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is jubilation, and a festival kept among the angels, how great shall we imagine this rejoicing to be, when salvation and redemption was sent to all the world! But we also, to whom the joy did more personally relate, (for they rejoiced for our sakes,) should learn to estimate the grace done us, and believe there is something very extraordinary in the piety and salvation of a man, when the angels, who in respect of us are unconcerned in the communications, rejoice with the joy of conquerors, or persons suddenly ransomed from tortures and death.
2. But the angels also had other motions : for besides the pleasures of that joy, which they had in beholding human nature so highly exalted, and that God was man, and man was God; they were transported with admiration at the ineffable counsel of God's predestination, prostrating themselves with adoration and modesty, seeing God so humbled, and man so changed, and so full of charity, that God stooped to the condition of man, and man was inflamed beyond the love of seraphim, and was made more knowing than cherubim, more established than thrones, more happy than all the orders of angels. The issue of this consideration teaches us to learn their charity, and to exterminate all the intimations and beginnings of envy, that we may as much rejoice at the good of others as of ourselves : for then we love good for God's sake, when we love good, wherever God hath placed it: and that joy is charitable, which overflows our neighbours' fields, when ourselves are unconcerned in the personal accruments; for so we are “made partakers of all that fear God,” when charity unites their joy to ours, as it makes us partakers of their common sufferings.
3. And now the angels, who had adored the holy Jesus in heaven, come also to pay their homage to him upon earth; and laying aside their flaming swords, they take into their hands instruments of music, and sing, “ Glory be to God on high.” First signifying to us, that the incarnation of the holy Jesus was a very great instrument of the glorification of God; and those divine perfections, in which he is chiefly pleased to communicate himself to us, were in nothing manifested so much as in the mysteriousness of this work. Secondly : And in vain doth man satisfy himself with complacencies and ambitious designs upon earth, when he sees
before him God in the form of a servant, humble, and poor, and crying, and an infant full of need and weakness,
4. But God hath pleased to reconcile his glory with our eternal benefit; and that also was part of the angels' song, “ In earth, peace to men of good will.” For now we need not, with Adam, to fly from the presence of the Lord, saying, “ I heard thy voice, and I was afraid, and hid myself;" for he, from whom our sins made us once to fly, now weeps, and is an infant in his mother's arms, seeking strange means to be reconciled to us; hath forgotten all his anger, and is swallowed up with love, and encircled with irradiations of amorous affections and good will: and the effects of this good will are not referred only to persons of heroical and eminent graces and operations, of vast and expensive charities, of prodigious abstinencies, of eremitical retirements, of ascetical diet, of perfect religion, and canonized persons ; but to all“ men of good will,” whose souls are hallowed with holy purposes and pious desires, though the beauties of the religion and holy thoughts were not spent in exterior acts, nor called out by the opportunities of a rich and expressive fortune.
5. But here we know, where the seat and regiment of peace is placed, and all of it must pass by us and descend upon us, as duty and reward. It proceeds from the Word incarnate, from the Son of God, undertaking to reconcile us to his Father; and it is ministered and consigned unto us by every event and act of Providence, whether it be deciphered in characters of paternal indulgence, or of correction, or absolution. For that is not peace from above, to have all things according to our human and natural wishes; but to be in favour with God, that is peace; always remembering, that to be chastised by him is not a certain testimony of his mere wrath, but to all his servants a character of love and of paternal provision, since “he chastises every son, whom he receives.” Whosoever seeks to avoid all this world's adversity, can never find peace; but he only who hath resolved all his affections, and placed them in the heart of God; he who denies his own will, and hath killed self-love, and all those enemies within, that make affictions to become miseries indeed, and full of bitterness; he only enjoys this peace : and in proportion to every man's mortification and self
denial, so are the degrees of his peace. · And this is the peace, which the angel proclaimed at the enunciation of that birth, which taught humility, and contempt of things below, and all their vainer glories, by the greatest argument in the world, even the poverty of God incarnate. And if God sent his own, natural, only-begotten, and beloved Son, in all the dresses of poverty and contempt; that person is vain, who thinks God will love him better, than he loved his own Son, or that he will express his love any other or gentler way, than to make him partaker of the fortune of his eldest Son. There is one other postern to the dwellings of peace, and that is, “ good will to men;" for so much charity as we have to others, such a measure of peace also we may enjoy at home: for peace was only proclaimed to “ men of good will,” to them that are at peace with God and all the world.
