Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

and desert of sin, and the wonderful plan of redemp tion." God commendeth his love to us in that "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he "loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for 66 our sins.*">

This good-will of God to men is mere compassion and benevolence, not approbation or complacency. The crimes, dispositions, and characters of the creatures, thus beloved, were unspeakably hateful in his holy eyes and none of his protestations against sin are so decided and energetick, as that which principally declares his love to sinners. The compassion and tenderness, which induce virtuous and pious persons, at great expence, to relieve those pitiable objects whose crimes have rendered them miserable; in order that an attempt may be made to rescue them from temporal and eternal ruin, is a very distant imitation of the love shewn by our God to sinners, in giving his Son to be their Saviour, even while he declares them to be deserving of his everlasting wrath and abhorrence. The heinousness of our crimes, the contrariety of our dispositions to the divine purity, the great things he hath done to make way for our salvation, and the inestimable blessings prepared for us, combine to illustrate the riches of his mercy and the immensity of his goodness. The love of the Father, in giving his only-begotten and well-beloved Son; the love of the Son in most willingly assuming our nature, that he might give himself a sacrifice for our sins; and the love of

* Rom. v. 6-10. 1 John, iv. 10.

the Spirit, in preparing our hearts to receive this salvation, and in making us meet for the heavenly inheritance, demand our warmest gratitude and most fervent praises; while we give "glory to the Father, "to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit," into whose name we were baptized.

Before the coming of Christ, the special tokens of the Lord's good-will to men were principally confined to the people of Israel; and he had suffered all other nations to walk in their own ways. But in the child born at Bethlehem the angels saw him, who was appointed for "Salvation to the ends of the earth.” The partition-wall was about to be removed; the good tidings of a Saviour, even Christ the Lord, were speedily to be proclaimed to all people without distinction; and thus a proposal of mercy and every blessing, "without money and without price," would be made to persons of all characters and descriptions, not excepting the vilest. Nay, all men every where would be commanded to repent: and the ambassadors of Christ would, in his stead, and as if God besought them by their mouth, beseech them to be reconciled to God. The fullest assurances were thus about to be given, that the loving Saviour would reject none, on any account whatever, who came to him for life and godliness; and exceedingly great and precious promises, together with the institution of sacred ordinances as means of grace, would concur in encouraging sinners of every nation to seek the blessings of eternal life, without fearing a denial or disappointment.-All this doubtless and far more was perceived by the heavenly host, when they proclaimed

"Good-will to men," in celebrating the nativity of our Emmanuel!

They sang also "Peace on earth." They had witnessed the fatal effects of the creature's venturing to oppose the Creator's will, and become his enemies. They had seen angels, as it were, declare war against the Almighty; and even when cast out of heaven, employing all their liberty in carrying on the same desperate and ruinous hostilities. They beheld man seduced to join the apostate rebels, and become enemies to God by wicked works; and then, instigated by enmity to increasing iniquity. The earth filled with tears, groans, and miseries; the universal victory and triumph of death and the grave, and the subsequent doom of impenitent and unreconciled sinners, were the consequences which angels had witnessed of man's infatuated contest against his omnipotent Creator. They had been spectators likewise of all the cruel wars, which men in every age had waged against each other and of all the dire effects of ambition, envy, revenge, and insatiable rapacity or cruelty, from the day when Cain, the first murderer, embru. ed his hands in his brother's blood. What then must have been the sentiments and feelings of these benevolent spirits, while witnessing the murders, massacres, battles, sieges, and persecutions, which have wasted the human species, and increased the miseries of the world to a degree that exceeds all calculation? What did they think of the lavish encomiums, bestowed, almost unanimously, on the most skilful, prosperous, and unfeeling of these butchers of mankind? What estimate did they form of man's heart,

and of the vaunted dignity of human nature, the milk of human kindness, and the sufficiency of reason to guide us to virtue and happiness? Beholding incessantly these horrid spectacles, what could holy angels think of man, but that he was, as it were, a younger brother of the original murderer, delighting in the same work, and deeming no other employment so honourable? What could they think of the earth, but that it was in many respects a counterpart of hell; and that it would have been so more entirely, had it not been for the good-will of God to men?

I mean not, my brethren, to declaim against the profession of arms, or to condemn all rulers and nations that engage in war. Some soldiers have been, and some are, Christians: but their profession is their cross, and its duties their self-denial; they would not willingly engage in any war of ambition, rapacity, or revenge; but they readily face danger, and endure hardship, in defence of their country. The more we hate war and long for peace, the greater are our obligations to such men, as thus expose themselves to guard us against injurious assailants; and the more fervently we ought to pray for their protection and success. In the present state of the world, war is a necessary evil, and often quite unavoidable: and that not merely when a nation is directly attacked; for there are many other ways, by which the rapacious and ambitious may render a neighbouring country incapable of defending its liberties and possessions; and these can only be counteracted by vigorous opposition. Nor are private individuals generally compe. tent to decide what wars are necessary and justifiable,

or the contrary: in this respect rulers must give an account to God for their conduct. But wars proceed originally from the lusts of men's hearts, and from the wicked one: God employs them, as he does hurricanes, earthquakes, or pestilences, as executioners of his vengeance on guilty nations: and ambitious conquerors, however accomplished or illustrious, are the most hateful and tremendous scourges of our apostate race. We may therefore deprecate and denounce war itself, as the most horrid and atrocious evil, consistently with the obedience and honour due to our rulers, and the most sincere prayers for the success of their measures, as far as they tend to the protection and welfare of our beloved country. But we must also maintain, that all the blood shed in war is murder, chargeable on them, whose criminal projects and politicks render such dreadful methods of resisting them necessary; and that it will certainly be required at their hands, on which side soever the victims were slaughtered.

But to return from this digression; when Christ was born, angels sang, "Peace on earth." Peace between God and sinners; peace between a man and his neighbour; peace between contending nations peace in heart and conscience; and peace throughout the earth. The Saviour is "the Prince of peace;" the true "Melchisedeck king of Salem, the King of righteousness, and the King of peace :" "and of his government and peace there shall be no end." The


[ocr errors]

* James, iv. 1.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »