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has been with us, Man with man, to triumph as man, over pain and sin and death; to be with us still, in pain and sin and death, not less Man than when He left us, to the end of time; to return as Man, to receive us, if we are His, for ever to Himself.
3. My brethren, the travail of the world is not yet We think, in our simplicity sometimes, that the clouds are passing from the sky. We count with pride, or it may be with thankfulness, our compensations for what is evil, our exemptions from what our fathers suffered from, our victories over pain. But we know quite well that, still in the background, if not forcing themselves on our notice, are those old terrible certainties, not to be escaped from,—pain, and sin, and error, and death. If in the midst of God's gifts and blessings we forget them, and our own experience does not give us warning, something will remind us from without. Some great blow to happiness, some frightful catastrophe, some overthrow of a nation's hope and peace, some cruel and causeless war, some series of ghastly crimes treading on one another's heels, bid us remember what the world. is still. We think that we have secured some great advance, placed some improvement on a basis which cannot be shaken, and from which there can be no going back, and there comes some unexpected turn of things, some great disappointment and surprise, which shows us how imperfectly we are masters of our condition.-We, in England, thought that we, at least, had mastered the arts of govern
ment, that we had learned how to make the governed contented and loyal; that we knew better than any one, the rules and the value of fearless justice. And yet here, in the end of the nineteenth century, in no times like those of Tudors or Stuarts, we have a great and sister kingdom, disaffected and estranged, returning the bitterest hatred for great sacrifices and great risks submitted to, for the purpose, at least, of being just.
It used to be a commonplace to condemn the religious bigotry and persecutions of the fierce old days but we too have seen religious controversy pushed through a series of consequences of which the last step was the gaol: we have seen in England the spectacle of good and earnest clergymen actually imprisoned, say what you will, for religious reasons, at the demand of their theological opponents. Some of us think these things just, and none of us can see the way out of what most are shocked at. Such things in the midst of our prosperity and peace, give us much to think of. No, my brethren, the misery of the world is not yet over.
4. We need consolations which the world refuses to give us; we need hopes, which it cannot, dare not, offer. Nothing here can secure us from that which makes all creation groan and travail until now :— pain, and sin, and folly, and ignorance, and death. As the end of all things which belong only to time, they are waiting—we know not when we may encounter them. And with all its glories, and all its beauties,
and all its changes for the better, and they are innumerable, the world would be as sad a dwelling-place as those old barbarian mothers thought it, who wept when a child was born, if it were not that, since that Christmas morning, all is changed. For then the Child was born whose pain was to hallow ours, whose death was to open to us the gates of life, and help us to die in hope.
Let us for a while forget the anguish, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Now we know God's mind towards us. Now we know that He has not forgotten the earth which He has made, and His creatures, the work of His own hands. Now we know that the time will come, when the darkness and the suffering that now. is, will seem not worthy to be compared to what He has in store for His creatures. "Ye now therefore have sorrow but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you." It is the voice and meaning of all the Psalms which we sing day after day; trouble and danger and suffering, for a while, a little while longer; and then, the deliverance and the peace of God, the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, the joy unspeakable of the life with God-the Great, the Merciful, the True.
CHRIST OUR IDEAL
"Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”—GALATIANS iv. 3-5.
Henceforth man is what
death, which he has in
CHRISTMAS, with its tender, and bright, and touching, and humbling thoughts, brings with it the remembrance of the profound change in the nature of man, which followed on the coming of the Son of God in the flesh. God came and visited His creatures, "and was made Man.” God, his Maker, has been. lives that life, he dies that common with the awful Being who was born at Bethlehem, and is to judge him. From that time man was lifted to a level far above anything that this world of time had ever known. A new order of things began, which had not been before. It is spoken of in the Bible as a new creation, a new man. If we think of what the Bible teaches us of this great change, consequent on the Incarnation of the Son of God, and caused by it, the words, strong as they sound, are not too strong.
The results, the developments, of this great change, have, we know, changed all human history. They have penetrated far and wide into all human life, all human ideas, all human character and activity and motive. They have altered the proportions and the meaning of our present stage of being: they have made it, at once, infinitely more sacred and precious, and infinitely of less account. They have turned the eternal farewells of death into the tender commendations to Christ's mercy and peace, and into the transporting hope of the vision of God. Great, and manifold, and inexhaustible, are the workings in mankind, of that change, of which human language cannot adequately give the measure. For a few moments this morning I will say a few words about one of them.
1. Consider then what has happened since that coming in the flesh, which we are thinking of to-day, in relation to the ideal of man, the ideal of what he should be, of his character, of his perfection: the
ideal of man before Christ came to
us, the ideal of man since we have known Him, and He has been with us. Man has never been able to live without his ideal. The wildest savages, the rudest barbarians, have their ideal, as well as we, of what man should be. And the ideal of the natural man, of man before the great change of the Gospel, could be a high and noble one. There was such an ideal when human society rose, step by step, out of brutality and licence, into the great civilised states of