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HYMN OF SIMEON, ON RECEIVING JESUS IN THE TEMPLE. HIS PROPHECY CONCERNING HIM, AND THAT OF ANNA.
LUKE ii. 25-38.
25. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
26. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
27. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28. Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29. Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31. Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
The description here given of Simeon explains the state of mind among the pious Jews at that time. They were waiting for the consolation of Israel: earnestly desiring the appearance of the promised Messiah. And now that their expecta
tion was fulfilled, Simeon could die in peace: his eyes had been blessed with the performance of God's promises, who had "remembered his holy covenant, the oath which he sware to Abraham." Not that Simeon would before have doubted his acceptance with God, or that he had now, individually, clearer views of the divine mercy than he had always enjoyed. But the glory of God, and the welfare of mankind, burst suddenly upon his mind, and awakened his exultation. I have seen, he says within himself, the deliverance which God has accomplished. I acknowledge the fulfilment of the prophecy: "The Lord shall arise upon thee, O Jerusalem, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."1
The church, however, from the earliest age, has applied this song of Simeon to Christians in general; and therefore considers it as expressing sentiments which befit Christians, as they look forward to their departure from this world.
May the Christian, then, use such words: Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation?
St. Paul certainly expressed a like state of mind, when he said, (2 Tim. iv. 6-8,) "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day."
1 Isa. lx. 2, 3.
And this prospect does not belong to an apostle only. The weakest and lowest follower of Christ may enjoy the same, though in a humble measure. He has lived and laboured for this, that at last he may depart in peace and if he has so lived and laboured, such may be his privilege: not, indeed, because of his blameless life alone, or because of his faithful zeal; but, because the eyes of his understanding being enlightened, he has seen that God has provided a way of deliverance from all that would otherwise condemn and destroy him. He has seen the mercy of God, who "would not that any should perish." He has seen that signal act of mercy, by which he has prepared the atonement, the sacrifice, which the sins of man require. He has seen the proclamation, which declares, that "whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved." And it may be, that he has had a comfortable sense, which could not be mistaken, of God's favour towards him. "The Spirit itself has borne witness with his spirit, that he is a child of God."3 Such inward assurance will give him greater ground of exultation, like that enjoyed by Simeon; but it is not necessary: he will trust in God's promises, knowing that it is the essence of faith, to believe in things not yet seen.
Here, however, we must observe, that it is not the departure in peace which is a sure sign either of divine favour, or of man's safety. It must be a peace according to God's word. It must be peace which can be accounted for and warranted. The ignorant and the impenitent, who know not the
2 Joel ii. 32. Rom. x. 13.
3 Rom. viii. 16.
nature of death, or its awful consequences, are often more free from apprehension of it, than the humble and conscientious Christian. The only peaceful end which we can really desire, or witness without regret, is that of one, who in the midst of life has lived for death has perceived that he must meet it, has inquired how he may safely meet it, has sought for himself the road of safety, and is found in that road at last looking unto Him, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life," for acceptance, for deliverance; for all that he is, and all that he hopes to be.
These words of Simeon, therefore, furnish a literal instrument of self-examination. Inquire, whether they apply to your own state: whether, at this moment, you could depart in peace whether, as the servant of God: whether according to his word : whether because your eyes have seen his salvation. This is an inquiry which should be constantly made; and not left, as it too often is, to a season when there is commonly little time and little strength for serious reflection.
33. And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
35. (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
37. And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
38. And she coming in at that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Thus "wisdom was justified of her children. Those who trusted God, attended to his word, and looked for his redemption, had full evidence of his faithfulness and truth.
But we perceive that, from the very beginning, a warning was given, which forbade those who were waiting for the consolation of Israel, to expect its full accomplishment in this present world. Joseph and Mary marvelled at the things which were spoken of their child. But they must rejoice with trembling. Simeon foresaw, for the Holy Ghost was upon him, that this child should be set for a sign which should be spoken against: should be despised and rejected of men. He foresaw that his ministry, as it would prove "a savour of life unto life," so it would also prove a savour of death unto death:" that as it would be the rising of many in Israel, and establish them in God's favour; so it would also be the fall of many. Nay, he even foresaw that this same Mary, whom all generations should call "blessed among women," should hereafter stand by the cross of Jesus, and hear him exclaim, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" while the sword of grief and anguish should pierce through her own soul.
It was well for Mary to be prepared for this.
4 John xix. 25.