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may rouse our attention, and, by divine grace, rescue us from a precipice, only one degree remote from everlasting ruin. If we really did believe that this nativity was for our advantage, we should fear neither sin nor death; and, therefore, to make this festival effectual to all its holy purposes, a faithful Christian must doubt nothing, that this nativity is as well his, as it is the Lord Christ's. Let the heart have some confidence in this persuasion, otherwise it will be in a most evil case. This was signified by the angel, when he said, unto you he is born; as if he had said, whatever he is, or possesses to bestow, it is yours. He is your Saviour, and is able to deliver you from the wrath to come, and is truly your "wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption '.
When we have meditated on a subject suitable, not to one day, but to every day of every Christian's life, piously and religiously, are we not well assured that the angel has, indeed, brought us tidings of great joy; as it cannot but be that our hearts must be glad, when we enjoy this Saviour as our own?
When we are bent down with misery and sin, when we are oppressed with calamity and distress, and there remains no comfort or assistance within us, or without us, in a world of trouble; when the heavy heart cannot lift up itself above its burthen, the situation is indeed deplorable and sad:-" I looked on my right
hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me, no man cared for my soul1:"-but when we conceive a trust which rises above the world, and are satisfied that Christ's nativity is ours, and that the benefit of his coming reaches to us, under every circumstance of life or death, then the Sun of Righteousness rises upon the soul, and all creation is gladdened by its beams:-"This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!”
1 Ps. cxlii. 4.
2 Ps. cxviii. 24.
THE MANIFESTATION OF CHRIST,
"THE Greek word signifies manifestation, and hath been of old used for Christmas-day, when Christ was manifested in the flesh; and for the day wherein the star did appear to manifest Christ to the wise men, as appears by Chrysostom and Epiphanius. For the antiquity of the day, Augustin says, The solemnity of this day, known throughout all the world, what joy doth it bring in1!”—_—__"This feast has several appellations amongst the Greek fathers, sometimes it is called, the day of sacred illumination, (Gregory Nazianzen); sometimes the Theophany, the manifestation of God. It often imports Christ's birth-day; now is the festival of the Theophany, or Christ's nativity. Yet sometimes they are distinguished, The nativity of Christ and the Theophany, &c. are to be accounted for holidays. And again, The first festival is that of Christ's birth, the next is that of the Theophany, (Epiphanius). But of all the names most usual, and most frequently applied
1 Sparrow's Rationale.
to it, is this of Epiphany, though under the patriarchate of Alexandria communicated both to the nativity and baptism of Christ 1.”
I.—The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.
THE order of divine providence, to a contemplative mind, affords one of the strongest evidences of the over-ruling power of Almighty God, in arranging and completing the purposes of his will for the final benefit of all his creatures. The establishment and administration of nations, and even the successive transactions of every man's life, sufficiently declare, "this is thy hand, and thou Lord hast done it." The motive may not always be visible to the limited view of man, but the effect is always visible; or at least, may be deduced from the variety of combinations which every man sees before him. In nothing is this observation more conclusive, than in a comparison of the volume of Scripture with the general history of the human race; and still more, with the history of the human heart.
The manifestation of our blessed Saviour to the world, is the grand key of those unsearchable riches, which the grace of God has given to mankind. He was first manifested by the voice of prophecy, gene
1 L'Estrange's Alliance of Divine Offices, p. 138.
rally, and obscurely, in the early ages; afterwards, more fully revealed in the family of David; and at last, expected and received in the manger at Bethlehem. Could this have been thought possible? Could it ever have been imagined, that he who came specifically into the world to save sinners, and to establish for himself a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom, sooner or later, to comprehend all people, nations, and languages, should be received in a stable amongst the meanest of mankind? But this was an indispensable link in the history of redemption. The more wonderful, because the more unlikely.
Our Lord's nativity, doubtless, was his first personal manifestation to the Jewish nation, to whom his Gospel was to be first offered. Connected with this was his manifestation of himself, united in the three persons of the Godhead at his baptism by John, by a miraculous appearance, and a miraculous voice. "Then Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water; and lo! the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him; and a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased1." We cannot imagine any exhibition of himself more impressive,. illustrious, or sublime. And if we refer on this occasion to the inspired words of the Evangelical Prophet, the scene
1 Matt. iii. 16, 17.