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require labour and pains) to use ourselves to think rather of those serious, and important, and everlasting things upon which, as Christians, we ought to be continually meditating. And even here, even in this world of darkness, the sweet and blessed comfort which those have who are used to think of God's love and mercy is worth any pains.
In this world indeed, such comfort may be clouded or alloyed even in good men, though it cannot be taken away; but when the last Day shall come, and we shall see God as He is, who can tell the blessedness and the unspeakable joy of those who have been used to think of God's mercy and love to them in this world, and have tried to walk worthy of it, when they shall know that His love rests on them securely for ever, that they are sure of being always unutterably loved by Him?
But how very unworthy are any words of man to express such thoughts as these.
In conclusion, let us ask ourselves one serious question. What must be the end of them who shall be found to have resisted to the last all God's long-suffering mercy and love? “ How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation o?" In the book of Revelation is foretold, that in that Day, men shall in vain call on the mountains and hills to hide them from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb ?."
God is yet revealed to us in mercy; but if we do not with all our hearts embrace that mercy, and submit ourselves to His will, seeking to be meet for salvation at the last, the time must come, when God shall appear unto us in justice and in wrath.
9 Heb. ii. 3.
1 Rev. vi, 16.
" And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were
accomplished, they brought Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the LORD."
The time appointed by the law of Moses for a mother's purification was forty days after the birth, (or, what is the same thing, three and thirty after the circumcision,) as you may find in the twelfth chapter of the book of Leviticus. Therefore this, the fortieth day after Christmas, the thirty-third of the new year, has been for ages kept as a solemn festival in remembrance of the first coming of our LORD into His own temple at Jerusalem. For then, at the end of those days of her purification, did the righteous Joseph and His blessed Virgin Mother bring Him thither to present Him before the Lord.
This entrance of the Lord into His temple had been foretold by Malachi four hundred years before, as you heard in that passage out of His prophecies which has been read to you to-day from the altar, according to the appointment of the Church, instead of an epistle. "The LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the MESSENGER of the covenant, Whom ye delight in : behold, He shall come, saith the LORD of Hosts ?.”
But the LORD did not come then in glory, like as before when that bright cloud, the sign of His presence, filled the new-built temple in the time of king Solomon; He came now in our flesh, in the form of a helpless babe. For though it was still indeed and in truth the LORD of Hosts coming into His temple, but yet now to the fleshly eye what was to be seen? No visible glory, but two persons in mean condition and of poor estate, bringing what was supposed to be their first-born infant to present him according to the law. This had been commanded by God and observed by pious Jews ever since the first-born of the Israelites were preserved in Egypt, at the time when those of the Egyptians were destroyed. From that time forth the eldest child in every Israelitish family (if a male) was brought to God and solemnly presented before Him, and a sum of money paid to the priest for his redemption in remembrance of this deliverance.
1 Malachi iii. 1.
But this was done not so much to bring to mind these past mercies, as to foreshadow greater things, Gospel mysteries, of which not only these rites, but even their deliverance in Egypt was a type and shadow. For that which had been hitherto done only in type or shadow, began as on this very day to be done in substance and reality, when "the first-born of every creature ?," God's only Son, was presented before His Father veiled in our flesh.
He was presented as one willing to offer Himself up for us; He came even as it had been foretold of Him, saying, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God'.” He was come into the world to do away with the sacrifices of the law, by offering up HIMSELF as the true and perfect sacrifice once for all on the cross. And His presentation, as on this day, in the temple was (as it were) a foreshowing, or rather a beginning, of that sacrifice which He accomplished on the cross as on an altar, where He presented HIMSELF before His Father as bearing our sins, and making a full satisfaction for them. And therefore Simeon, after he had taken the Holy Child to his arms, spake of His passion, and forewarned His blessed mother of her share in those sufferings, saying to her, “ Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also *." This was fulfilled doubtless in many a trial of anxiety and distress, but the more especially when at the last she, with the other two Marys and St. John, stood by her dying Son and LORD. But in that particular act which we have now in remembrance, 2 Col. i. 15. 3 Ps. xl. 7, 8. Heb. x. 9. + Luke ii. 33.
she was permitted (by virtue of that special favour shewn to her above all others) to minister as in the solemn initiation or commencement of the great Offering. For she brought the Saviour of all, and presented Him before the LORD, like as Hannah before her, who, as a type or prophetic likeness of the Virgin, presented her first-born Samuel as the loan she, according to her vow, lent unto the LORD. For even thus did the Virgin give up her part in her Blessed Son, by presenting Him this day before that Father who had vouchsafed to choose her to be the mother, after the flesh, of her Saviour and her God.
And would that Christian parents would consider, when they bring their children here that they may be in baptism made partakers of Redemption and of the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that they are most solemnly presenting them, giving them up to God, Who is now taking them to be His own children. For when we receive them again after they are baptized, we should not look on them as henceforth our own children merely, but rather as God's children, whom He is pleased to trust to us that we may bring them up in His “ nurture and admonition." For thus even the Holy JESUS was, after this presentation in the temple, taken home by Joseph and His blessed mother to Nazareth, where He was subject to them,
Yet to the blessed Virgin herself, it seems to have been a trial always to act up to this dedication she had made of Him to God; for on one occasion, as we read in the second chapter of St. John's Gospel, she seems to have been in a manner reproved by Him, as though she were tempted, by her deep interest in His honour, to take upon herself a right to control Him in His ministry, calling upon Him to work miracles before the time. For then He said to her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.” On another occasion, she joined His other relatives in seeking to draw Him off from the continued labours of His ministry ; and it was told our Lord, while He was teaching, that His mother and His brethren were desiring to speak with Him. And then she was again in a manner reproved, when He said, “Who is My mother? and who are My brethren?" Yet at the last she endured to stand by the Cross and see the end.
But if it was so even with her, the mother of the Blessed Saviour, doubtless we shall do well to be watchful over ourselves, lest we be tempted to look upon our children as given us for our own comfort or honour, rather than as having been from the very first given up and dedicated by us to God.
5 Matt, xii. 48.
For by our dedication of them at the time of their baptism, we not only acknowledged His right in them as the first right; but more than this, we actually give up to Him our part in them, receiving them henceforth not as our own children, but as His committed to our trust, as loans lent us of the LORD; so that after this, if in our age, or sickness, or need, they comfort or succour us, we should regard them as so doing, not as our children only, but as ministers of mercy employed by their true and heavenly Father.
But if the right of parents to their children is in a manner given up to God when they are baptized, how much more is our right to please or serve ourselves taken away by our baptismal dedication to Him? For though Christian children have now a heavenly FATHER, yet, if they be,
His true children, they will, for His sake, be far more willing, more scrupulously desirous, to serve their earthly parents, to please them and to seek their good. But our own pleasure, our own profit, our service to ourselves, we utterly renounced when we were presented to God through Christ in baptism. For we cannot serve and please ourselves and be true Christians. Our LORD HIMSELF has said, “ If
any man will come after Me, let him deny himself 6." It is a very reasonable ground of comfort and encouragement to us, to think that we were baptized in infancy, before we had any wilful sin or deceit about us that could prevent us from receiving the gift of God's good Spirit, and so hinder us from being presented unto Him with pure and clean hearts, hearts purified by that Spirit with which we were baptized.
But yet what profit is it thus to have been once offered up as a pure and acceptable offering before God, and thus to have partaken of that unspeakable gift, if then we have ruined all, have turned away from God, have disobeyed Him, forgotten Him again and again, defiled our hearts and bodies all over with sin and impurity? And what if perhaps even now we know our hearts must be still impure and defiled, because they are so apt
6 Matt, xvi. 24.