« AnteriorContinuar »
servation, and hath bid us follow him; When they persecute you in one city, flee into another. We have but the use of our lives, and we are bound to husband them, to the best advantage of God and his Church. God hath made us, not as butts to be perpetu. ally shot at, but as the marks of rovers, moveable, as the wind and sun may best serve.
It was warrant enough for Joseph and Mary, that God commands them to flee : yet so familiar is God grown with his approved şervants, that he gives them the reason of his commanded Hight; For Herod will seek the young child, to destroy him. What wicked men will do, what they would do, is known unto God beforehand. He, that is so infinitely wise to know the designs of his enemies before they are, could as easily prevent them, that they might not be; but he lets them run on in their own courses, that he may fetch glory to himself out of their wickedness.
Good Joseph, having this charge in the night, stays not till the morning : no sooner had God said Arise, than he starts up, and sets forward. It was not diffidence, but obedience, that did so hasten his departure. The charge was direct, the business impor. tant. He dares not linger for the light, but breaks his rest for the journey; and taking 'vantage of the dark, departs towards Egypt. How knew he this occasion would abide any delay? We cannot be too speedy, in the execution of God's commands; we may be too late.
Here was no treasure to hide, no hangings to take down, no lands to secure: the poor carpenter needs do no more, but lock the doors and away. He goes lightly, that wants a load. If there be more pleasure in abundance, there is more security in a mean estate. The bustard or the ostrich, when he is pursued, can hardly get upon his wings; whereas, the lark mounts with ease. The rich hath not so much advantage of the poor in enjoying, as the poor hath of the rich in leaving.
Now is Joseph come down into Egypt. Egypt was beholden to the name; as that, whereto it did owe no less, than their uni. versal preservation. Well might it repay this act of hospitality to that name and blood.
The going down into Egypt had not so much difficulty, as the staying there. Their absence from their country was little better than a banishment. But what was this, other than to serve an apprenticeship in the house of bondage? To be any where save at home was irksome: but to be in Egypt so many years, amongst idolatrous Pagans, must needs be painful to religious hearts. The command of their God, and the presence of Christ, makes amends for all. How long, should they have thought it, to see the temple of God, if they had not had the God of the temple with them! How long, to present their sacrifices at the altar of God, if they had not had him with them, which made all sacrifices accepted, and which did accept the sacrifice of their hearts !
Herod was subtle in mocking the Wise Men, while he promised to worship him, whom he meant to kill ; now, God makes the Wise Men to mock him, in disappointing his expectation. It is just with God, to punish those, which would beguile others with illusion.
Great spirits are so much more impatient of disgrace. How did Herod now rage and fret, and vainly wish to have met with those false spies, and tell with what torments he would revenge their treachery, and curse himself for trusting strangers in so important a business!
The tyrant's suspicion would not let him rest long. Ere many days, he sends to inquire of them, whom he sent to inquire of Christ. The notice of their secret departure increaseth his jealousy; and now his anger runs mad, and his fear proves desperate.
All the infants of Bethlehem shall bleed for this one; and, that he may make sure work, he cuts out to himself large measures both of time and place. It was but very lately, that the Star appeared, that the Wise Men re-appeared not. They asked for him that was born; they did not name when he was born. Herod, for more security, overreaches their time, and fetches into the slaughter all the children of two years' age. The priests and scribes had told him, the town of Bethlehem must be the place of the Messiah's nativity. He fetches in all the children of the coasts adjoining ; yea, his own shall, for the time, be a Bethlehemite. A tyrannous guiltiness never thinks itself safe, but ever seeks to assure itself in the excess of cruelty. Doubtless, he, which so privily inquired for Christ, did as secretly brew this massacre. The mothers were set, with their children on their laps, feeding them with the breast, or talking to them in the familiar language of their love; when, suddenly, the executioner rushes in, and snatches them from their arms; and, at once pulling forth his commission and his knife, without regard to shrieks or tears, murders the innocent babe, and leaves the passionate mother in a mean between madness and death. What cursing of Herod! What wringing of hands! What condoling! What exclaiming was now in the streets of Bethlehem !
O bloody Herod, that couldst sacrifice so many harmless lives to thine ambition! What could those infants have done? If it were thy person whereof thou wert afraid, what likelihood was it thou couldst live till those sucklings might endanger thee? This news might affect thy successors : it could not concern thee; if the heat of an impotent and furious envy had not made thee thirsty of blood. It is not long, that thou shalt enjoy this cruelty. After a few hateful years, thy soul shall feel the weight of so many Innocents, of so many just curses. He, for whose sake thou killedst so many, shall strike thee with death; and then what wouldst thou have given, to have been as one of those infants whom thou murderedst? In the mean time, when thine executioners returned and told thee of their unpartial dispatch, thou smiledst to think how thou hadst defeated thy rival, and beguiled the Star, and deluded the prophecies; while God in heaven and his Son on earth laugh thee to scorn, and make thy rage an occasion of further glory tohim, whom thou meantest to suppress.
He, that could take away the lives of others, cannot protract his own. Herod is now sent home. The coast is clear for the return of that Holy Family: now God calls them from their exile.
