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« The Son of God was manifested,” or, as St. Paul expresses it, “ God was manifest in the “ flesh.” He whom our collect calls the Son of God, is, according to the Apostle, very God. This is the doctrine of the Old and New Testament. In the former, the “ child” who is “ born,” and the Son" who is “ given to us,” is “the mighty God, and the everlasting Father.” His name is “ Immanuel--God with us.” In the latter we are informed, that “ the Word was made flesh.” And, lest any doubt should arise respecting the person intended by this mysterious name, we are assured that the “ Word was “ God, by whom all things were made, and s without whom was not any thing made that " was made.” This adorable Person had for many ages revealed Himself to His people in the glory that abode on the mercy-seat of the tabernacle and temple; but in the fullness of time He assumed our nature, whereby God and man became one Christ. In Him Jehovah was manifested; for Christ is “ the image of the in“ visible God, the brightness of His glory, the 66 express image of His person.”
The first object proposed by the incarnation of Jehovah, which is specified in our collect, is “ the destruction of the works of the devil.”— The words of our collect are cited from 1 John jii. 8. « For this purpose the Son of God was “ manifested that He might destroy the works “ of the devil.” Some information respecting the design of Christ's appearance in the world the devils themselves seem to have obtained, as as we may infer from the language which they used in their addresses to Him. One of them said, when expecting a dispossession from bis usurped habitation by the power of Christ, . “ Let us alone! what have we to do with thee, “ Thou Jesus of Nazareth ? Art thou come to “ destroy us? I know thee who thou art the Holy One of God.” Marki. 24. Those also who were ejected from the Gergasene demoniac, cried, saying, “ What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God ? Art thou come to torment “ us before the time ?” Matt. viii. 29. To this overthrow of the devil's kingdom our Lord refers when He says, “I beheld Satan, like “ lightning, falling from heaven.”
In order that we may understand the object of the Messiah's mission, it is necessary to observe, that the works of God were marred through sin which the devil had introduced into them. When the universe came out of the hand of its Divine Artificer, it was pronounced by the lips of unerring wisdom to be “ very good.” It was calculated to answer the end of its creation as an instrument of giving glory to God. And the glory of His own name and attributes is, and must be, the supreme object of all God's operations. - Jehovah hath made all things for “ Himself.” The worth, excellency, and perfection of the creature arises therefore from its adaptation to this purpose. In connection with this supreme and ultimate object of creation, the beneficent Former of all things proposed to Himself another important aim, the happiness of an innumerable multitude of animate and rational beings, who should owe their existence and its comforts to His kindness. With a relation to this gracious purpose also the world was “ very good” when God rested from his work. Man was furnished with the means of felicity, and every thing by which he was surrounded was suited to contribute thereto.
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But awful was the change which sin introduced. While it debased man, the master-piece of Divine skill, the grand object of creating love, for whose benefit this theatre was built and its vaulted ceiling studded with sun and moon and stars,—while it debased man both in his soul and body to a total inaptitude to answer the end of his being with respect both to his Creator and himself, it rendered man the enemy of God, and God the enemy of man, and at the same time armed all the creatures against their earthly lord. Sin, sickness and death, all the disorder that prevails both in the macrocosm and microcosm, all evil moral or natural, constitute “the works of the devil,” and are the effects of that horrible scheme which was fabricated in hell, and carried into execution' in paradise against the glory of God and the welfare of mankind.
The dissolution* of the fabrick of sin and misery which that malicious architect of mischief, the devil, has reared-the recovery of mankind from the apostacy into which they were seduced by the temptation of Satan-their deliverance from the guilt, the pollution, and the bondage of sin, and their restoration to the favour, the image and the enjoyment of God, constitute an undertaking worthy of His wisdom, grace, and power. Well might angels sing at its commencement, “ Glory to God in the high" est, and on earth peace, good-will towards “ men.” Wonderful as the means Divinely appointed for the execution of this glorious object were, the end to be accomplished justifies their adoption; for eternal glory will thereby
* Ινα λυση τα εργα το Διαβολο.
be secured for God, and eternal happinses be conferred on an innumerable multitude of ra-' tional and immortal beings.
The demolition of that infernal fabrick of deformity, of which the foundation was laid in the fall of our first parents, and which has employed all the artifice and power of hell for nearly six thousand years, is already begun—even now the edifice nods to its fall. - The Son of God was “ manifested that He might destroy it," and He could not engage in its demolition without eventual success. The foundation of the building is already sąpped, and the construction of the parts is weakened. For “ we look for a new s heaven and a new earth in which dwelleth s righteousness.” Every vestige of Satanic influence will soon be banished from the sphere of Divine benevolence, and the devil and his children be confined to their own place, where alone any remains of his works will be found. Blessed prospect! May our hearts exult in the contemplation of its completion! “Accomplish," Lord Jesus, “the number of thine elect, “ and hasten thy kingdom !”.
A further object proposed by the manifestation of the Son of God is our own adoption into the family of God, and our hereditary participation of eternal life. This unspeakable benefit, although comprehended in the former. view of the subject, demands specific mention on account of our personal interest in it. For what would the demolition of Satan's edifice be to us, unless we were made partakers of a share in the final redemption ? How miserable would'our state have been, if God had deter, mined to sweep the scene of diabolical influence with the besom of destruction, so as to plunge
all those who had joined with the devil in his opposition to holiness and had been defiled by his touch, into the infernal pit, and if He had purposed to create a new race of human creatures for the exhibition of His praise ! Or, if the annihilation of His enemies had been part of His plan, though less terrible to contemplate than the former idea, yet is it a subject from which the rational mind shrinks with dread. Nothing but the despair which guilt occasions can reconcile the imagination to it. Whatever glory might have redounded to God from either of these modes of procedure, , to us it could have afforded no ground for gratitude or joy.
But " the Son of God was manifested to - make us the sons of God.” By the effusion of His precious blood He hath satisfied Divine Justice, atoned for our sin, and fulfilled the law on our behalf. Hereby He hath removed all the obstacles out of the way of our re-admission to the Divine favour; and by His meritorious righ- teousness He hath procured for all who receive Him as their Saviour, a right of becoming sons of God. * By the influence of His Spirit, accompanying His word we are made new creatures, our connection with the devil and his works is dissolved, and a state of communion between God and our souls is renewed. By the power of Divine grace the rebel is subdued, the enemy reconciled, the heart which bore the impress of hell receives the superscription of heaven; the image of the devil is erased, and replaced by the likeness of God; the child of Satan is transformed into a child of God.
* John i. 12. E8019.7.