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Blessed Jesus, we cannot declare thy generation, and would not be wise above what is written, but we adore in silent wonder, we rejoice that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” and that men “ beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” We rejoice that what we know not now we shall know hereafter. Suffice it now that " we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man :" that “it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." We can form no conception of a state preexistent to this frame of nature, for imagination itself must draw its ideas from reality; and to give scope to a faculty so fantastical, in treating a subject of such high moment, were presumptuous and profane. Let us reply then to the prophet's challenge, with the modesty and humility becoming creatures so ignorant, so limited, and so imperfect. We presume not to explore the records of eternity, to pry into the counsels of peace, to measure the infinite Jehovah, his nature, his decrees, his operations, by the contracted line of our finite understanding ; but, taking Scripture for our instructer and guide, we will with reverence and joy contemplate the manifestation of the Son of God in the likeness of man, the mystery of the incarnation, his generation as one of our brethren. In the next Lecture therefore, if God permit, we will endeavour to lead your attention to some of the remarkable circumstances which immediately preceded the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and which give celebrity and notoriety to that illustrious event, and mark the interest which eternal Providence took in it, and the importance thereby stamped upon it to every serious and reflecting mind.
We conclude at present, with suggesting, from what has been said, and from every view which is given us in Scripture of the person of the Saviour, that there is spread around it at once an effulgence that dazzles and repels, and a mildness and simplicity which composes and attracts. Is he spoken of as a Man, we are sent to Bethlehem to behold a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, to Nazareth to converse with the carpenter's son, to Cana of Galilee to join with him in the innocent festivity of a marriage solemnity, to Bethany to witness the endearments of private friendship, to Gethsemane to sympathize with the agonizing mourner, to scenes such as daily occur in human life; but , we are never left long to consider a mere man in situations and employments like our own, a man of like passions with ourselves; the glory of the Lord arises, the Son of God stands confessed, a generation not to be declared, a power that nothing can resist, at which devils tremble, which winds and seas obey, to which death and the grave are subservient. He speaks as never man spake, legions of angels are continually on the wing to minister unto him.Prophecy and history represent him in the selfsame lights, in alternate humiliation and majesty, obscurity and splendour. What a contrast does the description of our prophet present ? “ For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder ; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” The progress of his history, in every particular stage of it, will elucidate the same observation, and therefore it shall not now be farther prosecuted.
Again, this subject seems much calculated to correct the prejudices which prevail among men in the matter of pedigree. There is in reality no such
thing as mean and high birth: or if there be a distinction to be born perfect in every limb and feature, with a sound and vigorous constitution, with a mind complete in all its faculties, this is to be nobly born ; as, on the contrary, to come into the world diseased and debilitated, with a constitution undermined and destroyed by the vice of parents, is to have the disadvantage of being meanly born ; a distinction which, if founded in reason, truth, and justice, leaves the great, in general, little to glory in, and the poor little at which to repine. Have we not all one father? What genealogy is pure from every stain of infirmity, folly or vice? Is it any diminution of our Saviour's dignity, any impeachment of his perfect purity, or any imputation on his great public character, that in the roll of his ancestry after the flesh, we find the name of Rahab the harlot, and of her who had been the wise of Uriah, and that he was brought up under the roof, perhaps to the occupation, of an obscure craftsman ? Virtue and vice are personal not hereditary, and nothing but vice is a just ground of shame. Shall I call myself a disciple of Jesus then, and think it a reproach to be called a carpenter's son, despised because I am a Galilean, lightly esteemed because my parents were poor and ignoble, because a paltry monosyllable introduces not my name ? Real worth ennobles itself independent of the breath of Kings, it draws obscure progenitors into light, and leaves a fair and honourable inheritance to posterity-in a bright example, and a respectable name.
