Luke 2:14
The strange and elevating experience through which the shepherds of Bethlehem were passing prepared them for a scene which was fitted to awaken still greater surprise and spiritual excitement. For suddenly, all of them appearing together, a multitude of the heavenly host began to make angelic music; strains of sweetest song filled the air, and the words of that celestial chant, so exquisitely sweet, so full of comfort and of hope to our human race, were fixed in the shepherds' mind; they found a place in the sacred record; they make melody in our ear today. The scene and the song suggest to us -

I. THE INTEREST WHICH THE ANGELIC TAKES IN THE HUMAN WORLD. It is a striking and significant fact that the advent of Jesus Christ to our world should be preluded and accompanied by the ministry of angels (Luke 1:11, 26; Luke 2:9). It confirms the truth elsewhere indicated that the history of mankind is the subject of deep interest to the holy intelligences of heaven. They inquire with a pure and heavenly curiosity into the relations of God with man (1 Peter 1:12). They reverently admire the wisdom of God in his dealings with his human children (Ephesians 3:10). They rejoice over the smallest accession to the kingdom of God (Luke 15:10). They expend their powers in the accomplishment of God's will concerning us (text, and Hebrews 1:14). Our Savior is One in whom they also have profound interest, though they need not his redemption, and their worship of him is a large clement in their celestial joy (Ephesians 1:10; Revelation 5:11-13).

II. THE ADVENT OF CHRIST AN EPOCH IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Well might a multitude of the heavenly host chant those words of the text, "Glory to God in the highest;" well might they join in the high praises of the King of heaven. For when Jesus Christ came as he thus came, in lowliness of perfect humiliation (ver. 7), that the world into which he thus entered as a helpless babe might be redeemed and restored (vet. 10), two things were done.

1. The exceeding greatness of the Divine grace received its most wonderful illustration. Possibly - may we not say probably?-even the records of the kingdom of God contained no event illustrative of a more magnanimous pity and a more sacrificial love than this expression of "good will to men."

2. The foundation was ]aid on which a Divine kingdom of truth and righteousness should be reared. On the rock of the Divine incarnation rests the whole grand edifice of the restoration of the human race to the love and the likeness of God. Then indeed, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the glory of God was most fittingly celebrated; for then was the glory of his grace manifested, and then was the glory that should be rendered him by our humanity assured.

III. THE COMING OF CHRIST TO OUR WORLD THE INCOMING OF ITS PEACE. "Peace on earth." It has taken long for the work of Jesus Christ to bring about this result, even as things are today. And how much remains to be done! To some eyes it may seem as if only the elementary lesson had been learned. But if we look long enough and deep enough we shall see:

1. That the gospel of Jesus Christ has been, and is, offering to every burdened human heart a peace which is immeasurably profound and inestimably precious.

2. That the teaching and the Spirit of Jesus Christ are perfectly fitted to inculcate and to inspire peace, and even love, between man and man.

3. That under his benign government, and just so far as his will is consulted, man is leaving strife and discord below and behind him, and is moving on an upward path toward the sphere where peace and purity dwell together. - C.







Glory to God in the highest.
First heard above the plains of Bethlehem it is one day to be heard over all the world. Its sweet melody is to be woven into every language which men have learnt to speak. The angels are to hear it in all dialects and tongues. It is to be the choral response of a gladdened world to the birthday joy which was once poured forth upon the shepherd hearts at Bethlehem.

I. WE OWE CHRISTMAS-TIDE TO CHRISTIANITY.

II. LET US REMEMBER THE ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTMAS-TIDE WITH "PEACE ON EARTH AND GOOD-WILL TO MEN."

III. THERE IS JOY IN THINKING OF THE PARTIAL PREVALENCE OF THIS DIVINE INFLUENCE AMONGST THE FAMILY OF MAN.

IV. HOW MAY THE ADVENT OF CHRIST BE MADE TO REPEAT ITSELF THIS CHRISTMAS-TIDE? Whenever peace and goodwill mightily prevail amongst men, that is a time when Christ has a fresh hold upon human hearts.

V. We may not forget that THERE ARE HOMES WHICH WILL DEPEND FOR CHRISTMAS JOY UPON THE CAREFUL THOUGHT AND KINDLINESS OF OTHERS.

VI. THERE ARE SOME WHOSE HEARTS WILL RE TROUBLED WITH MEMORIES WHICH WILL CROWD AROUND THIS OTHERWISE HAPPY PERIOD.

(W. Dorling.)

I. How DID THE APPEARING OF CHRIST BRING GLORY TO GOD?

1. In the fulfilment of prophecy.

2. In the salvation of man.

3. In exhibiting God's love without detracting from any other attribute.

II. How PEACE ON EARTH?

1. It was not peace at first certainly. Describe the state of the world, especially Palestine, when Christ came, and during succeeding years.

2. But in proportion as Christ is known and felt, there will surely be peace on earth.

3. Peace in the city, town, or village in which Christians dwell.

4. Peace in the family.

5. Peace in the heart.

6. And all this will result from the practice of the principles of that religion whose Founder was cradled in Bethlehem's manger, for that religion

(1)Subdues the passions;

(2)Regulates the life;

(3)Elevates the soul.

III. How GOOD-WILL TOWARD MEN?

1. When one makes a present to another we look upon it as an expression of good-will. The value of the present is often indicative of the measure of esteem or good-will. God has given us His greatest, choicest gift, for He bestowed His only Son.

2. God's good-will becomes even more apparent when we contemplate our own guilt.

3. What have you to say in answer to all this? All God requires from us in recognition of His love is our heart. And if we give Him our heart, we shall surely give our service. Have you given yours to Him?

(A. F. Barfield.)

This is the key-note, not only of the Christian message, but of Divine religion from the beginning. It is ours to follow, not to precede; to ask what has been the Divine method, not to ask what it should have been; and when once we begin to have some light on that view, then it will be ours to ask what are the signs of accomplishment.

I. WHAT HAS BEEN THE DIVINE METHOD?

1. We learn that there is a Divinity in this world which secures the direction of growth, but leaves the operative influences that produce it, and the working out of results to great natural laws.

2. We learn that the Divine method implies great length of time.

3. We learn that one universal and insuperable difficulty has been in teaching men how to live together peaceably.

II. WHAT, NOW, IS THE CONDITION AND THE PROSPECT, THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE WORLD, OF GOOD-WILL AND PEACE, OR THE ART OF LIVING TOGETHER?

1. The possibility of happiness among the poor, who constitute by far the largest part of the human race, has been so immensely increased as to form a broad platform on which to put our feet and form an estimate of the gains that have been made.

2. In the mind of the very labourers themselves there is springing up a spirit of organization and thrift,

3. There is coming, gradually, the admission of the great under-class of the human family to a participation in government.

4. The influence of nation upon nation must also be taken into consideration in estimating the advance of the latter-day glory. The globe has become but a single neighbourhood.

5. Look at how God has been raising up four great languages on the globe which ultimately, I think, will result in one. Look at what treasure is stored up in the French, in the German, in the English, and in the Latin. Shall I add the Greek — the language of science? The language of men, the language that contains the doctrines of independence, of liberty, of, I trust, man in man, is the English tongue. It is spoken more widely over the globe than any other. I rejoice with exceeding great joy that the English tongue is a charter of liberty to the human race.

III. IF YOU ACCEPT THE PROPHECIES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, INTERPRETING THEM along the lines of experience, showing what is the Divine method of working upon the human race, the angels that sang peace and good-will at the Advent will not be long delayed before they will sing again. I shall hear that song, not here but yonder. And perhaps joined with it will be the outcry of this glorious achievement which seems to us to have lingered, but that has not lingered, according to the thought of God, who hath done and is doing all things well, and who is the Conqueror of conquerors, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, my Saviour and my God, your Saviour and your God. Trust Him; rejoice in Him; love Him; and reign.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Such was the text of the angels on the night of our Saviour's birth; and to that text our Saviour's life furnished the sermon.

