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tinction between good and evil, the spiritual nature and future subsistence of our souls, the dispensation of rewards and punishments after this life; others wavering in doubt, or having but faint persuasions about these matters; few or none having clear notions, or steady opinions about any such things; whence their practice, in correspondence to their rules, must needs have been very loose, or very lame: so that well might our Apostle say of them, “They became vain in their reasonings, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves wise, they became fools; and as they did not like to retain God in their knowlege, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.’ As for the other part, or little parcel of men, the condition of that was also very low : if the rest of the world did lie in dark night, they did live but in a dusky twilight; their religion was much wrapt up in shadow and mystery; they had but dilute ideas of God's nature, and scant discoveries of his will ; their law or rule of practice in divers respects was defective and infirm; they were locked under the discipline of childish rudiments, suiting their raw capacities, and under the bondage of slavish yokes, befitting their stubborn dispositions; which defailances in notion their practice commonly did outstrip; being fond, corrupt, hypocritical, void of interior, substantial, and genuine righteousness; as the old prophets did often complain, and as our Lord, with his Apostles, did urge. Such was the state of the world in its parts; and jointly of the whole it may be said that it was “shut up under sin ' and guilt, under darkness and weakness, under death and corruption, under sorrow and woe: that no full declaration of God's pleasure, no clear overture of mercy, no express grart of spiritual aid, no certain redemption from the filth or the force of sin, from the stroke of death, from due punishment hereafter ; no encouragements suitable to high devotion, or strict virtue, were "anywise in a solemn way exhibited or dispensed before our Lord's appearance: so that well might all men be then represented as Cimmerians, ‘sitting in darkness, in the region and shadow of death;’ well may we suppose all ages foregoing to have teemed with hope and desire of this happy day; or that, as St. Paul saith, “the whole creation (that is, all mankind) groaneth together, and travaileth together until now;’ as laboring with pangs of implicit desire, or under a painful sense of needing a Saviour; well might Isaiah thus proclaim his coming ; “Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen on thee: for, behold, darkness shall cover the land, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise on thee, and his glory shall be seen on thee; and the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising:' for now, ‘the Lord hath made known his salvation, his righteousness hath he openly showed in the sight of the heathen. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth do see the salvation of our God.” Now ‘we are all children of the light, and of the day;’ all “do know God from the least to the greatest;’ the rarest, the deepest notions are grown common and obvious ; every child is instructed in the highest truths, every peasant is become a great philosopher, (beyond Aristotle, or Plato, or Epictetus,) skilful of the best knowlege, able to direct his life in the best way, capable of obtaining the best good. Now the Spirit of God (the Spirit of direction, of succor, of comfort spiritual) is poured on all flesh. “Now the grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men;’ fully instructing them in their duty, and strongly enabling them to perform it, freely offering them mercy, mightily encouraging them with hopes of most blessed rewards. Now Jew and Gentile are reunited and compacted in one body; walking in the same light, and under obligation to the same laws; sharing in a common redemption and inheritance; being inseparably linked together with the bands of faith, of charity, of spiritual fraternity; thus ‘old things are passed away, behold all things are become new,” in virtue and consequence of our Lord's appearance; in contemplation of which so great, so general, so happy a change, how can we forbear to rejoice . But farther, that we may yet more nearly touch the point, 3. Let us consider that the nativity of our Lord is a grand instance, a pregnant evidence, a rich earnest of Almighty God's very great affection and benignity toward mankind; for, “In this,” saith St. John, “the love of God was manifested, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world :' and, “Through the tender mercies of our God,” sang old Zechariah, “the dayspring from on high did visit us: this indeed is the peculiar experiment, wherein that most divine attribute did show and signalise itself. The power of God doth brightly shine in the creation, the wisdom of God may clearly be discerned in the government of things; but the incarnation of God is that work, is that dispensation of grace, wherein the divine goodness doth most conspicuously display itself. How indeed possibly could God have demonstrated a greater excess of kindness toward us, than by thus, for our sake and good, sending his dearest Son out of his bosom into this sordid and servile state, subjecting him to all the infirmities of our frail nature, exposing him to the worst inconveniences of our low condition ? What expressions can signify, what comparisons can set out the stupendous vastness of this kindness If we should imagine that a great prince should put his only son (a son most lovely, and worthily most beloved) into rags, should dismiss him from