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SERMON I

The miraculous Birth of CHRIST,

[Preached on Christmas-Day.]

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MATT. i. 22, 23.

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet, saying; Behold, a Virgin fhall be with Child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they fhall call his Name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is God with Us.

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T is a very ufual Method with SER M. Unbelievers;----And yet here, before I proceed, it may be proper and neceflary to premife, that by Unbelievers I would at This Time be understood to

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mean

SER M. mean, not, men of such a difpofition as St Thomas was before his Converfion; ra

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w tional and inquifitive perfons, Lovers of Truth and Virtue, men defirous to know and to obey the Will of God, and careful to keep a Confcience void of Offence both towards God and towards Men; yet, at the fame time, fenfible of the Difficulties wherewith the Divine Providence has thought fit to permit even very important Truths to be fometimes attended; and careful, for That Reason, not to be impofed upon, nor to receive things without good Evidence, either of Reason, or of Revelation: Thefe, I fay, are not the Unbelievers I would at prefent be underftood to have in View. For concerning fuch perfons as thefe, our Saviour feems to speak, when he fays, 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 effential 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 therefore

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fore seek all poffible opportunities, not of SER M. enquiring into, and impartially examining, 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 Licentioufness either of Sceptical Opinions or of Vicious Practice, is altogether inconfiftent.

Now of This fort of Unbelievers, I fay, the ufual Method is to attack fome particular uncertain Doctrines in the Systems of disagreeing Sects of Chriftians, and then conclude that they have destroyed Chriftianity itself: Or they fet themselves to expofe particular Weak Writers; and then leave it to be fuppofed, that All Defenders of the Doctrine of Chrift are Fools: Or they pick perhaps out of Better Writers fome inconclufive Reasonings, and weak Arguments; trufting it will thence be inferred, that there is no Strength in the Strongeft: Or they represent Chriftianity as relying upon fome Foundation, upon which it does not rely; and then conclude that it has no Foundation at all: B 2 Or

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SER M. Or they demonftrate fome Facts to be no Proofs of the Truth of the Gofpel, 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 Circumftances; and then reprefent the Things themselves, as Objects of Ridicule Or they lay great Stress upon fome very obfcure, 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 fingle Prophecy may poffibly be imagined applicable, in fome, fenfe or other, to Some Other perfon; therefore all of them together, centring uniformly in Chrift and in Him alone, yet are not rightly in Fact applied to Him.

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THE words of my Text are a particular and very remarkable Inftance of Some of the Cafes in the foregoing Obfervation. It has been fuppofed by Many, that this fingular and miraculous Fact, of the manner of our Lord's Birth, recorded thus in the Beginning and firft Entrance of the Gospel-Hiftory, both by St Matthew and St. Luke; and urged more

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over by St Matthew as an unquestionable S ER M. Verification of an Antient and (at first Sight) as remarkable a Prophecy, as any is to be found in the whole Old Teftament: It has been fuppofed (I fay) by Many, that This Miraculous Fact, thus circumftantiated, and thus ufhering-in the whole following History of the Gospel, must needs have been intended by the Evangelift, as a primary and fundamenal Part of the Proof of our Lord's divine Commiffion. Which fince in reality it could not poffibly be; as being a Fact which, in the nature of things, could not itself be proved, till the Truth of Christ's Miffion and the Veracity of his Followers had first been clearly established: Hence they have endeavoured to destroy the Authority of the Sacred Writer, as infifting (at the very Beginning of his History) upon a Proof which could not poffibly be of any Ufe towards the Conviction of Unbe lievers; and as confirming it by a Prophecy, which they think cannot be shown to be rightly applied, fince the Words may be capable of another Interpretation.

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