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tary, the joyful agents under, and together with God, in promoting the great work of Salvation.
4. Let not man, then, presume to make his own underftanding the measure of revealed truth, or of divine conduct. " Who hath directed the spirit of the Lord, or Who being his counsellor haih taught him ?” It ill becomes a creature conscious to himself of so much weakness, of so much igno, rance, of such liableness to error, to erect himself into an infallible judge. “Search the Scriptures,” but with reverence, with humility, with a desire to be instructed, not cenioriously, self-sufhcienily, not to wrest Scripture in favour of a precon. ceived opinion, or long-established dogma. Study the ways of Providence ; but dare not to interpret them according 28 paflion or prejudice iray dictate. “Thy way,” O God, “is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.” Scripture is the best interpreter of Scrip. ture, and Providence of Providence ; and " if any man will do his will, he hall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.'* Practical conformity to the divine will is preferable to the high, eft attainments in knowledge, and it is the most direct road to farther discovery.
5. Superior beings are now an obje&t of terror, and it is conscious guilt in man which clothes them with that terror. They are our friends, they take delight in miniftering to our necessities, they cherish the gracious affe&lions of elder to young. er brethren, yet the apparition is formidable even to a Zacharias.' But“ there is no fear in love ; for perfect love cafteth out fear : because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." To that glorious perfection the Chris. tian is encouraged to aspire. We shrink from the idea of a visit from a departed friend arising out of the grave, but we look with hope and desire to the day when we shall be added "to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven--and to the spirits of just men made per. fect.” The vision of one angel, in our present ftate of depreffion, strikes the mind with awe; but we hope to come “ to an innumerable company of angels ;' nay “ to God the judge of all," for we come through “ Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” “ Now we see through a glals, darkly ; but then face to face : now I know in part ; but then fhall I know even as aiso I am knowri,"
LUKE, 1, 26–33.
And in the futh month the angel Gabriel was sent froin God unto
a city of Galilee, named Nazarcih. To a virgin efpoufed to . a man, whose name was fofeph, of, the house of David; and
the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: Blefjed art thou among women. And when she saw him The was troubled at his saying, and casi in her mind what man. ner of falutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, fear not, Mary: For thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a fon, and shaít call his name felus. He shall be great, and Jhall be called the Son of the Highest: And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; And he sail reign over the house of Fuccb for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
T VERY thing in nature, we have observed, is revelationW and discovery, and yet all is mystery inexplicable. Every flower of the field, every pebble in the brook, every leaf on the tree, every grain of sand on the sea shore, is a world in miniature, possessed of qualities which a little child is capable of observing and of comprehending; yet at the same time containing hidden treasures which no Solomon can find out unto perfection. One object overwhelms us with its magnitude, the minuteness of another mocks our research. The Creator here, involving himself in clouds and darkness, eludes our pursuit; there, arrayed in “ light inaccessible, and full of glory," He forbids our approach. In all the ways and works of God there is a fimplicity level to the meaned underítanding, and a complexness which confounds the most acute and enlarged. It all nature and Providence present this strange mixture, is it any wander if we find it in the work of redemption ? That grand æra, called in scripture "the fulness of time," was now come; even the time for accomplishing ancient predictions and promises; for displaying and fulfilling the purpose of the Eternal in the salvation of mankind, by him to whom all the prophets give wiiness, and in whom all the promises are yea and amen.
In order to introduce him with more than royal ftate, God Thook the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; the gentiles presled toward the appearing of this great light of the world, and kings to the brightness of his rising. To prepare the way of the Lord, throne was shaken after throne, empire 1wal. lowed up empire. Alexander carried his all-conquering arms into the remoteft regions of the eaft, Cesar extended his conquests as far as to France and Britain in the west; and Augus. tus gave peace to a troubled world. We are now led to attend to the minuter circumstances of this all-important event.
We perceive from the beginning what we are never permitted to lose sight of to the end, a magnificence that dazzles, connected with a plaioness and fimplicity which interest and attract the heart; declaring at once the Son of God, and the Son of man: Him whom angels worship, and whom the poorest of mankind consider as one of their kinsmen. Observe the exactnels of arrangement in every part of the plan of Providence. Time is settled to a moment, place to a point. No design of heaven can be accelerated or retarded, changed or frustrated. God said unto the serpent, in the day that man by transgression fell, “ I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and be. tween thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise tảy head, and thou fhalt bruise his heel;" and it is not an unmeaning, lifeless sen. tence, filling up space in the facred page. Lo, it awakens into animation and energy, not one title of it shall fail.
