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tion was the great step toward it, as being an act of the humblest obedience, and of the highest merit, that could anywise be performed, for satisfying the justice of God, and winning his favor toward us. His taking up life may seem more meritorious than his laying it down, and the chief passion which he could ever undergo; his death was a passion, great as death could be ; his life also was a continual passion, or exercise of huge patience: but his birth seemeth to be the greatest and strangest passion of all; involving the lowest submission and the deepest suffering. What nobler sacrifice could there be, than God's offering himself up to mortality, to infirmity, to slavery ' What obedience can be thought of comparable to that which he did express, when he said, ‘Lo, I come to do thy will, O God?’ ‘I came down, not that I might do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” For him to descend from heaven, the region of light and bliss, into this gloomy and sad world; for him in a manner to divest himself of celestial majesty, and to assume the form of a servant; for him to be inclosed in a womb, and to come out wailing thence, to suck at a breast for life, to be carried in arms, and laid in a manger, to enter on a stage of being so very low and homely; for him, I say, “the Lord of glory,' thus to empty and abase himself; may not this reasonably be deemed more than, after his becoming man, to sustain all the grievances incident to our nature and state Whence the very assumption of flesh was, saith St. Athanasius, the redemption of all mankind. He was at least thence engaged in the way of acting and suffering whatever was needful for our recovery; and having gone so far, assuredly he never would flinch or recoil, but would go through with all; being come, he would show himself come to purpose, leaving no part unfinished of his grand design. So that as they, who celebrate the birth of a prince, do mean thereby to express their joy for all the good which they do hopefully presume to enjoy from his protection and conduct afterward in all his life; and as they who welcome the sunrising, do imply their satisfaction in the conveniences of his light through the whole ensuing day; so may the nativity of our Lord afford matter of rejoicing for all the train of mighty blessings which do succeed it. We may therefore now well consider him born to instruct us by his excellent doctrine, and to guide us by his perfect example; born to merit God’s mercy and favor toward us, by an intire submission to God's pleasure in the whole conduct of his life, and in the final resignation of it; born to renew and sanctify our nature, to support and strengthen us in obedience to God's commandments, to succor us in temptations, to comfort us in distresses by his grace; born to rear himself from the grave for confirming our faith, and ensuring our hopes of salvation; born to ascend up above all the heavens to God’s right hand, there effectually to intercede for us, thence liberally to dispense all heavenly blessings to us. Well may we now rejoice, as seeing him come to disclose the way of happiness, to establish the covenant of grace, to void all the obstructions, and subdue all the enemies to our welfare : well may we celebrate this birth, as by its virtue blessing the patriarchs, enlightening the prophets, inspiring the martyrs with faith and courage, enduing all the saints that ever have been, with grace, and crowning them with glory ; so that in this day we have the passion, the pasch, the ascension, the pentecost, the memorials of every saint suggested to us; the joys of all our festivals do conspire or commence in this; which is the head and spring, which is the fruitful seed, which is the hopeful morning of them all. IIávra raûra ris rapotons juépas xápus éarty' airn yap opče rôv épétis dyadov. “All these things,’ saith St. Gregory Nyssen, “are the grace of this present day, for it began the goods which did in order succeed.’ But waiving the numberless benefits so consequent on the nativity, we shall only touch some of those which have a more formal and close relation thereto. I pass over the contemplation of that sweet harmony between the old and the new world; in which, to our comfortable satisfaction, the sweetest attributes of God (his goodness, his wisdom, his fidelity and constancy) do illustrate themselves, by completion of the ancient promises, prefigurations, and predictions touching this event. I forbear also to reflect on the happy alteration and amendment of the world, which our Lord's coming did induce, by comparing the state of things before it, with that which followed it; the consideration of which case is very pleasant, and productive of joy. First, then, 1. Let us consider that the nativity doth import the completion of many ancient promises, predictions, and prefigurations concerning it; that whereas all former dispensations of favor and mercy were as preludes or preambles to this; the old law did aim to represent it in its mysterious pomps; the chief of providential occurrences did intimate it; the prophets often in their mystical raptures did allude to it, and often in clear terms did express it; the gracious designs of God, and the longing expectations of mankind being so variously implied in regard thereto; now all is come to be fulfilled, and perfected in most clear, most effectual, most substantial accomplishment; now is sprung up that “seed of the woman,’ which, according to the first gospel preached to Adam, should “bruise the serpent's head;’ now is the mystical Isaac, the miraculous ‘Son of promise” born ; now is that grant