"Thou shall call His name Jesus: for He shall save His people from their sins."—Matt. 1:21
As the late Professor Hodge of Princeton was lying on his dying bed, and just before he breathed his last, after saying, "My work is done; the pins of the tabernacle are taken out," he began to repeat the lines,—
"A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On Thy kind arms I fall,"
when his power of utterance seemed to fail. His sorrow-stricken wife, who was by his bedside, finished the stanza thus,—
"Be Thou my strength and righteousness,
My Saviour, and my all."
"Say Jesus," said her dying husband, and then breathed his last.
Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him"—Matt. 2:2
The Russian peasantry have a curious tradition. It is that an old woman, the Baboushka, was at work in her house when the wise men from the East passed on their way to find the Christ-child. "Come with us," they said; "we have seen His star in the East, and go to worship Him." "I will come, but not now," she answered; "I have my house to set in order; when this is done I will follow and find Him." But when her work was done the three kings had passed on their way across the desert, and the star shone no more in the darkened heavens. She never saw the Christ-child, but she is living and searching for Him still. For His sake she takes care of all His children. It is she who in Russian and Italian houses is believed to fill the stockings and dress the tree on Christmas morn. The children are awakened by the cry of "Behold the Baboushka!" and spring up hoping to see her before she vanished out of the window. She fancies, the tradition goes, that in each poor little one whom she warms and feeds she may find the Christ-child, whom she neglected ages ago, but is doomed to eternal disappointment.
"When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy."—Matt. 2:10
When they saw the star, they rejoiced. A cause of terror to one person is a cause of joy to another. The baying of a hound on his track strikes dismay to a hunted robber in the woods. The same sound would give cheer to a lost child, when he knew it was his father's hound in search of him. It makes all the difference in the world at which end of the cannon you stand when it is being fired in battle. Its belching fire is the same in either case; but in one instance it is against your enemies, and in the other against you. There is no more terrible thought possible, to the opposer of God, than that the Lord reigneth, and that He is sure to put down all His enemies. There is no thought more comforting than this to the Christian believer. There was an under-witted but a faith-filled Scotch lad in this country, at the time of the great meteoric shower of November, 1833. When on every side men and women were that night in terror at the thought that the hour of final doom had come, this lad's mother aroused him from his sleep with a cry: "Sandy, Sandy, get up, will you? The Day of Judgment has come." Instantly the boy was alive to that call, and was on his feet, shouting, "Glory to God! I'm ready." When the loving followers of Jesus see signs of His appearance, they rejoice with exceeding great joy.
"And sayings Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."—Matt. 3:2
In the neighbourhood of Hoddam Castle, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, there was once a tower called the "Tower of Repentance." What gave the tower its name we are not told, but it is said that an English baronet, walking near the castle, saw a shepherd lad lying upon the ground, reading attentively. "What are you reading, lad?" "The Bible, sir." "The Bible, indeed!" laughed the gentleman; "then you must be wiser than the parson. Can you tell me the way to heaven?" "Yes, sir, I can," replied the boy, in no way embarrassed by the mocking tone of the other; "you must go by way of yonder tower." The gentleman saw that the boy had learned right well the lesson of his book, and, being rebuked, he walked away in silence. Does the reader know anything of the Tower of Repentance? If not, let him learn.
"He shall give His angels charge concerning Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash Thy foot against a stone."—Matt. 4:6
An instructive instance of the effects which may follow a superstitious use of Scripture is recorded in the life of Mr. Lackington. That celebrated bookseller informs us that, when young, he was at one time locked up to prevent his attending a Methodist meeting in Taunton; and that in a fit of superstition he opened the Bible for directions what to do, and hit upon the above text. "This," says Mr. Lackington, "was quite enough for me; so without a moment's hesitation, I ran up two pairs of stairs to my own room, and out of the window I leaped, to the great terror of my poor mistress." He was, of course, very severely bruised; so severely, indeed, as to be confined to his bed during fourteen days.
"Follow Me."—Matt. 4:19
It is reported in the Bohemian story, that St. Wenceslaus, their king, one winter night going to his devotions in a remote church, barefooted, in the snow and sharpness of unequal and pointed ice, his servant, Redivivus, who reverenced his master's piety, and endeavoured to imitate his affections, began to faint through the violence of the snow and cold, till the king commanded him to follow him, and set his feet in the same footsteps which his feet should mark for him. The servant did so, and either fancied a cure or found one; for he followed his prince, helped forward with shame and zeal to his imitation, and by the forming footsteps in the snow. In the same way does the blessed Jesus; for since our way is troublesome, obscure, full of objection and danger, apt to be mistaken, and to affright our industry, He commands us to mark His footsteps, to tread where His feet have stood; and not only invites us forward by the argument of His example, but He hath trodden down much of the difficulty, and made the way easier and fit for our feet.
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."—Matt 5:4
The eloquence of the pulpit shone conspicuously in the introduction of a sermon by the celebrated Massillon, before Louis XIV., King of France, from the above words. The preacher began, "If the world addressed your Majesty from this place, the world would say, 'Blessed is the prince who has never fought, who has filled the universe with his name, who, through the course of a long and flourishing reign, enjoys in splendour all that men admire—extent of conquest, the esteem of his enemies, the love of his people, the wisdom of his laws'; but, sire, the language of the gospel is not the language of the world."
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted"—Matt. 5:4
On one occasion Dr. Leifchild wishing to attend evening service, but not being able to preach in his own church, went into an Episcopal chapel and seated himself on a form with a man of humble guise. The sermon was about to commence, and the text taken was, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." He was struck with the exordium, which seemed very familiar to him. He soon recollected that it was part of his own printed sermon on this passage in his volume on the Beatitudes. The whole sermon, indeed, was his, though much shortened. The sentiments never appeared to him to so great advantage; but this might arise from the place and manner in which they were read.
He saw that the attention of his humble companion was rivetted, and during the sermon tears of sympathy with the mourner described rolled down his cheek; but when in the latter part of the discourse the promise of comfort was dwelt upon, his countenance was lighted up with hope and joy. Dr. Leifchild was so pleased with the effect of his own discourse at second-hand, that he slipped half-a-crown into the man's hand to make sure that, in one sense at least, his comfort should be real.
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."—Matt. 5:5
A missionary in Jamaica was once questioning the little black boys on the meaning of this text, and asked, "Who are the meek?" A boy answered, "Those who give soft answers to rough questions."
"Blessed are the meek."—Matt. 5:5
Anthony Blanc, one of Felix Neff's earlier converts, was very earnest in winning souls to Christ The enemies of the gospel were angry at his success, and used alike scoffs and threats against him. One night, as he was returning home from a religious meeting, he was followed by a man in a rage, who struck him a violent blow on the head. "May God forgive and bless you!" was Anthony's quiet and Christian rejoinder. "Ah!" replied his assailant furiously, "if God does not kill you, I'll do it myself!" Some days afterwards Anthony met the same person in a narrow road, where two persons could hardly pass. "Now I shall be struck by him again," he said to himself. But he was surprised, on approaching, to see this man, once so bitter towards him, reach out his hand, and say to him, in a tremulous voice, "Mr. Blanc, will you forgive me, and let all be over?" Thus, this disciple of Christ, by gentle and peaceful words, had made a friend of an enemy.