Chap. 1 5:18, to Chap. 4. 5:16.
Chap. 1:—Verse 18: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: when as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”—The espousing, or betrothing, was such a contract of marriage as. rendered the parties virtually husband and wife, though the marriage was not consummated (Deut. 22:23, 24).
The very beginning of the history of Jesus declares a statement utterly opposed to the fallen reason of man. Let the student of the sacred Scriptures know that this is what he has to expect in perusing the records of revelation.
Verse 19: “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.”—There are two distinct interpretations of which this verse appears susceptible. If just be taken in the strict sense, as implying an exact observer of the Mosaic law, then the meaning is as follows:—That Joseph could not take her to wife, because in that case he must, in accordance with the law, have publicly proclaimed her guilt, and therefore brought upon her the punishment of death. But I much rather incline to consider
dikaio" as expressive of goodness, or kindness of disposition; and then the words may be paraphrased thus:—
“But Joseph her husband, being an upright and merciful man, was unwilling to let her guilt be publicly known, and thereby expose her to exemplary punishment (according to Deut. 22:20), and was minded privately to cancel the contract and to put her away.”
How grievous an affliction must this circumstance have appeared to this godly man! Thus we are reminded how, sometimes, our very greatest blessings appear, at first, under the form of the most overwhelming evils.
Verse 20: “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”—He did nothing rashly. He reflected on the most proper method of proceeding, and probably sought aid and counsel from God. Under trying circumstances let us act in a similar way, and patiently expect a like result.
Fear not. If we can only discover anything to be the will of God, we need not fear to engage in it.
Verse 21: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His people from their sins.”—This verse is a prophecy, the first part of which has been completely fulfilled eighteen hundred years since; and the second part has been fulfilling ever since, and is even in our own day continuing to be fulfilled.
Jesus—Jehovah—the Saviour—His people—all the elect of God, all that come to Christ by faith.
He shall save, &c, in spite of all their misery—their sin—their weakness-—their enemies, &c. O my soul, rest upon this sentence, uttered by the angel of God. Since it hath pleased the Father to reveal His Son in me, I have nothing to fear. Sin once wholly reigned over me; sin still daily and hourly plagues me; but I shall one day be saved fully from my sins. Many things are possible—more things are probable—but a few things are certain, and this is one of them. I may die of this disease under which I now labour, or I may recover; I may never be permitted to speak in the Lord’s name again, or I may do so with more comfort and success than ever. But however important such points may be, they are not nearly so momentous as the certainty that I shall one day be fully, finally, and everlastingly delivered from sin, the root of all misery, and the hindrance to my perfection of bliss. A salvation from sin includes a salvation from every other enemy; and within a very few years, at furthest, I shall be more than conqueror, through Him that hath loved me. Every struggle with my great adversary is as the earnest of final triumph. Oh my soul! let this sentence be thy watchword in the time of danger—thy comfort in the day of sorrow.
Verses 22, 23: “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” —Emmanuel implies three things. I. The reality of the Incarnation—the uncontroverted mystery of “God manifested in the flesh.” II. The purpose thereby contemplated, viz., the laying open a way for our reunion with God. III. The actual accomplishment of this purpose, consequent upon our reception of Christ. What a fullness of blessings resides and flows from our Emmanuel! Actual union with God—a communion with Him, as our Friend, Father, and final joy.
Chap. II.—Verse 1: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” “Who these Magi were is uncertain. They most probably had had a secret revelation, by a vision, respecting the star, and Him whose birth it signified. Whether they had previously been acquainted with the promise of Christ I know not.
Verse 3: “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” —The promise of the Messiah had been for 4,000 years the hope of the faithful; yet when the star was seen betokening that the promise had been fulfilled, the vast body of the people were rather “troubled and disturbed,” than gladdened by the long-looked-for event. So it was at the first coming, and so we have reason to believe it will be at the second coming of our Lord. All those whose hearts are set on present things, and whose pursuits are bounded by time, dread the appearing of the Great God, even our Saviour Jesus Christ. O my soul, couldst thou this day, yea this hour, gladly welcome the approach of that glorious day! Let me seek ever to maintain such a frame of heart as will render the prospect of His coming ever delightful.
Verse 4: “And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.”—There may be a literal knowledge of the Word, and an accurate acquaintance with Scripture prophecies, where the heart is at enmity with God. Never let me ground my confidence on any attainments in knowledge. “Christ” should be the Christ, i.e., the Messiah in general; not our Lord in particular.
