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briefly present you a few of these in the conclusion of this discourse.
1. The Son of God assumed our nature, that he might save us. What a motive is this to the highest gratitude and love! What can affect us, if we remain cold when considering the unspeakable love of God in giving his Son for our redemption; and the ineffable charity of the Son, who, though he was in the
66 form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet took upon him the form of a servant," in order that he might be capable of “ being obedient to death, even the death of the cross :" who, 66 though he knew no sin, was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, that in the flesh God might condemn sin by making him a sin-offering ?” Well might Paul term this boundless charity “ a love which passeth knowledge;" for the tongue cannot express, nor the heart conceive, its extent. Angels “ desire to look into these things;" it is an abyss of mercy, which even your intelligence cannot fathom; a mystery of grace, which even you cannot comprehend. What monsters of ingratitude then must we be, if it does not inflame our cold hearts, and fire them with thankfulness and love!
2. Christ became incarnate for our redemption. What a motive is this to universal obedience. He left the bosom of his Father, that he might“ purify to himself a people zealous of good works;" shall we by neglecting his laws frustrate, as far as in us lies, this his merciful design? Shall we with so glorious an example before us be turned from the performance of our duty by any difficulty or danger? Since Christ for our sakes despoiled himself in a manner of the form of God, shall we not for his sake despoil ourselves of our sins and corruptions? He left for us
the delights of Paradise, shall we not leave for him the impure and gross pleasures of the world? He was born for us, shall not we be new-born for his service?
3. Christ became incarnate for our redemption. What a ground of confidence and trust in God under the most frowning aspect of his providence. This is a deduction of the apostle Paul, “ He that spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, shall he not with him also freely give us all things.” In all our sorrows we may now approach to God with comfort and hope; remembering that he is no stranger to human nature, much less an enemy to it, since the eternal Son has been pleased to take it into so close an union with his own. The very worst of men, and those most bowed down under a sense of sins and the apprehensions of divine wrath, may now approach their offended sovereign, cheered by the remembrance that they have “ an advocate with the Father,” who is God and man in the person of Jesus, and in the office of Mediator; and that nothing can exclude them from pardon but their own unwillingness and impenitence. And those who have been reconciled to God through Christ, may especially draw nigh the throne of grace, “ with a true heart and in full assurance of faith," since there is seated upon it one who assumed their nature, with all its pains and sorrows; one who in this nature experienced every pang that rends the human heart, and who upon the throne of glory remembers his groans, and agonies, and cries.
Let your walk and conversation, my dear brethren, evince that the incarnation has had its proper effect upon you; and then, after being conducted during the days of your pilgrimage by the gospel star, God shall introduce you, not like the wise men of the east into an humble Bethlehem, but into the glorious Jerusalem that is on high, there to contemplate and adore our Jesus, not as a feeble child, but as the great and mighty conqueror of sin and of death; not in the manger, but in the palace of the universe ; not in the arms of a mortal, but at the right hand of the eternal Father; receiving, not merely the homages of a few men, but the adorations and services of angels and seraphim; of all the church triumphant in glory. To this divine Saviour, who was made flesh, to the Father, who gave him to us, and to the Holy Ghost, one God, be glory eternal.
ANGELS TO THE SHEPHERDS, AND THEIR VISIT TO BETHLEHEM.
Luke ïi. 1—21.
You recollect, my brethren, that on the last Sabbath we commenced the Life of our Saviour. We exhibited him to you born of a virgin ; we examined
that great doctrine, the divinity and humanity united in one Christ; and we showed that the wisdom of God was manifested in the choice of the time of Messiah's advent.
Let us now proceed to consider the place and circumstances of his birth; the revelation of the angels to the shepherds, and their visit to Bethlehem.
The place which has for ever been rendered illustrious by the birth of Jesus, was Bethlehem, a small village of the tribe of Judah, about six miles from Jerusalem. Ancient prophesy had clearly and unequivocally pointed it out as the birth-place of Messiah. 6 Thou, Bethlehem-Ephratah,” declarada Micah,
though thou art little among the thousands of Ju dah, yet out of thee shall He come forth, one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." But how could this prediction be accomplished ? Mary had resided for a long time at Nazareth : she expected and desired to wait the birth of the Saviour in that spot which had been consecrated by the annunciation of Gabriel and the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost; and a thousand circumstances concurred with her situation in preventing her from thinking of a tedious journey to Bethlehem. Was there not then danger that this prediction should fail, and Jesus want this characteristic of the Messiah? No, my brethren, “ heaven and earth may pass away, but not one jot or one tittle” of the declarations “ of God can fail till they all be accomplished.” “ His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure.” He can always so arrange and combine events in the course of his providence, as to effect his design when their accomplishment appears most improbable to us. Behold this beautifully exemplified in the present case. Augustus,
placed at the head of the Roman empire, had long wished to obtain a correct estimate of its extent, its force, and resources. For this purpose he had more than once issued orders to his officers in the different provinces to make exact returns to him. These orders never could be perfectly executed. Sometimes internal insurrections, and at other times war on the frontiers, prevented. Now the Dacians, the Celts, the Dalmatians, in arms; then Cilicia and Armenia in arms, claimed all his attention; and in some instances, as in the case of Judea, his affection for a particular governor hindered him from imposing on hin this mark of subjection. It was because the
predestined moment, appointed by Providence and by prophesy, had not yet arrived. As soon as that moment has come, peace is established throughout the whole empire; the sword, which has so long dropped with blood, is returned to its scabbard; trifling misunderstandings destroy the affection of the Roman emperor for the Jewish prince; and Augustus, no longer indulging friendship for Herod, causes him to require of the inhabitants of Judea that enrolment of their names, and that oath of fidelity, which put the seal to their servitude. The edict of Cæsar is published. In conformity with this edict, all persons are obliged to go to the places whence their ancestors sprung, there to enrol themselves. Mary ascends to Bethlehem, the birth-place of David her ancestor, and there the Redeemer is born. Thus was verified the declaration of Micah. Thus was it also shown, that, in conformity with ancient prophesy, Jesus was of the tribe of Judah and family of David.
Christians! can you avoid pausing, and admiring the wisdom and the power of that Providence which thus effects its purposes by undesigning instrumento?