The IV. Sermon.
MAT. I. 23.
THe different measure and means of dispensing Divine Knowledge to several ages of the World, may suffi∣ciently appear by the Gospels of the New, and Prophecies of the Old Testament; the sunshine [ D] and the clearness of the one, and the twilight and dimness of the other: but in no point this more importantly concerns us, than the Incarnation of Christ. This hath been the Study and Theme, the Speculation and Sermon of all holy Men and Writers since Adam's Fall; yet never plainly disclosed,* till John Baptist, in the third of Matth. and the third Verse, and the Angel in the next verses before my Text, under∣took the Task, and then indeed was it fully performed; then were [ E] the Writings, or rather the Riddles, of the obscure, stammering, whispering Prophets, turned into the voice of One crying in the Wilderness,*Prepare ye the wayes of the Lord, &c. Isa. xl. 3. Then did the cry, yea, shouting of the Baptist, at once, both interpret and perform what it prophecyed; At the sound of it, Every valley was exalted, and every hill was brought low: the crooked was made straight,*and the rough places plain, v. 4. That is, the Hill and Groves of the Prophets were levell'd into the open champain of the Gospel; [ F] those impediments which hindred Gods approach unto mens rebel hearts, were carefully removed; the abject mind was lifted up, the exalted was deprest, the intractable and rough was render'd plain, and even; in the same manner as a way was made unto the Roman Army marching against Jerusalem.*
Page [unnumbered]Page [unnumbered]Page 49 [ A] This I thought profitable to be premised to you, both that you might understand the affinity of Prophecies, and Gospel, as differing not in substance, but only in clearness of revelation, as the glorious face of the Sun, from it self, being overcast and mask'd with a cloud; and also for the clearing of my Text: For this entire passage of Scrip∣ture, of which these words are a close, is the Angels message, or Gospel unto Joseph, and set down by S. Matthew, as both the interpretation, and accomplishment of a Prophecy delivered long ago by Isaiah; but [ B] perhaps not at all understood by the Jews: to wit, That a Virgin should conceive and bear a Son, and they should call his name Emmanuel.
Where first we must examine the seeming difference in the point of Christs Name,* betwixt the place here cited from Isaiah, and the words here vouched of the Angel,* V. 21. and proved by the effect V. 25.* For the Prophet says, he shall be called Emmanuel, but the Angel commands he should be, and the Gospel records he was named Jesus.
[ C] And here we must resume and enlarge the ground premised in our Preface, that Prophecies being not Histories, but rude imperfect draughts of things to come, do not exactly express and delineate, but only shadow, and covertly vail those things, which only the Spirit of God, and the event must interpret. So that in the Gospel, we construe the words, but in Prophecies, the sence; i. e. we expect not the performance of every Circumstance exprest in the words of a Pro∣phecy, but we acknowledge another sence beyond the literal; and in [ D] the comparing of Isaiah with St. Matthew, we exact not the same ex∣pressions, provided we find the same substance, and the same signi∣ficancy. So then, the Prophets [and call his name Emmanuel] is not as humane Covenants are, to be fulfill'd in the rigour of the Letter, that he should be so named at his Circumcision, but in the agreement of sence; that this name should express his nature; that he was indeed, God with us; and that at the Circumcision he should receive a name of the same power and significancy. Whence the observation by the way [ E] is, that Emmanuel, in effect, signifies Jesus, God with us, a Saviour; and from thence the point of Doctrine, that Gods coming to us, i. e. Christs Incarnation, brought Salvation into the World. For if there be a substantial agreement betwixt the Prophet, and the Angel; if Em∣manuel signifie directly Jesus; if God with us, and a Saviour be really the same title of Christ; then was there no Saviour, and consequent∣ly no Salvation, before this presence of God with us. Which posi∣tion we will briefly explain, and then omitting unnecessary proofs, [ F] apply it.
In explaining of it, we must calculate the time of Christs In∣carnation, and set down how with it, and not before, came Sal∣vation.
We may collect in Scripture a three-fold incarnation of Christ; 1. In the Counsel of God, 2. In the Promises of God, 3. In a Per∣sonalPage 50 open exhibiting of him unto the World; the effect and comple∣ment [ A] of both Counsel and Promises.
