The very sound of his name gladdens the hearts of them that believe. He is called by a variety of names, to set forth that variety of excellencies which meet in him. The prophet gives us a pleasing catalogue of some of those in one verse: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isa. 9:6) Every one of these names is instructive, significant and expressive of what he is in himself, and what he is to us, wretched sinners, who are enriched by his benefits. They may well therefore be precious to us. They administer peace to the distracted bosom, healing to the broken heart, and consolation to the desponding mind.
Some have been at the pains to reckon up above one hundred and fifty names, by which the divine Saviour is called in the Old and New Testaments. It may suffice us to single out a few of these. In that divine pastoral, the Song of Solomon, where many of the amiable appearances in nature are employed to set forth his love, the excellency of his person, and the happiness of those who have communion with him, we have the following beautiful passage, "Thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee." (Songs 1:3) As ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so those titles given to our Redeemer, which are peculiarly expressive of his work, his grace, or his glory, afford pleasure and edification to those who are desirous of giving their choicest affections to him.
1. The name JESUS, which signifies a Saviour, and was given to him because he saves his people from their sins, is a name very dear to those that believe. They have seen the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and beheld themselves in a perishing condition because of it; as such the news of a Saviour is to them as life from the dead. That intelligence of his name and salvation, which the gospel brings to their ears, is like the breaking and pouring forth of a box of precious ointment, removing that sadness and sorrow of heart, which are occasioned by a sight and sense of their own sin and misery.
Bishop Pearson seems to have set the etymology of the name Jesus in the clearest light, by observing that JAH, one of the incommunicable names of God, enters into the composition of the Hebrew name Jehoshuah, to which Jesus answers. This derivation most plainly shows, how Christ's being called Jesus was, as the sacred historian suggests, in effect, an accomplishment of the prophecy, that he should be called Immanuel. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus. This was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, They shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted, is God with us." It is intimated here, that the name Jesus is, in signification, equivalent to that of Immanuel, or God in our nature. He must be man as well as God, and God as well as man; otherwise he could not be the Saviour of ruined sinners. But being both in one person, he was capable of suffering what was necessary to be performed, in order to accomplish the great design.
The reason given by the heavenly messenger, why he must be called Jesus, serves to set forth the signification of the name, "For he shall save his people from their sins." (Matt. 1:21) To save them is, on the one hand, to rescue them from evils which it is not in the power of language to describe; and, on the other, to confer upon them an infinite good.
Some of the grandest titles of the almighty are joined in the Old Testament, with this term Saviour. "I, even I, Jehovah, and besides me there is no Saviour. (Isa. 43:11)--I am Jehovah, there is no God else besides me; a just God, and a Saviour; there is none beside me. (Isa. 45:21)--I am the Lord thy God, the holy one of Israel, thy Saviour. (Isa. 43:3)--All flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour, and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. (Isa. 49:26)--O the Hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof!" (Jer. 14:8) Of such a Saviour we wretched sinners stood in need, and such a Saviour Jesus is, as appears from the united testimony of the inspired writers.
How full of comfort then must this precious name be, to every believing soul! Jesus, the Saviour, God with us, the Son of God in our nature, full of tenderness, unbounded love, almighty in power, able to offer up a sacrifice for our sins of infinite value, able to conquer all enemies, to overcome all opposition, to bestow every saving blessing upon us, and to fulfill in us all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.--The blessedness derived from him is immense and everlasting. All that is experienced of it in this world is but an earnest of what is reserved for that which is to come. Well may every Christian say, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour!" (Luke 1:46,47) "He has a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:10,11)
"Jesus! I love thy charming name,
'Tis music to mine ear;
Fain would I sound it out so loud
That earth and heaven should hear.
"Yes, thou art precious to my soul,
My transport and my trust:
Jewels to thee are gaudy toys,
And gold is sordid dust.
"All my capacious powers can wish,
In thee doth richly meet;
Not to mine eyes is light so dear,
Nor friendship half so sweet.
"Thy name still dwells upon my heart,
And sheds its fragrance there:
The noblest balm of all its wounds,
The cordial of its care.
"I'll speak the honours of thy name
With my expiring breath;
Then speechless clasp thee in my arms,
And thus be blest in death."
