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THE ANGEL'S SONG.
LUKE, II, 13, 14. And suddenly there was with the Angel a Multitude of the Heavenly
Host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace, Good Will toward Men.
It is a lamentable consideration how little man is disposed to consider those special and important truths, which God has revealed to him for his benefit.
In respect to the passage before us, for instance, a Philosopher reads it :-“Now,” says he, “let us inquire whether this was an impression made on the minds of these shepherds, or whether it was an actual vision presented to them:" and thus he spends his time in empty speculations. A Painter reads the passage:-“I could very much wish,” says he, “ that I had been there, to have caught an idea from that scene."
A Musician reads it:-“I should exceedingly like,” says he, "to have heard this harmony, and to have examined how far it agreed with our present rules :" but since this is impossible, he sits down, turns it into music, and puts it into a song; not considering what important lessons it contains. A critical Divine reads. it :-“This,” says he, “is a singular event; and it will lead me to consider the ministry of angels, and whether it has totally ceased in our day or not."
Thus men trifle with the Word of God! A real Christian alone makes a proper use of such a passage. He asks his conscience, “What am I to learn from
this? What instruction and encouragement does it afford ?".
I shall treat it only in this way: I speak, therefore, only to such as have ears to hear to that purpose.
1. Let us CONSIDER THE PASSAGE, AS IT LIES BE
FORE US IN THE HISTORY.
2. Let us improve it by some PRACTICAL REMARKS. 1. Consider the HISTORY before us. The Evangelist informs us, that, on the birth of Christ, “There were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Business, you see, is honourable. Moses was in his employment, when the vision was manifested to him in the bush. David was in his employment, when called to a kingdom. Elisha was at the plough, when called to be a prophet. God puts honour on that employment, which is lawful and innocent.
The Evangelist informs us also, that the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.' An angel once cut off one hundred and forty-four thousand men, in one night: no wonder, therefore, that these shepherds were alarmed at the presence of an angel.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not! for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people: for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord :'-a Saviour-one who can perfectly emancipate you from the snares and power of Satan; who can deliver you from the guilt and dominion of sin, and from the fear and power of death. born, not to us;" as if the angel had said: “We are honoured with bearing the message, but we have no interest in the truth : we are not fallen creatures, . To
66 To you is
you is born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." Each word is truth : therefore you may give it unlimited confidence. There is almighty power, for you to rest on; able, therefore, to bear you up through time and eternity. His heart is love: he comes, therefore, to lay down his life for you. And he is Christ the Lord: ‘God with us :' he, whose name, is Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace: to you, therefore, is born this day a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.""
But where is this Saviour to be found ? Not in kings' courts : not in the schools of science: not in the seats of merchandise: but this shall be a sign unto you, ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes, lying in a manger.' . In a manger!What dark saying is this? 'Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes, lying in a manger!' And it is as though the angel had said, “Remember that this will prove a stumbling-block to the Jew, and foolishness to the Greek. This is the appointed Saviour, set forth to be the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.""
Moreover, that such an one should come lying in a manger-God as well as man--this should raise the hope of man. That God will come as a worm, become acquainted with man, that he might enter into his sorrows--this should raise the hope of man.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host:' for, "are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister unto them who shall be heirs of salvation ? When the foundations of the earth were laid, the morning-stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy: and when the earth was redeemed, it was to be expected that a multitude of angels would attend this gracious work; a multitude of angels did attend, and they
sung the song most appropriate to the occasion, Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace, good-will to men.'
To bring glory to God, is to manifest his perfections: thus, when a man prays to God, he glorifies him ; for he sets forth his praise as the hearer and answerer of prayer: when a man praises God, he glorifies him; as he sets him forth as the object of adoration.
Now in the work of Redemption, there was a peculiar display of the glory or perfections of God, in that he manifests his mercy and grace: he would spare no expense to recover fallen man: he would give 'his only begotten Son,' that the law might be magnified in his death. Christ manifested the Justice of God: the cup could not pass from him. He manifested his Wisdom : 'that wisdom which could, at once, put the utmost indignity and punishment on sin, while it saved the sinner. His Faithfulness and the exceeding riches of his Grace are displayed in Christ: he hath thereby brought greater glory to himself than by the making of ten thousand worlds, which would have been mere objects of his power.
The heavenly host, therefore, sung 'Glory to God in the highest;' implying that the brightest display of the divine glory is in this work of redemption. And they sung, Peace on earth :' as if they should say, “ There may be now a solid and soul-satisfying state of peace between the Sinner and the Judge. Christ, the peace-maker, is come: a firm ground is now laid for peace between man and man, between law and conscience, between Jew and Gentile: and, now, may discord and misery cease, happiness and prosperity go forth as the highest expression of God's good-will to man! may it extend through the world!" It is the express work, therefore, of every minister of the Gospel, according to the Apostle, to declare that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself:
and so sung the angels at the birth of Christ. We therefore, are ambassadors, to bring these things to yours ears.
*We bring you glad tidings : to you is born a Saviour! Glory to God in the highest: peace on earth : good-will toward men!'
II. Let us now make some PRACTICAL REMARKS on this subject.
It has been observed with truth, that when an illiterate man becomes pious, receives the fear and the love of God into his heart, his perception is raised : he acquires a better moral discernment: he is exalted by his religion : he attains a right taste. The Gospel is directly calculated to produce these advantages. Now it is of great importance, surely, that we form a solid judgment of the world in which we live, while it is but a passage to the world to which we are going. Let us consider the text in this view.
1. Let us consider, if this be the song, and taste, and sentiment of heaven, WHAT IS THE TASTE AND SENTIMENT OF THE MEN OF THE EARTH WHO CALL THEMSELVES WISE, AND CALL US FOOLS FOR BELIEVING THE BIBLE ?
Here is a standard. We can form no right opinion without a standard. Here is one.
Here is one. Angels descend, and sing, and declare what is the taste and song and sentiment of heaven. Here is a standard : and we must compare with this standard the taste and song and sentiment of the men who call themselves enlightened,-men of sense and learning.
If this, then, is to be the standard-and surely it ought to be—it clearly appears that the taste and sentiment and prevalent maxims of such men are utterly wrong--and that man is in a fallen and ruined state. Here is a remedy proclaimed, of the noblest kind, for time and for eternity : and what do men say concerning this remedy !--what regard do they pay to it?how do they treat it, and those who trust in God through it? Brethren! you know how they speak :