22 December 1765

Lecture 20

In the first ages of the Church, the good seed of the Gospel was no sooner sprung up with a large increase, than it appeared that the enemy had been diligent in sowing his tares. Many heresies and wild opinions were started and followed; they began to spread even while the Apostles were yet living – 1 John 1:4 [1] – and many more afterwards, as St Paul foretold (Acts 20:29); [2] for though there is but one truth, errors are various and manifold. When men do not simply follow the Scripture in dependence on the teaching of the Holy Spirit, there is no end of their imaginations. As mistakes concerning the person of Christ are exceedingly dangerous, Satan bestirred himself to set such on foot, and prevailed to men of corrupt minds to depart from the Gospel doctrine and declaration of a Saviour. Some denied his divinity, some pretended that he was not a true man, some that he was no more than a common man, some denied his sufferings, some his resurrection and ascension. Many of the articles of the creed seem inserted to express the faith of the true Church against all these vain inventions. Therefore after what is said in general of his name and character, several particulars are added. The first of these is, ‘Who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary’. To teach us:
1. That the body of our Lord Jesus, was perfectly free from that defilement and depravity which cleaves to all the natural descendants of Adam. Had he been born in the ordinary way of generation he had been born a sinner, and not only been made under the law, but born under the curse as all mankind are – but he was conceived in the virgin’s womb, by a special act of divine power, a body was prepared him by the Holy Ghost. This was intimated concerning him in the first promise where he is spoken of as the seed of the woman (Genesis 3) [3] So the seed of the woman, that man had no concern. The account of this we have (Luke 1:35). [4] From hence we learn:
  1.1 That his nature was perfectly pure and perfectly spotless – that holy thing. This was absolutely necessary, otherwise he could not have performed perfect and universal obedience to the law of God, and had he failed in the smallest instance, he would have been insufficient for the great purpose for which he came into the world – his sufferings would have been due to his own sin, and he could not have presented a perfect, sinless atonement on our behalf. For the language of the law under which he was made for us is exceeding strict, and would not abate the smallest circumstance. If he had not continued in all things great and small to do them, he would have fallen under the curse himself, without any relation or benefit to us.
  1.2 The special relation of his human nature to God – that holy thing shall be called, the Son of God – immediately so, he had no other father. And thus he was witnessed to at his baptism, this is my beloved Son. [5] Being the immediate production of his power, and free from every blemish, God could not [but] be pleased with him and delight in him.
  1.3 This shows how exceedingly and totally depraved our nature is – the person who was to save sinners, was necessarily to be formed in a different way from other men. God had done great things for and by many of the children of Adam as Abraham, Moses, Elijah, but the best of them were utterly unfit to stand in the character of a redeemer, for with all the advantages of grace and assistance received, they were unable to bear the strictness of the law, or to stand before God if he was extreme to mark what is amiss.
  1.4 It illustrates the wisdom of God. A difficulty seemed to interpose sufficient to quench all hopes of deliverance and pardon for fallen man – but this wisdom, marvellous in the sight of angels, found out the means.
  1.5 Distinguish grace, shines forth in this appointment. Angels had sinned and were left to perish in their sins. He took not on him the nature of angels but the seed of Abraham, and came into the world to die, that we might live.
2. He was born of the virgin Mary. And this sufficiently denominated him a true man, though he was not a child of Adam. From him derived all the properties of the human nature that are not sinful. He was born into the world an infant as others are, increased in years, wisdom and stature, in the gradual manner which others do – and in the course of his life, discovered the same sensations and affections – he was hungry, thirsty, weary; he sighed, he wept, he groaned, he bled, he died. The circumstances of his birth may remind us of some useful lessons:
  2.1 See how he humbled himself. He laid aside his glory which he had with the Father, from everlasting, and was made man for us and for our salvation. This would have been condescension in an angel, but how unspeakably more so in him who was Lord over angels, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God.
  2.2 He did not appear in high rank, but in the form of a servant – born of the virgin Mary – a person  at that time of low estate – born in a stable, laid in a manger. Thus he sanctified the state of poverty. Let not those who follow him be either discontented or ashamed that they are poor, but let them remember Jesus the Son of God, and account it an honour to be like him.
  2.3 See what a breach sin had made – that nothing less than this humiliation of the Lord Jesus even unto death could repair. Had we not been totally ruined and lost, an easier way might have helped us, but now, nothing but this. O that you had right views of sin.
  2.4 See the love of Jesus. He refused nothing. He accounted no state too mean, no sufferings too hard, so that he might redeem and save, those who were strangers and enemies.
  2.5 See encouragement for sinners. Christ having stopped so low, and paid so dear, will not be defrauded of his right to save. He stipulated in the everlasting covenant, before he undertook our cause, that he would be the Author of eternal salvation to all that obey him. Look unto him therefore and be saved; he has said, Whosoever cometh I will in no wise cast out. [6]

1. 1 John 1:4 – Presumably this should have been 1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
2. Acts 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
3. Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
4. Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
5. Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
6. John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

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