2. He is called MESSIAH, and in that character is also precious to believers. With a lively faith they behold in him the exalt accomplishment of the various prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Redeemer of mankind. The seed of Abraham, and of David; born of a virgin, poor and obscure, and yet one whom David called his Lord; a great king, an everlasting priest, though not of the tribe of Levi; born at Bethlehem; a prophet like unto Moses, but greater than he. They behold him as one who would preach good tidings to the meek and the poor; as one who should proclaim liberty to the captives, should comfort the mourners, and heal the broken in heart; who should publish his gospel first in the land of Zebulon and Naphtali, in Galilee of the Gentiles, and then throughout the coasts of Israel; who should have a forerunner in the spirit and with the power of Elijah, crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
They see from the prophets, that the Messiah was to be one who should come unto the daughter of Zion, meek, lowly, and riding upon an ass's colt; who should work miracles more than Moses and all the ancient prophets, miracles of a mild, merciful, and beneficent kind; who should open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, make the tongue of the dumb to sing, and the lame man to leap as an hart.
They perceive that the Messiah was to be one, who, notwithstanding all the displays of his power and goodness, should be rejected by the greater part of the Jews, to whom he should be a stumblingblock, and a rock of offence. They see that he was to be one who should be despised and afflicted, a man of sorrows, and cut off from the land of the living; who should have numerous enemies, that would hate him without a cause. They see that he was to be accused by false witnesses, betrayed by a pretended friend, sold for thirty pieces of silver, which money should be given for a potter's field, after it had been thrown away by the perfidious traitor, who should come to a miserable end.
They see that the enemies of the Messiah should use him in a very barbarous and shameful manner; that they should buffet him, and spit in his face; that he should be led like a lamb to the slaughter, not opening his mouth, save only to intercede for these transgressors; they should strip him of his raiment, dividing it among themselves by lot; they should surround him like furious bulls, pierce his hands and his feet, mock him in the midst of his agonies, shaking their heads at him, and giving him gall and vinegar to drink; that he should be reduced to such a state by his sufferings, that his heart should melt within him like wax, his bones be dislocated, and his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth; that his hands and his feet should be pierced, and yet not one of his bones broken; that is his expiring agonies he should cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" They see that he should be numbered with transgressors, and after he had been put to a shameful death, he laid in the sepulcher of a rich man, whence he should rise again the third day, before he had seen corruption; that he should ascend up to heaven, sit at the right hand of the Father, be crowned with glory and honor, see his seed, the happy fruits of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied.
While all these, and many other prophecies are found to have their exact accomplishment in Jesus Christ, even as face answereth to face in a glass, he certainly ought to be endeared to our hearts. We should say with the enraptured Nathaniel, that Israelite indeed, "We have found the Messiah, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, even Jesus of Nazareth; he is indeed the very Christ, the anointed of God, and the Author of eternal salvation.
3. He is called, The PRINCE OF PEACE.
Sin had put an end to all friendly intercourse between man and his Maker, but Jesus undertook to make up the breach. Let others dream of reconciliation with God, on the ground of absolute mercy, without satisfaction for sin; I can form no idea of such a reconciliation, as there is total silence about it in the Scriptures of truth. Thy mercy, O my God, is never exercised to the prejudice of thy awful justice. The severity of thy justice is not lost in the freeness of thy mercy, nor the freeness of thy mercy in the strictness of thy justice. It is daring insolence in any sinful creature, to imagine he can have peace with thee in a way dishonorable to truth and righteousness.
'We have violated that holy law, by which thou dost govern the world. The penalty must fall on the delinquent, if an interposing Mediator does not make up the breach. But thy own eternal Son, in order to make peace, has brought a price in his hand, a price adequate to the wrong done to thee, O my God, and to the offense committed against thee. A price, which was sufficient to stop the course of thy awful justice, sufficient to accomplish the wonderful design, that thou mightest be abundantly satisfied, and well pleased with those who once were enemies. Thy wrath is laid aside; he that was a rebel and a traitor, being once subdued, is received into the bosom of thy favor, and enjoys that friendship with God, which shall abide for ever. The virtue of my Redeemer's sacrifice is such that it reaches back to the first Adam, and forward to the end of the world, and will be as efficacious then as it was the first moment it was offered.
'Blessed Jesus, Prince of Peace, there is none but thyself to screen my guilty soul from Divine displeasure. How precious art thou to me, when I consider, what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God! Who can dwell with devouring fire? Who can endure everlasting burnings? Yet these must have been my portion, if thou hadst not espoused my cause. And these will be the portion of all those who reject thy mediation. Were there any other expedient, somewhat might be said to excuse their folly. But this is the last, the sovereign, the only remedy.
