Luke 2:34
Then Simeon blessed them and said to His mother Mary: "Behold, this Child is appointed to cause the rise and fall of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
Sermons
The Circumcision and Presentation of JesusR.M. Edgar Luke 2:21-40
A Representative ManJ. Parker, D. D.Luke 2:25-35
Aged EvangelistsC. Stanford, D. D.Luke 2:25-35
Christ Our ConsolationH. Alford, M. A.Luke 2:25-35
It is Hard to Wait, and Few Can Do it WellStopford A. Brooke.Luke 2:25-35
Patient WaitingBishop Wm. Alexander.Luke 2:25-35
Readiness for God's WillNew Cyclopaedia of AnecdoteLuke 2:25-35
Scripture Biography of SimeonC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 2:25-35
Simeon and AnnaA. Whyte, D. D.Luke 2:25-35
Simeon and the Child JesusE. D. Rogers, D. D.Luke 2:25-35
Simeon: a Sermon for ChristmasE. Bersier, D. D.Luke 2:25-35
Simeon: Saint, Singer, and SeerF. Hastings.Luke 2:25-35
Simeon's Blessed HopeC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 2:25-35
The Consolation of IsraelG. Swinnock.Luke 2:25-35
The Consolation of IsraelJ. Jowett, M. A.Luke 2:25-35
The Expectant SimeonCanon Hoare.Luke 2:25-35
The Same Man was Just and DevoutStopford A. Brooke.Luke 2:25-35
The Waiting ChurchC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 2:25-35
Waiting for the ChariotLuke 2:25-35
Waiting for the LordAugustus Hare.Luke 2:25-35
Waiting is Good But Hard ServiceH. C. Trumbull.Luke 2:25-35
Waiting is Harder than DoingSunday School TimesLuke 2:25-35
By Their Treatment of Christ Himself Men Will Show What They AreDean Vaughan., Stopford A. Brooke.Luke 2:34-35
Christ -- the Fall and Rise of ManyC. H. Spurgeon.Luke 2:34-35
Christ is Set for the Ruin of ManyJoseph Schuen.Luke 2:34-35
Christ Reveals HeartsSunday School TimesLuke 2:34-35
Christ Set for Our Fall an UpraisingStopford A. Brooke.Luke 2:34-35
Christ Spoken AgainstJ. Wells.Luke 2:34-35
Christ the Rising and Fall of ManyJ. C. Hare.Luke 2:34-35
Christianity the Test of CharacterR. Hall, M. A.Luke 2:34-35
Christ's Knowledge of ManE. P. Hood.Luke 2:34-35
Christ's MissionA. Reed.Luke 2:34-35
Dual Aspect of Christ's AdventCanon Liddon.Luke 2:34-35
Fall and RiseJ. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.Luke 2:34-35
Man Saved or Destroyed by the TruthA. Maclaren, D. D.Luke 2:34-35
On the Advantages of AfflictionB. Murphy.Luke 2:34-35
Simeon's PredictionS. Cox, D. D.Luke 2:34-35
Struggle and TriumphJ. J. Van Oosterzee, D. D.Luke 2:34-35
The Detector of the HeartH. F. Burder, D. D.Luke 2:34-35
The Dual Aspect of Christ's AdventCanon Liddon.Luke 2:34-35
The Exhibition of Christ Tries the Human HeartN. Emmons, D. D.Luke 2:34-35
The First Prediction of the CrossCanon Vernon Hutton, M. A.Luke 2:34-35
The Prophecy of SimeonDean Vaughan.Luke 2:34-35
The Touchstone of TruthW. Clarkson Luke 2:34, 35
This ChildE. Mellor, D. D.Luke 2:34-35
Treatment of Christ and the GospelJames Foote, M. A.Luke 2:34-35
Use and Abuse of God's GiftsJames Foote, M. A.Luke 2:34-35
What Christ was to be to Different PeopleG. Brooks.Luke 2:34-35
We do not suppose that Simeon saw the future course of the Savior and of his gospel in clear outline; but, taught of God, he foresaw that that little Child he had been holding in his arms would be One who would prove a most powerful factor in his country's history; and he saw that relationship to him would be a source of the greatest blessing, or of weightiest trouble, or of most serious condemnation. Thus guided by this venerable saint, we will regard the gospel of Christ as -

I. A TOUCHSTONE. Our Lord himself was a touchstone by which the men of his day were tried. He came not to judge the world, but to save the world, as he said (John 12:4-7); and yet it was also true that "for judgment he came into the world," as he also said (John 9:39). His mission was not to try, but to redeem; yet it was a necessary incidental consequence of his coming that the character of the men who came in contact with him would be severely tested. When the Truth itself appeared and moved amongst men, then it became clear that those who were ignorantly supposed to be blind were the souls that were seeing God ("that they who see not might see"), and equally clear that those who claimed to know everything had eyes that were fastened against the light ("that they who see might be made blind"). As Jesus lived and wrought and spoke, the hearts of men were revealed - those who were children of wisdom heard his voice (John 18:37), while those who loved darkness rather than light turned away from the revealing Truth. And today the gospel is the touchstone of human character. They who are earnest seekers after God, after wisdom, after righteousness, gladly sit at the feet of the great Teacher to learn of him; but they who live for pleasure, for gain, for the honor that cometh from man only, for this passing world, pass him by, indifferent or hostile. They who are prepared to come as little children to learn of the heavenly Father, receive his Word and enter his kingdom (Luke 18:16); while they who consider themselves able to solve the great problems of life and destiny keep their minds closed against the truth.

II. A SWORD OF SORROW. It was not only Mary's heart that was pierced by reason of her affection for Jesus Christ. Loyalty to him proved to that generation, and has proved in every age since then, a sword that has wounded and slain. At many times and in many places it has meant violent persecution - stripes, imprisonment, death. In every land and in every age it has exposed men to hostility, to reproach, to temporal loss, to social disadvantage, to a lower station, to a struggling life, to a wounded spirit (Luke 9:23; John 17:14; 2 Timothy 3:12). Our Lord invites us to regard this inevitable accompaniment of spiritual integrity as an honor and a blessing rather than a stigma and a curse (Matthew 5:10-12).

III. A STUMBLING-STONE. That "Child was set for the fall... of many." The truth which Jesus spoke, the great work of salvation he wrought out, has proved to many, not only in Israel, but in every land where it has been made known, a rock of offense (see Luke 20:18; 1 Corinthians 1:23).

IV. A STEPPING-STONE. Not only for the fall, but for the "rising again," was that Infant "set." By planting their feet on that safe, strong rock, the humiliated and even the degraded rise to honor and esteem, the humble to hopefulness, the weak to strength, the blemished to beauty, the useless to helpfulness, the children of earth to spheres of blessedness and joy in the heavenly world. - C.







Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many.
This prediction has a very gloomy aspect, and speaks with a tone of sad foreboding in strange contrast to the riant tone of the song of thanksgiving which immediately precedes it. But was it too gloomy for the facts? Was not every jot and tittle of it fulfilled within three and thirty years of its utterance? Is it not still finding a wide and large fulfilment?

1. When the word of Christ comes home to you, whether it come to quicken you to a new life, or to convince you of some truth which you had not recognized before, or had not reduced to practice, do not be amazed and discouraged if you stumble at it, if it awaken doubt and contradiction in your hearts, if you find it hard to believe, and still harder to live by. It is no strange thing which is happening to you, but the common and normal experience of all who believe in Him. The advent of Christ in the heart, His coming in power, must resemble His advent into the world, must create a strife between the good and the evil in your nature, must disclose so much that is evil in you as to make you fear goodness to be beyond your reach. How, but by the conviction of sin, can you be made penitent, and driven to lay hold on the salvation which takes away sin? And the oftener Christ comes, the nearer He draws to you, the more fully He enters into your life — the deeper will be your conviction of sin, of a tainted and imperfect nature; till, at times, you will fear as if a sword had been thrust it.to your very soul. This, indeed, is what He comes to you for; to separate between the evil and the good, to make you conscious of evils you did not suspect, so conscious that you hate and long to be delivered from them.