I. The first words of it are, "GLORY TO GOD!" and a most weighty lesson may we draw for ourselves from finding the angels put that first. A world is redeemed. Millions on millions of human beings are rescued from everlasting death. Is not this the thing uppermost in the angels' thoughts? No, it is only the second thing. The first is, Glory to God! Why so? Because God is the giver of this salvation; nay, is Himself the Saviour, in the person of the only-begotten Son. Moreover, because in heavenly minds God always holds the first place, and they look at everything with a view to Him. Now, I would have you look to God in exactly the same manner. Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, you should do all to God's glory. Then will you be like the angels who began their text with, Glory to God!

II. The next branch of the text is "PEACE ON EARTH." Our Saviour Himself is the Prince of Peace —

1. Because His great purposes were to bring down peace to man.

2. Because He made it one of His prime objects to plant and foster peace within man. Peace was His legacy to His apostles.

3. But what kind of peace? Truly every kind which man can enjoy.

(1)Peace of conscience;

(2)peace of heart;

(3)peace of a mind at ease about worldly matters;

(4)peace and union between brethren, that we may all make up one body under Jesus Christ our Head.Now, let each of us ask himself with all seriousness, Do I feel anything of this godly peace?

III. There is a third part of the angels' text, namely, "GOOD-WILL TO MEN:" and a very important part it is. For it sets forth the ground of our salvation. It was no excellency or merit of ours that drew our Saviour down from heaven. It was the wretchedness of our fallen state. Herein, as St. Paul tells us, "God commendeth His love toward us," &c. (Romans 5:8). But though this love of God for His sinful creatures is worthy of all gratitude and praise, the good-will declared in the angels' text means something more than mere love. The word which we translate "Good-will," is a word very full of meaning, and signifies that mixture of goodness, and kindness, and wisdom, which tends to good and wise plans. The good-will then in the angels' text is no other than the great and merciful purpose of our redemption. Have we any proper sense and feeling of this good-will? I have spoken to you on the angels' text, and in so doing have spoken of man's salvation. The end of the whole is God's glory; the means is peace on earth; the sole motive is goodness and loving-kindness to us miserable sinners.

IV. There are still three words in this text which I have not noticed. The angels did not simply say, "Glory to God;" but, "GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST," that is, in heaven. Here is a wonderful, a glorious, a soul-sustaining scene opened to us. The angels in the very presence of God are moved by our sufferings and our redemption. Shall they glorify God for His goodness to us, and shall we forget to glorify Him for His goodness to ourselves?

(A. W. Hare.)

There is considerable difference of opinion as to what is the best reading and the best rendering of this passage. According to Dean Alford and the Revised Version, we should understand it to mean, "Peace among men towards whom God has a good-will" — that is, in whom He is well pleased. According to the Vulgate the meaning should be, peace to men who exhibit a good-will. This is the sense adopted by Keble in his Christmas hymn. The reading of the Authorised Version is not, perhaps, the best; but, as being more familiar, and at the same time so thoroughly in harmony with the spirit of the day, I will venture to take it as a motto.

1. It must be confessed that the conduct of professing Christians has often been such as to make the angels' song sound like an ironical sarcasm, rather than an eulogy. Church history, for example, to a passionate lover of peace and good-will, must be very melancholy reading.

2. But I hear some one say," things are improved now-a-days." Well, yes, I suppose they are a little. Still many of those who call themselves Christians seem to be characterized by the very opposites of peace and good-will. I remember that in the preface to the second edition of his Belfast Address, Professor Tyndall said he was not surprised at the bitter things which had been uttered against him by Christians, when he remembered how bitterly they were in the habit of recriminating one another. "'Tis true, 'tis pity; pity 'tis, 'tis true." Peace and good-will — peace, or the absence of quarrelsomeness; good-will, or the actual performance of deeds of kindness, are essential characteristics of genuine discipleship.

3. Let us, today, apply this test of discipleship to ourselves. Of all the provisions made for our spiritual welfare, nothing, perhaps, more helpful than the periodical recurrence of days like the present.

4. But it was Christ's aim that every day should be in this respect a Christmas Day. Is that the case with us? There was a curious institution in the Middle Ages called the ecclesiastical truce or peace of God. Feuds legally stopped for four days a week. The bell tolled on a Wednesday. All hostilities were to cease till the following Monday. And until the Monday they were suspended; but then they were always faithfully resumed. Shall it be so with us? After mani-resting peace and good-will on the 25th of December, must we relapse again into practical paganism on the 26th? We cannot be always making presents, but we may be always doing good.

5. When peace and good-will are universal, human society will be, as Christ wished to make it, a heaven upon earth.

For lo! the days are hastening on

By prophet-bands foretold,

When with the ever-circling years

Comes back the age of gold —

When peace shall over all the earth

Its blessed banner fling,

And the whole world send back the song

Which now the angels sing.

(Professor A. W. Momerie.)

The song consists of three propositions, of which two are parallel, and the third forms a link between the other two. In the first, "Glory to God in the highest places," the angels demand that, from the lower regions to which they have just come down, from the bosom of humanity, praise shall arise, which, ascending from heavens to heavens, shall reach at last the supreme sanctuary, the highest places, and there glorify the Divine perfections that shine forth in this birth. The second, "Peace on earth," is the counterpart of the first. While inciting men to praise, the angels invoke on them peace from God. This peace is such as results from the reconciliation of man with God; it contains the cause of the cessation of all war here below. These two propositions are of the nature of a desire or prayer. The verb understood is ἔστω, let it be. The third, which is not connected with the preceding by any particle, proclaims the fact which is the ground of this twofold prayer. If the logical connection were expressed, it would be by the word for. This fact is the extraordinary favour shown to men by God, and which is displayed in the gift He is bestowing upon them at this very time. The sense is: "for God takes pleasure in men." In speaking thus, the angels seem to mean, "God has not be stowed as much on us (Hebrews 16)" The idea of "good-will" recalls the first proposition, "Glory to God!" while the expression, towards men," reminds us of the second, "peace on earth!"

(F. Godet, D. D.)

In the account of this eventful night, the words heard are alone mentioned; one might be pardoned for wishing we had also the score! We all know how an interesting strain of melody will fix itself in our memories; sometimes we can hardly keep from humming it over, repeating snatches of it we have caught, and rehearsing to others the way it went, so as to give an idea, It may be that the shepherds remembered parts of this; but if so, we have no means of ascertaining it. Only the words reach us; but they are well worth the study of the world. The startling abruptness with which this seraphic anthem fell on the ears of the shepherds that first Christmas night, adds greatly to the dramatic effect of the scene. Hardly lingering for their leader to end his communication, that choir of singers "suddenly" burst forth with loud volume of exquisite harmony, celebrating the praises of Jehovah, whom they saw in a fresh field of splendid display. There were a vast number of singers — "a host," that is to say, an army; "an army celebrating a peace." Surely there was enough to inspire their music; and great armies of voices sing together quite often with immense power of rich and voluminous harmony. It was an exaggeration, no doubt, but ancient history gravely records that, when the invader of Macedon was finally expelled, the victorious Greeks, who heard the news and so learned that freedom had come, and fighting was over, and home was near, raised along the lines and throughout the camp such a shout of "Sorer! Soter!" — "a Saviour! A Saviour!" — that birds on the wing dropped down. It may have been so; but what was that little peninsula of Greece, as compared with this entire race redeemed from Satan unto God? What were the actual words of this angels' song? It is well that we all recollect them — "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men!" Three stanzas in one hymn.

1. The first of them, and the foremost in thought, is "Glory to God in the highest." This is not a prayer at all, but an ascription. It was no time to be asking that God be glorified, when the whole universe was quivering with new disclosure of a "Gloria in Excelsis," such as blind men could see and deaf men could hear. Those angels did not pray — Glory be to God — but they exclaimed — Glory is to God in the highest! And then they rush rapidly into an enumeration of particulars. The connection of thought is close. Glory to God in the highest, because peace has come on the earth, and goodwill has already gone out toward men. These angels are making proclamation that the rebellious race is for evermore subdued. No longer was this planet to circle around among loyal worlds in space, flaunting the defiant flag of a belligerent in the kingdom of heaven. Men should be redeemed; sin should be positively checked; all the ills of a worn-out and wretched existence should be banished; poverty should be removed, sickness and death find a Master; Satan should be foiled by Immanuel in person. Hence this entire vision, which flashed on the awakened intelligence of the angels and inspired their song, was simply reversive and revolutionary. The whole earth seemed to rouse itself to a new being. Cursed for human sin, it saw its deliverance coming. The day had arrived when streams and lakes should gleam in the sunshine, when the valleys should smile and laugh and sing, when flowers should bloom and stars should flash — all to the glory of God!

2. Then "peace on earth"; God was at last in the world reconciling it unto Himself; the hearts of His creatures were coming back to Him; their allegiance was to be restored, their wills were to be subjugated, their minds were to be enlightened; thus peace over all the world would be established, God's wrath would be averted, and the long wrestle of man with Satan would reach its end. For when men are really at peace with God, they will come to peace with each other.

3. And so, at last, "goodwill toward men." That ends this song of the angel; that is what ought to be the beginning of each Christmas anthem and carol. God loves us; oh, how touchingly does the aged Paul in one place tell his young brother Titus about that "kindness and love of God our Saviour toward men! "God cherishes only goodwill toward any of us. Even the wicked; He takes no pleasure in their death. He would rather they would turn unto Him, and live. Oh, happy day is that in which He tells us all this unmistakably, with perfect plainness. Brethren, if God so loved us, then ought we also to love one another. "All ye are brethren." Away with all fancied superiorities and aristocracies on the common Christmas day — the gladsome birthday of Christi Herdsmen are on a visit to a carpenter at an inn; and they are told to go to the outhouse to find him! Beasts are standing by a manger in which lies the Child — King David the Second I But, for a]! this seems so democratic and small, please remember that a choir of angels have been singing outside. Who among us is too proud to listen?

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

In this Divine anthem we are taught that —

I. THE INCARNATION WAS A BRIGHT EXHIBITION OF THE GLORY OF GOD. Hitherto the holy angels had seen the glory of the Divine justice in the punishment of their sinning compeers; and something like mercy in the suspension of the sentence pronounced on man. But here they see justice and mercy blended in a wonderful manner; and they give vent to their ecstasy in shouts of praise.

II. THE INCARNATION WAS THE MEANS OF BRINGING PEACE UPON EARTH.

1. Sin had created war in every man's own bosom. Christ alone can put an end to that war, by procuring pardon of sin, peace for the conscience, tranquillity for the passions, subordination of the appetites — reconciling reason to conscience, and conscience to the law of God.

2. Sin had created a horrible war between man and man. Strife, envy, jealousy, oppression, ambition, prevailed; Christ came to preach and exemplify universal charity. Wherever the influence of His gospel is felt, peace follows between man and man; wherever His government is established, man embraces his brother.

3. Sin had caused war between man and his Maker. Terrible contest — the potsherd striving with Him who made it. Christ reconciles God and man. He is Himself both God and man; so He can both pardon sin and bestow needed grace.

III. THE INCARNATION WAS A MARVELLOUS DISPLAY OF THE GOODWILL OF GOD TO MAN.

1. Most astonishing condescension.

2. Unparalleled love.

3. Prodigious disinterestedness.

4. Universality. All are included in this goodwill.

IV. WHAT OUGHT TO BE OUR VIEWS, AND FEELINGS, AND CONDUCT.

1. They should be laudatory. We have far more occasion to praise God for the Incarnation, than the angels.

2. We should proclaim the Saviour to others. In trying to kindle a brother's faith and devotion, our own will burn brighter and clearer.

(John Stephens.)

I. The choir — singers from the new Jerusalem.

II. The theme — salvation.

III. The listeners — dwellers in heaven and earth.

(Van Doren.)

What does the angels' song announce to men?

1. Bethlehem's miracle.

2. Jesus' greatness.

3. The Father's honour.

4. The Christian's calling.

5. Heaven's likeness.

(J. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.)

"With malice toward none, with charity for all." This truly Christian motto of President Lincoln, sounds almost like an earthly echo of the heavenly anthem, and certainly proves its power and influence in the history of the world.

(P. Schaff, D. D.)

I. INSTRUCTIVE THOUGHTS. The angels sang something which men could understand — something which will make men much better if they will understand it. The angels were singing about Jesus who was born in the manger. We must look upon their song as being built upon this foundation. They sang of Christ, and of the salvation which He came into this world to work out.

1. They said that this salvation gave glory to God in the highest — that salvation is God's highest glory. God is glorified in every dewdrop that twinkles in the morning sun. He is magnified in every wood-flower that blossoms in the copse, although it lives to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness in the desert air. He is glorified in every bird that warbles on the spray; in every lamb that skips the mead. All created things extol Him. Is there aught beneath the sky, save man, that does not glorify God? Do not the stars exalt Him, when they write His name upon the azure of heaven in their golden letters? Do not the lightnings adore Him, when they flash His brightness in arrows of light piercing the midnight darkness? Do not thunders extol Him, when they roll like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not all things exalt Him, from the least even to the greatest? But though creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle — Incarnation! There is more in that than in creation, more melody in Jesus in the manger than there is in worlds on worlds rolling their grandeur round the throne of the Most High. See how every attribute is here magnified. Lo! what wisdom is here. God becomes man that God may be just, and the justifier of the ungodly. Lo! what power, for where is power so great as when it conceals power? Behold, what love is thus revealed to us when Jesus becomes a man! Behold what faithfulness! How many promises are this day kept; how many solemn obligations discharged?

2. When they had sung this, they sang what they had never sung before. "Glory to God in the highest," was an old, old song; they had sung that from before the foundations of the world. But now, they sang as it were a new song before the throne of God; for they added this stanza — "on earth, peace." They did not sing that in the Garden of Eden. There was peace there, but it seemed a thing of course, and scarce worth singing of. But now man had fallen, and since the day when cherubim with fiery swords drove out the man, there had been no peace on earth, save in the breast of some believers, who had obtained peace from the living fountain of this incarnation of Christ. Wars had raged from the ends of the world men had slaughtered one another, heaps on heaps. There had been wars within as well as wars without. Conscience had fought with man; Satan had tormented man with thoughts of sin. There had been no peace on earth since Adam fell. But now, when the newborn King appeared, the swaddling band with which He was wrapped up was the white flag of peace.

3. And, then, they wisely ended their song with a third note. They said, "Goodwill to man." Philosophers have said that God has a goodwill toward man; but I never knew any man who derived much comfort from their philosophical assertion. Wise men have thought from what we have seen in creation that God had much goodwill toward man, or else His works would never have been so constructed for their comfort; but I never heard of any man who could risk his soul's peace upon such a faint hope as that. But I have not only heard of thousands, but I know them, who are quite sure that God has a goodwill towards men; and if you ask their reason, they will give a full and perfect answer. They say, He has goodwill toward man, for He gave His Son. No greater proof of kindness between the Creator and His subjects can possibly be afforded than when the Creator gives His only begotten and well beloved Son to die. Though the first note is God-like, and though the second note is peaceful, this third note melts my heart the most.

II. EMOTIONAL THOUGHTS. Does not this song of angels stir your hearts with happiness? With confidence?

III. PROPHETIC UTTERANCES. The angels sang, "Glory to God," &e. But I look around, and what see I in the wide, wide world? I do not see God honoured. I see the heathen bowing down before their idols; I see tyranny lording it over the bodies and souls of men; I see God forgotten.

