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SERM. He was to be man also, for that by appearing in XXIII. human shape, visible and audible, familiar and agreeable to us, he was qualified for that great design of declaring God's will and intentions toward us in a more easy, less amazing, and more obliging way, than otherwise could have been: for that hence likewise he could, with more advantage, describe an exact copy of righteousness for us to transcribe ; shewing us exemplarily how as men we should behave ourselves; how we should moderate our sensual appetites, how govern our passions, how order and employ all the powers of our soul and members of our body; how pass through all conditions, and entertain all events befalling us; it not being indeed otherwise possible, that so lively and suitable a pattern of transcendent charity, meekness, humility, and patience, could have been exhibited
Fit it also was, that he who was to be appointed 31. X. 42. our judge, substitute of the supreme Judge invisible, should be, as God, (of perfect wisdom, and so able to discern all matters of fact, to distinguish all points of right; of perfect rectitude, so as never willingly to discost from truth and equity,) so also man; visible and audible to us, without surprising astonishment and terror; apt to screen us from the insupportable presence of God; endued with a natural tenderness of good-will and compassion toward us, disposed to temper needful severity with competent mildness.
In fine, it was most congruous, that he who was Eph. i. 10. designed to recapitulate and reconcile, as St. Paul speaketh, all things in heaven and earth, to be the
Col. i. 20. great mediator and peacemaker between God and
1 Tim. ii. 5.
man, for the repairing God's honour and dispensing SERM. his grace, for the purchasing our peace and pro- XXIII. curing our salvation, that he should be most nearly allied unto both parties; that consequently, if possible, (and what is to God, the author of this economy, impossible?) he should be both God and man; Son to God, and brother to us; the same in nature with God, in kind with us. Such reason and wisdom is discernible in this dispensation.
III. Now for the practical use of this doctrine, (for it is not a doctrine merely speculative, and barren of fruit, or practical use:) it should, first, have a powerful influence upon our minds, causing us, with high degrees of love and gratitude, to adore the infinite goodness of that God, who hath been pleased himself to stoop so low, that he might advance us from the lowest depth of meanness and wretchedness, to the highest pitch of honour and happiness that we are capable of: what words can express, what thought can apprehend a favour so unconceivable and ineffable? Well might St. Paul call it ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην, love trans- Eph. iii. 19. cending all knowledge: well may heaven admire, and earth be astonished, and hell tremble at the disclosure of such a mystery, at the accomplishing such a miracle of grace and mercy; that the sovereign Majesty of heaven, the eternal Lord of glory, the world's great Maker, the only Son of God, and heir of all things, should become a poor, small, weak, and frail man; should dwell in a tabernacle of flesh; should converse with silly, wretched, and frail mortals here; should be exposed to want, disgrace, and pain: Gábos, O depth of goodness and mercy unsearchable if this will not, what consideration can
SERM. raise us, what benefit can affect us? what prodigious XXIII. ingratitude will it be, to be regardless or insensible of kindness so wonderful?
2. Another great use of this point is to engage us, as universally to all obedience, so particularly to the duties of humility, of patience, and of charity. Did the Son of God thus willingly submit, and so abase himself; and shall we then be refractory, shall we exalt ourselves; shall we refuse any appointment, or repine at any proceeding of God? Did he from the highest pitch of glory supercelestial voluntarily descend into this gloomy region and state of ignoble obscurity; did he, abandoning immense wealth, freely embrace extreme poverty; did he gladly sequester himself from those ineffable joys above, to converse with sorrow and sadness here, in this valley of tears, for God's sake, and ours; and shall we be unwilling to do any thing for God's sake, or to part with any thing for him? To these purposes doth St. Paul Phil. ii. 6, apply the consideration of this point; Let, saith he, the same mind (the same humble, patient, meek, charitable mind) be in you, which was in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God-emptied himself, taking upon him the form of a servant ; being made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death: it was the greatest argument and instance of humility, patience, and charity, that could be, for him, that did exist in the form of God, thus to debase himself, to partake of our nature, Vid. 1 John and submit to our state: and, Know, saith that
iv. 10, 11.
2 Cor.viii.9. apostle again, the grace (or graciousness) of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being himself rich, for your sake he became poor, (being rich as God, and
Lord of all things, he put himself into this mean SERM. and poor condition of man,) that ye, through his XXIII. poverty, might be rich: it was a consideration surely most proper to his purpose of inciting unto charity b
Heb. ii. 7,
3. The consideration of this point should raise our minds to a sense of the dignity of our nature, accompanied with dispositions of heart and deportments of life answerable thereto : by our Lord's incarnation our nature is so advanced, that we become nearly allied to God, of the blood-royal of heaven, in this respect overtopping all the creation of God; so that hereby, as the Apostle to the Hebrews discourseth, that of the Psalmist was verified concerning man; Thou hast crowned him with glory and Psal. viii. 5honour, and hast set him over the works of thine. hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: the angels themselves cannot boast of such an honour; for he took not the nature of angels, but he took Heb. ii. 16. the seed of Abraham: being therefore so highly dignified, we should have a mind suitably great and noble, loving, delighting in, aiming at the most excellent things, void of base cares, of sordid desires, of unworthy designs; we should, in all our conver- Phil. ii. 15. sation, demean ourselves worthily and decently, like 1 Pet. i. 15, the brethren of Jesus and children of God; that Vid. Leowe may not disparage and disgrace this illustrious nem, P. de alliance. As our Lord did vouchsafe, in most con- vi. descensive grace, to resemble us, so should we, with
Matt. v. 48.
1 ‘Εορτάζομεν ἐπιδημίαν Θεοῦ πρὸς ἀνθρώπους, ἵνα πρὸς Θεὸν ἐκδημήσωμεν, ἢ ἐπανέλθωμεν. Naz. Orat. 38.
i Agnosce, Christiane, dignitatem tuam, et divinæ consors factus naturæ, noli in veterem vilitatem degeneri conversatione recidere. Leo de Nat. Serm. i.
SERM. a generous and honest ambition, aspire to resemble XXIII. him; as he stooped to humanity, so let us rear our
selves to a kind of divinity, in purity of mind and sanctity of life; so St. Gregory Nazianzen exhorteth; k Let us, saith he, be as Christ, since Christ is become like us: let us, for his sake, be gods, seeing he is become man for us.
4. The consideration of this point should fill our hearts with spiritual comfort and joy; there never can be a greater occasion or juster cause of rejoicing than this, that our Lord is born and come: it is signally evangelium, good tidings; never news more welcome hath come into the world; never report more grateful was heard by mortal ears: it is news from heaven, and the best that ever came thence; Luke ii. 10. Behold, (said the angel that brought it, and a mesΕυαγγελίCosage it was most worthy the mouth of an angel,) I xapay us tell good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; news, at which all heaven was pleased and ravished with joy, breaking presently forth into Luke ii. 13. hymns of praise and congratulation; There was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory be to God on high, on earth peace, and good-will to men. In this, if we mark it, all the grand causes of extraordinary joy and festivity do conspire.
Is the birth of a prince ever by honest subjects entertained and celebrated with joy? Behold a Prince born to all the world; a Prince that cometh to rule mankind with perfect equity and clemency; to bring with him all peace and prosperity; to achieve the most noble exploits that could be undertaken in our
* Γενώμεθα ὡς Χριστὸς, ἐπεὶ καὶ Χριστὸς ὡς ἡμεῖς. Γενώμεθα θεοὶ δι ̓ αὐτὸν, ἐπειδὰν κακεῖνος δι' ἡμᾶς ἄνθρωπος. Greg. Νaz. Orat. 41.