2. But this is not the only comfort or encouragement which the prediction of Simeon suggests. If he had not foreseen the nearer and immediate results of Christ's advent, we might have distrusted him when he spake of its distant and ultimate results. If he had not told us of the conflict and sorrow, the self-exposure and self-contempt to which a faithful reception of Christ subjects us, we could hardly have believed him when he speaks of Christ as the Consolation for all sorrow, and the Light which is to glorify the whole dark world. But when we find all that he said of the nearer results of Christ's coming to be true, we can hardly help believing him when he speaks to us of its happy ultimate results. Simeon has approved himself a faithful witness; we have found in our own experience that Christ is a Rock of stumbling and offence, a Signal which calls out all the opposition of an imperfect nature, a Sword which pierces the very soul and divides the evil in us from the good, a Touchstone which reveals our most secret thoughts and bents; let us also believe that He will be our Consolation, our Light, our Glory.

3. We may well believe it. Per augusta ad augusta, through a narrow way to a large place, through much struggle with many difficulties to a glorious end, through conflict to victory, seems the very motto of the Christian life. And this thought also is contained in Simeon's prediction, which is so framed as to imply that it was by a Divine intention, and in order to realize a gracious Divine end, that Christ was to bring strife on the earth, to kindle an inward war, to disclose the lurking evils of the human heart. He was set, "in order that the thoughts of many hearts should be revealed" — set by God for this very purpose. So that when our thoughts are exposed, when we have to endure the inward conflict between evil and good, when the word of Christ pierces and rends our hearts, all is according to a Divine order, a Divine intention; all is intended to prepare and conduct us to that Divine end, the salvation of our souls. It is all meant to prepare us for a time in which our souls shall be so flooded and suffused with the Divine Light that there shall be no more darkness in us, so penetrated with the Divine Glory that sin and sorrow and shame shall for ever flee away. And if this be God's intention, if this is the end to which He is conducting us, who will not bear the strife and pain and self-contempt of this present imperfect life with patience, nay, with courage and with hope?

(S. Cox, D. D.)

This however cannot be all that is meant by Christ's being set for the fall of many. They who remain just as they were, and where they were, cannot be said to fall. Falling implies some change: and they who have fallen must be in a worse state than before they fell. Now this is dismally true. They who, having heard of Christ, have not believed in Him, and do not believe in Him — they who do not believe in Him in the scriptural sense of believing, that is, with the heart and soul, as well as with the understanding — they who have not a living faith in Him, and do not show it by living a life of faith — they who, having heard of Christ, do not believe in Him in this sense, are indeed in a worse state than they would have been in, had Christ never come into the world. They are in a worse state, because they are in a more hopeless state. The last chance of salvation has been tried on them; but in vain. Everything that could be done has been done for them, but in vain. God has poured forth all the riches of His grace and mercy and love on them; but in vain. Their hearts continue as hard as the naked rock, as dry as the sandy desert. Nothing, it has been proved, can soften them; nothing can refresh them; nothing can make them bear fruit. The Comforter has been sent to us. If we refuse His comfort, if we reject His salvation, we must continue uncomforted and unsaved for ever. Yet this is not all. The state of those, who, having heard of Christ, have no living faith in Him, but continue in their sins, is not only worse than if they had never heard of Christ, because it is more hopeless; it is also worse, because it is more sinful. For the sinfulness of any action is to be measured, not by the nature of the action itself, but by the character and condition of the doer. It is in him, not in the action, that the sin lies; and its sinfulness will always vary, in proportion as he knows it to be sinful, and as he has had stronger motives and helps for struggling against it. Moreover we all feel that for a child to behave ill to a kind and loving father is far worse, far more inexcusable, than if its father had been harsh and neglectful. These, then, are the two qualities which deepen the sinfulness of sin. When it is a sin against knowledge, it becomes doubly sinful; and its sinfulness increases in proportion as that knowledge is clear and certain. And when it is also a sin against love, it then becomes tenfold sinful; its sinfulness still growing worse and worse, in proportion to the strength of the motives whereby our love has been appealed to. These are the rules we are wont to make use of in judging one another. It is our own rule too, in our dealings with each other, as well as the rule of the gospel, that to whom much is given, of him much shall be required. They who, with the knowledge of Christ, live like heathens, we have already seen, are far more sinful than the heathens: and thus to them the coming of Christ has been the occasion of falling. They have fallen, because they have not risen; and because, by remaining where they were, they are so much further below what they ought to be. But the coming of Christ has also given us new duties. We have higher motives, a higher mark set before us. We are bound to strive after more heavenly aims. We are bound to seek after a more heavenly purity. So that the gift of the gospel is accompanied with a twofold danger. If we abide in our former ways, it renders those ways more sinful: and it imposes higher duties upon us, the neglect of which covers us with fresh guilt. For in this way also has the coming of Christ been a dismal occasion of falling to many. Many have hated the light, because their deeds were dark, and have either tried to quench the light, or finding their efforts to do so were vain, have wrapt themselves up in still thicker darkness. Thus was it with the Jews. To them the coming of Christ was an occasion of falling. Through Christ's coming they were no longer the chosen people of God. They forfeited their rank among nations, and became wanderers on the face of the earth, wanderers still more forlorn than when they wandered under Moses in the wilderness. So, too, was the coming of Christ an occasion of falling even to the heathens. For although, having gods many, and lords many, they had been ready to receive any new idol, that the folly or wickedness of man enthroned in the heavens, yet, when the true God, as revealed in the person of His Only-begotten Son, was made known to them, they too tried to quench His light with blood. And even now there are still found those who openly hate and blaspheme God and His Christ, and thus have fallen into deeper sinfulness through Christ's coming. Alas, it is a fearful and ghastly thought, how many millions on millions of souls will have received no benefit by Christ's atonement, how many millions on millions of souls may perhaps be among those for whose fall that blessed Child was set. This must surely have been the worst part of the agony by which Christ's spirit was rent on that awful night in the garden, the thought of the millions of souls to whom He should only be an occasion of falling. It is a thought the sting of which nothing can take away, except when the soul is rapt in adoration of the perfect holiness, and perfect justice, and perfect love of God.

(J. C. Hare.)

Simeon makes this declaration emphatically in reference to Israel; but he makes it prophetically in reference to the Gentile world, and to the multitudes which to the end of time shall come under the sound of the gospel.

I. We propose to ILLUSTRATE THIS REPRESENTATION OF OUR SAVIOUR'S MISSION. Illustrations may be borrowed from almost every circumstance in His work, and from every perfection in His personal ministration.

1. His very appearance in the first instance illustrated forcibly, and in some cases painfully, the truth of this declaration, that, on His entrance into our world, and on His revealing Himself by the ministry of His word, He should have been for the falling and for the rising again of many in Israel. But when Christ came, and His appearance was so contrary to all their expectations had led them to look for, they were prepared, not to receive Him, but positively to reject and dishonour Him. And so the appearance of Christ in the world is a stumbling-block to the present day. On the other hand, in reference to the appearance of Christ, He is set for the rising again of many in Israel. This was true of His temporal appearance among the people of Israel. While the princes and the rulers of that period passed Him by with scorn, and refused to listen to His Divine instruction, it is beautifully said that "the common people heard Him gladly." There was something in the very humility of His circumstances, in the poverty of His life, in the lowliness of His outward walk and conversation, which brought Him near to them, and them near to Him.

2. We receive a second illustration of the truth of this declaration from the mystery of the Redeemer's person. This representation of our Saviour's character was in His own time, has been in every succeeding age, and is in our time, the occasion of the falling and the rising again of many. There were many in His day who made it a stumbling-stone and a rock of offence. There was nothing in the history of the Jewish people which gave them such sore offence, and excited such bitter hatred to the kind Jesus Christ, as His announcing Himself to be the Son of God, and claiming equality with the Father. it was on this very ground that they persecuted Him through life; and it is very remarkable that on this very ground they at last put Him to death on the cross. Now, on the other hand, this very representation of our Saviour's person is life from the dead to those who believe in His name.

