« PreviousContinue »
As certain shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks
by night, the angel of the Lord came upon them, Published by and the glory of the Lord fhone roundabout them: angels.
: so that the fplendor of the appearance confounded their senses, and made them fore afraid: but the angel quickly removed the terror that seized them, with the tydings het die brought of great joy to all people; in those comfortable words, le unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which mali is Christ the Lord. Yet left they should expect a prince ac-dem companied with pomp and magnificence, the angel defcribed the meanness and obscurity of his circumstances, as a token to guide them in the search of this new born prince. ha This shall be a sign unto you, you shall find the babe wrapt kom in swaddling cloaths, and lying in a manger. And I
Having this notice, the shepherds immediately Worshipped by Thepherds. went to Bethlehem, and found the account true,
which the angels had told them, with the addition of that facred hymn, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men. And, as they returned, they glorified and praised God.
The circumstances of our Saviour's birth, For our ex- the publication thereof, ought to reconcile us to a ample.
ftate of poverty : for since the blessed Jesus chose to be born in fo mean and obscure a manner, and preferred it in before the splendor and pomp of the rich and great; the poor ought to bear a low condition with patience and contentednefs, and the rich not to undervalue and despise it. And if ever the rich attain happiness, they must be poor in spirit, and sit loose to what they possess..
The Jews were in a general expectation of the At the ex. pected time, appearing of the Messiah at the time of his birth,
**as appears from the antient and general tradition, that at the end of the second two thousand years, the Messias should appear. And likewise from that particular computation of the Jewish doctors, not long before our Saviour's coming; who upon a solemn debate of that matter, did determine the Messias would come within fifty years, which is confirmed from the great jealousy which Herod had concerning a king of the Jews, that was expected about that
time to be born. And from the testimony of Josephus, who
tells us, the Jews rebelled against the Romans, being encou.:raged thereto by a celebrated prophecy in their scriptures, that
about that time a famous prince should be born among them, that should have dominion over all the earth. And that
The heathen world was in expectation of such an appea
rance, is evident from the famous testimonies of two eminent i Roman historians. Suetonius says, there was an antient and
general opinion famous throughout all the eastern parts; that the fates had determined, that there should come out of Judea those that should govern the world. Which words seem to be a verbal translation of that prophecy, out of Judah should come the ruler. Tacitus writes, that a great many were poffessed with a persuasion, that it was contained in the antient books of the priests
, and at that very time the east 3 should prevail, and that they who should govern
the world, were to come out of Judea. Which phrase, that the east hould prevail, refers to that title given the Messias by the prophet, who says, he is called the man whose name is the East *.
When our Saviour appeared in the world, he scattered and dispelled that cloud of idolatry, and that corrup
tion of manners, which had fatally overspread it : e he became a light to lighten the Gentiles, as he tages to
was the glory of his people Israel. Whence under the conduct of such a guide, we cannot fail of acquiring the knowledge of God's will in this world, and the comfortable expectation of life everlasting in the world to come; whether we consider the dignity and excellency of his person, the clearness and perfection of his precepts, or the brightness of his own example, together with the encouragements of gracious assistances and glorious rewards, which he hath promised to all those, that engage and persevere in his service : for, he who lay in the bolom of the Father, and had the Spirit communicated to him without measure, in whom dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily, could not want a perfect knowledge of what was most agreeable to the divine will; and
consequently * For though we translate it Branch, yet the Hebrew word fignifies both; and may be rendered the one as well as the other.
consequently we must have abundant reason to put our trust
and confidence in that method of attaining falva- tam Sure means of tion he hath discovered; and we cannot failof fucsalvation.
