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LUKE, ii. 32. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people, Israel.
THESE words are the conclusion of that rapturous hymn, which old Simeon sung upon receiving the blessed Jesus into his arms:* and what other subject could have afforded him such matter of transport and joy? It had been expressly revealed unto him, by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see Death before he had seen the Lord's Christ, whose advent was generally expected at that time; and he, amongst the rest of the devout Jews, was anxiously waiting for the consolation of Israel.‡
* "Facturus, ut credibile est, ei secundum legem, i. e. ut sisteret eum Domino; erat enim sacerdos, ut testantur Athanas. et Epiphan. &c." Brugensis.
↑ "Non per angelum, neque per vocem, quam Sip na vocant, sed ♪ izvoías, per immediatum Dei colloquium." Grotius.
"In toto Oriente fama percrebuit, circa hoc tempus oriturum principem maximum, et tota Judæorum gens Messiam tunc exspectavit. Vide Luc. xix. 11. In cujus spem, Judæi ex toto orbe confluxerunt Hierosolymam. Act. ii. Simeon, ergo, cum reliquis piis et S. Scripturæ studiosis Messiam in propinquo esse novit, id quod ei confirmatum erat per Spiritum Sanctum." Lightfoot.
When, therefore, the parents of the holy child Jesus brought him into the temple to do for him after the custom of the law, Simeon, who came there by the Spirit to present him to the Lord, probably, as a Nazarite from the womb and to have occular demonstration of the completion of the promise lately made to him, taking up the blessed babe in his arms, bursts out into this song of joy and thanksgiving: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,* which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;† a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people, Israel."
I shall, therefore, take occasion to shew, first of all, that the redemption purchased for us by Christ is universal, and, in the next place, point out the singular propriety of those expressions, "a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people, Israel."
That the grace of God, which is by Jesus Christ, bringeth salvation to all men, is evident both from the reason of things as well as the express declaration of Scripture. The baneful effects of the fall of Adam extended to the whole race of mankind; for, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, so death passed upon all men; for, that all have sinned. Any provision, therefore, made to obviate the fatal consequences of this first transgression must be at least equal in its extent and efficacy with the pernicious influence of sin and death; otherwise the remedy would be partial and imperfect, and by no means answer the salutary purposes for which it was designed. It is inconsistent, then, with the wisdom and goodness of God to suppose that the atonement made for sin, by the death of Christ, is confined to a certain
"Salutem tuam. Tuum illum salutis Autorem; a te olim promissum, jam vero missum atque exhibitum." Piscator.
↑ "Non tantum Judæorum, sed et totius mundi."
‡ "Tria erant in primo peccato: 1o. Culpa actualis. 2o. Pravitas naturalis, sive horribilis naturæ deformitas. 3°. Reatus legalis. Et hæc omnia ad posteros introierunt non unâ viâ, sed triplici: culpa, participatione; quia omnes seminali ratione fuerunt in lumbis Adami. Pravitas, propagatione, seu generatione; quia filios genuit Adam ad imaginem suam, non Dei. Reatus, imputatione; quia gratia ita Adamo collata est, ut, si peccaret, tota posteritas cum ipso eâ excideret." Parceus.
number of elect persons, which must be the necessary consequence of absolute predestination, and is expressly contradicted by sundry passages of Scripture. The first prediction, relating to the Redeemer of mankind, is contained in those remarkable words of God to the serpent on the fall of Adam; "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it (or, rather, he shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel :" which evidendy implies the superiority of the seed of the woman over the serpent. As, therefore, the venom of the serpent has diffused itself through the whole human race, and all have sinned, by parity of reason the antidote against its malign influence must extend its cfficacy to every descendant of Adam. what can only be inferred hence by rational deduction, is more clearly delivered in the next prophesy on this head, where God promises Abraham, c. xii. 3, xviii. 18," in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." And here it is proper to observe, that there were two covenants made with Abraham: the one temporal, which respected him as the father of the Jews; the other spiritual, which related to that son of Abraham who was to be the saviour of the world and the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; and, for that reason, he took not on him the nature of angels but the seed of Abraham, who is the father of all those who believe in Jesus, the Lord our Righteous
For, as by the offence of one judgement came upon all men to condemnation, even so, by the righteousness of one,, the free gift came
* 1 Joh. ii. 2. "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." "Pro peccatis totius mundi, i. e. omnium hominum, quotquot sunt, fuerunt, aut futuri sunt, qui ipsum sequî volent, etiam infidelium, quantum in ipso est." Tirinus, &c. See also my Remarks on the Articles, published in 1804.
