The Redemption of Man Brings Glory to God
By Christmas Evans (1766 – 1838)
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). The only begotten Son of God being anointed to be a prophet, priest and king, had a very important work to accomplish, as the Mediator between God and man. It was necessary that He should humble Himself and assume our degraded nature. Had He appeared in our world in all the majesty and glory of the Deity, it would have been impossible for the children of men to listen to His doctrine, and it would have been impossible for Him to offer Himself a sacrifice for sin; but being God manifested in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us, God in our nature; very justly then, and with the greatest propriety the angels sang with rapture and surprise, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will to men.
I would call your attention
I. To the incarnation of Christ, and II. To the glorious anthem sung on the solemn occasion.
I. But in the first place, the incarnation of Christ, demands our serious attention. Though it is impossible for the unchangeable God to be made a creature; yet the human nature was so closely and mysteriously united to the divine nature, that the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the prince of peace, is the Son given and the child born in Bethlehem Ephratah. Though the incarnation of Emmanuel did not take away nor tarnish in the least degree the essential glory of the Deity; yet it was a very great condescension in Him, Who is above all, God blessed forevermore, to be united to the nature of man. With the greatest astonishment Solomon asked the important question - will God in very deed dwell with man on earth? The question is now answered in the affirmative by men and angels. The Word that was in the beginning with the Father in the fullness of time tabernacled in the flesh; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Though we cannot form any idea of the infinite distance between God and man, yet that vacuum is filled up in the incarnation of the Messiah, so that He is called the true God, and the man Christ Jesus.
Though angels are more excellent creatures than men yet He took not on Him the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Though He did not take upon Him the human nature in its original glory; yet He was perfectly free from all the contamination of sin; He was holy, harmless, and separate from sinners; He knew no sin, there was no iniquity found in Him, nor any guile in His mouth.
Though it was impossible for the divine nature to become human, or the human nature to become divine; yet the two natures mysteriously united in Christ, make but one glorious person. Notwithstanding that our blessed Redeemer thought it not robbery to be equal with God but made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the painful and ignominious death of the cross; yet there was something so wonderful and glorious in His nativity that the angels came down from Heaven to publish the glad tidings. It is true, there were no Ambassadors sent to the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem, and the court of Rome, to proclaim His birth; but the Ambassadors sent to the shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem in the land of Judea, were far more noble than any that ever announced the birth of an eldest son, of the greatest monarch in the world. No sooner Jesus made His appearance on earth than the command was given, that all the angels of Heaven should worship Him; whose example was followed by all the wise men of the east, who came and worshipped Him. The prophet Isaiah said, that His name should be called wonderful! And the angel Gabriel said to Mary that He should be great, and should be called the son of the Highest; and that the Lord God should give unto Him the throne of His father David; that He should reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there should be no end. He became poor, that through His poverty, we should be made rich. He humbled Himself that we might be exalted, - He was wounded, that we might be healed; - yet He died of the most shameful death, that we might be saved in the most glorious manner that infinite wisdom might have contrived.
II. The glorious anthem sung on the solemn occasion, glory, peace, and good will.
The shining light between the cherubims on the mercy seat in the tabernacle, was called the glory of the Lord; for it represented the presence of the Messiah. Moses and Elijah saw the glory of the Messiah on the Mount of Transfiguration; and all the believers have seen His glory by the eye of faith. The word glory in the angel’s anthem denotes, the honor and praise conferred on the divine government resulting from the humiliation of Christ. The redemption of sinners by the blood of the cross, and the spirit of grace, is consistent with the glory of God, as our Creator and Lawgiver. The new crown of glory as an index, is showing some new perfections that were not visible before. In the representation that God has given of Himself in the works of creation and providence, and in the nature and requirements of the law, it is evidently seen that the righteous are happy, that the Lord Jehovah is their God; but by the angel’s anthem, it appears that the miserable objects of mercy may rejoice. Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy; which shall be to all the righteous? - No
Which shall be to all the defenders of rights, life and prosperity? O No --- but shall be to all people. A Saviour, and a Redeemer is born, for a lost and perishing world. Look to the cross, and behold a righteous God and a Saviour. Here we see the Lawgiver Himself, embracing the rebels; the former receiving the glory, and the latter the benefit, resulting from the death and resurrection of Christ.