6. But the angel brought the message to shepherds, to persons simple, and mean, and humble; persons likely to be more apprehensive of the mystery, and less of the scandal, of the poverty of the Messias : for they whose custom or affections dwell in secular pomps, who are not used by charity or humility to stoop to an evenness and consideration of their brethren of equal natures, though of unequal fortunes, are persons, of all the world, most indisposed and removed from the understanding of spiritual excellencies, especially when they do not come clothed with advantages of the world, and of such beauties which they admire. God himself in poverty, comes in a prejudice to them that love riches, and simplicity is folly to crafty persons“; a mean birth is an ignoble stain, beggary is a scandal, and the cross an unanswerable objection. But the angel's moral in the circumstance of his address, and inviting the poor shepherds to Bethlehem, is, that none are fit to come to Christ but those, who are poor in spirit, despisers of the world, simple in
a At nos virtutes ipsas invertimus, atque
Horat. Serm. l. I. Sat. 3. 65.
their hearts, without craft and secular designs; and therefore neither did the angel tell the story to Herod, nor to the scribes and pharisees, whose ambition had ends contradictory to the simplicity and poverty of the birth of Jesus. 7. These shepherds, when they conversed with angels,
watching over their flocks by night;" no revellers, but in a painful and dangerous employment, the work of an honest calling, securing their folds against incursions of wild beasts, which in those countries are not seldom or unfrequent. And Christ being the great Shepherd, (and possibly, for the analogy's sake, the sooner manifested to shepherds,) hath made his ministers overseers of their flocks, distinguished in their particular folds, and conveys the mysteriousness of his kingdom, first to the pastors, and by their ministry, to the flocks. But although all of them be admitted to the ministry, yet those only to the interior recesses and nearer imitations of Jesus, who are watchful over their flocks, assiduous in their labours, painful in their sufferings, present in the dangers of the sheep, ready to interpose their persons and sacrifice their lives; these are shepherds, who first converse with angels, and finally shall enter into the presence of the Lord. But, besides this symbol, we are taught in the significations of the letter, that he that is diligent in the business of an honest calling, is then doing service to God; and a work so pleasing to him, who hath appointed the sons of men to labour, that to these shepherds he made a return and recompence, by the conversation of an angel; and hath advanced the reputation of an honest and a mean employment to such a testimony of acceptance, that no honest person, though busied in meaner offices, may ever hereafter, in the estimation of Christ's disciples, become contemptible.
8. The signs, which the angel gave to discover the babe, were no marks of lustre and vanity; but they should find, 1. a babe, 2. swaddled, 3. lying in a manger : the first a testimony of his humility; the second, of his poverty; the third, of his incommodity and uneasiness; for Christ came to combat the whole body of sin, and to destroy every province of Satan's kingdom; for these are direct antinomies to the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Against the first, Christ opposed his hard and uneasy lodging; against the second, the poorness of his swaddling
bands and mantle ; and the third is combated by the great dignation and descent of Christ, from a throne of majesty to the state of a sucking babe. And these are the first lessons he hath taught us for our imitation; which that we may the better do, as we must take him for our pattern, so also for our helper, and pray to the holy Child, and he will not only teach us, but also give us power and ability.
O blessed and eternal Jesu, at whose birth the quires of
angels sang praises to God, and proclaimed peace to men, sanctify my will and inferior affections ; make me to be within the conditions of peace, that I be holy and mortified, a despiser of the world and exterior vanities, humble and charitable; that by thy eminent example I may be so fixed in the designs and prosecution of the ends of God and a blissful eternity, that I be unmoved with the terrors of the world, unaltered with its allurements and seductions, not ambitious of its honour, not desirous of its fulness and plenty; but make me diligent in the employment thou givest me, faithful in discharge of my trust, modest in my desires, content in the issues of thy providence; that in such dispositions I may receive and entertain visitations from heaven, and revelations of the mysteries and blisses evangelical ; that by such directions I may be brought into thy presence, there to see thy beauties and admire thy graces, and imitate all thy imitable excellencies, and rest in thee for ever; in this world, by the perseverance of a holy and comfortable life, and in the world to come, in the participation of thy essential glories and felicities, O blessed and eternal Jesus !
Considerations of the Epiphany of the Blessed Jesus by a Star,
and the Adoration of Jesus by the Eastern Magi.
1. God, who is the universal Father of all men, at the nativity of the Messias gave notice of it to all the world, as they were represented by the grand division of Jews and Gentiles; to the Jewish shepherds by an angel, to the