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my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that he would grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man ; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, through all ages, world without end. Amen.'
[PREACHED ON CHRISTMAS DAY.]
THE FAITHFUL AND ACCEPTABLE TRUTH.
1 Tim. 1. 15.
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus
came into the world to save sinners. To one, from his childhood, made familiar with the doctrines of our holy religion, and with this in particular, that Christ came to redeem the sinful race of mankind; or to one who does not know who Christ is, whence, or to what sort of a world, he came, or how wholly unworthy we were of such a visit; my text will seem to introduce itself with too great an air of pomp and importance ; the porch will appear too spacious and too magnificent for the building, • This is a faithful saying,' big with divine truth, and absolutely to be depended on, that cannot be disputed, or so much as doubted in the least, without obstinately shutting the eyes of reason, and questioning the truth of God's word. This is a saying worthy of all acceptation,' worthy, on account of the light and conviction it brings with it, to be, received by the understandings of all men; and on account
of the equally comfortable and astonishing work of salvation it sets before us, to be embraced with all the warmth of their hearts, and all the force of their affections; with a transport of gratitude and wonder. What now is the saying? Why, ‘ that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Now, I do insist on it, that, simply as the matter of this saying is here expressed by the apostle, it is impossible for the eloquence, nay, for the imagination of men or angels, to do it justice. This will easily be made evident, before we have done.
In the mean time, let us observe a little the faithfulness and worthiness of this saying. Faithful and true it must be in the highest degree, if the prophecies of God to all men, through Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Isaiah, and a cloud of other witnesses, are all fulfilled, as they really are, in the truth of this saying; and if our Saviour hath fully proved, as he certainly did, by infinite miracles, openly and every where performed in the face of unbelievers and enemies, that he came directly and immediately from his Father to save the world. The reason of mankind, and their total inability to reform or save themselves, loudly cry out for such a Saviour. The prophecies, the miracles, together with the inimitable wisdom, humility, patience, and goodness of Christ, do still more loudly proclaim him to be that very Saviour, so that reason ceases to be reason, if it does not receive this saying with an entire conviction of its truth, as the fundamental article of saving faith.
Hence again appears its worthiness of all acceptation, so far as reason and the understanding are concerned to judge of its truth. So as the heart and our affections are called upon warmly and gratefully to close with it, as the most important and comfortable of all truths, we have only to consider, who Christ Jesus is, whence, and whither he came, whom he came to save, from what, and by what means.
First, then, let us seriously consider who Christ Jesus is. In the beginning,' that is, from all eternity, 'he was with God, and was God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. By,' or rather in, "him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him and for him. And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. He is the first and the last, and besides him there is no God. He is the alpha and the omega, the Almighty. He is God over all, blessed for ever.' No created being was able to save us.
The new creature required the omnipotent hand of its Creator, as well as the old. But had the power of a seraph, or all the seraphim together, been sufficient for this work, they had been unfit objects surely of that adoration, of that highest degree of love, wherewith the sense of our redemption ought to be accompanied in the hearts of all men. Nor is it at all to be supposed, without a flat contradiction to the very first principle of all true religion, that God would suffer any inferior being to carry off from himself such love, or such adoration, in the minds of all mankind, whose love he hath courted with infinite proofs of goodness and mercy, and whose worship he hath confined to himself by the most dreadful threatenings.
We see now to whom it is that we owe our salvation; and, in seeing this, it is easy to conceive the returns that are due for it. No mere man, no angel, no cherub, no seraph, was able to save us. God only could do this. God alone hath done it; and our gratitude, in the acceptance of this saying, 'that Christ Jesus came into the world to save us,' should rise to as high a proportion as possible, with the dignity of his person who saved us.
