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God's Remedy for Sin

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God's Remedy for Sin

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,” (Romans 8:3, ESV)

We have advanced thus far in our statement of Christian doctrine, or rather of the introduction and preliminaries to Christian doctrine. We have laid down the sinfulness of our whole nature: the manifoldness and deceitfulness of sin: the guilt and eternal consequences of sin. So far we have spoken of the disease: to-day we deal with the remedy.

Our text will furnish us in this matter with safe and sufficient guidance. It tells us of a way in which sin could not be cured: and of a way in which God has brought about its condemnation and cure.

Now remember how we have been treating sin throughout: as a taint, a disease in our nature, destructive to it, but pervading the whole of it, so that it is all sinful, all guilty, all perishing: so that it has absolutely no power to renew itself unto good or to cast out evil from itself. The witness of conscience it has: the help of God promised, and vouchsafed, we believe, even in ignorance and degradation: but this is not of itself: this depends entirely upon and flows from that Redemption of which we are to speak to-day.

Behold then man, guilty, helpless, lost. And what do we now hear of? How first does God manifest himself to him? We now first hear of a law being revealed to him. But it might be said, of what use can a law be to one who has no power to obey it? The answer is very simple: to teach him that he has no power to obey it. This was the use of the law given on Sinai. We have already seen, that one of the most fatal symptoms of the disease of sin is, a man’s unconsciousness of its presence. The sinner goes on imagining all is well; saying peace, when there is no peace. And in this ignorance he would live and die, were there not something to bring out and detect sin within him. This office the Law performed: by the Law is the knowledge of sin. But the Law had, and could have, no power whatever to overcome sin, nor to enable any man to contend with sin; any more than a command to rise up and walk could have on the man laid helpless on a bed of sickness. And this is what is meant in our text, when it is said, that the law was weak through the flesh. Its only organ of acting was, the weak, powerless, helpless flesh of man: that flesh which is infected and penetrated by the taint of sin. And let us stop as we pass by, to remark, that this same must be the case with all human systems of morality, all rules for good conduct, all discipline and codes of law: they have not, and cannot have, any power whatever to renew human nature, or to help it to overcome sin. Sin reigns in spite of them: nay sin has reigned most, and most fatally, where they have been best known, and most deeply studied, and most implicitly trusted to. All of them are just what their far greater example, God’s revealed law, was; and that is, merely a means whereby sin might be brought to light and known: means whereby the sinner might be rendered inexcusable, the proud heart might be crushed down, the dry and tearless eye might be filled with tears of repentance, and the sinner, hardened and careless before, driven to fly to God for mercy and pardon.

But here comes in a question which requires an answer, and to answer which will materially further our enquiry. "You tell us," it may be said to me, "that the law on Sinai, that every moral law, whether in the conscience, or in man’s writings and declarations, was given just to prove man guilty, and to drive him for mercy to God. But you know, and we know, and this Christmas Day reminds us, that it was not till four thousand years after man’s fall, that God’s grace and mercy was revealed to mankind by the Redemption which is in Christ. Do you mean to tell us, that the great God of compassion and goodness, who alone knew the way in which this dread disease of sin could be healed, allowed men to go on in their disease all this time without that cure, contenting Himself with making provision that they might know their guilt, and, knowing it, perish in it?" No, my brethren, nothing of the kind was the case. This Redemption by Christ, which first began its real course on the stage of this world about four thousand years after the creation, was no mere worldly course of events then first brought about,—no happy discovery then first made: it had been fixed in the divine counsels, and its glorious effects anticipated in God’s infinite loving-kindness, before the world began, before man’s sin was ever committed. Nay, all creation, the whole of this visible universe, is but a part, but a trifling portion, of this great divine scheme of Redemption. Every thing ever created, every thing that ever happened or shall happen, all these are simply elements in, contributions to, the glorious issue of the mediatorship of our Blessed Lord. All things are by Him and for Him: by him the universe holds together. And accordingly, we believe that there never was a time, in the history of man’s sin and of God’s dealing with it, when there was not opened to man a way of pardon and peace with God, through a Redeemer to come, or present, or having come. The antediluvian church, the Patriarchal church, the Jewish church,—these were in the direct track of that ray of light from above, which was to shine ever more and more unto the perfect day. By sacrifices, by types, by prophecies, the great Redeemer to come was made known to them as God saw fit for them, as they could bear and profit by the knowledge: at no time was access to God, and reconcilement, and pardon, denied to the sinner. Before the flood, Enoch walked with God, Noah was perfect in his generations, and preached righteousness: before the law, Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness, Jacob wrestled with. God and prevailed, and, dying, waited for His salvation: before the Gospel, Joshua determined that as for him and his household they would serve the Lord: David, amidst grievous weakness and sin, sought pardon and found it, and was the man after God’s own heart: Hezekiah walked in all the ways of the Lord, turning not to the right nor to the left: Simeon waited, in the light of the promise of the Holy Ghost, for the consolation of Israel. And if we turn to the other nations of the earth, though the picture of man’s delinquency is dark and gloomy enough, though our knowledge of their state and opportunities is but scanty and surrounded by difficulties, yet the argument of the Apostle in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and other expressions here and there dropped in Holy Scripture, enable us safely to affirm, that God left not himself without witness even amongst them: and that no where and at no time has it been true, that man has been abandoned by God to live and die in his sins.

