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gregation!-But think of the affairs of a kingdom!! Ask the rulers of this world, whether government be an easy and an enviable concern. How distracted is the head that wears a crown! "I am not able," says Solomon, "to go in and out before so great a people." "I am not able," says Moses, "to bear all this people;" hence he had assistants provided him. The weight of government is too much for one person, and therefore it is divided among many. A king has his council, his ministers, his officers. He cannot be all eye, all ear, all hand; he therefore avails himself of the eyes, the ears, and hands of others. But the King of saints stands in need of no help: infinite as his empire is, he manages the amazing whole without fatigue, and without perplexity.
is peculiarly King in Zion. He is "a Prince" | awful task has the tutor of youth! What a as well as "a Saviour" to his people. They weighty undertaking has the pastor of a conthat know his name not only trust in him, but submit themselves to him. And their submission is natural and cheerful, because he puts his laws into their minds, and writes them in their hearts. While they obey his commands, they also acquiesce in his dispensations. To him they refer all their temporal concerns, and are willing that he should choose their inheritance for them. Thus he has a kingdom within a kingdom; a kingdom of grace within a kingdom of his providence -and the one is subservient to the other. "He is head over all things unto the Church, which is his body." He has every thing necessary for the defence of his people and the success of his cause. Therefore this "king shall reign and prosper. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him. His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed."
Much has been said on the subject of government, and volumes have been written to ascertain the prerogative of princes, and the duties of subjects. While men are depraved beings, absolute power lodged in the hands of an individual would be dangerous. Authority must therefore be limited; one part of government must be a balance to another; and laws must be placed above men. But could a governor be found perfect in wisdom and goodness, who in all cases knew what was proper to be done, and would be always inclined to do it, his power could not be too absolute, nor his authority too uncontrolled. Such a being is the Lord Jesus and therefore he is "the blessed and only Potentate; and has all power given unto him in heaven and in earth."
But where does this government, thus all his own, rest? Upon his shoulder." This may appear to some a coarse image. Ancient poetry, however, has beautified it by representing a man bearing upon his shoulders the pillars of the universe. But what was this fabled Atlas? The world with all its concerns really depends on the Redeemerhe "upholdeth all things by the word of his power." And government upon the shoulder is significant: it implies burden; difficulty. It cannot be administered without much labour and care. And this is one reason among others why we are commanded "to pray for kings, and for all that are in authority!" Who can need our prayers so much! What a charge devolves upon a parent when Providence puts into his hands a living mercy, and says, "Take this child and nurse it for me: I constitute thee its governor, and at thy hands will I require it," What an
III. LET US REVIEW HIS NAMES. Names are designed to distinguish, to describe, and to honour. In common, a single name is sufficient for a single individual. Human excellences and accomplishments are rare and solitary. One man attends to the stars, and we call him an astronomer; a second is skilled in the species of plants, and we call him a botanist; a third speaks well, and we call him an orator. The name generally sums up all claims of each. But what a number, and what a variety of sublime titles are employed to show forth the praises of our Lord and Saviour!-"His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!"
First. He is Wonderful. He is so principally in the constitution of his person. Here we see combined deity and humanity; finite and infinite; all-sufficiency and omnipotence; weariness and want. This is "the great mystery of godliness" which will for ever employ the admiration of the redeemed
"God was manifest in the flesh. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." Indeed his whole history appears to be unparalleled. His manner of life; his mode of teaching; his death; his resurrec tion; his dealings with his people in providence and grace-are all marvellous.
Secondly. He is Counsellor. He appears for us in court. He is "our advocate with the Father." And while he pleads our cause above, he guides our affairs below. In "him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." He is the source of all spiritual knowledge. "I am come," said he, "a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. Counsel is mine!" Yes, blessed Redeemer, every wrong step we have taken through life, has been oc Icasioned by our disregarding thy instructions.
