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consequents. Holy Jesu, let me be born anew, receive a new birth and a new life, imitating thy graces and excellencies, by which thou art beloved of thy Father, and hast obtained for us a favour and atonement. Let thy holy will be done by me, let all thy will be wrought in me, let thy will be wrought concerning me; that I may do thy pleasure, and submit to the dispensation of thy providence, and conform to thy holy will, and may for ever serve thee in the communion of saints, in the society of thy redeemed ones, now, and in the glories of eternity. Amen.
The Nativity of our Blessed Saviour Jesus.
1. THE holy maid longed to be a glad mother; and she who carried a burden, whose proper commensuration is the days of eternity, counted the tedious minutes, expecting when the Sun of Righteousness should break forth from his bed, where nine months he hid himself as behind a fruitful cloud. About the same time, God, who in his infinite wisdom does concentre and tie together in one end things of disparity and disproportionate natures, making things improbable to co-operate to what wonder or to what truth he pleases, brought the holy Virgin to Bethlehem, the city of David," to be taxed," with her husband Joseph, according to a decree upon all the world, issuing from Augustus Cæsara. But this happened in this conjunction of time, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet Micah:-" And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come a governor, that shall rule my people Israel." This rare act of Providence was highly remarkable, because this taxing seems wholly to have been ordered by God, to serve and
2 Ην δὲ ἔν τοῦτο δεύτερον καὶ τεσσαρακοστὴν ἔτος τοῦ Αὐγούστου βασιλείας, Αἰγύπτου δ ̓ ὑποταγῆς καὶ τῆς τελευτῆς ̓Αντωνίου καὶ Κλεοπάτρας ὄγδοον ἔτος καὶ εἰκοστόν.-Eusch. 1. i. c. 6. Histor. Eccles. Anno scil. tertio Olympiad. 194. Cæsare Augusto et Plautio Silano Coss.
minister to the circumstances of this birth; for this taxing was not in order to tribute. Herod was now king, and received all the revenues of the Fiscus, and paid to Augustus an appointed tribute, after the manner of other kings, friends and relatives of the Roman empire: neither doth it appear, that the Romans laid a new tribute on the Jews, before the confiscation of the goods of Archelaus. Augustus, therefore, sending special delegates to tax every city, made only an inquest after the strength of the Roman empire in men and monies; and did himself no other advantage, but was directed by him, who rules and turns the hearts of princes, that he might, by verifying a prophecy, signify and publish the divinity of the mission and the birth of Jesus.
2. She, that had conceived by the operation of that Spirit, who dwells within the element of love, was no ways impeded in her journey by the greatness of her burden; but arrived at Bethlehem in the throng of strangers, who had so filled up the places of hospitality and public entertainment, that "there was no room" for Joseph and Mary" in the inn." But yet she felt, that it was necessary to retire, where she might softly lay her burden, who began now to call at the gates of his prison, and nature was ready to let him forth. But she, that was mother to the King of all the creatures, could find no other but a stable, a cave of a rock, whither she retired; where, when it began to be with her after the manner of women, she humbly bowed her knees, in the posture and guise of worshippers, and in the midst of glorious thoughts and highest speculations," brought forth her first-born into the world."
3. As there was no sin in the conception, so neither had she pains in the production, as the church, from the days of Gregory Nazianzen until now, hath piously believed; though, before his days, there were some opinions to the
» Ο Αὔγουστος ὑπηρετεῖται τῷ ἐν Βηθλεὲμ τόκῳ διὰ τοῦ προστάγματος τῆς ἀπο reapñs.-S. Chrysost. Hom. 8. in Matth.
c Vide Suidam in Verbo απογραφή. Dio. lib. Ivi. ἔπεμψεν ἄλλους ἄλλῃ τά τε τῶν ἰδιωτῶν καὶ τὰ τῶν πόλεων ἀπογραψομένους.
d Juxta propheticum illud, Isa. xxxiii. 16. ores olxhoei év úfnaõ omnλalw πέτρας ἰσχυρᾶς· ἄρτος δοθήσεται αὐτῷ, apud LXX. Sed hanc periodum Judai eraserunt ex Hebræo textu. Sic et Symmachus, ἄρτος δοθήσεται, mystice Bethlehem, sive Domus panis, indigitatur.
