"Most wonderful, most wise": A Hackney Phalanx sermon for the First Sunday in Lent

From A Course of Sermons, for the Lord's Day throughout the Year, Volume I (1817) by Joseph Holden Pott - associated with the Hackney Phalanx - a sermon for the First Sunday in Lent.  This extract offers a deeply patristic, richly Christological reading of the Lord's Temptation: yet another reminder of how the Old High tradition could pre-empt the Oxford Movement in offering preaching grounded in the Fathers and unfolding the mysteries of the liturgical year. (A good case could be made that Newman's Parochial and Plain Sermons share significant similarities with Pott's sermons.)

It provides an excellent exposition of the Litany's emphasis that the Lord's Fasting and Temptation was salvific ("by thy ... Fasting and Temptation, Good Lord, deliver us"). Also striking is that Newman's great hymn 'Praise to the Holiest in the Height' is anticipated in this 1817 sermon: another indication of how the pre-1833 Church of England was significantly different to the portrayal later offered by Tractarian history.

We may remark then, in the first place, that it seems to be sufficiently pointed out to us in all the the page of Scripture, that Christ, who became the second Adam, in whom the human nature was to regain its lost integrity, and to experience a still more abundant exaltation, was to fulfil those measures of obedience which were due to God from the first head of mankind, who failed so lamentably in his day of trial. This one observation, easy, natural, and obvious as it is, will serve at once to explain to us the true nature and design of that memorable circumstance in our Lord's life, in which be underwent a term of trial, or temptation, in the wilderness. We shall readily perceive how just and well-founded this remark is, by considering the manifest resemblance which appears between the first temptation in the first scene of man's abode, before he forfeited the happiness of Eden; and this new temptation which took place in the wilderness, the substituted soil for that which was the first allotted portion of mankind. 

Most wonderful, most wise and consistent, will appear the method of divine love in man's redemption, when we regard it as so ordered, that in all points the human nature might recover its whole lustre, and reach its full perfection, in him who condescended to assume it for our sakes; who raised and glorified it by his whole example, and enriched it by his merits, the beneficial influences and effects of which redound for ever to his faithful servants, and form the true wealth and the promised glory of his chosen and adopted household.

We cannot, therefore, feel surprised when we find that trials of the same kind with those to which the first man was exposed, should be encountered by him who vouchsafed to take our nature, and to stand in our place when we could no more abide in judgment, and were unable, in our own strength, to recover the first footing which was lost by disobedience. Nor can it excite our wonder, upon this consideration, when we find that the first act of trespass which had brought misery and death into the world, was distinctly and signally contrasted by the constancy and fortitude of him who stood firm where Adam fell, who fulfilled the will of God where it had been left undone: who kept the terms of duty where they had been broken, and who accomplished all this, under the same character, and in the same nature, which the first man received from his Creator. Observe, then, the manifest and full propriety which is thus discovered to us in the whole work of our redemption.


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