his court, should yield him up into the hardest slavery, merely to the intent that he thereby might redeem from captivity the meanest and basest of his subjects, how faint a resemblance would be of that immense goodness, of that incomparable mercy, which in this instance the King of all the world hath declared toward us his poor vassals, his indeed unworthy rebels | And what greater reason of joy can there be, than such an assurance of his love, on whose love all our good dependeth, in whose love all our felicity consisteth 7 What can be more delightful than to view the face of our Almighty Lord so graciously smiling on us? Should we not be extremely glad, should we not be proud, if our earthly prince by any signal mark would express himself kindly affected to us? How much more should we resent such a testimony of God's favor how worthily may our souls be transported with a sense of such affection 1 4. We may consider our Lord's nativity, as not only expressing simple good-will, but implying a perfect reconciliation, a firm peace, a steady friendship established between God and us; or that it did not only proceed from love, but did also produce love to us. We did stand at a great distance, in estrangement, yea in enmity toward God; our first parents had by presumptuous disobedience revolted from him; and we, insisting on the footsteps of their apostasy, continued in defiance of him ; “All men had sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God’—“There was not a righteous man on earth, that did good, and sinned not:’ whence unavoidably the wrath of the most holy God was incensed, the justice of the most righteous Lord was engaged against us; thence did issue a sad doom, thence a just sentence of capital punishment was denounced on us; no pretence of favor, no overture of peace, no hope of redress did then appear; we nowise being able to expunge our guilt, to repair our offences, to recover out of that corruption in mind and will, which did seal us up to ruin, indisposing us either to find or to entertain mercy: but our Lord's coming did appease that anger, did mollify that justice, did suspend that condemnation, did close the breach, and “slay the enmity;’ ‘God,' as the Apostle speaketh, ‘sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin did condemn sin in the flesh:’ for how can God now avert his face from us, whom his only dear Son hath vouchsafed to make and own for his brethren 2 How can he look with an eye of displeasure on that nature, wherewith that Son of his love standeth clothed before him 2 How can he abide offended with our race, in which pure innocence and perfect obedience are found; he now appearing with us, and for us, in whom not the strictest justice nor the shrewdest malice can descry any fault or blemish; ‘in whom therefore God is thoroughly well pleased ?” Since we have Emanuel, God with us–God manifested in our flesh—The Lord our righteousness, partaker of our infirmity, intercessor and advocate for his own flesh and blood, ready to do and suffer whatever God pleaseth to require on our behalf, how can God be against us? Shall God and man persist at distance or disaffection, who are so closely related, who are indeed so intimately united in one person 7 Shall heaven and earth retain enmity, which have so kindly embraced and kissed each other; since “truth hath sprouted from the earth, and righteousness hath looked down from heaven 7” Shall the war go on, when the great Mediator and Umpire of peace is come; ‘preaching peace to them that are afar off, and to them that are near !” Can death any longer reign over us, or our disgrace and misery continue, now that the Prince of life, the Lord of glory, the Captain of salvation doth appear for our relief? Now then what can be more worthy of joy than such a blessed turn of affairs 7 How can we otherwise than with exceeding gladness solemnise such a peace a peace accorded with him, who in forces so infinitely doth overmatch us; who at his pleasure can utterly quell us; who with the greatest ease, with less than a word of his mouth, can dash us to nothing, or hurl us down into an abyss of remediless woe: how can we avoid being extremely satisfied at the recovery of his favor and friendship, which alone can be the foundation of our safety and welfare, which is the sole fountain of all good, of all comfort, of all felicity ? 5. Our Lord's nativity doth infer a great honor, and a high preferment to us: nowise indeed could mankind be so dignified, or our nature so advanced as hereby: no wisdom can devise a way beyond this, whereby God should honor his most special favorites, or promote them to a nearness unto himself. For hence we become allied to God in a most strait affinity, his eternal Son being made our brother: hence as touching the blood-royal of heaven we do in dignity o’ertop all the creation; so that what the Psalmist uttered concerning man is verified in the most comprehensive sense: ‘Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast set him over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet :’ for now the Son of man, being also the Son of God, is ‘the head of all principality and power,’ is ‘the Lord of all things,’ is the sovereign prince of all the world, is placed ‘far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.’ This is a peculiar honor, to which the highest angels cannot pretend; for ‘he took not the nature of angels, but he took the seed of Abraham ;' whence those noble creatures are become in a manner inferior to poor us; and, according to just obligation, willingly do adore our nature; for, “when God brought his first begotten Son into the world, he said, Let all

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