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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.]

Second 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....(for the first part, on the Epistle.) 


In like manner with the Epistle, the Gospel also for this day dwells altogether on the subject of the Godhead of Christ, taken from the opening of St. John's Gospel.  And here, in considering these words of the Holy Ghost, we are not to discuss them merely as a confession of our faith in the Divinity of our Lord; nor to read them as we might in the Gospel of St. John on any other occasion; nor to inquire into them as a matter of doctrine; but, as our Church intends, the Gospel comes to us with an especial reference to our devotions on this day; we are to turn it altogether into a matter of adoration, and prayer, and thanksgiving.  It is not only as a star that leads us from the world afar off to Bethlehem, but, by leading us thus from above, teaches us that the heavens are thus moved because it is God that comes, that when we see Him, we look not on Him as an infant King only, but may with the Wise men from the East fall down and worship. 


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  O amazing sight that we behold!  Thou Who wast the Word, the only manifestation of God to all created things, Who wast in the beginning, from everlasting, before the worlds were made; Thou, Who wast then, and always hadst been, in the bosom of the Father, in union and love incomprehensible, unspeakable; and Thou Thyself, the only manifestation of the Father, wast God. Thou the very same Who in the beginning of all things wast with God, One with Him, is it Thee that we now behold, as an helpless Infant before us, on this day, as an Infant of a few hours old, stretching forth as it were Thy feeble hands to us, and saying, "This is Love;" the great mystery which I have come thus to teach thee, and which thou canst not understand, is that God is Love: much have I borne with thee, O fallen man, much have I taught thee of old by Angels, and by Prophets, and holy men, but now I come myself to teach thee by this sight, of that mercy which is with Me.  O may the Blessed Spirit open our hearts that we may receive this sight; that it may enter into our souls by faith, and make us know what God is, and what we are.  O day of days, birthday of life hid in God, door of blissful immortality, dawning light of New Creation!  O day of days abiding ever, O day that hast no evening!  O day of days, first of the days of Heaven, be ever with us, for the light of this world goeth down.  All things were made by Him, adds the Evangelist, and without Him was not anything made that was made.  And, O Thou Who hast made all things, canst Thou not, and will'st Thou not, make us anew? for it were better for us never to have been made at all, unless Thou make us again, and unmake that in us which we have made ourselves to be.  Oh, Thou art surely willing, or else we could not behold what we do behold on this day: and oh, Thou art surely able, for all things were made by Thee.  We have been endeavouring to make ourselves, and the labour of all men is to make themselves, and to make for themselves their own goodness, their own wisdom, their own happiness, and, by so doing, they are but undoing themselves the more; but without Thee nothing hath been made, that was made, and all that Thou makest is exceeding good, and there is no good, and no goodness, nor ever has been, but what hath been made by Thee.  And now, Thou, Who madest the heavens, and angels, and man also, perfectly good in Thine own image, hast Thyself come down to make him anew; that, by beholding Thee, he may learn what humility is, and what love is; that he may bow his proud head to enter under the lowly roof of this stable, and may stoop down his high looks to behold what is in this manger.  O marvellous sight, profound abyss of merciful lowliness, depth of Divine love which angels desire to look into, but understand not; all things gaze on that mirror, and as they gaze are changed.  But man, instead of leaning down, looks up to the serpent on the tree, and is in love with death, thinking to make himself wise and happy without God; and therefore he loves not life, and loves not light, for his foolish heart is darkened.


In Him was Life, adds the Holy Spirit by St. John, and the Life was the Light of men.  And the Light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.  O Thou, the Giver of all Life, the Life itself, Whom to know is eternal Life, and that Life the fulness of blessedness and joy, how art Thou as a despised infant unknown in the world which Thou hast made!  How little did they think of Thee, in that inn at Bethlehem, in which there was room for all but for Thee!  How little at Jerusalem, Thy Holy City!  And how little do all that sacred nation now know or think of Thee, laid as a babe in the manger in swaddling clothes!  How little did all around Thee know of Thine incomprehensible greatness!  What an eloquent sign is this of what Thou always hast been and art even now in the world, "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, the God of Israel, the Saviour!"  Oh, make us to know Thee upon this day, the Light unapproachable, the Life hid with Thee in God!  Be Thou the Life and the Light in our hearts, lest the darkness overtake us which has no morning; make us to be as Thou art, as a little child, learning of Thee unspeakable lowliness and love, which is the light that surrounds Thee in the darkness—and to be full of lowliness and of love is to find Thee, and to know Thee—and all else but this is but the darkness which belongs to this world, and the forerunner of that darkness which is the shutting out from Thy kingdom.  And since it is nothing but repentance and obedience which can bring us to that Light—and since it is altogether in vain to point out the spotless Lamb of God, the Lamb Which God hath for Himself provided, or to say This is He—This is the Child which to us is given; since to know this would but add to our condemnation unless we repent; therefore was the herald sent before to prepare the way by preaching of repentance.  There was a man sent from God, adds the Evangelist, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  John was indeed "'a burning and a shining light," as our Lord Himself said of him, but only as that star of Bethlehem which went before to lead to the Sun of Righteousness: the light which John had was none of his own, it was but the light which he caught from that Sun in Whom alone is life.  He was of old the single star, but to us, my brethren, on this day not one star but a thousand stars have led us to Him—and we behold His rising in Whom is everlasting day.  Then Prophets and Saints and Apostles and Ministers seem to withdraw their light, and to leave us to contemplate Him alone on this day, the Infant of days, the Everlasting God.


That was the true Light, proceeds St. John, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.  Every other light is but a shadow of that true Light, Which is Christ; whatever directs a man aright, whether natural conscience; or religion, or the Holy Spirit within him, all is from Christ and of Christ.  Oh, that our steps may be ever in His Light; that the day-star may arise in the heart and lead us to Him!  May He Himself be in the heart “the bright and Morning Star” before the full day arise.


He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.  Wonderful words to be spoken of God, yet we are angry and impatient because men do not recognize and respect us as we think they ought to do.  He was in the Heathen world as a light shining in a dark place, but the darkness comprehended it not, and then He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.  Neither when born, nor when dying, nor when living among them, nor when by His ascension taken from them would His own receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  Here then is another vast and exceeding high mystery, this Divine Babe is to be an image of ourselves, for we also by this His birth are to be born again from above into a new and everlasting life, and to be made partakers of His Godhead.  "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not." [1 John iii. 1]


And all is summed up in this declaration. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.  "Dwelt among us," or, as it might be rendered, "within us," and oh, my brethren, may it be so with us this day! He comes to us as of old veiled in a mystery of lowliness, in mean elements; He, "whose goings forth have been from everlasting,'" lies hid in Bethlehem, which is by interpretation the House of Bread, Bethlehem the "little one."  May the Incarnate God Who disdained not the lowly manger, come to visit us in this the humble mystery of His Altar, and make His tabernacle within our souls: may we have eyes to behold His glory, and in beholding to be changed;—His glory was in His humiliation and suffering, and therefore to the carnal mind was He "without form or comeliness, or any beauty that we should desire Him,"—but to them who behold and adore in Him the only-begotten of the Father, He is "full of grace," filling their souls out of His own fulness with mercy and loving-kindness: and He is "full of truth," for before Him all "shadows flee away;" [Song of Sol. ii. 17] and the earth and Heavens, we are told, shall depart the next time when He shall unveil His face. [Rev. xx. 11]