Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

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 circumcision 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 entertainment and communion. 4. And then he took upon 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 boly Babe unto his Father; and indeed that he, who had no 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.

a "ος ποθ' έής πάτρης εξήγαγε δίον 'Αβραάμ,

Αυτές απ' ουρανόθεν κελετ' ανέρα παντί συν οίκω
Σάρκο αποσυλήσαι πόσθης απο' και β' ετέλεσσεν.

Euseb. I. ix. c. 22. frapar. Erangel.

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 up 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 dim, with looking farther, and apprehending greater distances. She also pro

[blocks in formation]

phesied, “

" and gave thanks unto the Lord. But Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things, which were spoken of bin.”

Ad SECTION V.

Considerations upon the Circumcision of the holy Child Jesus.

1. When eight days were come, the holy Jesus was circumcised, and shed the first fruits of his blood; offering them to God, like the prelibation of a sacrifice, and earnest of the great seas of effusion designed for his passion, not for the expiation of any stain himself had contracted; for he was spotless as the face of the sun, and had contracted no wrinkle from the aged and polluted brow of Adam: but it was an act of obedience, and yet of choice and voluntary susception, to which no obligation had passed upon him in the condition of his own person. For, as he was included in the verge of Abraham's posterity, and had put on the common outside of his nation, his parents had intimation enough to pass upon him the sacrament of the national covenant, and it became an act of excellent obedience : but because he was a person extraordinary, and exempt from the reasons of circumcision, and himself in person was to give period to the rite, therefore it was an act of choice in him, and in both the capacities becomes a precedent of duty to us; in the first, of obedience ; in the second, of humility.

2. But it is considerable, that the holy Jesus, who might bave pleaded his exemption, especially in a matter of pain and dishonour, yet chose that way, which was more severe and regular; so teaching us to be strict in our duties, and sparing in the rights of privilege and dispensation. We pretend every indisposition of body to excuse us from penal duties, from fasting, from going to church ; and instantly we satisfy ourselves with saying, “God will have mercy, and not sacrifice;” so making ourselves judges of our own privileges, in which commonly we are parties against God, and therefore likely to pass unequal sentence. It is not an easy argument, that will bring us to the severities and rigours of duty; but we snatch at occasions of dispensation, and therefore possibly may mistake the justice of the opportunities by the importunities of our desires. However, if this too much easiness be, in any case, excusable from sin, yet, in all cases, it is an argument of infirmity; and the regular observation of the commandment is the surer way to perfection. For not every inconvenience of body is fit to be pleaded against the inconvenience of losing spiritual advantages, but only such, which upon prudent account does intrench upon the laws of charity; or such, whose consequent is likely to be impediment of a duty in a greater degree of loss, than the present omission. For the spirit being in many perfections more eminent than the body, all spiritual improvements have the same proportions; so that, if we were just estimators of things, it ought not to be less than a great incommodity to the body, which we mean to prevent by the loss of a spiritual benefit, or the omission of a duty: he were very improvident, who would lose a finger for the good husbandry of saving a ducat; and it would be an unhandsome excuse from the duties of repentance, to pretend care of the body. The proportions and degrees of this are so nice, and of so difficult determination, that men are more apt to untie the girdle of discipline with the loose hands of dispensation and excuse, than to strain her too hard by the strictures and bindings of severity; but the error were the surer on this side.

3. The blessed Jesus refused not the signature of this bloody covenant, though it were the character of a sinner ; and did sacramentally rescind the impure reliques of Adam, and the contractions of evil customs; which was the greatest descent of humility, that is imaginable, that he should put himself to pain to be reckoned amongst sinners, and to have their sacraments and their protestations, though his innocence was purer than the flames of cherubim. But we use arts to seem more righteous than we are, desiring rather to be accounted holy, than to be so; as thinking the vanity of reputation more useful to us, than the happiness of a remote and far distant eternity. But if (as it is said) circumcision was ordained, besides the signing of the covenant, to abolish the guilt of original sin, we are willing to confess that; it being no act of humiliation to confess a crime, that all the world is equally guilty of, that could not be avoided by our timeliest industry, and that serves us for so many ends in the

excuse and minoration of our actual impieties : so that, as Diogenes trampled upon Plato's pride with a greater fastuousness and humorous ostentation; so we do with original sin, declaim against it bitterly, to save the others harmless, and are free in the publication of this, that we may be instructed how to conceal the actual. The blessed Jesus had in him no principle of sin, original nor actual; and therefore this designation of his, in submitting himself to the bloody covenant of circumcision, which was a just express and sacramental abscission of it, was an act of glorious humility ; yet our charging of ourselves so promptly with Adam's fault, whatever truth it may have in the strictness of theology, hath (forsitan) but an ill end in morality; and so I now consider it, without any reflection upon the precise question.

4. For though the fall of Adam lost to him all those supernatural assistances, which God put into our nature by way

of grace; yet it is by accident, that we are more prone to many sins than we are to virtue. Adam's sin did discompose his understanding and affections, and every sin we do, does still make us more unreasonable, more violent, more sensual, more apt still to the multiplication of the same or the like actions : the first rebellion of the inferior faculties against the will and understanding, and every victory the flesh gets over the spirit, makes the inferior insolent, strong, tumultuous, domineering, and triumphant, upon the proportionable ruins of the spirit, blinding our reason and binding our will; and all these violations of our powers are increased by the perpetual ill customs, and false principles, and ridiculous guises of the world; which makes the later ages to be worse than the former“, unless some other accident do intervene, to stop the ruin and declension of virtue; such as are God's judgments, the sending of prophets, new imposition of laws, messages from heaven, diviner institutions, such as in particular was the great discipline of Christianity. And even in this sense here is origination enough for sin, and impairing of the reasonable faculties of human souls, without charging our faults upon Adam.

5. But besides this, God, who hath propounded to man glorious conditions, and designed him to an excellent state

• Τους παλαιούς και εγγύς θεών γεγονότας, βελτιστους τε όντας φύσει, και τον άριστον i{nxóras Bior, ás xquosūv yévos vonileogan.-Porphyr. lib. iv. de non Esu Animalium.

« ZurückWeiter »