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And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying; Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men.
LUKE, ii. 13, 14.
ST. Paul, having said,
"Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God was mani"fest in the flesh," adds among other things, that he was seen of angels." These heavenly worshippers saw the Lord of glory, their Creator and Sovereign, clothed with human flesh, and laid as an infant in a manger; they saw him tempted by the devil in the wilderness, and ministered to him when he had overcome the enemy; they were spectators of his transfi guration on the mount, and of his agony in the garden; they beheld him expire on the cross; they attended his glorious resurrection and ascension; and when he was exalted in human nature to the mediatorial throne, they did him homage, and joined the redeemed in singing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was
• Preached on Christmas Day, 1795.
"slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, "and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." For when the Father "bringeth in the Firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the "angels of God worship him.+" Finally they will be attendant and ministering servants, when Christ shall come to raise the dead and judge the world.
In taking occasion from the present festival to discourse on a subject, with which we should be conversant at every season of the year, I shall,
I. Make some remarks on the event celebrated by the heavenly host.
II. Explain their song of exalted praise and adoration.
III. Endeavour to bring the matter home to ourselves by some practical deductions.
And may the Lord himself direct and bless our meditations; that we may be animated and assisted, in "keeping a day unto the Lord," after a holy and heavenly manner; and not in conformity to the conrupt and carnal fashion of those, who turn a Christian solemnity into a bacchanalian carnival!
I. Let us reflect on the event, which was celebrated by the heavenly host.
A poor woman named Mary, of the family of David, espoused to a carpenter residing at Nazareth, a place branded with infamy, came with her husband to Bethlehem, in obedience to a decree of Cæsar Augustus: and there being "no room for them in the inn," which was occupied by superior people, they were
lodged in a stable. In this situation Mary was delivered of a son, whom she wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.- Nothing at first sight appears remarkable in this event, except the extremely mean and inconvenient accommodation made for the poor woman and her infant; and the unfeeling neglect shewn to a person in her circumstances by the inhabitants of Bethlehem. Indeed the affair seems scarcely to have been noticed in that city: and we do not find that it was heard of at Jerusalem, till the child was presented at the temple according to the law of Moses; when a few persons of eminent piety were made acquainted with it. The rulers, scribes, and priests in general knew nothing of these transactions; till wise men from the east came to enquire after the new-born King, and to do him homage. Then indeed a considerable degree of attention was excited; and the tyrant Herod caused the infants about Bethlehem to be cruelly murdered, in hopes of destroying one, whom he dreaded as the rival of his authority. Soon after, however, the report seems to have been forgotten. The child born at Bethlehem was brought up at Nazareth with Joseph the carpenter, and doubtless earned his bread at that laborious trade; till at length he entered on his publick ministry, which he closed by an ignominious death upon a cross. Thus "he grew up before the "Lord as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he had no form or comeliness; and when "the people saw him, there was no beauty that they "should desire him: he was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.*"
Isa. liii. 2, 3.
And if the Jews knew little of the infant at Bethlehem, and the carpenter's son at Nazareth; the gentile rulers, conquerors, and philosophers were entirely unacquainted with him. All over the earth, which he came to bless, he was disregarded or despised: yet angels witnessed and celebrated his birth with admiring songs of praise!
These blessed spirits, free from guilt, and perfect in holiness, want not a Saviour. "They excel in "strength, and do the Lord's commandments, heark"ening to the voice of his words.*" Their capacities for wisdom and understanding are very great; their judgment and taste, for what is beautiful and glorious, are exactly conformable to those of the holy God whom they adore: and the hope of being at length made like them, and equal to them, should excite a noble ambition and emulation in every human heart. But the event which had taken place at Bethlehem, and which we this day commemorate, appeared to them of the greatest possible importance, and worthy to be celebrated with their most rapturous adorations.
In the infant laid in a manger they recognized the "Seed of the woman," the spotless offspring of a virgin-mother, who was to come and "bruise the "Serpent's head:" and "the Seed of Abraham, in "whom all nations should be blessed." They knew, that Mary was come to Bethlehem, according to the purpose of God, that the ancient prophecy might be fulfilled. "But thou, Bethlehem-Ephratah, though "thou be little among the thousands of Judah; yet " out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to
Ps. cüi. 20.