To accomplish it behold Gabriel is again on the wing ; but not armed with a flaming sword to guard the way of the tree of life, but bearing the olive branch, and the message of peace, announcing a new and living way into the holiest of all, into the paradise of God. It there be joy in heaven over one finner chat repenteth, what was the joy of heaven on that day when the great archangel received his commission to revisit the earth, to convey the glad tidings of great joy. The celestial bands adoring proftrate themselves before the eternal throne; contemplating this new creation of God, the morning stars sing together, and all the fons of God shout for joy. These things they have for ages and generations been looking into, the great mystery of godliness, God made manifest in the flesh : they enjoy the exalted delight of beholding it unfolded, and the time, the set time, to favour a perishing world arrived, Gabriel has received his instructions ; he flies with transport, such as angels feel, to execute the will supreme ; the flaming portal flies open; myriads of pure spirits celebrate his descent with songs of praise. And whither does he bend his flight ? 'To learned Alkens or imperial Rome ? To give understanding
to the prudent, or to hold the balance of power? No: but to bring to nought the understanding of the prudent, to humble the mighıy and confound the proud. He is sent to a country favoured indeed of nature and renowned in story, but funk in the , scale of nations, the skeleton of ancient grandeur, and to a diftri&t of that despised country proverbially contempuble, and to one of the least of the cities of that region, and to one of the poorest and meanest of the inhabitants of that city-to a virgin indeed of royal extraction, but fallen into indigence, betrothed to an obscure mechanic, a stranger in a strange place. It is thus that God chooseth “ the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world, and things which are despised, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things which are."
The destinations of the Almighty stamp a dignity and im. portance on persons, places, and things which they poffesfed not before; to be employed of him is the highest dignity which the creature can acquire ; to minister to him, in ministering to the objects of his compaffion or of his love, is the glory and joy of angels and archangels. Galilee and Nazareth now pofsels an eminence unknown to the most illustrious kingdoms and the proudest capitals. He maketh his angels Spirits, but we discern, and reason, and converse through the medium of senle. Men cannot rise to the level of angels, but angels are permitted, for wise and gracious purposes, to descend to the level of men, to assume an organized body, to convey their ideas in the accents of the human voice. But can this. be a degradation of their superior nature ? No : it is its glory and perfection. To delcend to those who are below us, to alpire after greater re. semblance to those who are above us, in this consists the real excellency of a created being. We cannot imitate angels in their intelligence and elevation, but in their condescension and humility we may, and we ought.
What a contraf have we here, between the rank of the mer. senger and of the person to whom the message is addressed ! But the presence and purpose of God level all diftin&tions, Mary, the mother of our Lord, rises, and Gabriel funks, for the Son of God himself, the Lord of angels, is about to “ take upon him the form of a servant.” The evangelifts are minutely particular in detailing the circumstances which concur. red to impress the characters of truth and importance on this event. This spirit of prophecy had lately and unexpectedly been revived in the perions of Simeon and of Anna, and ot others who were waiting for the consolation of Israel. The
extraordinary case of Zacharias and Elizabeth, which was well known to all who attended the worship of the temple, muft have excited the public attention and expectation. This is followed, six months after, by a case ftill mere extraordinary, more out of the courle of nature, and of still higher moment, and of equal notoriety. Opportunity was thereby afforded to the suspicious and incredulous to inquire and examine ; that inquiry must lead to the discovery of a cloud of witneiles, lying dormant in books universally held sacred, but neglected, milunderstood and misapplied : life and fubfiance, meaning and lustre, are in a moment given to them by well known and undeniable facts. No appearance of art or industry is discernable, but a simple, easy, natural transition from one thing to another. The appearances, indeed, are out of the ordinary course of nature ; but they are narrated as mere ordinary things; and the descent of an archangel, and his speech and demeanour, are described with no more parade of words, no more labour of thonght, than the springing of an ear of corn, or the fall of a sparrow to the ground.
This majeslic, dignified ease marks the presence of a God, with whom notling can be extraordinary or miraculous ; who exhibits persons and events as they really are, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear. The angel represents none but objećis of the highest interest and importance. He announces the approach of a great prince, who should afcend the throne of David, who was to exercise unbounded authori. ty, and enjoy everlasting dominion ; who should be diftin. guished by the state and title of the Son of the Highest; and that this extraordinary personage should be introduced upon the grand theatre by the Almighty's creating a new thing up. on the earth. " The Holy Ghost thall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore alfo that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.". The fingularity of this wonderful conception and birth was greatly heightened by having been prefigured and foretold at lundry times, and in divers manners; such as the preternatural birth of Isaac, of Jacob, of Sampson, ot John Baptist, and the express and pointed prediction of Isaiah, the Lord himself shall give you a sign, behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a fon, and shall call his name Emanuel," God with us. All these hold up'to us, through a succession of ages, the substance of the first threatening to the serpent, which was at the fame time the first promise of grace to mankind was made, that He,in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed, and who should bruise ihe serpent's head, should be in a proper and pecu. liar sense the feed of the woman. Astonishing and instructive