To thee may we henceforth bring all the difficulties we feel with regard to doctrine and duty, experience and practice, our condition and our circumstances; and daily and hourly may we ask, “Lord, what wilt thou | have me to do?"
destroying our pride and envy, and inspiring us with humility and benevolence. Peace within us-by reconciling us to ourselves: not to our sins-but to our remedy, our dependence, our duty, and condition. When this takes place, the troubled conscience is calmed; the tumultuous passions cease from their raging; tormenting fears and distracting anxieties give way; we are careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication we make known our requests unto God, and "the peace of God which passeth all understanding keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Thirdly. His name shall be called "The mighty God." And he would not be called so unless he were so. Unless he were so, the attributes which are essential to deity would not be the properties of his nature, and we should never have read of him in the Scriptures of truth, as knowing all things, as omnipotent, as everywhere present, as eternal. Unless he were so, the works which are pe- It was thus that he addressed his sorrowculiar to deity could never have been per- ing disciples when he was departing from formed by him, nor the worship which is pe- them: "These things have I spoken unto culiar to deity be claimed for him and render-you, that in me ye might have peace. Peace ed to him. We do not here consider this doctrine controversially: it stands in a situation which shows its importance, and the connexion it has with the experience and hope of believers. Thus he is mighty to save; no case, however desperate, with regard to our selves and creatures, can be too hard for him. This principle enters into all his offices. It gives infinite value to his righteousness, and efficacy to his death. It renders all he does for us and in us, divine.
Such is the Saviour, whose arrival in our world we this day celebrate. And what think you of him? I know what some think of him.
I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." And remember that there is no peace worth having but his. The ungodly and the people of the world may be insensible of their danger; they may banish reflection from their minds; they may live in what they call pleasure, and say to their soul, take thine easebut "There is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked." But Jesus procures, reveals, produces a peace the most valuable. "He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up Fourthly. He is "The everlasting Fa- all their wounds." Ye weary and heavy ther," or, as it is better rendered, "the Fa- laden-let your burdens be what they may ther of the everlasting age." So the gospel-go to him-he will "give you rest: and dispensation is described, as being final with his rest shall be glorious." regard to this world, and in distinction from the temporary economy of the Jews. It is the meaning of the Apostle, when he says, "And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain." And hence he adds, "We," who embrace the gospel, "we receive a kingdom which cannot be moved." And hence the angel which John saw flying in the midst of heaven, had the "everlasting gospel to preach" unto them that dwell upon the earth. Of this dispensation he is the author, the founder. It is derived entirely from him; and therefore, in the language of a Jew, he is the "Father" of it. Hence, real Christians are considered as his children-"Behold, I and the children which God hath given me." And again, "he shall see his seed." They derive their new and holy being from his word and Spirit; and they resemble him: they are "changed into the same image from glory to glory." And as he is the Father of the everlasting age, so he is "the everlasting Father:" the relation subsisting between him and his family can never be dissolved; his offspring can never be orphans.
Finally. He is "The And of all kinds of peace. by reconciling us to God. by reconciling us to our
Prince of Peace."
There are some who have this morning by faith embraced the new-born Messiah, with a rapture expressive of this language; "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." They no longer feel a void within: they no longer rove, asking, “Who will show us any good?" They have found the pearl of great price. His character and his claims have fixed and filled their minds. The manger, the cross, and the throne--these are their attractions. Here they feel obligations the most solemn and pleasing; here they find consolation the most refreshing and pure. It is here they can live, it is here they can die. Here it is that they can say, with David, "Thou art fairer than the children of men;"
with the Church, "Yea, he is altogether lovely ;"-with the Apostle, "Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord!”
But what do you think of him? Has he "no form nor comeliness; no beauty that you should desire him?" Do you feel no love to his name? Do you never pray, "Lord, save, or I perish?"-What then are we to think of
you? What are we to think of the blindness | JESUS: for he shall save his people from of your understandings, and of the depravity their sins." of your affections! Indifferent to him?- Here is a 66 What are we to think of your regard to your own safety and happiness? Can you find salvation in any other? What will you do without him when you come to die? How will you appear before him when he is seated on his great white throne?