Verses 5, 6: “And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda; for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”—The substance of the quotation is given, not the very words. The Lord often selects the least, that no flesh might glory in His presence.
Verse 7: “Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.”—“Procured from them exact information.” The correct rendering is of importance here, because it shews how far Satan and his instruments may be permitted to succeed in their endeavours against the Lord, and against His Christ; also the simplicity of the Magi, who answered correctly Herod’s questioning, without suspecting any harm. Herod has thus become acquainted with the time at which the child was born,, and the place where his parents belonged to; so that nothing appeared to stand in the way of the accomplishment of his purpose.
Verses 8, 9: “And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”—Verse 8: Hypocrisy.
Verse 10: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”—The joy of the wise men was probably grounded upon believing views of the importance of the child’s character as the promised Messiah. Jesus is Himself the bright and morning star; and the words here descriptive of the joy of these godly visitors, may be accommodated to various stages of experience. The sinner who is convinced of sin, and can see no light to cheer, finds Christ, and rejoices with exceeding great joy. In like manner the backslider, the beclouded believer, the dying saint, has only to get a view of Emmanuel, to fill his heart with peace and joy, and his tongue with praises. Whenever I am oppressed with care or sadness, when the next trial comes upon me (and how soon that may be I nothing know), let me strive to get a sight of this Star, and then to experience the promise of the Comforter, making my sorrowful heart to overflow with joy.
Verse 11: “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”—These godly men had taken a long journey, and now they felt well repaid for their pains. So believers have often a tedious pilgrimage; but the vision of Jesus in His glory will more than make amends for every suffering. A believing view of Christ will prompt to worshipping; and sincere worship will lead to self-dedication. Gold may denote His royal office, frankincense His divine dignity, and myrrh His humiliation and death.
Verse 12: “And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.”—Although these wise men acted with all simplicity, yet they incurred no danger thereby. So let me imitate them in this. The Lord took care that Herod’s subtilty should not serve his purpose.
Verses 13, 14: “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.”—Divine watchfulness more than a match for the devil’s enmity.
Verse 15: “And was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.”—Israel a type of Christ, therefore called the firstborn of God (Exodus); therefore their being brought out of Egypt typified this event in our Lord’s history.
Verses 16, 17, 18: “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”— Rama was a city of Benjamin, where Rachel was buried. The cry of the bereaved mothers reached thus far, though the distance was six miles northward of Jerusalem. The comforting words annexed to this quotation, in the prophet, may delightfully serve to assuage parental grief. (Jer. 31:15)—”They shall come again from the land of their enemy.” The cruelty of the tyrant shall redound to the glory of God. The little innocents whose blood was shed on account of the infant Saviour, shall, through eternity, rejoice in Him whose blood was shed for them.
Verse 19: “But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.”—So all the enmity of cruel tyrants terminates in death.
Verse 23: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”—To belong to Nazareth was tantamount to being despised and rejected of men. Hence the question of Nathaniel (John 1:47). In the fact of our Lord’s being considered as a native and inhabitant of Nazareth, there was fulfilled the prophecy that spoke of his humiliation.
Perhaps also there was an allusion to the fact that He should be the true Nazarite, as the word Nazarene may also be rendered. Let me trace one or two points of resemblance between the Nazarite under the law and our Lord Jesus Christ, as the fulfiller of the legal ceremonies.
(1.) His entire separation from the world, and consecration to that work which He voluntarily undertook.
(2.) His abstinence from all sensual pleasures, or worldly gratification.
(8.) His never permitting His hair—i.e., His spiritual strength—to decrease through the being overtaken in sin. Samson’s strength lay in his hair.
(4.) “Separate from sinners.” Though He mingled with them, He contracted thereby no defilement.
(5.) His accepted offering, after He had finished the work which His Father had given Him to do. (See Num.6:1, 2, &c.)
Chap. III.—Verses 1, 2: “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”—He came in the wilderness, because the word of God by Isaiah had foretold this; but the wilderness of Judaea was not a desolate, but inhabited part of the country (See Joshua 14:10).
The visible Church of God was sunk in formality and unbelief; the repentance, therefore, here meant has principally respect unto that lifeless condition of godly-favoured people; and is enforced by the consideration of that new dispensation being just at hand. By the “kingdom of heaven,” I understand here the New Testament dispensation, as the beginning and foundation of the heavenly glory. The term
metanoia implies a change of mind, and consequently of character. The true penitent is changed, as it respects his views of God, himself, of time, of eternity, of Christ, of the word of God, of the ordinances of divine service, &c.