1. In the Counsel of God,* so He was as slain, so incarnate, before the foundation of the World Rev. xiii. 8. For the word slain, being not competible to the Eternal God, but only to the assumption of the humane nature, presupposes him incarnate, because slain. God then in his Prescience, surveyingbefore he created, and viewing the lapsed, miserable, sick estate of the future Creation; in his Eternal Decree, foresaw, and preordained Jesus, the Saviour, the Author and Fi∣nisher [ B] of the Worlds Salvation. So that in the Counsel of God, to whom all things to come are made present, Emmanuel and Jesus went together; and no Salvation bestowed on us, but in respect to this, God with us.
2. In the Promises of God; and then Christ was incarnate when he was promised first in Paradise,*The seed of the Woman, &c. and so he is as old in the flesh, as the World in sin, and was then in Gods Pro∣mise first born, when Adam and man-kind began to die. After∣wards [ C] he was not again, but still incarnate in Gods promise more e∣vidently in Abraham's time;*In thy seed, &c. and in Moses his time; when at the addition of the Passeover, a most significant representati∣on of the incarnate and crucified Christ,* he was more than promised, almost exhibited. Under which times, it is by some asserted, that Christ in the form of Man, and habit of Angel, appeared sundry times to the Fathers, to give them not an hope, but a possession of the Incarnate God, and to be praeludium incarnationis, a pawn unto them, that they [ D] trusted not in vain: And here it is plain thorowout, that this Incar∣nation of Christ, in the Promise of God, did perpetually accompany, or go before Salvation: not one blessing on the nations, without mention of thy seed;] not one encouragement against fear, or unto confidence, but confirm'd and back'd with an I am thy shield, &c. i. e. according to the Targum, my Word is thy shield; i. e. my Christ, who is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the Word, in the first of Joh. i. Not any mention of Righteousness and Salvation, but on ground and condition of [ E] belief of that Jesus which was then in promise, Emmanuel, God with us.
3. In the Personal exhibiting of Christ in form of flesh unto the World, dated at the fulness of time, and call'd in our ordinary phrase his Incarnation; then no doubt was Emmanuel, Jesus; then was he o∣penly shewed to all people in the form of God a Saviour, which Sime∣on,*Luk. ii. 30. most divinely styles God's Salvation; thereby, no doubt, meaning the Incarnate Christ, which by being God with us, was Salvation. [ F]
Thus do you see a three-fold Incarnation, a three-fold Emmanuel, and proportionably a three-fold Jesus.
1. A Saviour first decreed for the World, answerable to God, incarnate in Gods Counsel, and so no man was ever capable of Salva∣tion, but through God with us.
Page 51 [ A] 2. A Saviour promised to the World answerable to the second God with us, to wit, incarnate in the Promise, and so there is no Cove∣nant of Salvation, but in this God with us.
3. A Saviour truly exhibited and born of a Woman, answerable to the third Immanuel; and so also is there no manifestation, no pro∣claiming, no preaching of Salvation, but by the birth and merits of God with us.