This reply has prepared the way for entering on the further portion of my text, which indeed forms our proper subject to-day. The Law,—any law,—could not save man from sin. But God has done what the law could not do. He has sent One into the world, whose express object, as testified by the very Name given him, is, to save his people from their sins. He sent One into the world:—and who was this? That it was no mere son of man, must be evident at first sight: any and every such person would be born with the taint of sin on him, powerless to save himself, to say nothing of others. Every such person would be a mere unit in manhood, bounded by the limits of his own responsibilities, and unable to transfer any thing or pass it on to another: so that even suppose he could save himself, that would be all. The same objection would apply to any created being whatever: and this besides, that the combining our nature with any other nature, however exalted and angelic, would not do for us that which was required to be done: no angelic being has, or can have, righteousness of his own: every such one stands by divine grace imparted, may fall by grace rejected. No such Savior could suffice for us, or could save us from our sins. Then what did God? The language of our text is very important and explicit on this point: "He sent His Own Son." There is here a peculiar and intended emphasis on the words His Own. Angels are sons of God: we are said to be sons of God: but neither angels nor men are God’s own sons; for that imports, of His very nature and essence, very God begotten of very God,—eternal as Himself,—equal to Himself. There is but One, there never was but One, of whom this term can be used. That One was in the beginning: before creation existed: in union with God, and himself God.

But the particular respecting Him with which we are now more immediately concerned is, that God sent Him into the world. The question, when? is readily answered: as on this day. The event was one which happened, and was recorded, like any other in the history of our earth. In Bethlehem, a town of Judæa, a place which may even now be visited and seen, a child was born, whom we and all Christians believe to have been, and to be now, this Son of God,—God’s own Son,—the Savior of mankind. Important as the fact is, it requires little dwelling upon by me: because it is so plain, so well understood, so universally known. But the question, how He was sent into the world, is one which does require dwelling upon: because on the rightly answering it depends our soundness in the Christian faith;—depends the fulness of our joy in believing, depends the firmness of our trust, and the acceptableness of our obedience, and the progress of our sanctification, and the measure of our heavenly glory. According as a man does or does not apprehend rightly the Christian doctrine of our Blessed Lord’s Incarnation, depends it, whether his belief will yield him full consolation in his daily want of pardon and grace, in his daily struggles with sin, in the solemn hour of death, and in the decisive day of judgment. So let us endeavor earnestly to lay hold on the truth revealed to us in this all-important matter.

