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hold I bring you Tidings of great Joy, which shall be to all People ; for unto you is born, this Day, in the City of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a Sign unto you, Te shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling Cloaths, lying in
Manger. And suddenly there was with the Angel, a Multitude of the Heavenly Hoft, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the Highest, on Earth Peace, Good Will towards Men.
After this Manner was the Appearance of our Saviour, and much after the fame Manner was his following Life. It was a Life of much Poverty and Meanness as to outward Circumstances; but it was a Life, in every Period of it, fraught with Wonders. Whether we consider the admirable Goodness and Charmingness of his Temper ; or the exemplary Vertue and Piety that did shine out in all his Conversation; or the Divinity of his Sermons and Doctrines; or his prodigious inimitable Miracles; or the Attestations which were given him from Heaven; or the Usage he received from Men; or the Events which followed
all these Things in the World.
But it is his First Appearance in the Flesbo, that we are this Day mer together to Commemorate. And never had Mankind so Noble an Argument given them, to exercise their Thoughts and Meditations upon.
If we consider the Quality of the Person appearing, that he was no other than the Eternal Son of God; How ought we to be raptur’d with Wonder and Aftonishment, at the Infiniteness of the Divine Condescension? How VOL. I.
ought we to be affected with Love and Thankfulness, at such a never-to-be-parallelled Instance of God's Kindness to us, that he should so love tis, as to send his only begotten Son into the World, that we might live through him?
If we consider, that this Son of God resolving to appear in the World, of all other Ways, chose to do it in our Flesh, and fo united both the Deity and Humanity in one Person ; O what a Sense ought this to impress upon us, of the Honour that is here done to our Nature, and the Dignity it is advanced to? And how ought that Sense, either to fright us, or to shame us from prostituting this our Nature, to any vile unworthy Mixtures and Communications, which God did not disdain to take into so near a Relation to himself.
If we consider that this God, in Humane Flesb, came as the Mefiah, the Saviour of the World, so long before promised, and so long expected; How ought this to fill our Hearts with Joy and Thankfulness? How should it move us to pour out our Souls in Benedictions to God, for having thus Visited and Redeemed bis People? And putting us into that Dispensation, which so many Holy Men, for so many Ages, wished to see, but did not see it; nay, and which the Angels themselves desired to look into; and which the Jews for rejecting, at the Time it was published, are to this Day a ftanding Monument of God's Displeasure and Vengeance?
If we consider the many Evidences, that this our Saviour gave at his Appearance, of
his being the true Christ; How exactly in all the Circumstances of his Nativity, and all the Passages of his Life, he fulfilled the Prophecies which went before of him; and how convincing the Testimonies were, which God gave to the Truth of his Mission: How ough this Consideration to strengthen our Faith in this Christ? To make us constant to the Death, in owning him for our Saviour, our Meffiah, in Oppolition to all the Pretences of the Jews, and Infidels, and Atheists, and Scepo ticks, to the contrary,
Lastly, If we consider the mean Circumstances that this our Christ chose to appear in; so far below the Dignity of so great a Prince, that there is not the poorest Beggar's Child among us, but generally finds better Accommodation when it comes into the World: ( what a Check, what a Rebuke ought this to be to that Spirit of Ambition, and Pride, and Vainglory, that too often possesses us poor Mortals ? How ought it to take off our Admiration, and lessen the too great Efteem we are apt to have of all outward Pomp and Greatnefs? Nay, and to make us despise all the glittering Shews and Bravery of the World: Since God has given us fo visible a Demonstration, by the fending his own Son into it, how little a Value he fets upon these Things. But,
II. I proceed to the Second Point, which my Text leads me to speak to, and that is the Time of our Saviour's Appearance here men tioned, Once hath be appeared in the End of the World.
You see here, That the Time of his Appearance is said to be the End of the World. But how is that to be understood ? If we take the Expression in the literal Sense, and as we commonly use it; the Thing is not True: For there have already pass’d full Seventeen Hundred Years since our Saviour's Appearance ; and yet the End of the World is not come, nor do we know when it will.
But there will be no Difficulty in this Matter, if we carefully attend to the Phrase the Apostle here useth, and interpret it according to the Propriety of the Language, in which it is delivered. The Word in my Text is, Lumilaua tão aióvar, which every Body, that is versed in the Style of the New Testament, knows may be better and more naturally rendered the Consummation or Conclusion of the Ages, than the End of the World.
For the Understanding this Phrase, we must have recourse to the known Idiom of the Jews, who used to speak of the several Oeconomies and Dispensations, under which the World successively had been, or was to be, as of so many Aiões, or Ages. The last of which Ages, and the Accomplishment and Completion of all of them, they held to be the Age of the Messiah; beyond which they knew there was to be no other Age or Oeconomy. With reference to this way of speaking, the Times of the Gospel-Dispensation are frequently called in Scripture, The Last Times, The Last Days, The Fulneß of the Times, and in the Text, The Consummation or Shutting up of
the Ages. The meaning of all which Phrases, is no more than this: That the Times of the Gospel, that is, the Appearance and Revelation of our Saviour, though God intended them from the beginning, yet should they be the last of all Times. There should be several Dispensations set on Foot in the World before they came; and when those Times were fulfilled, when the Ends of those Dispensations were accomplished, then should our Saviour appear, and begin his Kingdom, which should never be succeeded by any other.
This is the true Meaning of Christ's appeariog, és Luviénue tão aiórcy, as the Text ex, presseth it, that is, not (as we translate it) In the End of the World.; but, In the last of the Ages ; or, At the Time when the Ages were fulfilled and accomplished. Now what Use
: are we to make of this Consideration; the Apostle himself doth fairly, iatimate to us in the beginning of this Epistle : God (laich he) who at sundry Times, and in divers Manners, Spake in Times past unto the Fathers by the Prophets, bath in these Last Days Ipoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath made Heir of all Things, and by whom he made the Worlds. And so he goes on, to set forth the incomparable Dignity and Pre-eminence of this last Messenger of God, above that of either Angels or Men, by whom he had spoken to Mankind before. But what is the Inference he draws from all this? Why, that you may see in the beginning of the Second Chapter; Wę ought therefore (faith he) to give the more earnest