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son of God; all true Christians “ are children of God, by faith in Christ Jesus.” 1 But here is One who so bears the name, as to exclude all others from participating in it. He is “the only begotten Son"--equal to, and one with, the Father. The full meaning of these expressions is, no doubt, far beyond our comprehension. Thus much, however, is evident. He, who as at this time became manifested, was previously invisible. Like his Divine Father, he was dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto-whom no man had seen or could see :”! to sum up all in a single word, he was God—“ the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”3–At length,
He was manifested.” He came forth from his secret place, that men might“ behold his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” 4
And how did he effect this? In various ways—to each of which my text may be supposed to refer.
1. By his mysterious Incarnation. This is the first article in what St. Paul calls the great mystery of godliness--" God was manifest in the flesh.”5 St. John had used a similar expression—" the Word was made flesh.” In the womb of the spotless Virgin, a union took place between the two natures ; so that they who afterwards saw “the man Christ Jesus,” beheld at the same time the Lord God of Heaven and earth—' perfect God and perfect man.' made manifest,
2. By his personal Ministry. Hitherto, his Godhead was not sensibly displayed. The infant in the manger wept, and hungered, and was weary, like any other human infant. Even the singular wisdom of
I Tim. vi. 16. 3 John i I.
4 John i. 14.
5 1 Tim. iii. 16.
- Go ye
his boyhood might have been merely an unusual specimen of youthful talent, and (what is still more rare) of youthful piety. But, when his public ministry began—then, through the thin veil of his flesh, the Godhead shone forth, in every word and action of his life. Miracles-prophecies -- authority and influence over all around him-condescension, kindness, and love, more than human; all these things declared, that it was the living God walking and acting in sight of his creatures. “ The life,” saith St. John, manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.”l-Do we regret the loss of this? He gives us an equivalent,
3. By the promulgation of his Gospel. into all the world,” said he to his disciples, preach it to every creature; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” And therefore, wbithersoever the true preaching of the gospel comes, thither comes the Son of God himself, and there he is again and again manifested. Hence, St. Paul says to the Galatians (who certainly had never seen Christ in the flesh)—“ Before your eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you.
The same may be said of you. Not the person
of the Son of God, but his majesty, grace, and power are revealed to you, in the preaching of the gospel, when «
pray you in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled unto God.”
4. By the presence of his Spirit. All the other manifestations are but to the eye, or to the ear ; this is to the heart. Oh pray, my brethren, " that Christ may dwell in your heart by faith "3—that his Spirit may “take of the things of Christ, and shew them unto
1 1 John i. 2. 2 Gal. iii. 1. Ephesians iii. 17.
you !”i This blessing the Apostles still enjoyed, though their first Comforter was gone away: this the meanest Christian, if he be truly such, possesses equally with them. May it be your portion, and mine; that thus beholding him by faith, we may “not be ashamed before him,” at “ the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ."
II. THE Design OF THIS MANIFESTATION must now be considered. “ The Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
Respecting that awful being, who is here called “the devil," men in general are as ignorant and thoughtless, as they are concerning the Son of God. His name, indeed, is continually bandied about by their lips sometimes in wanton levity, sometimes in anger and fury against a brute beast, or a fellow creature. But few seriously believe in his existence, or dread him as the secret enemy of their souls. Nevertheless, every evil which the Redeemer came to rectify, proceeded originally from the devil. It was in order to undo his doings, to “destroy his works,” that the Son of God was manifested.—Let us look at some of those works.
1. God's dishonour was the main object aimed at by the devil, when he seduced man into sin. And, for a while, he seemed to have succeeded. God had made a new world, which Satan immediately defiledhad formed a race of subjects, whom he changed into rebels--had called that “ very good,"3 which the devil quickly rendered very evil. Now if God had instantly destroyed the work of his own hands, his wisdom as its Creator might have been impeached. Had he continued to take pleasure in his creatures,
1 John xvi. 15, 2 Titus ii. 13. 3 Genesis i. 31.
though corrupted, his truth and holiness would have been brought in question. But in the gospel of Christ every difficulty is cleared away. He is here shewn to be “a just God,” and yet Saviour:"1 and the evil introduced by Satan, has but redounded to the greater glory of God the Father.
2. Man's ruin is another of his works. For though man was guilty, sinning with his eyes open; yet the plot was Satan's. “He was a murderer from the beginning.". See, in Genesis iii., how he brought about our ruin : but learn, in the same place, how God promised that his “head" should for this be “ bruised” by the Seed of the woman. That Seed is the mani. fested Son of God. “ Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law,” by“ being made a curse for us by suffering Satan to “ bruise his heel.” Here, then, the work of Satan is destroyed. Whosoever truly believeth in Christ is saved from his power ; Wicked one toucheth him not." 4
3. Sin's dominion was also established, through the devil's influence. The first transgression brought a taint on the whole family of man. When our first parents yielded themselves as the servants of sin, Satan took care that they should never be free again. From that day to this, a sinful nature has been our tyrant. By means of it, that Evil “spirit worketh in the children of disobedience" ._"taking them captive at his will.” But here again, Christ comes to undo what the devil has done—“ to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” And this he effects by his holy Spirit, whom he sends to awaken-regenerate--sanctifyguide-and uphold the souls whom he hath chosen.
i Isa. xlv. 21. 2 John viii. 44. 3 Galatians iii. 13. 4 1 John v. 18. 5 Eph. ii. 2.
6 Isaiah lxi. 1.
“ Sin shall not have dominion over you :" it may still rebel and struggle within ; but it shall never again habitually influence the child of God.
4. Death's victory is another of Satan's doings. “ Death hath passed upon
for that all have sinned :"1 and he who was the Author of sin, has by this means obtained “the power of death."! Here however you may imagine, that his work cannot be reversed. And I must confess, that, with the excep. tion of those which shall be “ alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord,” death must still reign over every child of Adam. Nevertheless, even this “ last enemy,” this most effectual work of Satan, shall be at length “destroyed."3 Christ“ brings life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” 4 “ He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth : for the Lord hath spoken it.”' 5
Consider which side you are taking, in this conflict between the Son of God, and the great Author of evil. Are you consenting to his “ works ?” Or are you humbly co-operating with Christ to “destroy” them ?
Judge hence, what you have to expect hereafter. Though the conflict be not yet ended, there can be no doubt how it will end. “ He must increase !” “ The government shall be on his shoulders !” But, “ for the Devil and his angels,” “everlasting fire" is already “prepared.” Oh how happy, if it may be said of you in that day--" These are they which CONTINUED WITH me in my temptations: and I now appoint unto them a kingdom, as my Father appointed unto me.” 1 Rom. v. 12. ? Heb. ii. 14.
3 1 Cor. xv. 26. 4 Tim. i. 10.
5 Isaiah xxv. 8.