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serenities and complacencies, by the sweetnesses of a holy conscience and joys spiritual, promotes our temporal interests, by the gains and increases of the rewards of charity, and by securing God's providence over us, while we are in the pursuit of the heavenly kingdom. And as in these dispositions she climbed the mountains with much facility, so there is nothing in our whole life of difficulty so great, but it may be managed by those assistances we receive from the holiest Jesus, when we carry him about us; as the vallies are exalted, so the mountains are made plain before us.
5. When her cousin Elizabeth saw the mother of her Lord come to visit her, as the Lord himself descended to visit all the world in great humility, she was pleased and transported to the height of wonder and prophecy, and "the babe sprang in her womb," and was sanctified, first doing his homage and adoration to his Lord that was in presence. And we also, although we can do nothing unless the Lord first prevent us with his gracious visitation, yet if he first come unto us, and we accept and entertain him with the expresses and correspondencies of our duty, we shall receive the grace and honour of sanctification. But if St. Elizabeth, who received testimony from God that she "walked in all the commandments of the Lord blameless," was carried into ecstacy, wondering at the dignation and favour done to her by the mother of her Lord; with what preparations and holy solemnities ought we to entertain his addresses to us by his holy sacrament, by the immissions of his Spirit, by the assistances of his graces, and all other his vouchsafings and descents into our hearts?
6. The blessed Virgin hearing her cousin full of spirit and prophecy, calling her blessed, and praising her faith, and confirming her joy, instantly sang her hymn to God, returning those praises, which she received, to him to whom they did appertain. For so we should worship God with all our praises, being willing upon no other condition to extend one hand to receive our own honour, but that with the other we might transmit it to God; that as God is honoured in all his creatures, so he may be honoured in us too; looking upon the graces, which God hath given us, but as greater instruments and abilities to serve him, being none of ours, but talents which are intrusted into our banks to be improved.
But as a precious pearl is orient and medicinal, because God hath placed those excellencies in it for ends of his own, but itself is dead to all apprehensions of it, and knows no reflections upon its own value, only God is magnified in his work; so is every pious person precious and holy, but mortified to all vainer complacencies in those singularities and eminencies, which God placed there, because he was so pleased, saying, there he would have a temple built, because from thence he would take delight to receive glory and adoration.
7. After all these holy and festival joys, which the two glad mothers feasted themselves withal, a sad cloud did intervene and passed before the face of the blessed Virgin. The just and righteous Joseph, her espoused husband, perceiving her to be with child, "was minded to put her away," as not knowing the divinity of the fountain, which watered the Virgin's sealed and hallowed womb, and made it fruitful; but he purposed to do it " privily," that he might preserve the reputation of his spouse, whose piety he knew was great, and was sorrowful it should now set in a sad night, and be extinct. But it was an exemplar charity, and reads to us a rule for our deportment towards erring and lapsed persons, that we entreat them with meekness and pity and fear; not hastening their shame, nor provoking their spirit, nor making their remedy desperate by using of them rudely, till there be no worse thing for them to fear, if they should be dissolved into all licentiousness. For an open shame is commonly protested unto, when it is remediless, and the person either despairs and sinks under the burden, or else grows impudent, and tramples upon it. But the gentleness of a modest and charitable remedy preserves that which is virtue's girdle, fear and blushing; and the beginning of a punishment chides them into the horror of remembrance and guilt, but preserves their meekness and modesty, because they, not feeling the worst of evils, dare not venture upon the worst of sins.
8. But it seems the blessed Virgin, having received this greatest honour, had not made it known to her husband Joseph; and when she went to her cousin Elizabeth, the Virgin was told of it by her cousin, before she spake of it herself, for her cousin had it by revelation and the spirit of
a Frontemque à crimine sumit.
prophecy. And it is in some circumstances and from some persons more secure to conceal visions and those heavenly gifts, which create estimations among men, than to publish them, which may possibly minister to vanity; and those exterior graces may do God's work, though no observer note them, but the person for whose sake they are sent like rain falling in uninhabited vallies, where no eye observes showers; yet the vallies laugh and sing to God in their refreshment without a witness. However, it is better to hear the report of our good things from the mouths of others, than from ourselves and better yet, if the beauty of the tabernacle be covered with skins, that none of our beauties be seen but by worshippers, that is, when the glory of God and the interests' of religion or charity are concerned in their publication. For so it happened to be in the case of the blessed Virgin, as she related to her cousin Elizabeth; and so it happened not to be, as she referred to her husband Joseph.
