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SERM ON LXXV.
THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD, TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY.
LUKE, CHAP. II.-VERSE 10.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not : for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
The proper business of a festival is spiritual joy, conceived in our hearts by reflexion on some notable blessing conferred on us; accompanied with a grateful sense and expression, answerable to the special bounty and mercy of God, in due proportion to the nature and degree of that blessing.
Such joy is a duty, or a part of religious devotion, required by God, and very acceptable to him: for as God would have his servants perpetually content, well satisfied, and cheerful in all states, and on all occurrences; so he doth especially demand from us, that we should entertain his favors with delight and complacence; it being proper, it being seemly, it being just, so to do: for since joy is a natural result of our obtaining whatever we do apprehend good, or esteem and affect; the conception of it is a plain argument that we do well understand, do rightly prize, do cordially like, do thankfully embrace God's favors; as, on the contrary, a defect of it doth imply that we do not mind them, or take them to be little worth, that we do not sensibly relish them, or accept them kindly. And if ever we are obliged, if ever we are concerned so to rejoice, then surely it is now; when the fairest occasion and highest cause of joy that ever was is presented to us; when certain news from heaven, and the best that ever came from thence, of the most admirable, the most glorious, the most beneficial event that ever happened in the world, is in a manner suitably rare conveyed to us; for, ‘Behold,” saith the angel, ‘ I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.’ On which words (each whereof is emphatical, and pregnant with matter observable) we shall first make a brief descant, or paraphrase, supplying the room of a curious analysis; then we shall urge the main duty couched in them. 'I809, “Behold :' This is a word denoting admiration, exciting attention, intimating assurance: ‘Behold,' and admire; it is no mean, no ordinary matter, that I report, but a most remarkable, a very marvellous event: ‘Behold,’ and attend ; it is a business not to be passed over with small regard, but most worthy your consideration, of high moment and concerment to you. ‘Behold' and see : it is no uncertain, no obscure thing; but that whereof you may be fully assured, as if it were most evident to your sense, and which by conspicuous proofs shall be demonstrated ; in the mean while you have no slight authority for it: for EbayyeXizopat, “I bring good tidings;’ I, an angel, a special messenger of God purposely sent on this errand, that by the strangeness of my apparition I may excite you to regard it, by the weight of my testimony I may incline you to believe it, by the dignity of my nature I may declare the importance of it; I, a faithful servant of God, and a kind friend to men, very willing at his command to perform good offices to them, do bring a message well becoming an angel’s mouth, worth my descent from heaven, and putting on this visible shape: for I bring Evayyext?opat Xapaw peyá\my, “good tidings of great joy:’ I bring tidings that may gratify the curiosity of any man, the mind of man naturally being greedy of news: “good tidings;’ those are welcome to all men, and apt to yield more pleasure than any knowlege we had before: tidings of joy; such as may not only minister a dry satisfaction to your reason, but sensibly touch your affections, by the comfortable nature and beneficial tendency of them : tidings of great joy; as not touching any indifferent or petty business, but affairs of nearest concernment and highest consequence to you: (such, indeed, as you shall understand, which do concern not the poor interests of this world, not the sorry pleasures of sense, not any slender advantage of your present life and temporal state; but your spiritual welfare, your everlasting condition, the future joy and happiness of your souls;) tidings, indeed, the most gladsome that ever sounded on earth, that ever entered into mortal ear: these I bring "Yuiv, to you:’ to you shepherds; persons of mean condition and simple capacity, leading this innocent and humble sort of life, employed in your honest vocation, undergoing toilsome labor and sore hardship; witness the open field, witness the cold season, witness the dark night, in which I find you watching and guarding your sheep; to you, who could expect no very welcome tidings; who are little concerned in any great transactions, and can have small ambition or hope of bettering your condition by any changes here; even to you (not in the first place to the mighty princes, to the crafty statesmen, to the sage philosophers, or learned rabbies, to the wealthy merchants, or fine citizens, who now are warm in their houses, enjoying their ease and pleasure; reposing on their beds, or sitting by their fires, or revelling at their banquets and sports; but to you) poor, harmless, silly, industrious souls, who well may represent the greater and better part of mankind; in this surprising and absolutely free way the gracious Lord of heaven by me his special minister doth vouchsafe to send from