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with their friends, rejoice before God'. Thus the Christian brings his temporal comforts into the divine presence, that he may enjoy God both in and with them. By religion, all his joys are greatly enhanced; nor does he ever enjoy his food or his friends or any blessing in life so much, as when he is led to God by them, and glorifies his God in them. But the most delightful seasons are those wherein he can go to his God in secret, and pour out his soul before him. One hour spent in communion with his Lord is more to him than a whole life of carnal joy it is a feast of fat things, an antepast of heaven.] 2. An exalted joy
[The Christian's joy is compared to that of a successful husbandman, and a victorious warrior. In every age, the in-gathering of the harvest has been an occasion of joy: the seizing also of the spoil from a vanquished enemy has ever been considered as a ground of triumph. There is indeed on both these occasions too much of what is merely carnal: still however the spirits of the people are raised far beyond their usual pitch. In this respect the Christian's joy resembles theirs. When he begins to see the fruit of his painful labours and his dubious conflicts, he cannot but rejoice that he has not laboured in vain, or fought in vain. Yes, his soul is joyful in his God, and "he rejoices with a joy that is unspeakable and glorified."]
To this the Gospel contributes, by crowning its converts with,
As natural men are blind, so are they also under sore bondage
[The Egyptian or Babylonish yoke was light in comparison of that which Satan has imposed on all the human race. holds them fast in his chains, and "leads them captive at his will"---]
But through the Gospel they are effectually delivered from it
[When the Jewish nation was oppressed by the Midianites, God raised up Gideon to effect its deliverance. But how was the deliverance wrought? by arms? No: God would not suffer him to employ the army he had raised, but first released all of them except ten thousand, and then dismissed. all of those except three hundred. And how were those three hundred armed? with sword and spear? No: but with earthen pitchers, and lamps, and trumpets: and with this little army so g Isai. xvi. 9, 10.
f Deut. xvi. 9-15.
accoutred, he put to flight the whole host of Midian: they brake their pitchers, held forth their lamps, and blew their trumpets; and the enemies were put to flight". Thus, precisely thus, does the Christian triumph over his enemies: unable to accomplish any thing by his own arm, he, by the mere light and sound of the Gospel, vanquishes his foes. When indeed the rout commences, he summons all his powers to destroy them; nor ceases from the pursuit, till he has effectually subdued them all. Behold a man who was lately enslaved by the world, the flesh, and the devil; see him at once throw off the yoke, behold him trampling on the world, crucifying the flesh, and bruising Satan under his feet! Is this a dream? No; it is a reality, that may be seen now as much as it was on the day of Pentecost, or on the day that the blood-thirsty Saul became a preacher of the faith he had once destroyed. "Such is the heritage of the servants of the Lord:" they all are conquerors, and "more than conquerors, through Him that loved them."]
1. How strangely do men misconceive of the nature and operation of the Gospel!
[That which Christ and his apostles preached, is deemed fanaticism, and is supposed to lead to melancholy and licentiousness. But how opposite is this sentiment to that which is contained in the text! Only let the Gospel be searched into with candour and diligence, and we will venture to affirm that it shall approve itself as light, and become a source of joy, and lead to certain victory. Whatever remains of darkness, grief, or bondage, shall be gradually banished, and the felicity of heaven be enjoyed, in proportion as the soul is subjected to the dominion of Christ.]
2. How much do the saints of God live below their privileges!
[If we look at the first converts, we shall be ready to think that they were of a different species from us; so far are we below them in spiritual attainments. But is not the Gospel the same as it was in their day? Does it not require as much of us as it did of them? And will it not operate as powerfully on our hearts as it did on theirs? O let us not be satisfied with such indistinct views of the mysteries of God: let us not be contented with such scanty measures of joy and triumph: let us not think it enough to gain some small advantages over our spiritual enemies: let us look for greater things, and expect more signal displays of the Divine power and goodness! We are not straitened in God, but in ourselves: let us only be strong in faith; and "according to our faith it shall be unto us."]
h Judg. vii. 19—21.
CHRIST'S INCARNATION AND CHARACTER.
Isai. ix. 6. 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.
THERE is no true peace or happiness in the world except that which arises from the Gospel of Christ; for God himself testifies that there is no peace to the wicked. But where the Gospel truly prevails, peace and joy immediately spring up as its proper fruits. Such a change as this the prophet describes in the preceding context; and then, in the words before us, traces it to its real source. From the words themselves we shall be led to consider,
I. The advent of Christ to take the charge of his kingdom
Though given to us by God, he came in an obscure and humble form—
[He was a little "child, born" in as helpless a state as others, and subject to all the sinless infirmities of our nature. He was indeed in a more especial manner the gift of the Father's lovea; the most invaluable gift that God himself could bestow. He was the Child, and the Son, of whom all the prophets spake, the offspring of a virgin, " Emmanuel, God with us." But as the end of his coming was to redeem our fallen race, he came in such a way, as was best suited to the accomplishment of his own eternal purpose and grace.]