All this may be considered as an anthem of praise and glory to God, for redeeming grace and dying love. Though the angels received no benefit; yet to these things they desire to look. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace. Not by compromising matters with the devil, as he offered to do, when the Son of God was tempted by him in the wilderness, neither is the peace founded by him on the expense of the law, but by magnifying the law and make it honorable; neither is it peace with enmity, for that is slain by the death of the Lamb of God, when atonement and reconciliation were made for enemies. Having made peace through the blood of His cross, sinners are reconciled to God. The atonement of Christ is the foundation of peace with God and peace of conscience. Conscience is a witness within condemning for doing that which is wrong, and justifying for doing that which is right. Let that internal monitor speak and the truth is likely to come out. A guilty conscience is a fire that ever burns, and a worm that ever gnaws. It often torments the bosoms of emperors, kings and princes, in the midst of their splendor and glory. Witness the king of the banqueting-house, surrounded by noble lords and his friends and associates, and drinking the best wine in golden and silver cups; his hands are trembling, his knees are shaking, and his countenance is changing at the strange appearance of a man’s hand writing against the plaster of the wall. If he was in such consternation before he knew what the writing was, what must have been the agony of his mind, when he found it to be, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN: - thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting.
To be hewn in pieces, like Agag; to be swallowed up by the earth, like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; or to be eaten of worms, like Herod, ---is nothing in comparison to the continual gnawing of a guilty conscience. You may hush and lull it as much as you please, and sear it with hot iron, it will certainly awake sooner or later, like one of the most outrageous lions at the swelling of Jordan, ---for it is a worm that may sleep, but never dies. Language is not able to express the unspeakable privilege of having a clear conscience, or, in other words, peace of conscience. It will do you good in every condition; in private and in public; in prosperity and in adversity; in sickness and in health; at home and abroad; in life and in death. It will make you cheerful in life, and happy in death, for which you will have reason to bless God, when time is swallowed up in eternity.
But the important question is this: Is there any thing that can give a guilty conscience ease? for we are all guilty before God. How can we therefore stand before the bar of His just tribunal? Philosophers say that there is in nature a certain stone which nothing but blood can dissolve. The conscience of the children of men are so hardened by sin, that nothing but blood can soften them: and all the blood of beasts slain on Jewish altars could not do it. It must be “a sacrifice of nobler name, and richer blood than they.” The blood of Christ the heavenly Lamb - the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world - can give the guilty conscience ease, and take away its stain.
Glory to God! - Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace. Though our case is desperate in itself, yet there is balm in Gilead, and a Physician there who can effectually heal the deepest wounds of a guilty conscience. While the day of grace lasts, while the door of mercy is open, while the arms of Jesus are extended to embrace you, and His bowels of compassion yearn over you, flee to Him for refuge and shelter in His adorable name, for He is able and willing to save.
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The good will of whom? The good will of the all-rich and almighty God to men - yes, to sinful men. Had I been of the nature of angels, and as sinful as I am, I should have no hope of escaping the wrath to come; an eternal prison of despair would have been my portion; for God never made any preparation to let such prisoners free: but He has formed the plan, of His infinite wisdom, agreeably in the demands of justice, the honor of the law, and the requirements of the divine government, to manifest His good will to man.
The funds of many benevolent institutions are so low, that a poor dying man can reap but little benefit from them on his death bed; but the funds of this most benevolent institution - good will to men - are exhaustless. Here are unsearchable riches, sufficient to discharge you from all your debts, to open your prison doors, and bring the prisoners from the prison, and those that sit in darkness out of the prison house. Here is enough to make you live comfortably, to die happy, and to go to the grave in peace; and also to raise you out of the grace to the resurrection of life, not like beggars, but all clothed in white, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.
Had it not been for Him who was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger in the stable of Bethlehem, the good will of God to men would never have been manifested; for men deserved nothing at His hands, but His wrath and displeasure forever; but the gift of His only begotten Son is the strongest and clearest evidence of His good will to men. The babe of Bethlehem might have addressed the inhabitants of the earth in the words of the prophet Isaiah; “Why when I came there was none to receive me; when I called was there none to answer? Why do you not know me by the description given of the Messiah by the prophets? Is my hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem? No - verily I can redeem, being clothed in human nature, I can save to the very uttermost; though my almighty power is hid from your eyes, this is the arm that clothed the heavens with blackness, dried up the sea, and made rivers a wilderness.