3. The ministry of Jesus Christ is also another method of illustrating the truth of this declaration: "This child is set for the fall and the rising again of many in Israel." Our Lord's ministry on earth was remarkable for the effect it had on those to whom it was directed. What was the falling away of the Jews in this instance was the gathering of the Gentiles.

4. This declaration is still further illustrated if we consider the death which Jesus died. Those who disbelieve, and disbelieve Him as a dying Saviour making atonement for sin, disbelieve the only remedy for sin, and fall fearfully from His presence. But on the contrary, where shall we find any representation of the Redeemer like the representation of the Redeemer crucified and dying, and rising again as the means of renewing our spirits, confirming our confidence, and elevating our hope. He died, but it is for the rising again of many.

5. Then, finally, it may be illustrated in the dispensation and economy of the gospel. But while it is for the rising again of many, it is also for the fall of many. The gospel dispensation has brought everything to an extreme; there is the extreme of mercy, and there is the extreme of judgment; God has discovered to us His grace, as we have never seen it; and God is discovering to us also His righteousness and His justice as was never shown before.Behold, for it is remarkable, "this Child is set for the fall and the rising again of many in Israel."

1. It is remarkable if we consider the great intention of Christ in coming into our world. Nothing can be more explicit than the intention of our Saviour and of the gospel in their appearance amongst us.

2. It is the more remarkable, in the second place, because the evil arising to us from the testimony of Christ is to be found in ourselves, and not in the Saviour. If it is said that Christ in His appearance shall be for the fall and rising again, for the condemnation as well as the salvation, of many, it is not so much descriptive of the intention of His coming as of the effect of His coming. But "behold" — let it be considered remarkable, fix your attention on it, that this arises from their own perversity, their own unbelief, their own sin. We are exhorted thus to behold and improve it because we have a serious concern in it.

(A. Reed.)

This subject naturally divides itself into two branches, which require a distinct consideration.

I. Let us consider, THAT GOD EXHIBITS CHRIST BEFORE THE MINDS OF MEN, IS ORDER TO TRY THEIR HEARTS.

1. The truth of this observation appears from what the prophets foretold concerning the feelings and conduct of men towards the Messiah, when He should make His appearance in the flesh, and perform His mediatorial work among them. David predicted that He would alarm the fears, and awaken the enmity and opposition of the world against Him. "Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us."

2. It appears from the history of Christ, that He fulfilled the predictions which went before concerning Him, and tried the hearts of all, who either heard Him preach, or saw His miracles, or were any way acquainted with Him. He was a sign universally spoken against. Some heard Him gladly; but others heard Him with disgust and indignation. Some admired His miracles; but others despised and blasphemed them.

3. The exhibition of Christ after His death, through the medium of the gospel, tried the hearts of the whole Jewish nation.

4. Ever since the days of the apostles, the character of Christ, displayed in the gospel, has tried the hearts of the whole Christian world.

5. It appears from the very character of Christ, that He cannot be exhibited to the minds of men without trying their hearts. His character, above all others, is adapted to draw forth the feelings of the human heart. Wherever He is exhibited in all His excellences, offices, and designs, He must necessarily try the hearts of men in some very important respects. And, first, in regard to God. God, therefore, by exhibiting Christ in the gospel, tries the hearts of men in respect to Himself. He certainly made it appear that the Jews were His enemies, by the instrumentality of Christ. In the second place, the exhibition of Christ necessarily discovers the secrets of men's hearts towards themselves, as well as towards God. Christ, in the course of His life, and more especially at His death, laid open the guilt and ill desert of sinners. Besides, thirdly, the exhibition of Christ as a Mediator, discovers men's feelings in regard to the terms of salvation. The next thing proposed is —

II. To show that GOD TRIES THE HEARTS OF MEN THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF CHRIST, IN ORDER TO FIX THEIR FUTURE AND FINAL STATE. "Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising again of many." God intends to make men happy or miserable for ever, according to the feelings of their hearts towards the Son of His love. And there appears to be a propriety in God's treating men according to their love, or hatred of Christ, because their feelings towards Christ afford a proper criterion of their true characters. If they love Christ, they love Gad; but if they hate Christ, they hate God. If they love Christ, they love the good of the universe; but if they hate Christ, they are enemies to all good. The character of Christ is the most infallible test of all human characters. Improvement:

1. Since it is God's design in exhibiting Christ before men, to try their hearts and prepare them for their final state, it becomes the ministers of the gospel to make Christ the main subject of their preaching.

2. If God means to try the hearts of men, and prepare them for their final state through the medium of the gospel, then He has an important purpose to answer, by sending it where He knows it will be rejected.

3. If the exhibition of Christ be designed to form men for their future and eternal state, then they are in a very solemn situation while they are hearing the gospel.

4. If the gospel tries the hearts and forms the characters of those who hear it, then sinners may easily and insensibly fit themselves for destruction.

5. We learn from what has been said in this discourse, that all who hear the gospel may know, before they leave the world, what will be their future and final state.

(N. Emmons, D. D.)

We shall briefly consider in what respects Christianity proves itself the grand test of men's dispositions.

1. It puts to the proof whether or not men love truth.

2. The gospel is a test of men's hearts as affected with regard to God.

3. In respect to humility, the gospel tries and ascertains the state of the heart.

4. A fourth respect in which the gospel is a test of your character is whether you are true, or not, to your own interest; whether you have wisdom to choose the right relief for your misery, the proper supply for your wants.

5. Lastly, Christianity is a test of our obedience or disobedience to the will of God. "If God is a Master, where is His fear? If God is a Father, where is His honour?"A few words of improvement may appropriately conclude this important subject.

1. Wherever the gospel is propounded, it is a test of character to each individual who hears it: and whoever does not receive it will hereafter stand confessed to God as having "loved darkness rather than light, because his deeds were evil."

2. The rejection of Christianity is entirely voluntary: it arises from the spirit of pride, the preference of falsehood, the love of sin: but where shall we look for criminality, if not in an evil mind?

3. The trial of character here is only preparatory to the last trial hereafter.

(R. Hall, M. A.)

"That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

I. Yes, THAT IS THE CLAIM WHICH CHRIST HAS UPON US — THAT HE KNOWS US. AS it is said, "He knew what was in man;" and He does not merely know our faces and our forms, but our true selves. You know nothing of any science or thing until you know its hidden inner secret. How different it is to know about a thing and to know what is within a thing. Superficial knowledge is that of the surface, of the skin; and profound knowledge is that which is organic and descends to the foundation. You know every man has within him an amazing secret realm of thought and emotion; I may go a step further and say, it is unknown to himself, and most men never have more than very occasional glimpses into the "within the veil" of their own minds; most men are not at home within themselves; they do not dwell there. Even those men who do suppose that they are well acquainted with their own minds, often deceive themselves.

II. MAN HAS A GREAT HIDDEN NATURE, WAITING FOR REVEALMENT AND DEVELOPMENT. But how secret. This it is which makes the relationship of the pastor and the teacher frequently so sacred; it is felt that he can fathom the great deep of the human soul. You may illustrate it from so poor a piece of machinery as a watch; a watchmaker descends into the mystery; he knows it; and if he professes to know and does not, great mischiefs and mistakes result. Or, look at the human body and its diseases. I had a friend who was ill; he had three doctors who attended him; they gave him up; they looked at symptoms and phenomena; they were ignorant of the law; another came, touched the mainspring and restored him to health. Look I and here the image is more pertinent; look at the schoolmaster and educator, the teacher, the boy. I knew a minister in his early childhood; he was a very wild, a strong-willed boy: his parents punished him severely, again and again — they were pious people; at last they tried another method, they took him downstairs, after they had closed the shop at night, and they knelt down on either side of him, and they prayed, they both prayed for him, and they wept. "Oh!" said he to me, "I could not stand that, I tried, and I prayed, and they conquered." He is an eminent minister now. They had touched the mainspring; there is a mainspring in all of us, and we bless the man who reveals it to us; he who can touch it, rules us — be he general, poet, statesman, or preacher.

