Wednesday, December 10, 2008

'That Holy Thing'

One of my favorite 19th century preachers is Alexander Whyte. Most of his books are the result of collecting and publishing his sermons, and they are heart-warming to read. This evening a read his sermon on Luke 1:35, "That Holy Thing." This is a very fine sermon on the incarnation of Jesus, based upon a peculiar phrase found in the AV. His final application of this text is worth repeating here.
The angel described Mary's child to her as 'that holy thing.' Now, I will not pain you and offend you by calling your child the opposite of that. For, does not the apostle himself say that the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife by the believing husband, and that, therefore, their children are holy? But I will say this, that if you would have your child not ceremonially and conventionally holy only, but personally and really and everlastingly holy, and if you yourself know what holiness is, you must set before yourself for your child no less a holiness than that of the Holy Child Himself. And as often as you see and feel in your innermost heart your child's fretfulness, and quarrelsomeness, and rudeness, and sulkiness, and impudence, and pride, and anger, and an unbroken will, take him apart and, like Thomas Halyburton's mother, pray both with him and for him. Pray importunately that your child also may be made of God, both to Him and to you, a twin-brother of the Holy Child Jesus. Pray without ceasing that your child may be sanctified with the self-same sanctification as Mary's Child. And if that may not be perfected all at once, as His sanctification was, pray that at least it may be begun as long as you are here to see it and to have a hand in it. Take your child apart, as long as he is docile and will go with you, and ask on your knees, and in his hearing, something like this—'O God, the God and Father of the Holy Child Jesus, make this, my dear child, a child of God with Him. And after I am gone make him and keep him a man of God like Him.' Take no rest yourself, and give God no rest, till you see a seed of God not only sown in your child's heart, but till you see him, as Mary saw her firstborn Son, subject to her in everything in her house at home, and growing up every day in wisdom, and in stature, and in favour with God and man.
(Alexander Whyte, "That Holy Thing" in Jesus Christ Our Lord: His Walk, Conversation and Character [1905; reprint ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1953], 19-20; emphasis mine.)

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