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ing thing expires. Again he sends forth his word, the windows of heaven are stopped, the seas retire to their appointed bed, the dry land appears, the bow is seen in the cloud, the jign of God's covenant of peace. The per.od of
every event is keitled tv a moment, the instrument is provided, the hand is prepared. But of all the events which have taken place since the beginning of the world, the most illustrious and important furely is that recorded in the words now read. The moment of eve. ry child's birth, is highly interesting, at least to the mother.The birth of an heir, to a title, to an eftate, to a crown, is felt by thousands, by regions, by empires.
Here we have the birih of the “first among many brethren," of " he heir of all things,” of “ the Prince of the kings of the earth." Toward this eventful hour, time, from the first dawn of light, began to fluw in one rising, swelling tide, here it came to its tulness, and hence it began to bend its awful course to lose itself in eternity again. Toward this, as to their common central point, all the powers of nature are attracted ; from this, as from the fun the central light of the universe, glory is in all directions diffused. In the birth of this wonderful child, all the children of men who lived before, or who arose after it, have a serious, an everlasting concern. Is it any wonder, then, that by so many signs in heaven and signs on earth, that hy the tongues of prophets, the decrees of Princes, the revo. Jution of empires, the descent of Angels, the finger of God should have poinied it out to mankind ?
The Evangelist, at the beginning of the chapter, conveys us 10 Rome, the proud and puissant mistress of the world; the en. flaver of the nations, sinking, funk herself into flavery. From what particular motive we are not informed, nor is it of much importance to determine, Auguftus Cesar thought proper to illue a decree for making an exact enrolment of all the subjects of his vaft empire. A vain-glorious monarch, who could exultingly call a subjugated hemisphere his own, might be prompted by pride to ascertain the number of faves destined to obey him. As it was the boast of this magnificent prince that he had found Rome a city of bricks, and was leaving it a city of marble, the splendour of the capital was no doubt extracted out of the ruins of the provinces, and enrolment probably was intended to precede taxation. However it was, and on whomfoever belide the decree of the emperor fell, it affected one litile, poor family in circumstances of singular delicacy, and fell upon it with uncommon severity. Behold the messenger of Cesar at the door of an obscure carpenter at Nazareth of Gali. dee, summoning him with all his family to repair to his native city, to be enrolled in their proper didrift : and as the commandments of kings require hafte, and do not always stoop to consult the feelings of the humble and the miserable, he muit depart on a moment's warning, with his tender companion, now in the last week of pregnancy; poor and unprovided, to a home from which he had been long exiled, and to vili kinkmen to whom he had become a stranger.
But this removal was wholly ordered by the fupreme will of Heaven. The Son of David, who was to re-establish his throne, could be born no where but in Bethlehem the city of David. Thus the great Ruler of the world had willed, and thus prophecy had declared. And thus Celar was merely the unconscious, unintentional minister of the Son of Mary; fornilhiag a link to the chain of evidence respecting the truth and divine original of Christianity, and exhibiting an illustrious inItance of the sovereign control which the great Jehovah felfes and exercises over the counsels of princes, the convullion of nations, the fate of worlds.
We halten from proud Rome to humble Nazareth, from a haughty despot to uncomplaining sufferers, from unfeeling power to patient submission. Behold that delicate woman, ir the most delicate and interesting of all female situations, forced from home, constrained to undertake a painful and anxious journey in a condition which rendered ease, and attention, and tenderness, and the accommodations of sympathy, peculiarly desirable. See her advancing by slow and distressing stages towards the residence of her forefathers, once illustrious, but now fallen in!o.decay ; to the city of her ancestors, but not to receive the attendance of royal state, not to usher into the world the heir of David's throne, amidst the prayers, and expect to tions, and kind wishes of the myriads of Ilrael: no, not so much as to enjoy the confolation and support which even the poor enjoy in such a.case, 10. deposit the folicitude of approuching child-birth in the bosom of a fond mother, or sympathizing. friend ; alas, not even to partake of ihe ordinary conveniences which a traveller has reason to expect, the general hospi-, tality, and mercenary comforts of an inn :--but io know the heart of a stranger, to swallow down the bit erness of neglect, to feel the insult of the proud, and the merciless pity of the
“ There was no room for them in the inn.” Bethlehem was crouded with guests, but lo, the lineal heirs of the royal house of Judah, in the city of David, are fo unconnected, fo torlorr, sa friendlets, that not a door will open to let them
in, not à tongue say “ God relieve you" as they pass by; and so poor, that an apartment in the stable is all the accommoda. tion which, by intreaty, or promise, or by presenting the face of mitery, they are able to purchase.
The inevitable hour, to which nature at once looks with hope and shrinks from with horror, overtakes her ; and unfupported, unalli sted, as it should seem, she brings forth her firitborn son ; and is able at once to perform the earliest duties of a mother, “ she wrapped him in swaddling clothes," and with the humility and refignarion becoming her destitute condition, “ laid him in the manger," leaving it to Providence to unveil its own secret counsels and accomplish its own gracious purposes. And thus the Saviour of the world entered upon that ftate of depression, poverty and suffering, which terminated only with his life.
