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whether it be proved or not proved, whether by chance or deliberation, whether wisely or by occasion, so that faith be produced by the instrument, and love by faith, God's work is done, and so is ours. For if St. Paul rejoiced that Christ was preached, though by the envy of peevish persons; certainly God will not reject an excellent product, because it came from a weak and sickly parent: and he that brings good out of evil, and rejoices in that good, having first triumphed upon the evil, will certainly take delight in the faith of the most ignorant persons, which his own grace hath produced out of innocent, though insufficient, beginnings. It was folly in Naaman to refuse to be cured, because he was to recover only by washing in Jordan. The more incompetent the means is, the greater is the glory of God, who hath produced waters from a rock, and fire from the collision of a sponge and wool; and it is certain, the end, unless it be in products merely natural, does not take its estimate and degrees from the external means. Grace does miracles, and the productions of the Spirit in respect of its instruments are equivocal, extraordinary, and supernatural; and ignorant persons believe as strongly, though they know not why, and love God as heartily, as greater spirits and more excellent understandings: and when God pleases, or if he sees it expedient, he will do to others as to Nathanael, give them greater arguments and better instruments for the confirmation and heightening of their faith, than they had for the first production.
8. When Jesus had chosen these few disciples to be witnesses of succeeding accidents, every one of which was to be a probation of his mission and divinity, he entered into the theatre of the world at a marriage feast, which he now first hallowed to a sacramental signification, and made to become mysterious : he now began to choose his spouse out from the communities of the world, and did mean to endear her by unions ineffable and glorious, and consign the sacrament by his blood, which he first gave in a secret representment, and afterwards in letter and apparent effusion. And although the holy Jesus did in his own person consecrate celibate, and abstinence, and chastity in his mother's : yet, by his presence, he also hallowed marriage, and made it honourable, not only in civil account and the rites of heraldry, but in a spiritual sense, he having new sublimed it by making it a sacramental representment of the union of Christ and his spouse, the church. And all married persons should do well to remember what the conjugal society does represent, and not break the matrimonial bond, which is a mysterious ligament of Christ and his church; for whoever dissolves the sacredness of the mystery, and unhallows the vow by violence and impurity, he dissolves his relation to Christ. To break faith with a wife or husband is a divorce from Jesus, and that is a separation from all possibilities of felicity. In the time of the Mosaical statutes, to violate marriage was to do injustice and dishonour, and a breach to the sanctions of nature, or the first constitutions : but two bands more are added in the Gospel, to make marriage more sacred. For now our bodies are made “ temples of the Holy Ghost,” and the rite of marriage is made significant and sacramental, and every act of adultery is profanation and irreligion; it desecrates a temple, and deflowers a mystery.
9. The married pair were holy, but poor, and they wanted wine; and the blessed Virgin-mother, pitying the affront of the young man, complained to Jesus of the want; and Jesus gave her an answer, which promised no satisfaction to her purposes. For now that Jesus had lived thirty years, and done in person nothing answerable to his glorious birth, and the miraculous accidents of his person, she longed till the time came, in which he was to manifest himself by actions as miraculous as the star of his birth : she knew, by the rejecting of his trade, and his going abroad, and probably by his own discourse to her, that the time was near; and the forwardness of her love and holy desires possibly might go some minutes before his own precise limit. However, Jesus answered to this purpose, to show, that the work he was to do, was done not to satisfy her importunity, which is not occasion enough for a miracle, but to prosecute the great work of Divine designation. For, in works spiritual and religious, all exterior relation ceases. The world's order, and the manner of our nature, and the infirmities of our person, have produced societies, and they have been the parents of relation ; and God hath tied them fast by the knots of duty, and made the duty the occasion and opportunities of reward : but in actions spiritual, in which we relate to God, our relations are founded upon the Spirit, and therefore we must do our duties upon considerations separate and spiritual, but never suffer temporal relations to impede our religious duties. Christian charity is a higher thing than to be confined within the terms of dependence and correlation b, and those endearments, which leagues, or nature, or society, have made, pass into spiritual, and, like stars in the presence of the sun, appear not, when the heights of the Spirit are in place. Where duty hath prepared special instances, there we must, for religion's sake, promote them; but, even to our parents or our children, the charities of religion ought to be greater than the affections of society: and though we are bound, in all offices exterior, to prefer our relatives before others, because that is made a duty; yet to purposes spiritual, all persons eminently holy put on the efficacy of the same relations, and pass a duty upon us of religious affections.