III. Yes; this is Christ's claim upon us; He knows us; HE IS THE TRUE REVEALER OF THE HIDDEN NATURE OF MAN. "He therefore taught as one having authority, and not as the Scribes." And hence the word of the prophecy of Simeon, which I have read as a text, is to be taken by the side of His precious word. Christ is "a light" — "a light," says Simeon, "to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of Thy people Israel." "That was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." What do we mean by light, but that which makes manifest the interior chambers of our nature? Yes! to know man is the great indispensable of all teaching. Rare knowledge and wonderful!

IV. Yes, AND KNOWLEDGE OF HUMAN NATURE IS ESSENTIAL TO ALL TEACHING. You see the painter! he will tell you that knowledge of anatomy is essential to success; he needs the knowledge of muscular action, to give life to his picture — a knowledge of internal action to external development. Thus you see in Christ knowledge of humanity. His whole teaching reveals adaptation, fitness to complete imperfect man! Hence, because of Christ's transcendental knowledge, Christianity cannot be realized on earth. It is always over and beyond man. But a terrible thing it is to be with one who entirely knows us, and reads us through and through like a book — by observation, like Foster — by intuition, like Shakespeare; but to many it is only moral anatomy or surgery. The greatest knowledge of man is by sympathy. And Christ knew the World of the Human Heart by sympathy. Have you not noticed that scarcely any mind can cross the broad disc of our Lord's even temporary association, without revealing, as it passes, its state? It seems as if any mind coming into the neighbourhood of His Divine character is compelled to yield itself up, not only to His perfect knowledge — but, in the memorable events of His life, is illustrated bow that which is done in secret is proclaimed on the house-tops. Amazing would seem the attraction of our Lord's character, by which He drew to Him most opposite beings. He held them by their affection to Him. He held them by their hostility to Him. He revealed their love, their hatred, and their fear. Christ's character was like that ancient mirror which, if held up before the face, did not reveal the face, but the thought.

V. THE TEACHING OF OUR LORD HAD THE SAME INFLUENCE AS HIS PERSONAL CHARACTER; it revealed the thoughts of the heart. All His parables removed the abstract ideas of the human soul into the region of home life. Thus Christ shows how He knows our inner nature, and speaks to the inner world of motive and imagination.

VI.

1. He knew. Mark, His knowledge was and is absolute. We speak of many, and say, "They know human nature by observation or by intuition." Properly, Christ's knowledge is neither the one nor the other; the first says, I know human nature because I look at it; the second says, I know human nature because I look at myself, and find myself related to it. Christ knew it because He made it.

2. Hence His authority over man. Man felt His knowledge.

3. He revealed our thoughts in His sympathy, he knew what was in man; hence His sympathy with men. Yes, His sympathy with man!

VII. Christ not only revealed the thoughts of many hearts by eliciting their peculiar moral character, but HE SPOKE TO THE UNIVERSAL HEART OF MAN IN ALL AGES, BOTH BY HIS NEEDS AND BY HIS WORDS; He transformed the great instincts of men in all ages into absolute revelations. Christianity has revealed and authenticated to men what had been for ages suspected, or hoped, or feared.

VIII.

1. He saw human nature was dark. He came to enlighten it. "I am the light of the world."

2. He saw the hardness as well as the darkness of man. He came to soften the world's heart. "He knew what was in man."

3. He consecrated humanity. He revealed the holy destiny of man, for "He knew what was in man."

4. "That the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed." He came to sublime and to crown human nature, to reveal to man His brightest, boldest thought — Eternal life — Immortality.

(E. P. Hood.)

It may be profitable for us, then, to inquire:

I. IN WHAT MANNER DOES THE GOSPEL BECOME A DETECTOR OF THE HEART? There are two ways in which this detection and unveiling are most apparent and most important.

1. By its authoritative conveyance of truths and facts, it detects and prostrates the pride of human reasoning.

2. By the requirement of an uncompromising decision of character. Let us now inquire —

II. WHAT ARE THE INSTRUCTIVE AND PRACTICAL INFERENCES WHICH WE SHOULD DEDUCE FROM THESE VIEWS OF THE GOSPEL.

1. That the ministry of the gospel ought to be so conducted as to secure, as much as possible, this important object of discrimination and detection.

2. Every hearer of the gospel should feel constrained to bring home to his own heart the great test of character. 3, How greatly to be loved and prized is that gospel, which can give hope to the sinner even on the detection of his guilt and danger.

(H. F. Burder, D. D.)

I.

1. This is the first announcement that the way of the Holy Child must be the way of sorrows. The angel had spoken of the throne of David; the shepherds had brought a message of peace; Simeon foretells the Cross. Yet this prophecy is called a blessing! "He blessed them!" Blessedness is not the same as external prosperity. Blessedness is obedience to the will of the Father.

2. Mary has to learn that she, too, must suffer with her Child. "A sword shall pierce through thy own soul." This is her blessing! Is it not true that the coming of the Eternal Word in human flesh has brought a blessing upon human sufferings, which are henceforth linked with His?

3. Simeon foresees that the Christ must suffer because His life would be violently opposed to the principles by which men were guiding their lives. He is among men as the Incarnate Word, reading their inmost thoughts, and revealing to them their true selves. Therefore must He be for the salvation of some and for the condemnation of others; therefore must He be a Sign that is spoken against.

4. Human suffering arises from the breach of the Divine order which was made when man chose his own will rather than God's. The Divinely-ordered human life is lived by the Word made-flesh. Inasmuch as the Divinely-ordered life is in direct opposition to the self-centred lives of fallen men, it must come into collision with them and must suffer. At the same time, by its very perfection, and by its hold on the true Centre — the Divine Will — it must condemn all that falls short of it or opposes it.

II.

1. Contemplate in the Child here presented to the Father, the One Perfect Human Life, unfolding itself amidst the evil antagonisms of selfish human nature.

2. Learn that it follows that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).

(Canon Vernon Hutton, M. A.)

Christ is set for the fall of some and the rising of others.

1. It is not otherwise.

2. It cannot be otherwise.

3. It ought not to be otherwise.

4. It will not be otherwise.

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

The sign spoken against.

1. In its continual struggle.

2. In its certain triumph.

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

Simeon added this probably as an explanation of an expression he had just used in his burst of inspired song. "The glory of Israel" was a phrase already consecrated in religious language. It commonly meant the Sacred Presence or Shekinah between the cherubim over the ark of the covenant. Israel, as St. Paul in later years pointed out, had indeed many a prerogative among the nations. Israel was God's adopted family; Israel inherited the covenants — those early understandings between earth and heaven, of which the great patriarchs had been the favoured recipients; to Israel God had revived in its completeness the moral law; Israel offered to God a worship, the nature and details of which had been Divinely ordered; Israel, so rich in the past, was also the people of the future; the promises were its endowment for the coming ages, and in the fathers or patriarchs Israel had not merely a store of precious memories, but a lasting possession. The patriarchs were the property of their descendents to the end of time; but the true glory of Israel was this, that of its stock and blood "as concerning the flesh, Christ" — whose Incarnation the Sacred Presence over the ark prefigured — "Christ came, who is all over all, God blessed for ever." All else that Israel was or had — its sacred books, its typical ritual, its ideal of righteousness in the moral law, its great saints and heroes — all else pointed on and up to this its supreme prerogative But what would it mean in fact, in history? Would all Israelites hasten to recognize their true title as a race to greatness? Would all hearts join in one outburst of thankful praise when the glory of Israel presented Himself to His countrymen? Simeon feels it his duty to check unwarranted expectations which his earlier words might have seemed to raise.

