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deepest gratitude, and our most lively praise ? This is a day on which it is our happiness and our privilege to celebrate the great and glorious event of our Redeemer's birth. It is my intention therefore to offer on the subject some general observations, which may with propriety be founded on the text. “Now the birth of Christ was on this wise."
These words will lead us to consider,
i. We are to notice the pre-existence of Jesus Christ.
We need not inquire after any condition, in which we ourselves were placed previously to our birth; for this is evidently our first state of being. The Pythagorean notion of man's existence in another state, anterior to his present life, is a fanciful speculation opposed to universal experience, and not warranted by either reason or scripture. But the declarations of the word of God, respecting Jesus Christ, clearly prove that he was possessed of a glorious being before he took on him our nature by his incarnation. He was sent into the world as the Father's messenger. He came down from heaven and clothed himself with humanity. Jesus speaks of his “glory with the Father, before the world was.” And the apostle asserts, “ That he was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but that he made himself of no reputation, and took
upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” In his pre-existent state of Jesus Christ, the scripture maintains his essential deity. “ He was the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power.” St. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, opens his gospel with an explicit declaration of this doctrine, which is the pillar and ground of the truth. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was not anything made that was made.” “In the beginning,” there must have been one, without a beginning, to make a beginning. Who this was, the evangelist immediately informs us. In the beginning was the WORD. It is not necessary to make any remarks respecting the meaning of the Greek term. The sacred writer is evidently describing God the Creator, in the view of leading us to acknowledge the Redeemer, as one and the same with him, who “ was made flesh and dwelt among us.” “And the Word was with God.” This sentiment is enlarged on by Solomon, the inspired writer of the book of Proverbs. “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before
the hills, was I brought forth : while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there : when he set a compass upon the face of the depth : when he established the clouds above : when he strengthened the fountains of the deep : when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointeth the foundations of the earth : then I was by him, as one brought up with him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” Thus the Word was with God from eternity, taking pleasure in the prospect of the fabric which he was about to rear; and of the creature he was about to frame, whose nature he was in due time to assume, that he might make the children of men“ partakers of the divine nature.” “And the Word was God.” Here the disciple recognizes in that Master, on whose bosom he leaned with affection and veneration at the last supper, “ all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling bodily.” If St. John does not in these words affirm the divinity of our Saviour Jesus Christ, there can be no meaning in language. In confirmation of this truth, he ascribes the origin of the universe to the power and agency of this Almighty Being, the second person in the ever blessed and adorable Trinity. “ All things were made by him; and without him was not any one thing made that was made.” In due time the Word was made flesh, tabernacled among men, and manifested a “glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.”
In proceeding to notice other circumstances respecting the incarnation of the Son of God, we come in the second place to consider,
II. The miraculous conception of Jesus Christ.
The providence of God had made great preparations for the coming of the Saviour; and the various predictions of the inspired writers had raised among the Jews a general expectation of a glorious deliverer, who was now about to appear. Those who studied the Holy Scriptures, could not but perceive that the period marked out by Jacob and Daniel, for the advent of Shiloh, Messiah, the Prince, must be near at hand. They were therefore looking for redemption in Israel; and those who did so, at length obtained the object of their hope. At the appointed season, in the fulness of time, the Saviour was announced. But who was the favoured instrument of bringing him into the world ? It had been predicted that he was to be the son of David according to the flesh. He must therefore be born of some descendant of that illustrious king of Israel. It was however necessary that in his human nature he should be “ holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." In order therefore that the corruption of our fallen nature might not be communicated
to him, he must be conceived, and his body must be produced, in a different way from any other human being. It was accordingly provided in the divine councils and foretold by the prophet Isaiah, that “a virgin should conceive and bear a son, and should call his name Emmanuel.”
A virgin of royal extraction, but fallen into low circumstances in life, a stranger in a strange place, betrothed to a carpenter named Joseph, is appointed to a higher honour than ever was conferred upon any other human being to be the mother of the Redeemer of man. Thus God “ chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.” But in connexion with this humiliation, the dignity and glory of the Saviour were also displayed. Gabriel, one of the highest order of angels, was commissioned by God to make the virgin acquainted with the divine counsels concerning her. Man, in his present state, cannot rise to the rank of angels ; but they have been permitted, for wise and holy ends, to descend to the level of men. They have sometimes put on the human form, and adopted the language and accents of the human voice. In this instance, what a vast difference is there between the rank of the messenger, and that of the person to whom the