To these three, if we add a fourth Incarnation of Christ, the as∣suming [ B] of our Immortal Flesh, which was at his Resurrection, then sure∣ly the Doctrine will be complete, and this Emmanuel incarnate in the Womb of the grave, & brought forth cloath'd upon with an incorrupti∣ble seed, is now more fully than ever prov'd an Eternal Jesus; For when he had overcome the sharpness of Death, he opened the kingdom of Heaven to all believers, as it is in our Te Deum; as if all that till then ever entred into Heaven, had been admitted by some privy key; but now the very gates were wide opened to all believers: This last Incarna∣tion [ C] of Christ, being accompanied with a Catholick Salvation, that Jesus might be as Eternal as Immanuel, that he might be as Immortal a Saviour as a God with us. 'Twere but a superfluous work, further to demonstrate, that through all ages of the World, there was no sal∣vation ever tendred, but in respect to this Incarnation of Christ; that the hopes, the belief, the expectation of Salvation, which the Fa∣thers lived and breathed by, under the types of the Law, was only grounded upon, and referred unto these promises of the future Incar∣nation; [ D] that they which were not in some measure enlightned in this mystery, were not also partakers of this Covenant of Salvation: that all the means besides that Heaven and Earth, and which goes beyond them both, the brain of Man, or Angel could afford or invent, could not excuse, much less save any child of Adam: That every Soul which was to spring from these loins, had been without those tran∣scendent mercies which were exhibited by this Incarnation of Christs, plung'd in necessary desperate damnation: Your pati∣ence [ E] shall be more profitably imployed in a brief Application of the point;
First, That you perswade, and drive your selves to a sense and feeling of your Sins, those sins which thus pluckt God out of Heaven, and for a while depriv'd him of his Majesty; which laid an engage∣ment upon God, either to leave his infinite Justice unsatisfied, or else to subject his infinite Deity to the servile mortality of Flesh, or else to leave an infinite World in a common damnation.
[ F] Secondly, To strain all the expressions of our hearts, tongues, and lives, to the highest note of gratitude which is possible, in answer to this Mystery and Treasure of this God with us; to reckon all the Miracles of either common or private preservations, as foils to this in∣comparable Mercy, infinitely below the least circumstance of it; with∣out which, thine Estate, thy Understanding, thy Body, thy Soul, Page 52 thy Being, thy very Creation, were each of them as exquisite Curses [ A] as Hell or Malice could invent for thee.
Thirdly, To observe with an ecstasie of joy and thanks the pre∣cious priviledges of us Christians, beyond all that ever God profest love to, in that we have obtained a full revelation of this God with us: which all the Fathers did but see in a cloud, the Angels peep'd at, the Heathen world gap'd after, but we beheld as in a plain at mid-day: For since the veil of the Temple was rent, every man that hath eyes may see Sanctum Sanctorum,* the Holy of Holies, God with us. [ B]
Fourthly, To make a real use of this Doctrine to the profit of our Souls, that if God have designed to be Emmanuel, and Jesus an Incar∣nate God, and Saviour to us; that then we will fit, and prepare, and make our selves capable of this Mercy; and by the help of our religi∣ous, devout, humble endeavours, not frustrate, but further and pro∣mote in our selves this end of Christs Incarnation, the saving of our Souls; and this use is effectually made to our hands in the twelfth to the Hebrews,* at the last, Wherefore we receiving a Kingdom that cannot [ C] be moved: i. e. being partakers of the Presence, the Reign, the Sal∣vation of the Incarnate God, Let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. And do thou, O power∣ful God, improve the truth of this Doctrine, to the best advantage of our Souls, that thy Son may not be born to us unprofitably; but that he may be God, not only with us, but in us; in us, to sanctifie and adorn us here with his effectual grace; and with us, to sustain us here, as our Emmanuel, and as our Jesus, to crown and perfect us hereafter with glory. [ D]
And so much for this point, That Jesus and Emmanuel import the same thing, and there was no Salvation, till this presence of God with us: We now come to the substance it self, i. e. Christs Incarnation, noted by Emmanuel, which is by interpretation, &c. Where first we must explain the word, then drive forward to the matter. The Word in Isaiah, in the Hebrew, is not so much a name, as a sentence, describing unto us the mystery of the Conception of the Virgin 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉with us God, where 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 or 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉God is taken in Scripture, either absolutely for [ E] the nature of God, as for the most part in the Old Testament; or per∣sonally; and so either for the Person of the Father in many places, or else distinctly for the Person of the Son,* so Hos. i. 7. And will save them by the Lord their God, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 their God, i. e. Christ: and so also most evidently in this place, out of Isaiah, where 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 signifies the Son Incarnate, God man,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and many the like; especi∣ally those where the Targum paraphrases, Jehovah, or Jehovah Elohim, by 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 the Word of the Lord, i. e. Christ Jesus, [ F] Joh. i. 1.* As for instance, Gen. iii. 22. that Word of the Lord said; and Gen. ii. 6.* the Word created. Secondly, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 which signifies in its extent near,* at, with, or amongst. Thirdly, the Particle, signify∣ing us; though it expresses not, yet it must note our humane nature, our abode, our being in this our great World, wherein we travel, and Page 53 [ A] this our little World, wherein we dwell; not as a mansion place, to re∣main in, but either as an Inn to lodge, or a Tabernacle to be covered, or a Prison to suffer in: So that the words in their latitude run thus; Emmanuel: i. e. The second Person in Trinity is come down into this lower world amongst us, for a while to travel, to lodg, to sojourn, to be fetter'd in this Inn, this Tabernacle, this Prison of mans flesh; or briefly, at this time, is conceived and born God-man, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the same both God and Man, the Man Christ Jesus. And this is the [ B] cause and business, the ground and theme of our present rejoycing: in this were limited and fulfilled, the expectation of the Fathers, and in this begins and is accomplished, the hope and joy of us Christians, That which was old Simeons warning to death,* the sight and embraces of the Lords Christ, Luk. ii. 28. as the greatest happiness which an espe∣cial favour could bestow on him; and therefore made him in a con∣tempt of any further life, sing his own funeral, Nunc dimittis: Lord, now lettest thou, &c.
