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To us, in this day, who are not called to follow shadows and dark ceremonies, but 'with open face to behold the glory of the Lord,' as it appears in the face of Jesus Christ,' the grand question is, what is the value of the object which we are pursuing? What is salvation? What shall I obtain therein? acceptance, pardon-purity-boldness before God! what a marvellous light! what a blessed dispensation! How thankful ought we to be for this light! how willing to follow it; and to follow it simply-humbly-entirely!
This did these Wise Men: they came inquiring, 'where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him.'
III. True Wisdom will HONOUR THE OBJECT WHICH IT HAS FOUND.
It will not listen to the objections of the scoffer, or unbeliever. Herod, and the Chief Priests, and all Jerusalem were troubled: but who were they? Their character explained their opposition.
Are you troubled, because you have in your families persons who sneer and scoff, and treat the Sabbath and the Gospel with contempt, and despise religious men because they are religious? How would you expect such scoffers to act? Is not their conduct in character? Has not God said, that 'In the last days there shall arise scoffers, walking after their own lusts -speaking evil of things that they know not?"
Herod, and the Chief Priests, and all Jerusalem were troubled, because they loved darkness rather than light. But these men came to Jerusalem and inquired publicly, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews? We are come from a far country, and we are determined to own and honour the object of which we are in pursuit."
Brethren our inquiries may possibly disturb others; yet we must persevere. Ours is not an affair to be trifled with: it is of infinite moment! Let us be
civil, and kind, and benevolent, and give no offence te Jew or Gentile, much less to the Church of God; but, in an affair of such infinite importance as salvation and the confessing of Christ before men, we must be simple and determined: we must say, with Joshua, Choose ye whom ye will serve but, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
IV. True Wisdom will continue to WAIT IN AN HUMBLE SPIRIT, FOR FURTHER DIREC'TION.
This did the Wise Men. 'They rejoiced with exceeding great joy, when they saw the star.' And when it had led them to the young child-' God manifest in the flesh'-they waited for further directions: and, being warned of God in a dream,' they returned ' into their own country another way.'
My dear hearers, we want daily instruction; yea, every hour of the day. We know not what a day may bring forth, nor what is contained in a single circumstance of the day, nor what mischief and danger may await us. The same care of God, in his Providence, which is necessary to our preservation in the most tremendous danger, is equally necessary in the most unsuspicious circumstances.
The star had left these men: they had found their object; but they still inquired: they still needed direction they waited, and God warned them what steps they should take, after they had found Christ. You may be a Christian of mature age, and able to instruct others; yet you need to pray continually, "What I know not, teach thou me. Let me hear thy voice, saying, This is the way: walk ye in it; when I turn to the right hand, or to the left."
V. True Wisdom will teach a man CALMLY TO PURSUE HIS COURSE.
The wise man will hold on this way, regardless of the consequences which he expects to meet. He will hold on his way, and wax stronger and stronger.
Thus it was with Moses: he had great difficulties to encounter; but by faith he overcame: he went on his way, acted according to his rule, and left consequences with God. Thus these Wise Men, having seen God manifest in the flesh,' felt that they had seen enough to prevent their being carried away by the fears of the world. Never will any man be cured of that worst of disorders-the world in the heart-till he has by faith beheld the salvation of God in the work of Christ.
Let us, then, imitate these Wise Men: let us keep the feast of the Epiphany, on the eve of which we now are, by admiring the condescension, grace, and goodness of God, to us Gentiles. Arise! shine!" says the prophet: for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light: God has stooped down to our necessities. By the assistance of those ministers or friends, whom he raises up for us-by the books, which he brings to our hands-by the hints, which he occasionally affords us by the good thoughts, which he suggests to the mind-he can conduct us, as he did these Wise Men, to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
1. My Christian Brethren! do you feel, at times, that the truth will not suffer you to rest in the course wherein you have been walking?-that, however various occurrences may seem to drive the truth out of your mind, yet it returns again; and that one passage of scripture after another calls loudly to your conscience? This is as the shining of the star to the Wise Men: this is, as another scripture expresses it, Christ knocking at the door of your hearts! TAKE CARE
HOW YOU TRIFLE WITH CONVICTION.
It is most awful to stifle conviction. viction will rise again in the judgment to witness against you. If you spend your time, while reading the scriptures, in searching for poetical beauties or 13*
making critical remarks, you act as these Wise Men would have done, if they had sat down spectators of the phenomena, but took no step in following it. We are not, as Mr. Boyle expresses it, to stand looking at the telescope-case, but to look through it: children may be amused with the case, but the astronomer uses the telescope as an instrument whereby to discover the wonders of the planetary world. Thus let us endeavour to use the light which God affords-not to amuse ourselves with it, but to make our way by it to the light of life.
2. If True Wisdom consists in seeking an infallible guide, following such a guide when it appears, confessing our object before men, waiting for further direction, and pursuing our course regardless of all consequences-if this be true wisdom, HOW BLIND AND
WRETCHED ARE THEY, WHO HAVE NEVER TAKEN ONE STEP BY THE LIGHT AFFORDED THEM!
The man may be a King-so was Herod: but what use did he make of the circumstances in which he was placed? He may be a Scholar-so were the Sadducees and Pharisees: but what light had they? what discoveries did they make? He may be a Ministerso were the Chief Priests: and what did they do with this marvellous light? The man may be successful in his schemes and projects-so were Dives and Demas : but what became of them? What wisdom had they? Can you conceive of men more beguiled of Satan than these men? The world may praise them: but what does God say of them? Let us hear his account, and listen to what we hear: 'If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost!'
Am I speaking to any who are yet sleeping, though so glorious a light is risen upon the earth?-I would say to such, What! does this light shine, that you may determine to sit in darkness, and pour contempt on it? What will you plead in the Great Day? You cannot say, like the benighted Chinese or Indian.
"We were brought up in the darkness of idolatry. The light that was in us, was darkness." You must give account of these truths: and then you will find them to be a savour of death unto death."
3. If True Wisdom is here marked out and set before us, and recommended to our attention by the God of all wisdom, WHAT A BLESSED THING IT IS TO BE REALLY WISE a truly godly man, enlightened and enlivened by this light!
For there is one Spirit, one light, one real character in all true Christians. Were these lights, which are shining around us to-night, to be multiplied into ten thousand times their number, they would be all of the same nature. So the grace of God, whether it work in Abraham, in Lazarus, or in any sinner at this day, is of the same nature still.
My dear hearers, let the world think of these things as they may. These Wise Men were treated, doubtless, with the utmost contempt in Jerusalem, when they came, inquiring, 'Where is he, that is born King of the Jews?' And when they set out from their own country, it is probable they were regarded as madmen: the following of a star must have been accounted by their countrymen, as one of the wildest projects that ever entered the head of man. And when they fell down before the child, and offered gold and frankincense, whoever stood round and were not under the same gracious influence, would regard it as the most egregious trifling to pour out such gifts before a poor child, in the lap of a poor virgin, and in the meanest situation, under the idea that they were led by a star to pay that adoration.
You see now the opinions of the men of the world. Nothing can be gathered from them. Let us follow our rule, and leave consequences, as these Wise Men did. And how will these very men rise up in judgment against the curious traveller, the wise politician, the learned, the scorners and scoffers of every day,