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many pious Israelites should we hear, who, since the prophecy of Micah, sat upon the elevations surrounding Bethlehem, unable to withdraw their gaze from the favoured city, and feeling as though in its contemplation all earthly cares and sorrows might well be forgotten! And certainly, my brethren, if we also have not experienced something similar in regarding the birth-place of our Saviour-if we also, in whatever sorrow we may have been plunged, have not at least felt a sensation of joyful hope thrill through our bosoms as often as the name of Bethlehem has been mentioned-then most assuredly we cannot congratulate ourselves that the treasures of Bethlehem are ours. No place in the whole world should be so dear to us as Bethlehem; no town we can think of should move our hearts so wonderfully and powerfully as this. We should rejoice with child-like gladness whenever Bethlehem is mentioned; and if we do not do so, we cannot expect to approach the table of our Lord with a Christmas blessing.
"And thou!" are the words of Micah. Bethlehem was already in existence-but where is the Herowhere is the Prince of peace within its gates? and whence is He to come? This is asked-this is whispered in the heart of Micah; and the words "And thou!" are but the expression of his ardent longing. After Micah's prophecy, Bethlehem became the object of the desires and aspirations of thousands of warm and devotional hearts; for it was the point of the whole earth which attracted the eyes of the faithful, and the spot on which were centered the hopes of the world.
Even during the captivity of the Israelites in Babylon, while Bethlehem lay deserted and in ruins, it is improbable that it was unfrequented. Its ruins would still be the object of anticipation and faith, and amidst its desolate walls gentle voices would still sing the songs of lamentation and of hope. And now, my brethren, are your souls moved with the same feelings as the holy saints of old? Do you feel the same sensations of joy and rapture? Is Bethlehem the object and the goal of your desires? Is the King that shall come forth out of Ephratah dearer to you than all besides? and if you but possess Him is all else valueless in your eyes? Oh, then, hesitate no longer; but consider yourselves as those for whom the marriagefeast of the Lord has been prepared-as those whom Jesus himself has invited, and who will advance to meet you with salutations of joy and gladness!
III. Who then comes out of Bethlehem? "He shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting!" Thus we have again before us "the Man Jehovah," the Man who is God the Lord in the highest. If the prophecy of Micah appear dark and mysterious, the New Testament throws full light upon it, and accurately determines its signification. In 1 Tim. iii. 16, the greatest of the apostles, referring to the manger in Bethlehem, writes, "God was manifest in the flesh ; thus explaining and making intelligible the words of the prophet. "God" is the expression of Paul, and Paul knows well what he utters ;-for, like the angels that stand before the throne of Jehovah, and who only
enter the presence of the Almighty with their faces covere 1, he would not presume to employ the name of God where he had not the divine permission. He uses the word God as the most definite and comprehensive name by which he could designate the man in whom he revered the Creator of all things, the Fountain of life, and the Ruler of the universe. This God, this glorious One, who dwells in a light to which no one can approach, He has appeared, and is manifest in the flesh. He was manifested when by the word of his power at the creation of the world he said, "Let there be light; and there was light." He was manifested when the commandments were thundered forth from Mount Sinai; he was manifested when in a human form he met Abraham, and when he spoke with Moses as a man speaks with his friend. But what was all this when compared with the manifestation of which Paul speaks, and along with Paul, Micah? It brings into connexion two natures as different from each other as heaven and earth. They join together in one, God and man. Unheard of combination! Most astonishing alliance, scarely to be believed! A thousand obstacles seem to lie between, but in a moment they are all overcome. God might have revealed himself in a visible form, amidst lightning splendour in the clouds; or, by a voice from heaven, manifested himself still more clearly to mortals. He might have instructed men by heavenly messengers, or disclosed himself by means of wonders and signs to the blind and deaf throughout the world. Had he willed to appear personally, he might have assumed long ago the
form of a holy angel, or taken upon him the unfallen and glorious nature of the first of our species. But 20! such was not the Eternal counsel! Not God and angel-not God and Adam-but God and our disorganized nature, were joined together in one! The whole Bible declares to us that it so happened. Oh, unutterable mystery! The Eternal become a creature of time! The Unapproachable, an object which we have seen with our eyes, looked upon, and handled! The Lord of lords, a brother and a relative of miserable sinners! The All-holy One, a partaker of our misery, and a sojourner in our vale of tears! The Disposer of every creature tended by a mortal mother! The Consoler of all affliction, weeping with those that weep, and suffering along with them! The Thunderer amidst the clouds, at whose reproof the heavens tremble-a lisping, stammering child on the bosom of the Virgin! And He who gives life and breath to all, become for our sakes needy and helpless-an infant requiring the hands of men to guide him, and the love of a mother to watch over him! All this is now clear as day; it is the perfection and the crown of the wonders of God! Here we stand upon a height beyond which neither the spirit of man nor of seraph can soar! And this incarnation of God did not take place merely in appearance; it took place in deed and in truth, and is now an historical fact. In order to believe and comprehend it, one must be God himself, or else a simple child; yet, whether it is believed or not, let us still cry Hallelujah! for we know that it has been done!
This God become man is not the Eternal Father himself, but the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. Therefore Micah says, "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting;" meaning, out of the essence of the Father. He was from eternity with the Father, distinct from the Father, and yet one with him: the living image o. his glory, perfection, and beauty; and therefore the eternal object of his love. And, oh wonder of wonders! it entered into the Father's heart to send this, his only-begotten Son, into our sinful world! The fact of his incarnation seems almost incomprehensible, did not the unutterable compassion of God solve the mystery; for never did the light of the countenance of God shine so benignantly over the benighted earth as in the promise and sending of his beloved Son. The doors of his fatherly heart had never before been so opened to receive us as they now were in Bethlehem; and all the past love which had been shown us since the beginning of the world, seems, in comparison or this, as the first glimmer of the morning dawn to the full blaze of the noon-day sun.
Hitherto a faint and distant prelude had been heard, until at Bethlehem a full burst of harmony proceeded from a thousand voices. And now we may ask the question, What induced the Father to send us his only and well beloved Son? It was enough that he willed to save us. And wherefore did he will to save us ? Because he pitied us. Why did he pity us? Because we were lost. Why did the fact that we were lost touch his heart with compassion? Because he loved