Abrahamus pater ille vester gestivit videre diem istum meum, & vidit &.
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it and was glad.
They are the words of our Saviour Christ and therefore true, because uttered by him that is truth itself: Wherein affirming of Abraham, that he desired to see this day, that is, the day of his Nativity: He sheweth that Abraham was a true Christian, and solemnized that same Feast which we now, in remembrance of Christs birth already past, which was then to come when he rejoyced.
And this is the matter of comfort to all men, That the service which they offer to God is no new kinde of service, but as ancient as Abraham and the rest of the Fathers; of whom it is said That they hoped to be saved by the Grace of Christ as well as we, Acts, the fifteenth chapter and the eleventh verse. So saith old Jacob, Lord I have looked for thy Jesus, Genesis the fourty eighth chapter and the nineteenth verse: and the Prophet saith Exultabo in Jesu meo, Habakkuk, the third chapter and the eighteenth verse. Of this day the Prophet saith, This is the day which the Lord hath made, let us rejoyce and be glad in it, Psalm the hundred and eighteenth. In this day we are to rejoyce, as in a day of Harvest, and as in a day of Victory, Isaiah, the nineth chapter and the third verse. So that all the Prophets that were since Abraham, desired to see this day of Christs birth no lesse than he.
The occasion of these words, uttered by Christ, was, that the Jews boasted that they were Abrahams children; but Christ tells them, they doe foolishly, considering they did degenerate from Abraham, and were not like him; for they had neither Abrahams works, nor his faith, Abraham desired to see this day, and longed for it. Though he lived long before me, but ye despise me; you grieve to see me, but he would have been glad to see me, as you doe; he desired to see me, and when he saw me, with a lively faith, he rejoyced; to shew what account he made of me, but ye make no reckoning of me, but persecute me: Wherein we are to consider three points, Abrahams desire to see Christ, the sight he had of him; and the great joy he conceived when he saw him: which three may be reduced to Abraham's faith and love. The sight which Abraham had of Christ's day, is the vision of his faith, which faith of his environed with two most pregnant effects of care; that is a desire to see Christ; and joy after he had seene him, for, intemporall things, whatsoever men most love, that they doe, (not only desire to have) but when they obtein it they rejoyce, Who will shew us any good? that is, the desire whereby men testifie this love to earthly blessings, of corne, and oyle, and wine; and when they have abundance of those things, then they have joy of them, though it bee not like the joy of heart, which the light of Gods countenance bringeth to the faithfull [550/551] as it is in the fourth Psalme: But in spirituall things Zacheus, to testifie his love to Christ, did not only desire to see him, but when Christ told him hee would dine at his house, he came down and received him joyfully, Luke, the ninteenth chapter and the fifth verse. Abraham's desire offereth three things to bee considered. First, What he desired to see, that is Christs day. Secondly, the desire it selfe, hee leaped for joy. Thirdly, the reason of this great desire. For the first, hee desired to see the day of Christ, which receiveth three senses, either the day of his Deitie, as Hierom expounds it, or the day of his Passion, as Chrysostome; or the day of his Nativitie, as Ireneus interprets it; for any of these as sufficient matter of desire, as Christ tells his disciples, Luke the seventeenth chapter and the two and twentieth verse: But as Augustine saith that day of Christ which wee should chiefly desire to see, is that joyfull day of his birth; whereof the Angels brought word, a day of great joy to all people, that this day is born a Saviour, Luke the second chapter.
In the desire itself, we are to consider two things; First, the Degree: Secondly, the Manner of this Desire.
First for the Degree, It is noted in the word [Greek] that is leaped for joy of that day, in regard of the great benefit which should come unto the world by Christs birth: Which joy the babe John Baptist, expressed; who, before he was borne, leaped in his Mothers womb, Luke the first chapter and the fourty first verse. The joyfull desire here mentioned is, as St. Peter speaks, a joy of unspeakable and glorious, the first epistle of Peter and the eighteenth chapter; To teach us, that the day of Christs comming in the flesh is a day most of all to be desired, and a matter of the greatest joy that can be.
Secondly, For the Manner of this Desire. It was a desire joyned with trust and confidence, without which our desire is in vain, be it never so hot. Abrahams desire of seeing Christs day, was joyned with hope that he should see it, which he so much desired. The Creatures desire to see the day of their redemption; for they groan, Romans, the eighth chapter but this desire is without hope. These desires are both to be seen in Jacob: For when his sonnes, being sent from Joseph, told him that Joseph was alive, and was Governor in the land of Egypt, his heart wavered: Then he had a desire to see Joseph, but it was not joyned with hope; for he beleeved them not: But when they told him Josephs words, and shewed him the Chariots that were sent for to bring him, then he had a desire with hope, and his spirit revived within him Genesis the fourty fifth chapter and the twenty sixth verse. The hope that he conceived of seeing him whom he desired to see, made him rejoyce.
