THE A GELIC HYM O THE ATIVITY.

A SERMO PREACHED I THE CHAPEL OF THE MAGDALE ASYLUM, DUBLI , O CHRISTMAS DAY, 1838, BY THE RIGHT REV JOH H. HOPKI S, D.D.

Luke ii. 13, 14. " 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."

These were the words, my brethren, of that sublime doxology with which the birth of the Saviour of the world was welcomed, by the congregation of angels. What more appropriate passage could be chosen for our theme, in addressing a congregation of Christians, on that festival which the Church, from the earliest ages, has set apart in solemn regard to the nativity of her Redeemer ? Let me, then, ask your attention to a few plain remarks upon it, taking in their natural order the several topics which it presents to the reflecting mind. We shall promise you no stores of learning, no attractions of novelty, no display of ingenious argument, no force of eloquence or oratory ; for these, the subject is too

familiar, and the preacher is too weak. May the God of truth, who is able to bless the humblest instrumentality, so direct us, that we may explain the revelation of his love with all simplicity — " not with the enticing words of man's wisdom, but with the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power." The first topic which our text presents to us, is the statement that a multitude of the heavenly host praised God, saying, " Glory to God in the highest." What was the cause of this angelic hymn of grateful adoration ? The answer is contained in the annunciation just made to the shepherds of Judea, — '"To you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord." But how, it

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may be asked, did this affect the heavenly host, and why should they unite in this chorus of acclaim, saying, " Glory to God in the highest ?" To understand this aright, we must remember that the character, the designs, and the actions of God, are the most important and interesting subjects to the whole universe. He is the Creator of heaven as well as earth, of angels as well as men. The thrones, the principalities and powers of the heavenly

hierarchy are the work of his Almighty hand. In him, they all live, and move, and have their being. To what do they owe their felicity, but to his benevolence ? On what do they rely for its continuance, but on his wisdom and his love ? What security do they possess for their own bright heritage of glory, except that which is derived from the unchangeable perfection of their Creator's attributes? And therefore, how plain does it seem that every new manifestation of his goodness must affect them most sensibly, since on that goodness the safety and the happiness of themselves and of all creation must necessarily depend ? ow, the spectacle which drew from the angelic host the ascription of " Glory to God in the highest," was the most marvellous instance of divine compassion and love that they had ever known — yea, more marvellous than they could have conceived possible. They had seen our earth created pure and good, " when the morning stars had sung together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." They had seen the fair and beautiful Paradise which God had planted for the dwelling place of his favored creature, man. They had seen our first parents fall into transgression, sentenced to death, and expelled from their habitation. They had beheld the awful pestilence of iniquity spreading over the wretched posterity of Adam, until the sweeping destruction of the deluge was appointed to purify the world. The saving of

oah in the ark, the repeopling of the earth, the recurrence of wickedness, the call of Abraham, the deliverance of the Israelites, their marvellous history, their rebellion, their punishment, their captivity, their return — all had passed before the eyes of the angels, because the Lord had employed them as his ministers to man, from the beginning ; and they had been the sorrowful witnesses of his sins, his wretchedness, his subjection to the powers of darkness, his enmity against the will of his Creator and his God, until the weary round of forty centuries had passed over the history of a ruined world. We may reverently conceive, that during all this time, the angels must have been often led to wonder what the end should be. They had indeed heard the promises of mercy, first, obscurely suggested in the assurance that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head ; and afterwards more clearly revealed, as prophet after prophet made known the assurance of divine compassion to the children of mortality. And we cannot reasonably doubt that the angels understood, with considerable clearness, the general purpose of their glorious Sovereign, to bring redemption to mankind. But it may well be questioned whether they were minutely acquainted with the marvellous details of the system ; since the Apostle Paul, even after the completion of the Redeemer's sacrifice, speaking of the wonders of the Gospel plan, saith, " Which things the angels desire to look into." Hence, when the fulness of the time had come, and God

sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were lying exposed to its awful penalty, we may well suppose that the angels were struck with astonishment and admiration. Wonderful, of a truth, must that manifestation have been in the sight of the celestial host — God manifest in the flesh — the Creator united to the creature — the infinite Majesty of heaven linked with

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the weakness of earth — the eternal and only begotten Son of the Most High, made one person with the infant offspring of the virgin mother. Oh, mystery of love ! Miracle of mercy ! worthy to inspire, not only the multitude of that heavenly host, but the boundless universe, with the utmost amazement, that pity and tenderness towards the ruined family of man could bring the King of kings and Lord of lords to such an act of surpassing humiliation. But the angelic host did not close their hymn of praise by ascribing " Glory to God in the highest." They proceeded to the gracious object of the incarnation of the Son of God, " on earth peace, good will towards men." These expressions intimate clearly the condition in which the infinite love of Christ Jesus found mankind, and from which he desired to redeem them.

