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went, on this occasion, to Bethlehem, which is called the city of David. So great was the concourse of people, that persons, in the poor condition of this happy pair, could find no accommodation in publick houses. They were therefore compelled to seek a shelter in a stable. Here was born that glorious person, who was to redeem a guilty world.
In the neighbouring country, were shepherds attending their flocks: While in their turns they kept the watches of the night, they were suddenly surprised with a light which blazed around them, and the presence of a superior being standing near them.
The heavenly messenger soon calmed their fears. Behold, says he, 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, who is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign by which ye shall know him, He is wrapt in swaddling clothes, and lies in a manger.
Scarcely had he delivered his message, when he was joined by a multitude of the heavenly host, who celebrated the wonderful event in an anthem of praise-Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace; good will to men. Having finished their hymn, they disappeared; they became again invisible; the glory, which shone around, vanished away, and Nature resumed her nightly aspect.
The wondering swains confer together on the unusual scene. They say one to another, Let us go to Bethlehem, and see the things which are come to pass, and which God has made known to us. They believed the heavenly message, but to confirm their faith, they went with haste to the place where the infant lay. Here they found the parents, and here they beheld the person of the newborn Redeemer. They saw him lying in a manger, as the angel had described him. The correspondence of circumstances, with the description, put it beyond a doubt
that this was the promised Messiah. They returned, publishing the joyful news, and glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen.
We will contemplate the things for which, and the manner in which, they glorified God, and will intermingle some practical reflections.
I. We will consider the matters for which they glorified and praised God. These were the things, which they had heard and seen.
1. They glorified God, that the promised Saviour was now born.
They seem to have been some of those pious people, who looked for redemption in Israel. In their rural occupation they enjoyed leisure for spiritual contemplation, and for converse with the book of prophecy. Hence they learned, that a Redeemer was promised to Israel and to the world. Free from that pride and ambition, which possessed the minds of the opulent and great men of the nation, they formed more just ideas of the design and manner of his appearance. That he should be born in such humble circumstances, shocked not their faith, for they were looking, not for temporal grandeur, but for spiritual salvation.
Worldly affections are opposite to the genius of Christ's religion. How can ye believe, says he to the Pharisees, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh only from God? They who receive Christ as their Redeemer and Lord, must crucify the flesh, and renounce the world. The simple manners and humble views of the shepherds, were better suited to the spirit of the gospel, than the prospects and refinements of the great.
2. They rejoiced that this Saviour was born for them. The angel says, UNTO You is born this day a Saviour.
Conscious of their impotence and unworthiness,
they felt their need of a Saviour, and esteemed it matter of great joy, that he was come to bring salvation to them.
They doubtless admired the distinguishing grace of God, in visiting them first of all with the glorious tidings. While the rich and great were passed by, humble shepherds were regarded. Not many mighty, not many noble, are called. Things which are hidden from the wise, are revealed to babes. The pride and parade of courts, are the contempt of angels; but the cottage of the shepherd is honoured with their presence. Let no man repine at the meanness of his own condition, or envy the superiour circumstances of another. God dwells with humble souls. He has chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, to be heirs of his kingdom. He fills the hungry with good things, but the rich he sends empty away.
How joyous the message to these humble swains, A Saviour is born to you! Every penitent soul may apply the gracious declaration. Do you perceive your own guilty, helpless condition?-Are you anxious for deliverance?-Do you feel your incapacity to effect your own salvation? Here are tidings of great joy A Saviour is born-and born to you. His gospel is come to you, and the invitations and promises of it are directed to you. He came to save sinners-the chief of sinners; to comfort them who mourn; to bind up the broken hearted; to ransom the prisoners; to give sight to the blind; to bring salvation to the poor. The weary, the thirsty, the naked, destitute and forlorn, he calls to himself, that they may receive rest, refreshment, and every needed supply; and receive them freely, without money, and without price. Be of good comfort, arise, he calleth thee.
3. The shepherds rejoiced that the Saviour was born for others, as well as themselves.
I bring you good tidings, says the angel, which shall be to ALL PEOPLE. The heavenly host subjoin, Peace on earth, good will to men. When the good man looks around, he sees the world lying in wickedness. In the hours of serious contemplation, he feels a painful solicitude for his fellow mortals. He considers, that they, as well as he, are soon to quit this transitory scene, and enter on a state of everlasting retribution. He is deeply affected with the thought of that dreadful end, to which multitudes, with little concern for themselves,appear to be hastening. It is, however, a joyful consideration, that a Saviour has been born, and has lived and died for mankind, and that the benefits of his death are of extensive design; that through him pardon is offered without distinction of nation, age or character; through faith of him, the mercy of God is unto all, and upon all who believe, and there is no difference. While he laments that so many nations of the earth are strangers to the Saviour, and among those who have heard of him, so many live regardless of him, he rejoices in the persuasion, that a time is coming, when salvation shall be proclaimed through the world, and meet with general acceptance among a fallen race. In the mean time, he is solicitous to work out his own salvation, and by his example and conversation, to awaken to so important an object; the attention of all around him. By his daily prayers he implores divine grace for those at a distance, whom he has never seen; for his country; for the church of God; for all mankind in the present, and in succeeding ages.
4. The shepherds glorified God for what they had seen, as well as what they had heard.
They had seen the Saviour-seen him in the very place and condition in which the angel had described him. They had seen full evidence, that this was indeed the promised Messiah. They had
seen in him the accomplishment of the ancient prophecies, which foretold, that he should be born of a virgin, of the lineage of David, in the city of Bethlehem, and in an obscure condition; should grow up as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. The manner of his birth, and the circumstances which preceded it, they doubtless learned in conversation with Joseph and Mary. When they saw the predictions of scripture, and the information of the angel, so exactly verified, they could no longer doubt but this must be the Saviour, who was come to accomplish the great and good things foretold of him.
Happy were they, that they should live in a time, when the Saviour was born, in a place near the city, which was honoured with his birth-that they should be notified by angels concerning this glorious event -that they should have an opportunity to behold him, pay their honours to him, see the prophecies fulfilled in him, and confirm their faith, by a sight of this wondrous babe, now wrapt in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger; but ordained to be the Saviour and Lord of the world.
These were the things for which they glorified God. Let us now,
II. Consider the manner in which they glorified ⚫him.
1. They glorified God by faith in the Saviour, whom he had sent.
They believed the heavenly message, that a Saviour was born; they sought him in the place pointed out to them; and when they saw him, they received him with joy.
By faith in the Redeemer, we give glory to God. His first appearance was attended with evidence of his heavenly descent. When he entered on his publick ministry, more full demonstration was given of his mission from God. We have not seen