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The Magnificat
Sermons in St. Paul's, August, 1889.

by H.P. Liddon, D.D.
Canon Residentiary and Chancellor of St. Paul's

London: Rivingtons, 1890.


Sermon IV. God's Mercy and Faithfulness in the Divine Incarnation.

St. Luke I. 54, 55.

He hath holpen His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy
(As He promised to our forefathers)
Towards Abraham and his seed for ever.

TO-DAY we reach the closing strophe of Mary's Hymn; and it is obvious to remark how naturally, as the utterance of a religious mind, this strophe follows on all that have gone before it. Mary has told us how all the powers of her soul and spirit were engaged in praising God for the great and distinguishing honour which had been vouchsafed to her; she has described this distinction, so far as she might, in itself and in some of its consequences; she has dwelt upon the connection between it and the great rules by which God governs the world at large, and the kingdom of souls. And now she would follow the gracious mystery confided to her up to its source in the Life of God; and she finds it in His attributes of Mercy and Faithfulness.

"He hath holpen His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy
(As He promised to our forefathers)
Towards Abraham and his seed for ever."

"He hath holpen His servant Israel." Mary, of course, is referring, under cover of this general statement, to the Incarnation of the Son of God, Whose Mother, as the Angel had announced, she was to be. The terms she uses are vague and distant, as in earlier verses of her Hymn: "He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden. ... He That is mighty hath done great things unto me." When we consider what the coming of the Eternal Son of God, clothed in our human nature, into this our world, really meant, for all races and for all times, it might be deemed little enough to say that by such an event God had brought help to Israel. But, in fact, Mary's vagueness and reserve is not without a reason. In the earlier lines of her Hymn, as we have seen, it may be explained by the instincts of a sanctified character, when touching upon subjects that intimately affect personal standing before God. In the last strophe it is dictated by her immediate purpose, which is to find the source of the Incarnation in God's attributes of Lovingkindness and Truth. This could but be done by pointing to His past relations with Israel; since the Birth of His Only begotten Son of a Jewish Mother was the fitting complement and crown of those relations. "He remembering His mercy towards Abraham and his seed for ever, hath holpen His servant Israel."

I.

The Incarnation of our Lord, then, is ascribed by Mary, first of all, to God's remembrance of His mercy towards Abraham and his descendants. The words, "Towards Abraham and his seed for ever," are certainly connected in the original with the words, "For a remembrance of His mercy," although the line, "As He spake to our forefathers," is parenthetically inserted between the two halves of the clause. It was not, as in other places, God's mercy over all His works, or over all the race of mankind, but His mercy towards Abraham and certain of His descendants, that God is here said to have remembered. Why He should have selected this particular family to be the object of His especial favour; to be constantly visited by His envoys; to be the guardian of His Revelation and His Will; to be thus chosen out of all nations for a post of spiritual and exceptional distinction;--is a subject on which we may speculate, but can arrive at no certain knowledge. We can only say with the Apostle that He has mercy on whom He will have mercy. The unequal distribution of gifts and privileges among His creatures by the Creator is unintelligible to that passion for equality which is a conspicuous ingredient of the social or political temper of our day. But, whatever we may think about it, there it is; it is written on the face of God's works. If, without detriment to His attributes of Justice and Love, God could create the various orders of living beings which we see around us, and which differ so surprisingly in the qualities which enable them to maintain and protect life; if, as human beings come into the world, they find themselves equipped by the Creator, some with the highest gifts of genius, and others with so low an order of intelligence as scarcely to deserve the name; if even the moral as well as the mental and physical advantages of men are so various; then God's choice of Israel is at least in harmony with the general rule of His administration, and is governed by considerations and motives which, as lying behind creation itself, are out of the reach of human criticism. He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy; and, if we are satisfied that His decisions are those of a perfectly holy Will, we bow our heads and are silent.

