Sermon 57. The Incarnation and Birth of Christ
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 23rd, 1855, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth untome that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."-Micah 5:2.
THIS is the season of the year when, whether we wish it or not, we are compelled to think of the birth of Christ. I hold itto be one of the greatest absurdities under heaven to think that there is any religion in keeping Christmas-day. There areno probabilities whatever that our Saviour Jesus Christ was born on that day, and the observance of it is purely of Popishorigin; doubtless those who are Catholics have a right to hallow it, but I do not see how consistentProtestants can account it in the least sacred. However, I wish there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year;for there is work enough in the world, and a little more rest would not hurt labouring people. Christmas-day is really a boonto us; particularly as it enables us to assemble round the family hearth and meet our friends once more. Still, although wedo not fall exactly in the track of other people, I see no harm in thinking of the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus.We donot wish to be classed with those
"Who with more care keep holiday
The wrong, than others the right way."
The old Puritans made a parade of work on Christmas-day, just to show that they protested against the observance of it. Butwe believe they entered that protest so completely, that we are willing, as their descendants, to take the good accidentallyconferred by the day, and leave its superstitions to the superstitious.
To proceed at once to what we have to say to you: we notice, first, who it was that sent Christ forth. God the Father here speaks, and says, "Out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel." Secondly,where did he come to at the time of his incarnation? Thirdly, what did he come for? "To be ruler in Israel." Fourthly, had he ever come before? Yes, he had. "Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
I. First, then, WHO SENT JESUS CHRIST? The answer is returned to us by the words of the text. "Out of thee" saith Jehovah,speaking by the mouth of Micah, I out of thee shall he come forth unto me." It is a sweet thought that Jesus Christ, did notcome forth without his Father's permission, authority, consent, and assistance. He was sent of the Father, that he might bethe Saviour of men. We are, alas! too apt to forget, that while there are distinctions as to the personsin the Trinity, there are no distinctions of honor; and we do very frequently ascribe the honor of our salvation, or atleast the depths of its mercy and the extremity of its benevolence, more to Jesus Christ than we do to the Father. This isa very great mistake. What if Jesus came? Did not his Father send him? If he was made a child did not the Holy Ghost begethim? If he spake wondrously, did not his Father pour grace into his lips, that he might be an able minister of the new covenant?Ifhis Father did forsake him when he drank the bitter cup of gall, did he not love him still? and did he not, by-and by,after three days, raise him from the dead, and at last receive him up on high, leading captivity captive? Ah! beloved, hewho knoweth the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost as he should know them, never setteth one before another; he is notmore thankful to one than the other; he sees them at Bethlehem, at Gethsemane, and on Calvary, all equally engaged in thework ofsalvation. "He shall come forth unto me." O Christian, hast thou put thy confidence in the man Christ Jesus? Hast thouplaced thy reliance solely on him? And art thou united with him? Then believe that thou art united unto the God of heaven;since to the man Christ Jesus thou art brother and holdest closest fellowship, thou art linked thereby with God the Eternal,and "the Ancient of days" is thy Father and thy friend. "He shall come forth unto me". Did you never see the depth of lovethere was in the heart of Jehovah, when God the Father equipped his Son for the great enterprise of mercy? There had beena sad day in Heaven once before, when Satan fell, and dragged with him a third of the stars of heaven, and when the Son ofGod launching from his great right hand the Omnipotent thunders, dashed the rebellious crew to the pit of perdition; but ifwe could conceive a grief in heaven, that must have been a sadder day, when the Son of the Most High left his Father's bosom,where he had lain from before all worlds "Go," saith the Father, "and thy Father's blessing on thy head!" Then comes theunrobing. How do angels crowd around to see the Son of God take off his robes He laid aside his crown; he said, "My father,I am Lord over all, blessed for ever, but I will lay my crown aside, and be as mortal men are." He strips himself of his brightvest of glory; "Father," he says, "I will wear a robe of clay, just such a men wear." Then he takes off all those jewelswherewith he was glorified; he lays aside his starry mantles and robes of light, to dress himself in the simple garmentsof the peasant of Galilee. What a solemn disrobing that must have been! And next, can you picture the dismissal! The angelsattend the Saviour through the streets, until they approach the doors: when an angel cries, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates,and be ye lifted up ye everlasting doors, and let the king of glory through!" Oh! methinks the angels must have wept whentheylost the company of Jesus-when the Sun of Heaven bereaved them of all its light. But they went after him. They descendedwith him; and when his spirit entered into flesh and he became a babe, he was attended by that mighty host of angels, whoafter they had been with him to Bethlehem's manger, and seen him safely, laid on his mother's breast, in their journey upwardsappeared to the shepherds and told them that he was born king of the Jews. The Father sent him! Contemplate thatsubject. Let your soul get hold of it, and in every period of his life think that he suffered what the Father willed; that every step of his life was marked with the approval of the great I AM. Let every thought that you have of Jesusbe also connected with the eternal, ever-blessed God; for "he," saith Jehovah, "shall come forth unto me." Who sent him, then?The answer is, his Father.