In the second place, we are to consider, whence Christ Jesus came. He came, not only from the throne, and from the glories of heaven; from that throne, whereon he reigned over all the hosts of heaven, and from the loud hosanna's of those exalted beings, who were created by him, in him, for him; but what was infinitely more, he came from the bosom of his Father, from love unbounded, from love equal to his infinite merit. In our acceptation of this saying as a truth, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save us, we should feelingly figure to ourselves the glory and happiness he relinquished, the power and majesty he abdicated, and, above all, the inconceivable, the infinite enjoyment of his Father, wherewith he had been transported from all eternity, which he exchanged for his anger, that he might give scope to mercy, too mysterious and astonishing for the comprehension of angels, yet not above the belief of a reasonable man, who is not too wise in his own conceit to credit a mystery, nor too good to need an atonement, for he knows he is a mystery to himself, and finds he is loaded with sin. His understanding is not become his idol, so as to have eyes that cannot see, and ears that cannot hear.
Thirdly, we are to consider, whither he came from all this happiness, and glory, and majesty. He came into this world. O miserable! O amazing reverse! He came into a world full of pollution and wickedness, full of treachery, cruelty, and oppression; into a world obstinately shut up against the light of his wisdom; hardened against all the tenderness of his love, exemplified by every instance of goodness, patience, compassion; and in open universal rebellion against himself, against him, whom angels feared, whom all the thrones, the principalities, the powers of heaven obeyed! That we might not be struck blind with his light, nor perish at the approach of his majesty, he veiled both in the 'tabernacle' of human flesh prepared for him. • He took on him the form of a servant, so that 'there was not even any comeliness in him, that we should desire him.' God came incarnate to save a race of incarnate souls, that the mystery of our own composition might prepare us for the belief of his. The word became flesh, and dwelt among us,' that our very senses might receive the person and doctrine of our Redeemer. We see him, we feel him, we converse with him, as a plain man,' who is the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of his person. We try his patience with our ignorance and stupidity. We shock his sensibility with the hardness of our hearts. We tease and affront his wisdom with our impertinent questions, with our saucy expectations, with our self-interested requests. Oh, had we but stopped here, and not proceeded with our indignities to infinitely more grievous excesses ! But this is not the place for such reflections. Here it is that we ought to search and find out the knowledge of ourselves, that in that knowledge we may the better perceive the entire acceptation with which we ought to embrace this saying, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save us sinners.'
For, in the fourth place, he came, not as might have been most reasonably and naturally feared, to judge and condemn
the world, a guilty and reprobate world, but to save them, despicable and odious as they are. If the dutiful, the faithful, the just, the chaste, the grateful, had been in danger, our Saviour's visit and assistance had furnished a much smaller occasion of admiration and thankfulness. But he came to save sinners, you the rebellious, you the treacherous, you the iniquitous, you the unclean, you the thankless; to save sinners, whereof I may more truly say, than Paul did, in the words immediately following my text, that • I am chief.' The wealthy may disdain an alms; but with what acceptation ought the debtor to snatch at the payment of all he owes ? with what acceptation ought the prisoner to leap at the price of his freedom ? with what a bound ought he to spring from the loathsome place of his confinement, when his bailsman comes to pay off his bonds ?
Fifthly, we are next to consider, with the most awakened attention, what Christ Jesus came into the world to save us from, namely, sin and its punishment. We are by nature slaves, 'sold under sin,' corrupted, polluted, it may be, hardened, in sins of the most abominable and dangerous kinds. We are surrounded with darkness, but we like it because our deeds are evil, and require it. We are covered with nastiness, but delight in it, because it is both natural and habitual to us. There is but one who can enlighten the paths, and cleanse the ways of beings, so wedded to impurity, and therefore so impatient of the light; so destitute of light, and therefore so insensible of their own impurity. None can save, that is, reform and reclaim us, but Christ, who comes by his word, by his sabbaths, by his sacraments, by his ministers, and in all these, by his spirit, to call us to repentance and newness of life; to call us out of the world, that treacherous enemy, whom we foolishly and desperately love ; to call us out of the flesh, that in-bred betrayer, whom we cherish with greater indulgence and tenderness, than our lives; and he comes to put us on our guard against the snares of that apostate angel, who labours continually to make us as foul, as black, as malicious, as wicked, as miserable, as shameful beings, every way, to all eternity, as himself. Is not such a visit, are not such labours, worthy of our utmost acceptation ? Are we not tired of our sins; are we not frightened at their effects? will we not embrace