The family of Abraham was God's choice; and in this choice there lay the earnest of blessings yet to come. For the calling as well as the gifts of God are without repentance. They are, as befits the majesty and generosity of the Giver, irrevocable. They may take different forms from age to age, as the temper and dispositions of men may require; but God's "mercy towards Abraham and his seed for ever" was as much a part of His Will as the existence of any separate order of rational or irrational life; and Mary sees a signal proof of it in the fact that the Son of God was to be born of a Jewish Mother. "He remembering His mercy towards Abraham and his seed for ever, hath holpen His servant Israel."

But, further, it is plain from the terms of the promises to the patriarchs, that, in the Divine Mind, Israel included others than the race of men who were lineally descended from the patriarchs, and whom the Apostle calls Israel "after the flesh." Mary had already sung of God's mercy as being on them that fear Him throughout all generations; and this earlier phrase of hers, probably, does not mean anything very different from God's Mercy towards Abraham and his seed in its wider sense. For who are the real "seed" or descendants of Abraham? Not only they, St. Paul has told us, who could claim descent from Abraham by blood, although such were so far from being excluded from a higher relationship with Abraham than the merely physical one, that they had a first claim to it. But the Apostle insists that Abraham's seed includes millions who had no blood-relationship with the patriarch whatever; that the promise that in Abraham's seed all nations of the earth should be blessed, imposed upon the idea of descent, in Abraham's case, a much wider and more spiritual meaning; that the children of this promise, those who by faith in and union with Jesus Christ made it their own, were counted for a seed,--were reckoned among Abraham's descendants,--though they belonged to races utterly distinct from the stock of Abraham.

This is not so strange an idea as it may appear at first sight, if we will reflect that there are two ways in which a man may be said to live on in this world after he has left it. He may live on by the transmission of his blood, and by the transmission of his convictions, ideas, type of character. They are by no means incompatible forms of survival--God forbid; but they are at least very distinct from each other. Jonadab the son of Rechab, who was associated with King Jehu at a critical period in his career, is an instance of a man who combines the two fatherhoods in a remarkable degree; he was the spiritual as well as the natural ancestor of his descendants, the Rechabites. He lived on from age to age, not only in their strong Bedouin frames, but in their method of life. They were wandering men, dwelling in tents, bound by him to certain ascetic observances; and long after he was gone, as we know from Jeremiah, when they were forced by the Chaldean invasion to take refuge within the walls of Jerusalem, they could not be induced to transgress the rule of their progenitor.6 A man may be the parent of an enormous family without transmitting to them anything whatever except the gift of physical life. Or he may be childless, and yet may live after his death in the convictions of thousands whom he has formed by his precepts and his example. And, if the question be raised which is the nobler sort of ancestry--the purely zoological, or the spiritual, the parentage of mere animal life, or the communication of principles and ideas which govern life--surely there can be no doubt about the answer. There can be no doubt which of these kinds of ancestry is common to man with the animals below him; and which is his prerogative distinction as a being in whom an immortal and spiritual nature is linked to a bodily form, but without waiving its claim to superiority and leadership. St. Paul resists the Jewish boast that descent from Abraham is limited to those in whose veins the blood of Abraham still flows; he claims for Abraham the immeasurably larger family of those who have inherited Abraham's firm hold of and trust in the Unseen, as shown in his practical obedience." And this loftier and vaster spiritual ancestry underlies Mary's language, too: the objects of God's mercy are not only or chiefly the natural descendants of the patriarch, but the millions whose faith in the Unseen is counted to them for righteousness.