[ C] This is to us the Prologue, and first part of a Christians life; either the life of the World, that that may be worthy to be call'd life; or that of Grace, that we be not dead whilst we live. For were it not for this assumption of flesh, you may justly curse that ever you carried flesh about you; that ever your Soul was committed to such a Prison as your Body is; nay, such a Dungeon, such a Grave: But through this Incarnation of Christ, our flesh is, or shall be cleansed into a Temple, for the Soul to worship in, and in Heaven for a robe, for it to triumph in. [ D] For our body shall be purified by his Body.
If ye will be sufficiently instructed into a just valuation of the weight of this Mystery, you must resolve your selves to a pretty large task (and it were a notable Christmas employment, I should bless God, for any one that would be so piously valiant, as to undertake it) you must read over the whole Book of Scripture and Nature to this purpose. For when you find in the Psalmist, the news of Christs com∣ing, Then said I, loe I come; you find your directions how to tract [ E] him,*In the volume of thy book it is written of me, &c. i. e. either in the whole book, or in every folding, every leaf of this Book: Thou shalt not find a Story, a Riddle, a Prophecy, a Ceremony, a down∣right legal Constitution, but hath some manner of aspect on this glass, some way drives at this mystery, God manifest in flesh. For example, (perhaps you have not noted) wherever you read Seth's Genealogies more insisted on than Cain's, Sem's than his elder brother Ham's, A∣braham's than the whole World besides, Jacob's than Esau's, Judah's [ F] than the whole twelve Patriarchs; and the like passages which di∣rectly drive down the line of Christ, & make that the whole business of the Scripture: Whensoever, I say, you read any of these, then are you to note; that Shiloh was to come; that he which was sent, was on his journey; that from the Creation, till the fulness of time, the Scripture was in travel with him; and by his leaping ever now Page 54 and then, and as it were, springing in the Womb, gave manifest tokens [ A] that it had conceived, and would at last bring forth the Messias. So that the whole Old Testament is a Mystical Virgin Mary, a kind of Mother of Christ;* which by the Holy Ghost, conceived him in Genesis, Chap. iii. 15. And throughout Moses and the Prophets, carried him in the Womb,* and was very big of him: And at last in Malachi, Chap. iii. 4. was in a manner delivered of him. For there you shall find men∣tion of John Baptist, who was, as it were, the Midwife of the Old Testament, to open its Womb, and bring the Messias into the World. [ B] Howsoever, at the least it is plain, that the Old Testament brought him to his birth, though it had not strength to bring forth; and the Prophets as Moses from Mount Nebo, came to a view of this Land of Canaan.
