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prophecy. And it is in some circumstances and from some persons more secure to conceal visions and those heavenly gifts, which create estimations among men, than to publish them, which may possibly minister to vanity; and those exterior graces may do God's work, though no observer note them, but the person for whose sake they are sent : like rain falling in uninhabited vallies, where no eye observes showers; yet the vallies laugh and sing to God in their refreshment without a witness. However, it is better to hear the report of our good things from the mouths of others, than from ourselves : and better yet, if the beauty of the tabernacle be covered with skins, that none of our beauties be seen but by worshippers, that is, when the glory of God and the interests of religion or charity are concerned in their publication. For so it happened to be in the case of the blessed Virgin, as she related to her cousin Elizabeth ; and so it happened not to be, as she referred to her husband Joseph.
9. The holy Virgin could not but know, that Joseph would be troubled with sorrow and insecure apprehensions concerning her being with child ; but such was her innocence and her confidence in God, that she held her peace, expecting which way God would provide a remedy to the inconvenience : for if we “commit ourselves to God in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator,” preserving the tranquillity of our spirits and the evenness of our temper in the assault of infamy and disreputation, God, who loves our innocence, will be its patron, and will assert it from the scandal, if it be expedient for us : if it be not, it is not fit we should desire it. But if the holy Jesus did suffer his mother to fall into misinterpretation and suspect, which could not but be a great affliction to her excellent spirit, rarely tempered as an eye, highly sensible of every ruder touch, we must not think it strange, if we be tried and pressed with a calamity and unhandsome accidents : only remember, that God will find a remedy to the trouble, and will sanctify the affliction, and secure the person, if we be innocent, as was the holy Virgin.
10. But Joseph was not hasty in the execution of his purposes, nor of making his thoughts determinate, but stood long in deliberation, and longer before be acted it, because it was an invidious matter, and a rigour. He was, first, to have defamed and accused her publicly, and, being convicted, by
the law she was to die, if he had gone the ordinary way; but he, who .was a just man, that is, according to the style of Scripture and other wise writers, “ a good, a charitable man,” found that it was more agreeable to justice to treat an offending person with the easiest sentence, than to put things to extremity, and render the person desperate, and without remedy, and provoked by the suffering of the worst of what she could fear. No obligation to justice does force a man to be cruel, or to use the sharpest sentence. A just man does justice to every man, and to every thing; and then, if he be also wise, he knows there is a debt of mercy and compassion due to the infirmities of a man's nature, and that debt is to be paid : and he that is cruel and ungentle to a sinning person, and does the worst thing to him, dies in his debt, and is unjust. Pity, and forbearance, and long-suffering, and fair interpretation, and excusing our brother, and taking things in the best sense, and passing the gentlest sentence, are as certainly our duty, and owing to every person that does offend, and can repent, as calling men to account can be owing to the law, and are first to be paid ; and he that does not so, is an unjust person : which because Joseph was not, he did not call furiously for justice, or pretend that God required it at his hands presently, to undo a suspected person, but waved the killing letter of the law, and secured his own interest and his justice too, by intending to dismiss her privately. But, before the thing was irremediable, God ended his question by a heavenly demonstration, and sent an angel to reveal to him the innocence of his spouse, and the divinity of her son; and that he was an immediate derivative from Heaven, and the heir of all the world. And in all our doubts we shall have a resolution from Heaven, or some of its ministers, if we have recourse thither for a guide, and be not hasty in our discourses, or inconsiderate in our purposes, or rash in judgment. For God loves to give assistances to us, when we most fairly and prudently endeavour, that grace be not put to do all our work, but to facilitate our labour; not creating new faculties, but improving those of nature. If we consider warily, God will guide us in the determination ; but a hasty person outruns his guide, prevaricates his rule, and very often
b 1 John, i. 9. Psalm cxi. 3. Δικαιοσύνη, χρηστότης, αγαθότης, φιλανθρωπία, – Philostr. de Vita Apollon. I. iii. c. 7.
< Non solùm ab ultionis atrocitate, sed etiam ab accusationis severitate, aliena justi persona est.- Ambros.
engages upon error.
O holy Jesu, Son of the Eternal God, thy glory is far above
all heavens, and yet thou didst descend to earth, that thy descent might be the more gracious, by how much thy glories were admirable, and natural, and inseparable: I adore thy holy humanity with humble veneration, and the thankful addresses of religious joy, because thou hast personally united human nature to the eternal Word, carrying it above the seats of the highest cherubim. This great and glorious mystery is the honour and glory of man. It was the expectation of our fathers, who saw the mysteriousness of thy incarnation at great and obscure distances. And blessed be thy name, that thou hast caused me to be born after the fulfilling of thy prophecies, and the consummation and exhibition of so great a love, so great mysteriousness. Holy Jesu, though I admire and adore the immensity of thy love and condescension, who wert pleased to undergo our burdens and infirmities for us; yet I abhor myself, and detest my own impurities, which were so great, and contradictory to the excellency of God, that, to destroy sin, and save us, it became necessary that thou shouldest be sent into the world, to die our death for us, and to give us of thy life.
