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"be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been "from of old, from everlasting." They saw "the "Desire of all nations," actually come; † and they celebrated the accomplishment of Isaiah's prediction, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; "and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and "his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, "The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The "Prince of Peace. " One of the company therefore said to the poor shepherds, "Fear not, for behold I "bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be "to all people: for unto you is born this day, in the "city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord." They could not say, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is “given :" "for verily he took not on him "the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of "Abraham." He came into the world to be a Saviour: he was the Christ, the promised Messiah, the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King; yea, he was "The LORD," "The second man is the LORD from "heaven." "His name is Emmanuel :" for "God "is in Christ reconciling the world unto himself."
"The WORD, who was in the beginning with "God, and who was God, by whom all things were "made, and without whom was not any thing made "that was made," "was now made flesh and dwelt
among us;" and angels first beheld "his glory, "the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father. || " They saw him, "who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God," make himself of no reputation, take upon him the
Heb. ii. 14-16.
Mic. v. 2. + Hag. ii. 7.
Isa. ix. 6.
John, i. 1-14.
"form of a servant, and the likeness of man; that be
ing found in fashion as a man, he might become "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.*" With astonishment, they witnessed him, "by whom "all things were created that are in heaven, and that "are in earth, whether they be thrones, or dominions, "or principalities, or powers;-for whom all things "are created;-and by whom all things consist;" they witnessed this glorious Creator and Lord of all "come in the flesh;" that he might be the visible "Image of the invisible God;" and as Head of the church, inherit all things, and have "in all things the "pre-eminence: for it pleased the Father that in him "should all fulness dwell. †"
Into "these things the angel sdesire to look :" here they contemplate with fixed attention and unwearied admiration; for they behold" in the church the "manifold wisdom of God." The heavenly host knew who the infant in the manger was, and for what ends he came they were ready to adore the Child born as the mighty God: they recognized their Creator and Lord, under this disguise; and with good old Simeon they viewed him as "the Light of the gen"tiles and the Glory of his people Israel."
In this humble scene they saw the opening of that grand design, which had been shadowed forth by the ceremonies of the law, and of which the prophets from the beginning had excited the highest expectations: that design which had been obscurely intimated when Adam sinned, and gradually unfolding for about four thousand years. "The great mystery of godliness,
Phil. ii. 6-8. † Col. i. 15-19. Heb. i. 1-3.
"God manifested in the flesh," now actually realized, called forth the amazement, and enlivened the affections of these heavenly worshippers; and dictated that zealous song of adoring praise, which is the subject of our present meditation.
II. Then, we proceed to explain the song itself. "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, "good-will to men." The angels celebrated the praises of God, and congratulated the happiness of man, with most fervent love and joy. "To you," Oye sons of men, "is born a Saviour, who is Christ, "the Lord:" we exult in your felicity, "we rejoice over one sinner that repenteth:"how much greater then, must be our joy and gladness at the 'nativity of Him who is come to stoop, suffer, and 'die, that he may "be exalted as a Prince and Sa"viour, to give repentance and remission of sins?"
It is very affecting to compare the conduct of the heavenly host, in this respect, with that of men in general, who neglect or oppose the message of salvation, and despise the glorious Redeemer. But angels know our real character and condition: while we are blinded with pride and prejudice, and are extremely unwilling to be convinced that we deserve destruction! or so taken up with "the world, and the things that "are in the world," that we disregard the important interests of eternity!
In considering the hymn of praise before us, we may perhaps begin to best advantage with the concluding sentence, "Good-will to men."-The blessed angels had witnessed the creation of the earth, "when these morning-stars sang together, and all the
"sons of God shouted for joy ;*" for in that august transaction they saw the immensity of their Creator's power, wisdom, and goodness. With astonishment and awe they beheld also the fall of their compeers; and when "God spared not the angels that sinned, "but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into "chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment, t they adored his righteous severity against the rebellious, and his holy abhorrence of sin; and they received instruction of inestimable value from the impressive solemn scene. They saw too the fall of man; and probably expected that vengeance would, with unabated vehemence, seize in like manner upon him; not conceiving that a God of infinite purity and justice could possibly shew mercy and kindness to rebels and apostates. No doubt they heard the first intimation of favour to our offending parents, mixed with the solemn denunciation of death, and all the woes that preceded it: and this must have excited a peculiar attention to so new and interesting a discovery of the divine perfections.
From that crisis, they had been witnesses and mes. sengers, both of the Lord's mercy and of his indignation, towards the human race. Numerous opportunities had been afforded them, in the history of mankind, of learning the fatal effects of transgression, and the power of divine wrath. The deluge; the tremendous doom of Sodom and Gomorrah; the desolations of Egypt; the severities inflicted on the devoted Canaanites; the judgments executed even on offending Isracl, in the wilderness and Canaan, and by the
Babylonish captivity; were so many illustrations of the justice of God, and his holy abhorrence of iniquity. But at the same time his patience and bounty towards sinful men, his gracious interpositions in behalf of his people, the intimations and predictions of a Saviour, the promises given to believers, and the actual salvation of numbers, shewed his good-will to mankind; and his readiness to pity, help, and relieve them, as far as could consist with the honour of his name, and the interest of his universal and everlasting kingdom.
Yet in the infant lying in the manger at Bethlehem, the angels had such a discovery of the Lord's good-will to men, connected with his detestation of their sins, as had never hitherto attracted their notice or raised their expectations. They no doubt, before this, had some general conception of the plan formed by infinite wisdom and everlasting love: perhaps the whole had been fully notified to them. Yet when the stupendous design was thus far accomplished; their previous admiration of the ineffable condescension, compassion, and love of the holy and glorious Lord God towards lost sinners, whose multiplied and heinous crimes had so long called loudly for vengeance, was far exceeded, and as it were swallowed up in inexpressible astonishment. Good-will to man! to guilty, polluted, ungrateful man! to idolatrous, impious, and blaspheming man! This overwhelmed the blessed angels with amazement, and tuned their hearts to adoring praises: and these reflections must have the same effect on all, who have just views of the majesty and glorious holiness of God, the nature VOL. II.