« AnkstesnisTęsti »
were amusing the multitude with idle traditions. Jesus lay neglected in the stable of Bethlehem; and the first rays of the Sun of Righteousness beamed unnoticed on the earth. But the host of heaven were deeply interested in this great event. They contemplated, with pleasure, the blessings which were about to be dispensed to men; and from their high abode a messenger descended to announce the dawn of that glorious day, which the prophets had seen from afar, and were glad. The persons to whom these tidings of joy were first proclaimed were not such, indeed, as the world would have reckoned worthy of so high a pre-eminence. They were not the wise, the rich, or the powerful of the earth. That which is highly esteemed among men is often of little value in the sight of God. The rich and the poor are alike to him. He prefers the simplicity of a candid mind to all those artificial accomplishments which attract the admiration of the giddy multitude. It was to the shepherds of Bethlehem that the angel appeared,—to men obscure and undistinguished among their brethren, who, in the silence of the night, were following the duties of their peaceful occupation, far from the vices of courts and the prejudices of the synagogue. But the manner in which the birth of the Messiah was announced, was suited to the dignity of so great an occasion. At midnight, these shepherds were tending their flocks, and all was dark and still in the fields of Bethlehem; when, on a sudden, a light from heaven filled the plain, and the angel of the Lord stood revealed before them. So unusual an appearance struck them with awe they knew not with what tidings this messenger might be charged. But the voice of the angel soon quieted their fears: it was a message of mercy with which he was intrusted. Behold, I bring unto 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. MOODIE.
12. THE TRUTH FREES US FROM THE SLAVISH FEAR OF
FROM the bondage of fear', Christ has made his followers free' By making an atonement' for their sins, he has dis
armed Death of his sting; and by rising as the first fruits of them that sleep', he has secured to us the victory over the grave'. Discovering the reality of a future world, and revealing its connexion with the present', he hath elevated our aims above the region of mortality', and given a new aspect and importance to the events which befall us on earth'. Its joys lose their power to dazzle and seduce', when viewed through the glory that remains to be revealed. Its employments cease to be a burden', because we see them leading to an endless recompense of reward'. And even its sorrows' can no longer overwhelm us, because, when compared with the whole' of our duration, they last but for a moment', and are the means appointed by our Father' to prepare us for our future' inheritance. How cheering are
these considerations under the severest trials to which we are exposed! From how many perplexing', anxious', enslaving terrors have they set us free! What is it, O child of sorrow! what is it that now wrings thy heart', and binds thee in sadness to the ground'? Whatever' it be, if thou knowest the truth', the truth shall give thee relief`. Have the terrors of guilt' taken hold of thee? Dost thou go all the day long mourning for thy iniquities', refusing to be comforted'? And on thy bed at night do visions of remorse' disturb thy rest, and haunt thee with the fears of a judgment' to come? Behold, the Redeemer' hath borne thy sins in his own body on the tree'; and, if thou art willing to forsake them, thou knowest with certainty that they shall not be remembered in the judgment' against thee. Hast thou, with weeping eyes, committed to the grave the child of thy affections', the virtuous friend of thy youth', or the tender partner, whose pious attachment lightened the load of life'? Behold, they are not' dead. Thou knowest that they live in a better' region with their Saviour' and their God'; that still thou holdest thy place in their remembrance; and that thou shalt soon meet' them again to part no more'. Dost thou look forward with trembling to the days of darkness that are to fall on thyself, when thou shalt lie on the bed of sickness', when thy pulse shall have become low-when the cold damps' have gathered on thy brow-and the mournful looks of thy attendants have told thee that the hour of thy departure' has come? To the mere natural' man this
scene is awful and alarming; but if thou art a Christian' -if thou knowest and obeyest' the truth, thou needest fear no evil'. The shadows which hang over the valley of death' shall retire at thy approach'; and thou shalt see beyond' it the spirits of the just, and an innumerable company of angels', the future companions of thy bliss', bending from their thrones to cheer thy departing soul', and to welcome thee into everlasting' habitations. Why then should slavish terrors of the future' disquiet thy soul in the days of this' vain life which passeth away like a shadow? The gospel hath not given thee the spirit of fear', but of confidence' and joy'. Even now there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus', who walk not after the flesh', but after the spirit'; and when they die', (a voice from Heaven' hath proclaimed it), "Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord', from henceforth'; yea', saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours', and their works do follow them." FINLAYSON.
13.-ON THE HOPE OF IMMORTALITY.
THE hope of immortality has been common to all the nations of the earth. It is encouraged by the instincts of nature, and supported by the deductions of reason. At the same time we must observe, that the hope which rests on these foundations is feeble and unsteady. Futurity is covered with a thick veil, through which the eye of mortals can scarcely penetrate. So dim indeed is our natural prospect into the country beyond the grave, that we are unable to distinguish the condition and employment of its inhabitants. We are even perplexed, at times, with the discouraging thought that the scene which we paint to ourselves may be nothing but a vision, which exists only in the delusions of the fancy, and which the hand of death will dissipate for ever.
The gospel, however, has lifted up the veil which covered futurity from mortal eyes, and given us a clearer view of the land of spirits. It has given us a complete assurance that this land has a real existence; that the condition of its inhabitants will be determined by the nature of their con
duct in the present probationary state; that, if they have been good, they shall be raised to a pure, and glorious, and delightful society; that their employments shall be the most honourable and improving, and that their happiness shall be without interruption, and without end.
This information the gospel conveys to us both by explicit declarations and by symbolical representation. And, besides these methods of instruction, the three apostles, on the Mount of Transfiguration, received a transient, but direct view of the celestial glory. They were introduced to the spirits of departed saints; witnessed the perfection to which these spirits were now exalted; and felt, in the influence of the scene around them, a passing foretaste of the happiness of heaven. Their feeble frame was overpowered by the rapturous emotions which it produced, and in an ecstasy of joy they exclaimed, "It is good for us to be here!" FINLAYSON.
14. THE DEPARTED SPIRITS OF THE JUST ARE SPECTATORS OF OUR CONDUCT ON EARTH.
FROM what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration, we may infer not only that the separated spirits of good men live and act, and enjoy happiness, but that they take some interest in the business of this world, and even that their interest in it has a connexion with the pursuits and habits of their former life. The virtuous cares which occupied them on earth follow them into their new abode. Moses and Elias had spent the days of their temporal pilgrimage in promoting among their brethren the knowledge and the worship of the true God. They are still attentive to the same great object; and, enraptured at the prospect of its advancement, they descend on this occasion to animate the labours of Jesus, and to prepare him for his victory over the powers of hell.
What a delightful subject of contemplation does this re flection open to the pious and benevolent mind! what a spring does it give to all the better energies of the heart! Your labours of love, your plans of beneficence, your swellings of satisfaction in the rising reputation of those whose virtues you have cherished, will not, we have reason to hope,
be terminated by the stroke of death. No! your spirits will still linger around the objects of their former attachment. They will behold with rapture even the distant effects of those beneficent institutions which they once delighted to rear; they will watch with a pious satisfaction over the growing prosperity of the country which they loved; with a parent's fondness, and a parent's exultation, they will share in the fame of their virtuous posterity; and, by the permission of God, they may descend at times as guardian angels, to shield them from danger, and to conduct them to glory.
Of all the thoughts that can enter the human mind, this is one of the most animating and consolatory. It scatters flowers around the bed of death. It enables us who are left behind, to support with firmness the departure of our best beloved friends; because it teaches us that they are not lost to us for ever. They are still our friends. Though they be now gone to another apartment in our Father's house, they have carried with them the remembrance and the feeling of their former attachments. Though invisible to us, they bend from their dwelling on high to cheer us in our pilgrimage of duty, to rejoice with us in our prosperity, and, in the hour of virtuous exertion, to shed through our souls the blessedness of heaven. FINLAYSON.
15. THE DEATH OF CHRIST.
THE hour in which our Saviour fell was an hour of terror as well as an hour of love. Offended by iniquity, the Most High had risen on his throne: his right hand, red with vengeance, was lifted up to strike; and when the sword descended on the head of his beloved Son, all nature trembled in dismay. "There was darkness over the land, the rocks were rent, the vail of the temple was divided in the midst, the earth quaked, the people smote upon their breasts and returned." These were the awful signs of wrath; and though that wrath be averted in mercy from the penitent, it is still reserved in all its horrors for the hardened worker of iniquity. For him "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking-for of judgment, and of fiery indignation to devour the adversaries." Let the prospect of this indignation operate on our minds, and mingle