1. Christ's coming into the world was not to have a uniform effect upon human souls. It would act on one soul in one way, and on another in another: it would act differently on the same soul at different periods of its history. It is Christ's wish to bless every one with whom He comes in contact; but His goodwill is limited by the free action of men, who are left at liberty to accept or reject Him as they choose. The spiritual world is not ruled mechanically. The truth and grace of God only act upon men with good results so far as they are willing that they should so act. That Christ's Advent should have great results was inevitable. It acted as a moral shock upon the existing fabric of thought and life, dispelling illusions, and making men think and choose. None could regard Christ with indifference. He stirred the emotions of all.

2. Of the two effects of Christ's Advent, Simeon mentions first the fall of many in Israel. Bold paradox — to associate His blessed name, who came to be the health and Saviour of men, with spiritual failure. Yet this was what prophecy had led men to expect. And it is what actually happened. When Christ appeared as a public teacher, He was "despised and rejected" by the great majority of the Jewish people. Even such as heard Him gladly at first, joined the priests and rulers at last in the cry, "Crucify Him." Only a few clung firmly to Him through it all.

3. When our Lord had His own way with souls, it was to raise them to newness of life. To come into contact with Him — sympathetic contact — was to touch a life so intrinsically buoyant and vigorous that it transfused itself forthwith into the attracted soul, and bore it onwards and upwards. The "rising again" of which Simeon speaks is not the future resurrection of the body, but the present moral and spiritual resurrection of believers' souls.

(Canon Liddon.)

Everything that comes from God is naturally fitted and originally intended for good. But His gifts are often perverted, and become, though not the cause, yet the occasion, of evil.

I. IT IS SO WITH COMMON TEMPORAL BLESSINGS. They are all good things in themselves, but they prove advantages or disadvantages according to our use of them.

1. Riches. When properly received and used to the glory of God and good of men, riches are a great blessing; but when coveted, or rested in as the chief good, or abused in extravagance and profligacy, they become the root of all evil, and drown men in destruction.

2. Greatness. In God's hand it is to make great, to give power and honour to men; and those great men who conduct themselves in a manner becoming their exalted station, are honourable and happy indeed; but the more pre-eminent in station men are, the more sinful and ruinous is their misconduct.

3. Learning is justly accounted honourable and valuable; and it actually not only promotes a man's worldly distinction, but proves a blessing in the highest sense of the word, when consecrated to God, and possessed in humility and virtue; but there are few greater curses than learning misapplied, usurping the place of the wisdom which is from above, or co-existing with habits of immorality.

4. Health is a blessing, without which all other earthly blessings are of little avail; and when spent in piety and usefulness, it enables men to rise to a high degree of credit and success, and even moral excellence; but when its stability is presumed on to encourage men to proceed in a career of dissipation, and its vigour wasted on crimes, or on trifles, it becomes the occasion of multiplied evils and of deep degradation.

5. Affliction is kindly sent for the benefit of transgressors; and when its voice is listened to, it recalls them from their wanderings; but when it is unimproved, it only hardens men more and more, and sinks them deeper and deeper in misery.

6. Nor is it otherwise with life itself. "Skin upon skin," one piece of valuable property after another — nay, "all that man hath, will he give for his life." Every man is bound to praise the Almighty Author and Preserver of his life; and the life that now is, when rightly improved, is the means of rising to the happiness of the endless life which is to come; but life spent and closed in nature's guilt and depravity, is to all who so spend it and so close it, the forerunner of the second death, so that it would have been better for them never to have lived at all.

II. THE SAME PRINCIPLE APPLIES WITH RESPECT TO CHRIST'S COMING INTO THE WORLD. He came to bless all mankind; but His coming may only increase our condemnation.

(James Foote, M. A.)

1. Remember that the gospel must prove the means either of your rise or of your fall. It is, then, a matter of infinite moment, involving all that is important in your endless character and destiny.

2. Speak not against Christ, but for Him. Beware of speaking lightly of Him, or His ordinances, doctrines, people. On the contrary, espouse His cause, and embrace every opportunity of remembering Him to others.

3. Let all the sufferings and indignities of the Redeemer be matter of grief to you. Your sins made them necessary.

4. Suffer the gospel to have its proper heart-searching effect on you. That "the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed," is a result not to be deprecated, but desired; in order that what is right and pleasant may be cherished, and what is wrong corrected. God sees all now, and one day He will reveal all. It will then be too late to think of amendment. The present is the time for any salutary discovery.

(James Foote, M. A.)

Wherever Christ Jesus comes, with whomsoever He may come in contact, He is never without influence, never inoperative, but in every case a weighty result is produced. There is about the holy Child Jesus a power which is always in operation. He is not set to be an unobserved, inactive, slumbering personage in the midst of Israel but He is set for the falling or for the rise of the many to whom He is known Never does a man hear the gospel, but he either rises or falls under that hearing. Observe, then, the two sides of the truth — Jesus always working upon men with marked effect; and, on the other hand, man treating the Lord Jesus with warmth either of affection or opposition; an action and a reaction being evermore produced. Why is this?

1. Because of the energy which dwells in the Lord's Christ, and in the gospel which now represents Him among men. The gospel is all life and energy; like leaven it heaves and ferments with inward energy, it cannot rest till it leavens all around it. It may be compared to salt which must permeate, penetrate, and season that which is subject to its influence. It is no more possible for you to restrain the working of the gospel than to forbid the action of fire. Stand before the fire, it shall warm and comfort you; thrust your hand into it, it shall burn you. It must work, because it is fire. And so with yonder sun. Though clouds may hide it from our sight at this moment, yet for ever does it pour forth, as from a furnace mouth, its heat and light. Nor could it cease to burn and shine, unless it ceased to be a sun. As long as it is a sun, it must permeate surrounding space with its influence and splendour. Do you wonder that the Sun of Righteousness is of yet Diviner energy?

2. Jesus Christ and His gospel are matters of such prime necessity to mankind, that from this cause also there must always be an effect produced by Christ. He is as necessary to our souls as the air is to our bodies. If we receive Him, we live; if we will not receive Him, we must die. It is unavoidable that it should be so. You cannot reject the Saviour, and be a little damaged thereby; there is no alternative but that you utterly perish.

3. The position in which Jesus Christ meets men makes it inevitable that He must have an effect upon them. He stands right in men's way. They must decide about Him one way or the other.

4. He was appointed for this very thing. "Set." It was for this very end He came. See the husbandman take the fan. You observe the heap of mingled wheat and chaff lying on the floor. He begins to move the fan to and fro till he has created a breeze of wind. What happens? The chaff flies to the further end of the threshing floor, and there it lies by itself; the wheat, more weighty, remains purified and cleansed, a golden heap of grain. Such is the preaching of the gospel. Such is Christ: he is the separater of those who will perish from those who shall be saved. The fan discerns and discovers, it reveals the worthless and manifests the precious. Thus hath Christ the fan in his hand! Or, take another metaphor, which we find in the prophets, "Who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap." You see the refiner's fire. Notice how it burns and blazes. Now, it turns to a white heat; you cannot bear to look on it. What has happened? Why, the dross is divided from the silver and the alloy from the gold. The refiner's fire separates the precious from the vile. And so the gospel reveals the elect of God, and leaves to hardness of heart the finally impenitent. Where it is preached, the men who accept it are precious ones of God, His elect, His chosen; the men who reject it are the reprobate silver. So shall men call them, for God hath rejected them. Mark too, the fuller's soap. The fuller takes his soap, and exercising his craft upon yonder piece of linen marked with many stains and colours, you see how these foul things fly before the soap, and the fair fabric alone remains. Both spots and linen feel the power of the soap. So cloth the gospel take the polluted fabric of humanity and cleanse it: the filth departs and flies before it, and the fair linen remains. Such are the saints of God; when the gospel comes to them they are purified thereby, while the wicked, as foul spots, are driven away in their wickedness. Having thus set forth the great truth of the text, I purpose now to answer briefly one or two questions.