For once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and "to them that look for him will he appear a second time, without sin unto salvation." See the Babe of Bethlehem, the Judge of all! Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him. But who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth! Happy those who have loved and followed him "in the regeneration!" He will receive them to himself, "that where he is there they may be also."
"But where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"
THE DESIGN OF OUR SAVIOUR'S COMING.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.-Matt. i. 21.
It is a wonderful event which we have this day been called to commemorate. The fulness of time is arrived: the prophecies are accomplished: the promises are fulfilled: the expectations of the Church are realized: "the desire of all nations is come-and we have been with the shepherds at Bethlehem, and have seen "the babe wrapped in swaddlingclothes, and lying in a manger."
For what purpose has the son of God assumed our nature, and in circumstances of the deepest humiliation entered our world? A new star has graced his birth: "wise men" have traveled from the East to do him homage; "and a multitude of the heavenly host have praised God and said, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men!" Thus heaven and earth have borne witness to the importance of this event. But wherein does the importance of it appear? By what title answerable to his character shall we acknowledge him? Wherein lies our concern with him? And why are we so interested in his birth, as to make it the subject of our greatest joy?
name above every name:" a name which " is as ointment poured forth"it is JESUS. This name was not only given by the order of God, but explained by the same order. Jesus signifies Saviour. But this name was not peculiar to him-others had worn it. The Hebrew name which answers to Jesus is Joshua; and two persons had this name expressly given them under the Old Testament: the commander who succeeded Moses; and the high priest concerned in the building of the second temple. The Levites also in the days of Nehemiah confess to God; "According to thy manifold mercies thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies." Such a saviour was Gideon and Samson, with many others.
The name then is common; but not the reason of the imposition-" For he shall save his people from their sins." As if he had said "Others have been called saviours because they have rescued the body; they were temporal deliverers; they saved the Jews from the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Midianites. But this child is called a Saviour for a nobler reason-he rescues the soul-he is an eternal Deliverer. 'He saves his people from their sins." "
By this explanation, the angel not only distinguishes Jesus from every other saviour, but opposes the favourite prejudices of the nation to which he belonged. The Jews expected a Messiah who should be called a Saviour; but by this name they understood a hero, a conqueror who should break the civil yoke, free them from the tyranny of Rome, and if not lead them to universal empire, at least restore them to all their original dignity in their own land. 66 But, O ye Jews," says the Angel, "the Saviour is corne to restore you, not to an earthly Canaan, but a better, even a heavenly country. He is come to deliver you, not from civil bondage, but from spiritual slavery: not from Cæsar, but Satan. He is come to save you from your greatest enemies; and these are-not the Romans-but your sins.”
Let us not pass over this. Jesus came, not to suggest improvements in agriculture; plans of commerce; theories of civil policy. He left the governments of the world as he found them: these are things which fall within the reach of our wisdom to devise, and our power to accomplish.-But who could save a soul from sin?
Let us, I. CONSIDER SIN AS AN ENEMY. And, II. SEE IN WHAT MANNER THE SAVIOUR
DELIVERS US FROM IT.
Let us call to mind the address of the angel We talk of enemies. What should we to Joseph, when he announced his conception think of an adversary, who, filled with malice, of the Virgin Mary-"And she shall bring and armed with power, should invade our forth a son, and thou shalt call his name country, ravage our fields, destroy our cot
tages and mansions, our palaces and temples; who should despoil us of our goods, tear us from our families, deprive us of our liberty, and lead us away in irons, to terminate a wretched existence in a dungeon or a mine! And oh! were a deliverer to arise to crush the foe, and to save the captives-how should we prize him! If he had suffered in the struggle, his wounds would be deemed scars of honour. When the ear heard him, it would bless him; and when the eye saw him, it would give witness to him. Our very children, made familiar with the story, would never see him pass along without exclaiming, "Hosannah, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!" But this enemy would be a friend, compared with sin: and such a deliverer, therefore, would be nothing, compared with the Saviour of sinners. How is it then that we feel so much indifference towards him; that we are not continually uttering the memory of his great goodness! that we are not daily praying "Let the whole earth be filled with his glory!" It is because we do not believe the enemy to be so dreadful. The reason is-that we entertain slight notions of sin. To judge of the importance of a remedy, it is necessary to know the malignity of the disease: to ascertain the claims of a benefactor to our gratitude and love, it is necessary for us to know the evils from which he delivers us.
