Sermon 666. Holy Work For Christmas
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, DECEMBER 24, 1865, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all they thatheard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered themin her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifyingand praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." Luke 2:17-20.
EVERY season has its own proper fruit-apples for autumn, holly berries for Christmas. The earth brings forth according tothe period of the year and with man there is a time for every purpose under Heaven. At this season the world is engaged incongratulating itself and in expressing itscomplimentary wishes for the good of its citizens. Let me suggest extra and more solid work for Christians. As we think,today, of the birth of the Savior, let us aspire after a fresh birth of the Savior in our hearts-that as He is already "formedin us the hope of glory," wemay be "renewed in the spirit of our minds"-that we may go again to the Bethlehem of our spiritual nativity and do our firstworks, enjoy our first loves and feast with Jesus as we did in the holy, happy, heavenly days of our espousals.
Let us go to Jesus with something of that youthful freshness and excessive delight which was so manifest in us when we lookedto Him at first. Let Him be crowned anew by us, for He is still adorned with the dew of His youth and remains "the same yesterday,today and forever." The citizens ofDurham, though they dwell not far from the Scotch border, and consequently in the olden times were frequently liable tobe attacked, were exempted from the toils of war because there was a cathedral within their walls and they were set asideto the bishop's service, being called inthe olden times by the name of "holy work-folk."
Now, we citizens of the New Jerusalem, having the Lord Jesus in our midst, may well excuse ourselves from the ordinary waysof celebrating this season. And considering ourselves to be "holy work-folk," we may keep it, after a different sort fromother men, in holy contemplation and in blessedservice of that gracious God whose unspeakable gift the new-born King is to us.
I selected this text this morning because it seemed to indicate to me four ways of serving God, four methods of executingholy work and exercising Christian thought. Each of the verses sets before us a different way of sacred service. Some, itappears, published abroad the news, told to others whatthey had seen and heard. Some wondered with a holy marveling and astonishment. One, at least, according to the third verse,pondered, meditated, thought upon these things. And others, in the fourth place, glorified God and gave Him praise. I knownot which of these four did God thebest service, but I think if we could combine all these mental emotions and outward exercises we should be sure to praiseGod after a most godly and acceptable fashion.
I. To begin then, in the first place, we find that some celebrated the Savior's birth by PUBLISHING ABROAD what they had heardand seen. And truly we may say of them that they had something to rehearse in men's ears well worth the telling! That forwhich Prophets and kings had waited long had atlast arrived and arrived to them! They had found out the answer to the perpetual riddle. They might have run through thestreets with the ancient philosopher, crying, "Eureka! Eureka!" for their discovery was far superior to his.
They had found out no solution to a mechanical problem or metaphysical dilemma. Their discovery was second to none ever madeby men in real value, since it has been like the leaves of the Tree of Life to heal the nations and a river of Water of Lifeto make glad the city of God! They had seenangels! They had heard them sing a song all strange and new. They had seen more than angels-they had beheld the angel'sKing, the Angel of the Covenant whom we delight in! They had heard the music of Heaven, and when near that manger, the earof their faith had heard the musicof earth's hope, a mystic harmony which should ring all down the ages-the sweet melody of hearts attuned to praise the Lordand the glorious swell of the holy joy of God and man rejoicing in glad accord.
They had seen God Incarnate-such a sight that he who gazes on it must feel his tongue unloosed-unless, indeed, an unspeakableastonishment should make him dumb! Be silent when their eyes had seen such a vision? Impossible! To the first person theymet outside that lowly stable door theybegan to tell their matchless tale and they wearied not till nightfall, crying, "Come and worship! Come and worship Christ,the new-born King!" As for us, Beloved, have we also not something to relate which demands utterance? If we talk of Jesus,who can blame us? This, indeed,might make the tongue of him that sleeps to move-the mystery of God Incarnate, for our sake bleeding and dying-that we mightneither bleed nor die! God Incarnate descending that we might ascend! Wrapped in swaddling cloths that we might be unwrappedof the grave clothesof corruption!
Here is such a story, so profitable to all hearers that he who repeats it the most often does best, and he who speaks theleast has most reason to accuse himself for sinful silence. They had something to tell and that something had in it the inimitableblending which is the secret sign and royalmarch of Divine authorship-a peerless marrying of sublimity and simplicity! Angels singing-singing to shepherds! Heavenbright with glory! Bright at midnight! God! A Babe!! The Infinite! An Infant of a span long!! The Ancient of Days! Born ofa woman!! What more simplethan the inn, the manger, a carpenter, a carpenter's wife, a child?
What more sublime than a "multitude of the heavenly host" waking the midnight with their joyous song and God Himself in humanflesh made manifest? A child is but an ordinary sight-but what a marvel to see that Word which was "in the beginning withGod, tabernacling among us that we mightbehold His Glory"-the Glory as of the only Begotten of the Father, full of Grace and Truth? Brethren, we have a tale totell, as simple as sublime. What simpler?- "Believe and live." What more sublime?-"Was in Christ reconciling the world untoHimself!" A system ofsalvation so wonderful that angelic minds cannot but adore as they meditate upon it. And yet so simple that the childrenin the temple may fitly hymn its virtues as they sing. "Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord."
What a splendid combining of the sublime and the simple have we in the great Atonement offered by the Incarnate Savior! Ohmake known to all men this saving Truth of God! The shepherds need no excuse for making everywhere the announcement of theSavior's birth, for what they told they firstreceived from Heaven! Their news was not muttered in their ears by Sybilline oracles, nor brought to light by philosophicresearch. It was not conceived in poetry nor found as treasure trove among the volumes of the ancient. It was revealed tothem by that notable Gospel preacherwho led the angelic host and testified, "Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ theLord."
When Heaven entrusts a man with a merciful Revelation, he is bound to deliver the good tidings to others. What? Keep thata secret whose utterance Eternal Mercy makes to charm the midnight air? To what purpose were angels sent if the message werenot to be spread abroad? According to the teachingof our own beloved Lord we must not be silent, for He bids us, "What you hear in secret, that reveal you in public. Andwhat I tell you in the ear in closets, that proclaim you upon the housetops." Beloved, you have heard a voice from Heaven-youtwice-born men, begotten againunto a lively hope-you have heard the Spirit of God bearing witness of God's Truth with you and teaching you of heavenlythings. You, then, must keep this Christmas by telling to your fellow men what God's own holy Spirit has seen fit to revealto you!
But though the shepherds told what they heard from Heaven, remember that they spoke of what they had seen below. They had,by observation, made those Truths of God most surely their own which had first been spoken to them by Revelation. No man canspeak of the things of God with any success untilthe doctrine which he finds in the Bible, he finds, also, in his heart. We must bring down the mystery and make it plainby knowing, and by the teaching of the Holy Spirit its practical power on the heart and conscience. My Brethren, the Gospelwhich we preach is most surelyrevealed to us by the Lord. But, moreover, our hearts have tried and proved, have grasped, have felt, have realized itstruth and power!
If we have not been able to understand its heights and depths, yet we have felt its mystic power upon our heart and spirit.It has revealed sin to us plainly. It has revealed to us our pardon. It has killed the reigning power of sin. It has givenus Christ to reign over us and the Holy Spirit todwell within our bodies as in a temple. Now we must speak! I do not urge any of you to speak of Jesus who merely know theWord as you find it in the Bible-your teaching can have but little power. But I do speak earnestly to you who know its mightyinfluence upon the heart, whohave not only heard of the Babe but have seen Him in the manger.
I speak to those who have taken Him up in your arms and received Him as being born to you, a Savior to you- Christ the Anointed-Jesus,the Savior from sin, for you. Beloved, can you do otherwise than speak of the things which you have seen and heard? God hasmade you to taste and tohandle of this good Word of Life and you must not, you dare not hold your peace! You must tell friends and neighbors whatyou have felt within.
These were shepherds, unlettered men. I will warrant you they could not read in a book. There is no probability that theyeven knew a single letter. They were shepherds, but they preached right well. And, my Brethren, whatever some may think, preachingis not to be confined to those learnedgentlemen who have taken their degrees at Oxford or at Cambridge, or at any college or university. It is true that learningneed not be an impediment to Grace and may be a fitting weapon in a gracious hand. But often the Grace of God has glorifieditself by the plain clear way inwhich unlettered men have understood the Gospel and have proclaimed it.
I would not mind asking the whole world to find a Master of Arts now living who has brought more souls to Christ Jesus thanRichard Weaver. If the whole bench of bishops have done a tenth as much in the way of soul-winning as that one man, it ismore than most of us give them credit for. Let usgive to our God all the Glory, but still let us not deny the fact that this sinner saved, with the brogue of the coal minerstill about him, fresh from the coal pit, tells the story of the Cross, by God's Grace, in such a way that Right ReverendFathers in God might humbly sit athis feet to learn the way to reach the heart and melt the stubborn soul!
It is true an uneducated Brother is not fitted for all work-he has his own sphere-but he is quite able to tell of what hehas seen and heard. And so it strikes me, is every man in a measure. If you have seen Jesus and heard His saving voice. Ifyou have received Truth as from the Lord.If you have felt its tremendous power as coming from God to you, and if you have experienced its might upon your own spirit-whyyou can surely tell out what God has written within! If you cannot get beyond that into the deeper mysteries, into the moreknotty points, well,well, there are some who can, and so you need not be uneasy. But you can at least reveal the first and foundational Truthsand they are by far the most important!
If you cannot speak in the pulpit. If as yet your cheek would mantle with a blush and your tongue would refuse to do her officein the presence of many, there are your children! You are not ashamed to speak before them! There is the little cluster roundthe hearth on Christmas night. There is thelittle congregation in the workshop. There is a little audience somewhere to whom you might tell out of Jesus' love to lostones. Do not get beyond what you know. Do not plunge into what you have not experienced-for if you do, you will be out ofyour depth-and then verysoon you will be floundering and making confusion worse confounded. Go as far as you know. And since you know yourself tobe a sinner-and Jesus a Savior, and a great one, too-talk about those two matters and good will come of it! Beloved, eachone, in his own position,tell what you have heard and seen! Publish that abroad among the sons of men.
But were the shepherds authorized? It is a great thing to be authorized! Unauthorized ministers are most shameful intruders!Unordained men who are not in the Apostolic succession entering the pulpit-very horrible-very horrible indeed! The Puseyitemind utterly fails to fathom the depthof horror which is contained in the idea of an unauthorized man preaching and a man out of the Apostolic succession daringto teach the way of salvation! To me this horror seems very much like a schoolboy's fright at a hobgoblin which his fearshad conjured up. I think if I saw aman slip through the ice into a cold grave and I could rescue him from drowning it would not be so very horrible to me tobe the means of saving him, though I may not be employed by the Royal Humane Society.
I imagine if I saw a fire and heard a poor woman scream at an upper window and likely to be burned alive, if I should wheelthe fire escape up to the window and preserve her life, it would not be so very dreadful a matter though I might not belongto the regular Fire Brigade. If a company of bravevolunteers should chase an enemy out of their own county, I do not know that it would be anything so shocking although awhole army of mercenaries might be neglecting their work in obedience to some venerable military rubric which rendered themincapable of effective service. Butmark you, the shepherds and others like them are in the Apostolic succession and they are authorized by Divine ordinance-forevery man who hears the Gospel is authorized to tell it to others.
Do you want authority? Here it is in strong confirmation from Holy Writ-"Let him that hears say, Come"-that is, let everyman who truly hears the Gospel bid others come to drink of the Water of Life. This is all the warrant you require for preachingthe Gospel according to your ability.It is not every man who has ability to preach the Word. And it is not every man that we should like to hear preach it inthe great congregation, for if all were mouth, what a great vacuum the Church would be! Yet every Christian in some methodshould deliver the glad tidings. Ourwise God takes care that liberty of prophesying shall not run to riot, for He does not give efficient pastoral and ministerialgifts to every many. Yet every man, according to his gifts, let him minister! Every one of you, though not in the pulpit,yet in the pew, in theworkshop-somewhere, anywhere, everywhere-make known the savor of the Lord Jesus. And let this be your authority-"Let himthat hears, say, Come."
I never thought of asking any authority for crying, "Fire!" When I saw a house burning, I never dreamed of seeking any authorityfor doing my best to rescue a poor perishing fellow man. Nor do I mean to seek it now! All the authority you want, any ofyou, is not the authority which can stream fromprelates decorated with long sleeves-but the authority which comes directly from the great Head of the Church who givesauthority to every one of those who hear the Gospel to teach every man, his fellow, saying, "Know the Lord." Here, dear Brethren,is one way for you to keepa right holy, and in some sense, a right merry Christmas!
Imitate these humble men, of whom it is said, "When they had seen it they made known abroad the saying which was told themconcerning this Child."
II. We set before you, now, another mode of keeping Christmas by HOLY WONDER, ADMIRATION, AND ADORATION. "And all they thatheard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds." We shall have little to say of those persons whomerely wondered and did nothing more. Many are set awondering by the Gospel. They are content to hear it, pleased to hear it-though not, to them, in itself something new-yetthere are new ways of putting it and they are glad to be refreshed with the variety. The preacher's voice is to them as thesound of one that gives agoodly tune upon an instrument. They are glad to listen.
They are not skeptics. They do not cavil. They raise no difficulties. They just say to themselves, "It is an excellent Gospel.It is a wonderful plan of salvation. Here is most astonishing love, most extraordinary condescension." Sometimes they marvelthat these things should be told them byshepherds. They can hardly understand how unlearned and ignorant men should speak of these things! And they marvel how suchthings should ever get into these shepherds' heads-where they learned them, how it is that they seem so earnest about them-whatkind of operationthey must have passed through to be able to speak as they do!
But after holding up their hands and opening their mouths for about nine days, the wonder subsides and they go their way andthink no more about it. There are many of you who are set to wondering whenever you see a work of God in your district. Youhear of somebody converted who was a veryextraordinary sinner and you say, "It is very wonderful!" There is a revival. You happen to be present at one of the meetingswhen the Spirit of God is working gloriously-you say, "Well, this is a singular thing! Very astonishing!" Even the newspaperscan afford a corner, attimes, for very great and extraordinary works of God the Holy Spirit! But then all emotion ends-it is all wondering andnothing more.
Now, I trust it will not be so with any of us-that we shall not think of the Savior and of the doctrines of the Gospel whichHe came to preach simply with amazement and astonishment-for this will work us but little good. On the other hand, there isanother mode of wondering which isakin to adoration, if it is not adoration, itself. I think it would be very difficult to draw a line between holy wonderand real worship. When the soul is overwhelmed with the majesty of God's Glory, though it may not express itself in song,or even utter its voice with bowed headin humble prayer, yet it silently adores.
I am inclined to think that the astonishment which sometimes seizes upon the human intellect at the remembrance of God's greatnessand goodness is, perhaps, the purest form of adoration which ever rises from mortal men to the Throne of the Most High. Thiskind of wonder I recommend to those of youwho, from the quietness and solitariness of your lives, are scarcely able to imitate the shepherds in telling out the taleto others-you can at least fill up the circle of the worshippers before the Throne by wondering at what God has done! Letme suggest to you that holywonder at what God has done should be very natural to you. That God should consider His fallen creature, man-and insteadof sweeping him away with the besom of destruction-should devise a wonderful scheme for his redemption and that He should,Himself, undertake to beman's Redeemer and to pay his ransom price, is, indeed, marvelous!
Probably it is most marvelous to you in its relation to yourself, that you should be redeemed by blood! That God should forsakethe thrones and royalties above to suffer ignominiously below for you! If you know yourself you can never see any adequatemotive or reason in your own flesh for such adeed as this. "Why such love to me?" you will say. What should you and I say, if David, sitting in his house, could onlysay, "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that You have brought me up to now?"
Had we been the most meritorious of individuals and had unceasingly kept the Lord's commands we could not have deserved sucha priceless gift as Incarnation! But, Sinners, offenders who revolted and went from God further and further, what shall wesay of this Incarnate God dying for us? "Herein islove, not that we loved God but that God loved us." Let your soul lose itself in wonder, for wonder, dear Friends, is inthis way a very practical emotion! Holy wonder will lead you to grateful worship! Being astonished at what God has done, youwill pour out your soul withastonishment at the foot of the golden Throne with the song, "Blessing and honor and glory and majesty and power and dominionand might be unto Him who sits on the Throne and does these great things for me."
Filled with this wonder it will cause you a godly watchfulness. You will be afraid to sin against such love as this! Feelingthe Presence of the mighty God in the gift of His dear Son, you will take off your shoes because the place where you standis holy ground. You will be moved at the same timeto a glorious hope! If Jesus has given Himself to you. If He has done this marvelous thing on your behalf, you will feelthat Heaven itself is not too great for your expectation and that the rivers of pleasure at God's right hand are not too sweetor too deep for you to drink! Whocan be astonished at anything when he has once been astonished at the Manger and the Cross?
What is there wonderful left after one has seen the Savior? The nine wonders of the world? Why, you may put them all intoa nutcracker and a child's art can excel them all! This one wonder is not the wonder of earth only, but of Heaven and earthand even Hell itself! It is not the wonder of theolden time, but the wonder of ALL time and the wonder of eternity. They who see human wonders a few times finally ceaseto be astonished. The noblest pile that architect ever raised finally fails to impress the onlooker-but not so this marveloustemple of Incarnate Deity! Themore we look the more we are astonished! The more we become accustomed to it, the more we have a sense of its surpassingsplendor of love and Grace!
There is more of God, let us say, to be seen in the Manger and the Cross, than in the sparkling stars above, the rolling deepbelow, the towering mountain, the teeming valleys, the abodes of life, or the abyss of death! Let us, then, spend some choicehours of this festive season in holywonder-such as will produce gratitude, worship, love and confidence.
III. A third manner of holy work, namely, HER HEART PONDERING AND PRESERVING, you will find in the next verse. One at leastand let us hope there were others, or at any rate let us ourselves be the others-one kept all these things and pondered themin her heart. She wondered-she didmore-she pondered. You will observe there was an exercise on the part of this blessed woman of the three great parts ofher being-her memory-she kept all these things. Her affections-she kept them in her heart. Her intellect-she pondered them,considered them, weighed them, turned them over-so that memory, affection and understanding were all exercised about thesethings.
We delight to see this in Mary, but we are not at all surprised when we recollect that she was, in some sense, the most concernedof all on earth-for it was of her that Jesus Christ had been born. Those who come nearest to Jesus and enter the most closelyinto fellowship with Him will be sureto be the most engrossed with Him. Certain persons are best esteemed at a distance, but not the Savior! When you shall haveknown Him to the very fullest, then shall you love Him with the love which passes knowledge. You shall comprehend the heightsand depths and lengths andbreadths of His love. And when you shall do so, then your own love shall swell beyond all length and breadth, all heightand depth.
The birth most concerned Mary and therefore she was the most impressed with it. Note the way in which her concern was shown-shewas a woman and the Divine Grace which shines best in the female is not boldness-that belongs to the masculine mind. Affectionatemodesty is a feminine beauty,and from now we do not read so much of her telling abroad as pondering within. No doubt she had her circle and her wordto speak in it, but for the most part she, like another Mary, sat still in the house. She worked, but her work was most directlyfor Him, her heart's joy anddelight.
