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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 inquest 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, where 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 believed ; though, before his days, there were some opinions to the contrary, but certainly neither so pious, nor so reasonable. For to her alone did not the punishment of Eve extend, that “ in sorrow she should bring forth :" for where nothing of sin was an ingredient, there misery cannot cohabit. For though amongst the daughters of men many conceptions are innocent and holy, being sanctified by the word of God and prayer, hallowed by marriage, designed by prudence, seasoned by temperance, conducted by religion towards a just, a hallowed, and a holy end, and yet their productions are in sorrow; yet this of the blessed Virgin might be otherwise, because here sin was no relative, and neither was in the principle nor the derivative, in the act nor in the habit, in the root nor in the branch : there was nothing in this but the sanctification of a virgin's womb, and that could not be the parent of sorrow, especially that gate not having been opened, by which the curse always entered. And as to conceive by the Holy Ghost was glorious, so to bring forth any of “ the fruits of the Spirit” is joyful, and full of felicities. And he that came from his grave fast tied with a stone and signature, and into the college of apostles, “ the doors being shut,” and into the glories of his Father through the solid orbs of all the firmament, came also (as the church piously believes) into the world so, without doing violence to the virginal and pure body of his mother; that he did also leave her virginity entire, to be as a seal, that none might open the gate of that sanctuary, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, “ This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord God of Israel hath entered by it, therefore it shall be shut f.”
b O Αύγουστος υπηρετείται το εν Βηθλεέμ τόκω δια του προστάγματος της άσοygaoñs.-S. Chrysost. Hom. 8. in Matth.
c Vide Suidam in Verbo απογραφή. Βio. lib. vi. έπεμψεν άλλους άλλη τα τε των ιδιωτών και τα των πόλεων απογραψομένους.
. d Juxta propheticum illud, Isa. xxxiii. 16. Olmos oixńca šv ütnam onnaio πέτρας ισχυράς άρτος δοθήσεται αυτώ, apud LΧΧ. Sed hanc periodum Judaei eraserunt ex Hebræo textu. Sic et Symmachus, ägtos 8. Túcstas, mysticè Bethlehem, sive Domus panis, indigitatur.
e Vide Waddingum, p. 270.
4. Although all the world were concerned in the birth of this great Prince, yet I find no story of any one that ministered at it, save only angels, who knew their duty to their Lord, and the great interests of that person; whom, as soon as he was born, they presented to his mother, who could not but receive him with a joy next to the rejoicings of glory and beatific vision, seeing him to be born her son, who was the Son of God, of greater beauty than the sun, purer than angels, more loving than the seraphims, as dear
s Ezek. xliv. 2.
as the eye and heart of God, where he was from eternity engraven, his beloved and his only-begotten.
5. When the virgin-mother now felt the first tenderness and yearnings of a mother's bowels, and saw the Saviour of the world born, poor as her fortunes could represent him, naked as the innocence of Adam, she took him, and “wrapt him in swaddling-clothes ;” and after she had a while cradled him in her arms, she “ laid him in a manger;" for so was the design of his humility; that as the last scene of his life was represented among thieves, so the first was amongst beasts, the sheep and the oxen; according to that mysterious hymn of the prophet Habakkuk, “ His brightness was as the light; he had hors coming out of his hand, and there was the hiding of his power."
6. But this place, which was one of the great instances of his humility, grew to be as venerable as became an instrumenth; and it was consecrated into a church, the crib into an altar, where first lay that “ Lamb of God," which afterwards was sacrificed for the sins of all the world. And when Adrian, the emperor, who intended a great despite to it, built a temple to Venus and Adonis in that place, where the holy virgin - mother, and her more holy Son, were humbly laid; even so he could not obtain, but that, even amongst the Gentile inhabitants of the neighbouring countries, it was held in an account far above scandal and contempt. For God can ennoble even the meanest of creatures, especially if it be but a relative and instrumental to religion, higher than the injuries of scoffers and malicious persons. But it was then a temple full of religion, full of glory, when angels were the ministers, the holy Virgin was the worshipper, and Christ the Deity.
Ad SECTION III.
