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The Adoption of Sons.

by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Whitsuntide 

Rivingtons, London, 1875 [New Edition.]

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 unspeakable Godhead. 


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)