IV. Now, I have one more lesson for you, and I have done. That lesson is PRECEPTIVE. I wish everybody that keeps Christmas this year, would keep it as the angels kept it. Now, Mr. Tradesman, you have an opponent in trade, and you have said some very hard words about him lately. If you do not make the matter up to-day, or to-morrow, or as soon as you can, yet do it on that day. That is the way to keep Christmas, peace on earth and glory to God. And oh, if thou hast anything on thy conscience, anything that prevents thy having peace of mind, keep thy Christmas in thy chamber, praying to God to give thee peace; for it is peace on earth, mind, peace in thyself, peace with thyself, peace with thy fellow men, peace with thy God. And do not think thou hast well celebrated that day till thou canst say,

"O God,

'With the world, myself, and Thee

I ere I sleep at peace will be.'"

And when the Lord Jesus has become your peace, remember, there is another thing, goodwill towards men.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

At the close of the last war with Great Britain, I was in the city of New York. It happened that, on a Saturday afternoon in February, a ship was discovered in the offing, which was supposed to be a cartel, bringing home our commissioners at Ghent from their unsuccessful mission. The sun had set gloomily before any intelligence from the vessel has reached the city. Expectation became painfully intense as the hours of darkness drew on. At length a boat reached the wharf, announcing the fact that a treaty of peace had been signed, and waiting for nothing but the action of our government to become a law. The men on whose ears these words first fell rushed in breathless haste into the city to repeat them to their friends, shouting as they ran through the streets, "Peace, peace, peace!" Every one who heard the sound repeated it. From house to house, from street to street, the news spread with electric rapidity. The whole city was in commotion. Men bearing lighted torches were flying to and fro, shouting like madmen, "Peace, peace, peace!" When the rapture had partially subsided, one idea occupied every mind. But few men slept that night. In groups they were gathered in the streets and by the fireside, beguiling the hours of midnight by reminding each ether that the agony of war was over, and that a worn out and distracted country was about to enter again upon its wonted career of prosperity. Thus, every one becoming a herald, the news soon reached every man, woman, and child in the city; and in this sense the city was evangelized. All this, you see, was reasonable and proper, but when Jehovah has offered to our world a treaty of peace, when men doomed to hell may be raised to seats at the right hand of God, why is not a similar zeal displayed in proclaiming the good news? Why are men perishing all around us and no one has ever personally offered to them salvation through a crucified Redeemer?

(Dr. Wayland.)

Before the Incarnation God showed some, but not all, His perfections. He showed —

1. His goodness, in creating man after His own image.

2. His love, when He led Eve and the animals to Adam.

3. His pity, by clothing Adam and Eve with coats of skins.

4. His power, in creating the world out of nothing.

5. His justice, in expelling our first parents from Paradise, deluging the wicked world, wasting the cities of the plain.

6. His wisdom, confounding the tongues of the builders of Babel.

7. His providence, in saving Egypt by means of Joseph. In the Incarnation these perfections shone out with greater clearness. We note here —

I. THE GOODNESS OF GOD. He clothed Himself with our nature, that His virtues, grace, and glory, yea, and Himself, He might communicate to us.

1. Naturally, by preserving the order of nature.

2. By the supernatural order of grace.

3. By His particular personality.

II. THE LOVE OF GOD. Seen in the close union between God and man (Romans 8:32).

1. He became incarnate to suffer and die for man.

2. And that for man, His enemy.

III. THE PITY OF GOD. In person coming to relieve our miseries, making Himself capable of sorrow and suffering (Hebrews 4:15).

IV. THE POWER OF GOD. Uniting the highest nature with the lowly nature of man; the human and the Divine, without any confusion of substance, in unity of person.

V. THE JUSTICE OF GOD. Not rescuing man from sin and death by might or by power, but paying a full and sufficient satisfaction for all men's sins: making an infinite satisfaction for infinite sin.

VI. THE WISDOM OF GOD. In planning the redemption of man. Neither man nor God, singly, could redeem man; it needed a God-man to do this. VII. THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD. Which saw how to help and enrich man, when he was poor and naked, and destitute of all things.

(M. Faber.)

This doxology of the angels has sometimes filled the thoughts of dying saints. The final words of the Rev. Edward Perronet, author of the hymn, "All hail the power of Jesus' name," were, "Glory to God in the height of His Divinity! Glory to God in the depth of His humanity! Glory to God in His all-sufficiency! and into His hand I commend my spirit." The last words, too, of Rev. Doctor Backus, first President of Hamilton College, were, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men."

Happy the day when every war-horse shall be houghed, when every spear shall become a pruning-hook, and every sword shall be made to till the soil which once it stained with blood I This will be the last triumph of Christ. Before death itself shall be dead, death's great jackal, war, must die also; and then there shall be peace on earth, and the angel shall say, "I have gone up and down through the earth, and the earth sitteth still, and is at rest: I heard no tumult of war nor noise of battle."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE SCENE. It was a fine Eastern night, not cold like one of our Decembers, with frosts or nipping gales freezing through blood and marrow. "The shepherds were abiding in the fields," i.e., making their bivouac in them. The evangelist's style seems to quiver with the sudden surprise which came upon the shepherds. "And lo, an angel of the Lord came upon them, and glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they feared with sore fear. And that angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, as being that which shall be to all the people of God." His message declares four things. The wondrous Child to be born is a Saviour, who conies in pity for a fallen race; Christ, who, as the Anointed One, has so long been expected; the Lord, who is Divine as well as human; in David's city, to fulfil literally the oracle of Micah, and the anticipations which might have been awakened by the Psalm that speaks of a great Priest-king in connection with Bethlehem, and God's remembrance of David's life of affliction. "And this shall be a sign unto you;" a sign, in its quiet but amazing contrast to all exhibitions of this world's royalty. "Ye shall find a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" Among the angels of heaven there was silence until the point when that angel visitant to the shepherds had touched the lowest point in the abyss of the humiliation: The armies of earth raise a shout or song. The armies of heaven (the "heavenly soldiers," as it is grandly rendered in the old English version) have theirs — but it is a song of peace. Much of that choral ode was, probably, unheard by mortal ears — lost in the heights above. One fragment alone of the song is preserved. It is a triplet.

1. "Glory to God in the highest." The angels speak from the point of view of this earth. We may understand either "Let it be," or "It is." If the former, they pray that from the bosom of humanity glory may rise to God in the highest heaven. If we understand the latter, they affirm that it does, at that moment, actually ascend. There is a little poem, possibly more beautiful in idea than in execution, which tells of a child dying in a workhouse. As her simple hymn, "Glory to Thee, my God, this night," ascends from the pallet-bed, it floats up and up, until the last faint ripple touches the foot of the throne of God. Then, wakened by the faint, sweet impulse, a new strain of adoration is taken up by angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven — a grander and a fuller "glory." Something in this way, in this passage, the angels seem to view the best adorations of this earth.

2. "On earth peace." The peace spoken of in Scripture as effected by the Incarnation, is fourfold — between God and man; between man and angels; between man and man; between man and his own conscience. It is, of course, too darkly true, that as regards one form of this peace — that between man and man — history seems a long cynical satire on the angels' words. The earth is soaking with blood at this moment, and families are in mourning for the slain in battle. Still, among Christian nations, and in the case of Christian soldiers, there are soft relentings, sweet gleams of human — or rather superhuman — love. Society, too, is full of prejudice and bitterness. In our homes there are tempers which drop vitriolic irritants into every little wound. It was a wholesome memory of the angels' song which led men to examine their souls at Christmas, and to seek for reconciliation with any between whose souls and theirs stood the veil of quarrel or ill-will. But there is something beyond this. It means enmity done away, harmony restored, not only with one's fellow-man, but with oneself. The unholy man has no true feeling of friendship, no friendly relations with himself. Worst of all, man may be in a state of estrangement from God, from Christ, from His Church, from hope — hostile in his mind, which lies immersed, and has its very existence in those evil works of his.

3. (For, understood) "Among men is good-will." It is well known from Keble's beautiful lines, and his note upon Pergolesi's setting of the Vulgate version, that some manuscripts read, "among men of goodwill." This interpretation, though it may please the fancy at first, will scarcely be accepted by the maturer judgment.(1) It is not very concurrent with St. Luke's universal aim, and constant setting forth of the bold broad sympathy of the purpose of the Incarnation. God's love, at that moment, would not be viewed by the angels as restricted to the comparatively righteous. It was a work whose result was to be offered to all our fallen race through Him who is the son of Adam. Men of goodwill, according to the Scripture use of the word, might be too high an attribute even for the elect people of God. The third line appears to give the cause and foundation of the two which precede it. The "Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes" is He who not only brings, but is personally the Truth, the Peace, the Righteousness, the Salvation, the Redemption. Just as He is the personal Peace, so is He the personal incarnate Good-will. There is glory to God in the highest. And there is peace upon earth, for God's goodwill is amongst men. It is the equivalent of Emmanuel — God with us.

II. We may now OBSERVE WHERE THE ANGELS' HYMN STANDS IN THE REFORMED LITURGY. In the Roman missal it is found at the beginning of the office; with us it is taken up immediately after we communicate, just before the parting blessing. In that magnificent burst of praise, the "Angelic Hymn," or "Gloria in Excelsis," is the basis of all that follows. "Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men." "We praise Thee" for Thy greatness. "We bless Thee" for Thy goodness, thus made known to us by the voice of angels. "We worship Thee" in our hearts, with beseeming outward reverence. "We glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory, O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty" — glorifying and giving thanks with the confession of the mouth. Then we address the sacrificed Son, the Lamb, who is also our God. "O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us." It is thus indicated that He is the subject of the angelic song, that to Him there is glory in the highest, with the Father and the Holy Ghost. "Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father." We worship with angels — in angels' words. We worship them not. Therefore into the texture of our eucharistic "Gloria in Excelsis" is woven a golden thread from another New Testament song — the poem of victory upon the sea of glass. A psalmist had exclaimed, "They shall praise Thy name, great and terrible; holy is it. Exalt ye Jehovah our God, and worship at the mountain of His holiness; for holy is the Lord our God." The writer of the Apocalypse hears it applied to Jesus. And His believing Church incorporates this into her golden commentary of praise upon the "Gloria in Excelsis." "Thou only art holy, O Christ." Only He is holy of Himself: of His holiness we have all received. To an ignorant and superstitious woman, now many years ago, a kindly visitor read the Gospels, with little but the most simple commentary, and without a single word of controversy. A day or two before her death, the poor woman mentioned a dream which she had, valuable only because it appeared to be the reflection of her waking thoughts. She seemed to be in a vast and magnificent church, thronged with thousands upon thousands. High in the distance rose a glorious altar, with a living form towering above it — the Lamb as it had been slain; below, down to the rails which separated the altar from the body of the church, were orders of angels, stoled and vested priests, the Virgin-mother. Moved by some impulse, one after another came to the chancel-gate, and was either received inside with a burst of joy that filled the distance, or sorrowfully sent away. At last the dying woman presented herself in her turn. Sternly, yet not without a tone of regret, a priest put her back, and said, "You cannot pass." Sweetly, with tender sorrow, an angel whispered, "Alas! I cannot help you." With trembling voice, the mother of Jesus told her that "her prayers could not open those gates, nor open a way to the eternal presence of her Son." Then, with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, the woman was turning away, to wander she knew not where, when suddenly the form above the altar — not white, and wan, and stirless, like the crucifix, but living and glorious — stood by the guarded gate. And He opened it, and bade her come in and fear not. "For," said He, "those who come unto Me I will not cast out." And a glorious music arose in the distance. In the same spirit, in this hymn, we pass by saints and angels, and raise our chant, "Thou only art holy." None holy, and therefore none tender as Christ. In thanksgiving for angels' food we borrow angels' words. The song of angels is our communion song. May it not also be made our communicant's manual? For instance, let us take that single line, "on earth peace." That man who did something to insult or injure me — that, perhaps, very wretched woman, with her bitter tongue and cutting jeer — have I forgiven her for Christ's sake? This evil peevish temper, which embitters the fountains of family life, have I set about sweetening it? Am I trying to improve it? This dark hopelessness of God's forgiveness, this despair of the power of God's Spirit to help and sanctify, this unbelief in grace, as if an apostle's pen had never written, "How much more shall the blood of Christ purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" this unbelief in the power of the Cross, this faithlessness which turns the bread of the sacrament into a stone in our bands, and makes us too deaf to hear "for thee!" again and again- is this passing away? Am I ready to take Him at His own word? If not, I cannot really join in the "Gloria in Excelsis." I have nothing to say to one line, at least, of the blessed triplet — "On earth peace" — and therefore the whole harmony is untuned for me. The first "Gloria in Excelsis" died away over Bethlehem. What then? "It came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, then the men, even the shepherds, said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem." The men, the "shepherds" (so the Evangelist seems to say), represent the whole race of men. Even so, the Church keeps unending Christmas, keeps a new Christmas with every communion. The shepherds did their simple work of announcement. "They made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child;" while Mary, with her deeper and more reflective nature, "kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." Then "the shepherds returned, glorifying God" for His greatness, and "praising Him" for His goodness, laying the foundation for their glorification and praise "upon all the things which they bad heard and seen, as it was told unto them." The glory and music of angels did not tempt them from their work, but made them do it more gladly upon their return. There was more of heaven about it. So will it ever be with those who seek Him faithfully, and join truly in the "Gloria in Excelsis."

(Bishop Wm. Alexander.)

1. Glory to God in the highest. This glory arises from three sources — the matter of the gospel, the manner of its dissemination, and the effects it has produced upon the hearts and habits of men.

2. Glory to God arises from the manner and success of the dissemination of the Word of God, as well as from its matter and contents.

3. Glory is given to God from the effects which this gospel produces among men. In the experience of many it already begins a new heaven and a new earth.

II. "On earth peace." Let us first ascertain the nature of this peace, and secondly, the way in which the Word of God promotes it, in order that we may be able to seek peace also, and pursue the right way of hastening on its reign. There is the peace of ignorance, but this is the peace of delusion. There is peace from compromise, but this is the peace of hell. True peace between man and God, or between man and man, can flourish on true principle, and on nothing else. Let us briefly glance at a few features of this goodwill; next, at the way in which God exerts it, and lastly, infer the manner in which we also should show goodwill toward our fellowmen. It is a distinctive goodwill. Why did God pass by the angels that fell, and throw the arms of love around the children of men? It was also an undeserved goodwill. Before the Saviour came we lifted up no cry for the interposition of the mercy of God. Such is God's goodwill, and such His way of showing it. God will show His goodwill to the sinner, just by showing him his sin and his peril. If you saw a brother asleep, amid the darkness of night, enjoying the most delightful dreams, and at the same hour the house on fire around him, would you show him more goodwill by leaving him undisturbed, or by rousing him rudely from his sleep, and pointing his eye to the danger of his situation? This is God's way of manifesting His goodwill to men.

(J. Gumming, D. D.)

There never was such an apparition of angels as at this time; and there was great cause; for —

1. There was never such a ground for it, whether we regard the matter itself, the incarnation of Christ.

2. Or whether we regard the benefit that comes to us thereby. Christ by this means brings God and man together since the fall.I shall especially stand upon those words; but somewhat is to be touched concerning the apparition of these angels.

1. The circumstances of their apparition. They appear to poor shepherds. God respects no callings. He will confound the pride of men, that set so much by that that God so little respects, and to comfort men in all conditions.

2. Again, the angels appeared to them in the midst of their business and callings; and indeed God's people, as Moses and others, have had the sweetest intercourse with God in their affairs; and ofttimes it is the fittest way to hinder Satan's temptations, and to take him off, to be employed in business, rather than to struggle with temptations.

3. And then they appeared to them in the night. God discovers Himself in the night of affliction. Our sweetest and strongest comforts are in our greatest miseries. God's children find light in darkness; nay, God brings light out of darkness itself. We see the circumstances then of this apparition. He calls these angels "a heavenly host" in divers respects, especially in these:(1) An host for number. Here are a number set down. A multitude is distinct from an host; but in that they are an host, they are a multitude; as in Daniel 7:10. "Ten thousand times ten thousand angels attend upon God." And so, Revelation 5:11, there are a world of angels about the Church. In Hebrews 12:22, we are come to have communion with an "innumerable company of angels." Worldly, sottish men that live here below, they think there is no other state of things than they see. There is another manner of state and frame of things, if they had spiritual eyes to see the glory of God, and of Christ our Saviour, and their attendants there — an host, a multitude of heavenly angels.(2) An host likewise implies order; or else it is a rout, not an host or army. "God is the God of order, not of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33). If you would see disorder, go to hell.(3) Again, here is consent; an host all joining together in praising God: "Glory to God on high." Christ commends union and consent (Matthew 18:20). Agreement in good is a notable resemblance of that glorious condition we shall enjoy in heaven.(4) An host of angels, it shows likewise their employment. But here is our comfort; we have a multitude, an host of angels, whose office is to defend the Church, and to offend the enemies of the Church, as we see in Scripture.(5) Again, an host implies strength. We have a strong garrison and guard. Angels severally are strong creatures. We see one of them destroyed all the first-born in Egypt; one of them destroyed the host of Sennacherib the Assyrian in one night. "And suddenly there was," &c. "Suddenly," in an unperceivable time, yet in time; for there is no motion in a moment, no creature moves from place to place in a moment.God is everywhere. "Suddenly," it not only shows us —

1. Somewhat exemplary from the quick despatch of the angels in their business we pray to God in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven;" that is, willingly, "suddenly," cheerfully: —

2. But also it serves for comfort. If we be in any sudden danger, God can despatch an angel, "a multitude" of angels, to encamp about us "suddenly." What is the use and end of this glorious apparition? In regard of the poor shepherds, to confirm their faith, and in them. ours; for if one or two witnesses confirm a thing, what shall a multitude do? If one or two men confirm a truth, much more an host of heavenly angels. Therefore it is base infidelity to call this in question, that is confirmed by a multitude of angels. And to comfort them likewise in this apparition. We see by the way that for one Christian to confirm and comfort one another, it is the work of an angel, an angelical work; for one man to discourage another, it is the work of a devil. Thus much for the apparition.

3. Now the celebration is "a multitude of the heavenly host praising God." The word signifies "singing" as well as praise. It implies praise expressed in that manner; and indeed "praising God," it is the best expression of the affection of joy. The angels were joyful at the birth of Christ their Lord. Joy is no way better expressed than in "praising God;" and it is pity that such a sweet affection as joy should run in any other stream, if it were possible, than the "praising of God." God hath planted this affection of joy in the creature, and it is fit he should reap the fruit of his own garden. It is pity a clear stream should run into a puddle, it should rather run into a garden; and so sweet and excellent an affection as joy, it is pity it should be employed otherwise than "in praising God" and doing good to men. They express their joy in a suitable expression — "in praising God." The sweetest affection in man should have the sweetest employment. See here the pure nature of angels. They praise God for us. We have more good by the incarnation of Christ than they have; yet notwithstanding, such is their humility, that they come down with great delight from heaven, and praise and glorify God for the birth of Christ, who is not their, but our Redeemer. Some strength they have. There is no creature but hath some good by the incarnation of Christ; to the angels themselves, yet, however, they have some strength from Christ, in the increase of the number of the Church; yet He is not the Redeemer of angels. And yet see, their nature is so pure and so clear from envy and pride, that they even glorify God for the goodness showed to us — meaner creatures than themselves; and they envy not us, though we be advanced, by the incarnation of Christ, to a higher place than they. Let us labour therefore for dispositions angelical, that is, such as may delight in the good of others, and the good of other meaner than ourselves. And learn this also from them: shall they glorify God for our good especially, and shall we be dull and cold in praising God on our own behalf? There is some difference in the readings. Some copies have it, "On earth peace to men of goodwill," to men of God's goodwill; and so they would have it two branches, not three.If the word be rightly understood, it is no great matter.

1. First, the angels begin with the main and chief end of all. It is God's end; it was the angels' end, and it should be ours too, "Glory to God on high."

2. Then they wish the chief good of all, that whereby we are fitted for the main end, "peace." God cannot be glorified on earth unless there be peace wrought.

3. Then, thirdly, here is the ground of all happiness from whence this peace comes: from God's goodwill; from his good pleasure or free grace "to men of God's goodwill." To begin with the first: "Glory to God in the highest." The angels, those blessed and holy spirits, they begin with that which is the end of all. It is God's end in all things, His own glory. He hath none above Himself whose glory to aim at. And they wish "Glory to God in the highest heavens." Indeed, He is more glorified there than anywhere in the world. It is the place where His Majesty most appears; and the truth is, we cannot perfectly glorify God till we be in heaven. There is pure glory given to God in heaven. There is no corruption there in those perfect souls. There is perfect glory given to God in heaven. Here upon earth God is not glorified at all by many. In the mean time, let me add this by the way, that in some sort we may glorify God more on earth than in heaven. Here upon earth we glorify God in the midst of enemies; He hath no enemies in heaven; they are all of one spirit. In this respect, let us be encouraged to glorify God, what we can here: for if we begin to glorify God here, it is a sign we are of the number that He intends to glorify with Him for ever. The verb is not set down here; whether it should be, Glory is given to God; or whether, by way of wishing, "Let glory be given to God;" or by way of prediction or prophecy for the time to come, "Glory shall be to God," from hence to the end of the world. The verb being wanting, all have a truth. "Glory to God on high." Glory is excellency, greatness, and goodness, with the eminency of it, so as it may be discovered. There is a fundamental glory in things that are not discovered at all times. God is always glorious, but, alas! few have eyes to see it. In the former part of the chapter "light" is called the "glory of the Lord" (ver. 9). Light is a glorious creature. Nothing expresseth glory so much as light. It is a sweet creature, but it is a glorious creature. It carries its evidence in itself; it discovers all other things and itself too. So excellency and eminency will discover itself to those that have eyes to see it; and being manifested, and withal taken notice of, is glory. In that the angels begin with the glory of God, I might speak of this doctrine, that the glory of God, the setting forth of the excellencies and eminencies of the Lord, should be the end of our lives, the chief thing we should aim at. The angels here begin with it, and we begin with it in the Lord's Prayer, "hallowed be Thy name." It should be our main employment (Romans 11:36). "Well then, the incarnation of Christ, together with the benefits to us by it, that is, redemption, adoption, &c., it is that wherein God will show His glory most of all. That is the doctrinal truth. The glory and excellency of God doth most shine in His love and mercy in Christ. Every excellency of God hath its proper place or theatre where it is seen, as His power in the creation, his wisdom in His providence and ruling of the world, His justice in hell, His Majesty in heaven; but His mercy and kindness, His bowels of tender mercy, do most appear in His Church among His people. God shows the excellency of His goodness and mercy in the incarnation of Christ, and the benefits we have by it. Many attributes and excellencies of God shine in Christ, as — His truth: "All the promises of God are yea and amen in Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:20). And then His wisdom, that he could reconcile justice and mercy, by joining two natures together. Likewise here is justice, justice fully satisfied in Christ. And of His holiness, that He would be no otherwise satisfied for sin. Therefore "glory to God in the highest heavens," especially for His free grace and mercy in Christ.Now that you may understand this sweet point, which is very comfortable, and indeed the grand comfort to a Christian, do but compare the glory of God, that is, the excellency and eminency of God's mercy, and goodness, and greatness of this work of redemption by Christ, with other things.

1. God is glorious in the work of creation. "The heavens declare the glory of God," and the earth manifests the glory of God.

2. Nay, the glory of God's love and mercy shined not to us so, when we were in Adam; not in Adam, for there God did good to a good man: He created him good, and showed goodness to him. That was not so much wonder. But for God to show mercy to an enemy, to a creature that was in opposition to Him, that was in a state of rebellion against Him, it is a greater wonder and more glory. That which I shall next stand upon, shall be to show

(1)how we may know whether we glorify God for Christ or no;

(2)and then the hindrances that keep us from glorifying God for this excellent good;

(3)and the means how we may come to glorify God.

1. For the first, of glorifying God in general, I will not speak much. It would be large; and the point of glorifying God is most sweetly considered, as invested in such a benefit as this, when we think of it, not as an idea only, but think of it in Christ, for whom we have cause to glorify God, and for all the good we have by Him.(1) First, then, we hold tune with the blessed angels in giving glory to God, when we exalt God in our souls above all creatures and things in the world; when we lift Him up in His own place, and let Him be in our souls, as He is in Himself, in the most holy. God is glorious, especially in His mercy and goodness. Let Him be so in our hearts, in these sweet attributes, above all our unworthiness and sin. For God hath not glory from us till we give Him the highest place in our love and joy and delight, and a]l those affections that are set upon good, when they are set upon Him as the chief good; then we give Him His due place in our souls, we ascribe to Him that divinity, and excellency, and eminency that is due to Him.(2) Then again, we give glory to God for Christ, when we take all the favours we have from God in Christ, when we see Christ in everything. "All things are ours because we are Christ's" (1 Corinthians 3:23).(3) Then again, we give glory to God when we stir up others. All the angels consent. There was no discord in this harmony of the angels.(4) Again, we glorify God in Christ, when we see such glory and mercy of Christ, as it doth transform us and change us, and from an inward change we have alway a blessed disposition to glorify God, as I showed out of 2 Corinthians 3:18. Therefore if we find that the knowledge of God in Christ hath changed our dispositions, it is a sign then we give glory to God indeed. For to glorify God is an action that cannot proceed but from a disposition of nature that is altered and changed. The instrument must be set in tune before it can yield this excellent music, to glorify God as the angels do; that is, all the powers of the soul must be set in order with grace by the Spirit of God.(5) Again, we glorify God when we take to heart anything that may hinder, or stop, or eclipse God's truth, and obscure it; when it works zeal in us in our places as far as we can; when it affects us deeply to see the cause of religion hindered any way. If there be any desire of glorifying God, there will be zeal.(6) Again, if we apprehend this glorious mystery of Christ in the gospel aright, it will work in us a glorious joy; for joy is a disposition especially that fits us to glorify God.

2. This being so excellent a duty, to which we are stirred by the angels, "Glory to God on high," &c., what are the main hindrances of it that we give not God more glory?(1) The main hindrances are a double veil of ignorance and unbelief, that we do not see the glorious light of God shining in Jesus Christ; or else if we do not know it, we do not believe it; and thereupon, instead of that blessed disposition that should be in the soul, there comes an admiration of carnal excellencies, a delighting in base things.(2) So likewise unbelief, when we hear and see and know the notion of mercy and of Christ, and can dispute of these things, like men that talk of that they never tasted of.

3. Now, the way to attain to this glorious duty, to glorify God.(1) First, therefore, if we would glorify God, we must redeem some time to think of these things, and bestow the strength of our thoughts this way. The soul being the most excellent thing in the world, it is fit it should be set on the excellentest duty.(2) Now, to help this, in the next place, beg of God the "Spirit of revelation" to discover to us these things in their own proper light, "for they are spiritually discerned."(3) And let us labour daily more and more to see the vanity of all things in the world. "Peace on earth." The same holy affection in the angels that moved them to wish God to have his due of glory from the creature, it moves them to wish peace to men likewise; to show this, by the way, that there can be no true zeal of God's glory but with love to mankind. They were not so ravished with the glory of God as to forget poor man on earth. Oh no! They have sweet, pure affections to man, a poorer creature than themselves. Therefore let them that are injurious and violent in their dispositions, and insolent in their carriage, never talk of glorifying God, when they despise and wrong men. There are some that overthrow all peace in the earth for their own glory, but he that seeks God's glory will procure peace what he can; for they go both together, as we see here, "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth." Now, their end of wishing peace upon earth, it is that men might thereby glorify God, that God being reconciled, and peace being stablished in men's consciences, they might glorify God. Hence observe this likewise, that we cannot glorify God till we have some knowledge of our peace with him in Christ. The reason is, peace comes from righteousness. Christ is first the "King of righteousness," and then "King of peace;" righteousness causeth peace. Now, unless the soul be assured of righteousness in Christ, it can have no peace. For can we heartily wish for the manifestation of the glory of him that we think is our enemy, and him that we have no interest in his greatness and goodness? The heart of man will never do it, therefore God must first speak peace to the soul — the angels knew that well enough — and then we are fit to glorify God. "Peace on earth."What is peace? It is the best thing that man can attain unto, to have peace with his Maker and Creator. Peace, in general, is a harmony and an agreement of different things.

1. First, there is a scattering and a division from God, the fountain of good, with whom we had communion in our first creation, and His delight was in His creature.

2. Then there is a separation between the good angels and us; for they being good subjects, take part with their prince, and therefore join against rebels, as we are.

3. Then there is a division and scattering between man and man.

4. And then there is a division and separation between a man and the creature, which is ready to be in arms against any man that is in the state of nature, to take God's quarrel, as we see in the plagues of Egypt and other examples.

5. And they have no peace with themselves. Then if we be at peace with God, all other peace will follow; for good subjects will be at peace with rebels, when they are brought in subjection to their king, and all join in one obedience. Therefore the angels are brought to God again by Christ. And so for men, there is a spirit of union between them. The same Spirit that knits us to God by faith, knits us one to another by love. And we have peace with the creature, for when God, who is the Lord of hosts, is made peaceful to us, He makes all other things peaceable. All peace with God, with angels, and with creatures is stablished in Christ. And why in Christ? Christ is every way fitted for it, for He is the Mediator between God and man; therefore by office He is fit to make peace between God and man.He is Emmanuel, Himself God and man in one nature; therefore His office is to bring God and man together.

1. It is fit it should be so in regard of God, who being a "consuming fire," will no peace with the creature without a mediator. It stands not with His majesty, neither can there ever be peace with us otherwise.

2. It was also fit, in respect of us, it should be so. Alas! "who can dwell with everlasting burnings?" (Isaiah 33:14). Who can have communion with God, who is a "consuming fire?" No. We cannot endure the sight of an angel.

3. If we look to Christ Himself, He being God's Son, and the Son of His love, for Him to make us sons, and sons of God's love. Is it not most agreeable, that He that is the image of God, should again renew the image of God that we lost? "Peace upon earth." Why doth He say, "peace on earth"? Because peace was here wrought upon earth by Christ in the days of His flesh, when he offered Himself "a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour to His Father." Because here in earth we must be partakers of it. We ofttimes defer to make our peace with God from time to time, and think there will be peace made in another world. Oh, beloved, our peace must be made on earth.But to come to some trials, whether we have this peace made or no; whether we can say in spirit and truth, there is a peace established between God and us.

