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THE FIRST ADVENT.
A SERMON FOR ADVENT.
GALATIANS, CHAPTER 4, VERSES 4, 5.
“ When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His
Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."
That we live amidst pain, and sorrow, and many sore evils; that sin hath destroyed that perfect beauty, order, and happiness in which this world was at first created, are truths which experience will suffer none to deny. But that there should be a perfect cure for all the sad evil of sin, to all who are willing to seek a cure; that man should be made capable of restoration to the happiness and holiness which were lost through sin; and that sin will be forgiven, and man for ever reconciled to God, are truths so utterly beyond the reach even of hope itself, that nothing but the power of a first revelation thereof, could ever have satisfied the soul, trembling for its own eternity, that such hope may indeed be entertained and shall one day be most exactly fulfilled.
The season of our Saviour's first Advent renders this thought, and all the holy matter to which it leads, peculiarly fitting for this pre: sent time. To encourage, and, as far as human instrumentality may be blest to our good, to assist us herein, let us consider the subject of the text under two heads : First, as it leads us to the truth of the great doctrine of the Gospel, our salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ; and, secondly, as it proves, in strict agreement with the whole Scripture, the plain necessity of a good and holy life.
That God, in pity to mankind, should have provided a way by which sinners might be forgiven, is not less wonderful than that man, created pure and good, and with power to have remained faithful, should have sinned. God's love, and man's ingratitude, are equally subjects of great astonishment. Man, nevertheless, did sin, and God hath found out a remedy for sin : and it is in this new character of “ God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself,” that we now know our relation, through redeeming love, to a Saviour mighty and willing to save. The hope of forgiveness, through a Mediator, was held out to man, even before the sentence of condemnation was passed upon his sin ; and, in the dark mystery of prophecy, Adam and Eve, the representatives of the millions to be born, received
their consolation, when they heard the gracious assurance, that “ the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head.”
That first prophecy, and succeeding prophecies for many hundred years, were wisely dark and obscure, though they progressively became clearer, and were always sufficiently understood to excite and keep up a very general expectation, that some great deliverer, “ in the fulness of time," would be sent. Had prophecy been more or less plain, than we find it to have been, we, (to whom this great evidence of prophecy has been exactly accomplished,) are perinitted to understand some portion of the divine wisdom, and to see that the counsel of God would not have been so well, so happily adapted to the circumstances, the wants, and the infirmities of His sinful creatures.
One instance of the use of the obscurity of prophecy respecting a promised Saviour, in the furtherance of human belief, we must not pass over. There is a passage in the prophecies of Isaiah, so exactly fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, and so impossible to have been fulfilled in any other person ever born into this world, that its own internal evidence is of itself sufficient to have established the belief, that “ Jesus was the Christ.”
The book of the prophecy of Isaiah was
written, and well known to have been written, above seven hundred years before Christ came upon earth. In the fifty-third chapter of that prophecy are these remarkable words: “ Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand :" and in another part of this same chapter, speaking of the same
“ He was cut off out of the land of the living." Now if these words be applied to any
other than Christ, they are a plain and direct contradiction. The
of whom the prophet is speaking, is said to be “ cut off out of the land of the living,” and that when His soul should have been made an offering for sin, He should see His seed, He should prolong His days. Now how could any mere human soul be made an offering, that is, put to death, and yet still see his seed, and prolong his days ? No man, who only pretended to be a prophet, would ever have thus risked the credit of his character, as to have written, uninspired, what would appear, before it was fulfilled, a direct contradiction. But Isaiah spake what was true. In our Lord Jesus Christ and in Him only, all this was most literally and wonderfully accomplished. He was cut off out of the land of the living: He did make His soul an offering for the sins of the whole world. Still, death had no more power over Him; for He, by dying, conquered death; neither was it
possible for Him, the Holy One, to see corruption. He burst the bonds of death; He rose triumphantly from the grave; and in the conversion of sinners unto the faith of His Gospel, He hath seen His seed, the first fruits of His Universal Church, increasing, and to in'crease in all lands; and His days are prolonged in His own Kingdom of Glory, even for ever and ever.
Prophecy, then, hạth shewn, to a moral demonstration, that Jesus of Nazareth was the long expected Christ, the Saviour of our souls. His own miracles publicly performed, narrowly watched by crafty and wicked men, that they might have detected Him, had He been false, confirm the sure word of prophecy. And then, that He might give a living proof of His Gospel, of which men's outward eyes and senses would be the judge, He ordained the two Holy Sacraments of Baptism and the Supper of the Lord. These have come regularly down, together with the reasons of their institution, and the very forms of their first observance, faithfully preserved, and regularly kept up by all His fol