God sent His own Son into our world: how? Our text tells us one most essential particular. It was in the likeness of sinful flesh: of the flesh of sin. The form in which He appeared in this world was this form of ours. He was made man. That flesh of ours, which had become tainted with sin, prone to sin, sure to commit sin,—did He take that on Him? Now observe the words of our text, and remember well what has been before said in these sermons. Remember how earnest we have been to impress upon you, that sin is not ourselves: is not our nature, but is something fatal and hostile to our nature. The Son of God took on Him our nature; became very man. He therefore took on Him our Flesh; for this tabernacle of flesh and blood is necessary to the nature of man, and none is full and very man, but those who bear it about with them. But sin is not man: sin is not necessary to our nature: sin is destructive of our nature: sin is the very negative of our nature. And for this reason, and by a reason also inherent in Himself, on account of His absolute and perfect holiness and purity, the Son of God did not, when he took our nature, take sin with it: did not, when he entered into our flesh, enter into sinful flesh. His flesh was our very flesh: it had the same attributes, the same necessities, the same pains, the same liability to death, even as had Adam before his sin: but sin it had not. He looked like sinful men: was of the same shape and form: mingled in their crowds, conversed with them, felt for them, wept when they wept, suffered as they suffer, died even as they die: but He was not sinful man, nor was His flesh sinful flesh. In Him was no sin.

But our text tells us, that besides sending Him in the likeness of sinful flesh, of that flesh which had become pervaded by sin, God sent Him into the world for sin. Sin was the reason why He came; the errand on which he was sent had regard to sin: "He was sent," says St. John, "to take away our sins:" "He himself," said the Prophet Isaiah, "bore our sins:" "He who knew no sin," says St. Paul, "became sin for us."

Now this taking away our sins He accomplished by two great things which He did: by His life, and by His death. The Apostle Paul puts this very plainly and clearly before us: "If," he says, "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the Death of His Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved through His Life." The whole process of this wonderful matter—how His Death reconciled us, how His Life saves us, will come before us, please God, hereafter: to-day we are concerned with the first step, leading on to both: His Incarnation—His being born into our world.

What then do we see in the event of this day; in that event which fills every Christian heart with joy, in spite of adverse circumstances,—in spite of national mourning? We see this eternal and holy Son of God, becoming man. Let us take care that we get a right apprehension of this. That clear and most valuable confession of our faith which we have used this morning, will guide us aright. "The right faith is that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man: God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds: and man, of the substance of His mother, born in the world: perfect God and perfect man: of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting: equal to the Father, as touching His Godhead: and inferior to the Father, as touching His manhood. Who although he be God and Man: yet He is not two, but one Christ (i.e. not two persons, not two Christs, but veritably and only one Person and one Christ): one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking of the Manhood into God"—that is, when he united the Godhead and the Manhood in Himself, becoming God and man and still remaining one Person, He did it, not by sinking, as it were, the Son of God into the Son of Man, becoming a human Person and ceasing to be a divine Person: but by the very opposite: by continuing to be the divine Person which He was from all eternity, and into that divine Personality taking the nature of Man. And then the Creed in its next verse further explains the same by saying, "One altogether: not by confusion of substance"—not by mingling together in a confused manner that which constituted the Godhead and that which constituted the Manhood: "but," it goes on, "by unity of Person:" by the divine Son of God entering, with all His Divinity entire, into our nature: taking it on Him, as St. Augustine excellently says, "from the very highest boundary of the rational soul down to the very lowest boundary of the animal body."

Now, my dear brethren, let not these considerations seem to you dry refinements of technical theology. They are, I assure you, far otherwise. They are statements of great doctrines, on which rest the very foundations of our Christian life: and I could not make to you this year what I am very anxious to make, a full and clear statement of the doctrines which form the faith of the Church of Christ, if I did not thus try to lay them out and explain them.

It is only left for us now to shew, how thus the foundation is laid for the Redemption of our race and its restoration to righteousness. The Son of God has become Man: our nature is united to the Godhead. A new and righteous seed is implanted in it: a second and perfect Head is granted. The first Adam was tried and fell: but this new Adam shall be tried and shall gloriously conquer. The first Adam, being created liable to Death, lost by sin the means of escaping death, and bound it as a lasting curse on himself and his posterity: the second Adam, also born liable to death, was pleased to become obedient even unto death for our sakes; thus condemning sin, the cause of death, in our flesh. The first Adam brought the penalty of his sin on us, the Head on the members: the second Adam suffered the penalty of our sin for us, the Head for the members. Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life: for to believe on Him is to be united to Him, and to do as He has done, and to go where He is: and He did not perish, but rose up out of death, and was glorified, and when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of God.

