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This shall be a sign to you, Ye shall find the babe wrapt in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.And they came with haste, and found as he had told them.
God gave them a particular sign for the confirma. tion of their faith ; and he has appointed standing means to strengthen and enliven ours. Jesus Christ is exhibited to us in his word, in his sanctuary, and at his table. Here we are to seek him, and converse with him, that we may increase our faith and warm our love. Had the shepherds refused to see the newborn Saviour in Bethlehem, and to accept the offered confirmation of the angel's word, What would you have thought of them ? - Would not such a conduct have been marked with ingratitude, unbelief and contempt ?-Will you neglect the more easy means of awakening into exercise, your faith in, and love to, the crucified and ascended Saviour ? Shall his gospel lie by you unread and unregarded ?-Shall the doors of his house in vain be thrown open for you to enter ?-Shall his table, from time to time, be spread, and this King of Glory take his seat there, and will you turn away your faces, and retire with cold indifference? How unlike are you to these pious swains ! Would you have ran with them from a neighbouring field to Bethlehem, to see your Redeemer in his manger, wrapt in his infant robes ? And, Will you not come to his table to beholá him dressed in all the bright ornaments of grace and love to behold him offering himself a sacrifice to God for your salvation, and stretching forth the arms of his mercy to invite you to his affectionate embraces? The same faith and love, which winged the feet of the shepherds on their way to Bethlehem, would waft you to the house, where Jesus has appointed to meet you, and place you down at the altar, where he exhibits himself crucified for you.
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5. They glorified God with the voice of praise.
It is said, They returned—returned to their fields and flocks, to the business of their calling: But they returned praising God. Their rural occupation could not engross their thoughts. While they attended the duties of their secular calling, their thoughts ran on higher themes. The sight of the Saviour left their minds replete with sentiments of gratitude, admiration and praise. Pious affections and devout contemplations sweetly mingled with their worldly employment. They conversed together on the things which had passed, and they praised God for the wonders they had seen. The main subjects of their private meditation and mutual discourse, were Jesus, and his salvation.
When you have beheld the Lord at his table, return not to the world with unaffected hearts. Suffer not the devout thoughts suggested here, to languish into indifference, or to be lost in earthly cares; nor the warm affections kindled at the altar, to die away as soon as you retire. Continue to glorify and praise the God of wisdom and grace, for the wonders, which you have seen and heard.
Great was God's condescension to the shepherds, in sending them a message by angels : Greater is his condescension to our fallen race, in sending them salvation by his Son. This is grace, which angels contemplate with astonishment. Shall we be unaf. fected ? When the Redeemer was born, joy and admiration strung their harps and tuned their voices: On wings of benevolence they flew to bear the happy tidings, and teach mortals how to praise. The multitude of the heavenly host sang, Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace; good will to men. These ministering spirits still visit the churches, and hover around the worshipping assemblies of Christians, though invisible to mortal eyes. If when the Saviour came, they, transported with joy, flew in eager haste to proclaim the news, as what,
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above all things, should be welcome to guilty mortals, What think you ? —Are they not astonished to see our ingratitude and indifference? To see in a Christian land the number of professing Chris. tians so small ?-To see the assemblies in Christ's house so thin ?-To see so few gathering round his table ?_To hear our songs of praise to the Redeemer rise with so partial, and so faint a sound ? If mere benevolence so deeply interested them in this great event, What must they think, when they see us, whose eternal salvation depends upon it, so in. different to it—so negligent to secure to ourselves its infinite and everlasting benefits ? Shall the air cing with angelick praises for man's redemption, and earth not catch the sound ?- The shepherds in the field heard the voice, and felt the devotion-Shall we, under advantages for superior knowledge and stronger faith, be dead to all sense of gratitude ? Shall we never learn the song of those who are redeemed from the earth ?--Shall the fields and cottages of Israel's shepherds be more vocal in the Redeemer's praise, than the churches of Christians ?
How pleasing to saints and angels ; to the Redeemer and the Father of men, will be the sight, when sinners, with one heart, shall repair to the throne of grace, and humbly seek an interest in the salvation of the gospel; when the churches shall be thronged with devout and attentive worshippers, and the table of the Lord surrounded with thankful and admiring guests?—There is joy in the presence of the angels, when sinners repent: The Redeemer is satisfied when, in their conversion, he sees the tray. ail of his soul : God is pleased, when they bow to the authority of his son, and he hears, with approbation, the songs in which they celebrate redeeming love.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive blessing and honour and power ; for he hath redeemed us to God by his blood. To him be glory in the church, throughout all ages--Amen.
Now there was leaning on Jesus's bosom one of his disciples, whom
UR blessed Lord, having nearly finished his work on earth, and knowing that the time of his death was just at hand, expressed an earnest desire to celebrate the passover once more with his disciples. Preparation being made, according to his instructions, he sat down with them to the feast. This precious season he employed in such discourse as was adapted to their present circumstances. When the first meal was made ready, he, to teach them condescension and love, went round among them, and washed their feet ; giving them notice, at the same time, that he should soon be delivered into the hands of his enemies, and be betrayed by one of them. This he knew would be surprising intelligence; he therefore communicated it with
caution. When he had washed their feet, he said, Now ye are clean, but not all. An intimation this, that there was among them one who was not clean, and who had no part in him. He had reference to the traitor ; but the disciples did not fully comprehend his meaning. He therefore, a little after, speaks more plainly. If ye know these things, which I have done, happy are ye, if ye do them. I speak not of you all ; I know whom I have chosen : But that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me, hath lift up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. This premonition put them on thinking. But that one of his own family should join his enemies, seemed so incredible, that they scarcely yet understood him. While he dwelt on the melancholy subject, his spirit was greatly troubled : But painful as it was, he at length speaks out the matter fally-Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. Struck dumb with horror, the disciples sat, and looked on one another, doubting of whom he spake.
Now there was leaning on Jesus's bosom one of his disciples, whom he loved. This, as we learn from the last chapter in this gospel, was John himself. He is often called the beloved disciple. At supper he sat next to Jesus, and reclined on his 'bosom. Peter, seeing John in this attitude, beckoned to him, that he should ask Jesus, which was the disciple of whom he spake. John then lying on Jesus's breast, says to him, probably in a low voice, Lord, Who is it ? Jesus, in the same manner, answered, It is he, . to whom I shall give the sop, when I have dipped it. And he dipped the sop and gave it to Judas. That this conversation between Jesus and John was unheard by the other disciples, is evident; for they knew not that Judas was the traitor, until afterward, when Jesus pointed him out by his dipping his hand with him in the dish.