I. WHO ARE THOSE THAT FALL BY CHRIST. In Christ's day the question was not difficult to answer. Those that fell by Christ were —

1. The holders of tradition, who gave men's sayings higher authority than God's commands.

2. The externalists.

3. The self-righteous.

4. The wiseacres.

5. The sceptical. Very much the same sort of people as fell by Christ then fall by Christ now.

II. TO WHOM WILL THE LORD JESUS BE A RISING AGAIN? He will be a rising again to those who have fallen. Dost thou confess, "I have fallen"? Dost thou acknowledge, "I possess a fallen nature"? Dost thou lament thou hast fallen into sin? O my brother, He will be thy rising. He cannot uplift those who are not brought low. Note, again, those that rise in Him are those who are now willing to rise m Him. Jesus is set to raise you up.

III. There are SOME WHO SHALL BOTH FALL AND RISE, AGAIN IN CHRIST; to whom Christ shall give such a fall as they never had before, and such a rise as shall be to their eternal resurrection. But what a fall was there when I learned that if salvation was of works, it could not be of grace, and if it was of grace it could not be of works; the two could not be mixed together. Then I said I would hope in the performance of the duties which the gospel inculcates; I thought I had power to do this; I would repent, and believe, and so win heaven. But what a fall I had, and how each bone seemed broken when He declared to me, "without Me, ye can do nothing." Ah, this is how Christ saves souls. He gives them a fall first, and afterwards He makes them rise. You cannot fill the vessel till it is empty. There must be room made for mercy by the pouring out of human merit. You cannot clothe the man who is clothed already, or feed him who has no hunger. But this fall which Jesus gives us is a blessed fall. He never did throw a man down without lifting him up afterwards. "I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal," these are attributes of Jehovah Jesus.

IV. We shall conclude with a few words upon the last part of the text. The text tells us that the Lord Jesus is "A SIGN THAT SHALL BE SPOKEN AGAINST."

1. Christ was a sign of Divine love. In Him God reaches the climax of benevolence, and man exhibits the climax of deadly hate. The greatest gift provokes the greatest hostility, and the loftiest sign brings forth the most virulent opposition.

2. Christ was a sign of Divine justice. A bleeding Saviour, the Son of God deserted by His Father, the thunderbolts of vengeance finding a target in the Person of the Well-beloved, herein is justice revealed most fully. I hear not that other signs of vengeance have been spoken against. Men have trembled, but have not railed. Sodom and Gomorrah with bowed head confessed the justice of their doom. Egypt engulphed in the Red Sea saith nothing of it; none of her records contain a single blasphemy against Jehovah for having swept away the nation's chivalry. The judgments of God, as a rule, strikes men dumb with awe! But this, which was the greatest display of Divine hatred of sin, where the Son of God was made to descend into the lowest depths as our substitute, this provokes to-day man's uttermost wrath. Know you not how many are continually railing at the Cross? The Crucified is still abhorred. How matchless is the perversity of human nature, that when God displays His justice most, but blends it sweetly with His love, the sign is everywhere spoken against!

3. Christ was the sign of man's communion with God, and of God's fellowship with man. A ladder reaching from earth to heaven; a connecting bridge between creature and Creator. But alas! man does not want to be near his Maker, and hence he rails at the means provided for communion.

4. Christ is the sign of the elect seed, the representative of the holy, the newborn, the spiritual; and hence, as soon as the carnal mind, that knoweth not God nor loveth Him, perceives Christ and His gospel, it at once stirs up the depth of its malevolence to put down Christ if it be possible. But they shall never put Him down. They may speak against the gospel, but here is our joy, that Christ will raise up His people, and will certainly give the fall to His enemies. The ark of the Lord can never fall before Dagon; but Dagon must fall down before the Lord's ark.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Sunday School Times.
Eastern fable tells of a magic mirror that remained clear and unsullied when the pure-hearted looked into it, but became troubled and obscure when the glance of the guilty fell upon it. So the owner of that mirror could always tell the character of those who looked into it. Such a test we have in Jesus. We can tell a man's nature by knowing what he thinks of Christ, and thus "the thoughts of many hearts" are "revealed."

(Sunday School Times.)

There are four reasons why they speak against Him; that is, as the true Christ of God.

I. Ignorance, men not knowing their need of Him; many of the relations he bears therefore appear to the natural man to be superfluous; he does not know his need, and therefore speaks against it in ignorance.

II. The native enmity of the mind. "The carnal mind is enmity against God;" men will naturally speak against that that they have an antipathy to.

III. Because they are too much taken up with the world, and they do not like to be interrupted. Now we must pursue the world, must enjoy the world; to become one of these religious mopes would be to spoil all our pleasures. Thus they have an idea that there is something very gloomy about religion, and so they speak against it, especially the truth.

IV. The natural man has a vague idea that the threatenings of God are mere words; that" whoever the Lord may send to hell," says the natural man, "I can't believe He will send me there."

(J. Wells.)

These are the words of Simeon. A beautiful picture — age and childhood meeting together, a gentle shoot and the full ripe corn in the ear, a sapling and a full-grown oak ready for transplantation into that realm where the saints of God flourish with an immortal life and glory.

I. A CHILD. A wonderful thing. A seed containing a world of unknown possibilities. It makes parents glad. It should do so. A gift of God, a pledge and proof of the gracious tenderness which rules the world. But a child should also make parents thoughtful. Children are not mere play-things — ornaments, but undeveloped powers — slumbering volcanoes, which may burst out with desolating eruptions; or shrouded lights, that shall emerge in fuller and brighter radiance from year to year, shedding gladness and blessing all around.

II. "BEHOLD THIS CHILD." Have we not sometimes wished that some Simeon could have taken a child of ours in his arms and become prophetic with respect to his destiny? But it is not permitted — graciously so. We know, however, that the future of children is not a thing of chance, nor is it determined only by what the child is in itself. Otherwise the parental relationship would be largely nullified. A child has its own native powers and tendencies, but they are capable of regulation or perversion. The doctrine of Scripture is that the child will be much what the parent makes him.

III. THE HISTORY OF THIS CHILD WAS TO BE ONE OF A CHEQUERED NATURE, AND THE MOTHER WAS TO ENDURE SAD WOE. "A sword shall pierce," dec. This not uncommon for mothers. Simeon, however, blessed the parents in spite of the sorrow that would be mingled with the lot of Jesus and their own. Blessedness not the same as continuous happiness or pleasure. A pathway of uninterrupted joy may not be a blessing. "Blessed are they that mourn," dec. Christ's life was blessed when He was tempted, had not where to lay His head, was alone upon the mountain, was robed in mock royalty, beaten, spit upon, agonized in the garden, died upon the cross. No one could call Him happy, hut He was blessed.

IV. THIS CHILD WAS SET FOR THE FALL AND RISING AGAIN OF MANY IN ISRAEL: The effect different in different persons. Not, however, intended to be different. The purpose of God is good and gracious. All His gifts are intended for benefit — health, prosperity, afflictions. How differently are we affected by the same things! Children in the same house, under the same training, &c.

1. Falling —

(1)In aggravated degradation;

(2)augmented guilt;

(3)humiliation and repentance.

2. Rising again.

(1)Faith.

(2)Forgiveness.

(3)Holiness.

(4)Heaven.The words of Simeon are for this day, for this nation, for you. This Child which was set forth then is still set forth, until in the counsels of heaven the last day shall break upon the world, and the throne of judgment shall be erected where now stands the throne of grace. This Child is still the turning-point upon which are centred the destinies of the world. This Child is not for a race, but for the world; not for an age, but for all time. This Child you have heard of from your infancy. You have not heard so much of any child as this. This child runs as a golden thread through the history of the world. You may neglect Him, but you cannot escape Him. You may despise Him, but you cannot escape Him. You may hate Him, but you cannot escape Him. It cannot be with you as it is with a heathen who has never heard of His name, and upon whom the glory of His brightness has never risen.

(E. Mellor, D. D.)

I. How TRUE IS THIS PROPHECY. Undoubtedly the Son of Man came not to destroy souls, but to save. In boundless love He has sacrificed Himself for the world, and opened heaven by His cruel death. Nevertheless, he is set to the ruin of many.