Christ and his Mother had not stayed so long out of the confines of the reputed visible Church, but to teach us continuance under the cross. Sometimes, God sees it good for us, not to sip of the cup of affliction, but to make a diet-drink of it, for constant and common use. If he allow us no other liquor for many years, we must take it off cheerfully, and know that it is but the measure of our betters.
Joseph and Mary stir not without a command : their departure, stay, removal, is ordered by the voice of God. If Egypt had been more tedious unto them, they durst not move their foot, till they were bidden. It is good, in our own business, to follow reason or custom ; but in God's business, if we have any other guide but himself, we presume, and cannot expect a blessing.
Oh the wonderful dispensation of God, in concealing of himself from men ! Christ was now some five years old. He bears himself as an infant; and, knowing all things, neither takes nor gives notice of ought concerning his removal and disposing, but appoints that to be done by his angel, which the angel could not have done but by him. Since he would take our nature, he would be a perfect child; suppressing the inanifestation and exercise of that Godhead, whereto that infant-nature was conjoined. Even so, O Saviour, the humility of thine infancy was answerable to that of thy birth. The more thou hidest and abasest thyself for us, the more should we magnify thee, the more should we deject ourselves for thee. Unto Thee, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen. Matthew ü.
TO THE HONOURABLE GENERAL,
SIR EDWARD CECILL, KNT.
ALL HONOUR AND HAPPINESS.
MOST HONOURED SIR :
I HE store of a good scribe is, according to our Saviour, both old and new. I would, if I durst, be ambitious of this only honour. Having, therefore, drawn forth these not frivolous thoughts out of the Old Testament, I fetch these following from the New. God is the same in both ; as the body differs not, with the age of the suit, with the change of robes. The old and new wine of holy Truth came both out of one vineyard ; yet here may we safely say to the Word of his Father, as was said to the bridegroom of Cana, Thou has kept the best wine till the last. The authority of both is equally sacred : the use admits no less difference, than is betwixt a Suviour fore-shadowed and come. The intermission of those military employments, which have won you just honour, both in foreign nations and at home, is in this only gainful, that it yields you leisure to these happy thoughts, which shall more fully acquaint you with him, that is at once the God of Hosts and the Prince of Peace. To the furtherunce whereof these my poor labours shall do no thankless offices. In lieu of your noble favours to me, both at home and where you have merited command, nothing can be returned, but humble acknowledgments, and hearty prayers for the increase of your honour, and all happiness to yourself and your thrice-worthy and virtuous lady, by him that is deeply obliged and truly devoted to you both,
CHRIST AMONG THE DOCTORS. Even the spring shews us, what we may hope for of the tree, in summer. In his nonage, therefore, would our Saviour give us a taste of his future proof; lest, if his perfection should have shewed itself without warning to the world, it should have been entertained with more wonder than belief. Now, this act of his childhood shall prepare the faith of men, by fore-expectation.
Notwithstanding all this early demonstration of his divine graces, the incredulous Jews could afterwards say, Whence hath this man his wisdom and great works ? What would they have said, if he had suddenly leaped forth into the clear light of the world?
The sun would dazzle all eyes, if he should break forth, at his first rising, into his full strength : now he hath both the day-star to go before him, and to bid men look for that glorious body, and the lively colours of the day to publish his approach, the eye iscomforted, not hurt, by bis appearance.
The parents of Christ went up yearly to Jerusalem, at the feast of the Passover. The law was only for the males. I do not find the Blessed Virgin bound to this voyage: the weaker sex received indulgence from God : yet she, knowing the spiritual profit of that journey, takes pains voluntarily to measure that long way every year. Piety regards not any distinction of sexes or degrees ; neither yet doth God's acceptation : rather doth it please the mercy of the Highest more to reward that service, which, though he like in all, yet, out of favour, he will not impose upon all. It could not be, but that she, whom the Holy Ghost overshadowed, should be zealous of God's service. Those, that will go no further than they are dragged in their religious exercises, are no whit of kin to her, whom all generations shall call blessed.
The child Jesus, in the minority of his age, went up with his parents to the holy solemnity; not this year only, but, in all likelihood, others also. He, in the power of whose Godhead and by the motion of whose Spirit all others ascended thither, would not himself stay at home. In all his examples he meant our instruction. This pious act of his nonage intended to lead our first years into timely devotion. The first liquor seasons the vessel, for a long time after. It is every way good for a man to bear God's yoke, even from bis infancy. It is the policy of the Devil, to discourage early holiness. He, that goes out betimes in the morning, is more like to dispatch his journey, than he, that lingers till the day be spent.
This Blessed Family came not to look at the feast, and be gone; but they duly stayed out all the appointed days of unleavened bread. They and the rest of Israel could not want household business at home. Those secular affairs could not either keep them from repairing to Jerusalem, or send them away immaturely. Worldly cares must give place to the sacred. Except we will depart unblest, we must attend God's services, till we may receive his dismission.
It was the fashion of those times and places, that they went up, and so returned, by troops, to those set meetings of their holy festivals. The whole parish of Nazareth went and came together. Good fellowship doth no way so well, as in the passage to heaven. Much comfort is added by society to that journey, which is of itself pleasant. It is a happy word, Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord. Mutual encouragement is none of the least benefits of our holy assemblies. Many sticks laid together make a good fire, which, if they lie single, lose both their light and heat.