Why, let it once more be asked, should either Israel--the Israel by blood or the Israel through faith--be objects of the Divine Mercy? Why, but because Mercy radiates from God as do light and heat from the natural sun? When we Christians name God, we do not mean only a resistless force, which has brought about and maintains all that is; we do not mean only a boundless intelligence, which has left marks of design and contrivance in all that is; we mean also and especially that moral quality which is revealed in the gift of self; we mean love. Only by His desire to surround Himself with creatures who might be the objects of His love, can we account for the mystery of creation;--that first and greatest innovation on the Eternal Life of God. And when love looks out upon a world, or a race, or a single being, in whom gin, need, pain, dissatisfaction with life as it is, are manifest, love takes the form of mercy. Mercy is love in its attitude towards the suffering, the sinful, and the fallen; and God's Mercy was ever presiding over the destinies of Israel. You remember that later Psalm, which so often attracts the attention of young children by the peculiarity of its structure, and in which this truth is brought out more vividly than anywhere else in the Psalter." Act after act of God, from the making of the heavens, and laying out the earth above the waters, down to the deliverance from the prison in Babylon, is followed by the line, "For His mercy endureth for ever." It was this enduring Mercy which accounted for the wonders in Egypt; for the overthrow of Pharaoh; for the passage through the wilderness; for the conquest of Sihon and Og; for the inheritance of Canaan; for the escape from the exile. "His mercy endureth for ever." And Mary would place the Divine Incarnation, too, in the light of this luminous and gracious Attribute, of which it was indeed in human history the crowning and supreme expression. "He remembering His mercy hath holpen His servant Israel," by the Incarnation of His Son.

II.

But a second account of the help thus vouchsafed to Israel follows. God was pledged. "He hath holpen His servant Israel, as He promised," or spake, "to our forefathers."

The question has been asked how God could ever have pledged His word to man; and a sort of antecedent impossibility of His doing so has in some quarters been taken for granted, to the discredit of the Bible narrative. This is only a variety of the general presumption supposed to lie against Revelation which has been made to do duty for serious argument. Why should not God, if He so wills, do that which any of His reasonable creatures can do at their pleasure? Why should He not, if He so wills, unveil His Mind? Why should He not, if so He wills, pledge His word of promise? The assumption that, for some undefined reason, He cannot do these things, breaks down as soon as we look it steadily in the face. The Author of all intercourse between one of His creatures and another, can Himself, surely, hold intercourse with any as seems best to Him. Doubtless, His methods of revealing His Will vary in different ages of human history. An angel, an inspired soul, even a dream, may be the channel of a promise or a revelation.

Among the promises to the patriarchs which Mary glances at, those may be presumed to be especially in her view which stated, whether distinctly or by implication, that the Promised One would be born of their descendants. Thus the promise ran to Abraham, in Haran: "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed;" at Hebron: "I will establish My covenant with Isaac for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him;" "in the plain of Mamre: "Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him;" after the offering of Isaac: "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice." To Isaac, in Gerar: "I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; and I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, . . . and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." To Jacob, in Bethel: "Thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south; and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."

These promises, besides connecting the anticipated blessing with the descendants of Abraham, make two other assertions about it. It was to extend to the whole human race: so each of the three patriarchs was in turn assured, as if to rebuke by anticipation the narrow national prejudice of the later Jews. And it was to last. Unlike other promises to nations or dynasties, it was not conditioned; it would not be transitory in its effects; it would not depend upon the fortunes of a people or a form of government; it would outlive the vicissitudes of human affairs; it was embodied in "an everlasting covenant;" it would hold good for ever. The promise to the patriarchs was made more definite to their descendants. Its realization was limited first to the tribe of Judah, then to the family of David. Then the Person of the Promised One comes more clearly into view. Isaiah foretells His miraculous Birth, His atoning Sufferings, His eventual triumph; and, with a nearly contemporary Prophet, Micah, though in different terms, proclaims His Divinity." Lastly, Daniel fixes the date of His appearance; and Malachi announces His coming to His Temple, and the triumph of His Name and His worship in the heathen world.

