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the choirs of Paradise. A celestial visitant, in form as a man, and suspected only to be more than man from the unmoved and terrible beauty of his countenance, a messenger indeed to mortal clay, but a messenger of too high a rank and too far removed from mortal pursuits or passions to mingle sympathies with that which was but the child of a day, or to occupy himself more or longer than his errand required with the fallen inhabitants of our planet, such was the form whose touch consumed to ashes the offering of Manoah and his wife; such he who came to Agar in the wilderness, to Zacharias in the temple; and such the three (though with respect to one of these a yet further mystery belongs) who reproved the incredulity of Sarah, and received the homage and hospitality of Abraham beneath the oak of Mamre'. The time had been when God Himself came down to speak, in the form of God, with man, in might and majesty beyond a doubt, but with no tokens of gratulation, no songs of jubilee. On Sinai was a thick and lonely darkness, a mountain smoking like a furnace, which neither man nor beast could approach, save Moses only, and which Moses himself drew near in exceeding fear and trembling. No angel shapes broke through the gloom, no angel melodies were heard in the pauses of the thunder; but the trumpet alone waxing louder and louder, and the voice of God, of which they who heard it said, "Let not God speak with us lest we


Judges xiii. 20. Gen. xvi. 7. Luke i. 11. Gen. xviii. 1.



die '!" How different were these sights and sounds from the glory of the Lord, from the herald angel, accompanied by a multitude of the Heavenly host, and the hymn which, while it ascribed fresh glory to the Most High, spake of peace restored between Heaven and earth, and renewed good will from the Creator to His creatures.

If, however, we look back to what the angel had announced to the shepherds, "unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a SAVIOUR ;" if we recollect that this birth was the first thing executed on earth towards reconciling mankind to God; that it was the first step towards the overturn of that evil spirit, who is the enemy and accuser of angels as well as of men; that it was the noblest instance of mercy and condescension which even Omnipotence could show, and the more noble in proportion to the wretchedness and manifold demerits of those in whose favour it was exerted, we shall not wonder that the happy and benevolent inhabitants of Heaven felt joy in the extension to other worlds of those blessings in which they themselves partook without measure; that the far-seeing cherubims beheld with delight and wonder a display of wisdom, of power, and of holiness which surpassed their most elevated contemplations, and that the seraphs loved, with augmented ardour, that good and gracious Lord who had pity on the least worthy of His creatures.

1 Exod. xx. 19.

2 St. Luke ii. 11.

The reason, then, assigned for the exultation of the Heavenly host, is that Christ was born "a Saviour." And if we desire to ascertain in what peculiar sense the Lord Jesus was a Saviour beyond all the prophets who went before Him, we shall find, or I am much mistaken, a very considerable difficulty (on every hypothesis of His nature and functions but that which we call the orthodox one) in finding an adequate reason for the eminence and peculiarity of the title thus appropriated to Him; for the exultation expressed by the angels while thus appropriating it; and for the vast and lavish display of wonder, of prophecy, of vision, and of miracle, by which the birth, and life, and death, and resurrection, and ascension, and destined return of the Messiah, both have been and will be illustrated. Were these honours paid to Christ as to a mortal man, but taught of God and endued with an unexampled degree of God's spiritual assistance, the chosen instrument of bringing to light a more perfect and holy law of life and morals, confirmed with stronger sanctions than the law of Moses, and with that strongest sanction of all which arises from the resurrection of the dead and a future life without end? God forbid that I should underrate the benefits which, even according to this imperfect view of the Christian faith, will appear to have been conferred on man through Jesus of Nazareth. I admit that, though we were to consider Him as a human prophet only, "He spake

as never man spake1;" I admit that a fuller stream of grace and wisdom has been poured on Him than on the most favoured sons of Adam, who had gone before or were to succeed Him; I admit that no dictates of human wisdom, no previous lesson taught by God's prophets to mankind, can equal the simple and sober majesty of the sermon on the mount, the touching softness of the parable of the lost sheep, and the returning prodigal, or the thrilling union of awe and tenderness which is inspired by His picture of the last judgement; I admit that neither Socrates, nor Moses, nor David, nor Isaiah, have left us any thing which can equal in purity and pathos His conversation during His last supper, and when bidding adieu to His disciples; I admit that the doctrine of a life after death, though intimated in many passages of the Mosaic law, and more largely dwelt on by the prophets; though deducible, in a great degree, from the dictates of natural reason, and actually deduced from those dictates by more than one distinguished heathen philosopher; though forming a part of the popular tradition of almost every nation of mankind, and though received, above all, by the great majority of the Jewish nation in its fullest extent, and with almost all the circumstances of awe and majesty with which even Christians are accustomed to clothe it; I admit that this life after death, and a

1 St. John vii. 46.

future state of reward and punishment were never so authoritatively declared, or so forcibly represented, or so experimentally proved, as they have been to us who believe in the doctrine and resurrection of Jesus. But I maintain that all these points of difference between Christ and the preceding prophets are not enough to account for that difference which I have remarked in the honours paid to Him, and the display of Divine power and angelic praise by which His birth and person were, above all other prophets, distinguished; and I maintain, above all, that in none of these respects, nor in all of them taken together, is His claim made good to that title which, of all prophets, is given to Him alone, and which constituted the specific ground of those congratulations which the angels bore to their fellow-creatures of mankind, the illustrious title of "Saviour."

Is it from the fear of death that the world is delivered by our Lord? And is this end accomplished by the spectacle of His own glorious triumph over the grave, and over them that had the power of it? Alas, are we ignorant that to the sinner (and who is there among men that sinneth not?) his fears are but the more increased by the clearness of this discovery! The same great Moralist who hath taught us by His words, and proved to us by His own example, that the grave is but the gate to a new and eternal state of existence, hath taught us also that there is an everlasting fire prepared for the workers of iniquity,

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