Dearest Jesu, thou didst not breathe one sigh, nor shed one
drop of blood, nor weep one tear, nor suffer one stripe, nor preach one sermon for the salvation of the devils : and what sadness and shame is it then, that I should cause so many insufferable loads of sorrows to fall upon thy sacred head ! Thou art wholly given for me, wholly spent upon my uses, and wholly for every one of the elect. Thou, in the beginning of the work of our redemption, didst suffer nine months' imprisonment in the pure womb of thy holy mother, to redeem me from the eternal servitude of sin, and its miserable consequents. Holy Jesu, let me be born anew, receive a new birth and a new life, imitating thy graces and excellencies, by which thou art beloved of thy Father, and hast obtained for us a favour and atonement. Let thy holy will be done by me, let all thy will be wrought in me, let thy will be wrought concerning me; that I may do thy pleasure, and submit to the dispensation of thy providence, and conform to thy holy will, and may for ever serve thee in the communion of saints, in the society of thy redeemed ones, now, and in the glories of eternity. Amen.
The Nativity of our Blessed Saviour Jesus.
1. The holy maid longed to be a glad mother; and she who carried a burden, whose proper commensuration is the days of eternity, counted the tedious minutes, expecting when the Sun of Righteousness should break forth from his bed, where nine months he hid himself as behind a fruitful cloud. About the same time, God, who in his infinite wisdom does concentre and tie together in one end things of disparity and disproportionate natures, making things improbable to co-operate to what wonder or to what truth he pleases, brought the holy Virgin to Bethlehem, the city of David,“ to be taxed,” with her husband Joseph, according to a decree upon all the world, issuing from Augustus Cæsara. But this happened in this conjunction of time, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet Micah:~" And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come a governor, that shall rule my people Israel.” This rare act of Providence was highly remarkable, because this taxing seems wholly to have been ordered by God, to serve and
* "Ην δε όν τούτο δεύτερον και τεσσαρακοστόν έτος του Αυγούστου βασιλείας, Αιγύπτου δ' υποταγής και της τελευτής 'Αντωνίου και Κλεοπάτρας όγδοον έτος και εικοστόν.-Eusch. 1. i. c. 6. Histor. Eccles. Anno scil. tertio Olympiad. 194. Cæsare Augusto et Plautio Silano Coss.
minister to the circumstances of this birth b; for this taxing was not in order to tribute. Herod was now king, and received all the revenues of the Fiscus, and paid to Augustus an appointed tribute, after the manner of other kings, friends and relatives of the Roman empire: neither doth it appear, that the Romans laid a new tribute on the Jews, before the confiscation of the goods of Archelaus. Augustus, therefore, sending special delegates to tax every city, made only an inquesto
e after the strength of the Roman empire in men and monies; and did himself no other advantage, but was directed by him, who rules and turns the hearts of princes, that he might, by verifying a prophecy, signify and publish the divinity of the mission and the birth of Jesus.
2. She, that had conceived by the operation of that Spirit, who dwells within the element of love, was no ways impeded in her journey by the greatness of her burden; but arrived at Bethlehem in the throng of strangers, who had so filled up the places of hospitality and public entertainment, that " there was no room” for Joseph and Mary " in the inn.” But yet she felt, that it was necessary to retire, wheré she might softly lay her burden, who began now to call at the gates of his prison, and nature was ready to let him forth. But she, that was mother to the King of all the creatures, could find no other but a stable, a cave of a rock, whither she retired; where, when it began to be with her after the manner of women, she humbly bowed her knees, in the posture and guise of worshippers, and in the midst of glorious thoughts and highest speculations, “ brought forth her first-born into the world."
3. As there was no sin in the conception, so neither had she pains in the production, as the church, from the days of Gregory Nazianzen until now, hath piously believede; though, before his days, there were some opinions to the
b O Αύγουστος υπηρετείται το εν Βηθλεέμ τόκω δια του προστάγματος της ασοyçaqñs.-S. Chrysost. Hom. 8. in Matth.
c Vide Suidam in Verbo απογραφή. Dio. lib. Ivi. έπεμψεν άλλους άλλη τα τε των ιδιωτών και τα των πόλεων απογραψομένους. .
d Juxta propheticum illud, Isa. xxxiii. 16. oitos olxńsu ly ifodão amalw πέτρας ισχυράς άρτος δοθήσεται αυτό, apud LΧΧ. Sed hanc periodum Judai eraserunt ex Hebræo textu. Sic et Symmachus, äços 8oFrestat, mysticè Bethlehem, sive Domus panis, indigitatur.
e Vide Waddingum, p. 270.