Yet, notwithstanding his mean appearance, he came to assume the government of the Church
[As the Creator of the universe, he must of necessity have also been the governor of it before his incarnation. But now he came to administer the government as mediator; for all judgment was committed to him, not only as the Son of man, but because he was the Son of man". The Church, in a more especial manner, is subjected to him in this view; and he is the head of it, as well for the purpose of communicating his influence to the members, as of managing its concerns. And so entirely is every thing under his controul, that not so much as a hair falls from the head of any of his people without either his express command, or righteous permission. As in the days Eph. i. 22.
a John iii. 16.
b John v. 27.
of his flesh he exercised the most unlimited authority over diseases, devils, and the very elements, so now every thing, whether designedly, or against its will, fulfils his unerring counsels.]
We shall the less wonder at his elevation to a throne, if we consider,
II. His qualifications for the regal office
His being called by any name, imports that He really is what he is called. He is therefore,
1. A wonderful Counsellord_
[He, in concert with the Father, formed the stupendous plan of man's redemption, a plan in which are contained all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Moreover in executing this plan, he has not only defeated all the plots and devices of Satan, but has invariably overruled them for the accomplishment of his own designs. His people too he endues with "wisdom from above," enabling them to discern things hidden from the carnal eye, and guiding them in the way to heaven, so that a wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein. Who that has known ever so small a part of his ways, must not exclaim with amazement, How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!]
2. The mighty God
[Angels and magistrates are sometimes called gods in a subordinate sense; but He is "The mighty God," "God with us," even "God over all, blessed for ever.' The dispensations, both of his providence and grace, manifest him to be a "God, wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." Indeed, if he were not God, he never could bear upon his shoulder the government of the universe. He must be omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, or else he never could hear the supplications, and supply the wants, of all his people at the same instant. However strange therefore it may seem, He who was a little child, was at the same time the mighty God; it was "the Lord of glory that was crucified;" it was "God who purchased the Church with his own bloods."]
3. The everlasting Father
[This title respects not his relation to the Deity (for with respect to that, he is the Son and not the Father) but rather his relation to his spiritual seed, whom he has begotten by his word and Spirit. But perhaps the words should rather have
These are by many considered as two distinct titles; but, if we unite them, each title will have its proper attribute.
e Col. ii. 3. ἐν ᾧ scil. μυστηρίω.
g 1 Cor. ii. 8. Acts xx. 28.
f Isai. xxxv. 8.
been translated, "The Father of the everlasting age." The Jewish dispensation was intended to continue but for a limited time; but the Christian dispensation was never to be succeeded by any other: hence it is called "the last times;" and may be considered as "the everlasting age." Of this Christ is the author; it owes its existence to him as its parent; it is preserved by his guardian care; and the whole family in heaven and earth who participate its blessings, both bear his image, and inherit his glory.]
4. The Prince of Peace
[In all which Christ has done, whether in planning or executing the work of redemption, he has consulted the peace and welfare of his people. It was to purchase their peace that he became incarnate and died upon the cross. It was to bestow on them the blessings of peace, that he assumed the reins of government, and undertook to manage all their concerns. Peace was the legacy which he left to his Church when he was just departing from the world; and, on his ascension, he poured it down like a river on myriads of his blood-thirsty enemies: yea, at this very hour does he dispense it according to his own sovereign will, and impart it, with royal munificence, to all the subjects of his kingdom.]
This SUBJECT furnishes us with abundant reason,
1. For admiration—
[If all heaven was filled with wonder at the sight of their incarnate God, and if the " Angels yet desire to look into" that great mystery of godliness," how marvellous should it appear in our eyes! Let us then adore with reverence what we cannot comprehend; and exclaim with profoundest wonder, “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift"."]
2. For gratitude
[Has the mighty God become a little child for us, and shall we regard his condescension with indifference? Is he governing and overruling every thing for our good, and shall we feel no sense of his kindness? Let us rather say, What shall I render to the Lord for all the benefits he has done unto me?] 3. For devotedness to God
[If the government be upon his shoulder, we should shew ourselves willing to have it there, and submit ourselves cheerfully to his authority. In vain shall we regard him as the source and foundation of our peace, unless we yield ourselves to him as the governor of our lives.]
h 2 Cor. ix. 15.