to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” made good; now is * Shiloh come,” of whom Jacob foreboded, “unto him the gatherings of the people shall be;’ now is that oracle of Moses more than verified, “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren like to me; him shall ye hear;’ now ‘the Star is come out of Jacob,” the vision whereof dazzled Balaam, and stopped him from cursing that people, in which it should arise; now is that oath discharged to David, “Of the fruit of thy body will I set on thy throne;” now those illustrious predictions of Isaiah, “There shall come forth a Rod out of the stem of Jesse’—“A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son;’ ‘to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be on his shoulders’—“There shall come out of Sion the deliverer, and shall turn ungodliness from Jacob,” are fully accomplished; now ‘the righteous branch,’ of which Jeremiah and Zechariah spake, is sprouted forth ; and Ezekiel's “One Shepherd, Daniel's ‘Son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven; Micah's ‘Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from old;’ Haggai’s ‘Desire of all nations;’ Malachi's “Angel of the covenant,’ and ‘Sun of righteousness,’ have all in truth appeared: now is that glorious King and Captain arrived, whom the holy oracles do so magnificently describe; whom Moses and Joshua, whom David and Solomon in so many pat circumstances did foreshadow ; whom God would “set on his holy hill of Sion: “the sceptre of whose kingdom is a mighty sceptre;’ who should “raise the tabernacle of David that is fallen ;’ ‘before whom all kings should fall down, and whom all nations should serve;’ who ‘should reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of whose kingdom there shall be no end.” . Now what can be more delightful, or satisfactory to our mind, than to reflect on this sweet harmony of things, this goodly correspondence between the old and new world; wherein so pregnant evidences of God's chief attributes, (of his goodness, of his wisdom, of his fidelity and constancy,) all conspiring to our benefit, do shine ! Is it not pleasant to contemplate how provident God hath ever been for our welfare? what trains from
the world's beginning, or ever since our unhappy fall, he hath been laying to repair and restore us? how wisely he hath ordered all dispensations with a convenient reference and tendency to this masterpiece of grace? how steady he hath been a prosecuting his designs, and how faithful in accomplishing his promises concerning it 2
If the ‘holy patriarchs did see this day, and were glad ;’ if a glimpse thereof did cause their hearts to leap within them; if its very dawn had on the spirits of the prophets so vigorous an influence, what comfort and complacence should we feel in this its real presence, and bright aspect on us! How sensibly should we be affected with this our happy advantage above them; the which our Lord himself then did teach us to estimate duly, when he said, ‘Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear: for verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.’
2. Let us consider what alteration our Lord's coming did induce, by comparing the state of things before it with that which followed it. The old world then consisting of two parts, severed by a strong wall of partition, made up of difference in opinion, in practice, in affection, together with a strict prohibition to one of holding intercourse with the other.
BAR. VOL. IV. L
Of one, and that far the greater part, St. Paul hath given us these descriptions and characters: “They were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant, having no hope, and being without God in the world;’ they were “by nature the children of wrath and of disobedience;’ • they were ‘dead in trespasses and sins, walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience : they did “walk in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that was in them, because of the blindness of their heart; and being past feeling, did give themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness;’ they “ had their conversation in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind;’ being “foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” Such was the case, the dismally wretched case, of the Gentile world; such were our forefathers, (such after them of course, by fatal consequence, should we have been :) they were in their minds blinded with gross ignorance, and deluded with foul errors; they were in their wills and affections corrupted with great disorder, perverseness, sensuality, malice ; they did in their conversation practice all sorts of impiety, iniquity, and impurity; their conceptions of God were very unworthy, and their worship answerably such ; (full of sottish, savage, beastly superstitions ;) their principles were vain, and their life conformably dissolute; in short, they lived under the domination and influence of wicked spirits, who thence are styled lords and princes of this world, of this air, of this secular darkness; even of the wisest among them, (the number of whom, notwithstanding the clatter their writings made, was very small and inconsiderable,) of those who by the conduct of natural light strove to disengage themselves from vulgar mistakes and miscarriages, the case was little better; for even their minds (after all their studious disquisitions and debates) proved dark and giddy ; full of ignorance, of error, of doubt in regard to the main points of religion and of morality; some of them flatly denying the existence, or (which in effect is the same) the providence of God; the natural dis