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bis purpose in their favour, not only to restore the life they had forfeited, but to bestow it more abundantly,'* with respect to title, security, and honour; or, lastly and principally, the means by which their deliverance from everlasting misery, and their possession of everlasting happiness, is procured; and which could only be procured by the humiliation and death of the Son of his love.
The glory of his wisdom, in adjusting the demands of his holiness, justice, and truth, with the purposes of his mercy in providing such a method for the exercise of his mercy, as renders his displeasure against sin more conspicuous by pardoning, than by punishing it in abasing the sinner's pride, by the very considerations which inspire his hope and confidence; so that, while he confesses himself unworthy of the very air that he breathes, he is encouraged and warranted to claim a participation in all the blessings of grace and glory: and finally, in proposing motives which, when rightly understood, are always found sufficient to influence the heart, even though it has been habitually hardened in sin, long deaf to the voice of reason, conscience, and interest, and equally unaffected by the judgments or the mercies of God, till enlightened to perceive the excellency of the Gospel.
The glory of his power, in making all the acts of free agents, through a long succession of ages, subservient to this great purpose, not excepting those who most laboured to obstruct it ; in changing the disposition of the sinner, however obstinate; and in carrying on his work of grace, when once begun, in such feeble, inconsistent creatures as men are, in defiance of all difficulties and opposition arising from within or without.
These are subjects which the angels desire to look into,'t which fill the most exalted intelligences with admiration. The glory of God was manifested, was celebrated in the highest heavens, when MESSIAH was born of a woman.
2. The great design and effect of his appearance, with regard to mankind is peace. On earth peace.' Man, as a fallen creature, is in a state of war and rebellion against his maker. He has renounced his allegiance and dependence, is become his own end. He is now against God, disobedient to his laws, and disaffected to his government. And his conscience, if not stupified and cauterized by frequent resistance of conviction, suggests that God is against him. He feels he is not happy here; he fears be shall be miserable hereafter. This apprehension strengthens his aversion from God. And, indeed, without an express assurance from the Lord himself, whom he has offended, that there is
forgiveness with him, he would not only fear, but sink into despair, if he rightly understood the horrid enormity of a state of alienation from the blessed God. But infinite wisdom and mercy have provided and propounded a method by which the honour of the divine perfections and government is secured, and pardon and peace vouchsafed to rebels. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.' The knowledge of this mercy, when revealed to the sinner's heart, subdues his enmity, constrains him to throw down his arms, and to make an unreserved submission and surrender of himself: forms him to a temper of love and confidence, and disposes him to habitual and cheerful obedience. Now mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other;'* and God is glorified in the highest, for peace proclaimed upon earth.
The expression of good-will toward men seems to rise upon the former. Not only peace, but acceptance and adoption in the Beloved. Sinners who believe in the Son of God, are not merely delivered from the condemnation they deserved, but are united to their Saviour; considered as one with him, his children, the members of his body, and made partakers of his life and his glory. God is their portion, and heaven is their home. The Lord's satisfaction in this, as in the greatest of all his works, is expressed by the prophet in such astonishing terms of condescension, as surpass our utmost conceptions; and we can only say, Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him! We believe, admire, and. adore. 'The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will rejoice over thee with singing.'t
Assuredly this song of the heavenly host is not the language of our hearts by nature. We once sought our pleasure and happiness in a very different way. We were indifferent to the glory of God, and strangers to his peace. And some of us are still blind to the excellencies of the Gospel, and deaf to its gracious invitations. But we must not expect to sing with the great company of the redeemed hereafter, before the throne of glory, unless we learn and love their song while we are here. They who attain to the inheritance of the saints in light, are first made meet for it in the present life, and in this way. They believe the testimony of the Scripture respecting their own guilt, unworthiness, and helplessness; then they receive the record which God has given of his Son. They renounce all confidence in the flesh;'|| they rejoice in Christ Jesus, and from his fullness they derive grace to worship God in the Spirit. A sense of their obligations to the
+ Rev. xiv. S.
Phil. iü. 3.
*Psalm lxxxv. 10. + Zeph. iii. 17. VOL. III.
Saviour, disposes them to praise him now as they can; and they rejoice in hope of seeing him ere long as he is, and that then they shall praise him as they ought. For heaven itself, as described in the word of God could not be a state of happines to us, unless we are like minded with the apostle, to account all things loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.'
MESSIAH'S ENTRANCE INTO JERUSALEM.
ZECH. ix. 9. 10.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly. and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass. speak peace unto the heathen.