Reflect how such a promise as this would have been talked over again and again from generation to generation, from century to century, in every Jewish household; how the old people would pass it on to the younger; and how these, at first, perhaps, thinking little of it, as young people do, as of a tradition mainly interesting to a past generation, came in time, as they grew older, to perceive its importance. Great indeed was' its importance. For two reigns only, and for a period far short of a century, did Israel attain to anything like political splendour or even consideration. When Solomon had been laid with his fathers, and the division of the ten tribes and the two had taken place, the nation's place in the world was, to all outward appearance, insignificant indeed as compared with that of the great surrounding monarchies. There was little, or nothing, of this world's splendour to stir the imagination or feed the national pride of the descendants of the patriarchs; there were no walls or palaces like those of Babylon; there was no navigable stream teeming with industry and life, like the Nile; nay, the Temple of Jerusalem itself was of diminutive proportions when contrasted with the mighty structures that had existed in Egypt from a date-long before the days of Moses. Not only had the divided people little to show in the way of distant conquests; they gradually lost the territories that had been won by David and Solomon: and as years went on, there was less and less reason for thinking that Israel could ever again be a great power in the East. Thus, in the absence of grounds for satisfaction with their present public circumstances, religious men were led to think more of the promise which had been handed down to them. If they had no great share in the present, they had good hope for the future; if man was not likely to' do much for them, they had a confidence that one day God would do much, both for them, and through them, for others. But years passed; first came one disaster, then another; the captivity of Israel by the Assyrians; the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar; the bondage of Judah in Babylon; with its profound distress and humiliation; the many vicissitudes which followed the return; and notably, the hard struggle against Antiochus Epiphanes, who desired to substitute Greek paganism in thought and life for the religion revealed to Moses and the Prophets. Often, in days when all seemed going to ruin, and men's hearts were faint, the question must have been asked in many a humble home up and down the kind, whether God had forgotten to be gracious, and whether He would shut up His loving-kindness in displeasure. So Isaiah anticipates the complaints of Israel in exile:--

"But Zion saith, The Lord hath forsaken me,
And my Lord hath forgotten me.
Can a woman forget her sucking child,
That she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
Behold, I have graven thee on the palms of My hands;
Thy walls are continually before Me."

And when the prospect of impending ruin was darker than ever before, Jeremiah reminds his despairing countrymen--

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,
That I will perform that good thing which I have promised
Unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.
In those days, and at that time,
Will I cause the Branch of Righteousness
To grow up unto David. . . . Thus saith the Lord;
If ye can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night,
That there should not be day and night in their season;
Then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant,
That he should not have a son to reign upon his throne."

And so the years passed on. It was a long night of expectation, and generation after generation died, as it had lived, in hope; but at last the first streaks of dawn were seen in the East: it was understood that the Sun of Righteousness a was rising on the world. Says Zacharias--

"He hath raised up a mighty salvation for us,
In the house of His servant David;
As He spake by the month of His holy Prophets,
Which have been since the world began;
That we should be saved from our enemies,
And from the hands of all that hate us;
To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers,
And to remember His holy covenant;
To perform the oath which he sware to our forefather Abraham
That He would give us."

Or, as Mary sings--

"He hath holpen His servant Israel,
For a remembrance of His mercy,
As He spake unto our forefathers."

III.

Now, the Gospel which was preached by Mary's Divine Son, and which has Him for its central Subject as well as its Author, contains, as St. Peter reminds us, "great and precious promises; that by these we might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." ┬░But the fulfilment of these promises is, in large measure, yet to come. Many men find it easy to believe in God's past faithfulness, simply because the past witnesses to His faithfulness. But they hesitate about the future. They assume, without saying it, that He is less present to us than He was to our forefathers, and that, in accordance with modern ways of talking and thinking, His "Hand is shortened that it cannot save." At any rate, we cannot doubt that God may be trusted to keep His word in the world of nature. We lay out our lives upon that presumption. We go to bed night after night without any misgivings as to whether the sun will rise the next morning. We make plans for the autumn, feeling sure that it will be followed by winter; and for the winter, knowing that it will be succeeded by spring, and, in due time, again by summer and autumn. All the proceedings of our farmers and our sailors, nay, of our chemists and physicians, are based on the calculation that God will be true to His general rules of working; that He has given to the world of nature a law which shall not be broken." So too our men of science cross the Atlantic to take observations of an eclipse, which they are sure will begin to be visible in a certain place at a given hour and minute, because long observation has taught them that the Almighty Worker never fails to keep His appointments exactly. Indeed, so exact is He, that they themselves will often fail to remember that He works or lives at all; the mechanism of nature by its faultless regularity shuts out from their view the Great Engineer. Sometimes too His constant observance of His rules is pleaded as a reason for foregoing the duties of prayer and thanksgiving, since all, it is presumed, will go on without failure, whether we address our prayers to Him or not. And this, indeed, is why now and then He stays His beneficent Hand, and shows us, in what we call, through our ignorance, the caprices of nature,--in the drought, the storm, the deluge of waters, the destroying plague,--that He is ever at work behind the veil, and that we cannot with impunity trifle with Him; as though He were only an unintelligent force strangely engaged in the complex and subtle manipulation of matter.