For the very first words of the New Testament, being, as it it were, to fill up what only was wanting in the Old, are the Book and History of his generations and birth,*Matth. i. You would yet be better able to prize the excellency of this Work, and reach the pitch of this days re∣joycing, [ C] if you would learn how the very Heathen flutter'd about this light; what shift they made to get some inkling of this Incarnation before-hand; how the Sibyls, Heathen Women, and Virgil, and other Heathen Poets in their writings, before Christ's time, let fall many passages, which plainly referred and belonged to this Incarnation of God. It is fine sport to see in our Authors, how the Devil with his fa∣mous Oracles and Prophets, foreseeing by his skill in the Scripture, that Christ was near his birth, did droop upon it, and hang the wing; did [ D] sensibly decay in his courage; began to breath thick, and speak imper∣fectly; and sometimes as men in the extremity of a Feaver, distracted∣ly, wildly, without any coherence, and scarce sense; and how at last a∣bout the birth of Christ, he plainly gave up the ghost, and left his Oracular Prophets, as speechless as the Caves they dwelt in, their last voice being,* that their gread god Pan, i. e. The Devil was dead, and so both his Kingdom and their Prophecies at an end; as if Christ's co∣ming had chased Lucifer out of the World, and the powers of Hell [ E] were buried that minute, when a Saviour was born.
And now by way of Use, Can ye see the Devil put out of heart, and ye not put forward to get the Field? can you delay to make use of such an advantage as this? can ye be so cruel to your selves, as to shew any mercy on that now disarmed enemy? will ye see God send his Son down into the Field, to enter the Lists, and lead up a Forlorn Troop against the Prince of this World, and ye not follow at his Alarm? [ F] will ye not accept of a conquest, which Christ so lovingly offers you? It is a most terrible exprobration in Hosea,* Chap. xi. 3. look on it, where God objects to Ephraim, her not taking notice of his mercies; her not seconding and making use of his loving deliverances, which plainly adumbrates this deliverance by Christ's death; as may appear Page 55 [ A] by the first verse of the Chapter,* compared with the second of Mat. 14. Well, saith God, I taught Ephraim to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with the cords of a man; an admirable phrase, (with all those means that use to ob∣lige one man to another) with bands of love, &c. i. e. I used all means for the sustaining and strengthening of my people: I put them in a course to be able to go, and fight, and overcome all the powers of darkness, and put off the Devils yoke: I sent my son amongst them [ B] for this purpose, Vers. 1. And all this I did by way of love, as one friend is wont to do for another, and yet they would not take notice of either the benefit or the donor, nor think themselves beholding to me for this mercy.
And this is our case, beloved, If we do not second these and the like mercies of God bestowed on us; if we do not improve them to our Souls health; if we do not fasten on this Christ incarnate; if we do not follow him with an expression of gratitude and reverence, and stick [ C] close to him as both our Friend and Captain: Finally if we do not endeavor and pray, that this his incarnation may be seconded with an other; that as once he was born in our flesh to justifie us, so he may be also born spiritually in our Souls to sanctifie us: For there is a spiritual〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, or Mystical incarnation of Christ in every regenerate man, where the Soul of Man is the Womb wherein Christ is conceived by the Holy Ghost. The proof of which Doctrine shall entertain the remainder of this hour: For this is the Emmanuel that most nearly concerns us, [ D] God with us, i. e. With our spirits, or Christ begotten and brought forth in our hearts. Of which briefly.
And that Christ is thus born in a regenerate mans soul, if it were denied, might directly appear by these two places of Scripture, Gal. ii. 20.*I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. Again, Ephes. iii. 17. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,*&c.
Now that you may understand this Spiritual Incarnation of Christ [ E] the better, we will compare it with his Real Incarnation in the Womb of the Virgin; that so we may keep close to the business of the day, and at once observe both his birth to the World, and ours to Grace; and so even possess Christ whilst we speak of him.
And first, if we look on his Mother Mary, we shall find her an entire pure Virgin, only espoused to Joseph; but before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost, Matth. i. 18. And then the Soul of Man must be this Virgin.*
[ F] Now there is a threefold Purity or Virginity of the Soul; First, An absolute one, such as was found in Adam before his fall. Secondly, A respective, of a Soul, which like Mary, hath not yet joyned or commit∣ted with the World, to whom it is espoused; which though it have its part of natural corruptions, yet either for want of ability, of age, or occasion, hath not yet broke forth into the common outrages of sin. Page 56 Thirdly, A restored purity of a Soul formerly polluted, but now clean∣sed [ A] by repentance.
The former kind of natural and absolute purity, as it were to be wished for, so is it not to be hoped; and therefore is not to be imagined in the Virgin Mother, or expected in the Virgin Soul. The second purity, we find in all regenerate infants, who are at the same time out∣wardly initiated to the Church, and inwardly to Christ; or in those whom God hath called, before they have engaged themselves in the courses of Actual, heinous sins; such are well disposed, well brought [ B] up; and to use our Saviours words, Have so lived, as not to be far from the Kingdom of God. Such happily, as Cornelius,*Acts x. 1. and such a Soul as this, is the fittest Womb, in which our Saviour delights to be incarnate; where he may enter and dwell, without either resistance or annoyance; where he shall be received at the first knock, and never be disordered or repulsed by any stench of the carcass, or violence of the Body of sin. The restared purity, is a right Spirit renewed in the Soul,*Psal. li. 10. A wound cured up by repentance, and differs only [ C] from the former purity; as a scar from a skin never cut, wanting some∣what of the beauty and outward clearness, but nothing of either the strength or health of it. Optandum esset ut in simplici Virginitate serva∣retur navis,*&c. It were to be wished, that the Ship, our Souls, could be kept in its simple Virginity, & never be in danger of either leak or ship∣wrack. But this perpetual integrity, being a desperate, impossible wish, there is one only remedy, which though it cannot prevent a leak, can stop it. And this is repentance after sin committed, Post naufragium ta∣bula, [ D] a means to secure one after a shipwrack, & to deliver him even in the deep Waters. And this we call a restored Virginity of the Soul, which Christ also vouchsafes to be conceived and born in. The first degree of Innocence, being not to have sinned, the second to have repented.
In the second place, The Mother of Christ in the flesh, was a Virgin, not only till the time of Christ's conception, but also till the time of his birth,*Matth. i. 25. He knew her not till she had brought forth, &c. And farther, as we may probably believe, remained a Virgin all the days of [ E] her life after: For to her is applied by the Learned, that which is typi∣cally spoken of the East-gate of the Sanctuary, Ezek. xliv. 2. This gate shall be shut,*it shall not be opened, & no man shall enter in by it, because the Lord the God of Israel hath entred in by it; therefore it shall be shut. A place, if appliable, very apposite for the expression. Hence is she called by the Fathers & Councils 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a Perpetual Virgin, against the Heresie of Helvidius. The probability of this might be farther proved, if it were needful. And ought not upon all principles of nature and of justice, [ F] the Virgin Soul, after Christ once conceived in it, remain pure & stanch till Christ be born in it, nay, be 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a Perpetual Virgin, never indulge to sensual pleasures, or cast away that purity which Christ either found orwrought in it? If it were a respective purity, then ought it not perpetually retain and encrease it, and never fall off to those disorders Page 57 [ A] that other men supinely live in? If it were a recovered purity, hold it fast, and never turn again, As a Dog to his vomit, or d Sow to her wal∣lowing in the mire? For this conception and birth of Christ in the Soul, would not only wash a way the filth that the Swine was formerly mi∣red in, but also take away the Swinish nature, that she shall never have any strong propension to return again to her former inordinate de∣lights. Now this continuance of the Soul, in this its recovered Virginity, is not from the firm, constant, stable nature of the Soul,* but as Eusebi∣us [ B] saith in another case, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, From a more strong, able Band, the Union of Christ to the Soul, his Spiritual Incarna∣tion in it: Because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entred in by it; therefore it shall be shut,*Ezek. xliv. 2. i. e. It shall not be opened ei∣ther in consent or practise to the lusts and pollutions of the World or Flesh; because Christ by being born in it hath cleansed it; because he the Word of God, said the Word, therefore the leprosie is cured; in whom he enters, he dwells, and on whom he makes his real im∣pression, [ C] he seals them up to the day of redemption; unless we unbuild our selves, and change our shape, we must be his.
