From “A Homily on the Nativity of our Savior Jesus Christ,” The Second Book of Homilies (1571)
This covenant and promise was first made to Adam himself immediately after his fall, as we read in the third chapter of Genesis, where God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed. He shall break your head and you shall bruise his heel.” Afterward the same covenant was also more plainly renewed to Abraham, where God promised Abraham that “in his seed all nations and families of the earth will be blessed.” Again it was continued and confirmed to Isaac in the same form of words as it was before to his father Abraham.
And to the intent that humanity might not despair but always live in hope, Almighty God never ceased to publish, repeat, confirm, and continue the same promise by different testimonies of his prophets. These prophesied the time, place, manner and circumstance of Christ’s birth, the afflictions of his life, the nature of his death, the glory of his resurrection, the receiving of his kingdom, the deliverance of his people… Isaiah prophesied that he should be born of a virgin and called Emmanuel. Micah prophesied that he should be born in Bethlehem, a city of the Jews. …Ezekiel prophesied that he should come of the stock and lineage of David. …Daniel prophesied that all nations and languages will serve him. Zechariah prophesied that he should come in poverty, riding upon an ass. …Malachi prophesied that he should send Elijah before him, which was John the Baptist. …Jeremiah prophesied that he should be sold for thirty pieces of silver. And all this was done that the promise and covenant of God made to Abraham and his posterity concerning the redemption of the world might be fully believed.
Now, as the apostle Paul says, “when the fullness of time had come,” that is, the course of years appointed from the beginning, then God, according to his former covenant and promise, sent a Messiah, a mediator, into the world, not one like Moses, nor one like Joshua, Saul, or David, but such a one as should deliver humanity from the bitter curse of the Law and make perfect satisfaction by his death for the sins of all people. Namely God sent his dear and only son, Jesus Christ, made, as the apostles says, “of a woman and made under the law, that he might redeem them who were in bondage of the Law, and make them the children of God by adoption.”
Was not this a wonderful great love toward us, we who were his professed and open enemies? …A love towards us who were “by nature the children of wrath?” …St John writes, “in this appeared the great love of God, that he sent his only begotten son into the world to save us,” when we were his extreme enemies. “Herein is love, not that we loved him, but that he loved us and sent his son to be a reconciliation for our sins.” Saint Paul also says, “Christ, when we were yet of no strength died for us being ungodly. Doubtless a man will scarce die for a righteous man… But God sets out his love toward us in that he sent Christ to die for us when we were void of all goodness.” Paul uses this and other comparisons to explain the tender mercy and great goodness of God, declared to us, in sending down a savior from heaven, Christ our Lord.
The two Books of Homilies (1547 & 1571) were written to teach the reformed doctrine of the Church of England in local congregations, and were originally appointed to be read out during worship by parish priests, few of whom originally had licenses to preach. The Second Book of Homilies was mostly the work of Bishop John Jewel of Salisbury (1522-1571), a noted polemical theologian, who wrote the first major defense of the Church of England’s structure and worship.