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they mustered all their forces, employed all their skill; and, as all was at stake, made one strong effort in a kind of decisive engagement. They armed ev*ery proper instrument, and set every engine at work; temptations, persecutions, violence, slander, treachery, and the like. Our Lord, whom they opposed, made no formidable appearance; he was despised of men, a worm, and no man. But this made the event more glorious. It was a spectacle worth the admiration of the universe, to see the despised Galilean turn all the artillery of hell back upon itself; to see one, in the likeness of men, wresting the keys of hell and death out of the hands of the devil; to see him entangle the powers of darkness in their own net, and make them ruin their own designs with their own stratagems! They made one disciple betray him, and another deny him; they made the Jews accuse him, and the Romans crucify him. But these were the very means of spoiling and triumphing over themselves. Col. ii. 15. The cruelty of Satan and his instruments was made subservient to the designs of infinite mercy; and the sins of men overruled for "making an end of sin, and bringing in everlasting righteousness."*
Thus was " the prince of this world judged." Christ by his death," hath destroyed him that had the power of death," and rendered this evident, by the miracles that attended his Gospel, and the power of his grace in the experience of all believers. All the effects of Satan's usurpation shall finally be abolished. Christ shall reign universally through the earth. Satan shall be bound for a thousand years; and, though loosed for a short season, shall be utterly cast out, and confined to hell. The grave shall resign all its dead ; and Jehovah Jesus shall reign for ever, "the Lord God omnipotent." Glory, glory, glory be to him!
* See Maclauriris most abmirable Sermon on Glorying in the Cross of Christ.
Having been to Bethlehem, to see this thing which is to come to pass, let us now, like the shepherds, "return, glorifying God for all the things we have heard and seen." We have learned, that in the incarnation of the Son of God we may see Deity displayed, Man redeemed, and Satan ruined. How vast and glorious are these designs of a Saviour's birth! The angels knew this when they sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men." ■ But are these purposes of his appearance answered as to us? Is God, in all his glorious perfections, manifested in the Person of Jesus? Well, does this attract our notice, and engage our souls to adore, and love, and praise him, magnifying the God of Israel? "The Lord hath visited and redeemed his people." Are we among his redeemed? Are we actually redeemed from the guilt and power of our own sins, and from the follies and vanities of this world? The throne of Satan is shaken; but is his power in us abolished? Are we "delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son?"
This is the way in which we are to consider this grand event; and if the ends of Christ's birth be answered in our own experience, we have abundant cause tor joy. But then it will not be the vain, frothy, carnal joy of the world.—The manner in which some pretend to celebrate the birth of Christ, at a season called Christmas, is a disgrace to a Christian nation. They contradict, as much as possible, the design of his coming. He came " to destroy the works of the devil;" they try to keep them up. What have cards, dancing, songs, gluttony, and drunkenness to do with the birth of Jesus? He came to save his people from their sins, not in them. O let young people guard against the temptations of such a season; for there is more sin committed at Christmas in a few days than in manyweeks at other times; and the sin is the more aggravated, as it passes under the notion of religious joy. But it is an affront to a holy God, a reproach to the Christian name, and ruinous to the souls of men.
Let us go to Bethlehem; let us, like Mary, "ponder these things in our hearts." No sooner did the shepherds hear of him, than they ran to inquire after him. Let us also say, "We would see Jesus." And where shall we see him but in his house, in his word? and if we seek him earnestly, we shall find that the church of God is still at Bethlehem, "a house of bread." God will feed our souls with the "bread which came down from heaven, and which endureth to eternal life."
We may also see and serve him in his poor members. "The poor we have also with us." As Christ was found in a stable, so we may find some of his in a cottage, in a garret, forsaken and destitute. Let us go and visit poor families, sick persons, fatherless children, in honour of him who was "wrapt in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger;" he will accept the kindness, and say, "Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me."
The Cross of Christ the Christian s Glory.
GAL. vi. 14.
God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
THE Apostle Paul, whose words these are, had good reason for glorying in the Cross of Christ; he tells us in the text how useful it was to him.—And whoever obtains the true knowledge of "Christ crucified," will, like him, "determine to know nothing else," and "esteem all things but loss for the excellency of it." It is well known that the cross of Christ "was a stumbling block" to the Jews:—nothing offended them so much as the plainness, the poverty, the sufferings, and death of Jesus: but St. Paul gloried in the cross; yea, he would glory in nothing else. The Jews gloried in their relation to Abraham, in their temple, in their religious ceremonies; but he, who knew that these were but "shadows of good things to come," gloried in the substance, gloried in the cross of Christ.
"The cross of Christ" signifies, either our sufferings for him, or his suffering for us. In the former sense, we are to "take up the cross," and follow him; but here we are to understand his sufferings for us; for these are what the Apostles gloried in. "The Cross of Christ," sometimes includes the whole Gospel, the doctrine of him who died on the cross; of which his meritorious death for sinners is the principal part.
As the cross of Christ is of so much use to a
VOL. IV. G
Christian, let us, first, Take a view of it, or contemplate the sufferings of Christ upon it; and then, secondly, Consider its practical uses, or the reasons we have for glorying in it.
I. Let us contemplate the sufferings of our Lord.
But how, or where shall we begin? Let no one rush into this solemn work in a thoughtless manner. Few persons are properly prepared for it. A mind polluted with sensual pleasures, or a heart crowded with worldly cares, is ill qualified for the task. When Moses appoached the burning bush, he was commanded to take off his shoes, for the place on which he stood was holy ground. Gethsemane and Calvary are also holy Ground. Let us approach with godly fear, not with vain curiosity ; and may the good Spirit of God, the glorifier of Jesus, take these sacred things respecting his " agony and bloody sweat, his cross and passion, and so show them to us, that we may repent, believe, and rejoice!
We ought to remember, that the whole life of Christ was a- life of suffering. He was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." For our sakes he became poor, and endured the contradiction of sinners against himself. But we must now confine our meditations to his last sufferings, in the garden, during his trial, and at Golgotha.
Our blessed Lord, having "loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end;" and gave a most affecting proof of it, by washing their feet, celebrating the passover with them, instituting the sacred supper, and by his pathetic discourse and affectionate prayers. He then went forth out of the city, accompanied by all the apostles, except Judas, who was preparing to betray him, to a garden, where he used to retire, and had spent many nights in devotion. At the entrance of this, he left eight of the disciples, taking Peter, James, and John to a separate place, where they were spectators of his distress.