« AnteriorContinuar »
they felt their need of a Saviour, and esteemed it matter of great joy, that he was come to bring sal. vation to them.
They doubtless admired the distinguishing grace of God, in visiting them first of all with the glori. ous tidings. While the rich and great were passed by, humble shepherds were regarded. Not many mighty, not many noble, are called. Things which are hidden from the wise, are revealed to babes. The pride and parade of courts, are the contempt of angels; but the cottage of the shepherd is hon. oured with their presence. Let no man repine at the meanness of his own condition, or envy the superioạr circumstances of another. God dwells with humble souls. He has chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, to be heirs of his kingdom. He fills the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away.
How joyous the message to these humble swains, A Saviour is born to you! Every penitent soul may apply the gracious declaration. Do you perceive your own guilty, helpless condition ?--Are you anx. ious for deliverance ?-Do you feel your incapacity to effect your own salvation ? Here are tidings of great joy : A Saviour is born and born to you. His gospel is come to you, and the invitations and promises of it are directed to you. He came to save sinners—the chief of sinners; to comfort them who mourn; to bind up the broken hearted; to ransom the prisoners; to give sight to the blind; to bring salvation to the poor. The weary, the thirsty, the naked, destitute and forlorn, he calls to him. self, that they may receive rest, refreshment, and every needed supply; and receive them freely, without money, and without price. Be of good comfort, arise, he calleth thee.
3. The shepherds rejoiced that the Saviour was born for others, as well as themselves.
I bring you good tidings, says the angel, which shall be to ALL PEOPLE. The heavenly host subjoin, Peace on earth, good will to men. When the good man looks around, he sees the world lying in wickedness. In the hours of serious contemplation, he feels a painful solicitude for his fellow mortals. He considers, that they, as well ashe, are soon to quit this transitory scene, and enter on a state of everlast. ing retribution. He is deeply affected with the thought of that dreadful end, to which multitudes, with little concern for themselves,appear to be hastening. It is, however, a joyful consideration, that a Saviour has been born, and has lived and died for mankind, and that the benefits of his death are of extensive design ; that through him pardon is offered without distinction of nation, age or character ; through faith of him, the mercy of God is unto all, and upon all who believe, and there is no difference. While he laments that so many nations of the earth are strangers to the Saviour, and among those who have heard of him, so many live regardless of him, he rejoices in the persuasion, that a time is coming, when salvation shall be proclaimed through the world, and meet with general acceptance among a fallen race. In the mean time, he is solicitous to work out his own salvation, and by his example and conversation, to awaken to so important an object, the attention of all around him. By his daily prayers he implores divine grace for those at a distance, whom he has never seen ; for his country ; for the church of God; for all mankind in the present, and in succeeding ages.
4. The shepherds glorified God for what they had seen, as well as what they had heard.
They had seen the Saviour-seen him in the very place and condition in which the angel had described him. They had seen full evidence, that this was indeed the promised Messiah. They had
scen in him the accomplishment of the ancient prophecies, which foretold, that he should be born of a virgin, of the lineage of David, in the city of Bethlehem, and in an obscure condition ; should grow up as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. The manner of his birth, and the circum. stances which preceded it, they doubtless learned in conversation with Joseph and Mary. When they saw the predictions of scripture, and the information of the angel, so exactly verified, they could no longer doubt but this must be the Saviour, who was come to accomplish the great and good things foretold of him.
Happy were they, that they should live in a time; when the Saviour was born, in a place near the city; which was honoured with his birth-that they should be notified by angels concerning this glorious event
—that they should have an opportunity to behold him, pay their honours to him, see the prophecies fulfilled in him, and confirm their faith, by a sight of this wondrous babe, now wrapt in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger ; but ordained to be the Saviour and Lord of the world.
These were the things for which they glorified God. Let us now,
II. Consider the manner in which they glorified him.
1. They glorified God by faith in the Saviour, whom he had sent.
They believed the heavenly message, that a Savi. our was bom; they sought him in the place pointed out to them; and when they saw him, they received him with joy.
By faith in the Redeemer, we give glory to God. His first appearance was attended with evidence of his heavenly descent. When he entered on his publick ministry, more full demonstration was given of his mission from God. We have not seen
kim in the flesh, but his gospel is come to us, in a manner, under circumstances, and with characters, which prove it divine. We have as full evidence for the ground of our faith, as they who lived when Jesus was on earth-much fuller evidence than those shepherds who had only seen him in his infant state. If they, on the first notice of his birth, so readily sought him, and believed in him, How inexcusable are we to reject the great salvation, which began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed by the testimony of those who heard him, by the signs and wonders which were wrought in his name, and by the completion of a series of prophecies uttered from his own mouth and the mouth of his A. postles? If, after all the light which we have received, we reject this Saviour, disbelieve his gospel, and despise the salvation purchased with his blood, we make God a liar, and judge ourselves unworthy of eternal life. . 2. They glorified God by a ready obedience.
Being informed by a heavenly messenger, where the Saviour lay, they came to him with haste. They made no delay, but immediately obeyed the divine intimation.
Faith operates in a way of cheerful obedience. If these shepherds had refused to repair to Bethlehem, would you have thought that they believed the tidings sent them ?-If the care of their flocks had now detained them from the Saviour, would you have imagined that they regarded him more than these?- The faith which produces no obedi. ence, is unprofitable and vain. How many practically deny the Saviour whom they profess to honour ! You say, you believe that the Son of God has come into the world, been manifested in our flesh, died on the cross, risen from the dead, and ascended to heaven ; that he is able to save to the uttermost, and that there is salvation in no other. These indeed are important truths. But, Do you really believe them ? - Have you repaired to Jesus for salvation ?--Have you received him in all his characters ? Have you renounced sin and the world ?-Have you chosen his religion, and given yourselves up to the direction of his gospel? Then you believe indeed ; but if not, your faith is but mere pretence.
3. They glorified God by confessing and spreading the Saviour's name. « When they had seen him, they made known abroad what had been told them concerning the child.”
They were not ashamed to own him as the Mes. siah, even in his infant state. They waited not to see what would be the current opinion; they con. fessed him early; they were the first who acknowl, edged him in his high character.
You see, that true faith will prompt you to honour Christ before men. Do you believe that he came to save a lost world, and still do you decline, or neglect to confess him in this character, to dedicate yourself to him, and to attend his ordinances ? -Where is your consistency? Do you delay to profess your faith in him, because others are in a different practice? Do you wait to see what they will do ?--Are you restrained by the apprehension of contempt? Where is your sincerity ?
These humble, honest shepherds, waited not for example : They only waited for time to confirm their faith. They would not confess him implicitly, nor fully rely on the word of an angel. They first sought the token, by which the angel's information was to be verified ; and when they had found it, they spread abroad the tidings.
4. They glorified God by an attendance on the means of faith.
The angel who announced the Saviour's birth, gave them a token by which they might know him.