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Good Words 1860
The Divine School

What a contrast between the way in which Christ's birth is viewed by the meek and lowly, and the way in which the great world regards it. It is sad to see, that always and everywhere, as soon as what is good and divine begins to reveal itself, an evil spirit is likewise manifested, ungodliness of every kind, in men of all conditions. Some look on cold and indifferent, as if they were stones; others turn to the right and to the left, calculate, are full of cunning and worldly policy, false as serpents; while others again, allow themselves to be used as blind, unprincipled instruments, by people who seek their own advantage by deceit and violence. Thus do men pollute and assail what is begun in purity and peace for their own salvation and the glory of God; and, by the ill-fated plans of their self-willed minds and hearts, they defile and poison the clear and life-giving waters springing out of a Divine fountain.

The word of salvation, which afterwards was translated into all languages, and became a word of glad tidings for sinners, "To you is born a Saviour!" had been uttered for the first time, in that still, serene, heavenly-calm night. It was sent to a ruined and distracted world as a word of Divine glory and human peace. The meek and lowly ones who heard it received it gladly, and spread it in their quiet circle. But after that still and holy night, what noise and sinful activity in the glaring daylight of the great world! Now that priests and learned scribes, and worldly rulers sit together in counsel over the event prepared by history and prophecy, and expected by the whole nation, the sky, which has hitherto been so clear and peaceful above the new-born child, becomes dark and clouded. That event had come out of God's quiet eternal thought, with such simplicity and meekness, to bring peace and joy; but in man's hands, it becomes complicated, confused, and leads to bloodshed. Oh, it is a grievous thing that men seek out many inventions! They despise and distort the clear and simple words which proceed out of the mouth of babes; they blaspheme and mock what is deeper and higher than their carnal mind can comprehend. And when God reveals Himself in His Word, and men discover heavenly and earthly truths, even this they convert into curse, by subjecting the truth to their own artifices, pride, and haughtiness, their old sinful inclinations and lusts.

But this is the Divine judgment, which goes through all history: human pride, with all its arts, only prepares its fall. Here is a Superior Power, which confounds it and brings it to nought, and that where subtle man imagines he has to deal with the very simplest things and people. (Isaiah xliv. 24, xlvii. 10.) Human pride must bury its boldest plans, hopes, and works, while humble, single-hearted simplicity, pure, unmixed truth, is possessed of an indestructible vitality, and arises unexpectedly out of the dust, where it was thought to lie crushed.

Never was a child born into the world, who has been the centre of such great movements, as this poor Jewish child of insignificant Bethlehem; and through all these movements, diverse as they are, there runs a Divine plan; they all work together for one end, though they seem to be pursuing their own different courses. Generation succeeds generation; there is much noise, and stir, and planning, and working; but God, the Eternal, works without intermission in His rest, and rests undisturbed in His work. It looks but a tender quiet thread in the mighty web of the world; wise men do not see it, and the strongest cannot break it; it is mysterious and firm, and rules all movements, be they good or evil. There be many vain, worldly men who regard this world as a stage, on which they act their self-chosen parts, so as to appear before people what they are not, and to hide what they are. God is silent as a lion under the twittering of birds, but, even in the stillness of their own con-science, He has His witness, which cannot be silenced, convincing them of their hollowness and nothingness. He allows them to express their wise thoughts at great length; for centuries He permitted the spirit of man to have the word; yet, from time to time there are heard, through the din of the world's market, Divine words of the Holy Spirit. And few and far between though they are, their line is gone out through all the earth; they remain among the nations, appearing at times and places when they are least expected, and where they are least sought.....Thus did they come from the East, where Abraham had once his home and kindred,—where Balaam had spoken of the Star of Jacob,—whither Israel had been led into captivity, —where Daniel had seen the vision of the Son of man, and had prophesied, in sacred numbers, the time of His advent. The wise men, men belonging to that very order over which Daniel was made chief governor, came to Jerusalem, asking, Where is the new-born King of the Jews? We have seen His star, and are come to worship Him!

Notice, O friend! how God, the true and living One, speaks to us in our language. He shews Himself as a kind and blessing-bringing guest to Abraham, who was ready to receive strangers; He appears in dreams to Joseph in the dream-like innocence of his youth ; He reveals Himself in a burning bush to zealous and strong-souled Moses in the wilderness; while He sends a bright stream of fiery light to Saul, breathing out threatening and slaughter, and a star to the astrologers, who served Him ignorantly but sincerely. This Divine mode of education, in its manifold wisdom and adorable condescension, will be acknowledged by all the world on the day when God's counsel is perfected. It is to this teaching that all are indebted who can say, "I have found a Saviour"—this wisdom and goodness of God, which becomes all things to all men, to lead us out of darkness and mere external knowledge, to light, and truth, and life, till at last we behold the Divine glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Wherever we are, on our way to knowledge, let us only seek God honestly and sincerely, and let us use everything around us as a Divine school, and regard it as the Father's drawing to the Son. Seek God in thy own heart—seek Him in what appears to be merely external. Gall nothing thy own, or chance, or gift of nature, but see everywhere God's living presence, and gift, and testimony. And when thou hearest the voice of God, be it in nature, or events of thy life, or conscience, or, above all things, in His own holy Word—when thou hearest His voice calling thee to repent, to believe, and to seek holiness, then obey faithfully. The more faithfully you use the words and teaching of God, the more rapidly will you progress from light to light and strength to strength, and the more gloriously will the Morning Star of the Divine kingdom of light, even Jesus Christ himself, arise in your heart.

Learn, moreover, that there are first which shall be last, and last which shall be first. Jerusalem's people and king, priests and scribes, had many privileges which the wise men from the east never enjoyed; but see how much these Gentiles excelled the privileged people in sincere love of truth and strength of soul, which enabled them to deny themselves and worldly good, on account of that which is not of this world, but from on high. And while they beheld what many prophets and kings had desired to see, there was taken from the Jewish sages and grandees even that which they had.

In conclusion—Do not glory in thy knowledge, wisdom, and education. A lowly brother, without thy learning, and with his simple acquaintance with the Bible and Catechism, may surpass thee in holiness and self-sacrifice, and on account of his faithfulness in that which is little be put above thee, and called great in the kingdom of God. (Matt. v. 19.) Glory not in thy righteousness, if it be nothing better than thy own virtue. See a greater sinner than thou, whom thou despisest, if he betake himself to the great Friend of sinners, will stand with confidence before the judgment-seat, before Him who has pardoned his iniquity and healed his diseases. Let no man glory in his dissimulation and cunning, by which he conceals, like Herod, Ms hatred against God and Christ. You may despise the simple souls who see a star in the heavens, believe and follow the Scriptures, and adore Jesus the Saviour; your counsel will come to nought, even through Him whom you do not see, but who sees and knows you through and through, even Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts, the mighty God, who must triumph and reign in glory everlasting!

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