Principes populorum congregantur, populus Dei Abrahami, qui Dei sunt protectiones terræ, valde excelsus est.
The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God; he is greatly exalted.
It is a prophecie of the manifesting of Christ to the Gentils, and of the gathering of them into the flock of Christ; which is the third of three benefits which we celebrate in the great solemnity of Christs birth, and is called by the Fathers, the Churches holi-day; for Christ is the head to his Church, and the Church is his body, and the fullnesse of him that filleth all in all things, Ephesians, the first chapter and the twenty third verse; To signifie unto us, that Christ is an unperfect head, till all the body, consisting both of Jewes and Gentils, be gathered to him. Christ had a Church before his nativity, which was the Synagogue of the Jews; but he had not a Church of the Gentils, till he was come in the flesh. Presently after his birth, some of the Gentils, which came from East, were called to be as it were Proctors to the rest of the Gentils, before which time they were not incorporated into the Church of Christ, which is his body Ephesians, the third chapter and the sixt[h] verse: Neither is it said only of a few of the Gentils, or as [555/556] Christ saith, A scattering of the Gentils, John the seventh chapter and the thirty fift[h] verse: But the whole company of the Gentils, or as the Apostle speaks, That the fulnesse of the Gentils should come in, to be of Christs Church, Romans the eleventh chapter and the twenty fifth verse: Not a few of the common people, but the Kings and Princes of the people. And this is Christs second nativity: For as he was first born at Bethlehem of his mother the Virgin; so he hath another birth foretold by the Prophet Psalm the eighty seventh and the thirty fourth verse, I will think of Rahab and Babilon, behold Palestina, Tyrus, and Ethiopia, loe there is he borne; not at Sion only, but among the Gentils, he shall be manifested to the God of the Gentils as well as Jews.
In those words we have first a Prophecie; Secondly, A reason rendered. In the first we have to consider, First, The calling of the People: Secondly, Of the Princes of the people.
First, Touching the God of Abraham, it is Christ, whose day Abraham desired to see, and in seeing whereof he did so much rejoyce, John the eight[h] chapter, that is, not only the day of his birth, which he saw, as we learn by the oath which he caused his servant to take, Genesis the twenty fourth chapter; but also the day of his passion, which he saw long agoe and rejoyced in seeing of it, when he said to his sonne Isaac in the mount, The Lord will provide a Sacrifice, Hic providebit Dominus, Genesis the twenty second chapter and the eighth verse.
Secondly, The People of the God of Abraham, are his children and posterity; not only they that are the seed of Abraham, comming out of his loyns, and are the children of the flesh, Romans the ninth chapter & the eighth verse, but the children of the promise; for if they that come out of Abrahams loyns were only his children, then the Agarins, the Turks, and Ismaelites, should be the people of God; but in Isaac shall thy seed be called. They that lay hold of the promise by faith; They that are of the faith, are the children of Abraham, Galatians the third chapter and the seventh verse. That have the same spirit of faith, the second epistle to the Corinthians the fourth chapter, that Abraham had: As the Apostle saith, He is not a Jew that is one outward, but a Jew inward is the true Jew, Romans the second chapter and the twenty eighth verse. They that worship the Messais by beleeving in him with the faith of Abraham, they are Abrahams children, and the people of Abrahams God; which thing John Baptist affirmeth, Matthew the third chapter. God can of stones raise up children to Abraham. So the Gentils, which worshipped stones, and therefore were like unto them, Psalm the hundred and fifteenth, were not withstanding raised up to be the children to Abraham.