1. For a ground of this, that may lead us to further trial, know that Christ hath reconciled God and us together, not only by obtaining peace, by way of satisfaction, but by way of application also. He gives a spirit of application to improve that peace, to improve "Christ, the Prince of peace," as their own. To come to some more familiar evidences, whether we be at peace with God, and whether we have the comfort of this peace, established by Christ, or no.

2. Those that are reconciled one to another have common friends and common enemies.

3. Another evidence of "peace" made in Christ between God and us, is a boldness of spirit and acquaintance with God (Job 22:21).

4. A Christian that hath made his" peace" with God, will never allow himself in any sin against conscience.

5. Again, where there is a true peace established, there is a high esteem of the word of peace, the gospel of reconciliation, as St. Paul calls it (2 Corinthians 5:18).

6. Lastly, those that have found peace are peaceable.In the next place, to give a few directions to maintain this peace actually and continually every day.

1. To walk with God, and to keep our daily peace with God, it requires a great deal of watchfulness over our thoughts, — for He is a Spirit, over our words and actions. Watchfulness is the preserver of peace.

2. And because it is a difficult thing to maintain terms of peace with God, in regard of our indisposition, we fall into breaches with God daily, therefore we should often renew our covenants and purposes every day.

3. Again, if we would maintain this peace, let us be always doing somewhat that is good and pleasing to God. In the same chapter (Philippians 4:8), "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure," &c., "think of these things. Now, to stir us up more and more to search the grounds of our peace, I beseech you, let us consider the fearful estate of a man that hath not made his peace with God. "Goodwill towards men." Divers copies have it otherwise, "On earth peace to men of goodwill." Some have it, "Goodwill towards men." The sense is not much different. Peace on earth, "To men of God's goodwill, of God's good pleasure."That God hath a pleasure to save, or "goodwill towards men," of God's good pleasure; "Peace on earth," to men of God's goodwill and pleasure; or God's good pleasure towards men.

1. God shews now good pleasure towards men. The love that God bears towards man hath divers terms, from divers relations. Now this free goodwill and grace, it is towards men, towards mankind. He saith not, towards angels. And learn this for imitation, to love mankind. God loved mankind; and surely there is none that is born of God, but he loves the nature of man, wheresoever he finds it.

2. This ἐυδοκια, "goodwill of God," to restore lapsed man by the sending of His Son, is the ground of all good to man, and hath no ground but itself. I come to the last point, because I would end this text at this time.

3. This free love and grace of God is only in Christ.

(R. Sibbes.)

But what did the heavenly choir mean? They could not mean that, at that moment, there was "Peace on the earth"? Was it a prayer? "May there be glory to God in the highest, and may there be peace on earth, and may there be goodwill toward men!" Or was it prophecy? Did they foresee that the time would come that this would be the blessed condition of our world? — a time not yet arrived. The angel who led the band, had spoken of joy, only joy, "great joy," prophetic joy, "which should be to all people," a joy prophetic still. But the rushing "multitude of the angel host" carried the note higher, and gave no limit of time; and they did not say joy, but peace — "Peace on earth." Is it that, even to an angel's mind, peace is above joy? Or, was it that they thought and knew that this was what our world most wanted? They had been accustomed to look upon the peace of heaven, where everything has found its resting-place, and everything is calm: where there is not a sound which is not like the flow of waters: where a discordant note is never heard: where all hearts are in one sweet concord: where all is dove-like gentleness! No wonder, then, that they drew their anthems from the scenes they lived in. We have to do now only with peace. And the stress lies in the words, "On earth." No marvel if there should be peace in heaven. No angel would care to proclaim a thing so certain. A "peace" that has sadly left us, since that day when sin came in! Observe the course of the facts of our world's history. Adam and Eve who, till that moment, were as one, now wrangled, which is the guiltiest? The first death upon this earth is fratricide; and the murdering brother, in his callous heart, cares nothing! The whole world is at enmity with God; and, save a few elect of every kind, every creature perishes in one vast engulphing flood! The earliest building upon record ends in a confusion, and is stamped a Babel! Even Abraham and Lot have to part; and Isaac quarrels with Ishmael; and Jacob with Esau; and Joseph has no peace with his brethren. "Peace on earth!" where is it? Where does she hide herself? Is she in the valleys? is she among the mountains? Is she in the high places of kings? Is she in the cottage? Is she in the Church? Is she, as she ought to be, in any one single man that walks this earth? But what is "peace"? The after creation — the rest of the soul — the concord of hearts — the reflection of heaven — the image of God. We must examine it more closely. It is human peace the angels sang: "Peace on earth." What is the peace of a man? First, there must be peace with God. God has said it universally, "There shall be no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." But peace makes peace. Peace with God in the soul, makes peace in the soul, and peace in the soul makes peace with the world.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

I. ON NATIONAL CHARACTER.

II. ON SOCIAL INTERCOURSE.

1. Christianity imparts to social intercourse a principle of equity.

2. A character of mildness to the intercourse of social life.

3. A principle of benevolence.

III. ON THE DOMESTIC SCENE.

IV. ON THE INDIVIDUAL

1. It secures his property.

2. It promotes his health.

3. It guards his reputation.

(T. Raffles, D. D.)

And indeed national feuds are the more odious and unchristian, by how much Christ hath called all people to the sprinkling of the same water, and to alike participation of His body and blood at the same table. And it was well apprehended of one, that God hath given unto men more excellent gifts in the skill of navigation since His son is born, than ever they had before; that He might show the way how all the kingdoms of the earth should be sociable together: for Christ hath breathed His peace upon all the kingdoms of the world.

(Bishop Hacker.)

Yet very true that none is a greater adversary than our Saviour to some sorts of peace. The peace of Christ breaks the confederacy which sinners have in evil; it defies the devil and the vain pomp of the world; it draws the sword against blasphemy and idolatry; it will not let a man be at quiet within himself when he is full of vicious concupiscence. To make a covenant with hell, as the prophet speaks, or to have any fellowship with the works of darkness.

(Bishop Hacker.)

The very name of peace is sweet and lovely: it is the calm of the world, the smile of nature, the harmony of things, a gentle and melodious air struck from well-tuned affairs; a blessing, so excellent and amiable, that in this world there is but one preferable before it, and that is, holiness. And, certainly, great glory doth dwell in that land, where these two sister-blessings, righteousness and peace, do meet and kiss each other, as the Psalmist speaks (Psalm 85:9, 10). I know, that there are hot and turbulent spirits enough abroad, who are apt to suspect whatsoever is spoken on the behalf of peace, to be to the disadvantage of holiness: and, perhaps, some men's zeal may be such a touchy and froward thing, that, though an angel from heaven, yea an innumerable multitude of them, proclaim it; yet they cannot believe there may be glory to God in the highest, whilst there is peace on earth. Indeed, if peace and sanctity were incompatible, or if any unhappy circumstances should compel us to redeem the one at the price of the other; we ought rather to follow righteousness through thorns and briars, than peace in its smoothest way strewed with roses. But there is no such inconsistency between them: for, certainly, that God, who hath commanded us to follow both peace and holiness (Hebrews 12:14), supposeth that they themselves may well go together. We may well suspect that zeal to be but an unclean bird of prey, that delights to quarry upon the dove; and those erratic lights, which make the vulgar gaze and the wise fear, to be but glaring comets, whose bloody aspects and eccentric irregular motions threaten nothing but wars, ruin, and desolations. Righteousness doth not oblige, us, so soon as anything is passed contrary to our present judgments and persuasions, nay suppose it be contrary to the truth also, straight to furbish our weapons, to sound an alarm, and to kill others in defence of that cause for which we ourselves rather ought to die. This is not to part with peace for righteousness; but to sacrifice both peace and righteousness, to injustice and violence. The cause of God, of piety and religion, may frequently engage us to forego our own peace, as sufferers and martyrs; but never to disturb the public peace of our country, as fighters and warriors.

(E. Hopkins, D. D.)

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