« AnteriorContinuar »
to display, the emotions by which this holy man of God was then animated. He takes Jesus Christ in his arms: he blesses God, and says, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. Lettest thou thy servant depart:" the Greek pbrase literally rendered, is, thou unloosest, or setiest free thy servant. The sense of the expression cannot, in my apprehension, be disputed in this place. To unloose, in the writings of certain profane authors, and the meaning is the same in our text, signifies that act of Deity which separates the soul from the body. Thou liberatest thy servant in peace, that is, thou permillest thy servant to die in peace. This object, which strikes the eyes of Simeon, is to him a complete security against the terrors of death. Wherefore should he wish to live longer in this world? Could it be to behold some wonderful event, or to acquire some valuable possession? But his whole soul is rapt in admiration of the object with which his eyes are feasted: the delight he feels in contemplating the Redeemer, the Lord's Christ, absorbs every faculty. Could the fear of the punishment of sin suggest a wish to live longer? He holds in his arms the victim which is going to be offered up to divine justice. Could he desire longer life from any doubt he entertained respecting the doctrine of a life to come? He is at the very source of life, and needs only to be released from a mortal body, to arrive at immortality. Three sources of meditation, well worthy, I am bold to say, of all the attention you are able to bestow.
1. The desire of beholding some wonderful and interesting event, is one of the most usual causes of attachment to life. There are certain fixed points, in which all our hopes seem to be concentrated. Nothing is more common among men, even among those whose character' as Christians is the least liable to suspicion, than to say, could I but live to see such and such an event take place, I should die content: could I but live to see that adversary of the church confounded: could I but live to see that mystery of Providence unfolded: could' I but live to see Zion arise out of her ruins and the chains of her bondmen broken asunder: could I but live to see my son attain such and such a period. Such emotions are not in every case to be condemned as unlawful; but how much do they frequently savour of human infirmity! Let it be our study to die at peace with God, and we shall be disposed to die, whenever it shall please him, who has sent us into the world, to call us out of it again.
Death draws aside the curtain, which conceals from our eyes what is most worthy of our regard, of our desire, of our admiration. If thou diest in a state of reconciliation with God, thine eyes shall behold events infinitely more interesting and important than all those which can suggest a wish to continue longer in this world. Thou shalt behold something unspeakably greater than the solution of some particular mystery of Providence: thou shalt discern an universal light, which shall dispel all thy doubts, resolve all thy difficulties, put to flight all
thy darkness. Thou shalt behold something incomparably surpassing the confusion of those tyrants whose prosperity astonishes and offends thee : thou shalt behold Jesus at the right hand of his Father, holding a rod of iron, ready to dash in pieces, like a potter's vessel, Psal. ii. 9. all those who dare oppose his empire. Thou shalt behold something incomparably more sublime than the dust of Zion re-animated : thou shalt behold the New Jerusalem, of which God and the Lamb are the Sun and the Temple, Rev. xxi. 2, 22, 23. Thou shalt behold something incomparably more interesting than the chains of her bondmen broken asunder: thou shalt behold the souls of a thousand martyrs invested with white robes, Rev. vi. 11. because they fought under the banner of the cross : thou shalt hear them crying one to another; “ Alleluia : for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him ; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife bath made herself ready," Rev. xix. 6, 7. Thou shalt behold something incomparably more interesting than the establishment of that son, the object of so many tender affections : thou shalt behold those multitudes of glorified saints who are eternally to partake with thee in the felicity of the ever-blessed God : thine eyes shall behold that adorable face, the looks of which absorb, if I
may use the expression, all those of the creature.
Let it be admitted, at the same time, that if ever any one could be justified in expressing a wish to have the hour of death deferred, it was in the case of those believers, who lived at the period when the Messiah was expected. This was the case of Simeon. Brought up under an economy in which every thing was mysterious and emblematical, he is justifiable should he have expressed a wish to set the elucidation of all these sacred enigmas. When a prince is expected to visit one of our cities; when we behold the sumptuous equipages by which he is preceded, the train of messengers who announce his approach.; palaces decorated, and triumphal arches reared, for his reception: does not all this excite a desire of obtaining a nearer view of the person of whom so lofty an idea is conveyed from preparations so magnificent? All these preparations, however, are, in many cases, not so much the badges of the real greatness of the personage whom they announce, as of his vanity. It has oftener than once been felt, that the object of the least importance in a splendid procession, was the very man who acted as the hero of it. But what could the Levitical dispensation furnish, to convey an idea of the Messiah, but what fell infinitely short of the Messiah himself.
Simeon at length beholds this Messiah, so eagerly expected through so many ages. Simeon, more highly favoured than Jacob, who, on his dying bed exclaimed, I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord ! Gen, xlix. 8. Simeon exulting, says, Lord, I have seen thy salvation : more highly favoured than so many kings, and so many prophets, who desired to see the Redeemer, but did not see him, Luke x. 24. more highly privileged than so many helievers of former ages, who saw only the promises of him afar off, and embraced them, Heb. xj. 13. he receives the effect of those promises ; he contemplates, not afar off, but nigh, the star which was to come out of Jacob, Num. xxiv. 17. he beholds the accomplishment of the prophecies, Christ the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, Rom. X. 4. the Ark, the Shechinah, the habitation of the Deity in his temple, he in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily, Col. ii. 9. he sees the manna, and more than the manna, for your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead, John vi. 58. but, whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, yer. 54. Father of day, exclaimed a Pagan prince, “thou radiant Sun, I thank thee that before I leave the world, I have had the felicity of seeing Cornelius Scipio in my kingdom and palace; now I have lived as long as I can desire.” It is the very emotion with which Simeon is animated; he has lived long enough, because he has seen the salvation of God. Let the Roman republic henceforth extend her empire, or let its limits be contracted; let the great questions revolving in the recesses of cabinets be determined this way or that; let the globe subsist a few ages longer, or crumble immediately into dust; Simeon has no desire to see any thing farther : “ Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”