Once more, whatever may be our pretensions or our want of pretension as citizens of this world, we have all equal right and encouragement to aspire after the title and the spirit, and the privileges of the sons of God. He whose generation cannot be declared, is not ashamed to call the humblest of you, brethren. The end of his coming into the world, of his humbling himself to death, of shedding his blood, was to make you “ kings and priests unto God and his Father.” What he is by eternal generation, that he is making you by redemption, by the spirit of adoption, by the hope of Glory to be revealed. Support the honour of your heavenly Father's name, prove your relation, preserve unclouded your prospects. You are now in a state of depression, "in heaviness through manifold temptations," your title lies dormant, your possession is at a distance, but “your life is hid with Christ in God and when he shall appear, you shall appear with himn in glory. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be but when He shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” “ Fear not," then, “ little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” “ Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people ; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
HAGGAI II. 6, 7, 8, 9.
For thus saith the Lord of hosts. Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the
earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: And I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts : And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.
of this later house the silver of all nations share
The great Lord of Nature demonstrates his existence and divine perfection, in the original formation, and in the constant preservation of all things. " He spake and it was done, he commanded and it stood fast.” He upholdeth all “ by the word of his power.” The continual support of the universe has accordingly, with the utmost propriety, been represented as creation every instant repeated. In a system which is all life and motion, power almighty, and attention unintermitting, must ever be exerted to maintain life, to carry on motion, to preserve harmony. Every being is subjected to the peculiar law of its own nature; and the great whole is governed by general laws. Unity, simplicity, multitude, variety, strike the eye of every attentive beholder ; every individual presents a little world apart, and the vast combination of individuals forms but one world, animated by one vital principle.
But Jehovah makes himself known to his intelligent creatures not only in the stated order and harmony of his works, but in the occasional and temporary interruption of that order, and in deviation from that harmony. The powers of earth and heaven are shaken; the sun is turned into darkness and the stars withdraw their light; the barrier wbich restrained the ocean is removed, the windows of heaven are opened, and the earth is overflowed. The rain that falls on Sodom becomes a fiery tide; the flame of Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace is rendered harmless air ; the hungry lion licks the prophet's feet. The glaring eccentric comet; the wandering planet, and the fixed star, all, all refer us to one original, to one moving, restraining, directing, supporting cause.
Neither, however, the regular observance, nor the occasional suspension of the laws of nature are mere wanton displays of power, to amuse the curious, to alarm the fearful, or to confound the proud. Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, and every act of omnipotence have an important meaning and design. The end at which the Ruler of the world still aims, is the manifestation of his own glory in promoting the wisdom and hap
The Prophet, in the passage of the sacred volume which has now been read, is evidently referring to some signal display of the divine glory. We behold universal commotion raised and settled by the same power; heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land, and all the kindreds of the nations shaken
together. Universal attention is excited, universal expectation is raised, and that expectation is completely gratified, by the appearance of “the desire of all nations ;" by the restoration of peace to a troubled world; by a lustre bestowed on the second temple which should eclipse the glory of the first. Now, the expression, “ the glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former, saith the Lord of hosts,” enables us to fix the period, and to discover the person here described. Haggai lived and prophesied after the Babylonish captivity, and the immediate object of his prophecy was to urge bis restored countrymen to industry and perseverance, in the work of rebuilding the temple of the Lord. And as the most powerful and encouraging of all motives he is commissioned to assure them, that the period fast approached when the fabric which they were then rearing should be invested with much greater honour, than that of Solomon and all his glory ever possessed. But if this were meant of temporal splendour merely, the fact contradicts it ; for from Ezra we learn, that in this respect, the former temple was far superiour to the latter; “ many of the priests and levites, and chief of the fathers who were ancient men that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice ;" so mortifying was the comparison. Our Prophet himself holds the same language, ch. ij. 3. “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory ? and how do you see it now ? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing ?" We must look therefore for a different kind of glory, to explain and confirm the prediction ; and it is impossible to be at a loss about an interpretation, when we consider wherein the real glory of the second temple consisted. Not in being filled, and overlaid with silver and gold, for these are spoken of as comparatively vile and contemptible. “ The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts,” a claim exactly in the same spirit with that made in the fiftieth Psalm. “ Hear, O my people, and I will speak : 0 Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices, or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me. I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goats out of thy folds : for every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand bills. I know all the fowls of the mountains ; and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fuli:ess thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats ? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the Most High.” “ Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering. But when “ sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire, when burnt-offering and sinoffering were not required, then said I, Lo, I come, I delight to do thy will, O my God." This, Christians, like the star which conducted the wise men of the East, leads us directly to the Saviour of the world. Would you behold the superiour glory of the latter temple, look to Simeon visiting it, looking and longing for the consolation of Israel: behold him with the babe in his arms, exulting with joy unspeakable and full of glory, in having seen the salvation of God. Look io Jesus at the age of twelve years “ sitting in the temple in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions," disa playing at that tender age, a wisdom and dignity far superiour to that of Solomon in his zenith. Look to that same Jesus, in his zeal for the honour of the sacred edifice, purging it of those impurities which a worldly spirit had introduced into it. Listen to the divine eloquence which there fowed from the Jips of him who spake as never man spake. Hear him predicting its destruction, and establishing the truth of his own mission in denouncing against it, and devoting it to total and irrecoverable ruin. Behold him on those ruins, rearing an everlasting and a spiritual building, on a rock against which the gates of hell shall never prevail; and in all this, behold as in a glass the glory
here spoken of, the advent of “the desire of all nations,” the “ star of Jacob” arisen, Shiloh @ome, to whom the gathering of the nations shall be, “the Prince of Peace,” by whom peace is proclaimed, and through whom peace is given to “ him that is afar off and him that is nigh."
In order still farther to justify the application of this prophecy to the person and character of the Redeemer, we may inquire into the import of the other expressions here employed, to describe the appearances of nature and providence, which signalized the era of his manitestation in the flesh. “Yet once, it is a little while.” The reign of prophecy was hastening to a conclusion. Haggai was one of the last on whom that spirit rested; with Malachi, who lived probably somewhat later, it entirely ceased ; and a dark period of five hundred years without a vision, intervened, till it was revived in one who came in the spirit and power of Elias, the forerunner of the Messiah, “the voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God," Isaiah xl. 3, and it shone in all its lustre in the Messiah himself, of the great prophet that should come into the world.” By him it is here intimated that God should speak “ once" for all ; that he should be the full and final declarer of the will of God to mankind; " yet once" but no more.
“ It is a little while.” With God, what is purposed, is begun to be executed, his agents are already at work, time is lost with him who sees the end from the beginning. - The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness ; " " beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord, as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The interval between the prediction and the accomplishment, though a period of five centuries, is, in the sight of God, " a little while ;" and five centuries, when they are past, are but " a little while” in the eyes of man also. But to what circumstances attending the coming of our Saviour refers the Prophet, when he represents the great God as “ shaking the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land, and all nations ?" It is well known that the sacred writers frequently employ, by a bold figure, the appearances of the natural world to represent and explain moral objects. In the case before us, it will be found that both the literal and figurative sense of the words are strictly applicable to the subject. Every one, who is at all acquainted with the history of mankind, knows that the whole course of things has been a constant and successive concussion and convulsion, a shaking of the nations, struggle for dominion, the progress of empire from east to west ; and an aspect of the heavenly bodies and influence, analogous to the state of the moral world. The observer of nature endeavours to trace all these up to their native causes in the great system of the universe; the moralist looks for them in the nature and constitution of man, and the politician, in the combinations and exertions of passion and interest. The Believer, the Christian, refers all to God, sees him in the cloud, in the sky; hears him in the wind, in the thunder, in the songster of the grove : and he sees the swelling tide of nature and providence labouring with one object of peculiar importance; all things are shaken and composed in subordination to the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Let me compress what I mean to say within a narrow compass; and I shall do it nearly in the words of an elegant preacher whom I have oftener than once had the honour to quote in this place. The eastern part of the world was, in the wisdom of Providence, first peopled, great and extensive empires were first formed there, and there learning and the arts were first brought to perfection. But while science and empire flourished in the east, a power was rising by degrees in the western world, which was one day to surpass all that had gone before it. Unknown to the proud empires of the eastern hemisphere, which vainly flattered themselves that they divided the world amongst them,