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9. When the wise men departed from Jerusalem, the star again appeared, and they rejoiced with exceeding great joy: and, indeed, to new converts and persons in their first addresses to the worship of God, such spiritual and exterior comforts are often indulged; because then God judges them to be most necessary, as being invitations to duty by the entertainments of our affections with such sweetnesses, which represent the glory of the reward, by the antepasts and refreshments dispensed even in the ruggedness of the way, and incommodities of the journey. All other delights are the pleasures of beasts, or the sports of children ; these are the antepasts, and preventions of the full feasts and overflowings of eternity.
10. When they came to Bethlehem, and the star pointed them to a stable, they entered in ; and being enlightened with a Divine ray, proceeding from the face of the holy Child, and seeing through the cloud, and passing through the scandal of his mean lodging and poor condition, they bowed themselves to the earth ; first giving themselves an oblation to this great King, then they made offering of their gifts; for a man's person is first accepted, then his gift. God first regarded Abel, and then accepted his offering : which we are best taught to understand by the present instance; for it means no more, but that all outward services and oblations are made acceptable by the prior presentation of an inward sacrifice. If we have first presented ourselves, then our gift is pleasant, as coming but to express the truth of the first sacrifice ; but if our persons be not first made a holocaust to God, the lesser oblations of outward presents are like sacrifices without salt and fire, nothing to make them pleasant or religious. For all other senses of this proposition charge upon God the distinguishing and acceptation of persons, against which he solemnly protests : God regards no man's person, but according to the doing of his duty; but then God is said first to accept the person, and then the gift, when the person is first sanctified and given to God by the vows and habits of a holy life; and then all the actions of his religion are homogeneal to their principle, and accepted by the acceptation of the man.
11. These magi presented to the holy Babe, gold, frankineense, and myrrlı, protesting their faith of three articles by
the symbolical oblation: by gold, that he was a king; by incense, that he was a God; by myrrh, that he was a man. And the presents also were representative of interior virtues: the myrrh signifying faith, mortification, chastity, compunction, and all the actions of the purgative way of spiritual life; the incense signifying hope, prayer, obedience, good intention, and all the actions and devotions of the illuminative; the giving the gold representing love to God and our neighbours, the contempt of riches, poverty of spirit, and all the eminences and spiritual riches of the unitive life. And these oblations if we present to the holy Jesus, both our persons and our gifts shall be accepted, our sins shall be purged, our understandings enlightened, and our wills united to this holy Child, and entitled to a communion of all his glories.
12. And thus, in one view and two instances, God hath drawn all the world to himself by his son Jesus, in the instance of the shepherds and the Arabian magi, Jews and Gentiles, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, noble and ignoble; that in him all nations, and all conditions, and all families, and all persons, might be blessedB; having called all by one star or other, by natural reason, or by the secrets of philosophy; by the revelations of the Gospel, or by the ministry of angels; by the illuminations of the Spirit, or by the sermons and dictates of spiritual fathers; and hath consigned this lesson to us, that we must never appear before the Lord empty, offering gifts to him, by the expenses or by the affections of charity; either the worshipping or the oblations of religion, either the riches of the world or the love of the soul: for if we cannot bring gold with the rich Arabians, we may, with the poor shepherds, come and “ kiss the Son, lest he be angry;" and in all cases come
and him with fear and reverence," and spiritual rejoicings.
& Nam simul terris animisque duri,
Et spà Bessi nive duriores,
Pacis in aulam.
Vixit in antris.
S, l'uulinus in Ricdilu Nicetæ.
Most holy Jesu, thou art the glory of thy people Israel, and a
light to the Gentiles, and wert pleased to call the Gentiles to the adoration and knowledge of thy sacred person and laws, communicating the inestimable riches of thy holy discipline to all, with an universal undistinguishing love ; give unto us spirits docible, pious, prudent, and ductile, that no motion or invitation of grace be ineffectual, but may produce excellent effects upon us, and the secret whispers of thy spirit may prevail upon our affections, in order to piety and obedience, as certainly as the loudest and most clamorous sermons of the Gospel. Create in us such excellences, as are fit to be presented to thy glorious Majesty; accept of the oblation of myself, and my entire services : but be thou pleased to verify my offering, and , secure the possession to thyself, that the enemy may not pollute the sacrifice, or divide the gift, or question the title ; but that I may be wholly thine, and for ever, clarify my understanding, sanctify my will, replenish my memory with arguments of piety; then shall I present to thee an oblation rich and precious, as the treble gift of the Levantine princes. Lord, I am thine, reject me not from thy favour, exclude me not from thy presence; then shall I serve thee all the days of my life, and partake of the glories of thy kingdom, in which thou reignest gloriously and eternally. Amen.