Concerning which joyning of the Gentils to the Church of Christ, which is the bringing of them into one flock, John the tenth chapter and the sixteen verse; The ingraffing of them into the true Olive, Romans the eleventh chapter; And the incorporating of them into his body, Ephesians the third chapter; That we which are sinners of the Gentils, Galatians [556/557] the second chapter, might have hope. God hath from time to time left recorded in his word, that this should come to passe. And because under two or three witnesses every matter is established, Deuteronomie the nineteenth chapter and the fifteenth verse; therefore before the Law we have chosen three proofs: First, Noah saith God shall perswade Japheth to dwell in the tents of Shem, Genesis the ninth chapter and the twenty seventh verse. Secondly. In semine tuo omnes gentes benedicentur, Genesis the twenty second chapter: And when Shiloh come, the people shall be gathered to him, Genesis the fourty ninth chapter and the tenth verse. Again in the time of the Law three testimonies: First of Moses, Deuteronomy the thirty second chapter, alleged by St. Paul, Romans the fifteenth chapter and the tenth verse. Rejoyce ye Gentils with his people. Secondly, Of Balaam, Numbers the twenty fourth chapter and the seventeenth verse, there shall come a starre of Jacob, and shall bring under all the sonnes of Sheth, that is all wicked. Thirdly, Job, who though he were a Gentil, yet being a member of the Church of Christ, did, by a true faith, confese, I know that my Redeemer liveth, Job the nineteenth chapter. After the Law and before the second temple, the Prophet saith, In the name of God; Isaiah, the fourty ninth chapter and the sixth verse: It is a small thing, Hosea the first chapter and the sixt[h] verse. I will call them a people, that is non people, applyed by Paul, Romans the ninth chapter: And Joel the second chapter, I will pour my spirit upon all flesh, alleged by the Apostle Acts the second chapter and Romans, the tenth chapter. After the second temple, Agga veniet desideratus cunctis gentibus, Hagga the second chapter, Great people and mighty Nations shall come to seek the Lord they shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, and say we will goe with you, Zacherie the eighth chapter and the twenty third verse; And from the rising of the Sonne to the going down, my name is great among the Gentils, Malachie the first chapter and the eleventh verse. This God hath from all times revealed, That the gate of faith should be opened to the Gentils to enter into the flock of Christ. This was shewed by Abrahams matching with Keturah a Gentile; by Moses matching himself with Zipperah a Midianite and a Gentile; by Salomons matching with Pharaohs daughter; as in the Genealogie of Christs birth Salomon is matched with Rahab, Booz with Ruth; to signifie that Christ should save both Jews and Gentils: So the matching of Jews with Gentils doth signify the affinity that should grow between the two Churches. The same was shewed by the stuff whereof the Tabernacle was made, by the first Temple which was built upon the ground of a Gentile, Araunah, the second book of Samuel and the twenty fourth chapter, with timber sent by Hiram a Gentile, the first book of Kings the tenth chapter: by the second Temple which was founded by Cyrus and Artaxerxes, Heathen Princes. By which we may perceive, that God hath this in minde, and in a purpose. To gather the Gentils into the Church of Christ, and to be of the people of the God of Abraham; which thing was not only forshewed, but plainly performed: For not only there came of the Gentils from the East to Christ, [557/558] Matthew the second chapter; but Grecians from the West to see Christ, John the twelfth chapter.
The second thing in the Prophecy is, that not only the People should be gathered to be of the Church, but the Kings and Princes: for when Peter saw the sheet let down from heaven, Acts the tenth chapter and the eleventh verse, he was taught, that the Nations should come immediately to the Church, for then Cornelius, and others were converted to the faith, but Princes came not till three hundred yeers after that was performed; when the Prophet foretellth the poore shall eate and be satisfied, Psalme the second and the twentieth sixth, but for Rulers it was not so performed, therefore the Pharisees object, Doe any of the Rulers beleeve, but this simple People that know not the Law? John the seventh chapter, therefore the Apostle saith, you knew your calling, that not many noble, not many mightie, but the base and weake things hath God chosen, as it is in the first of the Corinthians a great number of the poore people were at the first joyned to the Church of Christ; and not only they, but as it was foretold, the rich upon earth shall eate and worship, Psalme the two and twentieth, and the twenty ninth verse, so Sergius Paulus, Acts the thirteenth chapter, the nobleman of Berea, Acts the seventeenth chapter; the Eunuch, the chief governor for the Queene of Ethiopa, Acts the eighth chapter; her Lord Treasurer and the elect Lady, the second Epistle of St. John and the second chapter. So both Lords and Ladies were brought to the Church, but as yet no Princes, for they stood up against Christ, Acts the fourth chapter; both Herod and Paul gathered themselves against Christ, the holy Sonne of God; Paul had almost got one King to the Church, that is Agrippa, Acts the twenty sixth chapter and the twenty eighth verse; Thou almost perswade mee &c. but there must be a time when the kings of Arabia shall bring presents, Psalme the seventy second; a time when Kings should bee foster fathers, and Queenes nursing mothers to the Church, Isaiah the fourty ninth chapter, therefore under the Law he confirmed the hope of Kings, by shewing grace to the King of Nineveh, who repented at the preaching of Jonas, and to the Queen of the South, who came to honour Salomon, Matthew the twelfth chapter, no less than he confirmed the hope of the poor, by calling the poor Widow of Zarepta, and of the humble, by the example of Namaan, Luke, the fourth chapter; by whose example all sorts of people, both poor and rich, both Prince and Subject have hope to be gathered into the Church, wherein the people of this English Nation