Touching the Reason of this desire, he had sufficient matter of present joy, for he was exceeding rich in Cattel and Silver and Gold, Genesis the thirteenth chapter and the second verse. Why then doth he long after a joy to come? The reason is, though God had blessed him with abundance of temporal blessings, yet he considered a day would come, when his present joy should be taken from him, John, the sixteenth chapter: [551/552] Therefore he desires a joy that had a foundation, that is not earthly, but heavenly joyes, Hebrews, the eleventh chapter, Such as should not be taken from him John, the sixteenth chapter and the twenty second verse; as Job knew that his Redeemer lived, Job, the nineteenth chapter. So Abraham desired a Redeemer, and such a one he had: For thus saith the Lord which redeemeth Abraham, Isaiah the fourty ninth chapter and the twenty second verse; That might redeem his soul from Hell, Psalm the fourty ninth; And his body out of the dust of death, Psalm, the twenty second, for he confessed himself to be both dust and ashes Genesis, the eighteenth chapter. Dust in regard of his nature, and therefore subject to corruption; but ashes in regard for his sinnes, by which he is subject to everlasting condemnation; in respect of both he deisred a Redeemer, that might deliver both his body from death and his soul from destruction, that might say revertite filii, Psalm the nintieth and the third verse. He considered he needed a Redeemer for his soul and body, that he might not be dust and ashes; and therefore exceedingly desired one that would deliver his soul from being ashes, and his body from the dust.
Secondly, It is said of Abraham, that he saw Christ's day, the notice of Gods eternal mercie herein was Abrahams desire; by whose example all that will see Christ, must first desire the sight of him, as he did Et desiderium sit eum spectare: Though Abraham did not actually see Christ in the flesh, yet he had a desire, which was all one as if he had seen him with bodily eyes: For if the concupiscence only of evill be sinne, though the act follow not; then desire of that which is good is accepted, albeit it be not actually performed: therefore Nehemiah prayeth, Hearken to thy servants that desire to fear thy name, Nehemiah, the first chapter and the eleventh verse. The very hungring and thirsting after righteousnesse is effectual to blessednesse, Matthew, the fifth chapter: When we can say with David, Cæpit anima mea desiderare justitias, Psalm, the hundred and nineteenth. We desire to be more desirous of it, as a thing acceptable before God; and though our soul desire not, yet the want of it is our woe, and the fainting of our joyes, while we say When will thou comfort us? Psalme the hundred and nineteenth: Those are as the bruised reed and smoaking flax, which he will not quench, Isaiah the fourty second chapter.
That which Abraham did see was Christs day; which is true in what sense soever we take it, He saw the day of his Deity, Genesis, the eighteenth chapter, the second and third verses, when seeing three men he ran to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, saying, Lord, which was a vision of the Trinity. Secondly, For the day of his death and passion, he saw that too, Genesis the twenty second chapter and the fourteenth verse, when Abraham makes the great promise of his obedience, by sacrificing his sonne upon mount Morcah; when after Christ was crucified said, In mane hac provideat Dominus, though he take not my sonne Isaac, yet will he take one of my seed, that shall be the sonne of Abraham. Thirdly, He saw the day of Christs nativity, when [552/553] he said to his servant, Put thy hand under my thighs, and swear by the Lord God of Heaven, and God of the earth, Genesis, the twenty fourth chapter and the twenty third verse. Quod Deus Coeli as femur Abraham, saith Augustine; but it was to shew that the seed in whom all Nations should be blessed, should come out of his loins, and take flesh of him; for he took the seed of Abraham, Hebrews, chapter two. So Abraham saw all the dayes of Christ.
But secondly, We are to inquire in what Manner he saw this day: For which point we must know he saw not Christ day as Simeon, whose eyes did behold our salvation, Luke, the second chapter; nor as they to whom Christ saith Blessed are the eyes that see the things which ye see, Luke, the tenth chapter, that is, with bodily eyes, which many Prophets and Kings could not see. So Abrahams outward man did not see Christs dayes, but he saw it in the inward man, Romans, the seventh chapter; He saw it spiritually, with the eyes of his understanding, Ephesians, the first chapter and the eigtheenth verse; And with the eyes of faith, which is the ground of things not seen, Hebrews, the eleventh chapter; By which things invisible to the eyes of the body, are made visible to the eye of the minde, by the eye of faith; by means whereof, that was made present to Abraham, which otherwise was absent, The fathers, by faith, beheld this promise afarre off, Hebrews, the eleventh chapter and the seventh verse &c. And were as sure of them as if they were performed.
