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undeniable Evidence of a Superior, that is of a Divine, Power. All which our Lord hath very elegantly argued at the one and two and twentieth Verses, under the Similitude of a Man, standing upon his own defence, and guarding the Wealth under his Custody. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, bis Goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his Spoils.
Lastly, Since to People of such perverse Dispositions, nothing, though never so improbable in it felf, will seem unfit to be objected ; if any of them should yet entertain an Imagination so extravagant and wild, as that This might still be done, by some Collusion and private Confent ; And that, how opposite soever our Saviour's Miracles might appear to the World, yet there was underhand a very good agreement between Him and this Prince of Darkness, and secretly they understood one another well enough: Therefore to all the rest he adds a Fourth Argument, containing the direct Contrariety of their Ends, and Interests, and the utter Impossibility of ever reconciling them. Where Men combine together to impose upon the World, they only chuse different Means, but unite together in the same Design. And this is, as Robbers take feveral Roads for a Blind, but meet at last in one place. But now, between Christ and Beelzebub there can be no such Contrivance, or Accommodation. Their Ends, as well as the Methods that lead to them, are the most distant that can be ; the most destructive of one another, of any that ever were. Here is a rooted and fix'd Enmity. The One cannot be safe, except in the ruin of the Other ; And the Quarrel is so high, that every body must be in one of the Parties. No Favour, no countenancing of the One, nay no Indifference or Neutrality is possible, and consistent with Friendship to the Other. So says the 23d Verse expresly. He that is not with me is against me, and be that gathereth not with me scattereth.
To these Reasons, in his own Vindication, our Lord subjoins a Parabolical Description of the woful Estate of those Impenitent Jews, who were but the worse for all the Means of Grace vouchsafed them; and made no other use of the Miracles and Doctrine of our Saviour, than to add proportionably to their own Misery and Condemnation. While the Devil was driven out of Others, he got faster and stronger hold of Them; and therefore, as their Sin and Obstinacy was greater now than ever: So the Calamity and Mischief consequent to it, would be more dismal and dreadful, than any that had ever befallen that Nation before. As the Leprosy of Naaman clave to Gehazi, so these wicked Spirits, so soon as they were dislodged in one place, betook themselves to another. The Pharisees were a convenient retreat for them ; In their Hearts they found all things to their Wish, as if they had been Lodgings prepared, and put into that posture, on purpose to entertain them.
These Arguments of our Blessed Saviour were so full, and so convincing; and the Judgment he passed upon those obstinate Wretches, so just and so moving; that, though we are not told of any great Impression upon Them; yet one of the Standers by, who heard them without prejudice, and considered the weight and power
of what had been said, felt her self so lively affected, as immediately to cry out with Rapture and Admiration, Blefed is the Womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.
This is a Natural way of extolling any ones Excellency, by proclaiming the Happiness of their Parents. For Parents know no greater Felicity, that Heaven can give in this World, than wise and virtuous Children. And sure no Instance of this kind was ever comparable to that of the Mother of our Lord. All
Generations might well call her Blefjed, who was honoured with a Birth fo wonderful, so much above the rate of common Mothers. What Praise, what Admiration, what Reverence, that is fit to be given to the most Excellent of Creatures, can be thought in reason too much for Her, whom an Angel was sent to, to acquaint Her with such a Conception, as Nature never did, or can kpow; for Her, who was impregnated with the pure, the incorruptible, the Almighty Operation of a Divine Spirit; for Her, whose Womb God himself did not abbor. The Best and most deservedly Conspicuous among the Sons of Men have yet this Allay, that they are born of polluted Principles, and formed of perishing and corruptible Matter ; such as is subject to a world of Weakness and Frailty, and must, in a little while, fall back again into that Duft from whence it was first taken. And yet, where we see a great and generous Mind, that struggles bravely with the World, and distinguishes it felf from the rest of Mankind, and gets above the common Vices and Temptations of Human Nature; We cannot forbear admiring it ; We overlook that Allay of Infirmity, with which even the best of Mortals are debased, and envy that Honour, which such Persons reflect back
their Ancestors. So acknowledged a Truth, and so natural a one it is, that a Wise Son is the Glory of his Father, and the just Joy and Pride of her that bare him. So effectually does the Comfort of Good Children turn Sorrow into Triumph, and make a happy Mother not only forget, but even bless and rejoice in, that Travail and Pain, which is all well recompensed with true Knowledge and exemplary Goodness. And the Honour of bringing into the World a Useful and Excellent Person, and of being inftrumental in adding to the number of glorified Saints, is a Joy which all acknowledge ; but Parents only can know, and feel the real Charms, and sweet Complacencies of it.
