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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
calculated to preserve them humble, dependent, and prayerful; and, consequently, they are some of the means which the God of all grace has seen fit, in his infinite wisdom, to establish for the purpose of keeping his people “by his power through faith unto salvation.”
Again, it has been asserted, that it is foretold in the scripture, that some Christians shall fall away. But here it is replied, that this refers to such as are Christians only by external profession. Time will not admit of my refuting the comments that have been made on such texts by Arminians. Let it be only remarked, that in respect to the apostasy of any of the professors of the Christian religion, the passage recorded by the apostle John is a sufficient answer on the subject. “They went out from us, but they were not of us : for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us : but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”
It has been farther urged, that some have actually fallen away, as David, Solomon, and others, noticed in the New Testament by St. Paul, in his epistles to Timothy. But here it may be replied, that David was recovered, and Solomon too, in all probability ; though the scripture, for wise, holy, and cautious reasons, is silent on the subject. With reference to the persons mentioned in the New Testament, if any of them were not recovered, their apostasy illustrates our blessed Lord's doctrines in his parable of the sower. They had no root in themselves, and theretabernacled 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