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his unkind purpose, but even change his disposition towards
What decree did Cæsar Augustus make at this time ? That all the world should be taxed.
What were all required to do, that their names might be enrolled, and the tax regularly imposed ?
To go every one to his own city.
Yes; Mary, the mother of our Saviour, and Joseph his reputed father. Of whose house and lineage were they?
Thus, then, was the fulfilment of one prophecy, respecting the promised Redeemer, satisfactorily proved. By what name is he foretold in the 11th chapter of Isaiah ?
A rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.
And many were the promises which God made to David, that his seed should be established for ever. Here then, the needful proof is given, that the son of Mary was of the house and lineage of David! To what place did they go up?
The very place in which it was declared the Saviour should be born; a place, in which had not God thus ordered it, Mary would not have been, for she lived at Nazareth in Galilee. What had the prophet Micah said, respecting this city?
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me, that is to be ruler in Israel ; whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.
It was on this account therefore, that an overruling Providence made it needful for Mary to go to Bethlehem: and by that same Providence, so it was, that while she was there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. Thus Christ was born at Bethlehem. And if, my children, you could examine every circumstance that was foretold respecting the birth, life, death, and resurrection of the expected Messiah, you would find that all was exactly and wonderfully fulfilled, in Jesus Christ. How should this strengthen' our faith in him, as the true Saviour! This is he who was to come, and we look for no other. From this chapter then you learn first, every thing prophesied of the Saviour was fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The children repeated the inference after her : and Jane continued, when Mary had brought forth her first born son, what did she do with him ?
Wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Oh, what depth of humility and abasement is here! God become man; he who fills all space with his presence, appearing as an infant; he to whom belong all riches and glory, the child of poverty and contempt; he who is the Lord of heaven and earth, thrust from the dwellings of his creature man, when visiting his own creation, and compelled to make his abode with the beasts of the earth. But why did the God of glory stoop to this low and destitute condition ?
To save sinners.
Yes : : man by sin had lost his glory, and exposed himself to endless shame and suffering; therefore, God the Son, in infinite compassion, laid aside his majesty, took the nature we had disgraced, and suffered in the place of sinners, that all who plead his precious name, may receive a full salvation. He took our poverty and misery, in order to bestow on us the riches of his glory. He became the son of man, and humbled himself even unto death, to make us the sons of God, and heirs of everlasting life. O how wonderful was the love of Jesus.
Rich in glory thou didst stoop;
Rich in glory, Lord, with thee. Learn secondly, Though Christ was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor. Who were abiding in the same country?
How were they employed when an angel appeared, to tell them of the birth of Christ?
Keeping watch over their flocks by night.
They were diligently occupied in the duties of their station. And thus, if our hearts are with God, our minds contented,
and our hands engaged in the employments which Providence allots us, we shall be happy, whatever may be our condition in this world, and the blessing of the Most High will rest upon
The third remark I would make then is, that in the cheerful discharge of our daily duties, we may expect God's blessing. And now we come to the tidings that the angel brought; tidings in which you and I are deeply interested. When the shepherds saw the glory of the Lord, they were at first sore afraid. What did the angel say to them?
Instead of fear, they had the greatest cause for rejoicing. Behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
And wbat were those glad tidings ?
Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
Why does man need a Saviour ?
A lost sinner, in danger every moment of falling into the pit of destruction; a helpless sinner, utterly unable to deliver himself. And only such a Saviour as Christ the Lord, could ever have delivered him. The higbest archangel would not have been able to bear the wrath of God, due to man's transgression ; but here, help is laid upon One who is mighty, almighty, to save every one who comes unto God by him. The greatest created being owes all the obedience he can render, to the Lord who made him ; but he who was God himself, equal with the Father, owed no obedience or submission on his own account: therefore, by keeping the divine law, he magnified and made it honourable, so that the merit of his righteousness is available, in behalf of those for whom he performed it. Thus, my children, you see none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good. And oh, how precious is this Saviour to those who feel their need of him. They do indeed esteem the tidings good.
The sweetest news that ever came ;
They sing their great Immanuel's name. And the angels in heaven exult in this blessed salvation. As holy and benevolent beings, they rejoice when God is honoured and man benefited. By whom was the angel accompanied ?
By a multitude of the heavenly host.
And how did they celebrate the praise of our redeeming God ?
Saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good-will towards men.
In the highest! The works of creation, and the wonders of Providence, bring glory to God: but it is the work of redemption that brings glory to God in the highest. Glory to the Father, who contrived the gracious plan; glory to the Son who executed it; glory to the Spirit who applies the salvation to the hearts of his people. All the divine attributes are glorified ; - wisdom in appointing the means; justice in punishing sin; mercy in saving the sinner; truth in the fulfilment of threatenings; faithfulness in the accomplishment of promises. And peace and good-will to man, are no less insured by this manifestation of the divine goodness : peace with God, through the atonement and righteousness of an incarnate Saviour; peace of mind, from a sense of the divine favour; peace with his fellow-creatures, from a desire to imitate the example of his Redeemer. Now, if the angels burst forth in songs of praise, when contemplating this glorious subject, how much more should we, to whom the great salvation is offered, adore and celebrate the love of our forgiving God. We learn fourthly, Salvation by Christ, brings glory to God, and peace to man. The angel had directed the shepherds to the place where the infant Saviour lay: as soon then as their heavenly visitors were gone, what did they say, one to another?
Let us go even unto Bethlehem, that we may see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.
They did not carelessly dismiss these tidings from their minds, as too many of you, my children, I fear do. They resolved to go to the Saviour who had been made known to them. Now suppose any one of these shepherds had said, « I will not go, I care not for these things; I have no wish for any knowledge of him who is born at Bethlehem :" would you not have been shocked at his impiety and ingratitude ? Yet how many speak thus by their conduct, in the present day. Though Jesus is not on earth now in his bodily presence, where is he made known to us?
In his word.
Yes; in the Bible, and in the preached gospel. And how may we seek him and come unto him now?
O then, that you would intreat the Holy Spirit when your ministers and teachers tell you of a precious Saviour, to in. cline your hearts to say, let us go unto him. He invites you to seek him: he says, I love them that love me, and those who seek me early shall find me. He gives you his holy day; puts his word into your hand; provides a school in which it is ex. plained to you; permits you to join in the public prayers and praises of his people, and to hear his everlasting gospel. When therefore he says unto you, in all these various ways, Seek ye my face; O that each of your hearts might reply, Thy face, Lord, will I seek, by the help of thy gracious Spirit. Then you will find all that has been told you abundantly true ; and you,
in your turn, will desire to make known the joyful news to others. What are we told the shepherds did when they had seen these things ?
Made known abroad the saying which had been told them concerning this child.
Yes; all who have sought and found a Saviour, will be anxious that others may know him also. It is impossible for one who feels the worth of his own soul to be indifferent respecting the souls of his fellow-creatures. He will long and pray, contribute and labour, in any way which God is pleased to open to him, so that he may aid in diffusing that knowledge, which, when received into the heart, brings glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and good-will towards men. Not that he acts with self-importance ; for he acknowledges that the Lord Almighty, could work quite as well without, as by him: but he delights to manifest his gratitude, and adores the condescension which makes use of so unworthy an instrument. It only remains for you to tell me how the shepherds returned from their visit to Bethlehem,
Glorifying and praising God, for all the things that they had seen and heard.
How happy were these shepherds : their hearts were filled with joy, and their lips with praise. And if you seek the same