It is His Birth into our world which we celebrate to-day. It is the day which the church has set apart as the Birthday of Christ. It is for us a day of joy, as it ought to be. Shall we not rejoice, that our deadly wound is healed—that there is pardon and peace provided for the guilty sons of men? And it need not be surprising to any, that this our joy is not confined to devotional exercises of prayer and praise, but spreads itself over our social life, and is, even by faithful Christian men, celebrated outwardly and visibly, in mirth and gladness peculiar to the season. To forbid such manifestations, would be surely to forget that He who took our whole nature upon Him, came to bless it not in one part only, but altogether: came to make our desert rejoice and blossom as the rose: and to hallow even those bodily recreations and enjoyments which sin has polluted and marred. To keep Christmas by excess and licentiousness, is to profane it, and to insult Him whose birth we profess to honor: to shew ourselves to have no part nor lot in Him who was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. But to keep it in peace and good-will and hearty thankfulness, gathering our families about us, and making what cheer we may, to keep an English Christmas, open-hearted and open-hearthed, this is not to dishonor Him, but to do as He would have us, who rose as our day-star, that we might walk in His light; who left us His words and triumphed for us, that our joy might be full: at whose birth angels from heaven sung peace on earth among men of good-will.

With such joy as this no deep religious feeling need be inconsistent, no time of prayer need be incongruous, no note of praise discordant: with such joy as this not even times of national grief need interfere. For is it not this day’s birth which has taken the sting from death? is there not to-day, even for the bereaved and weeping, the joyous cry, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given?" is not this the day above all others which calls back again, and places by our sides those who have gone before us? which fills up the gaps in families, and brings round us our long-parted friends? the day which carries our thoughts onward to that great second birth, when He who sitteth on the Throne shall make all things new?

Alford, H. (1862). Sermons on Christian Doctrine. London: Rivingtons. (Public Domain)

God's Remedy for Sin

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,” (Romans 8:3, ESV)

We have advanced thus far in our statement of Christian doctrine, or rather of the introduction and preliminaries to Christian doctrine. We have laid down the sinfulness of our whole nature: the manifoldness and deceitfulness of sin: the guilt and eternal consequences of sin. So far we have spoken of the disease: to-day we deal with the remedy.

Our text will furnish us in this matter with safe and sufficient guidance. It tells us of a way in which sin could not be cured: and of a way in which God has brought about its condemnation and cure.

Now remember how we have been treating sin throughout: as a taint, a disease in our nature, destructive to it, but pervading the whole of it, so that it is all sinful, all guilty, all perishing: so that it has absolutely no power to renew itself unto good or to cast out evil from itself. The witness of conscience it has: the help of God promised, and vouchsafed, we believe, even in ignorance and degradation: but this is not of itself: this depends entirely upon and flows from that Redemption of which we are to speak to-day.

Behold then man, guilty, helpless, lost. And what do we now hear of? How first does God manifest himself to him? We now first hear of a law being revealed to him. But it might be said, of what use can a law be to one who has no power to obey it? The answer is very simple: to teach him that he has no power to obey it. This was the use of the law given on Sinai. We have already seen, that one of the most fatal symptoms of the disease of sin is, a man’s unconsciousness of its presence. The sinner goes on imagining all is well; saying peace, when there is no peace. And in this ignorance he would live and die, were there not something to bring out and detect sin within him. This office the Law performed: by the Law is the knowledge of sin. But the Law had, and could have, no power whatever to overcome sin, nor to enable any man to contend with sin; any more than a command to rise up and walk could have on the man laid helpless on a bed of sickness. And this is what is meant in our text, when it is said, that the law was weak through the flesh. Its only organ of acting was, the weak, powerless, helpless flesh of man: that flesh which is infected and penetrated by the taint of sin. And let us stop as we pass by, to remark, that this same must be the case with all human systems of morality, all rules for good conduct, all discipline and codes of law: they have not, and cannot have, any power whatever to renew human nature, or to help it to overcome sin. Sin reigns in spite of them: nay sin has reigned most, and most fatally, where they have been best known, and most deeply studied, and most implicitly trusted to. All of them are just what their far greater example, God’s revealed law, was; and that is, merely a means whereby sin might be brought to light and known: means whereby the sinner might be rendered inexcusable, the proud heart might be crushed down, the dry and tearless eye might be filled with tears of repentance, and the sinner, hardened and careless before, driven to fly to God for mercy and pardon.