'And may this remedy be ever dear to my heart! Dearer than the light which salutes my eyes; dearer than the food which supports my life; yea, dearer than life itself. To thee, blessed Saviour, my everlasting thanks are due, for thy kind interposition in my favor, to make peace by the blood of the cross. Without this, I could never have had access to the Father; I could never have enjoyed communion with God here, nor the pleasing hope of being admitted into his presence hereafter. But a new and living way is now opened. Through the Prince of Peace, I have boldness and access with confidence. And the blessing of reconciliation is permanent as well as great. Jesus everlastingly maintains that peace which he hath once procured. It is the lasting blessing, since he hath obtained eternal redemption for us.'
4. He is called "The LORD OF GLORY." So the apostle Paul, in his former epistle to the Corinthians, speaks of him: "Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Cor. 2:8) His person is glorious. His works are glorious. The liberty he grants to those who had been the captives of sin and Satan, is a glorious liberty. The gospel which reveals him is a glorious gospel. The church his mystical body, is a glorious church; such indeed it will be, when he presents it to himself, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. (Eph. 5:27) His kingdom is a glorious kingdom, and his throne is the throne of glory.
His essential glory, as God, and one with the Father, is not only unspeakable, but inconceivable. His honor, his name, his essential properties and perfections, his nature, and his will are the same with those of the Father. Of this he assures us, when he says, "All things that the Father hath are mine." (John 16:15)
The glory which belongs to him as Mediator and head of the church, is exceedingly great. Of this the apostle speaks, when he tells us, that "God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
As he is the Lord of glory, he has that at his disposal, and will bestow it on his followers. Thus when addressing his divine Father, he said, "The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them." (John 17:22) He will therefore appoint unto them a kingdom, as the Father hath appointed unto him. (Luke 22:29) They know that when he shall appear, they must also appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:4) Their souls shall be filled and adorned with glory, and even their vile bodies shall be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.
His name, as the Lord of glory, is precious to them that believe. They desire to have daily more and more acquaintance with him, and to grow in the sweet and powerful experience of that intercourse which carried on between a glorious Redeemer in heaven, and his saints on earth. Let us suppose the true Christian, in his retired moments, addressing God in such manner as the following:--
'Thou O God art unchangeable in thy nature, glorious in thine essence, wonderful in thy perfections, wise in thy counsels, and holy in all thy works. It is my greatest good and highest happiness to enjoy thy favor, and to behold the glory of thy countenance. Permit me to say, with thy servant Moses, "I beseech thee, shew me thy glory." I only request such a view of it in this world, as it is proper for a mortal creature, in the midst of the frailty and imperfection which are inseparable from the present state. Show me the glory of thy wisdom, thy holiness, thy power, thy grace, and thy mercy in Christ Jesus. This will give me a distaste for the gaudy vanities of the present world. I shall then look with indifference on all that after which the covetous are eagerly panting. I shall pity the ambitious, in their restless solicitude to make themselves great, and to obtain the veneration of their fellow-creatures, whose breath is in their nostrils. Thy Divine beauty and infinite loveliness, as displayed in the glorious Mediator, will captivate my desires, inflame my love, and excite my joy and delight.
'A more intimate view of thy holiness will embitter every sin, and lead me, in deepest humiliation, to abhor myself, and repent as in dust and ashes. Give me such a sense of thy majesty, as may dispose my heart to reverence thee supremely. Afford me such discoveries of thy omnipotence, thy love, and thy goodness, as may support my fainting heart under the toils of this warfare, and all the afflictions attending the state of mortality; that I may endure them all as "seeing him who is invisible." Let the impressions which thy adorable perfections make upon me be deep and powerful, so as to transform my soul into thy own amiable and holy likeness. Thus by beholding the glory of the Lord, may I be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
'It is habitual, and not transient communion with Jesus, the Lord of glory, that will satisfy my desires, and produce those happy effects which I seek, of nearer conformity to Him, in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness. Let me hold daily converse with him, and intensely contemplate his glory. If communion with wise men be the way to advance in wisdom, how much more will communion with Christ promote that noble end! How must it tend to refine the understanding, rectify the soul, and purify the heart! Grant me, O thou Author of all good, by frequent converse with thee, to have my affections spiritualized, that I may look with indifference on all other objects, and have my conversation in heaven. In fellowship with thee I shall find a source of delights, infinitely superior to any thing this world can afford. For thy lovingkindness is better than life itself. Thou art the inexhaustible treasury of uncreated blessedness. O Lord God of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee!'
