First Part of Sermon V for Christmas Day.
Hebrews i. 1—12. St. John i. 1—15.
And the WORD was made flesh, and
dwelt among us (and we beheld - His glory, the glory as of Me Only-begotten
of the FATHER), full of grace and truth.—ST.
JOHN i. 14.
IN the Epistle and Gospel which have
been always appointed for this Day, there is no mention of the birth at
Bethlehem, nor of the Child in the manger, nor of the seed of Abraham and David,
and the like. But the Church leaves, as it were, the day itself, with all its
instructive lessons, to speak of these things, and, by its Epistle and Gospel,
takes us into the inner sanctuary, and tells us of nothing there but of His
First of all from the Epistle to the
Hebrews. Now the Hebrews knew not of the divinity of Christ; their Scriptures,
indeed, spoke of it throughout, but yet they did not perceive nor understand
this; it was the great secret of God. Abraham, indeed, and the Prophets, ,and
the Royal Psalmist, knew that God had in store some mystery infinitely great and
good, surpassing their highest wishes and thoughts; but it was so far beyond
them that, even in speaking of it, they are as if they understood it not; their
best conceptions could not attain to all they uttered. But when the Hebrews
became Christians, then all to them was clear, and the Apostle, in this Epistle
to them, dwells throughout on this, viz. how the Law and the Prophets, and all
the religion and history of the Jews, contained within them this great mystery,
and were only preparing the way for its full manifestation.
God, Who at sundry times,
or in sundry portions, and in divers manners,—by miracle and sign, by vision and
dream, by the cloud or the fire, by oracle or angel,—spake in time past unto
the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.
After this introduction, the Apostle proceeds to speak of Him in those exalted
expressions, by which the Scriptures describe the Christ. Whom He hath
appointed heir of all things, as the second and the eighth Psalms speak of
Him: by Whom also He made the worlds " for He was "begotten of His Father
before all worlds," and "without Him was not anything made that was made;"
Who being the brightness of His glory, the eternal radiance and effulgence
emanating from Him, as "Light of Light, very God of very God;" "being of one
substance with the Father ;" and the express image of His Person, so that “he
who hath seen Me,” says Christ, “hath seen the Father:” and upholding all
things by the word of His Power, “for by Him all things consist.” When
He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on
high;--fulfilling the hundred and tenth Psalm, which our Lord so earnestly
pointed out to the Jews, where David, speaking of Him in this His exaltation,
calls Him Lord, implying that He was God. [St. Matt. xxii. 45]
And now the Apostle proceeds to show
that the Hebrew Scriptures speak of Christ as partaking of our nature, and
sitting, after His Resurrection, upon the right hand of God, as both God and
Man; that as such, He is always described as God, and above every creature. Being
made, he says, that is in this His session on the right hand of God, so
much better than, or superior to, the angels, as He hath by
inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of
the angels said He at any time, Thou art My Son., this day have I begotten Thee?
as He says of Christ, in the second Psalm, on His victory over death, And
again, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son. And again; when
He bringeth in the first-begotten into the world,—or as St. Paul calls Him,
in another place, "the Beginning, the First-born from the dead,"[Col. i. 18]—the
expression "bringing into the world" signifies introducing into possession of an
inheritance,—He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him. He is
an object of worship in this His exaltation over the grave to all the creatures
of God, as being of higher substance and nature than they. Whereas the language
of Scripture respecting these ministering spirits is quite of another kind. And
of the angels—these messengers of God to the Hebrews under the old
dispensation—of these He saith, Who maketh His angels spirits, and His
ministers a flame of fire. They are like the material universe, mere
instruments in the hand of God. But when the Scripture comes to speak of Christ
as exalting our nature in Himself to the right hand of God, it is altogether
different. But unto the Son, He saith, Thy throne, O God; is for ever
and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast
loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath
anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. Thou art the
Anointed; the anointing of the Holy One is with Thee. Thou art full of grace,
and of Thy fulness have all we received; for "God giveth not the Spirit by
measure" unto Thee.
To this the Apostle adds, that this,
the Incarnate God Who now sits on the right hand of Power, all things in heaven
and earth being put in subjection under His feet, Who is our God for ever and
ever, is the same co-eternal Son Who was in the beginning with God, from
everlasting, before the worlds; in confirmation of which he brings forward again
to the Hebrews their own Scriptures, speaking of Christ. Of Him it is said in
prayer, in the hundred and second Psalm, And Thou, Lord, in the beginning,
hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine
hands: they shall perish, but Thou remainest: and they all shall wax old as doth
a garment: and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed;
but Thou art the same,—the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever—and
Thy years shall not fail. Such, says the Epistle for to-day, are the
expressions, so wonderfully eloquent and sublime, replete with such solemn
harmony, in which Christ is described in the Old Testament. It is said that He
covereth Himself with light like as with a garment, and here that the heavens
themselves are to Him as the raiment which a man may make for himself and put
on, and, as it grows old, may fold up and cast aside.
In like manner with the Epistle, the
Gospel also for this day dwells altogether on the subject of the Godhead...
(for the second part, on the Gospel)