II. Now, secondly, WHERE DID HE COME TO? A word or two concerning Bethlehem. It seemed meet and right that our Saviour shouldbe born in Bethlehem and that because of Bethlehem's history, Bethlehem's name, and Bethlehem's position-little in Judah.
1. First, it seemed necessary that Christ should be born in Bethlehem, because of Bethlehem's history. Dear to every Israelite was the little village of Bethlehem. Jerusalem might outshine it in splendour; for there stood thetemple, the glory of the whole earth, and "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth was Mount Zion;" yet aroundBethlehem there clustered a number of incidents which always made it a pleasant resting-place to every Jewish mind; andeven the Christian cannot help loving Bethlehem. The first mention, I think, that we have of Bethlehem is a sorrowfulone. There Rachel died. If you turn to the 35th of Genesis you will find it said in the 16th verse-"And they journeyed fromBethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath; and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. And it came to pass,when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass,asher soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Racheldied, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave, that is the pillarof Rachel's grave unto this day." A singular incident this-almost prophetic. Might not Mary have called her own son Jesus,her Ben-oni; for he was to be the child of Sorrow? Simeon said to her-"Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also,that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." But while she might have called him Ben-oni, what did God his Fathercall him? Benjamin, the son of my right hand. Ben-oni was he as a man; Benjamin as to his Godhead. This little incident seemsto be almost a prophecy that Ben-oni-Benjamin, the Lord Jesus, should be born in Bethlehem. But another woman makes this placecelebrated. That woman's name was Naomi. There lived at Bethlehem in after days, when, perhaps, the stone that Jacob'sfondness had raised had been covered with moss and its inscription obliterated, another woman named Naomi. She too wasa daughter of joy, and yet a daughter of bitterness. Naomi was a woman whom the Lord had loved and blessed, but she had togo to a strange land; and she said, "Call me not Naomi (pleasant) but let my name be called Mara (bitter) for the Almightyhath dealt very bitterly with me." Yet was she not alone amid all her losses, for there cleaved unto her Ruth the Moabitess,whoseGentile blood should unite with the pure untainted stream of the Jew, and should thus bring forth the Lord our Saviour,the great king both of Jews and Gentiles. That very beautiful book of Ruth had all its scenery laid in Bethlehem. It was atBethlehem that Ruth went forth to glean in the fields of Boaz; it was there that Boaz looked upon her, and she bowed herselfbefore her lord; it was there her marriage was celebrated; and in the streets of Bethlehem did Boaz and Ruth receive a blessingwhich made them fruitful so that Boaz became the father of Obed, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father ofDavid. That last fact gilds Bethlehem with glory-the fact that David was born there-the mighty hero who smote the Philistinegiant, who led the discontented of his land away from the tyranny of their monarch, and who afterwards, by a full consentof a willing people, was crowned king of Israel and Judah. Bethlehem was a royal city, because the kings were there broughtforth. Little as Bethlehem was, it was much to be esteemed; because it was like certain principalities which we have inEurope, which are celebrated for nothing but for bringing forth the consorts of the royal families of England. It was right,then, from history, that Bethlehem should be the birth-place of Christ.
