« AnteriorContinuar »
CARIST as at this time brought into the world. But this we know, that whatever blessings He then brought unto those that should forsake their sins and believe in Him, all these blessings were bestowed on each one of us in our Baptism. For then we were made, each one of us, members of CHRIST and children of God. Thenceforth, if we have indeed abode in Him by a true and living faith, Christ has been in us the Fountain of righteousness and holiness, the Seed both to soul and body of an everlasting and most glorious life.
The blessings, then, that Christ as at this time brought into this world, were not then brought to others, but to each one of ourselves. But what comfort, it may be said, is that to those who are fearful that they have not abode in CHRIST, to those whose manifold and sad transgressions in times past, whose many waverings and evil thoughts even now give them cause to fear, that though they have been in Christ, they are now more or less outcasts, and have but little or no portion in Him? For these is there any consolation ? Does Christmas bring these any joy or hope? Is the thought of their Baptism to such persons any thing but a reason to dread a more grievous condemnation ?
Now, to this I answer, that for such as these, unless there be true and deep and lasting repentance, there is, indeed, no joy or comfort at this season. But if they do indeed repent, if they can offer “the sacrifice of a broken and a contrite heart,” as sincere mourners for their sins, then there is comfort for them. Then it " is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ JEsus came into the world,” as at this time, “to save sinners;" nor is he excluded, who can add, of whom I am chief 4.” There is hope, then, and comfort, for the worst of us, if we do but turn to our LORD with true contrition and meekness of heart.
But what means and what remedy is there for this grievous disease of sin, thus working and too often residing and ruling in those that have in Baptism died unto sin to live again unto Righteousness? There is but one Physician, one great Healer of soul and body from sin : the same Who at first made us whole in Baptism, by joining and knitting us unto Himself, and making us partakers of His own Righteousness and Holiness. He, and He only, can save us when we have become diseased anew; and amongst His Divine remedies, the most sacred and effectual of all is the partaking of His most Blessed Flesh and Blood. These He offers to us now for the healing of the whole man, the healing and preservation unto eternal life, both of body and soul. And thus, on Christmas-day, while we thank Him for that He took upon Him our flesh and blood, and joined it to His own GODHEAD, we shall receive from Him verily and indeed, though how, we know not, that very Flesh and Blood, that we, partaking of them, may dwell in Him and He in us ; that our sinful flesh may be made clean and holy by the most Holy Flesh, which the Son of God at this season took upon Him : and thus our souls may be wasbed by His most precious Blood, which at this season first flowed in His veins, afterwards to be poured out for our Redemption.
4 1 Tim. i. 15.
As truly, then, as the shepherds found Him that day at Bethlehem in the form of a child, so shall we find Him on Christmasday, if we seek Him aright, in the most Holy Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
Bethlehem means the “House of Bread," and doubtless, that city was so called because the Bread of God was there first to appear; but each Christian Church now is Bethlehem, the house and dwelling-place of that Bread of God which came down from Heaven, which Bread we may here find, and feed upon
it, to the preservation of body and soul to an endless and all-glorious life.
