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extravagant luxury, and savage greed which could not be satisfied. The great people whose boast had been ordered freedom and simplicity of life, became the Babylon of the Apocalypse. It perished, and its fall shook the foundations of human society. We, in England, may well have misgivings when we trace among ourselves so many lineaments alike of the grandeur and of the pride of Rome.

May He, who has given us once more this blessed time, also give us grace to lay to heart its lessons. May He use it to open our eyes to see more clearly what He really did for us, and what we really are. May we see and feel all that it teaches in its wonderful story of strong and unshrinking love, of patience, of forbearance, of endurance. The world goes on its way. Great events happen; great affairs absorb men's thoughts. The old passes, the new comes. It may be for good, it may be for disaster,-men's hearts exulting in the prospect, or failing them for fear. Thus time runs its course, so full of what is immediately passing, so full of what is disguised and incalculable, so full of uncertainty, so full of perplexity. Slowly but certainly heaven and earth are passing away, and we and all flesh with them. "But the word of the Lord endureth for ever."

Amid all the outward show of this wild and restless scene, above all history, above all the turmoil of the present, above all the darkness of the future, one event, which really happened in the years of time, rises out of them unshaken, unchanged,—the fixed

and certain mark for faith and trust and loyal hope, amid the confusion and the storms," the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." He humbled Himself." He, the everlasting Son of the Father, "By whom all things were made, . . . . . for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, And was Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made Man."



"A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." -ST. JOHN xvi. 21, 22.

TO-DAY we commemorate the answer which God gave to the bitter cries of suffering and sorrow of which the world is full, and which before the Child was

born were so inexpressibly hopeless. Of that extremity of distress, Scripture everywhere sees the image, in those sorrows without which no life, no individual life, comes into the world. But since the Child was born, it sees in that mysterious dispensation of suffering the image of our deliverance,—the promise of much more than compensation,—the promise of a blessedness, beyond man's hope to measure. So our Lord speaks in the text. So speaks St. Paul. "We know," he says, "that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves." That is the condition. But now, beside

it there is the wondrous hope. "The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. . . . Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."

The mercy,

Let us dwell, on Christmas morning, on the change which has been made in our condition and prospects, -on what we were and should be, without that Man born into the world;-on what life and the world is, and may be to us, since He was born. This is a day on which we can afford to be real. the love, the hope it speaks of are so real, that even in our rejoicing we may venture to face realities of another kind. The infinite travailing of the world and of our race, may indeed sober our joy, now and always. But our eyes have seen something of another world than this; a world of wonder and grace and light, out of all proportion to all that we know either of evil or of good here; and it is our own fault if the things of this present time, because they are so serious and so real, are allowed to damp the joy of our deliverance, or put out of sight the transcendent certainty that even here, Immanuel is come, God is with us.

1. But before the Child was born, the world and human life were under a shadow, the depth and gloom of which none of us can measure. None of us, I say; for the common atmosphere of thought and feeling now, in our Christian times, is charged with hope and brightness even to those who deny its source. But

before He was revealed, human life was an enigma, of which no one had the key; the strangest, to those who thought deepest; the most pathetic to those who lived noblest. Man, whether high or low, at his best estate and his worst, was in the continual presence of terrible and inevitable certainties; and what the meaning of them was, and what the end, not the wisest could tell. There was the mystery of pain; of pain, not confined to the guilty or the foolish, not kept for the strong who were able to bear it, and to whom it might do good, but spread broadcast through the world, attending on all from their first hour to their last, the natural lot of the innocent and helpless little child, and binding to man by a community of suffering, the poor, dumb, irresponsible brute creation, otherwise separated from him by such an impassable gulf: pain, to all human scrutiny, causeless, purposeless, remediless. We are so familiar with it that it is but seldom that we really estimate the terrible wonder of pain. Why is it? What does it mean? What is there in mere nature to explain it? There is an end to it; but what an end! There is the end of death. And what does nature tell us of death? If it merely levelled us with the brutes that perish, that alone would be enough to darken the heavens to us, when they shine most brightly and most gaily. But that is not all. Mere nature will not leave us with the thought that we have had our day and perhaps enjoyed it; and that now it is just and fair that we

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