Considerations upon the Birth of our Blessed Saviour Jesus.
1. ALTHOUGH the blessed Jesus desired, with the ardency of an inflamed love, to be born, and to finish the
8 Hab. iii. 4. In medio animalium cognosceris.-Sic LXX. h Ven. Beda de Locis Sanctis, c. 8. S. Hieron. epist. 48.
work of our redemption ; yet he did not prevent' the period of nature, nor break the laws of the womb, and antedate his own sanctions, which he had established for ever. He stayed nine months, and then brake forth “ as a giant joyful to run his course. For premature and hasty actions, and such counsels, as know not how to expect the times appointed in God's decree, are like hasty fruit, or a young person snatched away in his florid age, sad and untimely. He that hastens to enjoy his wish before the time, raises his own expectation, and yet makes it unpleasant by impatience, and loseth the pleasure of the fruition when it comes, because he hath made his desires bigger than the thing can satisfy. He that must eat an hour before his time, gives probation of his intemperance or his weakness; and if we dare not trust God with the circumstance of the event, and stay his leisure, either we disrepute the infinity of his wisdom, or give clear demonstration of our own vanity.
2. When God descended to earth, he chose to be born in the suburbs and retirement of a small town, but he was pleased to die at Jerusalem, the metropolis of Judæa; which chides our shame and pride, who are willing to publish our gaieties in piazzas and the corners of the streets of most populous places; but our defects, and the instruments of our humiliation, we carry into deserts, and cover with the night, and hide them under ground, thinking no secrecy dark enough to hide our shame, nor any theatre large enough to behold our pompous vanities; for so we make provisions for pride, and take great care to exclude humility.
3. When the holy Virgin now perceived, that the expectation of the nations was arrived at the very doors of revelation and entrance into the world, she brought forth the holy Jesus, who, like light through transparent glass, passed through, or a ripe pomegranate from a fruitful tree, fell to the earth, without doing violence to its nurse and parent. She had no ministers to attend but angels, and neither her poverty nor her piety would permit her to provide other nurses ; but herself did the offices of a tender and pious parent. She kissed him, and worshipped him, and thanked him that he would be born of her, and she suckled him, and bound bim in her arms and swaddling-bands; and when she had represented to God her first scene of joy and eucharist, she softly laid him in the manger, till her desires and his own necessities called her to take him, and to rock him softly in her arms : and from this deportment she read a lecture of piety and maternal care, which mothers should perform toward their children when they are born, not to neglect any of that duty, which nature and maternal piety requires.
4. Jesus was pleased to be born of a poor mother, in a poor place, in a cold winter's night, far from home, amongst strangers, with all the circumstances of humility and poverty. And no man will have cause to complain of his coarse robe, if he remembers the swaddling-clothes of this holy Child; nor to be disquieted at his hard bed, when he considers Jesus laid in a manger; nor to be discontented at his thin table, when he calls to.mind, the King of heaven and earth was fed with a little breast-milk. But since the eternal wisdom of the Father, who“ knew to choose the good, and refuse the evil,” did choose a life of poverty, it gives us demonstration, that riches and honours, those idols of the world's esteem, are so far from creating true felicities, that they are not of themselves eligible in the number of good things: however, no man is to be ashamed of innocent poverty, of which many wise men make vows, and of which the holy Jesus made election, and his apostles after him made public profession. And if any man will choose and delight in the affluence of temporal good things, suffering himself to be transported with caitive affections in the pleasures of every day, he well make a question, whether he shall speed as well hereafteri; since God's usual method is, that they only, who follow Christ here, shall be with him for ever.
5. The condition of the person who was born, is here of greatest consideration. For he that cried in the manger, that sucked the paps of a woman, that hath exposed himself to poverty and a world of inconveniences, is “ the Son of the living God,” of the same substance with his father, begotten before all ages, before the morning stars; he is God eternal. He is also, by reason of the personal union of
1 οίει συ τους θανόντας, ώ Νικήρατε, τρυφής απάσης μεταλαβόντας εν βίω, Πεφυγέναι hồ SEĩay ;-Diphilus,