And he shall
THE narrowness and littleness of the mind of fallen man, are sufficiently conspicuous in the idea he forms of magnificence and grandeur. The pageantry and parade of a Roman triumph, or of an eastern monarch, as described in history, exhibit him to us in what he himself accounts his best estate. If you suppose him seated in an imperial carriage, arrayed in splendid apparel, wearing a crown or tiara ornamented with jewels, preceded and followed by a long train of guards and attendants, surrounded by the unmeaning acclamations of ignorant multitudes, you see the poor worm at the summit of his happiness. He has no conception of any thing greater than this. And the spectators are generally of the same mind. They admire, they envy his lot; and there is hardly a person in the crowds around him, but would be very glad to take his place, were it practicable. Yet this great little creature would surely be mortified, if, in the height of his self-complacence, he could consider that he had the very same regard for a pre-eminence in finery, the same desire to be admired and envied, and felt the same kind of satisfaction in distinction above his fellows, when he was a child of ten years old. He is, in effect, a child still, only he has changed his playthings, and now acts upon a larger scale, but with the same trifling and contracted views.
How different was MESSIAH's entry into Jerusalem foretold in this prophecy, the accomplishment of which we read in the evangelists! And how differently was he affected by the objects around him! He poured contempt upon the phantom of human glory. This 'King of kings, and Lord of lords, was meek and lowly, riding upon an ass's colt." And though a secret divine influence constrained the multitude to acknowledge his character, and, with some accommodation to the customs of the times, to strew their garments in the way,' as they proclaimed the King who came in the name of Jehovah; yet he appeared unmoved by their applause. Had the history of Jesus, like those which we have of Socrates or Cyrus, been merely the work of a human writer, ambitious to adorn a favourite character with the most splendid qualities of a philosopher or a hero, we should never have known how his mind was engaged in this situation. The Saviour must be divine, his historian must be inspired, the fact must be true; for man could not have invented such a circumstance, that this meek and lowly Saviour took no notice of the zeal and homage of his friends, because his heart was filled with compassion for his enemies, who were thirsting for his blood. For it was then, amidst the acclamations of his disciples, that he beheld the city and wept over it, while he foretold the evils which the rejection of him would bring upon it. Oh that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things belonging to thy peace! But now they are hidden from thine eyes.'
An angel proclaimed his birth to the shepherds; and wise men from the east paid such attention to the new-born Saviour, that the jealousy of Herod was excited, and attempts made to destroy him. But this wonderful infant was brought up in a state of obscurity, in a place of no repute, and known by no higher description than that of The carpenter's son.' In the course of his ministry, he appeared, and was treated as a poor man; he had no certain dwelling-place, he submitted to receive supplies, for his support, from the contributions of a few of his followers, for the most of them were poor like himself. And though he wrought many wonderful works for the relief of the necessitous and miserable, he admitted no alteration in his own external state, but was content to be poor and despised, for our sakes, to the end of his life. I think the only occasion on which he permitted a publick acknowledgment of his person and character, was when he fulfilled this prophecy. And still, he was the same meek and lowly Saviour. As his kingdom was not of this world, neither were there any marks of human grandeur in his procession. He approached Jerusalem, attended, indeed by a concourse of people, but riding upon an ass, and weeping for his enemies.
* Luke, xix. 35-38.
The passage of the Messiah which follows the chorus of the heavenly host, is taken from these verses. It does not include the whole of them. In one clause there is a small alteration in the expression, but it does not affect the sense. Instead of, He is just, having salvation,' it is, 'He is a righteous Saviour.'
We may notice,
1. The prophet's address. To the daughter of Zion and Jerusalem.'
II. The exhortation to joy. Rejoice and shout.'
III. The cause assigned for this joy. Thy king cometh.'
I. Zion' and 'Jerusalem' are indifferently used as emblems of the church, or professing people of God. When they occur together, as here, contradistinguished from each other, Zion, the city of David, the seat of government, and of the temple-worship, may denote the principal persons of the ecclesiastical and civil state; and Jerusalem may be expressive of the people at large, the daughters of a place signifying, according to the Hebrew idiom, the inhabitants. They boasted that they were the Lord's peculiar people they had the prophecies and promises concerning MESSIAH in their hands, and were professedly expecting and waiting for his appearance. They are therefore called upon to rejoice in it. But when he actually came, though he came to his own,' to his own nation, city, and temple; his own people, to whose affection and allegiance he had the justest claim, 'received him not.'* But there were a few who truly waited for him, as the hope and consolation of Israel, at the time of his birth; and many more were afterwards convinced by his gracious words and works, that he only had the words of eternal life, and became his followers. By their acknowledged principles, they were all bound to acknowledge that prophet whom Mosses had foretold, God would raise up among them like unto himself; that is, to be as he had been, a lawgiver, to institute a new dispensation of the true religion; and their refusal involved them, as a nation, in the punishment which Moses had likewise denounced against those who should refuse to hearken to him. Thus their peculiar advantage in possessing a divine revelation, while the rest of mankind were left ignorant of the will of God, proved an aggravation of their guilt, and rendered their obstinacy more inexcusable, and their condemnation more severe. I am bound to take every opportunity of noticing the striking parallel in this respect, between the Jewish nation in our Saviour's time, and the nations, who, since that period, have admitted the New * John, i. 11. + Deut. xviii. 15-19. Acts, vii. 37.