Man had abandoned the service of his Creator, and had become the servant of sin — led by him who is emphatically called Satan, or the enemy of God ; and fallen, utterly fallen, from his original righteousness. By nature and by practice, the human heart was hostile to the Almighty, at war with his holiness, his justice, his purity, and his truth. These divine attributes were all arrayed against our rebel race, and the ingenuity of men and angels must alike have failed in the attempt to reconcile them. But although impossible to all others, the task was not impossible with God. Christ Jesus came to bring peace : and to effect this blessed purpose, three things were necessary, which claim our best consideration. First, an atonement was required to the justice of the violated law, which should bear some just proportion to the awful amount of human guilt, and to the majesty of the Divine government. But what created being could render it? Could a mere man be accepted as a substitute for the countless myriads of the human family ? Surely not ; for

I there could be no proportion between the temporal sufferings of one man, and the eternal punishment of millions. Could an angel or archangel be received to render satisfaction on the part of fallen humanity ? By no means ; and this for a double reason. On the one hand, the atonement offering must needs possess

our nature ; for none but man could be the representative of man. The original head of the human race was human, and the second Adam must be human too. On the other hand, the highest archangel possesses the same spiritual nature as the human soul ; and one created spirit could in no way be an equivalent for a whole world of spirits. The atonement which our ruined condition required, therefore, demanded a union of characters which seemed impossible. The victim must be man ; and yet possessed of majesty sufficient to be an equivalent for all the posterity of Adam : and who could render this peace-offering but Jesus Christ — God, the Son of the Almighty Father — man, the offspring of the virgin, united in one person — the Prince of Peace ? Here was the majesty of the infinite God, giving all dignity to the sufferings of Christ's humanity, and presenting a Redeemer sufficient to atone, not only for a world, but for an universe. But, secondly, the offering of the great atonement could only avail to satisfy the justice of God for sin. It could not abrogate the law, it could not do away the necessity of man's obedience. Howwas the sinner to have peace on the indispensable condition of righteousness ? Who should stand for him in the judgment of that sacred Lawgiver who had said, ' ; Curseth is every one that conlinueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them ?" Grant that the blessed Lamb of ( God appointed to take away the sin of the world, had redeemed him from destruction, where should he find the perfect conformity to

the divine law which should account him

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worthy of heaven? That law might remit the penalty of his transgressions again and again, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, but could never be said to be at peace with man until perfect obedience was yielded to its most just requirements ; and alas ! that perfect obedience, the sinner — fallen, weak, helpless, and totally incapable of himself to do any thing aright — could never render. Here, then, again, Christ Jesus became the gracious substitute of our ruined race, and as our head — the second Adam — worked out for us a perfect righteousness. In him, human nature possesses both the peace offering of atonement, and the merit of obedience ; so that God may now be just, while he justifies the sinner. Still, however, all was not done which the condition of poor humanity required. The penalty of sin might be remitted through the sacrifice of Christ, the admission to the kingdom of heaven might be secured through his perfect righteousness, but how was the sinful child of mortality to be made fit — meet for the

inheritance of light ? And what would it avail, at last, to gain the threshold of celestial joy, and then be thrust down, by reason of our unholiness, from the throne of God — the dwelling-place of glory? Grant, that his love was infinite — his desire to save us most absolute ; he could not change his own divine nature in order to accommodate iniquity, nor- could he destroy the happiness of heaven by suffering the abiding presence of what is unholy and impure. ay, even if such a change in God were possible — which but to suppose is almost profanation ; even if such a change in the character of heaven were possible — which is altogether absurd ; it could avail men nothing : because a sinful being cannot be made happy, even by Omnipotence itself. The corrupt and depraved nature of man produces certain wretchedness on earth ; how much more would this wretchedness

be of necessity increased, if such a nature became immortal ? Were sin allowed in heaven, God would no longer be its sovereign — and heaven itself would be destroyed. Here, then, is the third great requisite in the system of the Gospel. The sinner must be changed, changed in his very nature, created anew, made like unto God himself, and through this likeness, be qualified for the glory and the happiness of the life to come. And just as at the first creation, darkness covered the deep, until the Spirit of God moved upon the