2. But again: there is something in the name of the place. "Bethlehem Ephratah." The word Bethlehem has a double meaning. It signifies "the house of bread," and "the house of war." Ought not Jesus Christ to be born in "thehouse of bread?" He is the Bread of his people, on which they feed. As our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, so do we liveon Jesus here below. Famished by the world, we cannot feed on its shadows. Its husks may gratify the swinish tasteof worldlings, for they are swine; but we need something more substantial, and in that blest bread of heaven, made ofthe bruised body of our Lord Jesus, and baked in the furnace of his agonies, we find a blessed food. No food like Jesus tothe desponding soul or to the strongest saint. The very meanest of the family of God goes to Bethlehem for his bread; andthe strongest man, who eats strong meat, goes to Bethlehem for it. House of Bread! whence could come our nourishment but fromthee? Wehave tried Sinai, but on her rugged steeps there grow no fruits, and her thorny heights yield no corn whereon we may feed.We have repaired even to Tabor itself, where Christ was transfigured, and yet there we have not been able to eat his fleshand drink his blood. But Bethlehem, thou house of bread, rightly wast thou called; for there the bread of life was first handeddown for man to eat. And it is also called "the house of war;" because Christ is to a man "the house of bread," or else "thehouse of war." While he is food to the righteous he causeth war to the wicked, according to his own word- "Think not thatI am come to send peace on the earth; I am not come to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance againsthis father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shallbe they of his own household." Sinner! if thou dost not know Bethlehem as "the house of bread," it shall be to thee a "houseof war." If from the lips of Jesus thou dost never drink sweet honey-if thou art not like the bee, which sippeth sweetluscious liquor from the Rose of Sharon, then out of the selfsame mouth there shall go forth against thee a two-edged sword;and that mouth from which the righteous draw their bread, shall be to thee the mouth of destruction and the cause of thineill. Jesus of Bethlehem, house of bread and house of war, we trust we know thee as our bread. Oh! that some who are now atwarwith thee might hear in their hearts, as well as in their ears the song-
"Peace on earth, and mercy mild.
God and sinners reconciled."
And now for that word Ephratah That was the old name of the place which the Jews retained and loved. The meaning of it is, "fruitfulness," or "abundance."Ah! well was Jesus born in the house of fruitfulness; for whence cometh my fruitfulness and any fruitfulness, my brother,but from Bethlehem? Our poor barren hearts ne'er produced one fruit, or flower, till they were watered with the Saviour blood.It is his incarnation which fattens the soil of our hearts. Therehad been pricking thorns on all the ground, and mortal poisons, before be came; but our fruitfulness comes from him. "Iam like a green fir-tree; from thee is my fruit found." "All my springs are in thee." If we be like trees planted by the riversof water, bringing forth our fruit in our season, it is not because we were naturally fruitful, but because of the riversof water by which we were planted. It is Jesus that makes us fruitful. "If a man abide in me," he says, "and my words abidehim,he shall bring forth much fruit." Glorious Bethlehem Ephratah! Rightly named! Fruitful house of bread-the house of abundantprovision for the people of God!
3. We notice, next, the position of Bethlehem. It is said to be "little among the thousands of Judah." Why is this? Because Jesus Christ always goes among little ones. Hewas born in the little one "among the thousands of Judah." No Bashan's high hill, not on Hebron's royal mount, not in Jerusalem'spalaces. but the humble, yet illustrious, village of Bethlehem. There is a passage in Zechariah which teaches us a lesson:-ltis said that the man on the red horsestood among the myrtle-trees. Now the myrtle-trees grow at the bottom of the hill; and the man on the red horse alwaysrides there. He does not ride on the mountain-top; he rides among the humble in heart. "With this man will I dwell, saiththe Lord, with him who is of a humble and contrite spirit, and who trembleth at my word." There are some little ones herethis morning-"little among the thousands of Judah." No one ever heard your name, did they? If you were buried, and had yourname onyour tombstone, it would never be noticed. Those who pass by would say, "it is nothing to me: I never knew him." You donot know much of yourself, or think much of yourself; you can scarcely read, perhaps. Or if you have some talent and ability,you are despised amongst men; or, if you are not despised by them, you despise yourself. You are one of the little ones. Well,Christ is always born in Bethlehem among the little ones. Big hearts never get Christ inside of them; Christ lieth not ingreat hearts, but in little ones. Mighty and proud spirits never have Jesus Christ, for he cometh in at low doors, buthe will not come in at high ones. He who hath a broken heart, and a low spirit, shall have the Saviour, but none else. Hehealeth not the prince and the king, but "the broken in heart, and he bindeth up their wounds." Sweet thought! He is the Christof the little ones. "Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah yet out of thee shall hecomeforth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel."