But here comes in a question which requires an answer, and to answer which will materially further our enquiry. "You tell us," it may be said to me, "that the law on Sinai, that every moral law, whether in the conscience, or in man’s writings and declarations, was given just to prove man guilty, and to drive him for mercy to God. But you know, and we know, and this Christmas Day reminds us, that it was not till four thousand years after man’s fall, that God’s grace and mercy was revealed to mankind by the Redemption which is in Christ. Do you mean to tell us, that the great God of compassion and goodness, who alone knew the way in which this dread disease of sin could be healed, allowed men to go on in their disease all this time without that cure, contenting Himself with making provision that they might know their guilt, and, knowing it, perish in it?" No, my brethren, nothing of the kind was the case. This Redemption by Christ, which first began its real course on the stage of this world about four thousand years after the creation, was no mere worldly course of events then first brought about,—no happy discovery then first made: it had been fixed in the divine counsels, and its glorious effects anticipated in God’s infinite loving-kindness, before the world began, before man’s sin was ever committed. Nay, all creation, the whole of this visible universe, is but a part, but a trifling portion, of this great divine scheme of Redemption. Every thing ever created, every thing that ever happened or shall happen, all these are simply elements in, contributions to, the glorious issue of the mediatorship of our Blessed Lord. All things are by Him and for Him: by him the universe holds together. And accordingly, we believe that there never was a time, in the history of man’s sin and of God’s dealing with it, when there was not opened to man a way of pardon and peace with God, through a Redeemer to come, or present, or having come. The antediluvian church, the Patriarchal church, the Jewish church,—these were in the direct track of that ray of light from above, which was to shine ever more and more unto the perfect day. By sacrifices, by types, by prophecies, the great Redeemer to come was made known to them as God saw fit for them, as they could bear and profit by the knowledge: at no time was access to God, and reconcilement, and pardon, denied to the sinner. Before the flood, Enoch walked with God, Noah was perfect in his generations, and preached righteousness: before the law, Abraham’s faith was counted to him for righteousness, Jacob wrestled with. God and prevailed, and, dying, waited for His salvation: before the Gospel, Joshua determined that as for him and his household they would serve the Lord: David, amidst grievous weakness and sin, sought pardon and found it, and was the man after God’s own heart: Hezekiah walked in all the ways of the Lord, turning not to the right nor to the left: Simeon waited, in the light of the promise of the Holy Ghost, for the consolation of Israel. And if we turn to the other nations of the earth, though the picture of man’s delinquency is dark and gloomy enough, though our knowledge of their state and opportunities is but scanty and surrounded by difficulties, yet the argument of the Apostle in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and other expressions here and there dropped in Holy Scripture, enable us safely to affirm, that God left not himself without witness even amongst them: and that no where and at no time has it been true, that man has been abandoned by God to live and die in his sins.

This reply has prepared the way for entering on the further portion of my text, which indeed forms our proper subject to-day. The Law,—any law,—could not save man from sin. But God has done what the law could not do. He has sent One into the world, whose express object, as testified by the very Name given him, is, to save his people from their sins. He sent One into the world:—and who was this? That it was no mere son of man, must be evident at first sight: any and every such person would be born with the taint of sin on him, powerless to save himself, to say nothing of others. Every such person would be a mere unit in manhood, bounded by the limits of his own responsibilities, and unable to transfer any thing or pass it on to another: so that even suppose he could save himself, that would be all. The same objection would apply to any created being whatever: and this besides, that the combining our nature with any other nature, however exalted and angelic, would not do for us that which was required to be done: no angelic being has, or can have, righteousness of his own: every such one stands by divine grace imparted, may fall by grace rejected. No such Savior could suffice for us, or could save us from our sins. Then what did God? The language of our text is very important and explicit on this point: "He sent His Own Son." There is here a peculiar and intended emphasis on the words His Own. Angels are sons of God: we are said to be sons of God: but neither angels nor men are God’s own sons; for that imports, of His very nature and essence, very God begotten of very God,—eternal as Himself,—equal to Himself. There is but One, there never was but One, of whom this term can be used. That One was in the beginning: before creation existed: in union with God, and himself God.