9. The holy Virgin could not but know, that Joseph would be troubled with sorrow and insecure apprehensions concerning her being with child; but such was her innocence and her confidence in God, that she held her peace, expecting which way God would provide a remedy to the inconvenience: for if we "commit ourselves to God in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator," preserving the tranquillity of our spirits and the evenness of our temper in the assault of infamy and disreputation, God, who loves our innocence, will be its patron, and will assert it from the scandal, if it be expedient for us : if it be not, it is not fit we should desire it. But if the holy Jesus did suffer his mother to fall into misinterpretation and suspect, which could not but be a great affliction to her excellent spirit, rarely tempered as an eye, highly sensible of every ruder touch, we must not think it strange, if we be tried and pressed with a calamity and unhandsome accidents: only remember, that God will find a remedy to the trouble, and will sanctify the affliction, and secure the person, if we be innocent, as was the holy Virgin.
10. But Joseph was not hasty in the execution of his purposes, nor of making his thoughts determinate, but stood long in deliberation, and longer before he acted it, because it was an invidious matter, and a rigour. He was, first, to have defamed and accused her publicly, and, being convicted, by
the law she was to die, if he had gone the ordinary way; but he, who was a just man, that is, according to the style of Scripture and other wise writers"," a good, a charitable man," found that it was more agreeable to justice to treat an offending person with the easiest sentence, than to put things to extremity, and render the person desperate, and without remedy, and provoked by the suffering of the worst of what she could fear. No obligation to justice does force a man to be cruel, or to use the sharpest sentence. A just man does justice to every man, and to every thing; and then, if he be also wise, he knows there is a debt of mercy and compassion due to the infirmities of a man's nature, and that debt is to be paid: and he that is cruel and ungentle to a sinning person, and does the worst thing to him, dies in his debt, and is unjust. Pity, and forbearance, and long-suffering, and fair interpretation, and excusing our brother, and taking things in the best sense, and passing the gentlest sentence, are as certainly our duty, and owing to every person that does offend, and can repent, as calling men to account can be owing to the law, and are first to be paid; and he that does not so, is an unjust person: which because Joseph was not, he did not call furiously for justice, or pretend that God required it at his hands presently, to undo a suspected person, but waved the killing letter of the law, and secured his own interest and his justice too, by intending to dismiss her privately. But, before the thing was irremediable, God ended his question by a heavenly demonstration, and sent an angel to reveal to him the innocence of his spouse, and the divinity of her son; and that he was an immediate derivative from Heaven, and the heir of all the world. And in all our doubts we shall have a resolution from Heaven, or some of its ministers, if we have recourse thither for a guide, and be not hasty in our discourses, or inconsiderate in our purposes, or rash in judgment. For God loves to give assistances to us, when we most fairly and prudently endeavour, that grace be not put to do all our work, but to facilitate our labour; not creating new faculties, but improving those of nature. If we
b 1 John, i. 9. Psalm cxi. 3. Δικαιοσύνη, χρηστότης, ἀγαθότης, φιλανθρωπία. -Philostr. de Vita Apollon. 1. iii. c. 7.
Non solùm ab ultionis atrocitate, sed etiam ab accusationis severitate, aliena justi persona est.-Ambros.
consider warily, God will guide us in the determination; but a hasty person outruns his guide, prevaricates his rule, and very often engages upon error.
O holy Jesu, Son of the Eternal God, thy glory is far above all heavens, and yet thou didst descend to earth, that thy descent might be the more gracious, by how much thy glories were admirable, and natural, and inseparable: I adore thy holy humanity with humble veneration, and the thankful addresses of religious joy, because thou hast personally united human nature to the eternal Word, carrying it above the seats of the highest cherubim. This great and glorious mystery is the honour and glory of man. It was the expectation of our fathers, who saw the mysteriousness of thy incarnation at great and obscure distances. And blessed be thy name, that thou hast caused me to be born after the fulfilling of thy prophecies, and the consummation and exhibition of so great a love, so great mysteriousness. Holy Jesu, though I admire and adore the immensity of thy love and condescension, who wert pleased to undergo our burdens and infirmities for us; yet I abhor myself, and detest my own impurities, which were so great, and contradictory to the excellency of God, that, to destroy sin, and save us, it became necessary that thou shouldest be sent into the world, to die our death for us, and to give us of thy life.
Dearest Jesu, thou didst not breathe one sigh, nor shed one drop of blood, nor weep one tear, nor suffer one stripe, nor preach one sermon for the salvation of the devils: and what sadness and shame is it then, that I should cause so many insufferable loads of sorrows to fall upon thy sacred head! Thou art wholly given for me, wholly spent upon my uses, and wholly for every one of the elect. Thou, in the beginning of the work of our redemption, didst suffer nine months' imprisonment in the pure womb of thy holy mother, to redeem me from the eternal servitude of sin, and its miserable