But the affectingly humiliating scene in the flable at Betha lehem of Judah is relieved by the glory of the Lord shining round about it. That Babe neglected, unknown, despifed, outcast of men, is declared, by the concurring testimony of patriarchs and prophets, of angels and men, by the shaking of the heavens and the earth, of the sea and the dry land, to be " the Son of the Highest." His parentage, his name, the time and place of his birth, the condition of his infant hours have all the seal of heaven upon them. For what end did Isaiab prophesy, Alexander conquer, and Augustus give laws, but to point out to the world the instant, the spot, the descent, the estate in which the Son of God assumed our nature, in order to enter on the work of our redemption.
Preparation is making in another quarter of the globe, to bring a tribute of praise to the Redeemer of mankind. The East is ready to contribute its gifts, is preparing its gold and frankincenle ard myrrh to lay them at his feet. The wise men of distant nations, occupied in the study of nature, and attentive to the signs of the times, are awaked to inquiry by a silent but shining monitor. The appearance of the starry heavens was well known to them, they can calculate the distances and revolutions of each little far that sparkles in the expanse of heaven ; but in a monient all their fcience is confounded, all their experience is overthrown, by the appearance of a new created light, in motion and at ret by a law.peculiar to itself, to fulfil a transitory indeed, but a most important purpose, and which having pointed to "the place where the young child lay,” is blotied out of nature, and disappears for ever. Now none of these things were done in a corner." Chris
Tianity did not steal in upon the world, without warning all characters and descriptions of men were called in to give teitimony to it, and without acquaintance, concurrence, or cooperation they establish the same truth. The eaftern Magi on their arrival at Jerusalem, and on explaining the reason of their journey thither, are not treated as visionaries, who dreamed of things that never exifted, but are liftened to and respected as realonable men inquiring after important truth. The attention of Herod, and of all Jerusalem with him, is roused; thar jealous and fanguinary tyrant, takes every precaution sets on toots every inquiry that his reigning pallions could fuggeft, to elucidaie the cale; to secure poilellion to himself, -nd to crush every rival. He summons the chief priests and scribes of the people, consults them respecting the determinations of prophecy, as to the birth place of the expected King of the Jews, he compares their opinion with the report of the wife men, and acts upon the result of that comparison. A coincidence of persons and circumstances so striking, and all relating to one person andone point, must lead to the acknowledgment and adoration of that God, in whose hand are the hearts of princes, the deliberations of councils, the number and motions of all the host of heaven. "He telleth the number of the stars ; be calleth them all by their nanies ; great is our Lord and of great power ; his understanding is infinite." Augustus Cefar, Herod, the Magi. the Jewish Sanhedrim, the inhabitants of Bethlehem, of Jeru. salem, all concur to give witness to yonder babe laid in a man. ger, and they involuntarily ash ft in demonstrating the certainty of those things wherein ye have been instructed : that ye might have strong consolation in having fled for refuge to the hope set before you.
But higher testimony ftill than that of the potentates of the earth is given to the Lord of glory. Angels descend with fongs to meet him at his coming ; the gloom of night is difpelled by celestial radiance ; Silence, well-pleafed, hears the sweet melody of angelic notes chanting the glad tidings of great joy,“ unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord." The harmony of a thousand heavenly voices in chorus join, to celebrate the advent of the Prince of Peace ; to announce to a sumbering world Him in whose light they thine, by whose power they are supported, in whole praise they unite, 10 whose will thej are devoted. What a wonderful contralt ! A deforted, friend. less mother, a helplels infant, a fiable, a manger ! Whar humiliation like this humiliation ! A throne above the heavens, the homage of princes, the effulgence of a far o mark the way
to his cradle, the adoration of the glorious host of heaven, the arm of the Lord revealed! What design but the salvation of a lost world, what event but the birth of a Saviour, what person but the Son of God, could warrant all this display of majesty and might? Chriftian, keep these astonishing extremes continually in figlit. This is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; " as children are partakers of flesh and blood he likewise himself also took part of the same ; verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but the feed of Abraham. In alt things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest, in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the fins of the people; for in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to luccour them that are tempted.” The subject teaches us,
1. How incompetent judges we are of the ways and works of God. Few events, it any, correspond to our preconceived opinions of them. From the glimmering that we have, with. out any light at all save the sparks of our own kindling, we take upon us to arrange and decide, and to limit the holy one ar Ifrael. Like Naaman the Syrian, we have settled the mode of cure in our own mind, dressed it in proper parade and cere. mony, and fall out with the prophet becaule the simplicity of the process confounds the airy vision with which our imagination had amused itself. Not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God, the carnal Jews had dressed out, for Meflia ah the prince a throne like Solomon's, of ivory overlaid with gold, had placed him at the head of armies, had surrounded him with guards, had crowned him with laurels. When the event belied their groundless expectations, with Naaman they turned away in a rage, saying, " Are not Abana and Pharpar, livers of Damascus; better than all the waters of Israel ?” “ Away with this man, crucify him, not this man bur Barabbas."
2. Observe here in how many instances God writeth vanity on all the glory of man. In the pride of their hearts, the princes and potentates here mentioned, vainly imagined a proftrate world to be all their own. Every will must bend to theirs ; to their pleasure every power and posseffion must minifter ; all the while they are the mere attendants on the royal state of the real Prince. Their names are indeed some of thema till had in remembrance, but their power is annihilated, their consequence is swallowed up, or if any remain, it is derived from the relation which it bears to the superior, the commanding, the undiminished importance of Him to whom they gave witness, and whose state, in spite of themselves, they continue