But the particular respecting Him with which we are now more immediately concerned is, that God sent Him into the world. The question, when? is readily answered: as on this day. The event was one which happened, and was recorded, like any other in the history of our earth. In Bethlehem, a town of Judæa, a place which may even now be visited and seen, a child was born, whom we and all Christians believe to have been, and to be now, this Son of God,—God’s own Son,—the Savior of mankind. Important as the fact is, it requires little dwelling upon by me: because it is so plain, so well understood, so universally known. But the question, how He was sent into the world, is one which does require dwelling upon: because on the rightly answering it depends our soundness in the Christian faith;—depends the fulness of our joy in believing, depends the firmness of our trust, and the acceptableness of our obedience, and the progress of our sanctification, and the measure of our heavenly glory. According as a man does or does not apprehend rightly the Christian doctrine of our Blessed Lord’s Incarnation, depends it, whether his belief will yield him full consolation in his daily want of pardon and grace, in his daily struggles with sin, in the solemn hour of death, and in the decisive day of judgment. So let us endeavor earnestly to lay hold on the truth revealed to us in this all-important matter.

God sent His own Son into our world: how? Our text tells us one most essential particular. It was in the likeness of sinful flesh: of the flesh of sin. The form in which He appeared in this world was this form of ours. He was made man. That flesh of ours, which had become tainted with sin, prone to sin, sure to commit sin,—did He take that on Him? Now observe the words of our text, and remember well what has been before said in these sermons. Remember how earnest we have been to impress upon you, that sin is not ourselves: is not our nature, but is something fatal and hostile to our nature. The Son of God took on Him our nature; became very man. He therefore took on Him our Flesh; for this tabernacle of flesh and blood is necessary to the nature of man, and none is full and very man, but those who bear it about with them. But sin is not man: sin is not necessary to our nature: sin is destructive of our nature: sin is the very negative of our nature. And for this reason, and by a reason also inherent in Himself, on account of His absolute and perfect holiness and purity, the Son of God did not, when he took our nature, take sin with it: did not, when he entered into our flesh, enter into sinful flesh. His flesh was our very flesh: it had the same attributes, the same necessities, the same pains, the same liability to death, even as had Adam before his sin: but sin it had not. He looked like sinful men: was of the same shape and form: mingled in their crowds, conversed with them, felt for them, wept when they wept, suffered as they suffer, died even as they die: but He was not sinful man, nor was His flesh sinful flesh. In Him was no sin.

But our text tells us, that besides sending Him in the likeness of sinful flesh, of that flesh which had become pervaded by sin, God sent Him into the world for sin. Sin was the reason why He came; the errand on which he was sent had regard to sin: "He was sent," says St. John, "to take away our sins:" "He himself," said the Prophet Isaiah, "bore our sins:" "He who knew no sin," says St. Paul, "became sin for us."

Now this taking away our sins He accomplished by two great things which He did: by His life, and by His death. The Apostle Paul puts this very plainly and clearly before us: "If," he says, "when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the Death of His Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved through His Life." The whole process of this wonderful matter—how His Death reconciled us, how His Life saves us, will come before us, please God, hereafter: to-day we are concerned with the first step, leading on to both: His Incarnation—His being born into our world.

