Obrazy na stronie

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.


d 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 terror's 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

Eastern magi by a star. For the Gospel is of universal dissemination, not confined within the limits of a national prerogative, but catholic and diffused. As God's love was, so was the dispensation of it, “ without respect of persons :" for all, being included under the curse of sin, were to him equal and indifferent, undistinguishable objects of mercy. And Jesus, descended of the Jews, was also “ the expectation of the Gentiles," and therefore communicated to all : the grace of God being like the air we breathe; and “ it hath appeared to all mena,” saith St. Paul; but the conveyances and communications of it were different, in the degrees of clarity and illustration. The angel told the shepherds the story of the nativity plainly and literally : the star invited the wise men by its rareness and preternatural apparition; to which also, as by a footpath, they had been led by the prophecy of Balaam.

2. But here first the grace of God prevents us; without him we can do nothing; he lays the first stone in every spiritual building, and then expects, by that strength he first gave us, that we make the superstructures. But as a stone, thrown into a river, first moves the water, and disturbs its surface into a circle, and then its own force wafts the neighbouring drops into a larger figure by its proper weight; so is the grace of God the first principle of our spiritual motion ; and when it moves us into its own figure, and hath actuated and ennobled our natural powers by the influence of that first incentive, we continue the motion, and enlarge the progress. But as the circle on the face of the waters grows weaker, till it hath smoothed itself into a natural and even current, unless the force be renewed or continued; so does all our natural endeavour, when first set a-work by God's preventing grace, decline to the imperfection of its own kind, unless the same force be made energetical and operative, by the continuation and renewing of the same supernatural influence. 3. And therefore the Eastern magi, being first raised

up into wonder and curiosity by the apparition of the star, were very far from finding Jesus by such general and indefinite significations ; but then the goodness of God's grace increased its own influence; for an inspiration from the Spirit

a Tit, ii. 11.

of God admonished them to observe the star, showed the star, that they might find it, taught them to acknowledge it", instructed them to understand its purpose, and invited them to follow it, and never left them till they had found the holy Jesus. Thus also God deals with us, He gives us the first grace, and adds the second; he enlightens our understandings, and actuates our faculties, and sweetly allures us by the proposition of rewards, and wounds us with the arrows of his love, and inflames us with fire from heaven; ever giving us new assistances, or increasing the old, refreshing us with comforts, or arming us with patience; sometimes stirring our affections by the lights held out to our understanding, sometimes bringing confirmation to our understanding by the motion of our affections, till, by variety of means, we at last arrive at Bethlehem, in the service and entertainments of the holy Jesus; which we shall certainly do, if we follow the invitations of grace and exterior assistances, which are given us to instruct us, to help us, and to invite us, but not to force our endeavours and co-operations.

4. As it was an unsearchable wisdom, so it was an unmeasurable grace of providence and dispensation, which God did exhibit to the wise men; to them, as to all men, disposing the ministries of his grace sweetly, and by proportion to the capacities of the person suscipient. For God called the Gentiles by such means, which their customs and learning had made prompt and easy. For these magi were great philosophers and astronomers, and therefore God sent a miraculous star, to invite and lead them to a new and more glorious light, the lights of grace and glory. And God so blessed them in following the star, to which their innocent curiosity and national customs were apt to lead them, that their custom was changed to grace, and their learning heightened with inspiration ; and God crowned all with a spiritual and glorious event. It was not much unlike, which God did to the princes and diviners among the Philistines, who sent the ark back with five golden emrods and five golden mice; an act proportionable to the custom and sense of their nation and religion: yet God accepted their opinion

b Dedit intellectum qni præstitit signum.-S. Leo, Ser. 1. de Epiph,

[ocr errors]

and divination to the utmost end they designed it, and took the plagues of emrods and mice from them. For oftentimes the custom or the philosophy of the opinions of a nation äre made instrumental, through God's acceptance, to ends higher than they can produce by their own energy and intendment. And thus the astrological divinations of the magi were turned into the order of a greater design than the whole art could promise, their employment being altered into grace, and nature into a miracle. But then, when the wise men were brought by this means, and had seen Jesus, then God takes ways more immediate and proportionable to the kingdom of grace; the next time, God speaks to them by an angel. For so is God's usual manner, to bring us to him ; first, by ways agreeable to us; and then to increase, by ways agreeable to himself. And when he hath furnished us with new capacities, he gives new lights, in order to more perfect employments : and, “ To him that hath, shall be given full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over;" the eternal kindness of God being like the sea, which delights to run in its old channel, and to fill the hollownesses of the earth, which itself hath made, and hath once watered.

5. This star, which conducted the wise men to Bethlehem, (if, at least, it was properly a star, and not an angel,) was set in its place to be seen by all ; but was not observed, or not understood, nor its message obeyed, by any but the three wise men. And indeed no man hath cause to complain of God, as if ever he would be deficient in assistances necessary to his service; but first the grace of God separates us from the common condition of incapacity and indisposition, and then we separate ourselves one from another by the use or neglect of this grace; and God doing his part to us, hath cause to complain of us, who neglect that which is our portion of the work. And, however even the issues and the kindnesses of God's predestination and antecedent mercy do very much toward the making the grace to be effective of its purpose, yet the manner of all those influences and operations being moral, persuasive, reasonable, and divisible, by concourse of various circumstances, the cause and the effect are brought nearer and nearer, in various

suscipients; but not brought so close together, but that God expects us to do something towards it'; so that we may say, with St. Paul, “ It is not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” And at the same time, when, by reason of our co-operation, we actuate and improve God's grace, and become distinguished from other persons more negligent under the same opportunities, God is he who also does distinguish us by the proportions and circumstantiate applications of his grace to every singular capacity; that we may be careful not to neglect the grace, and yet to return the entire glory to God.

6. Although God, to second the generous design of these wise personages in their inquiry of the new prince, made the star to guide them through the difficulties of their journey; yet when they came to Jerusalem, the star disappeared; God 80 resolving to try their faith, and the activity of their desires; to remonstrate to them that God is the Lord of all his creatures, and a voluntary dispenser of his own favours, and can as well take them away as indulge them; and to engage them upon the use of ordinary means and ministries, when they are to be had: for now the extraordinary and miraculous guide for a time did cease; that they, being at Jerusalem, might inquire of them, whose office and profession of sacred mysteries did oblige them to publish the Messias. For God is so great a lover of order", so regular and certain an exactor of us to use those ordinary ministries of his own appointing, that he, having used the extraordinary but as architects do frames of wood, to support the arches till they be built, takes them away when the work is ready, and leaves us to those other of his designation; and hath given such efficacy to these, that they are as persuasive and operative as a miracle ; and St. Paul's sermon would convert as many, as if Moses should rise from the grave.

And now the doctrines of Christianity have not only the same truth, but the same evidence and virtue also, they had in the midst


'Αλλ' όταν
Σπεύδη τις, αυτός χω θεός συνάπτεται.

Sze toTs Savoõot xshpat’ budèv åpenei.Æschyl. Persæ. 847. Blomf. 1 Θεού δε δώρόν έστιν ευτυχεϊν βροτούς.-Εschyl. επτά επί Θήβ.--621.

• Τούτο γάρ έστιν αυτή και το έιναι σοφία, το εν τάξει και τελειότητα προάγειν την ποίησιν ώστε συνεισιέναι άλλήλαις σοφίαν, και τάξιν, και τελειότητα.-Hierocl. Needh.

p. 18.

« PoprzedniaDalej »