In the third place, if we look on the agent in this conception, we shall find it, both in Mary and in the Soul of Man, to be the Holy Ghost, that which is conceived in either of them, is of the Holy Ghost, Mat. i. 20. Nothing in this business of Christs birth with us, to be imputed to na∣tural power or causes, the whole contrivance and final production of it; the preparations to, and laboring of it, is all the workmanship of the [ D] Spirit. So that as Mary was called by an Ancient, so may the Soul without an Hyperbole by us, be styled, The Shop of Miracles, and The Work-house of the Holy Ghost; in which every operation is a miracle to nature, and no tools are used, but what the Spirit forged and moves. Mary conceived Christ, but it was above her own reach to apprehend the manner how;* for so she questions the Angel, Luk. i. 34. How shall this be, &c? So doth the Soul of Man conceive and grow big, and bring forth Christ, & yet not it self fully perceives how this work is wrought; [ E] Christ being, for the most part, insensibly begotten in us, and to be dis∣cerned only spiritually, not at his entrance, but in his fruits.
In the fourth place, That Mary was chosen and appointed among all the Families of the Earth, to be the Mother of the Christ, was no manner of desert of hers, but Gods special favor and dignation; whence the words run truly interpreted,*Luk. i. 28. Hail thou that art highly favored; not as the Vulgar read, Gratiâ plena, full of Grace. And again,* Vers. 30. Thou hast found favor with God. So is it in the [ F] case of Mans Soul, there is no power of nature, no preparation of Morality, no art that all the Philosophy or Learning in the World can teach a man, which can deserve this grace at Christs hands, that can any way woo or allure God to be born spiritually in us; which can per∣swade or entice the Holy Ghost, to conceive and beget Christ in us, but only the meer favor & good pleasure of God; which may be obtained Page 58 by our prayers, but can never be challenged by our merits, may be [ A] comfortably expected and hoped for, as a largess given to our necessi∣ties and wants, but can never be required as a reward of our deserts: For it was no high pitch of perfection, which Mary observed in her self, as the motive to this favour; but only the meer mercy of God, which regarded the lowliness of his hand-maid,*Luke i. 48.
Whence in the fifth place, This Soul in which Christ will vouch∣safe to be born, must be a lowly, humble soul; or else it will not per∣fectly answer Maries temper, nor fully bear a part in her Magnificat; [ B] where in the midst of her glory, she humbly specifies the lowliness of his hand-maid. But this by the way.
In the sixth place, If we consider here with John the Baptist his forerunner, coming to prepare his way; and his Preaching repen∣tance, as a necessary requisite to Christs being born, & received in the World: Then we shall drive the matter to a further issue, and find repentance, a necessary preparation for the birth of Christ in our hearts. For so the Baptist's Message set down,*Isa. xl. 3. Prepare the ways, &c. [ C] is here interpreted by the event,*Mat. iii. 2. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand; As if this Harbinger had no other furniture and provision to bespeak in the heart that was to receive Christ, but only repentance for sins. I will not examine here the precedence of Re∣pentance before Faith in Christ; though I might seasonably here state the question, and direct you to begin with John, & proceed to Christ; first repent, then fasten on Christ: Only this for all, The promises of Salvation in Christ, are promised on condition of repentance, and [ D] amendment, they must be weary and heavy laden, who ever come to Christ, and expect rest, Matth. xi. 28. And therefore whosoever ap∣plies these benefits to himself, and thereby conceives Christ in his heart, must first resolve to undertake the condition required, to wit, Newness of life; which yet he will not be able to perform, till Christ be fully born, and dwell in him, by his enabling graces: For you may mark, that Christ and John being both about the same age, as appears by the story, Christ must needs be born before Johns Preaching: So [ E] in the Soul there is supposed some kind of incarnation of Christ, be∣fore repentance or newness of life; yet before Christ he is born, or at least, come to his full stature and perfect growth in us; this Baptist's Sermon, that is, this repentance and resolution to amendment, must be presumed in our Souls. And so repentance is both a preparation to Christs birth, and an effect of it: For so John preached, Repent for, &c. Matth. iii. 2. And so also in the same words Christ preaches, Repent, &c. Matth. iv. 17. And so these two together, John and Christ, Re∣pentance [ F] and Faith, though one began before the other was perfected; yet, I say, these two together in the fully regenerate man, Fulfil all righteousness, Matth. iii. 15.