We cannot pass away from this without another thought here, which is, how wonderfully mysterious was that providence which brought Jesus Christ's mother to Bethlehem at the very time when shewas to be delivered! His parents were residing at Nazareth; and what should they want to travel at that time for? Naturally, they would haveremained at home; it was not at all likely that his mother would have taken journey to Bethlehem while in so peculiar a condition;butCaesar Augustus issues a decree that they are to be taxed. Very well, then, let them be taxed at Nazareth. No; it pleaseshim that they should all go to their city. But why should Caesar Augustus think of it just at that particular time? Simplybecause, while man deviseth his way, the king's heart is in the hand of the Lord. Why, what a thousand chances, as the worldhas it, met together to bring about this event! First of all, Caesar quarrels with Herod; one of the Herods was deposed; Caesarsays, "I shall tax Judea, and make it a province, instead of having it for a separate kingdom. Well, it must be done.But when is it to be done? This taxing, it is said, was first commenced when Cyreneus was governor. But why is the censusto be taken at that particular period-suppose, December? Why not have had it last October and why could not the people betaxed where they were living? Was not their money just as good there as anywhere else? It was Caesar's whim; but it was God'sdecree.Oh! we love the sublime doctrine of eternal absolute predestination. Some have doubted its being consistent with the freeagency of man. We know well it is so, and we never saw any difficulty in the subject; we believe metaphysicians have madedifficulties; we see none ourselves. It is for us to believe, that man does as he pleases, yet notwithstanding he always doesas God decrees. If Judas betrays Christ, "thereunto he was appointed;" and if Pharaoh hardens his heart, yet, "for this purposehave I raised thee up, for to show forth my power in thee." Man doth as he wills; but God maketh him do as he willeth,too. Nay, not only is the will of man under the absolute predestination of Jehovah; but all things, great or little, are ofhim. Well hath the good poet said, "Doubtless the sailing of a cloud hath Providence to its pilot; doubtless the root of anoak is gnarled for a special purpose, God compasseth all things, mantling the globe like air." There is nothing great or little,that is not from him. The summer dust moves in its orbit, guided by the same hand which rolls the stars along; the dewdropshave their father, and trickle on the rose leaf as God bids them; yea, the sear leaves of the forest, when hurled along bythe tempest, have their allotted position where they shall fall, nor can they go beyond it. In the great, and in the little,there is God-God in everything, working all things according to the counsel of his own will; and though man seeks to goagainst his Maker, yet he cannot. God hath bounded the sea with a barrier of sand; and if the sea mount up wave afterwave, yet it shall not exceed its allotted channel. Everything is of God; and unto him. who guideth the stars and wingethsparrows, who ruleth planets and yet moveth atoms, who speaks thunders and yet whispers zephyrs, unto him be glory; for thereis God in everything,
III. This brings us to the third point: WHAT DID JESUS COME FOR? He came to be "ruler in Israel." A very singular thing isthis, that Jesus Christ was said to have been "born the king of the Jews." Very few have ever been "born king." Men are bornprinces, but they are seldom born kings. I do not think you can find an instance in history where any infant was born king.He was the prince of Wales, perhaps, and he had to wait a number of years, till his father died, and thenthey manufactured him into a king, by putting a crown on his head; and a sacred chrism, and other silly things; but hewas not born a king. I remember no one who was born a king except Jesus; and there is emphatic meaning in that verse thatwe sing
"Born thy people to deliver;
Born a child, and yet a king."
