And the Word was made flesh, and dwelled among us, (and we beheld his glory…
I. THE DOCTRINE OF GOD. The soundest, shortest argument for the Being of God is Christ. God is in nature; but nature is dumb. "No speech, no language, their voice is not heard." But in the Word God has spoken. The Incarnation teaches Theism by teaching us more than Theism. God is something more than the constructor of this curious clock. What comfort do we get from the conception of an infinite brain? Add the Incarnation to Theism and we have peace, "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me." But does not my own nature teach me that God is good? Yes, but Christ corroborates the testimony of our moral nature. The avatars of India and the Apotheoses of Greece are only efforts of the mind to anticipate this great doctrine of Christianity. The sense of guilt and longing for reconciliation may have produced these myths. But that does not prove that the subjective state was a superstition. The ability to appeal to the historic facts concerning the life of our Lord is the strongest confirmation of the truth of our religious instincts. We can proceed by way of philosophy and prove our need of a Saviour, and by way of history prove the fact of a Saviour who reveals the nature and fatherhood of God.
II. TO THE IRRELIGIOUS THOUGHT OF THE AGE. That is marked by a tone of serious, disheartened scepticism. Yet the Positivist tries to keep his religion after he has denied his God. What he teaches as a substitute for the Gospel is taught by the Gospel itself, is the only form in which it is worthy of a moment's consideration. If he would worship an ideal humanity, he must take Christ. If he would see an example of "altruism" he must take Christ's atonement. But infidelity must go back to Christ or forward to despair. When a man has discarded the eternal hope in Christ it is not strange that he should ask "Is life worth living?" Christ or Pessimism, the gospel of hope or the gospel of despair, salvation or suicide are the sharp antitheses presented by modern thought.
III. TO APOLOGETICS. Applying to Scripture the argument of design, we conclude that it was constructed on a plan which must have existed in a single mind before it was executed in the progressive publication of the separate books. The Incarnation gives to the Bible its unity. The Old Testament is a congruous body of doctrine culminating in Christ; the New Testament is a coherent body of doctrine culminating around the Person of Christ. The doctrine is woven in the very texture of the sacred books. How did this happen? The advanced thinkers will not ask us to believe that organisms grow by chance. The intelligence that built the world, made the Bible.
IV. TO THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE. The paradox of the Bible is the severity with which God looks on sin, and the tenderness with which He regards the sinner. Is there any way in which this dual relationship can be brought into conspicuous pre-eminence? Yes; the Incarnation is God's testimony to His love for man and to His respect for law. He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The atonement is therefore based upon the Incarnation. Advanced thought a short time since founded the hope of the universal forgiveness on the fatherhood of God. Now it preaches that man is under law to an extent which makes it idle to speak of forgiveness. Sin and suffering are inseparable, they say, and thus those who preached a gospel of love without law, now preach a gospel of law without love. Liberalism does not know how to reconcile these ideas, and by rejecting the Incarnation has rejected the only method of reconciliation.
V. TO RELIGIOUS COMMUNION. A man may be a Christian who does not accept all the doctrines of the creeds. It is equally clear that a man who denies all cannot be invited to the Lord's table. Where then shall we draw the line? Here. The acceptance of this doctrine draws towards Christ; its rejection separates from Him by an impassable gulf? The man who worships the Lord Jesus as God, and gives Him the homage of his heart is a Christian, although he may not accept the Athanasian statement. The same principle determines our relations with . It is not necessary to abate any of our antipathy to her errors, but a church must not be refused a place in Christendom which holds the Incarnation and related doctrines.
VI. TO THE FUNDAMENTALS OF RELIGION. Any religion which is to take permanent hold upon the world must offer a theory of the universe and tell me whence I am and whither I am going; must prescribe a code and teach morality; must stir the emotions and take hold of the heart; Christianity unites these three ideas in the Incarnation.
VII. TO PRACTICAL CHRISTIAN LIFE. The incarnate life of Christ stands in close relation to the development of Christian character. That development is gradual, and is concurrent with the study of Christ. And to study Him is to know that He is Divine. If we study the great principles which constitute His doctrine we hear the voice of one who spake as never man spake. So comprehensively, so minutely, so influentially. If we study His example there is that which proclaims His Divine perfections; and yet His human, helpful, imitable brotherhood.
VIII. TO CHRISTIAN WORK IN RELATION TO THE EVANGELIZATION OF THE WORLD. The book of Acts is the second volume of the life of Christ, the first being an account of all Jesus "began." The Incarnation, then, was but the beginning of a great career which is still in progress. It is Christ who is still doing the evangelization of the world. This is the only true basis of missionary confidence, and the continuously fulfilling prophecy of the final victory.
IX. TO MAN'S PLACE IS THE SCALE OF BEING: correcting the depreciation of man by science and the exaggerated dignity conferred upon him by Pantheism. He is neither an insignificant atom nor God. The Incarnation shows his reconciliation, not identity with God, and his glorious and elect creatureship.
X. TO THE PURPOSES OF GOD. We know not what we shall be, but we know that we shall be like Him. And He is the same to day, yesterday, and for ever. The perpetuity of Christ's human nature is the guarantee of an immortalized personality° And our individual interest in Jesus will not prevent us sharing the enthusiasm we may rightly feel concerning the destiny of His Church. The marriage of God and man eighteen hundred years ago is but the prophecy of a day when the bells of heaven shall ring in the nuptials of a ransomed Church with her royal spouse.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.