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14

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”


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14. Glory to God in the highest The angels begin with thanksgiving, or with the praises of God; for Scripture, too, everywhere reminds us, that we were redeemed from death for this purpose, that we might testify with the tongue, as well as by the actions of the life, our gratitude to God. Let us remember, then, the final cause, why God reconciled us to himself through his Only Begotten Son. It was that he might glorify his name, by revealing the riches of his grace, and of his boundless mercy. And even now to whatever extent any one is excited by his knowledge of grace to celebrate the glory of God, such is the extent of proficiency in the faith of Christ. Whenever our salvation is mentioned, we should understand that a signal has been given, 156156     “Comme si la trompette sonnoit, pour nous resveiller;” — “as if the trumpet were sounding to awake us.” to excite us to thanksgiving and to the praises of God.

On earth peace The most general reading is, that the words, among men good-will, should stand as a third clause. So far as relates to the leading idea of the passage, it is of little moment which way you read it; but the other appears to be preferable. The two clauses, Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, do unquestionably agree with each other; but if you do not place men and God in marked opposition, the contrast will not fully appear.157157     “Or si on ne mettoit les hommes au second membre, l'antithese ne seroit pas parfaite.” — “But if men were not put in the second clause, the contrast would not be perfect.” Perhaps commentators have mistaken the meaning of the preposition ἐν, for it was an obscure meaning of the words to say, that there is peace in men; but as that word is redundant in many passages of Scripture, it need not detain us here. However, if any one prefer to throw it to the last clause, the meaning will be the same, as I shall presently show.

We must now see what the angels mean by the word peace. They certainly do not speak of an outward peace cultivated by men with each other; but they say, that the earth is at peace, when men have been reconciled to God, and enjoy an inward tranquillity in their own minds.158158     “Quand les hommes estans reconciliez a Dieu, ont repos en leurs esprits, et en leurs consciences.” — “When men being reconciled to God, have rest in their minds and in their consciences.” We know that we are born “children of wrath,” (Ephesians 2:3,) and are by nature enemies to God; and must be distressed by fearful apprehensions, so long as we feel that God is angry with us. A short and clear definition of peace may be obtained from two opposite things, — the wrath of God and the dread of death. It has thus a twofold reference; one to God, and another to men. We obtain peace with God, when he begins to be gracious to us, by taking away our guilt, and “not imputing to us our trespasses,” (2 Corinthians 5:19;) and when we, relying on his fatherly love, address him with full confidence, and boldly praise him for the salvation which he has promised to us. Now though, in another passage, the life of man on earth is declared to be a continual warfare,159159     הלא צבא לאכוש על ארף,—”is there not a warfare to man upon earth? (Job 7:1,) and the state of the fact shows that nothing is more full of trouble than our condition, so long as we remain in the world, yet the angels expressly say that there is peace on earth This is intended to inform us that, so long as we trust to the grace of Christ, no troubles that can arise will prevent us from enjoying composure and serenity of mind. Let us then remember, that faith is seated amidst the storms of temptations, amidst various dangers, amidst violent attacks, amidst contests and fears, that our faith may not fail or be shaken by any kind of opposition.

Among men good-will160160     “Envers les hommes son bon plaisir, ou, bonne volonte;” — “towards men his good pleasure, or, good-will.” The Vulgate has good-will in the genitive case: to men of good-will.161161     “Hominibus bonae voluntatis.” How that reading crept in, I know not: but it ought certainly to be rejected, both because it is not genuine,162162     “Adulterina.” — “Pource que ce n'est pas la vraye et naturelle.” —”Because it is not the true and natural reading.” and because it entirely corruptsthe meaning. Others read good-will in the nominative case, and still mistake its meaning. They refer good-will to men, as if it were an exhortation to embrace the grace of God. I acknowledge that the peace which the Lord offers to us takes effect only when we receive it. But as εὐδοκία is constantly used in Scripture in the sense of the Hebrew word רצון, the old translator rendered it beneplacitum, or, good-will. This passage is not correctly understood as referring to the acceptance of grace. The angels rather speak of it as the source of peace, and thus inform us that peace is a free gift, and flows from the pure mercy of God. If it is thought better to read good-will to men, or towards men, 163163     “In hominibus;” — “Aux hommes, ou, Envers les hommes.” it will not be inadmissible, so far as regards the meaning: for in this way it will show the cause of peace to be, that God has been pleased to bestow his undeserved favor on men, with whom he formerly was at deadly variance. If you read, the peace of good-will as meaning voluntary peace, neither will I object to that interpretation. But the simpler way is to look upon εὐφοκία as added, in order to inform us of the source from which our peace is derived.164164     In the Opuscula Theologica of the elder Tittmann, the critical scholar will find this beautiful passage discussed with that happy union of learning, discrimination, and piety, which distinguishes all his writings. — Ed.




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