Every thing turns upon this. If sin be our worst enemy, it is easy to prove that he who saves us from it is our best friend. Let us then look at sin, and take three or four views of its evil and malignity.
Behold sin with regard to God. That must be the greatest evil, which is most opposite to the greatest good. In forming our estimate of sin, we are not to judge of it so much by the relation it bears to us, or to our fellow-creatures, as by its relation to God; for against Him it is committed; and every sin strikes at God as much as if no other being was affected by it; and notwithstanding its fatal effects with regard to mankind, we may say to God, of every transgression, "Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight." Sin is enmity against God; against his attributes; against his government. God never yet revealed a design which sin hath not withstood; nor gave a command which sin has not trampled under foot. Sin deposes God from his sovereignty, abuses his goodness, abhors his holiness, vilifies his wisdom, insults and denies his omniscience, his justice, and his power. And hence nothing is so offensive to God. It is called the "abominable thing which he hates." And we read that he is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity." It is a metaphor, taken from a person who has such a perfect abhorrence of a thing, that he cannot bear the sight; the very thought of it shocks
him. This is that which renders man, though the work of his hands, filthy and abominable; and constrains even the God of love, the Father of mercies, to say, concerning him, "The wicked shall not stand in my sight, I hate all the workers of iniquity.'
Behold sin in its names. For what term is there, expressive of reproach or misery; what image is there, that can produce aversion or fear; that is not employed by the Scriptures to represent sin? Sin! it is disobedience: it is rebellion: it is treason: it is murder: "it is the work of the devil." Sin! it is ignorance: it is folly it is madness. Sin! it is blindness: it is deafness: it is dumbness: it is sickness: it is poison: it is slavery: it is plague: it is death it is hell! Now, as it is said of Nabal," as the name is, so is the man;" the same may be observed of sin: as the name is, so is the thing. Sin is not libelled by any of these dreadful representations; they are all given us by One who perfectly understands sin, and they fall infinitely short of the subject. For if we compare sin with other evils, it will be found substantially to contain them all, and to be the cause of all. This is the fountain which has imbittered all our streams, and the seed which has so thickly sown the world with wretchedness.
Behold therefore again the effects of sin. How different is man from what he was originally!-But sin has made this change. Sin has stripped him of his glory, and taken the crown from his head: "wo unto us that we have sinned!"
Observe the soul of man-it is sin that has debased it, defiled it, robbed it of the image, and banished it from the presence of God-it is this that has filled it with confusion and regrets-it is this that has produced unruly passions, tormenting anxieties, a terrified conscience, a wounded spirit.
Take the body of man. This was once all immortal, without a defect, a disease, a danger. But "by sin death entered into the world," and was crowned "king of terrors." And now "man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble." At his birth he enters a labyrinth of thorns and briers, and cannot move without "piercing himself through with many sorrows.' Even every comfort has its cross, and every blessing its curse. And how little of the misery of the world comes under our observation! Oh! could we witness all the pains of the diseased at this moment: could we behold all the effects of war, pestilence, and famine! Could we see the bones of all the human race, from the death of Abel to this very hour piled into one immense heap-oh! what could we think of an enemy capable of producing such mischief as this!
