneath the weight of years. Struck by the contrast, and moved to respect by the patriarch's venerable aspect, Pharaoh accosted him with the question, How old art thou?
Age naturally awakens our inspect. "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man." That beautiful and divine command touches a chord in every heart, and sounds in harmony with the best feelings of our nature; and so a Greek historian tells how, in the pure and early and most virtuous days of the republic, if an old man entered the crowded assembly, all ranks rise to give room and place to him. Age throws such a character of dignity even over inanimate objects, that the spectator regards them with a sort of awe and veneration. We have stood before the hoary and ivy-mantled ruin of a bygone age with deeper feelings of respect than ever touched us in the marble halls and amid the gilded grandeur of modern palaces ; nor did the proudest tree which lifted its umbrageous head and towering form to the skies ever affect us with such strange emotions as an old, withered, wasted trunk that, though hollowed by time into a gnarled shell, still showed some green signs of life. Nor, as we lingered beneath the shades of that ancient yew, could we look on such an old tenant of the earth without feelings of veneration, when we thought how it had been bathed by the sun which shone upon the cross of Calvary, and had stood white with hoar-frost that Christmas night on which angels sang the birth of our Saviour King.
It is a curious thing to stand alone beside a swathed, dark, dusty mummy, which some traveler has brought from its tomb on the banks of the Nile; and to mark with wonder how the gold-leaf still glitters on the nails of the tapering fingers, and the raven hair still clings to the mouldering skull, and how, with the arms peacefully folded on the breast, and the limb3 stretched out to their full extent, humanity still retains much of its original form. But when we think how many centuries have marched over that dead one's head; that in this womanly figure, with the metal mirror still beside her, in which she had once admired her departed charms, we see, perhaps, the wife of Joseph, perhaps the royal maid, who, coming to give her beauty to the pure embraces of the Nile, received the infant Moses in her kind protecting arms, our wonder changes into a sort of awe.
Age, indeed, heightens the grandeur of the grandest
objects. The bald hoar mountains rise in dignity, the voice of ocean sounds more sublime on her stormy shores, and starry heavens sparkle with brighter splendor, when we think how old they are; how long it is since that ocean began to roll, or these lamps of night to shine. Yet these, the first star that ever shone, nay, the first angel that ever sang, are but things of yesterday beside this manger, where, couched in straw and wrapped in swaddling clothes, a new-born babe is sleeping. "Before Abraham was," or these were, " I am," says Jesus. His mother's maker, and his mother's child, he formed the living womb that gave him birth, and, ten thousand ages before that, the dead rock that gave him burial. A child, yet Almighty God; a son, yet the everlasting Father, his history carries us back into eternity; and the dignities which he left, those glories which he veiled, how should they lead us to adore his transcendent love, and to kneel the lower at his cross to cry, Jesus! thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For by him 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.—Colossians i. 16.
As I read my text, it appears to me plainly to assert and clearly to demonstrate, the doctrine of our Lord's divinity. Now the incarnation of God, more than any other truth in the Bible, is one of pure revelation. There are many other doctrines there, of which men, without any aid from inspiration, have arrived at a more or less clear conception; guided to the discovery of them by no other lights than those of reason and of conscience. Therefore Paul says, "When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another."
It will make this doctrine stand out all the more prominently as that great and sacred mystery which angels desired to look into, and at the same time serve, what I think an important purpose to direct your attention—
I. To some of those cases which illustrate the har