·cess, if we are not wanting to ourselves in our neglect thereof. It directs us to the true object of worship, and gives us rational and worthy notions of that being we are the obliged to adore ; and is most fitly adapted to raise our na- 430 tures to the greatest improvement they are capable of in this un world. VIII. Our Saviour's method to prevent our falling into fin
fulactions, was to lay a restraint upon our thoughts, Christ draws which lead to them, and to oblige us to govern our w
looks, which give birth to our thoughts: to obviate the all those evils which proceed from an inordinate desire of rich
es, he hath discovered to us that admirable temper she By precept. of mind distinguished in his gospel by poverty of the fpirit, which maketh us even sit loose to the good things we to possess: to keep us at a distance from the temptations of lying and detraction, he hath forbid all idle words, that the care to do avoid them might secure us from falling into those greater the crimes. To hinder the fatal effects of anger and revenge, he he hath nipped these passions in the bud, by commanding us to love our enemies, and to do good to them that hurt us. To facilitate the virtue of patience, so necessary in this vale of tears, he hath manifested to us the treasures that are hid in adversity, and the advantage of being persecuted for his fake; som that what the world calls misfortune and calamity, often proved the blessed occasion of making us happy both in this and the next life. Blessed are they that mourn, blessed are they that are persecuted. And to make us quiet and easy in ourselves, and gentle to others, he requireth us to have a quick h sense of our own weaknesses and defects, and readily to condescend to the lowest offices for the good of our distressed brethren. All which commands he enforces by his own example ;
for, in his own person, he hath recommended to By example.
sample. us the most hard and difficult, as well as those that are most usefuland serviceable. To teach us piety and devotion he frequently retired, and spent whole nights in prayer; and
from worldly occurrences raised matter for spiritual thoughts; and conformed not only to divine institutions, but to human appointments that tended to promote virtue. That we mightlearn humility, this prince of glory condescended to the poverty of a stable; this Wisdom of the Father became dunib, and was reduced to the simplicity of an infant; he spent thirty years of his life in retirement, subject to his parents, and unknown to the world: that he might be ready to exercise universal charity to the bodies and souls of men ; the whole course of his life was employed in good works : that we might suppress all ambitious desires, he refused the offer of the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and when the people would have made him a king, he withdrew, and they knew not where to find him out : that we might be obedient to government, he paid tribute, though he · was free from any such obligation, and was forced to work a miracle to perform it: that we might live above the world, he chose to have no part nor share in the possessions of it, the Son of man not having where to lay his head; he was perfectly contented in his mean circumstances, that in all our sufferings we might be resigned to the will of God; in his bitter agony he renounced the strongest inclination of nature, and submitted to the appointment of the Almighty : that a regard to the judgment of the world might not prevail upon us to transgress the laws of God, he made himself of no reputation ; and in order to do good to mankind, was contented to be esteemed one of the worst of men; a magici; n, an impostor, a friend and companion of publicans and sinners, and a seducer of the people. And for us to resist all temptations to anger, and preserve an evenness of mind under all provocations, he bore with the dulness and flowness of his disciples, both in their understanding and believing what he plainly taught, and answered the sharpeft reproaches of his enemies with calm arguments and modeít silence, never bringing a railing accusation instead of a sound reason. That we might practise that difficult duty of loving our enemies, h most earnestly for his, even when he felt the most cruel effects of their malice, and imputed it to their ignorance, Father, fays he, forgive them, för they know not what they do ; and
learn from hence.
that he might excite us to the performance of our duty, has offered pardon and forgiveness of what is past, and perfect reconciliation to God by the merits of his death and passion, provided we return to him by sincere repentance, faith, and obedience to his law.
He strengthens us at present, and enables us to
do our duty, by enlightning our dark minds, by exciting our wills to that which is good, and by raising our courage under difficulties, dangers, and temptations: he raises our fears by the threatenings of eternal punishment in the next life, and encourages our hopes by the promises of everlasting rewards to the whole man, body and soul; which are the most powerful considerations to take men off from sin, and bring them to goodness, whereby they may obtain eternal life.
Wherefore, it should be our greatest care to ought to please him, by a constant regard to his command
ments, and an endeavour to prevail on others to do
the fame : by making a daily progress in virtue and piety, that we may be conformed to the likeness of that beloved object; by setting a great value upon all means and opportunities of conversing with him ; in prayer and meditation, in hearing his word, and receiving the blessed tokens of his love, which he hath left us in the blessed Sacrament: by being more provoked to hear his holy name blasphemed, than for any reproach, that can be cast upon ourselves: by longing for his glorious appearing, that we may enjoy him without interruption to all eternity, in the glory of God the Father.
X. This fame Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God; begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, very God of very God; the Prince of glory, the heir of everlasting bliss, the promised Messias ; who taking the nature of man, yet being in that nature still the same person he was before, was subject to all those frailties and infirmities, those outward injuries and violent impresfions, to which mortality is liable; his whole life was full of sufferings, from his birth in the stable to his death
the cross; but particularly in his last bitter passion, he suffered most exquisite pains and torments in his body; and inexpres