Verse 3: “For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”—There may be an allusion in these words to the practice of kings and conquerors sending pioneers before them to cut through the obstacles that opposed their progress, and to prepare their way.
The moral preparation here required seems to have been self-reflection, examination, and that part of repentance which consists in a knowledge of our own state as sinners, which, in the very nature of the thing, precedes a joyful reception of the Lord Jesus as our Saviour.
Verse 4: “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.”—The most eminent of all the prophets had no worldly glory. Austerity and self-denial marked his character.
Verse 5: “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and. all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan.”—The power of God, through the instrumentality of the zeal of John, drew vast crowds to his ministry. The baptism of John seems to have been administered to any who requested it, upon a profession of repentance.
Verse 7: “But when He saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to His baptism; He said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”—Description of the Pharisees and Sadducees, modern formalists and unbelievers. Terrible destiny that hangs over such persons. The question implies that there is some peculiar difficulty in getting such persons made alive to their danger.
Verses 8, 9: “Bring forth, therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”—Persons may make a profession, and yet have remaining about them much of the old leaven. Let me hence learn to put no confidence in any outward privileges, or attainments. Let me learn not to think highly of myself, because of the opinion of others.
Verse 10: “And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”—Formerly a profession answered very well; now swift judgment is on the point of being exercised towards all mere professors.
Verse 11: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”—The baptism with the Holy Ghost, and with fire, is not necessarily promised in these words to the very individuals so addressed. Although miraculous gifts did in the first ages accompany the baptism of the Holy Ghost, the essence of that baptism did, I think, consist in the graces, and spiritual power communicated to the first believers. Let me labour after this baptism. To be overwhelmed, plunged, immersed into the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 12: “Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”—Floor, His professed church; wheat, His true followers; chaff, false professors; fan, or winnowing shovel, His Word; garner, heaven; unquenchable fire, hell.
Verse 13: “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of John.”—Why was Jesus baptized? That He might submit to any Divine appointment; that He might prefigure His bloody sufferings, death, burial, and resurrection; that He might set an example to all His followers.
Verse 14: “But John forbade Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?”—John’s humility, and confessed inferiority. However much any of us may attain, we need and desire more.
Verse 15: “And Jesus answering, said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered Him”—“Becometh us;” Himself, as the Head, and His people, as His members, to obey every appointment of God.
Verses 16, 17: “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”—After obedience comes honour. Comfort of this declaration of the Father, when taken in connection with our union to our Lord. By my union to Christ I become accepted in Him. He is Himself my righteousness, and from Him, as a Head of influence, flow down into my barren soul the consolations of the blessed Spirit.
Chap. IV.—Verse 1: “Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” Though all the reasons wherefore our Lord was tempted may not be discoverable by us, yet some of them are obvious. Hereby the power of the Spirit, acting in and by the humanity of Jesus, triumphed over the subtilty of Satan. Again, our Lord well knew that His followers were to be a tempted people. He therefore chose to set us an example for directing us when brought into similar circumstances, and to encourage us under them. We are thus practically assured that we have an High Priest who was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin; and that the very enemy against whom we are called to contend has been overcome by Him, who is our Head.
Verse 2: “And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.”—Probably at the close of the forty days His hunger became far more intense than it had been before; yet throughout that period, as well as at its close, He was tempted of Satan. (Mark i.)
Verse 3: “And when, the tempter came to Him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”—The strength of a temptation often consists in the plausibility of the action to which we are tempted. At first sight, there seems nothing positively sinful in the act to which the tempter attempted to persuade the Son of God. Its sinfulness, however, consisted in Its implying a distrust of His heavenly Father’s care; a misapplication of the miraculous power wherewith He was furnished, and which was never to be employed for His own personal gratification as a man; and also the very fact that Satan requested the working of this miracle, gave a character of sin to what, under other circumstances, would in itself have been lawful.
The act of turning the stones into bread was in itself no more sinful than the act of multiplying the loaves to supply the wants of the famishing multitude. But the end and design, the circumstances under which our Lord was placed, and, above all, the quarter from which the suggestion came, rendered that sinful which might otherwise have been right.
