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at the time from his own seeking; and it may never again be vouchsafed to him by the bounteous Spirit that sent it. The day of grace may have spent its last sands;
and the only season that remains, and that will remain for ever, may be a season of hopelessness. The heart may be given over; the caustic that was meant to produce a wholesome smart may have seared it; and the blessing be turned into a curse. The man may again, indeed, hear ‘of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come'—but he may hear without trembling—till the judgment to come overtakes him, and his trembling shall be for ever.”
LET US NOW GO EVEN UNTO BETHLEHEM, AND SEE
THIS THING WHICH IS COME TO PASS, WHICH THE LORD HATH MADE KNOWN UNTO US. *
Luke ii. 15.
“It is now nearly two thousand years since the great spectacle, to which this invitation relates, was displayed in the sight of men and of angels; a spectacle, beyond all controversy, the first in power, in wisdom, and in benevolence, that has ever been exhibited on the theatre of universal being; and which, so to speak, forms the master-piece of the combined attributes of the Godhead. And yet how many millions of human kind, for whose benefit alone it has been performed, have passed into the world and out of it without ever having heard thereof by the smallest whisper. And, what is of far more importance to ourselves, how many millions are there of those who not only hear of it, but to whom the invitation is from year
* Written at Christmas, 1825.
to year, nay, from day to day, expressly addressed, and whose everlasting salvation depends upon their compliance,—who never once think of accepting it, and are satisfied with the invitation alone; who have the bible before them, but suffer it to remain a sealed book; and never open, even its first page, with any serious desire of studying its subject matter; who never take a single step in the road to Bethlehem, to examine what God hath there made known unto us. So brutish is the heart of man, so dull its desire after heavenly things, so rooted to the concerns of earth; as thougb, like the grass on which we tread, he could only grow from the ground. So intoxicated is he with his temporal interests--the bubble of the moment, that bursts even while he is grasping it, that the great business of an eternal state is forgotten; or rather, sacrificed at the shrine of the reigning idol of the hour. The gracious errand of divine love is never listened to, the song of angels is unheard, and the stupendous plan of redemption is suffered to pass by as a pageant.
“O, the long-suffering, the loving-kindness of an offended God !—Truly “thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds!' And, hence alone is it that, instead of a deluge of water, like that which formerly destroyed the world, or a consuming fire, like that which is in reserve for it hereafter, the same gracious message is still repeated to us down to the present hour; and we are still, and especially as on this returning festival of the Saviour's nativity, invited to 'go even now unto Bethlehem, and see the thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. Let us, then, now, EVEN NOW, if never before, follow the footsteps of the
heavenly host, the track in which their holy harpings guide us; let us catch the sweet carol of their accordant tongues, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men.'
“ And what does Bethlehem unfold to us? The eye of sense perceives nothing but a stable, a mother of humble station, and a swaddled babe lying in a manger. Yet this is the sight to which we are directed; this is the spectacle on which heaven is looking down with intense eagerness; this the grand event for which time has been travelling onward, and in which all the prophecies and the promises of God are concentrated. It is the babe lying in a manger. O paradox of men, and of angels ! O stupendous miracle of seeming contradictions! O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! That manger cradles the Lord of heaven and earth; that feeble babe is the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace! What a prodigy, and what a scene for its development! When man was made of the dust of the earth, a paradise was prepared for his reception; and all creation put on its richest livery. When the Son of God is made man, and descends from heaven upon the gracious errand of man's eternal salvation, he hath not where to lay his head, and is consigned to a manger because there is no room for him in the inn.'
“ WHAT A LESSON OF HUMILITY IS HERE READ TO Us! It is not with the great, or the mighty, or the noble, that the Saviour of the world condescends to take up his abode; to be clothed in scarlet and fine linen, and to fare sumptuously every day. It is not in
the courts, or the palaces, or even the temple of Jerusalem, that he chooses to make his blessed entrance into the world. But, trampling, as it were, upon all that man calls great and magnificent; making an open mock of the pomp, and the pride, and the vain glory of life, he vouchsafes to dignify the walk of the lowly with his presence, 'to fill the hungry with good things, while the rich are sent empty away :' to be born in a stable, instead of under a canopy; in Bethlehem, the city of David, “though little among the thousands of Judah,'* rather than in the capital of the Jewish monarchy, the citadel of its strength.
“ And, as was the opening, so, too, was the progress of his career. 'Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, were called ;'+ but it was the poor who had the gospel chiefly preached unto them; and the halt, and the deaf, and the dumb, and the blind, who were selected to be the principal heralds of the Redeemer's praise. Where, then, is boasting under the gospel? It is utterly excluded, it is anathematized, it is proscribed by every step of our divine Master's progress, from his mysterious entrance into life to his awful exit; from the manger at Bethlehem, to the cross at Calvary.
“And as he hallowed the path of humility, so did he that of affliction. It was his daily trial to endure the contradiction of sinners; ’his 'visage was marred more than any man's; he bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows; was wounded for our transgression, and bruised for our iniquities;' and, 'was made perfect through suffering.'
Mic. v. 2.
+ 1 Cor. i. 28.
“ WHAT A LESSON OF HUMAN WISDOM IS HERE READ TO US! Let philosophy look on, and blush at its own conceits. How little has man's understanding been able, at any time, to fathom the nature and the attributes of the Deity, or to dive into his mysterious councils! Every age and nation have had their successive mythologies and theologies, their creeds for the vulgar and their creeds for the learned. Egypt, India, Persia, and Greece, have vied with each other in their respective fancies. And, as though for the express purpose of shewing us the utter vanity of all the natural powers of the human mind, when pressed to their utmost stretch of elaborate cultivation, the experiment was permitted to be carried on among these nations in succession, through a period of little less than four thousand years. And what, in every instance, was the result? --Shadows instead of realities; visionary conjectures instead of substantial truths :
No light, but rather darkness visible. “And then, and not till then, after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom,' was thus proved to know not God, it pleased God,' by what the world called the foolishness of preaching,' thus retorting its own terms upon itself, by the great scheme of redemption, by the revelation of his own Son from heaven, to illuminate the darkness of nature, and 'to save them that believe.'
Where, then, is the wise? Where is the disputer of this world? God hath chosen the foolish things of the world (foolish in the world's own conceit) to confound the wise; yea, God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty;