« ForrigeFortsæt »
uneasy, self-denying exercise changed for such as are most delightful; and all coldness and deficiency remedied. The blessed inhabitants will love God with their whole souls, and each other as themselves; and the felicity of every individual will increase the joy of all the rest. Love must therefore be greater than faith and hope, because more excellent in its nature, and more enduring in its use. Faith and hope are only necessary in this introductory scene; though honourable to God and profitable to us in the highest degree: but the former will flourish for ever, the business, element, joy, and glory of heaven itself; uniting God and all holy creatures in the most perfect harmony and felicity."1
Yet love cannot perform the functions of faith or hope, any more than the eye can perform the office of the ear, or the hand that of the foot. However excellent, it can do nothing towards justifying a sinner. The little measure of it, to which we here attain, can neither reverse the curse of the broken law, nor form our bond of union with Christ, that we may be justified in that "righte"ousness of God, which is unto all, and upon all "that believe." Even were our love perfected, previous to justification, it could not atone for past sins, or merit everlasting life: but in fact it is the fruit of the Spirit of Christ, and the seal of our gratuitous justification. The instructions of scripture concerning love, when duly considered, prove our need of this free salvation; and the measure of it to which we are restored is a part of that sal
vation, and an earnest and evidence of the whole. It is therefore very obvious to see, that love is greater than faith or hope; that " we are," nevertheless, "saved by grace through faith;" and that "he who believeth shall be saved, and he who "believeth not shall be damned."
My brethren, let us learn from this important subject not to oppose one part of scripture to another, as many fatally do. That apparent love which does not spring from faith, and is not accompanied by repentance, humility, hope, patience, and other holy dispositions, is a counterfeit: and so is the faith that does not work by love, and the hope which does not purify the heart. That love to our neighbour, which is not the result of love to Christ is not the love which the sacred writers extol: nor can we love the bodies of men aright, if we neglect their souls; or regard their souls, if we do not relieve their temporal wants as we have opportunity and ability.
While we hold fast the principles of the gospel, let us beware of barren notions, spiritual pride, and a vain glorious use of our endowments. These may be splendid in the judgment of man: but they are nothing, and worse than nothing, in the sight of God. A bitter, boasting, and censorious zeal characterizes "the wisdom that is from be"neath; and which is earthly, sensual and de"vilish :" not that "which is from above, and is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be "intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy."-Let us then,
'James iii. 13-18.
my brethren, "follow after love:" but let us see to it that it be the genuine affection, the nature and effects of which the scripture describes, and which connects the various parts of Christianity into one consistent whole.
We may likewise observe that the least degree of those holy tempers, which are common to believers, is inconceivably more valuable to the possessor, than those shining gifts and accomplishments, by which some are distinguished, but which may exist without living faith. Such were the gifts of tongues and prophecy, miraculous powers, or apostolical authority, which might exist apart from saving grace: and such are learning, genius, eloquence, and other admired endowments, which men covet, envy, or ostentatiously display.
But, next to the possession of that holiness which inseparably accompanies salvation, we should desire and seek such gifts as may qualify us for the duties of our several stations: and we should pray earnestly, that "our love may abound yet more and "more in knowledge and in all judgment; that "we may approve things that are excellent; that "we may be sincere and without offence, till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God."1
'Phil. i. 9-11.
LUKE II. 13, 14.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.
ST. Paul, having said, "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness, God was ma"nifest in the flesh;" adds among other things, that he "was seen of angels." These heavenly worshippers saw the Lord of glory, their Creator and Sovereign, clothed with human flesh, and laid as an infant in a manger; they saw him tempted by the devil in the wilderness, and ministered to him when he had overcome the enemy; they were spectators of his transfiguration on the mount, and of his agony in the garden; they beheld him expire on the cross; they attended his glorious resurrection and ascension; and, when he was exalted in human nature to the mediatorial throne, they did him homage, and joined the redeemed in singing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to "receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and 'strength, and honour, and glory, and bless"ing."2 For when the Father" bringeth in the
'Preached on Christmas Day, 1795.
2 Rev. v. 9-14.
"first begotten into the world, he saith, And let "all the angels of God worship him."
Finally they will be attendant and ministering servants, when Christ shall come to raise the dead and judge the world.
In taking occasion from the present festival to discourse on a subject with which we should be conversant at every season of the year, I shall,
I. Make some remarks on the event celebrated by the heavenly host:
II. Explain their song of exalted praise and adoration:
III. Endeavour to bring the matter home to ourselves by some practical deductions.
And may the Lord himself direct and bless our meditations; that we may be animated and assisted, in "keeping a day unto the Lord," after a holy and heavenly manner; and not in conformity with the corrupt and carnal fashion of those who turn a Christian solemnity into a bacchanalian carnival!
I. Let us reflect on the event which was celebrated by the heavenly host.
A poor woman named Mary, of the family of David, espoused to a carpenter residing at Nazareth, a place branded with infamy, came with her husband to Bethlehem, in obedience to a decree of Cæsar Augustus: and, there being "no room "for them in the inn," which was occupied by superior people, they were lodged in a stable. In this situation Mary was delivered of a son, whom she "wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a
1 Heb. i. 6.