Verse 4: “But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”—Our Lord was stored with His Father’s word, and uses it to teach us how we are to overcome our Great Enemy. These words are a quotation from Deut. viii., and the lesson they inculcate is one of those which the Israelites were to learn, through a course of painful experience in the wilderness. The obvious application of these words seems to be as follows:—The natural desire of every man is to acquire enough of the good things of this present world, and to supply the cravings of appetite, pleasure, and ambition. We are naturally disposed to think that we can live by bread alone; we are in a state of ignorance respecting that hidden spiritual life, which can only be maintained by the word and promises of God, made spirit and life to our souls by the Holy Ghost. Now the great lesson which our Father teaches us from day to clay is, that earthly possessions are insufficient to our happiness; and that there is higher food, and a more elevated condition of being, which are mutually suited to each other.
Our Lord’s words to Satan may thus be explained:— “You would have me needlessly put forth an exertion of miraculous power in order to supply my corporal life; but the life which is of infinitely higher consequence would thereby be injured. I should thus sin against my Father’s holy will, and act as if the life of the body were of more account than the life of the soul.” Let this great truth be continually impressed upon me, that the life of the Spirit and the provision for its sustenance are of infinitely more moment than the life and the support of the outward man.
Verses 5, 6: “Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, if Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down; for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee; and in their hands they shall hear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone.”—Satan also can quote Scripture, but not fairly; he misapplies it and perverts it. Never take Scripture out of its connection. Endeavour to quote it accurately.
Both this and the former temptation are grounded upon a doubt as to whether our Lord was God’s Son or not. A complying with either would have encouraged this doubt. To cast Himself down from the temple, just to prove His Sonship, would have unnecessarily put God to the proof, i.e., unnecessarily called for an exertion of divine power in His preservation.
Verse 7: “Jesus said unto him, it is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”—The answer of our Lord is a quotation from Deut.6:16, and refers to the conduct of the Israelites, who doubted of God’s presence and power in the wilderness, and therefore required proofs of it. To tempt God, in the language of Scripture, invariably means to distrust God’s power, as any one acquainted with the passages well knows. See the following:—Exodus 17:7; Num. 14:12, 11; Ps. 78:18, 19, &c, &c.
The promises of God towards His people ensure their security; but wilfully to put ourselves in the way of evil, professedly trusting to His preserving care, is to pervert these promises, and to turn the grace of God into licentiousness. The former temptation resembles the man of earthly-mindedness in general; this that of Antinomian abuse of our Father’s gracious declarations.
Verses 8, 9: “Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.”—Satan, up to this time, appeared as an angel of light; now, as if foiled in .artifice, he tries the result of open impiety. In his eyes the offer was a splendid one; and therefore he asks in return a large price,—even the worshipping of himself. Horrible as the proposal is, it is just what all true votaries of earthly glory must do, in order to effect their purposes.
The word worship in the Greek has an ambiguous meaning, denoting either civil respect and homage, or religious adoration. The very ambiguity of the word (
proskunew) may have been intended by the tempter to soften the horrible character of the condition proposed.
Verse 10: “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”— Religious worship is expressed in the New Testament by
latreuw. Therefore worship and service are here restricted to religious adoration. This is due to God alone. Let Arians and Socinians consider how they can recognize the authority of divine revelation consistently with refusing worship and religious adoration to the Son of God. And if they are so far willing to yield to the inspired record, as to profess to be worshippers of the Son, either they must renounce their peculiar principles, or be guilty, on their own showing, of worshipping one who is not God. The Sabellians may get out of this dilemma; but all who hold the natural inferiority of the Son are incapable of extricating themselves from the charge, either of positive infidelity, or rejection of the Divine testimonies, or the grossest inconsistency with their own principles. Either they do not worship the Son, and are guilty of infidelity; or, professing to worship one whom they account inferior to the Supreme Being, they are guilty of idolatry.
Verse 11: “Then the devil leaveth Him; and, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him.”—Like our great example, we may expect temptation; but like Him also, at its close, we may look for the visits of those ministering spirits, who are sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation.
Verse 12: “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, He departed into Galilee.”—Two reasons may have induced our Lord to retire into Galilee. First, to avoid the fury of Herod, who, having been so far led already, might probably be inclined to proceed further. Secondly, to supply the lack of John’s ministry there, by publicly commencing His own. The most active and faithful of the messengers of salvation may be laid aside, imprisoned, or put to death; but all these events are under the control of Him who can never be mistaken as to what is best for the Church, and most suited to promote His own glory.
John is no sooner imprisoned, than Jesus enters upon the work of preaching the glad tidings of the kingdom.
