« PreviousContinue »
THE SONG OF SIMEON.
Luke, ii. 26.
And it was revealed unto Him by the Holy Ghost, that
he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
From these words I shall take occasion to consider the case of old Simeon, his character, and the completion of the promise in the Text. I shall thence be enabled to lay before you the true source of that peace and resignation which he possessed, and to exhort you to follow his example. Let me bespeak the attention of you all, and in particular of persons in the decline of life; for their sakes more immediately I chose this subject, which, notwithstanding, I will endeavour to render useful to men of all ages, and also not unsuitable to the solemnities of this holy Season *.
When our Lord was brought by his parents to Jerusalem, to be presented according to the rites of Moses's law, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and this man was just and devout; equally respectable among men for his observance of BOTH Tables. A partial Obedience is no Obedience. He who seems to be pious to
, * Christmas.
wards God, without justice towards man, is a hypocrite. This, I suppose, no one here will deny. He also, who seems to be just towards men, and is without devotion towards God, is equally a hypocrite. There is no sincere virtue in him ; he is not just towards men; if he is so in the letter, as to external duties, he certainly is not so in the spirit before God. The spiritual duties, which he owes to his fellowcreatures, in warning, instructing, and rebuking sinners, he cannot perform. But Simeon, in the verse before the Text, is said to have been BOTH " just and devout;” and to have been “ waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Moreover, it is added, " and the Holy Ghost was upon him.” The consolation of Israel is Messiah the Prince and Saviour, whom I suppose, according to the prophecies of Daniel, he expected to appear on earth about this time. It seems he ardently waited for his coming on earth, and longed above all things to see him before he died. We do not hear that he desired to live till he had amassed such and such sums; till he had seen all his children settled in the world ; till he had secured such and such points; but, for aught that appears, THIS, THIS,—" to see the Lord's Christ,”—was the sole object, for which he desired to live; and which being obtained, he is content to die in peace. This was a sure sign of a regenerate heart, thirsting after spiritual and heavenly good.
Old people cannot but wish to see their dearest relations well provided for, before they die; yet if they are really Christians, their leading desire will be, to see both themselves and their children interested in the Gospel, and partakers of its Salvation.
Natural affection dictates to them to wish the
very best things for those whom they tenderly love; but spiritual affection directs their wishes to right objects. Hence, they are ardently desirous of their relatives becoming believers in Christ, because then they leave them with a comfortable prospect, on both sides, of meeting again in the kingdom of God.-A hopeful state of their precious souls they heartily prefer to every thing else; nor can they hesitate a moment, whether they would choose to leave their most beloved kindred in contemptible obscurity, yea in the condition of the meanest beggars, but partakers of God's grace, or, among the high and splendid orders of the most rich and powerful, but, without the fear of the Lord.— Ye Fathers and Mothers, weigh whether ye are thus affected with regard to your children; and consider, whether your principal concern on their account has been that they may be true Christians.
Simeon, no doubt, had often prayed that he might see the Lord's Christ before he died; and God graciously heard him.
“ It was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, till he had seen the Lord's Christ.” Our Heavenly Father dealt with him in the dispensing of this blessing, as he does with his Children in general. He gives him his promise to depend on; but, by not gratifying him immediately with the completion of it, he exercises his faith and patience. The probability, if we attend merely to the course of nature, is perhaps against the happening of that event upon which the good Old Man had set his heart. He is fast declining in years, yet with Abraham he "
staggers not*," * Rom. iv. 20. He staggered not at the promise of God.
and with him, “after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” He saw Christ; nay more, “He took him up in his arms.' The Children of God will, in the end always find his promises to exceed their hopes. The worldly things we wait for, generally prove less in the enjoyment than they appeared in anticipation : But God's promises are worth waiting for; they are sure to be fulfilled, and when they are fulfilled they always delight, always satisfy, and never disappoint; but even exceed all we can ask or think.
Is not the case of real Christians thus, as it was with this just, this devout, this waiting Saint? * O Brethren, let me persuade you to renounce your own righteousness, and with earnest and persevering resolution, to apply to Jesus for righteousness and strength; and you will find the same cause for rejoicing in your God as Simeon did. It stands recorded among the sacred words of Truth, that Jesus is now, and will be in Eternity, the Saviour of those who listen to his invitations, “ Come unto me," and, “abide in me.” Again, “if a man keep my sayings,” says our Lord," he shall never taste of death.” On these promises believers are to live, in order to be holy and happy, and from these to derive all their hope, light, and strength, and no one good thing promised will fail.
But we have not yet sufficiently laid open the principles on which Simeon acted. Though he had never seen Christ in the flesh, he had known him by faith : he had believed and cast his soul upon
Him that was to come. So did all the Saints of the Old Testament; as ye learn from the Epistle
* Luke, ii. 25.
to the Hebrews. His motives, then, did not originate in mere matter of curiosity ;-for he must have known, that to see Christ merely with the bodily eyes, has no saving efficacy. Christ was seen by those Jews who passed by, wagging their heads, and railing at him, when he was crucified. We are apt to think, Oh! how happy those who saw the Lord of glory in the flesh. Sense would plead powerfully for such a manifestation; and the mourning sinner perhaps longs to be in the place of the penitent woman, mentioned in the seventh chapter of St. Luke, who heard him pronounce with his lips, “ thy sins are forgiven thee, thy faith hath saved thee.” It is difficult to persuade ourselves,
' that we, at this day, have as good opportunities of knowing his forgiving love as she had. No truth, however, more certain; and I may justly add, the practical consequences connected with it are of the least importance. The promises of the Gospel are not made to the beholder of the person of Christ; but to the believer on his name. he, “ are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." Without the grace of his Spirit we could no more believe, even if we saw him in the flesh, than we can now.
Simeon was filled with the Holy Ghost; and in consequence of that, he knew Christ to be his Saviour, before he saw him with his bodily eyes. So that that generation was in a state of no higher probability of salvation than any other. And, in fact we find that, by far the major part of it would not believe in him. If Simeon had not trusted in Christ as his Saviour, the beholding of him with his eyes would have been as nothing. So true is that observation of St. Austin,