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objects of our several services, as they oc- SERM. cur in succession. I should be the last to XIX recommend the re-admission of such customs as the wisdom of our reformers determined them to relinquish, (for indeed some of the forms and customs of the Church of Rome have been known to lead to the saddest corruptions of Christianity); but by way of impressing your minds more strongly with a sense of the preparation requisite for the fit commemoration of the birth of Christ, I shall just notice, that in the Church of Rome, the season of Advent was always observed with a mixture of joy and sorrow-joy that the season of redemption was at hand, and sorrow for the cause and necessity of it. Hymns of glory, suited to the higher festivals, were at this time omitted ; the more magnificent ornaments of their churches and ministers laid aside, and in some places a strict fast observed. But the fourth Sunday in Advent (the day we now commemorate) was kept with great joy and festivity, the accomplishment of the prophecies being so near at end. Here, then, we see the
SERM. paration for Christ's coming was at least XIX, rightly understood.
Sorrow and repentance for past sins, were held to be necessary to fit men for a worthy reception of their Redeemer. The customs were not amiss in themselves, had they been allow. ed to take their proper effect; but it is to be feared that, in too many instances, like the vain pretences of the Pharisees, the outward ceremony was all that was attended to. Let us, however, not be in haste to judge others; let us rather consider our own condition. I would hope that we may not have passed through the former part of this holy season, without such se‘rious meditation and reflection, such efforts of amendment, and such testimonies of sincere repentance, as may entitle us now to put off our robes of sorrow and contrition, and prepare to meet our Lord with uninterrupted joy and gladness; that, with the blessed Mary, when the day cometh on which the Lord of Life condescended to take our nature upon him, our souls may be fit to “ magnify the Lord,” and “our spirits to rejoice in God our Saviour!”
FOR CHRISTMAS DAY.
1 TIM. III. 16.
And without controversy, great is the mystery
of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.
ERE we are not only told by the Apostle St. Paul, that “ God was manifest in XX.
the flesh,” but it is acknowledged to be, by the same Apostle himself, a great
mystery;" that is, a most stupendous event far exceeding our present powers of comprehension. God was manifest in the flesh, in the person of our Saviour Jesus Christ. By that extraordinary method of taking our nature upon him, he came into the world to save sinners; he came to set right, and to redeem, what in the person of our great progenitor, Adam, had, through
SERM. the enticements of Satan, been forfeited
and lost. Great is the mystery, no doubt, because our senses will inform us of nothing beyond the confines of this world ; and it is by reason only that we can apprehend it to be possible that the Almighty God should, in person, visit this earth of our's. But yet, surely, great as the mystery may be, (for what act of God's Providence is not mysterious to our finite and imperfect faculties ?) our reason may with ease, and without any extraordinary effort whatever, be brought to assent to the possibility of such an event.
We do not see God—we see nothing beyond the stars in the firmament; but does nothing, therefore, exist beyond the stars in the firmament? We have no sensible intercourse with our Creator, but may not our Creator, nevertheless, be present to all we do? We are in a state of probation-we are left to our own discretion for a time; and much is promised to those who shall, through faith in God, act with the same uprightness and integrity, not seeing him, as though they did see him, taking account
of all their ways. Was God's presence SERM. noticeable by our senses, we should scarce be in a state of probation ; we should be over-awed by his watchful Providence, and be no longer free agents in any sense of the word. Therefore, that God should veil the glory of his majesty at present, and not interfere openly with the concerns of this world, is what we might most reasonably expect; but that God cannot, therefore, interpose when he pleases, or be present with us on extraordinary occasions, even by assuming not only the form, but the
very nature of man, it would be folly to deny ; to doubt of such an event, because no such ever happened in our own times, would be as reasonable as for a person who never saw a comet to doubt of the possibility of such a heavenly appearance, though those who had seen one had borne every testimony to such an event that the nature of the case admitted. A comet comes from regions quite remote from the sphere of our ordinary vision ; it appears for a time and retireswe know not whence it camemwe know not whither