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authority intoxicate them out of nature's healthy estate, and make their bosoms cold to humanity and feeling; consolation to the poor, and labourers and watchers of the night, for all their pitiable condition, to take heart, for it is nothing against them in the eye of God. Were this warning to the one and consolation to the other brought home to both, it would destroy the asperities of rank to rank, the cruelty of power, and the revolt of misgoverned people, and sweeten the intercourse of rank, and win back that golden age of poets which
Held virtue for itself in sovereign awe:
And each unto his lust did make a law
The lion then did with the lamb consort,
Withouten peril of the stronger pride. Or it would hasten forward that golden age of Christians, when “ the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them ;--when the sucking child shall play upon the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain : for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the deep.”
These shepherds of Bethlehem were not like that other shepherd whose ear was honoured at Horeb with the first tidings of Israel's deliverance from the house of bondage. The shepherd of Midian reasoned hard against the promises of the Lord, and yielded to his commandment an unwilling obedience; but no sooner had the angels gone away into heaven than the shepherds of Bethlehem said one to another, “ Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which hath come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us.” This is the first pilgrimage that was ever made to the place of our Saviour's birth ; and doubtless all will agree with us in preferring to have been of that simple company, than of any of the noble pageants which have since visited the hallowed spot. To have had our ears saluted with the message, “To you is born this day a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord ;” to have heard the celestial host pouring forth their hallelujahs to God, and their benedictions upon the earth ; alone, and in the silent night, enshrined in celestial radiance from the world sleeping in darkness around : thus to be saluted, and thus to be invited to the pilgrimage, albeit in most rustic company, were more honourable and joyful far than to walk in the train of cloistered monks or mailed cru
saders or sceptred monarchs. Simple as were the hearers of the message, they were alive to the honour that was bestowed upon them by Heaven. Their ravished ears locked up their other senses ; they could do nothing but listen to the symphony of the angels. It held them wrapt in silence, unbroken until they were gone even into heaven : then, like men all struck with one common emotion, they burst out indiscriminately, and said one to another, “Let us go ;" and they came with haste. They waited not to pen their flocks, or to apprise their families, but straightway in haste addressed themselves to the way; and having reached Bethlehem, they found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
They found their Saviour, Christ the Lord, unattended and unministered to; despised and rejected of men; testifying in his very birth-place to the cruelty of his own, to whom he came, but who received him not. It shews from what a lowly bed the highest honour and renown will arise, to look upon the Virgin, whom all generations were to call blessed, in the desolate condition in which these shepherds found her. It shews how little men are skilled to discern the favourites of Heaven, when they thus thrust God's favoured handmaiden from their comfortable quarters to dwell with the brute creation; and it should cheer the humble sheds of poverty, to think where the most honoured of womankind brought forth the Saviour of the world. The ways of God are mysterious upon the earth. He could have brought his Son into the world by the highest as easily as by the lowest avenue; surrounding his birth with purple, and cradling his infancy in softness, and making whole nations to rejoice at his birth. It was not through neglect or oversight that the Lord brought his Only-begotten thus meanly into being; for in honour of Him he sent from above the celestial host which the shepherds heard, and lighted in the sky the star which the Eastern magi saw. There can be no omission on the part of God: all his works are of choice, and by wise design. Study, therefore, this mystery of the Saviour's humble birth. He came to spoil principalities and powers, and to make a shew of them openly; to pour contempt upon pomp and vanity and ostentatious pride; but to honour humility and gentleness and truth. Therefore it was written by Isaiah the prophet, “ He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets : à bruised reed shall he not break, the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” He came to be the father of a new generation, and to give the patent of a new nobility to the sons of men ; a nobility which should not stand in titles, or live in place, or flow by hereditary descent, but should be as free and open to men of no name or reputation as to royal princes. It was needful, therefore, that he should set the example to this spiritual nobility, this chosen generation and royal priesthood of God, by beginning from the lowest possible condition, and shewing all his Divine parts under the sorest trials and disasters, that no one of the family might have it to say that he was more severely tried by poverty or persecution than was its Father and Founder. Therefore it is written by the Apostle, " It pleased God, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings.” Of an event pregnant with such fruits, the prince of this world was not an idle spectator; but, foreseeing in this babe the Prince of righteousness that was to judge and to bruise him, he gathered his powers together to crush him in his birth. He steeled the hearts of the Bethlehemites with inhuman hardness, that haply both mother and babe might starve by cruel exposure. Being foiled in this, the enemy wrought upon Herod, that blood-thirsty vulture, to draw the sword against the Babe : here also being defeated by the careful providence of God, he waited till Jesus arrived at man's estate, and, having caught him fainting in the wilderness, he attempted him thrice. And another time he tried him in the person of Peter: and finally, not being able to succeed, very spite drove him, by the avarice of Iscariot, to cut him off, though he knew he thereby tamely lent himself to the counsels which God had foretold, and sealed the ruin of his own. estate. Therefore I doubt not that on this morning of the Saviour's birth all hell summoned a council of her powers to deliberate upon their threatened empire, and arrange their plot against the Lord and his Anointed, I doubt not, while light celestial and heavenly melody kindled holy fervours in the bosom of the shepherd swains, the blackness of dark treachery and the counsels of dismal cruelty were poured from hell into the breasts of Herod and his peers in the city of Jerusalem ; while joy visited the plains of Bethlehem at the tidings of Christ their King, these same tidings wrought in Herod and all Jerusalem sad dismay; while with open simplicity the shepherds made the tidings known, Herod and his cruel counsellors retired to the interior of the palace to brood over devilish designs, and came forth to execute them with hellish cruelty.-Such was the mystery of the Saviour's humble birth. It was the conspiracy of hell and of wicked men to keep their empire against the Son of God. A strong instinct of iniquity taught them that He who was to make an end of sin was now entered on his work; they trembled for their state, and made haste to destroy its sworn and bitter foe.