Thirdly, He rejoyced. It is said that God gave charge touching the Patriarchs and ancient Fathers, Nolite tangere unctos meos, Psalm the hundred and fift[h] and the fifteen verse: Which anointed was Abraham, who was annointed with the oyle of gladnesse, Psalm the fourty fift[h]; By which he conceived joy, when by faith he saw the day of Christs nativitie. Here we are to inquire of the matter and words of this joy. The matter and cause of Abrahams joy was deliverance, which is a great cause of joy, When the Lord brought again the captivity, then was our mouth filled with laughter, Psalme the hundred twenty sixt[h]: So Abraham rejoyced to think that he was delivered from being dust and ashes, that now he might say with David, Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell, nor suffer me to see corruption, Psalm, the sixteenth and the tenth verse. Secondly, He rejoyced, considering that by means of Christ his Redeemer, he should not only escape the corruption, which is death of body, For dust thou art, and to dust shalt return, Genesis, the third chapter, And the death of the soul, which is the wages of sinne, Romans the sixt[h] chapter; But should have an actual blessing, and that not temporal, but spiritual in heavenly things, Ephesians, the first chapter and the third verse: For as the Apostle witnesseth, they desired not earthly blessings but heavenly; For if they had been mindful of earthly blessings, They had cause to rejoyce, and had store of them, Hebrews the eleventh chapter and the fifteenth verse. But the matter of Abrahams joy, was the hope of a heavenly blessing by Christ. This God signified when he promised, That his seed should not only be as the dust of the earth, which is an earthly blessing, Genesis, the thirteenth chapter, [553/554] but As the starres of Heaven, Genesis, the fifteenth chapter; By which is meant the blessing of Heaven: This blessing was, That he should enjoy those things which the eye hath not seen, the first epistle to the Corinthians the second chapter and the ninth verse. Thirdly, That this blessing should come to him per semen suum, not by a strange or foraign means; this did increase Abrahams joy to think quod Servator Abrahe, est semen Abrahe: And that he whom David called his Lord was his sonne, Matthew the twenty second chapter. Fourthly, His joy was the greater, considering that this benefit was not appropriated to the Jews only that were of the stock of Abraham, but that in him all Nations should be blessed; not only he and all his children, but as many as were to be blessed, should obtain this blessednesse in him. So say the Angels, that the birth of Christ is matter of the Peoples joy, because it belongs to all People, Luke, the second chapter, That in this life all that are blessed with faithfull Abraham, Galatians, the third chapter, and after this life shall be blessed by being received into Abrahams bosom, Luke, the sixteenth chapter. For the manner of his joy, as his desiring sight was spiritual, so his joy is not carnal, as ours, but spiritual. We desire to see the feast of Christs nativity, and we joy when it comes, but in a carnal manner; but it must be spiritual as Mary saith, My spirit hath rejoyced in God my Saviour, Luke, the second chapter. There is a joy of the countenance, which is outward; but the true joy is of the heart and conscience.
To desire Christs dayes before he come, and to joy when it is come, are the true touchstones of our love to him. When our Parents heard God was come, they hid themselves, Genesis, the third chapter. So he that is in state of sinne, desires not Gods comming or presence, neither rejoyce at it. They say, Let thy holy one of Israel cease from before us, Isaiah, the thirtieth chapter and the eleventh verse, So farre are they off from desiring his comming: And for joying when he is to come, they will say with the Gergasites, Depart out of our Coasts, Matthew, the eighth chapter and the thirtieth fourth verse. But contrawise the godly, to testifie their desire, say, Break the Heavens and come down, Psalme the hundred fourty fourth: So for joy, The hope that is deferred makes the heart to faint, but when it comes, it is as a tree of life Proverbs, the thirteenth chapter and the twelfth verse: Therefore we must proceed from desire to sight, and by it, as also by our joy, we conceive at the day of Christs birth, we may examine whether we be the children of Abraham, and so may conceive hope to be partakers of blessing with him. But if we rejoyce as the carnal Israelites did, of whom it is said, The People sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play, Exodus, the thirty second chapter and the sixt[h] verse: If we testifie our joy by eating and drinking, that is no true joy, Our feast day shall be sorrow, Malachie, the second chapter: This joy is the Heathens joy, whose hearts are filled with food and gladnesse, Acts, the fourteenth chapter; They eat cakes and drink wine, and make themselves merry therewith, Jeremiah, the fourty fourth chapter. But that is not 554/555 Abrahams joy, it is spiritual, wherein is blessednesse, For blessed are the People that can rejoyce in thee, Psalm the eighty ninth. We must learn to rejoyce aright at the day of Christs birth. If we will rejoyce as Abraham did, we must pray with David Remember me Lord, that I may see the felicity of thy chosen, and bee glad with thy people, and give thanks with thine inheritance, Psalm the hundred and sixt[h] and the fourth and fift[h] verses. Abraham knew a day would come that should take away all his earthly joy, and therefore desired the day of Christs birth, which might make him to rejoyce in tribulation, Romans the fifth chapter; And rejoyce in afflictions, the first epistle of Peter, and the fourth chapter; such a joy as no man shall take away, John the sixteenth chapter. As we must rejoyce at this day of Christ, after Abrahams example; so Christ hath a second day, wherein he will give to every man according to his works, Romans the second chapter. If we rejoyce at this day, when it comes, and desire it, If we love the glorious comming of Christ, the second epistle to Timothy and the fourth verse, If we look for the appearing of the just God, Titus the second chapter and the twelfth verse, then shall we shew ourselves the children of Abraham. Of that day to see it, he saith it shall be matter of joy; Lift up your heads, Luke the twenty sixth chapter and the twenty first verse, For your redemption draweth neer: To others a matter of sorrow, They shall hide them in the rocks, Revelations, the third chapter; we must say with David, I remembred thy judgements and received comfort, Psalm the hundred and ninteenth.