But alas! What is all this, in comparison of the Virgin's Happiness? For She alone had this incommunicable Privilege, of having a Son of perfect and unblemish'd Virtue, a Son of untainted and Immortal Nature; One absolutely above the Reach of Death and Hell; One, who died, only that he might conquer Death, and lead into Captivity that Tyrant of Darkness; One, over whose Body Worms and Putrefaction had no power. She lived to see the Flesh he took of Her, burst asunder the Bands and brazen Bars of the Grave ; She beheld him rise in Triumph, and saw Her own Substance exalted to the Right Hand of the Throne of God, deck'd with Light as with a Garment, and cloathed with Incomprehensible Majesty and Honour. And therefore Blessed indeed was the Womb that bare this Wonderful, this Divine Child, yca blessed for ever, and, in that respect, blessed above all Women, fhall this Mother be. But yet,
when we have said all we can or all we may upon this Occasion ; ftill St. Augustin's Remark will hold good, that this nearness of Relation to Christ had done Mary no Service, if she had not born him in her Heart to better jurjose, than she did in her Body. And therefore her Blessedness is more owing to her receiving the Faith of Christ in her Heart, than it was to the conceiving his Flesh, as her Son. If then we would be Happy, our Lord hath shewed us a more effectual, and a more excellent way: He denies not the Blessedness, which the Zeal of this Woman pronounces; But, allowing, That to be as great, as it was possible for Her to imagine it, yet, if compared with that of Obedience to God's Commands, he informs us, that even This was but little and low. For the Reply he made extenuates the One, when put into the Balance with the Other, He faid, Yea, rather blessed are they, that hear the word of God and keep it.
By By hearing the Word of God, no doubt, is meant ali that Reverence and Attention of Mind, all that Teachable Temper and Good Disposition of the Will, which prepares and inclines Men to receive it effectually. And, by keeping this Word, the continuing in what we have heard, and making it the Rule and Standard of all our Conversation. The believing all those mysterious Truths, and the observing and profiting under those most Holy Precepts, which our Saviour hath taught us in his Gospel. And this our Saviour declares to be a Happy State indeed. A Privilege, above any the Prerogatives of this present World, in which one Man excels another. For sure, if any temporal Advantage might stand in Competition with This, that of being honoured with the Conception and Birth of the Son of God, must needs have been it. No Honour, no Greatness can ever be so singular, so miraculous, so immortal, and therefore none so desirable, as This. And yet even this is outdone by that Spiritual Regeneration, whereby Christ is conceived in our Hearts, and born and brought to Light, in the Pious, and Juft, and Charitable, Actions, of a Holy Life.
The necessary Time that I have spent, in explaining the foregoing parts of this Passage, hath not left me at liberty to enlarge upon this Subject, as otherwise I might have done. Nor is it very material that I should. For Two or Three plain Arguments will suffice, to persuade us of this Truth. And, if we will but attend duly to These, it will quickly appear, that our Saviour hath calculated things very justly, and pass'd a true Estimate upon both those Blessednesses ; when he does not disown the Greatness of the One, and yet gives so manifest a Preference to the Other. For,
First, Every Happiness is the more valuable, as it is capable of being made more General. The valuing our