Behold Adam and Eve, expelled from Paradise. Behold the Deluge, sweeping away
There is yet another way of judging of the evil of sin-and it is-by considering the means employed to remove it. Now there was only one Being in the universe equal to this work-the Lord of life and glory. By no other hand could this enemy fall; a thousand attempts had been made-but the victory was reserved for him.
And there are two things here worthy our remark.
"the world of the ungodly." Behold Sodom | ment!-How is it possible for us to think too and Gomorrah," set forth as an example, suf- highly of its guilt!! fering the vengeance of eternal fire." See the plagues of Egypt, the destruction of the former inhabitants of Canaan, the dispersion and misery of the Jews, a people once dear to God-in all these instances, the evil of sin is brought down to a level with our senses. And it is sin also that has reduced the material creation to vanity, and doomed it to a general conflagration. As, under the law, the very house of the leper was to be pulled down, so it is with regard to this world. You say, Can trees, and valleys, and hills, and skies, be criminal? No; but they have been the unconscious instruments of the sinner's guilt, they have been contaminated by his use of them, and the day of God cometh, wherein "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burned up."
Thus far we have traced the effects of sin down through the history of this world. But there is another world that has been running parallel with this, and which will continue when this is no more. And here the consequences of sin most tremendously appear.
Enter it and see. The first thing that strikes you, is the fall of an innumerable multitude of superior beings, hurled down from heaven-What roused the vengeance which pursues them with such severity? What is it that, in a moment, could transform angels into devils! A little of that envy, that pride, that independence of spirit which you think nothing of "he spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment."—And what place is that, "the smoke of whose torment ascendeth up for ever and ever?" Sin built hell; sin produced "the worm that never dies;" sin kindled "the fire that never shall be quenched." Oh! could you lay down your ear, and hear sin spoken of in its proper dialect, by the old sons of perdition! What do you suppose Judas now says of betraying his master for thirty pieces of silver; Saul of persecuting David; Cain of killing his brother Abel! But all this regards the present degrees of their misery, not its future continuance.
The first is, that he derives from this work his highest title. His name is the memorial of this achievement; he will henceforth be known through all worlds as the conqueror of sin! And therefore we find, that though he is a Creator and Preserver, yet he is adored under the character of a Saviour, by all the saints on earth, and by all the angels in hea ven. 66 Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
And the second is, That even in this glorious Personage, who alone was adequate to the undertaking, it required something peculiar and extraordinary to accomplish it. He does not deliver a sinner as he performed his other works. In order to save-he must be humbled and exalted-he must descend from heaven to earth-and ascend from earth to heaven.
Let us enter into this, and, II. Consider IN WHAT MANNER HE SAVES HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS. Now he accomplishes their deliverance by price-and thus he redeems: and by power-and thus he renews: in other words, by his cross, and by his grace.
To save us, he must suffer: by the shedding of his blood we are ransomed, and by his death we live. The case is this. Where the command of the law is broken, the curse of the law enters. Sin renders man obnoxious to punishment; and this punishment is as certain as the justice and the truth of God can make it. Now we had sinned, and therefore must have suffered-had not the Saviour be come our surety, and our substitute. But he, Hence, you must contemplate sin in the standing in our place, became answerable for threatenings of the Scripture. Oh! read and us; "he has redeemed us from the curse of tremble. Read of "everlasting destruction the law, being made a curse for us." Thus it from the presence of the Lord and the glory is said, the Lord "laid on him the iniquity of of his power"-read of a doom which I hope us all." And how was it laid upon him-but you will never hear-" Depart, ye cursed, by way of expiation? And for what purpose into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil was it laid upon him?-but that we might be and his angels." Now I reason thus, and a released from a load which would have sunk child can understand me--if God can right- us to the lowest hell. Hence it is said, "Beeously threaten all this misery, he can also hold the Lamb of God that taketh away the righteously inflict it; and if he can righteous- sin of the world. Once in the end of the world ly inflict such misery, sin must deserve it hath he appeared, to put away sin by the saand if sin deserves it deserves such punish-crifice of himself." In this sense he is so often