Imatges de pÓgina
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DISCOURSE IX.

An Homily or Sermon concerning the Nativity or Birth of

our Blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

1 Epist. John iv. 9.

In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

F the various creatures that God made in the

beginning of the world, all which were equally excellent as to their particular uses, and truly wonderful in their kird; the holy. scripture assures us, that none was in any respect to be compared to man; who as far exceeded all the rest, in the beauty and dignity of his body, and especially in the powers of his mind or understanding, as the fun in the firmament exceeds the smallest star in light and brightness. Nor could it be otherwise, for he was made at first after the likeness of God, as to that degree of perfecrion that was 'necessary to render him wortby the work of the great Creator. By the likeness of God, is to be understood, that spiritual virtue, that innocence, and holiness of mind, wherein he did resemble his Maker, and not any likeness of his shape or figure as a man,

For God is a pure ípirit, to whom nothing of human form can posibly he likened. This being the case, man

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consequently must have been originally pofseffed of 'all manner of divine gifts that were essential to the happiness of his station. He was free from the least taint of impurity. He was a perfect creature both within and without. His reason was fufficient to diret him; his understanding clear and sound; his will disposed to obedience and godliness; and in short, we cannot more fully express the several excellencies of his nature, before the fall, than by that description which God inspired his servant Moses to record in Gen. ii. and 7th ver. So God created him in his own image, in the image of God created he bim; that is, wisdom, truth, and righteousness, and perfect in every capacity.

Thus happily formed, the Almighty, as a mark of his great love to man, appointed him a particular part of the earth for his residence, which he called Paradise, and which signifies a place of extraordinary delight. In this blessed place he lived in all peace and pleasure, having abundance of every worldly comfort, and wanting nothing that could be really profitable,or essentially

gratifying to his wishes. For we are told in the vilith Psalm, and 6th and 7th verses, 'God made him to have dominion over the works of his hands, and put all things in subjection under bis feet: all shoeep and oxen, yea, and the becsts of the field; the fowls of the air, and the fifhes of the sea; to use them at his own discretion, according as his necessities required. Surely we cannot fail to pronounce him an object of grateful admiration in this state, and that according to our ideas of good, it must have been completely blissful. We cannot imagine any possible addition to have been made, or greater temporal happiness to have been bestowed upon him. And this convinces us of the foulness of our first parent's trespass ; for, instead of strengthening their gratitude and obedience for all these choice and bountiful endowments, their prosperity and ease ungratefully inclined them to forget, (not only themselves, as being dependent creatures, indebted to their Maker for all they had received) but they also forgot God, and his just title to their obedience. And though they had but one easy commandment given them, and with the consequence of their disobedience to it, they were most graciously informed, viz. that they should not eat of that fruit which would convey the knowledge of good and evil (because in the day they eat thereof, they thould most surely die) yet they did most carelesly, or rather wilfully disobey ; breaking that strict and merciful command of the Creator, and yielding to the false and ruine ous suggestions of the devil, that wicked spirit, who tempted, and deceived them in the form of a serpent. It came to pass accordingly, that upon the abuse of his free will, man, who before was blesed, became accursed. As he was naturally beloved, when he reflected the image of his Maker, by his innocence, and perfections, so now he was as necessarily the object of his displeasure ; for having defaced that likeness by his rebellion ; having been guilty of fin, which is hateful to God, as being contrary to his divine nature ; it brought on such a change of conftitution, as exposed him to heavy, and merited punishment. Instead of continuing any longer beautiful and valuable in the fight of his Maker, as the admirable effect of his unerring workmanship, he became vile and wretched, he could no longer stand before Him, but bid himself instinctively from his all puré presence. Instead of bearing the image of God, as at first created, he now bore the image of the devil in his fallen nature. Instead of a candidate for greater happiness than even that at first bestowed upon him, he became a Nave to fin and misery ; no traces of his former uprightness remained, but being polluted, and degenerated from his first estate, he was only capable of following fin, and therefore, by the juft judge ment of an all perfect and all powerful God, he

theme became

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became subject to the threatened sentence upon his disobedience, even no less than DEATH ETER

NAL.

Had the consequence of the transgression affected only the original offender, the misery of the plague would not have been so sorely felt. But as in the wise design of God, Adam was ordained to be the father of a race of creatures like himself ; that is, partaking of the nature he plafjed, and consequently perfe&t, had he remained so ; so when he had wilfully corrupted this purer nature, his pofterity of course partook ofhis disorder, by the faire laws which had he kept his innocence, would have assured them bappiness. The taint, therefore, became entailed on all his generation to the end of time, so that all who defcended from the loins of Adam, experienced the same effect of the fall; and inheriting the fin, they likewise incurred the punishment which their ungrateful progenitor had rafhly deserved. And this the apostle St. Paul afferts very plainly, (in the vth chap. of his Epistle to the Romans, 18th and 19th verses) For by one man's disobedience many were made mei's ; ond by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation : which words moft clearly teach us, that as by Adam sin entered into the world, in that cll men fin, and come short of the glory of Gód, which they would have thewn had they continued according to their first creation by him; fo all men equally inherit the reward or confequence of fin, that is, become mortal, or are subject to death : having in themselves, through this change of nature, no profpect but to be cut off from this life by fickness, when the body is worn out, or by accident to which it is continually exposed ; and hereafter to be shut out from the face of the Almighty; because nothing impure or sinful can fand before him and live. And this state, in fact, is the utmost of eternal death or mifery, as to the worst poffible description that can be formed of it.

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The Psalmist also decribes the fallen state of man
in these moft grievous terms, Psalm xiv. 4. They
are all gone out of the way; they are altogether become
abominable ; there is none that doth good, no not one.

Nothing can afford us a stronger proof of the
dreadful nature of sin, than that a single violation
of God's law should tend in itself to destroy the
whole race of man : and which makes good St.
James's assertion, that to offend in one point renders us
guilty of all ; for one deviation from the rule of
right, introduced the whole body of fin. So inca-
pable were our first parents of themselves, after hav-
ing forfeited God's favor, of any recovery, that
but for his gracious and unbounded love in the re-
demption, they must have yielded to the power

of sin continually in this life, and after having paid the debt of death in this nature, have for ever experienced the unavoidable punishment that is due to it. A most woeful state, to fall from life to death; from bliss ineffable, to' as certain ruin ; from heaven, in short, to hell!

Having now laid before you this short history of man's creation and his fall, you will be better prepared to taste the boundless goodness of the Creator in his regeneration or recovery. Though the creature, as has been shewn, had by wilful wickedness occasioned himself to be driven from the sight of his Maker, and necessarily to be separated from his his love or notice, yet God, in the depth of his mercy and infinite wisdom of his fore-knowledge, had provided for this otherwise irrecoverable condition of the sinner. He ordained a new covenant, which is by distinction, called the covenant of grace or free favor. It is styled free, because man, instead of having any way deserved it, had on the contrary made a covenant with death and ruin. The bond or pledge of this covenant, treaty, or engagement, was the sure promise that God would in due time send the Messiah, that is,

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