The moment that he came on earth he was a king. He did not wait till his majority that he might take his empire; but as soonas his eye greeted the sunshine he was a king; from the moment that his little hands grasped anything, they grasped a sceptre,as soon as his pulse beat, and his blood began to flow, his heart beat royally, and his pulse beat an imperial measure, andhis blood flowed in a kingly current. He was born a king. He came "to be ruler in Israel. "Ah!" saysone, "then he came in vain, for little did he exercise his rule; 'he came unto his own, and his own received him not;'he came to Israel and he was not their ruler, but he was 'despised and rejected of men,' cast off by them all, and forsakenby Israel, unto whom he came." Ay, but "they are not all Israel who are of Israel," neither because they are the seed of Abrahamshall they all be called. Ah, no! He is not ruler of Israel after the flesh, but he is the ruler of Israel after the spirit.Many such have obeyed him. Did not the apostles bow before him, and own him as their king? And now, doth not Israel salutehim as their ruler? Do not all the seed of Abraham after the spirit, even all the faithful, for he is "the father of the faithful,"acknowledge that unto Christ belong the shields of the mighty, for he is the king of the whole earth? Doth he not rule overIsrael? Ay, verily he doth; and those who are not ruled over by Christ are not of Israel. He came to be a ruler overIsrael. My brother, hast thou submitted to the sway of Jesus? Is he ruler in thine heart, or is he not? We may know Israelby this: Christ is come into their hearts, to be ruler over them. "Oh!" saith one, "I do as I please, I was never in bondageto any man." Ah! then thou hatest the rule of Christ. "Oh!" says another, "I submit myself to my minister, to my clergyman,or to my priest, and I think that what he tells me is enough, for he is my ruler." Dost thou? Ah! poor slave, thou knowestnotthy dignity; for nobody is thy lawful ruler but the Lord Jesus Christ. "Ay," says another, "I have professed his religion,and I am his follower." But doth he rule in thine heart? Doth he command thy will? Doth he guide thy judgment? Dost thou everseek counsel at his hand in thy difficulties? Art thou desirous to honor him, and to put crowns upon his heart? Is he thyruler? If so, then thou art one of Israel; for it is written, "He shall come to be ruler in Israel." Blessed Lord Jesus! thouart ruler in thy people's hearts, and thou ever shalt be; we want no other ruler save thyself, and we will submit to noneother. We are free, because we are the servants of Christ; we are at liberty, because he is our ruler, and we know no bondageand no slavery, because Jesus Christ alone is monarch of our hearts. He came "to be ruler in Israel;" and mark you, that missionof his is not quite fulfilled yet, and shall not be till the latter-day glories. In a little while you shall see Christcome again, to be ruler over his people Israel, and ruler over them not only as spiritual Israel, but even as naturalIsrael, for the Jews shall be restored to their land, and the tribes of Jacob shall yet sing in the halls of their temple;unto God there shall yet again be offered Hebrew songs of praise, and the heart of the unbelieving Jew shall be melted atthe feet of the true Messias. In a short time, he who at his birth was hailed king of the Jews by Easterns, and at his deathwas writtenking of the Jews by a Western, shall be called king of the Jews everywhere-yes, king of the Jews and Gentiles also-inthat universal monarchy whose dominion shall be co-extensive with the habitable globe, and whose duration shall be coevalwith time itself. He came to be a ruler in Israel, and a ruler most decidedly he shall be, when he shall reign among his peoplewith his ancients gloriously.
IV. And now, the last thing is, DID JESUS CHRIST EVER COME BEFORE? We answer, yes: for our text says, "Whose goings forthhave been of old, from everlasting."
First, Christ has had his goings forth in his Godhead. "From everlasting." He has not been a secret and a silent person up to this moment. That new-born child there has workedwonders long ere now; that infant slumbering in its mother's arms is the infant of to-day, but it is the ancient of eternity;that child who is there hath not made its appearance on the stage of this world; his name is not yet written in the calendarof the circumcised; but still though youwist it not, "his goings forth have been of old, from everlasting."
1. Of old he went forth as our covenant head in election, "according as he hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world."
Christ be my first elect, he said,
Then chose our souls in Christ our Head."