* Vide Waddingum, p. 270.
contrary, but certainly neither so pious, nor so reasonable. For to her alone did not the punishment of Eve extend, that "in sorrow she should bring forth :" for where nothing of sin was an ingredient, there misery cannot cohabit. For though amongst the daughters of men many conceptions are innocent and holy, being sanctified by the word of God. and prayer, hallowed by marriage, designed by prudence, seasoned by temperance, conducted by religion towards a just, a hallowed, and a holy end, and yet their productions are in sorrow; yet this of the blessed Virgin might be otherwise, because here sin was no relative, and neither was in the principle nor the derivative, in the act nor in the habit, in the root nor in the branch: there was nothing in this but the sanctification of a virgin's womb, and that could not be the parent of sorrow, especially that gate not having been opened, by which the curse always entered. And as to conceive by the Holy Ghost was glorious, so to bring forth any of "the fruits of the Spirit" is joyful, and full of felicities. And he that came from his grave fast tied with a stone and signature, and into the college of apostles, "the doors being shut," and into the glories of his Father through the solid orbs of all the firmament, came also (as the church piously believes) into the world so, without doing violence to the virginal and pure body of his mother; that he did also leave her virginity entire, to be as a seal, that none might open the gate of that sanctuary, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord God of Israel hath entered by it, therefore it shall be shut."
4. Although all the world were concerned in the birth of this great Prince, yet I find no story of any one that ministered at it, save only angels, who knew their duty to their Lord, and the great interests of that person; whom, as soon as he was born, they presented to his mother, who could not but receive him with a joy next to the rejoicings of glory and beatific vision, seeing him to be born her son, who was the Son of God, of greater beauty than the sun, purer than angels, more loving than the seraphims, as dear.
f Ezek. xliv. 2.
as the eye and heart of God, where he was from eternity engraven, his beloved and his only-begotten.
5. When the virgin-mother now felt the first tenderness and yearnings of a mother's bowels, and saw the Saviour of the world born, poor as her fortunes could represent him, naked as the innocence of Adam, she took him, and "wrapt him in swaddling-clothes;" and after she had a while cradled him in her arms, she "laid him in a manger;" for so was the design of his humility; that as the last scene of his life was represented among thieves, so the first was amongst beasts, the sheep and the oxen; according to that mysterious hymn of the prophet Habakkuk, "His brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand, and there was the hiding of his powers."
6. But this place, which was one of the great instances of his humility, grew to be as venerable as became an instrument; and it was consecrated into a church, the crib into an altar, where first lay that "Lamb of God," which afterwards was sacrificed for the sins of all the world. And when Adrian, the emperor, who intended a great despite to it, built a temple to Venus and Adonis in that place, where the holy virgin-mother, and her more holy Son, were humbly laid; even so he could not obtain, but that, even amongst the Gentile inhabitants of the neighbouring countries, it was held in an account far above scandal and contempt. For God can ennoble even the meanest of creatures, especially if it be but a relative and instrumental to religion, higher than the injuries of scoffers and malicious persons. But it was then a temple full of religion, full of glory, when angels were the ministers, the holy Virgin was the worshipper, and Christ the Deity.
Ad SECTION III.
Considerations upon the Birth of our Blessed Saviour Jesus.
1. ALTHOUGH the blessed Jesus desired, with the ardency of an inflamed love, to be born, and to finish the
Hab. iii. 4. In medio animalium cognosceris.-Sic LXX. h Ven. Beda de Locis Sanctis, c. 8. S. Hieron. epist. 48.
work of our redemption; yet he did not prevent the period of nature, nor break the laws of the womb, and antedate his own sanctions, which he had established for ever. He stayed nine months, and then brake forth" as a giant joyful to run his course." For premature and hasty actions, and such counsels, as know not how to expect the times appointed in God's decree, are like hasty fruit, or a young person snatched away in his florid age, sad and untimely. He that hastens to enjoy his wish before the time, raises his own expectation, and yet makes it unpleasant by impatience, and loseth the pleasure of the fruition when it comes, because he hath made his desires bigger than the thing can satisfy. He that must eat an hour before his time, gives probation of his intemperance or his weakness; and if we dare not trust God with the circumstance of the event, and stay his leisure, either we disrepute the infinity of his wisdom, or give clear demonstration of our own vanity.
2. When God descended to earth, he chose to be born in the suburbs and retirement of a small town, but he was pleased to die at Jerusalem, the metropolis of Judæa; which chides our shame and pride, who are willing to publish our gaieties in piazzas and the corners of the streets of most populous places; but our defects, and the instruments of our humiliation, we carry into deserts, and cover with the night, and hide them under ground, thinking no secrecy dark enough to hide our shame, nor any theatre large enough to behold our pompous vanities; for so we make provisions for pride, and take great care to exclude humility.
3. When the holy Virgin now perceived, that the expectation of the nations was arrived at the very doors of revelation and entrance into the world, she brought forth the holy Jesus, who, like light through transparent glass, passed through, or a ripe pomegranate from a fruitful tree, fell to the earth, without doing violence to its nurse and parent. She had no ministers to attend but angels, and neither her poverty nor her piety would permit her to provide other nurses; but herself did the offices of a tender and pious parent. She kissed him, and worshipped him, and thanked him that he would be born of her, and she suckled him, and bound him in her arms and