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strength is imparted, and it is exerted or restrained by a will not their own; they “ do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.” Man is capable of doing great things, but his power is limited to the modification of materials provided to his hand. Christians are indeed said to be « labourers together with God,” and “ workers together with him ; it is the highest glory of human nature: but this labouring and working is not in aid to feebleness, it goes not to the production of what had no previous being; it simply implies the adoption of the same views with God, and the imitation of his works of goodness and mercy, The united powers of angels and men are unequal to the formation of a single atom, for, to the ascription of the creation of universal nature to the Word, John subjoins his exclusive title to the character of Creator : it is a glory which he will not give to any other; “ without him was not anything made that was made." “ He spake, and it was done ; he commanded, and it stood fast.” “God said, let there be light: and there was light.” And who but God could thus speak, thus produce ? so .. • In Him was life. In the vegetable world, life is a state of expansion, a progress of fructification, a power of re-production, but all issuing in the decay and dissolution of the parent germ. A grain of wheat, in order to vitality, must itself consume. :6. That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.” It has not therefore life in itself. It was the divine mandate which first generated, and which still supports the wonderful process. : “ God said, let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, upon the earth, after his kind : and it was so : and God saw that it was good.” From the same fountain of life proceeded animal nature : “ All sheep and oxen, yea and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through
the paths of the seas." A higher species of life issues from the self same source. « The Lord God formed a man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life ; and man became a living soul.” In all these gradations we behold a vital principle, but that principle derived, standing in need of continual supplies, and hastening to extinction. Here we are presented with life underived, needing no external support, inextinguishable. “In Him' supereminently « was life ;" a life of which man is in a peculiar sense partaker : and the life was the light of men.
“ The light of the body is the eye;" and a precious gift it is. « Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun.” But the faculty of vision, as well as some others, is bestowed in a higher degree of acuteness on certain of the animal creation, than upon man. He however possesses a light denied to the beasts that perish. “There is a spirit in man : and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." " The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord,” by which he is distinguished from, and exalted far above the beasts of the earth and the fowls of heaven. And this “ light of men” is the gift of Him who “has life in himself.” “ He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know ?”
And the light shineth in darkness. Material light necessarily dispels darkness; when the sun rises the shadows fee away. But mental darkness resists the clearest light. The great source of intellectual day has shined through every age and upon every land ; but every age and every land have exhibited men grovelling in the dark, wilfully shutting their eyes, and then deny. ing the existence of light. The history of mankind is a melancholy demonstration of this, and this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their
deeds were evil, for every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” It is a corrupted heart that disturbs and misleads the intellect. “If, therefore," 0 man, “ the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” On whom does this censure fall? On the ruder nations, and the-grosser periods of ignorance and barbarism? Yes, and likewise on periods of illumination and refinement, on nations who, in the pride of their heart, appropriated all wisdom to themselves, and stigmatized the rest of mankind with the name of Barbarian; it falls on the boasted ages of Alexander and of Augustus, on learned Athens and imperial Rome. Of them it is that the apostle Paul thus writes: “ When they knew "God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools; and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator." This accounts for that earnestness of exhortation employed by the same apostle in his epistle to the Ephesians :.“ This I say and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who, being past feeling, have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” Thus though the Light of the world shone, and still shineth, the darkness comprehended it not. On whom does the censure fall ? On Pagans of ages past, and on Pagans now “walking in darkness, and dwelling in the land of the shadow of death;" on unbelieving Jews, and the blinded posterity of Ishmael? Alas! “ darkness still covers the earth”
of lands denominated Christian, “and gross darkness the people” who bear that venerable name. What grievous ignorance have we to deplore! what impudent infidelity, what abounding iniquity, what horrid profanation of the name, of the day, of the book of God!“Sun of righteousness arise” on these sinful lands “with healing in thy wings," “ deliver us from the power of darkness,” that we may be “ light in the Lord.”
The evangelist having displayed the glory of the WORD, as the source of all being, whether material, animal, or intelligent, adverts to the mission of John Baptist, his immediate forerunner, " the voice crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a high-way for our God;" the finger pointing to “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” Paying all due honour to that « burning and shining light” which came in the spirit and power of Elias, he represents him as merely the harbinger of the Light, the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. John Baptist came for a witness, and he faithfully delivered his testimony: “He that cometh after me is preferred before me; for he was before me; whose shoes latchet I am not worthy to unloose : He must increase, but I must decrease,” as the morning star " hides his diminished head” when the great orb of day appears.
; s. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God,” but “ the world by wisdom knew not God.” He was in the world through the whole extent of its duration, as the all-upholding Word, the all-regulating power, but the men of the world, even “ the wise and prudent” discerned him not, acknowledged him not, adored him not. “The fulness of time” at length came. The Scriptures were fulfilled; the day which “ Abraham rejoiced to see” began to dawn ; the “ Star out of Jacob” arose. Surely man will fall down and worship him. They surely, at least, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and
This careventful day whhe Scripture term the human
the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came," they surely will flock to “ the brightness of his rising." This is a reasonable expectation, but it was not realized. The melancholy fact is, He came unto his own, and his own received him not, and the prediction is verified by the event ; « When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him: He is despised and rejected of men:" they “hid their faces from him ; he was despised, and they esteemed him not.”
This carries us forward, with our evangelist, to the great, the eventful day when the WORD was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Scripture term flesh, it is well known means man, human nature, the human race. Thus in describing the universality of human degeneracy it is said, “ All flesh had corrupted their ways." Thus, in confidence of divine protection, the psalmist exultingly exclaims, “I will not fear what flesh can do unto me." And the prophet viewing the redemption of mankind as co-extensive with mortality, while he declares that “all flesh is grass,” triumphs in the thought that “all flesh should see the salvation of God," To these, innumerable instances might be added to prove that the evangelist, when he says “ the Word was made flesh means to convey this idea, that the WORD, all-creating, all vivifying, all-illuminating, assumed humanity, “ was in the world,” tabernacled among men, emitted a sensible glory, “ as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” “Verily he took not on him the nature of angels ; but he took on him the seed of Abraham;" “ as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same ;"> " in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren;" “ for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren."
And thus, men and brethren, we perceive one and