January 3.—Morning. [Or January 5.]
“Jesus Christ is Lord.”
OUR last reading showed us man fresh from the hand of his Maker. It will be well to pause and consider the Lord’s goodness to our race. We cannot find a fitter assistance for our meditation than David’s joyful vintage hymn.
1 O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. (It is a part of the excellence and glory of God that he magnifies himself by means of insignificant creatures. Though his name is excellent in all the earth yet babes may praise it, and though his glory be above the heavens sucklings may proclaim it. It needs a great orator to win men’s admiration for a doubtful character; but so surpassingly glorious is the Lord, that even a child’s tongue suffices to baffle his foes, and charm his friends.)
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? (The heavens are so vast and he so small; the moon so bright and he so mean; the stars so glorious and he so grovelling; Lord, how canst thou stoop from the sublimities of heaven to visit such a nothing as man? The study of astronomy is calculated to humble the mind as well as to enlarge it: and at the same time it excites adoring gratitude when we see the Lord lavishing his love upon creatures so insignificant as ourselves.)
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Since he is mortal and angels are immortal, man is a little lower than they; yet it is but for a little time and then man’s coronation with glory and honour shall have come. Then shall it be seen that angels are but servants to the saints, and that all creatures work for their benefit.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. (All these creatures he either tames to his hand, or slays for his use. His fear and dread are on them all. Marred as man’s dominion is, he still walks among the inferior animals with something of that awe, which, as a poet saith, “doth hedge a king.” In Adam’s innocence man’s rule of the lower races was no doubt complete and delightful; one imagines him leaning upon a tawny lion, while a fawn frisks at the side of Eve. In the Lord Jesus, however, we see man most eminently in the place of honour, exalted in the highest. We know that the position of our Lord Jesus is a representative one for all his people, for the numbers are like the Head. In Jesus man is indeed “crowned with glory and honour.” It is both our duty and our privilege to rise superior to all the things of earth. We must take care to keep the world under our feet, and the creatures in their proper place. Let none of us permit the possession of any earthly creatures to be a snare unto us; we are to reign over them, and must not permit them to reign over us.)
9 O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
Lord, what is man, or all his race,
Who dwell so far below,
That thou shouldst visit him with grace,
And love his nature so?
That thine eternal Son should bear
To take a mortal form,
Made lower than his angels are,
To save a dying worm?
Let him be crown’d with majesty
Who bow’d his head to death;
And be his honours sounded high
By all things that have breath.
We raise our shouts, O God, to thee,
And send them to thy throne;
All glory to the united Three,
The undivided One.
’Twas he, and we’ll adore his name,
That form’d us by a word;
’Tis he restores our ruin’d frame:
Salvation to the Lord!
January 3.—Evening. [Or January 6.]
“Rest in the Lord.”
WE have grouped together a few of the texts which refer to the Sabbath, in order that at one reading we may have the subject before us. In the history of the creation, we have the institution of the sacred day of rest.
1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
This primitive institution was confirmed at the giving of the Law upon Sinai; and is therefore surrounded by as solemn sanctions as any other precept of the Decalogue.
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
WE are not, however, to regard this law as forbidding the doing of works of piety, charity, or necessity, for our Lord Jesus has awarded us full liberty on these points. He corrected Jewish misconceptions, and taught us not to make a bondage of the day of rest.
23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.
24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?
26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
OUR Lord performed many of his noblest cures on the Sabbath, as if to show that the day was ordained to glorify God by yielding benefit to man. If at one time more than another the healing virtue flows freely from our Lord, it is on that one day in seven which is reserved for holy uses, and is called “the Lord’s Day.” In the passage which we are about to read he shows how suitable it is that a holy day should be crowned with holy deeds of mercy and love.
1 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
2 And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.
3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;
5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
O day of rest and gladness,
O day of joy and light,
O balm of care and sadness,
Most beautiful, most bright!
Thou art a cooling fountain
In life’s dry, dreary sand;
From thee, like Pisgah’s mountain,
We view our promised land.
May we, new graces gaining
From this our day of rest,
Attain the rest remaining
To spirits of the blest;
And there our voice upraising
To Father and to Son,
And Holy Ghost, be praising
Ever the Three in One.