thence “tidings of great joy:’ which shall be IIavri o Aaj, to all people:’ or rather to all ‘the people;’ that is, to God's ancient and peculiar people, in regard to which it is said, ‘I was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;’ to that people, I say, especially, primarily, and more immediately this joy did appertain; it, by a closer relation to God, and special interest in his promises, having plainest title thereto; it, from anticipations of knowlege, faith, and hope, being more capable to admit such an overture; it indeed being the representative of all the spiritual Israel, or faithful seed of Abraham, for whom the benefits which these tidings import were designed ; to it first indeed, but mediately and consequentially to all people dispersed on the face of the earth. The expression seemeth adapted to the present conceits of that nation, which apprehended nothing about God's favorable intentions to the community of men: but in effect it is to be understood extensively in reference to all people: for the Saviour, the Christ, the Lord, of whom this good news did report, was not only to be the Redeemer and Governor of that small people, but of the world, of every nation, of all mankind: here indeed we have travri ro, Aaj, “to all the people;' but in the nunc dimittis of old Simeon, we have rávrwy rejv Aadv, “of all the peoples:’ ‘Mine eyes,” said he, “ have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all the peoples;’ As he was ‘the glory of his people Israel;’ as in him “God did visit and redeem that his people;' so he was “made a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be for salvation to the uttermost ends of the earth: he was ‘the expectation of Israel;' but he was likewise ‘the desire of all nations:’ he was destined to rule in Sion;' but ‘ the Heathen also were given for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession: he was ‘the root of Jesse, which should stand for an ensign of the people, to which the Gentiles should seek;’ he was that royal person, of whom the psalmist did sing, “Men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed.’ He was to be born by nation a Jew, but a man by nature; ‘the Son of man' was a style which he commonly did own and affect, no less than the Son of Abraham, or of David; he was born indeed under the law, but of a woman; and therefore brother to us all, as ‘partaker of the same flesh and blood: hence was he endued with an human compassion, and with a fraternal affection toward all men; hence was he disposed to extend the benefit of his charitable and gracious performances unto them all. Judea therefore must not ingross this angelical gospel; it is of importance most universal and unlimited, reaching through all successions of time, and all extensions of place; filling all ages and all regions of the world with matter and with obligation of joy; hence even by Moses anciently (according to St. Paul's interpretation) were all nations on this account invited to a common joy ; 'Rejoice,” said he, “O ye nations with his people.’ Hence, in foresight of this event, the holy psalmist (as the fathers expound him) did sing, ‘The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of isles be glad thereof:’ hence, “Sing, O thou barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, that thou didst not travail with child’—“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose’—‘Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth,’ said the evangelical prophet in regard to this dispensation ; in fine, this angel himself did interpret his own words, when in concert with the heavenly choir he sang that anthem, ‘Glory be to God in the highest; on earth peace, and good-will toward men :’ whence we may collect that a peace diffused over the earth, and a good-will extended toward all men, were implied in these “tidings of great joy to all people.’ We then are all concerned in these tidings, and we may look on them as by this heavenly Evangelist imparted to us; whence our duty must be to listen with reverent attention unto them, seriously to weigh the purport of them, diligently to contemplate the reasons of that great joy, which effectually should be produced in us by them, as their proper and due result; to further which practice, let us take some prospect of this gospel, whereby it may appear pleasant, and apt to kindle a sprightly joy in our hearts. The matter of it is the nativity of our ever blessed Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus; for, ‘To you,” saith our angel, “is born this day a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord;’ an occurrence fraught with all the greatest causes of joy imaginable; as importing innumerable, unexpressibly and unconceivably vast advantages thence springing to us. It doth minister occasion of rejoicing for all the blessings, which did flow from each of his salutary undertakings and performances; for all the mercies purchased by the merits of his obedience, and by the price of his blood; for all the graces issuing from his dispensation of the Holy Spirit; for all the benefits consequent on his illustrious resurrection, ascension, and glorification; as being a good entrance to them, yea, a great progress in them, and a certain pledge of their full accomplishment: for all the work of our redemption was in a manner achieved, when our Saviour did appear; his incarna