1. Many are destitute of holy faith, which is the gate of life and the ground of eternal salvation.

2. Many are destitute of Divine charity, which we must possess in addition to faith, if we would be saved.

II. HOW TERRIBLE IS THIS PROPHECY. Dreadful are the consequences to those for the ruin of whom Christ is set.

1. They forfeit the price of their redemption.

2. They lose the eternal happiness destined for them.

(Joseph Schuen.)

I. What this Child was to be to His enemies — an object of opposition and an occasion of ruin,

II. What He was to be to His mother — a cause of acute suffering (by sympathy).

III. What He was to be to His people — the Author of their recovery or restoration.

IV. What He was to be to all man. kind — a test or touchstone of their moral and spiritual state.

(G. Brooks.)

While Joseph and the mother were still marvelling at the words spoken by the old man concerning Jesus, he turned to them, and with a solemn blessing first pronounced upon those who were privileged to have so near a place on earth to the Saviour of mankind, spoke these words to His mother only, "Behold this Child," &c. He is placed, or laid, as a firmly-planted rock, with a twofold result and purpose — the fall of some, the rising of others. Two passages of the prophet Isaiah, the one from the eighth and the other from the twenty-eighth chapter, seem to be here brought together; as also in the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and in the second chapter of the First Epistle of St. Peter. God places this Child in Zion as a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation. Whosoever will may build upon Him the house of his habitation, and rise into a holy temple, safe from the storms of time and the devastations of judgment. He is set for the rising of many. But if men will not thus use Him, as the foundation-stone of a safe and sure dwelling, then (according to the other passage) they will find Him a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. He will be like an obstructing rock in their path — even to them who stumble at the word, being disobedient. God will not move Christ out of the way because men are perverse enough to stumble over Him. This Child is set, by a hand not of man, to be either for the rising (if they will have it so), or else for the fall (if they will have it so) of many in Israel. A solemn responsibility! We must either rise by Christ or fall — which we will. "And for a sign spoken against." A sign, in the Scripture use, denotes something or some one pointing to God, to God's being, to God's working. Christ is a sign. He came upon earth to point to God. But this sign, like every other, may be, and commonly is, gainsaid, or spoken against. For one who accepts it, for one who, because of Christ, sees and believes in and lives for God — many cavil, many reject, and many neglect the gospel. This in all times. But most of all when He was Himself amongst men. Then indeed gainsaying ran on into open violence. Such is the warning uttered in the ears of His mother, over the little Infant lying still and helpless in the arms of the aged saint. "Yea," he adds, "a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also." She who is now rejoicing in the blessedness of being her Lord's mother, must learn that no one comes so near Christ without partaking in His sufferings. For us the prophecy of Simeon is recorded. Let us try and judge ourselves by it, that we be not judged of the Lord. To which purpose, in our case, is this child set? To which of two purposes? for our fall, or for our rising?

1. For our fall, if we let the word come to us unheeded, to be snatched away by the tempter; if we receive the word for a moment with joy, but take no heed to its watering by the Spirit's grace, to its growth by the sunshine of God's presence, by the dew of God's blessing; if we allow the word to become choked in us by cares and riches and pleasures of this life, so that it brings no fruit to perfection; if we continue in sin that grace may abound. This Child is set for the fall of many. And, oh, my friends, perhaps we have scarcely yet said of how many. It is not only the utterly hardened, not only the avowed unbeliever, not only the scoffer, the dishonest, or the impure, who stumble at the great stumbling-stone; it is quite as often the mere neglecter, the mere procrastinator, the merely undecided, the almost Christian, who shows what he is by his treatment of the Saviour and the great salvation. Not to be with Christ is, He says it Himself, to be (in His judgment) against Him.

2. Let us listen, in this day of opportunity and of blessing, to the alternative here set before us. This Child is set for the rising of many. What is this "rising"? and in whom is it verified? It is a rising out of darkness, out of the low, misty valley of sense and worldliness, into the clear light and pure knowledge of Him whom truly to know is eternal life. It is a rising out of misery and sin. "Set for the rising of many," the text says. Who, then, are these? They are those who feel their need of Christ. And which of us has not cause to do so?

(Dean Vaughan.)

Every man who has heard the word of salvation has some kind of connection with Christ. Christ is offered to each of us, in good faith on God's part, as a means of salvation, a foundation on which we may build. A man is free to accept or reject that offer. If he reject it, he has not thereby cut himself off from all contact and connection with that rejected Saviour, but he still sustains a relation to Him; and the message that he has refused to believe is exercising an influence upon his character and his destiny. The smallest particle of light falling on the sensitive plate produces a chemical change that can never be undone again, and the light of Christ's love once brought to the knowledge and presented for the acceptance of a soul, stamps on it an ineffaceable sign of its having been there. The gospel once heard is always the gospel which has been heard. Nothing can alter that. Once heard, it is henceforward a perpetual element in the whole condition, character, and destiny of the hearer. Christ does something to every one of us. His gospel will tell upon you. It is telling upon you. If you disbelieve it, it is not the same as if you had never heard it. Never is the box of ointment opened without some savour from it abiding in every nostril to which its odour has been wafted. Only the alternative, the awful "either, or," is open for each — the "savour of life unto life, or of death unto death."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

St. Paul experienced, in his own person, the double effect of the advent of Christ into the world set forth in Simeon's language — first, the repulsion which made him so bitter a persecutor, and next the attraction which made him so glorious an apostle. And of this double experience was a second great example. There are many in our modern world who are thinking and speaking and living in opposition to the eternal Christ. It may be, as in the case of Paul, in the case of Augustine, in their earlier days they have, from whatever cause, taken a fright at religion; they have been repelled by some caricature of it, or some inconsistency on the part of its professors, or by taking only one aspect of its doctrines and claims into consideration; or by a sense of their present inability to comply with its demand upon the conscience and upon the heart; but it is a happiness to think that Christ is still there in the firmament of the heavens, in the midst of the Church, among the golden candlesticks, set not merely for the fall, but for the rising again of many a soul in Israel. It is to be hoped that brighter days await those wanderers, many of whom are most assuredly children of the kingdom who have lost their way, but will not lose it for ever. A nearer sight, a constraining sense of the Divine Redeemer's claims, will come when men see that He can, and does, give by His Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, to those who ask Him. When they take into account the works which He did of old, the words which He spake, the impression which He made when He was upon the earth; when they see the society which He founded, the creed which radiates from and centres in His person, and which is more widely accepted now, eighteen centuries after His death, than ever before, they may reconsider their prejudices: they may say less than they mean when they admit that there is something to be said for Christianity after all; they may rise from the tomb into which they had fallen-the tomb of doubt, the tomb of care, the tomb of evil living — into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

(Canon Liddon.)