What then do we see in the event of this day; in that event which fills every Christian heart with joy, in spite of adverse circumstances,—in spite of national mourning? We see this eternal and holy Son of God, becoming man. Let us take care that we get a right apprehension of this. That clear and most valuable confession of our faith which we have used this morning, will guide us aright. "The right faith is that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man: God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds: and man, of the substance of His mother, born in the world: perfect God and perfect man: of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting: equal to the Father, as touching His Godhead: and inferior to the Father, as touching His manhood. Who although he be God and Man: yet He is not two, but one Christ (i.e. not two persons, not two Christs, but veritably and only one Person and one Christ): one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking of the Manhood into God"—that is, when he united the Godhead and the Manhood in Himself, becoming God and man and still remaining one Person, He did it, not by sinking, as it were, the Son of God into the Son of Man, becoming a human Person and ceasing to be a divine Person: but by the very opposite: by continuing to be the divine Person which He was from all eternity, and into that divine Personality taking the nature of Man. And then the Creed in its next verse further explains the same by saying, "One altogether: not by confusion of substance"—not by mingling together in a confused manner that which constituted the Godhead and that which constituted the Manhood: "but," it goes on, "by unity of Person:" by the divine Son of God entering, with all His Divinity entire, into our nature: taking it on Him, as St. Augustine excellently says, "from the very highest boundary of the rational soul down to the very lowest boundary of the animal body."

Now, my dear brethren, let not these considerations seem to you dry refinements of technical theology. They are, I assure you, far otherwise. They are statements of great doctrines, on which rest the very foundations of our Christian life: and I could not make to you this year what I am very anxious to make, a full and clear statement of the doctrines which form the faith of the Church of Christ, if I did not thus try to lay them out and explain them.

It is only left for us now to shew, how thus the foundation is laid for the Redemption of our race and its restoration to righteousness. The Son of God has become Man: our nature is united to the Godhead. A new and righteous seed is implanted in it: a second and perfect Head is granted. The first Adam was tried and fell: but this new Adam shall be tried and shall gloriously conquer. The first Adam, being created liable to Death, lost by sin the means of escaping death, and bound it as a lasting curse on himself and his posterity: the second Adam, also born liable to death, was pleased to become obedient even unto death for our sakes; thus condemning sin, the cause of death, in our flesh. The first Adam brought the penalty of his sin on us, the Head on the members: the second Adam suffered the penalty of our sin for us, the Head for the members. Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life: for to believe on Him is to be united to Him, and to do as He has done, and to go where He is: and He did not perish, but rose up out of death, and was glorified, and when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of God.

It is His Birth into our world which we celebrate to-day. It is the day which the church has set apart as the Birthday of Christ. It is for us a day of joy, as it ought to be. Shall we not rejoice, that our deadly wound is healed—that there is pardon and peace provided for the guilty sons of men? And it need not be surprising to any, that this our joy is not confined to devotional exercises of prayer and praise, but spreads itself over our social life, and is, even by faithful Christian men, celebrated outwardly and visibly, in mirth and gladness peculiar to the season. To forbid such manifestations, would be surely to forget that He who took our whole nature upon Him, came to bless it not in one part only, but altogether: came to make our desert rejoice and blossom as the rose: and to hallow even those bodily recreations and enjoyments which sin has polluted and marred. To keep Christmas by excess and licentiousness, is to profane it, and to insult Him whose birth we profess to honor: to shew ourselves to have no part nor lot in Him who was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. But to keep it in peace and good-will and hearty thankfulness, gathering our families about us, and making what cheer we may, to keep an English Christmas, open-hearted and open-hearthed, this is not to dishonor Him, but to do as He would have us, who rose as our day-star, that we might walk in His light; who left us His words and triumphed for us, that our joy might be full: at whose birth angels from heaven sung peace on earth among men of good-will.

With such joy as this no deep religious feeling need be inconsistent, no time of prayer need be incongruous, no note of praise discordant: with such joy as this not even times of national grief need interfere. For is it not this day’s birth which has taken the sting from death? is there not to-day, even for the bereaved and weeping, the joyous cry, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given?" is not this the day above all others which calls back again, and places by our sides those who have gone before us? which fills up the gaps in families, and brings round us our long-parted friends? the day which carries our thoughts onward to that great second birth, when He who sitteth on the Throne shall make all things new?

Alford, H. (1862). Sermons on Christian Doctrine. London: Rivingtons. (Public Domain)



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