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I. HIS PERSONAL CHARACTER. He was “just and devout.” The one expression describes him in hiš social, and the other in his divine relation ;-he was "just" in relation to man, he
devout” in relation to God. It is true that the word "just" in its complete sense would comprehend devoutness and every other excellence of character. Universal holiness is but justice,-justice to self, to the universe and to God. But here the word is used undoubtedly in its more limited and popular sense, to denote mere social rectitude ; the recognition and discharge of varied obligations that spring out of our relationships to mankind. In one word it may mean the right development of our social nature. The word “devout" has a special application to the development of the religious nature ; it means reverence, gratitude, worship. The two words are here used undoubtedly to designate universal excellence. The one denotes the rectitude of our conduct man-ward, and the other the rectitude of our conduct God-ward. The practical mistakes of society on this subject require us to make two remarks.
First : That counterfeits of the" just” and“ devout” are often found existing among men separately. You often see what is conventionally regarded as social morality existing where there is no devotion, where, in fact, there may be a practical disregard of all religious observances ; and on the other hand, you as often see what is conventionally regarded as “devout or religious, where there is social meanness and dishonesty. Some of the greatest social rogues are the greatest sticklers for religious observances, the greatest psalm-singers and infidel-denouncers. The old Pharisees were a striking example of this. For a pretence they made long prayers, whilst they “ devoured widow's houses."
Secondly: That the truly “just” and “devout” are inseparably associated. There is no real social morality where there is no religion ; there can be no right feeling and conduct towards man where there is no right feeling and conduct towards God. The man who does not feel rightly towards God can have no virtuous feeling towards any man. Godliness is the spring of all that is morally just or virtuous in human conduct. Saying then that Simeon was "just" and “devout " is saying that he was thoroughly good.
II. HIS PUBLIC SPIRIT. This “just” and “devout" man did not live within the narrow circle of his own interests ; his sympathies went forth over his country and the world. He looked upon the Messiah in philanthropic aspects; in His special relation to his own country, and in His universal relation to humanity :
First: In His special relation to his own country. He regarded Him as at once the “Consolation” and “the glory” of Israel. He knew, he appreciated, he deeply felt, the troubles of his country, social, political, and religious, troubles arising from domestic tyrannies, foreign invasions, moral remorse, secular disappointments, and providential bereavements. He saw the black swelling tide of trouble surging through every part of his country, and he waited, looked out for, with intense solicitude, the true “Consolation"; -the only one that could deliver and comfort. From the lofty mount of prophecy, with the sea of national distress rolling at his feet, he looked forth and saw approaching in the distance the Consolation "; One mighty to save. Verily He is the Consolation. His doctrines break forth on the troubled soul of humanity, as stars upon the mariner in the midnight storm. His spirit falls upon the agitated spirit of the race as oil upon the troubled waters. But not only did he regard the Messiah as the “Consolation," but as “ the Glory ” of Israel. Christ not only comforts but ennobles, glorifies, &c. He not only looked upon the Messiah as in this special relation to his country, but :
Secondly: In His universal relation to the race. He regarded Him as the “salvation,” “prepared before the face of all people ; " the light "to lighten the gentiles." Here then is his public spirit ; he waited for the Messiah, not merely for himself, but for his country and the world. coming Christ was the grand object of his anticipation, the breath of his prayer, the theme of his talk, the bright ray that darted on his soul, athwart the gloomy shadows of ages. This public spirit is an essential element of godliness. The man who feels no burning interest in his race is not a inan of God.