How is He set for our fall? That seems very strange. It is not God's purpose that the revelation of good produces fall. We must seek any explanation rather than one which shakes the central pillar of the universe, and turns God into a Master of evil. No, the real explanation lies in ourselves, in what we know and see men do of their own will. Good and evil lie before men, and they choose evil. There is a state of heart which naturally turns away from or hates the life of Christ and the spirit of its work. There is no kinship between Him and it. When His goodness is flashed upon such men, it sends them into violent hatred of it. He is set for their fall. But it is their own deeds that have brought them to that condition — not God's will. This is the condemnation, that men loved darkness rather than light. Why? Because their deeds were evil. Plainly, then, if we wish to rise into a new life and a higher one when the revelation of goodness is made to us, if we wish Christ to be set for our rising, the first thing to do is to love light; and in order to love it, to make our deeds good. Never mind having, high ideals, until you have got your daily actions and thoughts right. It is a simple promise, but it is eternally true and sure: "To him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God." We must be akin to Christ before we tan receive Christ. To such, when He comes home to the heart, when we feel Him rushing on us, He comes in resurrection-power, sot for our rising. And we rise, shaking off our sins, our dark thoughts, the burden of our sorrow, the besetting of self, the curse of indifference, impatience, and sloth into a new life. It is like the unbinding of the earth in spring. Thus is Christ set for our rise and fall. It is a solemn thing to watch a man when that testing comes to him. The hour strikes when he is called on to choose between two ways of acting, and he knows God is in one and the devil in the other. What is this? It is Christ set before him for his rise or fall; Christ come to reveal his inward thoughts, his inward strength or weakness. It is a judgment-hour; and years of evil fall, or of righteous growth rest upon the hour. And still more grave is it when Christ is set before a nation for its fall or rising again. All great ideas are set for the rise and falling of men, for life and for death. Of this law the strongest instance in history is that which accompanied the coming el Christ. His ideas made the world into two camps. Nor has the power of Christ's spiritual thoughts ceased to do this kind of work. Through the solitary contest in each man's soul, and his own choice of good or evil; through the contest in every community, in every nation, in the whole world, men and nations rise and fall, and the silent separation ever going on accumulates the materials for the last great judgment when this dispensation of time is over and another shall begin. That day is not what has been pictured in poetry. It will be the magnificent indications of God's ways to men; the clear, unmistakable revelation of the holiness and justice and truth of God. Men shall see then. The time of doubt and casuistry and shadow will be over; all thoughts shall be revealed, and we shall know ourselves and know God. Once more Christ will be openly set for the rise and fall of men. By the revelation of His holiness alone the good shall be irresistibly attracted; the evil, till they find out their evil, irresistibly repelled. There will be no caprice. In accordance with inevitable law, in accordance with the voice in men's own hearts, will the judgment-sentence of the Son of Man be given.

(Stopford A. Brooke.)

The veil will be stripped off from them — such is the figure — by their own language, and their own conduct towards Christ. By their estimate of His character, by their appreciation or disparagement of His holy life, and mighty works and Divine doctrine — by their acceptance or rejection of Him whose appeal was ever to the conscience of man, as in the sight of a heart-searching God — men will disclose their true disposition; will show whether they love the world, whether they echo its lying voice, whether they desire darkness lest their deeds should be reproved, or whether, on the other hand, they are brave to see, and bold to confess the truth, whether they have an ear to hear the voice of God, and a will to follow Him whithersoever He goeth. But, most of all, as the end draws nigh, and the life of holiness is closing in the death of martyrdom. Then, even more than in earlier days, were the feelings of men tested, the thoughts of hearts revealed, by their dealing with the Suffering and the Crucified. The high priests plot and blaspheme, Pilate vacillates and gives way, the soldiers part among them the garments, the people stand beholding, Judas despairs, Peter repents, Joseph of Arimathaea becomes courageous, Nicodemus comes by day, the centurion confesses, one thief blasphemes, the other prays, men faint and flee. women out of weakness are made strong, a sword pierces the heart of the mother, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Even thus has it been in all time. For all time the words were uttered; it is by their treatment of Jesus, in Himself and in His people, in His word, in His church, in His sacraments, in His Spirit, that men show decisively before God, before one another, before themselves (if they will behold it) what manner of spirit they are of.

(Dean Vaughan.)Before these words were spoken Mary was full of happiness. She had come into the Temple trembling with the deep pleasure of young motherhood, her soul filled full of natural piety, her heart leaping with joy. And when, moved still more by the old religious rite, she heard the hymn of Simeon over her boy, all her joy rose to spring-tide in her. Her face glowed. Joy and triumph filled her soul. Simeon saw this lightning on her face, saw her mien transfigured, and with the wisdom which has outlived weakness but not sympathy, turned and touched her joy with the warning of his prophecy. "A sword shall pierce through thine own soul." It was cruel, we think; it was pitiful to dash her young delight with cold. That is our first thought, and it might be a true one, had the sorrow she was to suffer been ordinary sorrow. But it was so dreadful a pain that she needed to prepare herself, needed the warning. Her joy was too great at this moment to be destroyed by the words; it was only chastened by a shade of impending sorrow, so that when the pain came it was not so great a shock. Nor did the shade make the joy really less. Joy was only lodged deeper in the heart, made more intense — a secret, silent possession: nay, the very dread of its loss made her handling of it tenderer, and her love of it greater. By both, by joy and by the shadow of sorrow, she was exalted, raised from the girl to the thoughtful woman who kept things in her heart and pondered them. Soon Simeon's prophecy was fulfilled. She saw her Son go forth from the quiet of the village with high hopes, and at His first return to His home the people tried to kill Him. For a time things seemed bright, but as she followed His ministry with the passionate love which motherhood has for a son who claims also by his character deep reverence, she saw Him despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, hated and driven to death. Day by day the sword pierced her soul; day by day its sharp edge was whetted by love and fruitless indignation. Can we ira, gin, how that must have worn life away? And then the end, the hour by the cross when she knelt apart, silent to the last, seeing Him die so cruelly — the mother's heart pierced in twain. No wonder she died early. No wonder Christiandom has sung to her, painted and graven her, as the Mother of Sorrows. We, looking at her life and her Son's, know of a truth that out of suffering nobly borne for love of man, good comes to all. Involved in our pain, we know nothing but that we suffer. Yet the history of Mary's sorrow is the history of all sorrow. Good flows from it to the whole, and when we see that good we shall rejoice that we have suffered. No sword pierces the human heart, but the blood that streams from it heals the nations.

(Stopford A. Brooke.)

To the prophecies which Simeon addresses to Mary concerning her Divine Son, he adds one relative to herself. The very moment after filling her heart with joy by announcing the future glory of Jesus, he announces also the many sufferings she must endure. Such is the ordinary conduct of Providence, towards the just and elect. He chequers prosperity with reverses, so that they may be induced to transfer still more and more their affections to things above, and to elevate their hearts to those mansions where alone true joy is to be found.

I. THERE IS NO REAL CAUSE WHY BELIEVERS SHOULD FAINT UNDER THE CHASTISEMENTS OF THEIR HEAVENLY FATHER.

1. God's corrections are tokens of His love, and the means which He often uses for bringing His children into glory. Amos 3:2; Hebrews 12:5-7. Prosperity is not the field where virtue flourishes; the soil is too rich; a luxuriance of baleful weeds chokes the good plants and makes them unfruitful. Adam's fall was in paradise. Noah's abundance proved a snare and temptation to him. David, in the midst of happiness, became an adulterer and a murderer. Solomon, in the midst of His opulence, apostatised from his God. Such has been the opinion of some of the wisest men concerning an uninterrupted course of prosperity, that they have even shunned the company, and broken off all connection with those who enjoyed it. It is written of St. , that being upon a journey, and coming to an inn, he heard the landlord boast, that through his whole life he had never known what it was to be under trouble or affliction; upon which, that father would not so much as lodge for a night in his house, but foretold a sudden destruction to him and his, which soon after came to pass. Thus the children of God, instead of repining, or sinking under pressure of affliction, ought to thank their heavenly Father for it, and esteem it one of the most precious blessings He bestows on them.

2. The ways of God are frequently dark and obscure; and we may not for a long time perceive the cause of our affliction.

3. It is common for us to place our affections on trifles, whilst we despise things of the greatest value. So long as things go well with us in this world, we look no further. Then God, in order to wean us from these snares, embitters them to us; and in proportion as our love of this earth diminishes, our desire of heaven will increase.

II. ADVICE TO THOSE WHO ARE UNDER THE CHASTENING AND CORRECTING HAND OF GOD.

1. Use every possible means to acquire just notions, worthy and becoming sentiments, of the Omnipotent Creator and supreme Governor of the world. Consider Him as merciful as well as just; of infinite goodness, as well as incomprehensible wisdom and power; as One who hates nothing that He has made, and whose kindness to His children is unlimited.

2. Make as speedy and strict an inquiry as possible into your present condition, and try to find out what are the causes and motives of the Lord's thus dealing with you; and at the same time consider what improvements you ought to make of His dispensations. Were you to meet with no trials, where would be your fortitude? If no temptations, where would be your virtue? If no afflictions, where your resignation? If no disappointments in your worldly pleasures, what would become of your attention to heavenly realities?

(B. Murphy.)

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