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lways to be natural in all we say and do ; not to pre
end to a more exalted piety than the knowledge we Piave of ourselves will bear out. Let us never make false pretences in religion. And however we may conduct ourselves, whether in secret, in the family, in the church, or in the world, it is better, far better, and more ingenuous, to confess our faults, than to offer groundless excuses for conduct.
severe than the circumstances of the case required ; for be it remembered that the kingdom of Israel was not of long standing, it had in fact but just been established: Saul was the first king, and the commandment of God, which he had broken, was the first that had been given to him. Now, it has ever been the custom of wise legislators to set a heavy penalty upon
the first transgression of laws, to intimidate and deter others; thus did God aforetime in the case of our first parents, who were turned out of paradise for transgressing the first injunction that was laid upon them. Also in the case of the first sabbath-breaker, who was detected gathering sticks on the sabbath-day : “ And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall surely be put to death ; and all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones that he died.” Unless unfounded fears are overcome in the Christian's bosom, who knows but they may lead to the loss of the kingdom : “ The fearful and the unbelieving shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
After giving our attention to this subjcct, we should do well to examine our present position, with respect to the profession of Christianity which we make; to ascertain whether the truth of the matter is in us, or whether we are only nominally Christians ; for it would be a fearful termination of all our prayers and praises, and attendance upon the means of grace, to hear the sentence pronounced upon us : Depart, accursed.” The disciple of Jesus had need be doubly guarded against unbelieving fears, because they risk his eternal welfare, and bring reproach upon the cause of Christianity.
This subject should also lead us to endeavour
always to be natural in all we say and do ; not to pretend to a more exalted piety than the knowledge we have of ourselves will bear out. Let us never make false pretences in religion. And however we may conduct ourselves, whether in secret, in the family, in the church, or in the world, it is better, far better, and more ingenuous, to confess our faults, than to offer groundless excuses for conduct.
When the angels of God are appointed to be the messengers, we may be sure the mission in which they are employed is an important one. It is not usual for a king to send the most noble princes on the most trifling errands.
When Balak required the prophet Balaam to come to him, and curse the children of Israel, he sent the elders of Moab unto him ; but when he found that they returned without the prophet, then Balak “ sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they;" for to him it was an important thing that the prophet should be prevailed upon to come and curse God's people, that he might hope to prevail against them. When God sends a celestial messenger on an embassy, he would thereby impress the minds of those to whom he is sent, that, in proportion to the rank and quality of the messenger, so is the importance of the mission in which he is engaged. When the Lord was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah with fire, two angels were previously commissioned to acquaint Lot with the end that awaited the corrupt inhabitants of those cities, and to bring him and his family out from among them.
When Herod had apprehended Peter, and put him into prison, intending to put him to death, as he had
done to James, the brother of John, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in prison, and wrought his deliverance. Similar was the case of Daniel: “ My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me.” Now, if these cases, in which the lives and welfare of individuals were concerned, were of so great importance that the eternal Ruler saw fit to employ angelic messengers, how much more might it be expected that an event in which the everlasting salvation of a lost world was involved would be announced by holy angels.
The publication of a Saviour's birth was made by an angel to shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. That his birth should first have been proclaimed to shepherds appears to be remarkable. According to human customs, we might have supposed that it would have been first announced to the high priest, and to the sanhedrim, the honourable body of seventy Jewish elders and doctors; but God hath poured contempt upon those things that the world deem most noble, and he hath put honour upon those occupations that the world deem most ignoble. The pastoral life was held in reputation in the days of Jacob, Moses, and David, who were all shepherds. The promise of a Saviour was given to men who were shepherds, and the fulfilment of that promise was first proclaimed to shepherds : “ And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid." It was natural that they should be afraid, seeing an appearance as glorious as it was unusual. But the angel commenced his mission with consolatory words: " Fear not !” God intended that his messenger should be revered, and that his message should be impressive; and while he accomplished these objects, he