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* not what spirit they are of;" and contend for the truths and ordinances of Christ, in a manner contrary to his precepts and example.
But it may also be observed, that all these effects spring from the depravity of the human heart as their native source; and if men had not this occasion of discord and selfishness, they would find some other. After all, the world has seldom been more wicked, in the worst ages and places distinguished by the Christian name, than at other times and in other countries : though unbelievers have bestowed more pains in exhibiting its wickedness. In general, the state of human society has been greatly meliorated by the gospel: for where have Christians habitually diverted themselves by such bloody spectacles, as the gladiatorial shows of the Romans ? Where have pagans manifested such humanity to the poor, sick, and destitute; as is displayed in the expensive institutions common in Christian countries ? Vices, branded with deepest infamy even in this licentious age, were patronized and avowed among the politest heathens. War itself has assumed a milder aspect since the establishment of Christianity: and even Deists have learned from the sacred oracles, to denounce ambitious warriors; and to give the palm of glory to those who save men's lives, instead of those that destroy them. These effects have evidently been prodaced by the gospel, even on the
minds of multitudes, who never believed it with a living and obedient faith.
Taking, however, our standard of Christianity from the scriptures; we are confident, that in proportion as it prevails, it will produce "peace on “ earth,” in all senses and in all places. We are also assured, that ere long the Prince of peace will possess the dominion over all nations as his willing subjects: and then they will beat their swords into plow-shares and learn war no more. Well, therefore, might angels sing at the Redeemer's nativity, “ Peace on earth!” A blessing inestimable in itself, long unknown, or scarcely known, among men:
but now about to be vouchsafed by a gradual pro· gress to all the nations of the globe.
For such blessings virtually communicated to sinful men in the person of Emmanuel, angels also ascribed “Glory to God in the highest.”—The perfections of God are his essential glory, which is incapable of increase or diminution: but in his works lie manifests this glory to his rational creatures, that they may contemplate, admire, and adore it; and he is glorified by then, when they delight to celebrate his praises. “The heavens de“clare the glory of God;” and his eternal power and Deity are clearly seen in all the works which he made. His providential care of the universe manifests his wisdom, goodness, and bounty: his awful justice and holiness are displayed in his perfect law and righteous judgments, and his patience and kindness, even to sinners, may be learned from his dealings with our fallen race in general. These glories the heavenly host had witnessed and celebrated for four thousand years.
But the birth of the infant in the stable, viewed in its causes and consequences, discovered to them glories so resplendent, that in some respects they eclipsed all former displays; and with rapturous joy and admiration they sang “Glory to God in the “highest:" in the highest heavens among all its exalted inhabitants, and in the loftiest strains, which they can possibly reach. Here the glories of the divine justice, holiness, truth, wisdom, knowledge, power, love, and mercy, which they had viewed separately in other objects, shone forth with collected beams in most adorable beauty and splendour. The perfections, which before appeared irreconcilable, now harmonized, and reflected glory upon each other. The distinct honours of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, were displayed at once to their admiring view. And as they were always ready, with glowing love, zeal, and gratitude, to celebrate the high praises of God: so they were peculiarly excited to this reasonable and delightful service, on this interesting occasion. Never did JEHOVAH appear in all respects so glo. rious in holiness, justice, truth, and wisdom, as in his wonderful love to Adam's guilty polluted race, If God so hates sin, that his well-beloved Son shall become man and bear the curse, rather than it shall go unpunished; and yet so loves sinners, as to employ such an expedient, rather than leave them to perish without remedy: if his wisdom could form such a plan of reconciling justice and mercy, and of taking occasion from sin itself to glorify his name in the most distinguished manner: and if his faithfulness accomplishes such a promise, as that relating to the incarnation of his own Son for these most gracious purposes : how transcendantly glorious must He be! How worthy of universal love and adoration! Let all creatures then say “Glory “ to God in the highest!”
Angels “rejoice over one sinner that repenteth:” because every event of this nature is a new display of the divine glory in the work of redemption; a new trophy of the Redeemer's beneficent victories; a new worshipper to join the heavenly choir to all eternity; and a new instrument to excite other sinners to seek for the same blessings.For alas ! men are blind, wilfully blind, to the glory of God in all respects. Even the displays of his being and perfections in the works of creation fail of suitably affecting their hearts; “ They glo“rify him not as God, neither are thankful.” But the gospel, professed, adorned, and preached in the world, calls their attention to an interesting subject: and when “God who commandeth the " light to shine out of darkness, shines into our
“ hearts to give the light of the knowledge of his “ glory in the face of Jesus Christ,"” that light is reflected, as it were, on every other object; and we learn by degrees to glorify God, for all the displays he hath made of himself; and as a “spiritual “ priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices accep“table to God through Jesus Christ.” Thus sinners on earth are trained up for the worship of heaven; of which the highest and most delightful strain will be, “Worthy is the Lamb that was “slain, and hath redeemed us to God with his “ blood;" “ Salvation to our God that sitteth on " the throne, and unto the Lamb.” Hallelujah. “ Amen. The adoring praises of the heavenly "host may therefore be also considered, as an af"fectionate expression of their longing desire, that by the gospel of Christ, the divine glory might fill the earth as well as heaven; while peace with God and with each other should be enjoyed by all its inhabitants, through the adorable good-will shewn to guilty man.
III. Then, let us endeavour to bring this matter home to ourselves by some practical deductions.
We may learn from this subject how insignificant all earthly distinctions are, in the judgment
; 2 Cor. iv. 4-6.