↑ "As two covenants were given to Abraham and his seed, one a temporal ́covenant, to take place, and to be performed in the land of Canaan; the other a covenant of better hopes, and to be performed in a better country; so are the prophecies, given to Abraham and to his children after him, of two kinds: one relative to the temporal covenant, and given in discharge and execution of God's temporal promises; the other relative to the spiritual covenant, given to confirm and establish the hopes of futurity, and to prepare and make ready the people for the reception of the kingdom of God. See Galat, xlii. 4." Bishop Sherlock's 5th Discourse.
upon all men unto justification of life; that, as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so, by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous; and, where sin hath abounded, grace hath much more abounded. "For, as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." There is no respect of persons with God, who will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth in Christ; and, as both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin, and it is one God and Saviour which shall justify the circumcision by faith and uncircumcision through faith, Simeon, confirming the promises made unto the fathers, announces the advent of the Messiah in these most apposite expressions, "A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people, Israel:" the singular propriety of which comes now under consideration. But, before I proceed, it may not be improper to remark that there is a very striking circumstance in the order of the words; for, though the Jews on other occasions had the precedence given them, as being the people of God and distinguished with particular privileges, Rom, c. ix. 4, here the Gentiles are placed before them, for which several reasons may be assigned. The first of which might be, to shew that in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, but that all are one by faith in him, and thereby to remove that mis-, taken and inveterate prejudice entertained by the Jews against the Gentiles, as aliens to the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promisc. Another might be to correct a very dangerous error, at that time prevalent amongst the Jews, proceeding from a misinterpretation of the prophecies, that the Messiah was to be a temporal prince, and to subdue the kingdoms of the world: upon which mistaken notion, that delusive promise of the devil to Christ, during his temptation, was probably founded, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." But there could not be a stronger proof that the kingdom of Christ was not to be of this world. than this distinguishing declaration of Simeon, "A light to lighten the Gentiles." But a third reason for this preference might be, because the promise of the Redeemer of mankind was made long before Abraham
and his seed had any existence; for it commenced on the fall of Adam, Gen. iii. 15; and, sacrifices being then instituted, by divine appointment, to signify that without shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin, and to typify the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, he is expressly stiled by St John, "The Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world." But,* by not attending properly to those notices which men had in the early ages of the world, they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened, being alienated from the life of God, and worshipping the creature more than the Creator: so that the whole heathen world lay in darkness and the shadow of death. In allusion, therefore, to this miserable state of blindness and ignorance, their Redeemer is most aptly described, "As a light to lighten the Gentiles," under which striking character he had been frequently represented by the prophets.
Balaam, who had the spirit of prophesy, foretels the coming of this illustrious personage in these remarkable words: "There shall come a star out of Jacob,† (Numbers xxiv. 17,) and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel" which prediction has a great affinity to the words of the text and serves to illustrate the preceding observation; and the first part, which refers to the Gentiles, had its exact completion when the Star conducted the wise men of the East to Jerusalem, and, standing over
* "The bringing in of prophecy was not the only change in the state of religion occasioned by the fall. Sacrifice came in at the same time, as appears by the course of the history; and it is hardly possible it should come in, especially at the time it did, any otherwise than upon the authority of divine institution. It is the first act of religion mentioned in the sacred story to be accepted by God; which implies strongly that it was of his own appointment: for we can hardly suppose that such a mark of distinction would have been set upon a mere human invention." Bishop Sherlock's 3d Discourse: see, also, Shuckford, Heidegger, &c. But Spencer maintains the contrary opinion: "Primo, probare conabor, Abelem. Noachum aliosque Mose vetustiores, sponte suâ sacrificasse, adeoque sacrificandi ritum non e præcepto aliquo divino, sed instituto et arbitrio humano originem derivasse." Tom 2, 1767. See farther, on this point, Miscellaneous observations, under letter S; where many of his singular notions are mentioned.
+ Stella. "Per quam Christum, vel stellam illam quæ Magos ad eum adorandum adduxit, intelligunt fere omnes." Masius.