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THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD, OR THE BIRTH-DAY OF CHRIST, COMMONLY CALLED
Almighty God, who hast given us thy only begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin ; Grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit, through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
T this season of the year we are directed
by the practice of the catholic church, , and the institutions of our own, to commemorate “ the nativity of our Lord, or the birth-day of “ CHRIST, commonly called Christmas-day.” This event is the pin on which all the golden vessels of the sanctuary must be hung. Therein every human being is interested; for it is the only foundation of human hope. In the object this day proposed to our view, the Deity incarnate, there is that which is calculated to excite the strongest emotions of wonder, love and praise, in every bosom. But “ Great is the
mystery of Godliness, God manifest in the “ flesh.” The subject is inaccessible to a finite understanding; it is enveloped with awful obscurity. Let the rationalist therefore, who cannot implicitly submit to the authority of Divine VOL. 1.
revelation; the conceited theologue, who sup- . poses that he can fathom every depth of infinity by his own scanty line;-let each keep at a distance; let him depart from the consecrated stable; for he will meet with nothing here but what is calculated to mortify his pride, to puz. zle his reason, or to cause him to blaspheme. But let the humble believer draw near; let him come and look into the privileged manger, where an object will meet his eyes that is justly styled “ The chiefest among ten thousand and alto“ gether lovely ;” an object that will seize on his affections, and lead captive every thought of his breast in silken chains of admiration, gratitude, and adoration. Here let him, with the Divinely instructed Magi, present his offerings at the feet of the infant-Saviour. Let him join the heavenly host in singing, “ Glory to God “ in the highest, and on earth peace, good 56 will towards men.”
The celebration of Christmas is a custom of immemorial antiquity in the church of Christ. * But the collect now in use was composed in 1549. It contains a statement of the marvellous event which we commemorate, and a prayer for grace to make a due improvement of it.
The birth of Christ, in connection with its attendant circumstances, is the most important event which the pen of history has recorded. For the world itself was built, and all its affairs have been ordered, with an immediate reference thereunto. The universe was erected for the purpose of becoming a theatre, on which the glory of God might shine in the person of Jesus Christ; and notwithstanding any appearance of
* See Bingham's. Antiquities of the Christian Church. Book' xx. ch. iv.
confusion in the heterogeneous mass of occurrences which history unfolds, a Divine hand has overruled the vast machine for the accomplishment of its own purpose, the manifestation of the Divine perfections in and by the incarnation of Jehovah. We need not to be surprised therefore, that this intended interposition of Divine Goodness, on behalf of ruined man, was the subject of a series of predictions during a period of four thousand years, which had elapsed between the fall and the era of redemption. The language of prophecy was in the beginning obscure, like the first light of the morning : but as the crisis of its fulfilment approached, it became clearer and more distinct, till the perfect day disclosed its object to full view in all its glory. The Spirit of prophecy in its commencement, like the Nile at its fountain, flowed in a narrow channel, but spread joy and gladness as it held its course. In process of time, however, it gathered strength, by the accession of other streams; till at length, after enriching various countries, it majestically rolled its sevenfold * waters into the wide ocean of accomplishment. The promised Messiah was at first characterised as “the seed of the woman;" a partaker of human nature, but not derived in the ordinary mode. After the limitation of the church of God to the descendants of Abraham, His lineage was confined to this family, and to a particular branch of it, by the swan-like song of dying Jacob. David specifies the place of His nativity (Ps. cxxxii. 6); which was afterwards confirmed by Micah. (chap. v. 2.) And Isaiah and other prophets shed further light on the subject, by a minute specification of circumstances, which must have conduced greatly to the consolation of those who waited for His appearance before He came; and which is now a matter of the highest importance, both in confounding the infidel objector, and in confirming the souls of true disciples. It is needless to refer to the several links of the golden chain of prophecy, as they are generally known, and as the more important ones are employed in the service of the church for this day.
* Rev. v. 6. Comp. Isai. xi. 15. Septemplicis ostia Nili.
The incarnation of the Son of God stands connected withall Divine dispensations, both those which were antecedent and those which shall be subsequent to it. It is the central point, in which they all concur. Being exhibited in the promises from the beginning, it became the grand object of faith, desire and expectation to conscious sinners, who are therefore described as waiters for the consolation of Israel; and who “ all died in faith, not having received the pro“ mises, but having seen them afar off, and em“ braced them, and confessed that they were " pilgrims and strangers on the earth.” They had no source of refreshment in the prospect of life or death, but this well-spring of salvation. It is also the alone fountain of peace and hope to the lost sons of men, who have been born since the Redeemer came. To the world, and redemption by Christ, may be applied what the Poet says of Egypt and its river;
Te propter nullos tua tellus postulat imbres,
Without the doctrine of the incarnation and its dependencies, time past, present, and future, would present nothing to the mind but a dreary wilderness of horror and despair.
But “ Almighty God” (for ever blessed be His name!) “hath given us his only begotten Son to take upon
Him our nature.” Well might the Apostle John say, “In this was manifested the “ love of God, because He sent His only begotten - Son into the world, that we might live through “ Him."
This act of Divine benignity was not an extemporaneous exertion of almighty goodness. The contrivance of redemption was not formed on the spur of occasion, as a remedy for an unforeseen disease. But it had its rise in the eternal counsels of Jehovah, and was settled by an antemundane oath, to which the Scriptures often refer. The Messiah is therefore introduced in the book of Proverbs, as saying of Himself, “ Je“ hovah 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 66 earth was.
Then was I by Him as one brought “ up with Him: and I was daily His delight, re
joicing in the habitable part of His earth, and
my delights were with the sons of men.” See also Micah v. 2. In unison with this declaration of Him who is "the wisdom of God,” St. Peter expressly affirms that Christ was “foreordained” to redeem us " before the foundation of the “ world" (1 Ep. i. 18-20); and St. Paul says that “God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus “ Christ, hath chosen us in Him before the foun- dation of the world.” And these passages shed light on another in the book of the Revelation (chap..xiii. 8), in which is mentioned “ the " book of life of the Lamb, slain from the foun“dation of the world."
The person sent on this errand of love was God's “ ” only begotten Son.” No other messe