Though you do not hear me speak, I have the tongue of the learned to speak a word in season to him that is weary; being clothed in human nature, I can hear the cries of men, and sympathize with them. Because of my good will to men, I became a man, and will give my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that will pluck off my hair, and I will never hide myself from shame and spitting. Calvary and Joseph’s grave shall see the manifestations of my good will to men; and Hell itself shall see that my good will is stronger than death. Who will contend with me? Let us stand together. - Who is mine adversary? Let him come near to me. - In all my journey from my Father’s house to the gulf of death; and from there home to the mansions of glory, the good will of God to man, shall be written on every gate and door post, from Heaven to earth, and from earth to Heaven. Yes, and the gates of death and Hell shall hear of the good will of God to men, and shall tremble to the very center, as if they were shaken by a most tremendous earthquake. I imagine I see the angel pointing to Bethlehem, saying: yonder in the stable is the sun of righteousness shining seven times brighter than the sun of the glory of God ever appeared in creation and providence, and the giving of the law on Mount Sinai; that God might be righteous in the justification of all that believe in Jesus. If the glory of God was so brilliant, when the Father glorified the Son; when the Son glorified the Father, and when the Holy Spirit glorified them both: what must be the splendor of the glory of God shining forth in the face of Jesus Christ at His second coming, when the great Parchment of divine wisdom shall be unfolded; when the great act of free justification, whereby the sinner is entitled to eternal life, by deed and gift, shall pass without injuring any of the attributes of God. God has manifested His good will to men in creating all things for their accommodation; but more especially in demolishing the kingdom of darkness in their hearts, and establishing the kingdom of Heaven therein, founded on the merit of Emmanuel’s blood; pressing out the wine of eternal life for us from the cup of His own mortality; destroying the works of Satan, liberating us from his iron yoke of bondage, and uniting us to Himself in the bonds of peace and love. Glory to God in the highest, for His good will to men.
All the designs of mercy, - the manifestations of the power, goodness, and the riches of God’s grace for man, upon man, and in man are clear evidences of the good will of God to men; like so many machines with dog wheels, one acting upon the other; so that the whole is in constant motion. The wheels of eternal purposes and infinite atonement, and the operations of the Holy Spirit, as the quickener and sanctifier of men, setting the whole machinery, of vocation, justification, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification, in motion. The law of the spirit of life, having power, and sufficient room, to turn in Christ Jesus. Good will to men is the spring of peace upon earth, and the river flowing from that spring, is the salvation of men; which runs within the golden banks of the passive and active obedience of Christ, down to the sea of eternal life; without doing any damage to any man whatever. Its floods convey no mercy to devils; but carry away many precious jewels from their tyrannical dominion. When Jesus returned from the manger, the cross, and the grave, His glory shined from on high, over the hills of the whole Roman Empire; and the rivers of peace, love and salvation, swept away from the temples of Europe more false gods than would have filled the Pantheon at Rome - to be worshipped no more. Nothing can stand before this glory of God in the highest, this peace, and good will to men, they will in spite of all opposition follow Jesus to every region, to every house, to every congregation, to every town and city, and to every heart where Jesus go. O that the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ might shine upon this congregation. O Lord convert the careless, and the prayerless sinner; let him be founded on the foundation of joy, that all his sorrows might be swallowed up. Let thy good will to men, constrain them to look on the world as a secondary thing; and go out quickly to behold Jesus in the means of grace with great fear and joy. When your eyes are opened to behold the glory of God, your lips will soon be opened to proclaim it, before the church and the world, praising and adoring God, for what you have experienced, for what you have felt, and for what you have seen and heard. Soon you shall be removed from glory to glory, - from peace to perfect love; where that fear that hath torment shall never enter; where you shall join the heavenly choir in ascribing glory to God for His good will to men.
So let it be, says my soul. Amen.
[From Christopher Cockrell, editor: The Berea Baptist Banner, Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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