III. HIS DIVINE TUITION. Who was the instructor of this elevated saint? Who raised him so much above the most illustrious sages of past times and even the noblest spirits of his own age? The text answers the question,“ The Holy Ghost.” Three significant expressions here indicate the connexion of his soul with the Divine spirit :
First: The Holy Ghost was“upon him.” This expression probably indicates his consciousness of the divine. He felt the divinity resting on him; on him as the warm and quickening rays of Heaven on the verdant fields. Another expression is :
Secondly : That the Holy Ghost " revealed unto him.” How He revealed we are not told ; whether by the Old Scriptures, the signs of the times, oral communications, or inward visions, we know not. All that we are given to understand is, that what he knew about Christ was “revealed," to him, not discovered by him; and “revealed ” not by man but by God. The other expression which indicates the close connexion of his soul with the divine, is :
Thirdly : That he came by the Holy Ghost into the temple. Some strange presentiment, or mysterious impulse urged him to enter the temple that moment. He was “led by the spirit.” God is ever the teacher of the good. Who teacheth like Him? This spirit is ever the teacher of true souls. “He guides into all truth,” &c.
IV. HIS HAPPY END. “Then took he him up in his arms and blessed God, and said, Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word,” &c. He seems to have felt three things on this occasion :
First : That death was under the divine control. “Now lettest,” &c. As if he had said I cannot go without thy permission, &c. This is a glorious truth. “ Thou turnest man to destruction," &c. No one can really take away life. There are no such things as premature graves.
The time, the place, the circumstances of our death are all prearranged. He felt :
Secondly : That death was but a departure out of the world. It is not the extinction of being. It is but the soul changing its residence, its circumstances, its occupations. “The time of my departure," says Paul, "is at hand.” All the generations of man that have ever appeared on this globe are living still. He felt :
Thirdly: That having embraced Christ his death was desirable. How full must have been his heart as he held “the Desire of all nations” in his arms. Heaven that moment flooded his heart with joy. He that embraces Christ will hail death with a rapturous soul.
SUBJECT :-Fading Away.
“ We all do fade as a leaf.”—Isaiah lxiv. 6.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Sixty-fourth. HUMAN life, like nature, has its seasons.
Childhood and youth are the spring of life. There are the first buddings of existence; one power rises into view after another, all is fresh and promising. It is breathed on by a genial atmosphere, watched by the eye of hope and love, and cultured by the hand of diligence and care. Manhood is the
The seed is fully developed ; all the latent powers of the life-germ are wrought out by the process of nature into the hue, the stature, and the form, which express its real character. The questions which the parent had often asked concerning his loved child : What will be his character ! How will he perform his part on the stage of manhood ? are now no longer problems. The tree is full grown, with fruit, all know what it is. Declination is the autumn. There is a period when, life having reached its full maturity, decay sets in. The cold wind has touched its heart, chilled the blood and slackened the circulation.
The summit is
reached, and the path is downward now. The leaf becomes more and more sere and withered ; at length it falls, and the tree stands naked, awaiting the cold blasts of winter. Old age is that winter :-Withered, cold, desolate. There is no music in the grove, no foliage on the trees, no verdure in the fields. The air breathes no life and wafts no pleasing odours. The heavens are cloudy, the sunlight pale, cold, oblique. The earth has lost its charms, it is a mighty grave, receiving all, and giving nothing back.
These remarks are suggested by our text. It is probable, however, that the prophet here did not allude to physical but to spiritual decay, not the decay of bodily life, but of spiritual goodness.
“ But we
are all as unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and we all do fade as a leaf,” &c. He is here evidently speaking of the sad state of moral degeneracy into which his countrymen had fallen. It is a sad fact that there is such a thing as spiritual decay. A mind that once developed the loveliest buddings of spring and the richest blossoms of summer has frequently come under the blighting influence of autumn. This is unnatural, this is wrong; but this, alas! is general. The mind should never have an autumn. It has its spring, it should have its summer, and from its summer it should never pass. It should be like a tree planted by rivers of water, drinking
sap from the ever-flowing stream of truth; its leaf should not wither, and like the tree of life it should produce fruit for the healing of the nations. But, alas ! how often comes the moral autumn. How often do we find souls which at one time were full of spiritual life and promise, growing dead and ready to perish.
But although spiritual decay may be the literal application of these words, they truly express the universal law of our mortal life. Physically, the mighty population of this globe at the present moment is all “fading like the leaf.” At the present season of the year we see the leaf fade and fall. The rich foliage which a few weeks ago shadowed the gardens,
up the vital