But if God keeps His appointments in the world of nature, much more does He keep them in the moral sphere. For while nature might have been, in countless ways, otherwise ordered than as it is, the moral law could not have been other than it is, since it expresses in human speech the Nature of God, in relation to the circumstances of human life. God might have made us men with differently shaped bodies, with differently furnished minds. But, without being untrue to Himself, He never could have said to us, "Thou mayest do murder; thou mayest commit adultery; thou mayest steal." If the laws of nature, as we call them, fail not, much more impossible is it that the laws of the moral world should fail. If seedtime is followed by harvest, and day by night, much more certain is it that "God is not mocked;" and that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap;" that "he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." God's own essential Nature is concerned in maintaining the unfailing regularity of His rules for governing the moral world. "Wherefore should the wicked blaspheme God, while he doth say in his heart, Tush, Thou God carest not for it? Surely Thou hast seen it; for Thou beholdest ungodliness and wrong." And on. the other hand, "God is not unrighteous, that He will forget your works and labour that proceedeth of love." Even a heathen like Sophocles., contemplating the moral order of human life, could recognize

"The steadfast laws that walk the sky--
Laws born and reared in the ethereal heaven,
Of which Olympus is alone the sire;
To which no race of mortal man gave birth,
Nor ever shall oblivion lay to sleep." [Oed. Tyr. 863, sqq.]

And we Christians know that God's righteousness standeth like the strong mountains; that His judgments are as the great deep.

The Gospel contains Divine promises to the Christian Society or Church, and to the Christian soul. Why should we think that they are less likely to be observed than God's rules for the movements of the stars, or for the enforcement of virtue and the repression of vice?

To the Church, for instance, there has been made the great promise that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." This promise enables a believing Christian to survey, not, indeed, without distress, but certainly without misgiving, much that he sees around him in the Realm of Christ. Our Lord prayed for unity, and everywhere we behold division. Our Lord made holiness a note of His kingdom," and holiness among Christians is the exception rather than the rule. Our Lord promised His Spirit to guide into all truth,15 and we see men adding to or taking away from that truth into which the Apostles were guided. Nor is the difficulty to be removed by saying that one fragment of the Church is the whole of it, or that the true Church of Christ is an invisible society. These are the rude expedients of a supposed controversial necessity; they will not bear the wear and tear of reflection. No! we must admit that an enemy has sown tares among the wheat. Of the Gospel Vine, too, it must be said that whereas

"The hills were covered with the shadow of it,
And the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars,"

it has come to pass that she lies, with "her hedge broken down," so that "all they that go by pluck off her grapes"--

"The wild boar out of the wood doth root it up,
And the wild beasts of the field devour it."

Certainly the Church's weakness is the opportunity if not the triumph of unbelief, which, since the earliest age of the Christian Faith, never was so threatening, never had enlisted so many fine intellects in its service, as to-day. But there lies our charter--"the gates of hell shall not prevail." There may be temporary discouragement and defeat; a falling away of prominent men, of large classes; the withering of entire branches of the Sacred Vine. We do not know, but all this and more is possible. What is not possible is that the Divine kingdom should perish from off the face of the earth before the day of our Lord's coming.

So also will the Christian soul recall many and precious promises, on which it may lean during the days of its earthly pilgrimage, and of the eventual fulfilment of which there can be no room for doubt. Promises of deliverance from spiritual foes; promises of victory over insurgent passions; promises of an inward Presence Which can make man a true temple of God; promises of joy and peace in believing; promises which transcend this world and pierce the veil of the next, and embrace in their mighty scope not only time but eternity. "Come unto Me, . . . and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; . . . and ye shall find rest for your souls." "If any man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto Him, and make Our abode with him." "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. ... I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and ... I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels." "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne."