In the seventh place, you may observe, That when Christ was born in Bethlehem, the whole Land was in an uproar. Herod the King Page 59 [ A] was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him, Matth. ii. 3. Which whether we apply to the lesser city, the Soul of Man, in which, or the adjoyn∣ing people, amongst whom Christ is spiritually born in any man, you shall for the most acknowledge the agreement: For the man himself, if he have been any inordinate sinner, then at the birth of Christ in him, all his natural, sinful faculties are much displeased, his reigning Herod sins, and all the Jerusalem of habituate Lusts and Passions, are in great disorder, as knowing, that this new birth abodes their instant [ B] destruction; and then they cry oft in the voice of the Devil, Mark. i. 24. What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come to torment and dispossess us before our time? If it be applied to the Neighbor Worldlings which hear of this new convert; then are they also in an uproar, and consult how they shall deal with this turbulent spirit, Which is made to upbraid our ways and reprove our thoughts,*Wisd. ii. Which is like to bring down all their trading and cousenage to a low ebb,* like Diana's Silver-smith in the Acts, Chap. xix. 24. which [ C] made a solemn speech (and the Text says there was a great stir) against Paul, because the attempt of his upstart doctrine, was like to undo the Shrine-makers: Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. And no marvel, that in both these respects, there is a great uproar, seeing the spiritual birth of Christ is most infinitely opposite to both the common people of the World, and common affections of the Soul, two the most turbulent, tumultuous, wayward, violent Nations upon Earth.
[ D] In the eighth and last place (because I will not tyre you above the time which is allotted for the tryal of your parience) you may ob∣serve the encrease and growth of Christ, and that either in himself, in Wisdom and Stature, &c. Luke ii. 52. or else in his troop and attendants, and that either of Angels to minister unto him. Matth. iv. 11. or of Di∣sciples to follow & obey him; and then the harmony will still go cur∣rant. Christ in the regenerate man, is first conceived, then born, then by degrees of childhood and youth, grows at last to the measure of the [ E] stature of this fulness; and the Soul consequently from strength to strength, from vertue to vertue, is encreased to a perfect manhood in Christ Jesus. Then also where Christ is thus born, he chuses and calls a Jury at least of Disciple-graces, to judge and sit upon thee, to give in evidence unto thy Spirit, That thou art the Son of God. Then is he also ministred unto, and furnished by the Angels with a perpetual sup∣ply, either to encrease the lively, or to recover decayed graces. So that now Christ doth bestow a new life upon the man, and the regene∣rate [ F] soul becomes the daughter, as well as the Mother of Christ; she conceives Christ, and Christ her; she lives, and grows, and moves in Christ, and Christ in her. So that at last she comes to that pitch, and height, and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that S. Paul speaks of, Gal. ii. 20. I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I live in the flesh, I live by the Faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Thus have we briefly passed through these words, and in them first shewed you the real agreement betwixt Matthew and Isaiah, in the point of Christ's Name, and from thence noted, that Jesus and Em∣manuel, is in effect, all one; and that Christs Incarnation brought Sal∣vation into the World. Which being proved through Christs seve∣ral Incarnations, were applied to our direction: 1. To humble our [ C] selves. 2. To express our thankfulness. 3. To observe our priviledges. 4. To make our selves capable and worthy receivers of this mercy. Then we came to the Incarnation it self, where we shewed you the ex∣cellency of this Mystery by the effects, which the expectation and fore∣sight of it wrought in the Fathers, the Prophets, the Heathens, the Devils; and then by way of Use, what an horrible sin it was, not to apply and imploy this mercy to our Souls. Lastly, We came to an∣other birth of Christ, besides that in the flesh, his Spiritual Incarnation [ D] in Man's Soul; which we compared with the former exactly in eight chief Circumstances; and so left all to God's Spirit, and your Medita∣tions to work on.
Now the God, &c.