5. He is called STRENGTH. "The Lord Jehovah is my Strength, and my Song; he also is become my Salvation." (Ps. 118:14) It is he that giveth strength and power to his people. In him they have not only righteousness, but strength. He is precious to the believer under this consideration, who is emboldened to say, with the apostle Paul, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me." (Phil. 4:13)
God has formed all his works, both in nature and grace, so as perpetually to need his supporting hand. By so doing, he has laid us under a happy necessity of being dependent on him. I am a weak and therefore must be a dependent creature. I have to strive against numerous enemies, stronger than myself, and cannot stand my ground without strength from above. When a city is conquered by a mighty prince, some yield to the victor, and espouse his cause; but others will be forming designs to cast off the yoke. There is a necessity for the same power to keep it, as was at first exerted in subduing it. Such is the state of my soul. It relieves me to think, that my precious Saviour knows my need, and has promised to give strength according to the day. Strengthen, O Lord, that which thou hast wrought!
'I would humble myself under a consciousness of my own unspeakable weakness, and would ever be sensible, that danger is nigh; but I would at the same time, rejoice in the happy necessity I am under of being constantly dependent on him, who is mighty to save.
'Lord, thou hast taught me, by daily experience, that I stand in need of thy supporting power on all occasions. May thy everlasting arm be underneath me, and thy strength be made perfect in my weakness. Renouncing all confidence in the flesh, may I, by a lively faith, be strong in the grace which is in thee.
'I am not sufficient of myself even to think any thing properly and spiritually, much less am I able to perform any holy purpose, in a right and acceptable manner. It is the Lord who giveth strength both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Having formed the soul for heavenly motion, and regulated the springs of action, his presence and agency are still continually necessary to bring it forward in the way of holiness. He is the author, the promoter, and the finisher of all good. When to will is present with me, yet how to perform that which is good I find not, but as Christ strengtheneth me. If I attempt to engage in any spiritual exercise, I no longer keep close to it than his Almighty hand upholds me, and leads me on. If I pray, I know not what to pray for as I ought, unless his Spirit help my infirmity. If I would hear the word, I need the same divine hand to open my heart, that I may profit by what I hear. In the whole of my Christian course, I find the words of my precious Redeemer verified, "Without me, (or separate from me) ye can do nothing.'"
6. He is called, "The CONSOLATION OF ISRAEL."--Simeon waited for the consolation of Israel. He is not only a comforter but comfort itself. Other comforts, when compared with him, scarcely deserve the name. True believers rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. A command is given them to rejoice in him always. The gospel which reveals him is a joyful sound, the tidings it brings are glad tidings.
Jesus may well be called the Consolation of his people, as he saves them, relieves them under present troubles, and advances them to the regions of eternal joy and felicity. All the consolation they have in this world is derived from him. If they joy in God, it is through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom they have now received the atonement. If they glory, it is in his cross. If they are of good cheer, it is because he has forgiven their sins. If they rejoice in hope of the glory of God, it is because Christ is in them, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27)
Hence we hear them that believe, expressing themselves in such language as this, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. (Luke 1:46,47) I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels." (Isa. 61:10)
Christ is to his people every thing they can need, every thing they can enjoy. Happy are they who can claim interest with him who is all and in all to them that love him. If they renounce the pleasures of sin, they have joys infinitely beyond them.
Reader, you, like the rest of your fellow-creatures, are in quest of happiness; but, permit me to ask, Where do you seek it? Do you seek it in the wealth of this world? That is but a splendid encumbrance. Do you seek it in the honor which cometh from men? That is but a puff of noisy breath, a glittering bubble, which breaks almost as soon as it is formed. Do you seek happiness in the pleasures of sin? They are but for a season; they leave a sting behind, and end in misery and torment. Nay, even while you are in pursuit of them, you will find, that, like the briny waters of the ocean to a thirsty palate, they irritate rather than satisfy. Do you seek to get rid of disquieting thoughts in gay and jovial company? Alas! this is only a temporary opiate, not a lasting cure. And it is well, if, like an opiate when its power is spent, it does not leave the spirits disordered, flattened and sunk.
Learn to look for peace and happiness in him who is the Consolation of Israel; in the discoveries of his boundless love, the precious promises of his gospel, and the hope of complete salvation and everlasting glory through him. Here the true health, ease, and felicity of our nature are to be found.