There are times when even good Christians are tempted to ask whether such bright and gracious words will be realized. Let them remember how long Israel waited before the promises spoken to the patriarchs were fulfilled in the Son of Mary. Be sure that no word of God returns to Him empty, or without accomplishing that purpose for which He sent it. It is so with God's laws in nature; it is so with His moral law; it cannot be otherwise with His promises to His servants. If He was true to His word in dealing with the old Israel, He will not fail those who belong to the Israel of God.

The conviction that God will keep His pledges to help us carries us, as nothing else can, through the trying changes of our outward circumstances. These changes will sometimes go far to break down the faith of men who have believed for years. Narrow means, weak health, the death of those for whom we care most on earth,--why, men ask. if He is alive, and if He loves us, should God permit it?

Christians sometimes forget that they are to be tried as other men are not; that they are not to count such trials strange; a that "whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth;" that "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us an exceeding and eternal weight of glory." That which seems so accidental or purposeless, is designed to train us gradually for a higher life; those great sorrows which are sometimes pointed to as showing that we are the sport of some heartless chance, are in truth but so many blows of the chisel of the Eternal Artist, Who is fashioning each character for its high destiny out of the rude material which passes under His Hand and Eye. No one trial, be sure of it, is aimless or unneeded; poverty, sickness, loss of friends, each has its appointed work to do. And, beyond all, is the certainty that He will be true to His promises; true to those who overcome the temptation to doubt His word. The bright Morning may not be far distant from thee when thou shalt praise Him

"Who saveth thy life from destruction,
And crowneth thee with mercy and lovingkindness;
Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things,
Making thee young and lusty as an eagle."

And this same conviction braces us to encounter those trials of the mind and heart which sometimes bear more hardly on a man than anything outward. You have done your best, you say, and you have met with nothing but disappointment; you have done your best for a noble cause, and you are credited with devotion to purely selfish ends; your love and energy has met with ingratitude or contempt. You have spent prayer, time, money, upon the bringing up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and they only attain to manhood to wound you by their neglect, or to shame you by their frivolity or their misconduct. What, you are tempted to ask, is the good of efforts which lead to nothing, at least, so far as you see, in those for whose sake they are made? And then you are out of heart about yourself. You have meant sincerely to consecrate your life to God, and lo! you find that which should be a temple of His perpetual Presence degraded by a hundred little sins which are utterly alien to Him; by some vulgar social pride, by some ill-natured and spiteful grudge, by unchristian acts, by words that breathe only covetousness or envy. You had hoped that you had gone far enough on the road to the heavenly Jerusalem to be out of the reach of these ignominious sins; but there are days when they seem to have been so numerous, and to represent so much of unsubdued passion and of decomposing faith, that your spirit fairly sinks within you, and you doubt whether you will ever reach the heavenly goal. Certainly you cannot fall back for comfort on your own heart, which is not in the same mood for two days running. You know it to be perpetually changing, or, as the Bible says, "deceitful above all things." In the morning you are happy and hopeful, and before night you are in misery and despair. To-day you are in ecstasies as if with Paradise in full view; to-morrow you are a victim of the most gloomy depression. One week the heaven of your inner life is as the clear blue sky, with the brilliant rays of the Eternal Sun playing upon you; the next, all is overclouded, and you are apparently in the darkest shadow. Certainly this poor, changeful, vacillating heart of ours yields but a sorry resource in the troubles of life. Our only real deliverance lies in rising out of ourselves, and taking firm hold of the promises and the Person of Him "Who sitteth above the waterflood" of human feeling, and Who does not change. In His own time He will be as good as His word; the disappointments will be seen to have been steps in our probation; the temptations to humiliating-faults, after teaching us self-distrust, will have vanished; the varying moods of joy and depression will have been exchanged for a tranquil and assured happiness.

This is the closing lesson of the Magnificat. Mary leaves us with the conviction that God's promises may for long remain unfulfilled, but that they will be fulfilled at last. "He hath holpen His servant Israel, as He promised to our forefathers." For us too of to-day "the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry."


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