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in sinking the devoted cities of the plain,-in overwhelming the hosts of Pharaoh,—or in the awful phenomena of Mount Sinai ;-he now beheld it, with his own eyes, manifested in the person of the heavenly Messiah, and displayed in those works of goodness, mercy, and love, which the sublime Isaiah had foretold;-in healing the most calamitous diseases,-in restoring hearing to the deaf, and sight to the blind,—in miraculously feeding the hungry multitude,—and, on some occasions, even raising the dead to life.
The Gentile, when he contrasted the grossness and corruption, the fanciful superstitions, and abominable follies of Polytheism, with the pure, and simple ordinances of the Gospel ;when he considered its sublime morality, its genuine philanthropy, its divine mercy, and its exalted justice;-above all, when he contemplated the efficacy of its mediation and atonement, its holy sanctions, and transcendent rewards, in opposition to his own wretched system, which admitted the worship of some imaginary deity, as an apology for almost every profligate indulgence, and every sinful passion; so that a man might be said to be his own worshipper and idol;-when meditating on these
things, he might feel as much reverence and admiration, as the pious Israelite, who waited for "the refreshing times" of peace, and gladly acknowledge the coming of his promised Messiah. The former might well exclaim, with the Prophet Zechariah, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation."-The latter, who had hitherto served dumb idols, or "worshipped he knew not what," might now well "turn from these vanities unto the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things that are therein."
All the circumstances, indeed, of novelty, grandeur, ocular demonstration, and living testimony, were combined to produce, in the early converts to Christianity, that elevated spirit of devotion,-that intense interest, and fervent zeal, which would naturally lead, not only to such preparatory services in the Church, as the season of Advent requires; but to many other institutions, which, in the lapse of ages, have been neglected, or forgotten.
The causes, to which I have adverted, will always restrain our piety within narrower limits, or confine it to more sober views: but still
there are many subjects, to which we may direct our attention, on a day like this, with the hope of promoting our Christian edification, and of preparing ourselves to celebrate the great Festival of our blessed Lord's nativity as we ought.
In the first place, we cannot look forward to this glorious event, without indulging the liveliest sense of gratitude and praise to Almighty God, for "bringing us to this state of salvation." It should be a peculiar cause of thanksgiving, also, that we have not the terrors of persecution to encounter, nor to prove our faith, in the midst of dangers, sufferings, and death. The blessings of the Holy Gospel are transmitted to us, from one generation to another, without any molestation, or disturbance, except, indeed, from the impotent, but daring assaults of infidel foes; whose cavils, though ten times refuted, are still renewed, and whose principles, though found, by experience, whereever they have been reduced to practice, to lead only to crimes and follies, anarchy and bloodshed, are, with the strangest infatuation, still maintained. In the enjoyment, however, of this spiritual peace, and temporal security, there is one evil, of which we should more es
pecially beware; that is, lukewarmness, or indifference. The Christian life, we should remember, is, in the best of times, a state of war. fare, from our own sinful propensities, as well as from the stratagems, the violence, and hosti lity of the wicked. Unless, therefore, we are always found at our post, vigilant and firm, the arms with which we are graciously furnished might be turned against us; and, at all times, there are enemies in abundance, who will sow tares in our wheat, while we carelessly slumber, and sleep.
In the next place, let us prepare to meet the Advent of our holy Redeemer with suitable sentiments of piety, and stedfast purposes of amendment, remembering that the first exhortation of the venerable Baptist, who cried in the wilderness, was, " Repent ye; for the king
dom of heaven is at hand." While others are looking forward to the approaching season, chiefly, as affording a larger licence for indulging in mirth, and festivity, and all the social enjoyments, which this life affords, let us, at least, intermix with our pleasures the sober duties, and the calm delights of religion. Let us remember, that our gracious Creator sent his only-begotten Son into the world, not to ad
minister to the gratification of sensual passions; but, in the language of the apostle, us, in turning away every one from his iniquities:" and, therefore, we cannot celebrate his Advent as we ought, without preparing ourselves, by prayer and supplication at the throne of grace, to combat all the evil passions and propensities of our nature: for, before we can make any successful progress in the virtues and graces of the Holy Gospel, we must forsake those sins, to which we might have been hitherto addicted. "Let us," therefore, in the language of the text, and in that of our excellent Collect for the day, "cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light."
It should be a powerful inducement with all to enter speedily on this great work of repentance, and newness of life, that "the night is far spent, and that the day is at hand." By "the night," the apostle doubtless means the portion of time allotted to human life; and, considering how often it is obscured by cares and sorrows, by ignorance and vice, the metaphor will be allowed to be striking and just. In contrast with this, "the day" must indicate that glorious light, which shall be enjoyed, after death, in the regions of immortality, by all those who