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The miraculous Birth of Christ, .. [Preached on Christmas-Day.] :
Mart. i. 22, 23. ::
fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord
T is a very usual Method with SERM.
mise, that by Unbelievers I would at This Time be understood to
SER M. mean, not, men of such a disposition as 1. St Thomas was before his Conversioni; raVtional and inquisitive persons, Lovers of
Truth and Virtue, men defirous to know and to obey the Will of God, and careful to keep a Conscience void of Offence both towards God and towards Men; yet, at the same time, sensible of the Difficulties wherewith the Divine Providence has thought fit to permit even very iniportant Truths to be sometimes attended; and careful, for That Reason, not to be imposed upon, nor to receive things without good Evidence, either of Realon, or of Revelation: These, I say, are not the Unbelievers I would at present be understood to have in View. For concerning fuch persons as these, our Saviour seems
to speak, when he says, they are not far Mark xii. from the Kingdom of God. But there is
another fort of Unbelievers, who, having no right sense of the Liberty of Human Actions, of the natural, and essential Difference of Good and Evil, of the Moral Government of God over the World, of a Judgment to come, and of a Future State of Rewards and Punishments; do there
fore seek all possible opportunities, not of Ser M. enquiring into, and impartially examining, boca but of cavilling against the Authority of Christ and the Truth of his Religion, as being the great Support and Confirmation of these Doctrines of Nature, with the Belief of which all Notions of Fatality or Neceffity, and all Licentiousness either of Sceptical Opinions or of Vicious Practice, is altogether inconsistent.
Now of This sort of Unbelievers, I say, the ufual Method is to attack fome particular uncertain Doctrines in the Systems of disagreeing Sects of Christians, and then conclude that they have destroyed Christianity itself: Or they set themselves to expose particular Weak Writers; and then leave it to be supposed, that All Defenders of the Doctrine of Christ are Fools : Or they pick perhaps out of Better Writers some inconclusive Reasonings, and weak Arguments ; trusting it will thence be inferred, that there is no Strength in the Strongest : Or they represent Christianity as relying upon some Foundation, upon which it does not rely; and then conclude thar iç has no Foundation at all: Vol. V. B 2
SER M. Or they demonstrate some Facts to be no I. Proofs of the Truth of the Gospel, which
never were intended for Proofs; and then infer, that there is no Proof of it at all: Or they dress up particular Facts or Doctrines, in ridiculous Circumstances; and then represent the Things themselves, as Objects of Ridicule: Or they lay great Stress upon some very obscure, or more difficult Prophecy : and thence infer, that no Stress is to be laid upon Any : Or because, in the nature of the Thing, almost Any hngle Prophecy may possibly be imagined applicable, in some sense or other, to Some Other person; therefore all of them together, centring uniformly in Christ and in Him alone, yet are not rightly in Fact applied to Him.
THE words of my Text are a particular and very remarkable Instance of Some of the Cases in the foregoing Obfervation. It has been supposed by Many, that this fingular and miraculous Fact, of the manner of our Lord's Birth, recorded thus in the Beginning and first Entrance of the Gospel-History, boch by St Matthew and St. Luke; and urged more
over by St Matthew as an unquestionable Se RM. Verification of an Ancient and (at first I. Sight) as remarkable a Prophecy, as any is to be found in the whole Old Testament : It has been supposed (I say) by Many, that This Miraculous Fact, thus circumstantiated, and thus ushering-in the whole following History of the Gospel, must needs have been intended by the Evangelist, as a primary and fundamenal Part of the Proof of our Lord's divine Commission. Which since in reality it could not possibly be; as being a Fact which, in the nature of things, could not itself be proved, till the Truth of Christ's Misfion and the Veracity of his Followers had first been clearly established: Hence they have endeavoured to destroy the Authority of the Sacred Writer, as insisting (at the very Beginning of his History) upon a Proof which could not possibly be of any Use towards the Conviction of Unbe, lievers; and as confirming it by a Prophecy, which they think cannot be shown to be rightly applied, since the Words may be capable of another Interpretation,