face of the waters, so, in the new creation of the pardoned sinner, the same blessed Spirit descends upon the benighted soul, and brings the moral chaos out of darkness into light. To obtain for us this high and glorious privilege is again the blessed work of Christ the Lord. He is the Word, the revealer of wisdom and truth to man. He called his Church, and appointed its ministry and sacraments. But above all, he sends to us the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, by whom the faithful are sanctified, and made meet for the inheritance of immortal life and joy ; and thus is perfected the work of -peace on earth ; that peace which truly passeth understanding — that peace which the world can neither give nor take away. The concluding clause of our text, my brethren, will need but little illustration. " Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men." Good-will, benevolence, or love, was indeed displayed in the incarnation of the Saviour to a degree beyond all comparison. " God so loved the world," saith the apostle, " that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." " Greater love than this hath no man," saith our Lord himself, " that he should lay down his life for his friends." And in the affecting language of the prophet, " When thy father and thy mother forsake thcc, the Lord taketh

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thee up. Can a mother forget her child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb ? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." Glory to God, that to us is born such a Saviour. " Glory to God in the highest ! on earth peace, good-will towards men." Can there be a heart which recoils from the angelic annunciation ? Can there be a mind which seeks to cavil against the blessed message of redeeming love ? Can there be a soul which chooses to cling to earth, to sin, to condemnation, rather than surrender itself to the glorious sovereignty of the Son of God ? Oh, is there among you, my brethren, a single individual so infatuated as to feel no interest in the nativity of his Redeemer ? Shall the multitude of the heavenly host rejoice in the mercy offered to man, and shall man himself despise and reject the inestimable blessing ? God forbid ! God forbid ! Rather listen to the warning voice of his great forerunner, " Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'' With earnest supplication beseech the gracious Saviour to have mercy upon you ; and cease not until you can appropriate to yourself the kind and tender assurance of his own blessed word, " Son be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee."

But to us, my brethren in Christ, the return of this day should be indeed a festival of joy and gladness. To us that holy Child is born — to us that marvellous Son is given, on whose shoulder the government is laid — whose name is called " Wonderful, Counsellor,the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." And is he so to us? Does he rule in our hearts without a rival ? Does his blessed advent and wondrous character excite our adoring admiration ? Is he the chosen Counsellor of every thought and action ? Do we acknowledge him to be the Mighty God — one with the Everlasting Father? Oh, if it be thus of a truth, then' will he be also to us the

Prince of Peace ; peace with God — peace with men — peace in the empire of our stormy passions — peace in the heavenly purity of our desires — peace in the very pangs of death — peace in the paradise of the just made perfect — and peace in the high and holy refuge of his love, when the final day of the great account shall wrap the world in flames, and plunge the wretched hosts of his revilers into the abyss of horror and despair. Yes, my brethren, he shall come again to judge the. world which he has redeemed with his own precious blood. " Every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him," and all those who have since pierced him afresh, by an unholy

life and conversation. He shall come, not in the guise of the infantof Bethlehem, but in the glory of the Father. Oh, where shall be our place in that fearful day ? Shall we stand on the right hand of the King of kings, clad in the spotless robe of his perfect righteousness, bearing aloft the palm of victory, and hearingaddressed to us the gracious words, " Come ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Or shall we be found on the left, overwhelmed with confusion and anguish ; and be driven away by that dreadful sentence, " Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire." Beloved brelhren, the time is short. Let us be sober and watch unto prayer. It is good that we should work out our salvation with holy " fear and trembling ;" and it is also good that we work it out with sacred confidence, " for it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure." In that holy fear — in that sacred confidence — with true repentance, with lively faith, with stedfast hope, with fervent charity, with warm and grateful adoration — let us celebrate, this day, the surpassing love of our onlv Master and Saviour, in the blessed

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eucharist of his own appointment. May we think of him not only as Christ "born in the city of David" — but as Christ, "formed in our hearts, the hope of glory" and thus may vre sympathise with the heavenly host, which hailed the precious day of his nativity — sympathise, did I say ? ay, brethren, that word is not appropriate. The angels had not fallen — they needed no Redeemer — it was not for them that the eternal Son of God became

an infant of days, and a man of sorrows, and at last bowed his sacred head upon the cross. With emotions, then, of far deeper intensity — with feelings of adoring gratitude beyond what even the angels could have known, should we utter the words of their celestial thanksgiving — " Glory to God in the highest ! Glory to God in the highest ! on earth, reace, good-will towards ME ."

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