Do we doubt of any of these surpassing mysteries of God's love? Do we doubt that God became Flesh for our salvation ? Nay, bring but repentance of heart and true faith to the table of the LORD, and thou shalt receive His Flesh and His Blood : thou shalt receive His Body to have within thee the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for to dwell with thee, to endow thee anew with grace, to strengthen thee against thine enemies, to comfort thee with Their presence. Thou shalt receive His Flesh to endow thee with everlasting righteousness, to assure thee of everlasting bliss, and life both in soul and body. Doubt not of the truth of this matter, how great and high soever these things be. It becometh God to do no small deeds, however impossible they may seem to thee. Pray to God that thou mayest have faith to perceive this great mystery, that the Word became Flesh, God's Son became man; that by faith thou mayest certainly believe nothing to be impossible with God. Only bring thou faith to Christ's most Holy Word and Sacrament; and let thy purpose of amendment, and obedience of the heart to God's law, henceforth declare thy true beliefs. Let us then keep it ever imprinted in our hearts, that our God is near us, is among us, is even in us; that He is offering us means continually of renewing our union, when our sins have, in any degree, made a separation between us and our God. And now especially HE invites us by the voice of His Church to make glad remembrance on the Day of His Birth, of that great mystery of His taking our flesh upon Him, by approaching most near to Him, and receiving His Flesh and Blood, for the spiritual sustenance both of body and soul. To come thus near Him in unrepented sin, is to bring upon ourselves condemnation and death; but to refuse His invitation because we are not resolved to leave our sins, is to draw back from His service, and to provoke His displeasure by our thankless indifference. There is but one safe way, one way by which we can hope to gain His favour, and that is, to come near unto Him now that He calls us, and to come near with trembling and sorrow for our past sins, like that sinful woman who once washed His sacred feet with her tears. Let us move ourselves to godly fear and lasting sorrow for our past offences, and let us pray, and endeavour to begin at once, even this week, a better course of life than we have ever yet led, more diligently employed in God's service, less worldly, less inconsistent. us be more diligent in the use of all means of grace, such as reading God's word, and prayer both at home and here. Above all, let us cleanse ourselves from any lukewarmness in God's service, or any opposition of our will to that of God. Let us shun all acts, or words, and thoughts, that may defile the soul in His sight, unto Whom we are to draw so near. And let us rejoice, indeed, at Christmas, but let us rejoice in the LORD, as the Church now teaches us to do out of the Bible ; but not in the world or in the flesh; and above all, let us not find our pleasure, like some do at this season, in riot and sinful intempe
rance. Surely, it is more than ordinary unthankfulness to make Christmas a time of increased sin. And let us rejoice, not with vain presumption, but with trembling and awe, remembering we are sinners, grievous sinners before our God, though we may trust we have found mercy.
FinaŇy, when we are preparing to draw near to Him, at His call, in the holy mysteries of the Lord's Supper, in remembrance of His first Coming, let us think of the time when we shall be suddenly called to meet Him at His second Coming to judgment. You
may refuse His call now, but another call will, ere long, be heard, which we cannot refuse. You may come to the Table of the LORD, or stay away from it now, as you choose; but when summoned to His Judgment you must come, and account for every means of grace, every opportunity that you have rejected, or made ineffectual for your
Salvation. Now you may refuse to kneel at His worship, but we shall all see the day when “every knee shall bow to Him?,” either in joy or terror. Think, I beseech you, whether it will not be a fearful reflection that you have refused to kneel to Him now.
Who may abide the day of His Coming? who shall stand when He appeareth 3?" Where will those be then, who feign themselves to be other than they are; then, when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed ? Where will they be who have refused to draw near to God on earth, or to confess Him before men? For it is said, “ If we deny Him, He also will deny us.”
Oh! let us try to consider now, before it will be too late, what will be our condition on that day should He then deny us. According as we are used to meet Him now, so must we meet Him then. May God, therefore, in His great mercy, grant that like as we are soon to make glad remembrance of His Birth, so we may with sure confidence and joy unspeakable behold Him 5 looking on us with pity when He shall come to be our Judge.
2 Rom. xiv. 11.
3 Mal. iii. 2.
4 2 Tim. ii. 12. 5 See Collect for First Communion on Christmas-day in Edward VI.'s first book.
THE WORD MADE FLESH
St. John i. 14.
“ And the WORD was made flesh, and dwelt among us."
The Holy Gospel for any Sunday or Holy day should be regarded as the chief Scripture lesson for that day.
It may seem, therefore, at first sight, remarkable, that on this blessed day, when we are met together to keep the remembrance of the Birth of our Lord, the Holy Gospel speaks hardly a word of that Birth. In the Second Lesson, indeed, there is a full account of that glorious event, taken out of St. Luke's Gospel; there is another in St. Matthew, which will be read as the Gospel for next Sunday. In them you hear of Angels coming as messengers from Heaven, bearing peace and good-will to man, and with tidings of the fulfilment of all the ancient prophecies, and of the birth of a Saviour, a LORD, and a King, of Whose Kingdom was to be no end, who was to be called EMMANUEL, that is, God with us." But in the Gospel for to-day, the very day of our Lord's Birth, we find not a word about the circumstances of that Birth, but we are only told, that The WORD was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of Grace and Truth.” The reason of this is, that the chief object of the Church in her services for to-day, is to make one great truth sink down into our minds : a truth which it is most necessary for our salvation we should fully believe, for it lies at the foundation of all true Christianity. It is this, that He Who, as on this day, appeared at Bethlehem as a