Of the Circumcision of Jesus, and his Presentation in the
1. AND now the blessed Saviour of the world began to do the work of his mission and our redemption : and because man had prevaricated all the Divine commandments, to which all human nature respectively to the persons of several capacities was obliged, and therefore the whole nature was
obnoxious to the just rewards of its demerits ; first, Christ was to put that nature he had assumed, into a savable condition, by fulfilling his Father's preceptive will, and then to reconcile it actually, by suffering the just deservings of its prevarications. He therefore addresses himself to all the parts of an active obedience ; " and when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child,” he exposed his tender body to the sharpness of the circumcising stone, and shed his blood in drops, giving an earnest of those rivers, which he did afterwards pour out for the cleansing all human nature, and extinguishing the wrath of God.
2. He that had no sin, nor was conceived by natural generation, could have no adherences to his soul or body, which needed to be pared away by a rite, and cleansed by a mystery ; neither, indeed, do we find it expressed, that circumcisiona was ordained for abolition or pardon of original sin, it is indeed presumed so ;) but it was instituted to be a seal of a covenant between God and Abraham, and Abraham's posterity, “ a seal of the righteousness of faith," and therefore was not improper for him to suffer, who was the child of Abraham, and who was the Prince of the covenant, and “the Author and Finisher of that faith,” which was consigned to Abraham in circumcision. But so mysterious were all the actions of Jesus, that this one served many ends. For, 1. It gave demonstration of the verity of human nature. 2. So he began to fulfil the law. 3. And took from himself the scandal of uncircumcision, which would eternally have prejudiced the Jews against his entertaiument and communion. 4. And then he took
him that name, which declared him to be the Saviour of the world; which, as it was consummate in the blood of the cross, so was it inaugurated in the blood of circumcision : for “ when the eight days were accomplished for circumcising of the Child, his name was called Jesus."
3. But this holy family, who had laid up their joys in the eyes and heart of God, longed, till they might be permitted an address to the temple, that there they might present the holy Babe unto his Father; and indeed that he, who had no
a “ος ποθ' έής πάτρης εξήγαγε δίον 'Αβραάμ,
Euseb. 1. ix. c. 22. Præpar. Evangel)
other, might be brought to his own house. For although, while he was a child, he did differ nothing from a servant, yet he was the Lord of the place : it was his Father's house, and he was “the Lord of all.” And therefore, “ when the days of the purification were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord,” to whom he was holy, as being the first-born; the “first-born of his mother,” the “ only begotten Son of his Father,” and “the first-born of every creature.” And they “ did with him according to the law of Moses, offering a pair of turtle doves” for his redemption.
4. But there was no public act about this holy Child, but it was attended by something miraculous and extraordinary. And, at this instant, the Spirit of God directed a holy person into the temple, that he might feel the fulfilling of a prophecy made to himself, that he might, before his death, “behold the Lord's Christ,” and embrace “ the glory and consolation of Israel, and the light of the Gentiles,” in his arms : for old “ Simeon came by the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, then took he him
in his arms, and blessed God,” and prophesied, and spake glorious things of that Child, and things sad and glorious concerning his mother; that the “ child was set for the rising and falling of many in Israel, for a sign that should be spoken against;" and the bitterness of that contradiction should pierce the heart of the holy Virgin-mother like a sword, that her joy at the present accidents might be attempered with present revelation of her future trouble, and the excellent favour of being the mother of God might be crowned with the reward of martyrdom, and a mother's love be raised up to an excellency great enough to make her suffer the bitterness of being transfixed with his love and sorrow, as with a sword.
5. But old Anna, the prophetess, came also in, full of years and joy, and found the reward of her long prayers and fasting in the temple : the long-looked-for redemption of Israel was now in the temple, and she saw with her eyes the Light of the World, the Heir of Heaven, the long-lookedfor Messias, whom the nations had desired and expected, till their hearts were faint, and their eyes din, with looking farther, and apprehending greater distances. She also pro