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torative. tt shall raise the man who believes it to the participation of a divine nature. No evil can resist its energy, and no obstacle can successfully oppose its transforming power.
It only remains that we consider to whom this message was addressed, and for whom it was intended. Human sagacity would have imagined that, in order to secure respect and circulation to this message, it must be made known to men of power and influence, to the scribes of Jerusalem, or the sages of the heathen world ; but, to show by whom this dispensation of grace would be received and valued, and how little it requires the aid of worldly wealth, rank, or wisdom to its support and propagation, it is addressed to shepherds, and by them it is heard with transport. And often hath the faith of the gospel blessed the occupations of pastoral life, and while it has been excluded from the palaces of the great, and the academies of the learned, it has been gladly welcomed into the peasant's cottage.
But though first made known to them, the angel intimated that this message was intended for all people. The voice of heavenly wisdom had not hitherto been heard beyond the precincts of Judea, but now the Apostles were to go forth and to announce in cities and villages throughout the bounds of the Roman empire, and among various savage tribes, the birth of the Saviour, and this was the charge given to them and to their successors, " Go preach the gospel to even' creature." We may lament that this mandate has been so little attended to since the first ages of the church, and that while commercial enterprise, and adventurous speculation have navigated the most perilous seas, and explored the most frightful deserts, Christians have shown so little solicitude to make"
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known to the perishing heathen the way of salvation* A more zealous spirit is now awakened, and its object is to make the Saviour known in his glory, his blessings, and his laws. Its efforts are increasing from year to year, and spreading from land to land ; and by the wisdom of its plans, and the activity of its operations, it is evident that it is guided and strengthened from on high, and it will proceed in its glorious career till the Saviour is known and received, and loved and served in every region of the earth.
It may be said also that these glad tidings are for all people; because from the birth of the Saviour the nations were to derive the most important advantages. For the sake of those who are to be enlightened, sanctified, and saved, destructive judgements are suspended or mitigated, and the means of improvement are bestowed in the greatest profusion. At the birth of Jesus a religion was introduced which, has contributed in a very great degree to the reformation of the nations. Who that contrasts the present state of Europe with its condition before the appearance of the gospel, can forbear exclaiming, " What hath God wrought." How wonderful is the change as to knowledge and to morals! The fooleries of superstition have given place to a reasonable service, and the sophistry of the schools to true wisdom; errors and prejudices have been exploded; the horrid abominations of heathenism have been swept away; the ferocity of war has been mitigated; domestic life is characterised by gentleness and kindness, instead of absolute power and stern severity; and every institution which can alleviate or remove human wretched« ness is formed. The gospel has done more to meliorate even the temporal condition of men than all political or scientific institutions.
I only add, that some in all nations, shall be for ever blessed in this Saviour. He came not to select his followers from the tribes of Jacob, but from the Gentile nations; and from that moment to this, persons have been going from various quarters of the world into the kingdom of God. The Apostle John, who beheld in vision the consummation of the New dispensation, thus describes its issue: " I beheld, and lo a great multitude which no man could number, from. all nations, and people, and kindred, and tongues, stood before the throne, and.before the Lamb, and cried with a loud voice, salvation to our God, that sils on the throne, and to the Lamb." What a delightful prospect; and how animating is it to the heart of every man who adores his Saviour, and who loves his species. Christianity breathes nothing of the malignity of national prejudice, or of the exclusive spirit of a rancorous bigotry. Its spirit is that of unlimited benevolence, and its employment is to do good to all. Othat those who are disgusted with it as disfigured by the trappings of superstition, and breathing the fury of intolerance, would turn their eyes to it as it appears over the plains of Bethlehem, pure and benign as the angel who proclaimed it, and announcing peace on earth, and good will to men.
In concluding this discourse, let mc call on persons in the different periods and conditions of life, to perform the duties which they are taught by this scene. Let the young learn humility and meekness, from the babe of Bethlehem, and let them not judge of the importance of objects by the pomp of this world, which often spreads a profusion of verdure round what is useless or poisonous; but by their religious and moral utility. Let those in superior stations learn to condescend to them of low degree, and in imitation of
this angel, to be solicitous for the spiritual welfare and the true happiness of their inferiors. Let those who occupy the humbler walks of life imitate the patient industry of those shepherds, and rejoice that God delights to bless the scene of honest labour with the messages of his grace. And let the aged who are soon to leave this world, rejoice in the Saviour's entrance into it, which blesses the departure of the good with peace.
Let the disciples of Jesus cherish a high esteem for the gospel, and let them show this by their regular attendance on the preaching of it, and by their cheerful support of its institutions, by enlightened zeal for its purity, and by a conversation which will recommend it. And be solicitous for its universal diffusion ; and for this purpose it is not enough that you devote your prayers and your gifts, you must exhibit an attracting picture of the beauty and the power of religion in your conduct. Beware of every thing which may excite a prejudice against Christ's cause. One deed of severity, and one instance of rash censure or gross intemperance, will make your zeal odious. Be sober, candid, and merciful.
Embrace with joy the opportunity now presented of testifying the interest which you feel in these good tidings, and the gratitude which you cherish to this Saviour. Look to the infant Saviour in the manger, and offer him your gold, frankincense, and myrrh, your grateful praise, your glowing affection, and your penitential sorrow. Look to the suffering Saviour on the cross, and rejoice in the sweet smelling savour of his great sacrifice. And look to him exalted on the throne a Prince and a Saviour, and bow your knee in the name of Jesus, and confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
But there are some who disregard the message of salvation ; and. we wish them to remember that they reject the counsel of God against their own souls. The time is coming when Christ shall appear in another form, and for another purpose, when " he shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, to take vengeance on them who obey not the gospel." T he universal wail of the ungodly shall announce their utter despair, and the voice of the archangel shall summon them to that bar from which they shall go away into everlasting punishment.— Choose then betwixt the message of mercy, and the sentence of destruction. Christ must be your Saviour or your Destroyer. Listen now to the calls of the gospel, accept the salvation which is offered to you, and yield yourselves to the influence of holiness. Thus shall Christ be formed in you, angels on high will rejoice over you, the church on earth will acknowledge you as the redeemed of the Lord, and in you Jesus shall be glorified both now and for ever.
The Birlh of Christ Improved.
Whbn Moses of old, was laid in the ark of bulrushes, by the brink of the Nile, the daughter of Pharaoh sent her maid servant to fetch it, and when she saw the child she had compassion on it and made provision for its safety and support. Such were the circumstances of his infancy who was to be the deliverer of Israel from