We cannot take leave of that striking scene without casting a look back upon its many sublime and wonderful and instructive features : which, besides the plain and practical meaning that we have deduced from them, have a more mysterious and
VOL. III.-NO, I.
hieroglyphical meaning, which ought at least to have a men tion What might be the aspect of the heavens to the eye of an astro loger upon the morning of the Nativity we know not, but surely the conjunction of earthly influences is full of significancy to the eye of the religious moralist. A host of angels descending from heaven to announce the birth of a child, is a thing not recorded of any other mortal, and shews that child to be advanced far beyond the sphere of mortals ; else why disturb the higher spheres to bear bim witness ? That this should take place over a birth than which another birth was never more dejected and abandoned, doth make it plain that the host of the upper spheres bath no respect to the splendour and accommodation of human life, but look inward, upon qualities which do not meet the outward sense or vulgar esteem of men. The choral song which the angels sung was, as it were, a proclamation of forgiveness, a universal gratuity from the King of all the earth unto his people upon the birth of his first-begotten, the heir of all his glory. There was a curse pronounced in Eden; whereupon the glory departed from creation, and the creature was subjected to sin and vanity: now, after the lapse of many ages, upon the birth of the Second Adam, a benediction is pronounced, a universal pacification to the earth, a deed of amnesty and reconciliation to the children of men-fit boon upon an event so glorious! The first tidings of all this was brought to the ear of humble shepherds. Heaven's highest emissaries held a conference with earth's meanest people, to signify that God was about to put honour upon things that are reputed foolish and weak and of no account. The first promulgation of Christ was entrusted to these despised shepherds, to signify by what classes of the people he was to be first acknowledged and proclaimed : and agreeably to this it is written, that "the common people heard him gladly;” and to the Baptist he desired it to be reported, that to the poor the gospel is preached;" and when he ascended up on high, and sent down the Spirit, he poured the full horn of his inspiration upon the fishermen of the Galilean lake. And every where his sect was spoken against and evil treated; and even still, methinks, those nuncios of the Gospel, who in this latter day have left our island, as the Galileans left Judea in the infancy of the church, hasting through the trackless ocean to every region, like the angel whom John saw in the Apocalypse flying through the midst of heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach unto all the earth—these last missionaries of Christ are of the humblest orders, like these first, and as heartily despised and scouted for their pains by the wise and mighty of the present generation. After the simple shepherds, the next visitants of the infant Saviour were the sons of science, who brought the choicest productions of their region, to signify that knowledge and philosophy, after a season, should come and prostrate themselves before the simple and unadorned Majesty of the Gospel : which also has been abundantly verified in this our island, where, in one age, the great chiefs of the three great divisions of human knowledge, poetry, philosophy, and abstract science-namely, Milton, Locke, and Newton-did each cull the richest products of his provinces, and empty their gathered stores before the Saviour of the world. The abject misery of his birth-place signifies the world far estranged from the gifts of God, and ready to reject them: the desertion and solitude of the blessed hour of his birth signifies how he had no help, but every hindrance, from mankind, in accomplishing the work which he had undertaken. These, and many other things of exquisite import which came together upon this wonderful event, we have in a manner left untold; and perhaps we have already departed too far from this form of discourse, which is intended only for interpretation, and may not descend to the minuter and finer touches of delineation and description.
NOTES ON THE PARABLES OF OUR LORD RESPECTING
THE JUDGMENT. It is the object of the following remarks to prepare the way for shewing that the parables of our Lord concerning judgment are not generally understood ; an assertion which ought to be excused, till it can be shewn that any one of them contains the smallest hint of the death or resurrection of the parties judged in them. The negative of this is assumed, and the parables believed to relate solely to the judgment of the quick on the earth, not of the dead at the general resurrection. The reason why our Lord spake some things in parables, is clearly stated in Matt. xiii. 10—13, Mark iv. 11, and Luke viii. 10: therefore, without controversy great is the mystery of parables. All that is hoped of the following remarks is, that they will be useful to those who study Scripture: for the object of the present paper is not interpretation, nor exposition in full; but, as briefly as may be, to allude to some of the most essential terms, in each parable, too generally overlooked ; and especially to indicate the connections of the parables inter se, and what it is conceived will be found upon careful study to be the amount of them all taken together. If any thing seem to be inserted abruptly, or hastily left unproved, let it be imputed, for the present, to necessary brevity; for the sake of which, also, the reader is requested to take, as the first and most important remark on each parable, the assertion that it contains nothing about death or a resurrection,
The following principles seem to be much needed in the study