Verses 13, 14: “And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nepthalim: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet.”—As this was according to prophecy, so it accorded with the general mode of Divine actings. The darkest part of the land of Israel was Galilee of the Gentiles; and there it pleased our great Prophet first to diffuse the light of truth. The Gospel seeks out the most depraved and despised of the human family; it often passes by the man of letters, and the proud moralist, and sheds its heavenly lustre within the cottages of the most abandoned and hopeless of our race.
If you are rich, and have need of nothing, the word of this salvation will be but coldly listened to; but if you feel yourselves wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, the ministry of Jesus will be a savour unto life.
Verses 15, 16: “The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.”—In this passage we have a description of the condition of the Galileans; but the description need not be restricted to them. In its strictest meaning, it applies to all that are living without God, and destitute of the knowledge of the gospel of Christ. It applies to the past and present state of heathenism; and extends to all who have received no other light than that of nature to instruct them.
(1.) They are said to be sitting in darkness—i.e., they are in utter ignorance of all those points with which it is most of all the concern of immortal beings to be acquainted. They know not whence, or for what end, they were originally created; what is the design of God in their creation; how they may please Him; what they have to expect beyond this present state of being; or where to apply for instruction respecting their most enduring interests.
(2.) They are not only in darkness, but in the region and shadow of death. Their hearts depraved as their minds are unenlightened. They are destitute of any spark of spiritual life; and the gloom of present sinfulness and eternal misery hangs over them. They see their nearest and dearest relatives snatched away from, them, and know not for what destiny; and the little happiness which they are enabled, from natural capacity, to enjoy, is embittered with innumerable mysterious sorrows.
The body is the slave of sensual impulse, and degrading or Satanic enjoyment; the heart is filled with the very seeds of every evil thing; and the mind, ignorant of good, is skilful only in sin. Such is the picture of the heathen world—such is man without God—such is. the sinner without a Saviour.
(3.) There are many who, it may be, think themselves comparatively in a state of great happiness, while they are themselves, if possible, still more melancholy instances of the potency of Satanic influence—they who, amidst all the advantages and external privileges of a gospel land, have despised and rejected the great salvation.
(4.) The Gospel is here called “a great light.” Let me trace some of the leading points in which this light is exhibited.
(a.) Light upon our origin, condition, and prospects. Our creation at first in a state of holiness; our fall in our first parent; the present state of apostacy in which our whole race lies by nature; the possibility of being admitted to the favour of God; the incarnation, atoning sacrifice, and resurrection of the Saviour; His ascension, advocacy, and mediation; the willingness of the Father to accept of sinful men in Him; the means of enjoying the present favour and eternal glory pf God; the assurance of the “new and living way;” the nature of happiness, in what it consists, and how it may be realized both now and for ever. These and many other truths of a like nature, revealed in the Gospel, are fitted to dispel the darkness of the human mind, and cheer the gloom of the human heart.
(6.) More particularly, the Gospel does not merely reveal great general truths suited to excite the enquiry and animate the hopes of those to whom its message is addressed; but if that message be once received, it certifies assured peace and eternal glory to the receiver.
Has this light shone into my soul? Has the work of the Spirit, corresponding with the promise of the Scriptures, been begun in my heart? Do I rest upon the testimony of God? Then nothing can hurt me. The Lord of heaven and earth has taken me by the hand. He has become bound to supply all my need. He has undertaken to manage all my concerns. My health and sickness, my sorrows and joys, my life and death, all are under His gracious management and loving disposal. What remains for me to do but to give myself up entirely into His hands; to resign my own vain and foolish will; to wait on my God continually; to cultivate intercourse with Himself; to sigh and cry earnestly for His Spirit to cherish every holy and heavenly grace; to prize every Spiritual affection as better than gold, yea, than much fine gold; to maintain a constant warfare against every sin: and to do all this, under the protection of Emmanuel’s cross; yea, to esteem all striving but idleness, and all hope but vanity, that is not in its origin and its continuance through the blood of the Lamb.
Yes! this light has shined into my soul; my body may be wasted by disease; my mind may be enfeebled by decay; my heart may be oppressed with many a bitter trial; but “the star of Bethlehem” has shined, and all will be light when my pilgrimage is over. Daily mercies, daily trials, momentary joys, and lengthened afflictions may fill up my history as a man; but son of God, I am shielded from every suffering but those which a Father’s loving chastisement inflicts upon me; and every trial is a medicine, bitter for the moment, but effectually beneficial in its result. Let meditations like these quiet every anxious fear, and strengthen my confidence in God.