Like other children, the holy Child needed care, which only a mother's hand and heart could exercise. She was, therefore,engrossed with Him. O blessed engrossment! Sweet engagement! Count not that to be unacceptable service which occupies itselfrather with Jesus than with His disciples or Hiswandering sheep. That woman who broke the alabaster box and poured the ointment upon our Jesus Himself was faulted by Judas.And even the rest of the disciples thought that the poor had lost a benefit, but "she has worked a good work on Me" was theSavior's answer. I desire to bringyou to this thought-if during this season you retiring, quiet ones, cannot speak to others, or have no desirable opportunityor suitable gift for that work-you may sit still with Jesus and honor Him in peace.
Mary took the Lord in her arms. Oh that you may bear Him in yours! She executed works directly for His Person- imitate her!You can love Him, bless Him, praise Him, study Him, ponder Him, comprehend His Character, study the types that set Him forthand imitate His life! And in this way,though your worship will not blaze forth among the sons of men and scarcely benefit them as some other forms of work, yetit will both benefit you and be acceptable to your Lord. Beloved, remember what you have heard of Christ and what He has donefor you! Make your heart the goldencup to hold the rich remembrances of His past loving-kindness! Make it a pot of manna to preserve the heavenly bread onwhich saints have fed in days gone by!
Let your memory treasure up everything about Christ which you have either heard, or felt, or known! And then let your fondaffections hold Him fast forevermore. Love Him! Pour out that alabaster box of your heart, and let all the precious ointmentof your affections come streaming on His feet. Ifyou cannot do it with joy, do it sorrowfully! Wash His feet with tears, wipe them with the hairs of your head-but do loveHim-love the blessed Son of God, your ever tender Friend. Let your intellect be exercised concerning the Lord Jesus. Turnover and over by meditationwhat you read. Do not be loiter men-do not stop at the surface-dive into the depths!
Be not as the swallow which touches the brook with her wing, but as the fish which penetrates the lowest wave. Drink deepdraughts of love! Do not sip and away-but dwell at the well as Isaac did at the well Lahai-roi. Abide with your Lord-let Himnot be to you as a wayfaring man thattarries for a night, but constrain Him, saying, "Abide with us, for the day is far spent." Hold Him and do not let Him go!The word "ponder," as you know, means to weigh. Make ready the scales of judgment. Oh, but where are the scales that can weighthe Lord Christ? "He takes up theisles as a very little thing"-who shall take Him up? "He weighs the mountains in scales." In what scales shall we weighHim?
Be it so, if your understanding cannot comprehend, let your affections apprehend. And if your spirit cannot compass the LordJesus in the arms of its understanding, let it embrace Him in the arms of your affection. Oh, Beloved, here is blessed Christmaswork for you, if, like Mary, you lay up allthese things in your heart and ponder upon them!
IV. The last piece of holy Christmas work is to come. "The shepherds returned," we read in the twentieth verse,
"GLORIFYING AND PRAISING GOD for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them."
Returned to what? Returned to business to look after the lambs and sheep again! Then if we desire to glorify God we need notgive up our business. Some people get the notion into their heads that the only way in which they can live for God is by becomingministers, missionaries, or Bible women.
Alas, how many of us would be shut out from any opportunity of magnifying the Most High if this were the case? The shepherdswent back to the sheep pens glorifying and praising God! Beloved, it is not office, it is earnestness! It is not position,it is Divine Grace which will enable us to glorifyGod! God is most surely glorified in that cobbler's stall where the godly worker, as he plies the awl, sings of the Savior'slovel Yes, glorified far more than in many a cathedral where official religiousness performs its scanty duties.
The name of Jesus is glorified by yonder carter as he drives his horse and blesses his God, or speaks to his fellow laborerby the roadside as much as by yonder Divine who, throughout the country like Boanerges, is thundering out the Gospel! Godis glorified by our abiding in our vocation. Takecare you do not fall out of the path of duty by leaving your calling, and take care you do not dishonor your professionwhile in it! Think not much of yourselves, but do not think too little of your callings. There is no trade which is not sanctifiedby the Gospel. If you turn tothe Bible, you will find the most menial forms of labor have been in some way or other connected either with the most daringdeeds of faith, or else with persons whose lives have been otherwise illustrious.
Keep to your calling, Brother, keep to your calling! Whatever God has made you, when He calls you, abide in that, unless youare quite sure-mind that-unless you are quite sure that He calls you to something else. The shepherds glorified God thoughthey went to their trade. Theyglorified God though they were shepherds. As we remarked, they were not men of learning. So far from having an extensivelibrary full of books, it is probable they could not read a word. Yet they glorified God. This takes away all excuse for yougood people who say, "I am noscholar. I never had any education. I never went even to a Sunday school." Ah, but if your heart is right, you can glorifyGod!
Never mind, Sarah. Do not be cast down because you know so little. Learn more if you can, but make good use of what you doknow. Never mind, John! It is, indeed, a pity that you should have had to toil so early, as not to have acquired even therudiments of knowledge-but do not think that youcannot glorify God! If you would praise God, live a holy life! You can do that by His Grace, at any rate, without scholarship.If you would do good to others, be good yourself. And that is a way which is as open to the most illiterate as it is to thebest taught! Be of good courage!Shepherds glorified God and so may you!
Remember there is one thing in which they had a preference over the wise men. The wise men wanted a star to lead them. Theshepherds did not. The wise men went wrong even with a star-they stumbled into Jerusalem. The shepherds went straight awayto Bethlehem. Simple minds sometimes find aglorified Christ where learned heads, much puzzled with their lore, miss Him. A good doctor used to say, "Lo, these simpletonshave entered into the kingdom, while we learned men have been fumbling for the latch." It is often so. And so, you simpleminds, be comforted and glad!
The way in which these shepherds honored God is worth noticing. They did it by praising Him. Let us think more of sacred songthan we sometimes do. When the song is bursting in full chorus from the thousands in this house, it is but a noise in theear of some men-but inasmuch as many truehearts, touched with the love of Jesus, are keeping pace with their tongues-it is not a mere noise in God's esteem! Thereis a sweet music in it that makes glad His ear. What is the great ultimatum of all Christian effort? When I stood here theother morning preaching theGospel, my mind was fully exercised with the winning of souls. But I seemed, while preaching, to get beyond that. I thought,Well, that is not the chief end after all-the chief end is to glorify God and even the saving of sinners is sought by theright-minded as the means tothat end!
Then it struck me all of a sudden, "If in Psalm singing and hymn singing we do really glorify God, we are doing more thanin the preaching because we are not then in the means-we are close upon the great end itself." If we praise God with heartand tongue we glorify Him in the surest possiblemanner-we are really glorifying Him then! "Whoever offers praise glorifies Me," says the Lord. Sing, then, my Brethren!Sing not only when you are together, but sing alone! Cheer your labor with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Make gladthe family with sacred music! Wesing too little, I am sure, yet the revival of religion has always been attended with the revival of Christian Psalmody.
Luther's translations of the Psalms were of as much service as Luther's discussions and controversies. And the hymns of CharlesWesley and Cennick and Toplady and Newton and Cowper aided as much in the quickening of spiritual life in England as the preachingof John Wesley and George Whitefield. Weneed more singing! Sing more and murmur less! Sing more and slander less! Sing more and cavil less! Sing more and mournless! God grant us today, as these shepherds did, to glorify God by praising Him.