2. He had goings forth for his people, as their representative before the throne, even before they were begotten in the world. It was from everlasting that his mighty fingers grasped the pen, the stylus of ages, and wrote his own name, the name of theeternal Son of God; it was from everlasting that he signed the compact with his Father, that he would pay blood for blood,wound for wound, suffering for suffering, agony for agony, and death for death, in the behalfof his people; it was from everlasting that he gave himself up, without a murmuring word, that from the crown of his headto the sole of his foot he might sweat blood, that he might be spit upon, pierced, mocked, rent asunder, suffer the pain ofdeath, and the agonies of the cross. His goings forth as our Surety were from everlasting. Pause, my soul, and wonder! Thouhadst goings forth in the person of Jesus from everlasting. Not only when thou wast born into the world did Christ love thee,buthis delights were with the sons of men before there were any sons of men. Often did he think of them; from everlastingto everlasting he had set his affection upon them. What! believer, has he been so long about thy salvation, and will he notaccomplish it? Has he from everlasting been going forth to save me, and will he lose me now? What! has he had me in his hand,as his precious jewel, and will he now let me slip between his precious fingers? Did he choose me before the mountains werebrought forth, or the channels of the deep scooped out, and will he lose me now? Impossible!
"My name from the palms of his hands
Eternity cannot erase;
Impress'd on his heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace."
I am sure he would not love me so long, and then leave off loving me. If he intended to be tired of me, he would have beentired of me long before now. If he had not loved me with a love as deep as hell and as unutterable as the grave, it he hadnot given his whole heart to me, I am sure he would have turned from me long ago. He knew what I would be, and he has hadlong time enough to consider of it; but I am his choice, and there is an end of it; and unworthy as I am, itis not mine to grumble, if he is but contented with me. But he is contented with me-he must be contented with me-for hehas known me long enough to know my faults. He knew me before I knew myself; yea, he knew me before I was myself. Long beforemy members were fashioned they were written in his book, "when as yet there were none of them," his eyes of affection wereset on them. He knew how badly I would act towards him, and yet he has continued to love me;
"His love in times past forbids me to think.
He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink."
No; since "his goings forth were of old from everlasting," they will be "to everlasting."
Secondly, we believe that Christ has come forth of old, even to men, so that men have beheld him. I will not stop to tell you that it was Jesus who walked in the garden of Eden in the cool of the (lay, for his delights werewith the sons of men; nor will I detain you by pointing out all the various ways in which Christ came forth to his peoplein the form of the angel of the covenant, the Paschal Lamb, the and ten thousand types with which the sacred history is soreplete; but I will rather point you to four occasions when Jesus Christ our Lord has appeared on earth as a man, beforehis great incarnation for our salvation. And, first, I beg to refer you to the 18th chapter of Genesis, where Jesus Christappeared to Abraham, of whom we read, "The Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;and he lift up his eyes and looked, and lo, three men stood by him; and when he saw them, he ran to meetthem from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground. "But whom did he bow to? He said "My Lord,"only to one ofthem. There was one man between the other two, the most conspicuous for his glory, for he was the God-man Christ; the othertwo were created angels, who for a time had assumed the appearance of men. But this was the man Christ Jesus. "And he said,My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I prayyou, befetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree." You will notice that this majestic man, this gloriousperson, stayed behind to talk with Abraham. In the 22nd verse it is said,-And the men turned their faces from thence and wenttowards Sodom;" that is, two of them, as you will see in the next chapter-"but Abraham stood yet before the Lord." You willnotice that this man, the Lord, held sweet fellowship with Abraham, and allowed Abraham to plead for the city he was abouttodestroy. He was in the positive form of man; so that when he walked the streets of Judea it was not the first time thathe was a man; lie was so before, in "the plain of Mamre, in the heat of the day." There is another instance-his appearingto Jacob, which you have recorded in the 32nd chapter of Genesis and the 24th verse. All his family were gone, "And Jacob was leftalone, and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not againsthim, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. Andhe said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, unless thou bless me. And he said unto him,What is thy name? And be said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hastthou power