Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 1:78 - 1:79

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 1:78 - 1:79

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Luk_1:78-79. Through the tender mercy of our God, the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

OUR Saviour’s birth, though in many respects peculiarly low and abject, was attended with some circumstances not unworthy the occasion. We might mention his miraculous conception, the acclamations of angels, &c. &c.; but we shall only advert to the account given in the context of his Forerunner, who was prophesied of by Isaiah; named by the angel before his conception in the womb; born in a preternatural way; celebrated by several to whom the spirit of prophecy was given after it had been withdrawn from Israel three hundred years, commissioned to prepare men for the reception of the Saviour, and to publish the tidings in the text—

From them we shall be led to contemplate,

I.       The advent of our Lord—

Our Lord is here represented under the image of the Sun—

[This is a metaphor by which he has been designated throughout all the Holy Scriptures. Balaam spoke of him as “a Star that should come out of Jacob [Note: Num_24:17.]:” Isaiah, as “a great light which the Gentiles who were walking in darkness should behold [Note: Isa_9:2. with Mat_4:16.]:” Malachi as “the Sun of Righteousness that should arise on the world with healing in his wings [Note: Mal_4:2.].” In the New Testament also he is declared to be “the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world [Note: Joh_1:9.].” Our Lord himself also assumes that character; “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life [Note: Joh_8:12.].” Even in heaven itself does he sustain the same character; for “the Lamb is the light thereof [Note: Rev_21:23.].”

Moreover, what the sun is to the material world, that is he to us. He is the Author of all light, natural [Note: Gen_1:3.], intellectual [Note: Job_38:36.], spiritual [Note: Jam_1:17.]: and, as the face of nature withers or revives, according as the influence of the sun upon it is increased or diminished, so the souls of men continue dead or are quickened, according as the Sun of Righteousness withholds or imparts his invigorating rays — — —]

Under that character he has visited our benighted world—

[A dawning of his appearance had been long visible in the promises of God, and in all the prophetic writings, as also in the whole of the Mosaic ritual. But at his incarnation he began more clearly to illumine this horizon. He diffused a light around him by his doctrine and example: and they who could see through the veil of his flesh, “beheld his glory [Note: Joh_1:14.].” And those who now will receive his truth, and “follow his steps,” shall surely be as much distinguished from the world around them, as they who are groping in midnight darkness are from those who are walking in the light of the noon-day sun — — —]

This will lead me to speak of,

II.      The end of his advent—

The whole world were in utter darkness—

[How little did even the wisest philosophers know respecting any thing pertaining to the eternal world! Truly “the world by wisdom knew not God [Note: 1Co_1:21.].” Nor are we in reality more enlightened in reference to spiritual things than they. I grant that, so far as speculative knowledge is concerned, we have the advantage of them: but in respect to saving knowledge, we are as dark as they. Take the sentiments even of the world at large, and compare them with the word of God; and they will be found as far from the truth as if they had no inspired volume to instruct them. And where their mere sentiments are correct, how faint are their apprehensions of the truths which they profess to hold! How inadequate is their sense of the evil of sin, of the majesty of God, of the excellency of Christ, of the beauty of holiness, or of any one spiritual truth whatever! The truth is, that we are looking for “peace” “in the ways” of sin, as much as the heathen themselves, and, notwithstanding all our advantages, are, like them, “in darkness and the shadow of death,” on the very confines of destruction.]

To dispel this darkness He came into the world—

[Human reason could not break through the clouds with which we were enveloped; still less could the lucubrations of reason convert the soul to God. No way for reconciliation with God could ever have been found out by mortal man. To make reconciliation for him, to reveal it to him, and to render it available for his eternal welfare, were the great objects of the Saviour’s incarnation: He visited our world “to give light to them who sat in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide their feet into the way of peace:” and every soul that avails himself of the Saviour’s instructions, shall be “turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God. [Note: Act_26:18.]”]

Already, methinks, you begin to see,

III.     The unbounded mercy of God displayed in it—

Well is it traced to “the tender mercy of our God”—

[To what else can we trace it? What could man do to merit such a gift as that of God’s only dear Son? — — — But the expression in my text deserves particular notice. The words import, “the bowels of mercy,” which were moved in commiseration of our fallen state [Note: ó ð ë Ü ã ÷ í á ë Ý ï õ ò .]. Conceive of God as looking upon our first parents after the fall, and as saying concerning them, as he did concerning his people Israel; “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee up, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me: my repentings are kindled together: I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger [Note: Hos_2:8-9.].” Yes indeed, this will give a just view of the compassion which moved Almighty God to send his Son for the redemption of a ruined world — — —]

And can we withhold our admiration from this stupendous act of mercy?

[Let us only contemplate the benefits we receive from the material sun. Suppose we had been from the first moment of our existence in the state in which large districts of the habitable globe are for one half of the year: suppose we had been in utter darkness even until now; and God had unexpectedly, and unsolicited, caused the sun to visit us in meridian splendour: Would there have been any bounds to our admiration or gratitude? — — — What then shall we say now that he has caused “the Sun of Righteousness to shine upon us,” and “the day-star to arise in our very hearts [Note: 2Pe_1:19.]?” Verily, “if we do not bless him, the stones will cry out against us [Note: See Eph_2:4; Eph_2:7.]” — — —]


1.       Those who are yet sitting in darkness—

[This is the state of the whole unconverted world. If a man feeling in his bosom the ranklings of anger and hatred, “is in darkness even until now [Note: 1Jn_2:9.],” what must they be who are living altogether to themselves and to the world? Think what ye may, ye are “in the shadow of death,” and on the very confines of destruction — — — I pray you improve the opportunity now afforded you, and “whilst you have the light, walk in the light, that ye may be the children of light” — — —]

2.       Those who have been “brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel”—

[Bless ye your God: bless him without ceasing: bless him with your whole hearts. Is it a pleasant thing to behold the sun? What delight then must ye have in beholding the glory of God as beaming forth in the face of Jesus Christ!” — — — See then that ye walk worthy of this great mercy: for “if ye walk in the light as he is in the light, then shall ye have sweet fellowship with the Father and the Son, and the blood of Jesus Christ shall cleanse you from all sin [Note: 1Jn_1:7.].” Let Christ be your light in this world, and you shall dwell in the beams of his meridian glory for ever and ever.]