I have not quite done with them. What was the subject of their praise? It appears that they praised God for what they hadheard. If we think of it, there is good reason for blessing God every time we hear a Gospel sermon. What would souls in Hellgive if they could hear the Gospel once more and beon terms in which salvation Grace might come to them? What would dying men give whose tune is all but over if they couldonce more come to the House of God and have another warning and another invitation? My Brethren, what would you give, sometimes,when you are shut up by sicknessand cannot meet with the great congregation-when your heart and your flesh cry out for the living God?
Well, praise God for what you have heard! You have heard the faults of the preacher-let him mourn them. You have heard hisMaster's message! Do you bless God for that? Scarcely will you ever hear a sermon which may not make you sing if you are ina right frame of mind. George Herbert says,"Praying is the end of preaching." So it is, but praising is its end, too. Praise God that you hear there is a Savior! PraiseGod that you hear that the plan of salvation is very simple! Praise God that you have a Savior for your own soul! Praise Godthat you are pardoned, that youare saved! Praise Him for what you have heard!
But observe, they also praised God for what they had seen. Look at the twentieth verse-"heard and seen." There is the sweetestmusic-what we have experienced, what we have felt within, what we have made our own-the things that we have made touchingthe King! Mere hearing may makesome music, but the soul of song must come from seeing with the eye of faith! And, dear Friends, you who have seen withthat God-given eyesight-I pray you, let not your tongues be steeped in sinful silence! Speak loudly to the praise of SovereignGrace!
One point for which they praised God was the agreement between what they had heard and what they had seen. Observe the lastsentence. "As it was told unto them." Have you not found the Gospel to be in yourselves just what the Bible said it wouldbe? Jesus said He would give you Grace-have younot had it? He promised you rest-have you not received it? He said that you should have joy and comfort and life throughbelieving in Him-have you not had all these? Are not His ways ways of pleasantness and His paths, paths of peace? Surely youcan say with the queen ofSheba, "The half has not been told me."
I have found Christ more sweet than His servants could set Him forth as being. I looked upon the likeness as they paintedit, but it was a mere daub as compared with Himself-the King in His beauty! I have heard of the goodly land, but oh, it flowswith milk and honey more richly and sweetlythan men were ever able to tell me in their best trim for speech. Surely what we have seen keeps pace with what we haveheard! Let us, then, glorify and praise God for what He has done.
This word to those who are not yet converted and I have done. I do not think you can begin at the seventeenth verse, but Iwish you would begin at the eighteenth. You cannot begin at the seventeenth-you cannot tell to others what you have not felt.Do not try it. Neither teach in the Sundayschool, nor attempt to preach if you are not converted. Unto the wicked, God says, "What have you to do to declare My statutes?"But I would to God you would begin with the eighteenth verse-wondering! Wondering that you are spared-wondering that you areout ofHell-wondering that still does His good Spirit strive with the chief of sinners! Wonder that this morning the Gospel shouldhave a word for you after all your rejections of it and sins against God!
I should like you to begin there because then I should have good hope that you would go on to the next verse and change thefirst letter and so go from wondering to pondering. Oh Sinner, I wish you would ponder the doctrines of the Cross. Think ofyour sin, God's wrath, judgment, Hell, yourSavior's blood, God's love, forgiveness, acceptance, Heaven-think on these things! Go from wondering to pondering!
And then I would to God you could go on to the next verse, from pondering to glorifying. Take Christ! Look to Him! Trust Him!Then sing, "I am forgiven," and go your way a believing sinner and therefore a saved sinner, washed in the blood, and clean!Then go back, after that, to the seventeenthverse and begin to tell others.
But as for you Christians who are saved, I want you to begin this very afternoon at the seventeenth-
"Then will I tell to sinners round What a dear Savior I have found! I'll point to Your redeeming blood, And say-'Behold, theway to God!'" Then when the day is over, get up to your chambers and wonder, admire and adore! Spend half an hour also likeMary in pondering and treasuring up theday's work and the day's hearing in your hearts and then close all with that which never must close-go on tonight, tomorrowand all the days of your life, glorifying and praising God for all the things that you have seen and heard!
May the Master bless you for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Luke 2:1-20.