with God." This was a man, and yet God. "For as a prince bast thou power with God and with men, and bast prevailed."AndJacob knew that this man was God, for he says in the 30th verse: for I have seen God face to face. and my life is preserved."Another instance you will find in the book of Joshua When Joshua had crossed the narrow stream of Jordan, and had entered the promised land, and was about to drive out the Canaanites,lo! this mighty man-God appeared to Joshua. In the 5th chapter, at the 13th verse, we read- And it came to pass, when Joshuawas by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked,and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went unto him, and (likea brave warrior, as he was,) said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as Captain of thehost of the Lord am I now come." And Joshua saw at once that there was divinity in him; for Joshua fell on his face to theearth, and did worship, and said to him, "What saith my lord unto his servant?" Now, if this had been a created angel liewould havereproved Joshua, and said, "I am one of your fellow servants." But no; "the captain of the Lord's host said unto Joshua,Loose thy shoe from thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so." Another remarkable instanceis that recorded in the third chapter of the book of Daniel, where we read the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednegobeing cast into the fiery furnace, which was so fierce that it destroyed the men who threw them in. Suddenly the king saidto hiscounsellors- Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True,king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the formof the fourth is like the Son of God." How should Nebuchadnezzar know that? Only that there was something so noble and majesticin the way in which that wondrous Man bore himself, and some awful influence about him, who so marvellously broke the consumingteeth of that biting an I devouring flame, so that it could not so much as singe the children of God. Nebuchadnezzar recognizedhis humanity. He did not say,"I see three men and an angel," but he said, "I see four positive men, and the form of the fourthis like the Son of God.' You see, then, what is meant by his goings forth being I from everlasting:'
Observe for a moment here, that each of these four great occurrences happened to the saints when they were engaged in very eminent duty, or when they were about to be engaged in it. Jesus Christ does not appear to his saints every day. He did not come to see Jacob till he was in affliction; he did notvisit Joshua before he was about to be engaged in a righteous war. It is only in extraordinary seasons that Christ thus manifestshimself to his people. When Abrahaminterceded for Sodom, Jesus was with him, for one of the highest and noblest employments of a Christian is that of intercession,and it is when he is so engaged that he will be likely to obtain a sight of Christ. Jacob was engaged in wrestling, and that is a part of a Christian's duty to which some of you never did attain; consequently, you do not have many visitsfrom Jesus. It was when Joshua was exercising bravery that the Lord met him. So with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:they were in the high places of persecution, on account of their adherence to duty, when he came to them, and said, "I will be with you, passing through the fire." Thereare certain peculiar places we must enter, to meet with the Lord. We must be in great trouble, like Jacob; we must be in greatlabour, like Joshua; we must have great intercessory faith, like Abraham; we must be firm in the performance of duty, likeShadrach Meshach, and Abednego; or else we shall not know him, whosegoings forth have been of old, from everlasting;" or, if we know him, we shall not be able to "comprehend with all thesaints what is the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,"
Sweet Lord Jesus! thou whose goings forth were of old, even from everlasting, thou hast not left thy goings forth yet. Oh!that thou wouldst go forth this day, to cheer the faint, to help the weary, to bind up our wounds, to comfort our distresses!Go forth, we beseech thee, to conquer sinners, to subdue hard hearts-to break the iron gates of sinners' lusts, and cut theiron bars of their sirs in pieces! O Jesus! go forth; and when thou goest forth, come thou to me! Am I ahardened sinner? Come thou to me; I want thee:
"Oh! let thy grace my heart subdue;
I would be led in triumph too;
A willing captive to my Lord,
To sing the honours of thy word."
Poor sinner! Christ has not left going forth yet. And when he goes forth, recollect, he goes to Bethlehem. Have you a Bethlehemin your heart? Are you little? will go forth to you yet. Go home and seek him by earnest prayer. If you have been made toweep on account of sin, and think yourself too little to be noticed, go home, little one! Jesus comes to little ones; hisgoings forth were of old, and he is going forth now. He will come to your poor old house; he will come toyour poor wretched heart; he will come, though you are in poverty, and clothed in rags, though you are destitute, tormented,and afflicted; he will come, for his goings forth have been of old from everlasting. Trust him, trust him, trust him; andhe will go forth to abide in your heart for ever.