honourable, fortunate or conspicuous in the world; nay, both by precept and example he taught them to contemn and despise all such empty trifles: but he came to deliver his people from everlasting destruction, and from the captivity of sin, and to teach them how by a holy life they might obtain an endless happiness. He came not indeed to purchase us a liberty to sin, without hazard, and then to cover all our iniquities with his rightcousness; to let us live as we list, and assure us of pardon. Nay, it had neither been consistent with his love to God, to have procured pardon for obstinate and incorrigible rebels; nor so great a benefit to us, to have obtained remission without sanctification. Had we been delivered from all other punishment, sin itself would have made us miserable. But Christ came into the world to save his people from their sins, as well as from the dismal consequences of them; and to procure for us, that, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him. In a word, Christ came into the world to advance the glory of God, and the happiness of the earth, by restoring us to the favour of our maker, and a conformity to him. And certainly, if we have any sense of the evil of sin or the misery of hell, of the beauty of holiness or the glory of heaven, it must needs be a matter of great joy, to celebrate the birth of him who doth deliver us from the one, and give us assurance of the other.

It remaineth yet, that we speak of the circumstances of the nativity which we celebrate; and many things present themselves full of comfort and instruction. We shall only observe our Saviour's coming into the world after that manner which did best suit with his design. Indeed when a man should hear of the Son of God's coming down from heaven, and making a progress into the lower world, he would be apt to think that his appearance would be with the greatest splendour and magnisicence, and that the glory of heaven should continually attend and signalize his person; at least, that all the princes in the world should be summoned to at

tend his reception, and that the heavens should bow at his presence, and the earth tremble at the approach of his majesty, and that all the clouds should clap together in an aniversal thunder, to welcome his appearance. But, instead of all this pomp and grandeur, he slips into the world (as they say) incognito, is born in a village, discovered by some poor shepherds, and found by them in a stable, and such a homely cradle as that afforded, only attended by his poor mother; who, though of royal blood, had nothing but goodness to make her eminent. And his education was answerable to his obscure birth, and his whole life a course of humility and self-denial. Now certainly, this far best agrees with the design of his appearance, who came not on so mean an errand as to dazzle the eyes of mankind with the appearance of his glory, nor to amaze them with the terribleness of his majesty; much less to make a show of the riches and gallantry of the world amongst them; but to bring life and immortality to light, and lead men to eternal happiness. In order to which, was n 'cessary, that, by his example, as well as doctrine, he should disparage the vanities of the world, and bring them out of that credit and esteem they had gotten among foolish

I shall proceed no farther on this subject. I hope it doth appear that we have great reason to rejoice in the exaltation of the human nature, and the great salvation purchased to us by the incarnation of the Son of God. I shall add, that even this joy admits of holy fear; even on this occasion we must rejoice with trembling. Salvation is come into the world; but wo to them that neglect it' The gospel is preached; but there is great danger in slighting it. Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should come short of it. Little cause have obstinate sinners to rejoice on this festival. The time is coming that they shall wish that either Christ had never come into the world, or they had never heard of him: Behold, this child is set for the rise and fall of many. And they that are not the better, shall be the worse for his com


ing. One way I must name, that many men set this child for their own fall, when they make this solemn anniversary an opportunity of sinning and debauchery; as if it where indeed a drunken Bacchus, and not a holy Jesus, whom they worshipped. What! sirs, because God became man, must we therefore become beasts? or think we to honour that child with dissoluteness, who came to the world on design of holiness? This it is, no doubt, that gives many men a prejudice against the festival itself, and perhaps is their most specious argument. We know an answer; but you may, and ought to afford another, by removing any ground of such a pretence. Indeed a forepoon's sermon will never compensate an afternoon's debauch; nor will your service in the church justify your intemperance at home. But as hereby at least some time is redeemed from the too frequent courses of the day, so I wish the time we spend here, may have some influence towards the right improvement of the rest; that our behaviour on the solemnity may be such as suits with the infinite holiness of that person whom we profess to honour, that we may serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.


LAM. I. 12. Ís it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold

and see, if there be any sorrow like unto my.


We are to-morrow, God willing, to be employed in one of the highest and most solemn offices of our religion, to commemorate the death and sufferings of the blessed Jesus, and to receive the sacred pledge of his dying: and how much may the everlasting interests of our souls depend upon the right performing of this work!

[ocr errors]

It is not time now to discourse of the nature and ends of the sacrament we are about to celebrate; we are to suppose you already instructed in these: we shall rather fix our thoughts on those things which may have a more immediate influence to dispose us for so near and solemn an address unto God, and to assist and direct us in it. And I know nothing more proper for this purpose, than the serious consideration of those sufferings of our Saviour, which are to be symbolically represented unto us in that holy ordinance.

This passionate complaint of the prophet Jeremiah, which we have read, though in its first and literal sense it may refer to the sad condition of the Jewish nation and the holy city under the Babylonish captivity, (as many prophecies concerning the Messiah had a litera! completion in those who were his types;) yet certainly in its highest and fullest sense it is only applicable to our blessed Saviour: of him alone it could be said, in strictness and propriety of speech, that there was never sorrow like his sorrow.

Let us then consider the words as our Saviour's complaint of the dulness and stupidity of men, who go up and down in the world, who come and pass, without regarding his sufferings, which were so grievous, wherein themselves are so nearly concerned. And from thence I would consider these three things.

1. The greatness of our Saviour's sufferings, expressed in these words, See if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow.

2. Our interest and concernment in them, insinuated in that passionate interrogation, Is it nothing to you?

3. That his sufferings ought not to be passed by, but seriously regarded and considered: Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? &c.

I. Let us reflect on our Saviour's sufferings. But O where shall we begin to recount them! His whole life, from the manger, his uneasy cradle, unto his cross and grave, was a continued tract of sufferings. He did all along answer that character given of him by the Prophet, Ă man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.

To say nothing of the meanness of his birth, and the pains of circumcision, the persecutions of his infancy, his poverty and want, his travail and weariness; his fasting and watching, his sweat and his tears, and all the other infirmities incident to our human nature, and inconveniences attending a poor and straitened estate; he could not but lead a very sad and afflicted life, considering that he lived in a perverse and wicked generation, and the continual trouble of being witness to the follies and miscarriages of wicked men; to hear and see dishonour done unto God by the profaneness of some, and hypocrisy of others; to observe the covetousness and injustice, the fraud and oppression, the malice and envy, and all the abominable lusts that abounded in the world in his days. We are commonly little concerned in the interests of religion; and therefore do apprehend but little trouble in these. But, if the soul of righteous Lot was grieved with the iniquities of the place where he lived, and if David is put to cry out, Wo is me that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar; how deeply do we think the blessed soul of the holy Jesus must needs have been pierced, by every blasphemous word that he heard, by every wicked action he beheld! Doubtless it was no small sorrow that made him cry out, О faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? Nor was he a little moved, when his zeal did carry him to that severity, which, if we did not consider the cause, would seem very unlike to the wonted meekness of his spirit, in whipping the traders out of the temple. And hereunto his tender compassion towards men, which could not but make him exceeding sorry, to see them frustrate the inethod of his mercy, and ruin themselves by their enmity against him; to hear them reproach the holy doctrine which he taught, and undervalue the miracles which he performed, or else condemn them as the unlawful effects of magical skill; that though he came unto his own, yet his own received him not; though he spake as never man spake, and did such works as would have converted Tyre and Sidon, yet did they baffle their

« ElőzőTovább »