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wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.” What a wonderful sign is this to all the world, and therefore the Angel repeated it to the shepherds: “Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” The God of heaven and earth, the Divine WORD, who had been in glory with the Eternal Father from the beginning, He was at this time born into this world of sin as a little infant. He, as at this time, lay in His mother's arms, to all appearance helpless and powerless, and was wrapped by Mary in an infant's bands, and laid to sleep in a manger. The Son of God Most High, who created the worlds, became flesh, though remaining what He was before. He became flesh as truly as if He had ceased to be what He was, and had actually been changed into flesh. He submitted to be the offspring of Mary, to be taken up in the hands of a mortal, to have a mother's eye fixed upon Him, and to be cherished in a mother's bosom. A daughter of man became the mother of God -to her, indeed, an unspeakable gift of grace; but in Him what condescension ! What an emptying of His glory to become man! and not only an helpless infant, though that were humiliation enough, but to inherit all the infirmities and imperfections of our nature which were possible to a sinless soul. What were His thoughts, if we may venture to use such language or admit such a reflection concerning the Infinite, when human feelings, human sorrows, human wants, first became His ? What a mystery is there from first to last in the Son of God becoming man ! Yet in proportion to the mystery is the grace and mercy of it; and as is the grace, so is the greatness of the fruit of it. steadily contemplate the mystery, and say whether any consequence is too great to follow from so marvellous a dispensation ; any mystery so great, any grace so overpowering, as that which is already manifested in the incarnation and death of the Eternal Son. Were we told that the effect of it would be to make us as seraphim, that we were to ascend as high as He descended lowwould that startle us after the Angels' news to the shepherds ? And this indeed is the effect of it, so far as such words
be spoken without impiety. Men we remain, but not mere men, but gifted with a measure of all those perfections which Christ has in fulness, partaking each in his own degree of His divine nature so fully, that the only reason (so to speak) why His saints
are not really like Him, is that it is impossible, that He is the Creator, and they His creatures; yet still so, that they are all but divine, all that they can be made without violating the incommunicable majesty of the Most High. Surely in proportion to His glory is His power of glorifying ; so that to say that through Him we shall be made all but gods, though it is to say that we are infinitely below the adorable CREATUR, is to say, and truly, that we shall be higher than every other being in the world; higher than angels or archangels, cherubim or seraphim,that is, not here, or in ourselves, but in heaven and in CARIST. Christ, already the first-fruits of our race, God and man, having ascended high above all creatures, and we through His grace tending to the same high blessedness, having the earnest of His glory given here, and (if we be found faithful) the fulness of it hereafter.
If all these things be so, surely the lesson of joy which the Incarnation gives us, is as impressive as the lesson of humility. St. Paul gives us the one lesson in his epistle to the Philippians : "Let this mind be in you which was also in CHRIST JESUS, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made HIMSELF of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men> ;” and St. Peter gives us the lesson of joyfulness : “whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory; receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
Take these thoughts with you, my brethren, to your homes on this festive day; let them be with you in your family and social meetings. It is a day of joy: it is good to be joyful—it is wrong to be otherwise. For one day we may put off the burden of our polluted consciences, and rejoice in the perfections of our SaVIOUR CHRIST, without thinking of ourselves, without thinking of our own miserable uncleanness; but contemplating His glory, His righteousness, His purity, His majesty, His overflowing love. We may rejoice in the LORD, and in all His creatures see
We may enjoy His temporal bounty, and partake the pleasant things of earth with Him in our thoughts; we may rejoice in our friends for His sake, loving them most especially because He has loved them.
3 Phil. ii. 5-7. 1 Pet. i. 8, 9.
“God has not appointed us unto wrath, but to obtain salvation through our LORD JESUS CHRIST, who died for that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him." Let us seek the grace of a cheerful heart, an even temper, sweetness, gentleness, and brightness of mind, as walking in His light, and by His grace. Let us pray Him to give us the spirit of everabundant, ever-springing love, which overpowers and sweeps away the vexations of life by its own richness and strength, and which above all things unites us to Him who is the fountain and the centre of all mercy, lovingkindness, and joy.
IGNORANCE OF EVIL'.
Gen. iii. 22.
“ And the LORD God said, Behold the man is become as one of Us, to know
good and evil.”
It is plain that the temptation under which man fell in paradise was this, an ambitious curiosity after knowledge which was not allowed him: next came the desire of the eyes and the flesh, but the forbidden tree was called the tree of knowledge ; the Tempter promised knowledge; and after the fall Almighty God pronounced, as in the text, that man had gained it. “Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil.”
You see it is said, man is become as one of Us to know good and evil,” because God does know evil as well as good. This is His wonderful incommunicable attribute; and man sought to share in what God was, but could not without ceasing to be what God was also, holy and perfect. It is the incommunicable attribute of God to know evil without experiencing it. But man, when he would be as God, could only attain the shadow of a likeness which as yet he had not, by losing the substance which he had already. He shared in God's knowledge by losing His image. God knows evil and is pure from it, man plunged into evil and so knew it.
Our happiness as well as duty lies in not going beyond our measure—in being contented with what we are—with what God makes us. They who seek after forbidden knowledge, of whatever kind, will find they have lost their place in the scale of beings in so doing, and are cast out of the great circle of God's family.
1 For Innocents' Day.
It is, I say, God's incommunicable attribute, as He did not create, so not to experience sin-and as He permits it, so also to know it; to permit it without creating it, to know it without experiencing it—a wonderful and incomprehensible attribute truly, yet involved, perhaps, in the very circumstance that He permits it. For He is everywhere and in all, and nothing exists except in and through Him. Mysterious as it is, the very prison beneath the earth, its chains and fires, and impenitent inmates, the very author of evil himself is sustained in existence by God, and without God would fall into nothing. God is in hell as well as in Heaven, a thought which almost distracts the mind to think of. The awful God! “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I go from Thy presence? If I climb
up into heaven Thou art there; if I go down to hell Thou art there also.” Where life is, there is He; and though it be but the life of death—the living death of eternal torment—He is the principle of it. And being thus intimately present with the very springs of thought, and the first elements of all being, being the sustaining cause of all spirits, whether they be good or evil, HE is intimately present with evil, being pure from it—and knows what it is, as being with and in the wretched atoms which originate it.
If there be this sort of connexion between God's knowledge and sufferance of evil, see what an ambition it was in our first parents to desire to know it without experiencing it; it was, indeed, to desire to be as gods, to know the secrets of the prisonhouse, and to see the worm that dieth not, yet remain innocent and happy.
This they understood not; they desired something which they knew not that they could not have, remaining as they were; they did not see how knowledge and experience went together in the case of human nature; and Satan did not undeceive them. They ate of the tree which was to make them wise, and, alas, they saw clearly what sin was, what shame, what death, what hell, what despair. They lost God's presence, and they gained the knowledge of evil. They lost Eden and they gained a conscience.