10. At the command of Jesus the water-pots were filled with water, and the water was, by his Divine power, turned into wine; where the different economy of God and the world is highly observable. “Every man sets forth good wine at first, and then the worse :” but God not only turns the water into wine, but into such wine, that the last draught is most pleasant. The world presents us with fair language, promising hopes, convenient fortunes, pompous honours, and these are the outsides of the bole; but when it is swallowed, these dissolve in the instant, and there remains bitterness, and the malignity of coloquinteda. Every sin smiles in the first address, and carries light in the face, and honey in the lip; but “ when we have well drunk, then comes that which is worse," a whip with six strings, fears and terrors of conscience, and shame and displeasure, and a caitive disposition, and diffidence in the day of death. But when, after the manner of the purifying of the Christians, we fill our waterpots with water, watering our couch with our tears, and moistening our cheeks with the perpetual distillations of repentance; then Christ turns our water into wine; first penitents, and then communicants; first waters of sorrow, and then the wine of the chalice ; first the justifications of
5 Συγγένεια γαρ οικειοτέρα ή προς δίκαιοσύνης και πάσαν άλλην αρετήν ομιλία.--Philo in Exposit. General,
correction, and then the sanctifications of the sacrament, and the effects of the Divine power, joy, and peace, and serenity, hopes full of confidence, and confidence without shame, and boldness without presumption : for “ Jesus keeps the best wine till the last;" not only because of the direct reservations of the highest joys till the nearer approaches of glory, but also because our relishes are higher after a long fruition than at the first essays; such being the nature of grace, that it increases in relish as it does in fruition, every part of grace being new duty and new reward.
THE PRAYER. O eternal and ever-blessed Jesu, who didst choose disciples
to be witnesses of thy life and miracles, so adopting man into a participation of thy great employment of bringing us to heaven by the means of a holy doctrine; be pleased to give me thy grace, that I may love and revere their persons, whom thou hast set over me, and follow their faith, and imitate their lives, while they imitate thee; and that I also, in my capacity and proportion, may do some of the meaner offices of spiritual building, by prayers, and by holy discourses, and fraternal correption, and friendly exhortations, doing advantages to such souls, with whom I shall converse. And since thou wert pleased to enter upon the stage of the world with the commencement of mercy and a miracle, be pleased to visit my soul with thy miraculous grace, turn my water into wine, my natural desires into supernatural perfections, and let my sorrows be turned into joys, my sins into virtuous habits, the weaknesses of humanity into communications of the Divine nature; that since thou“ keepest the best unto the last," I may, by thy assistance, grow from grace to grace, till thy gifts be turned to reward, and thy graces to participation of thy glory, 0 eternal and ever-blessed Jesu. Amen.
1. NATHANAEL's faith was produced by an argument not demonstrative, not certainly concluding; Christ knew him when he saw him first, and he believed him to be the Messias : his faith was excellent, whatever the argument was. And I believe a God, because the sun is a glorious body; or because of the variety of plants, or the fabric and rare contexture of a man's eye: I may as fully assent to the conclusion, as if my belief dwelt upon the demonstrations made by the prince of philosophers in the eighth of his physics and twelfth of his metaphysics. This I premise as an inlet into the consideration concerning the faith of ignorant persons. For if we consider, upon what easy terms most of us now are Christians, we may possibly suspect, that either faith hath but little excellence in it, or we but little faith, or that we are mistaken generally in its definition. For we are born of Christian parents, made Christians at ten days old, interrogated concerning the articles of our faith by way of anticipation, even then when we understand not the difference between the sun and a tallow-candle : from thence we are taught to say our catechism, as we are taught to speak, when we have no reason to judge, no discourse to discern, no arguments to contest against a proposition, in case we be catechized into false doctrine; and all that is put to us we believe infinitely, and without choice, as children use not to choose their language. And as our children are made Christians, just so are thousand others made Mahumetans, with the same necessity, the same facility. So that, thus far, there is little thanks due to us for believing the Christian creed; it was indifferent to us at first, and at last our education had so possessed us, and our interest, and our no temptation to the contrary, that as we were disposed into this condition by Providence, so we remain in it without praise or excellence. For as our beginnings are inevitable, so our progress is imperfect and insufficient; and what we began by education, we retain only by custom: and if we be instructed in some slighter arguments to maintain the sect