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in the spirit are promoted, while those who are one with him in the flesh are promoted to the headship of the earthly things. And as the spirit and the flesh form one man,
of God, so the heavenly and the earthly things form one world, the handywork of God: and as the spirit is closely united in most perfect sympathy with the flesh, so as not to express itself without it; so shall the heavenly be united in most perfect sympathy with the flesh, and form one Divine system of completeness. So that, while all that hath been promised to Abraham and his seed with respect to the land of Canaan, shall be fulfilled to the letter, those of them who are chosen, and spiritually united to Christ, will likewise be partakers of his super-celestial glory; and perhaps be specially the representatives in the heavenly city, the guardian spirits, the interpreters, and the benefactors of their nation in the flesh. However these things may be harmonized, one thing is certain, that the same Person who was born at Bethlehem is he whose goings forth were from everlasting, and through whom all the marvellous things prophesied of in this chapter are to be accomplished for the people of Israel, now sorrowing, like a woman in travail, under the hard oppression of Babylon.
It remains that we open the meaning of the expression," whose goings forth.”—What are those "goings forth, of which it can be said that they have been from the beginning, even from the days of eternity? There is a going forth from Bethlehem, and there are goings forth from the beginning, from the days of eternity: the former is his generation as a man; the other is naturally thought to be his generation as God, his eternal generation of the Father before the world was. The passage in the Book of Proverbs already referred to toucheth this point: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old : I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was....Then I was by him, as one brought up with him ; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” To this primeval fellowship of the Father and the Son by the Holy Ghost, whatever it consisted in-and it seems hardly possible for reason to comprehend what was before reason was created—I consider the expression "goings forth" to refer, as well as to the act of his generation, which, being in the necessity of the Godhead, is not to be put into the level of any of the actings of Godhead. The eternal generation of the Son is a part of the definition, and not one of the actings of Godhead. An acting of Godhead presupposes the existence of the Three Persons, and even a purpose of Godhead doth presuppose the same. While Christ's going forth before the creation of any thing, therefore, determines him to be very God, I think these goings forth refer specially to some actings between him and the Father
anterior to creation. Now of what actings anterior to creation have we any hint in Holy Scripture ? These occur to me at this moment:—First, the election of a people in him to be conformed to his image and holy before God in love. This is declared in various parts of Scripture, especially Eph. i. 4, “ According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy, and without blame before him in love." Secondly, a promise of eternal life made to him for those who are his chosen ones: this is especially related in the Epistle to Titus, i. 1, 2, “ Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” Thirdly, a purpose
which comes to us through Christ; and as it can only come through him in his character of the Lamb slain, it carries this aspect of him, as “the Lamb slain,” not only up to but before the foundation of the world : • Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. i. 9, 10). Fourthly, a kingdom prepared for us and him to reign over for ever, from the foundation of the world : “ Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. xxv. 34). Also, as the Word, and as the Life, and as the Christ (or anointed one) of God, he was before the world with the Father, and in those characters did create the world ; as is declared John i. and I Cor. i. and 1 John i. and Rev. i. In short, throughout all Scripture his actings in time are only the manifestation of purposes and actings which went on among the Persons of the blessed Trinity before all time. Creation is but the outward expression of what was realized in God and Christ before there was an outward thing. Now to these actings, interior to Godhead, to man incomprehensible, but in Scripture every where declared to have been, it is, I think, that “the goings forth” here refer. These are the processions of the purpose in its various forms, perhaps the same with the creation of the worlds, or ages, which Paul speaketh of Heb. i. 1, and in which the first heretics wandered so wide of the truth : and these processions are here introduced, rather than any names, because the prophecy of Micah hath particular reference to time and place. 'In Ísaiah's strain of prophecy, already interpreted, it was the person of the Messiah which was celebrated : here it is his birth-place, which, having been mentioned as at Bethlehem, must, to guard against error, be mentioned also as in the depths of eternity. Isaiah, prophesying of him as the virgin's Child, to guard against mistakes gives him the name of El, or God, as well as emmanu, or with us; and, tracing their deliverance to this Child of the virgin, he doth give his full name at the same time all emblazoned with the styles of God. So also our prophet, shewing forth his going forth from Bethlehem to redeem Zion out of the hands of the smiter, doth take care to enumerate his goings forth before the birth of time in his various beautiful and wonderful forms, which creation was to bring into manifestation. This I take to be the true interpretation and scope of this wonderful verse.
And now, having done my part of an interpreter, I may be permitted, before I proceed further on my course, to pass over to the fulfilment of the event, and relieve myself and my readers with some meditations upon the splendid accomplishment which this prophecy received in the fulness of the times ; and with these conclude the present essay.
Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, did little dream, when he issued forth his proud decree to have the whole land of Israel enrolled, that he was an humble instrument in the hands of the over-ruling Majesty on High to accomplish a purpose which He had foretold by one of his commissioned servants, the Prophet Micah, “ Thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah ; for out of thee shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel." A prouder, more ambitious, more cool and cunning man, nor one who more affected divine honours, never wore the purple ; yet were that very ambition and policy made to do servile work for the sake of the Lord and his Anointed. He whose word was law, did but carry into effect the word of a Jewish prophet who in his life had hardly a hiding-place; He was the means of bringing the mother of our Lord to Bethlehem, at a time when nothing but legal constraint would have removed her from her home. A few days later, and the prophecy had failed, and Messiah lost one of his strongest evidences. Such is the overruling and over-mastering monarchy of God, that there happeneth not an event, in the worst of times, nor under the most ungovernable tyrants, which hath not in its womb a seed sooner or later to bear fruit to the glory of God and the benefit of the earth. It is very comfortable to know, that, amidst the wars and disturbance, and violent fermentations of human society, the Lord God omnipotent reigneth ; and that in the storms which agitate men and nations He is at the helm, with a strong hand keeping the course towards peace and safety. And to his saints it is full of joy that not one jot or tittle of the promises shall fail of accomplishment, and that the most powerful ministers of evil cannot keep themselves from ministering good to the people of God.
To Bethlehem they came, with the other descendants of the
royal line, and the days were fulfilled that Messiah should come, and the hope of all nations be disclosed. But, though Messiah's kindred were all collected into this city of David, there was none of Messiah's kindred to welcome his arrival: “He came unto his own, but his own received him not.” Cruel-hearted men, they would not spare for the virgin the accommodation which nature needed, but thrust her forth from human habitations at a time when barbarity grows tender and revenge relents! It looks as if some strong fatality had joined men into a confederacy to do the Son of God dishonour; or nature had formed that age of men more ruthless, that he might have a more bitter life of it.. Oh, it is a sore rebuke to human kind, that, for all the warnings they had received by prophets, priests, and angelic messengers, not one was in attendance to receive this child of hope, for which heaven furnished forth a choir of angels! No preparation, nor birth-day hymn, nor birth-day rejoicings, for that Heir of glory, for whom the dark vault of night was lighted up, and the uninhabited air thronged with the heavenly host, and tbe silent hour of midnight made melodious with heavenly minstrelsy! Therefore we will humble ourselves in the sight of God, and mourn over the malice and wickedness of our race, as one that mourneth over an only child. We will weep, because of our own heartless reception of the Son of God, whom we have crucified afresh and put to an open shame; we will put on humility as a garment, and we will gird our spirits with repentance, and seek forgiveness for ourselves and our race, if haply the Lord may overtake us with his mercy, and yet prevent us with his loving-kindness.
But the celestial spirits, who minister to the heirs of salvation, gathered their host together, and came forth with a song of jubilee to usher into the earth the great Captain of salvation. As they came of old at nature's birth to rejoice, so now they came at nature's salvation : and they will come once more, when the trump of the archangel shall sound, and the sons of men shall come from the grave to the judgment-seat of Christ. These tbree greatest of events in the history of humanity are alone worthy of such celebrations and glorious heraldry. When the foundations of the earth were laid, and Jehovah, by successive acts of almighty power, bad from the womb of nothingness brought it all teeming with happy life, fresh and beautiful as the blush of morning, then Jehovah rested from his work, and the sons of the morning sang, and the angels of God shouted for joy : they sang the birth of elemental nature, they rejoiced over the created and adorned world, and they welcomed their sister spirit, the soul of man. Yea, all the children of God's hand did welcome the birth of their youngest sister, and lead her to the fellowship of God's family and to the inheritance of his house, Now they assembled the second time, to rejoice over nature's recovery and man's redemption. The well-formed world had fallen into disorder, and the soul of man had been deformed with sin. The whole creation groaned and travailed in pain. There was a moral chaos, as wild as that from the womb of which nature arose at first : darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the people. Upon this chaos the Spirit of God was to move the second time, in the person of his blessed Son; and into surrounding death spiritual life was to enter, and out of the dry bones an army of living men was to come forth; and beings fit for heaven were to be created out of beings fit only for hell; and the great and good designs of the Almighty, which sin bad marred, were about to run a new and stable course; and groaning, travailing nature to be delivered by the manifestation of the Son of God.
If the angels of God came forth of old at the generation of the heaven and the earth, well might they come forth on the day of nature's regeneration. From then till now there had been no occurrence worthy of such a manifestation. When thus we contemplate the greatness of that event, over which the heavenly host rejoiced, perhaps it was not decent for man to take a partman, whose anthems and requiems are most generally sung over the destroyers, not the saviours of men ; whose laureate wreaths have been generally stained with vice, or withered with sickly envy; whose songs of praise have been most often hired with a courtly bribe, and composed of unblushing flattery.—No! it was not decent he should take a part.
To what sort of a company was this anthem sung over the birth of Christ? To shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night-men of no condition ; simple peasantry, shepherd hinds—such were the men, of all men, whose ear God' honoured with such a greeting. And they were worthy of the honour ; for, having heard, they hastened to the hallowed spot; and, having seen, they returned glorifying and praising God for all the things which they had heard and seen. Not so Herod, the merciless murderer of Rachel's children-to him it was likewise made known, and he likewise paid a visit to the hallowed spot; and there followed no rejoicing or praising of God; but such a scene of dissolute cruelty, and savage murder of innocent children, as in the bosom of a peaceful time this world hath never seen : “ There was heard in Ramah, a voice, lamentation, and weeping, and great moaning : Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they were not." Here, in one breath, is warning and consolation : warning to one extremity of the body politic, consolation to the other: warning to the great and powerful and princely of the earth, to beware lest the lust of power and the excess of