have special cause to magnifie God; for the first prince that professed the Gospel was Constantine the great, born in England, and ever since Christ hath had a Church of the Gentils, not only dispersed Gentils, John the seventh chapter, a few only of them to worship him, but the fulness of the Gentils, Romans the eleventh chapter: Now not only the simple and unlearned people, but the Ruler themselves doe follow Christ, John the seventh chapter, wherein we are to exalt & magnifie the power of Christ, that he contents not himself with the inferiour people, to be worshipped of them: he will not only 558/559 be the God of the Mattocks and Staves, but of the Shields; To teach us, that he can turne the hearts of Captains and Princes whither he will. Secondly, That when this was performed, the Princes were not Togati such as delighted in peace, but Armati, men of warre, and hard to be brought under, to the obedience of the Gospel, such persons as at their pleasure will not hear when they think good, but take away their life, Esther the 6 chap. These men were the harder to be subdued to Christ, being without Religion for the most part, Nulla fides pietas que viris qui Castra sequuntur, The Rulers of the people shall come to thee, as it is in the Psalms. God would not have David build him an Altar, because he was a man of warre, and had shed blood, the first book of Chronicles, the twenty eighth chapter and the third verse: But to gather a Church and Temple of the Gentils, he hath no respect of that, but sheweth his power in bringing them to his Church, which were most cruel. The Psalmist saith, God is highly to be exalted among the Princes of the People: At this time the people of Abraham were a poor stay, like sheep appointed to the slaughter, Romans the tenth verse: In which regard it was not like it would come to passe, that the Princes and mighty men would subject themselves to them. Paul confesseth that the Sect which he followed was every where evil spoken of, Acts the twenty sixt[h] chapter; That he and the rest of the Apostles, were as the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things, the first epistle to the Corinthians the fourth chapter & the thirteenth verse; therefore unlikely that the great men of the world should yeeld to them. Again, that they should doe this of themselves voluntarily without constraint; that where they had occupied their shields upon Gods people, now they should use them for their defense; that they should bring bountifull gifts to the Church: whereof we see examples in the New Testament, Matthew the second chapter.
The Reason is to be taken four wayes.
First, When God shall be exalted, then shall the Princes of the people be gathered to the the people of the God of Abraham. This is true; for this Psalme is of Christs ascension, of which Christ saith, When he is exalted, omnes traham ad me, John the twelfth chapter: So that it is as much as if the Prophet should say, When Christ is exalted, then the Nations shall come to him.
Secondly, When the Princes of the people be gathered to the People of Abraham, then shall Christ be exalted, that is, when the Kings of the earth doe imbrace the Christian Religion, God shall be exalted and have more glory, for every King is worth ten thousand; and when one King followeth Christ, it is a greater glory to Christ, than if many people, the second book of Samuel the eighteenth chapter; The King is to goe out and in before the People, the first book of Samuel and the eighth chapter; So the people will follow the King, if he be good they will tread in his steps. When Jothan reigned the people were good; But when Achan came, they turned with him to Idolatrie. So it fell out with Ezechiah and the people, with Manasse and his people [559/560] with Amon and his people, Joshuah and his people, Nobile mutatur semper cum principe vulgus: So that God is more exalted when he inclines the hearts of Kings to follow Christ, and to cleave to the Church. When the Kings offer bountifully to the Church, as David did, then will his people; but if he withdraw his liberality, they will draw away too. Hereupon Christ, when the Greeks desired to see him, said, The hour is come that the sonne of man must be glorified, John the twelfth chapter.
The other two wayes are as a reason, Because the shields of the earth are the Lords, his name is exalted. This was the reason that moved Constantine, he saw God had a power to protect and give victory and therefore imbraced the Christian Religion. God saith to Abraham, I am thy shield Genesis the fifteenth chapter: And of him David saith, He is a shield to them that trust in him Psalm the thirty third. Constantine saw in Heaven the signes of the Crosse, on which was written, toutw nikªseij in this thou shalt overcome; wherein God shews them that he hath power to defend and give victory; therein is his name exalted. When they see that they will take hold with with the Jews and say, God is with them, Zachery the eighth chapter. The other way is, because God is exalted, therefore he will defend the earth as with a shield, This is a motive to make men become religious; and when they are so, then followeth defense and safetie, which is the effect of magnifying Gods name. When we take the shield of faith, and beleeve in His faithfulnesse Ephesians the fift[h] chapter, Then he will compasse us with his faith, as with a shield, Psalm the fift[h] Chapter, His faithfulnesse and truth shall be with us, and his name shall his horne be exalted Psalm the eighty ninth. Therefore Moses having exalted the name of God in Horeb because they were delivered, and built an Altar called, The Lord is my banner, Exodus the seventeenth chapter and the fifteenth verse: The name of the Lord is a strong Tower, Proverbs the eighteenth chapter. The Church is like the tower of David, which had many shields, Canticles the fourth chapter; To signifie that because the Church doth exalt and magnifie the name of God, therefore he doth defend it by a hundred means. And therefore the Apostle saith, That godlinesse hath the promise of this life, as well as of the life to come, the first epistle to Timothy the fourth chapter. So that whatever way soever we take it, it teacheth us. That love is the end of the Commandement, our of a pure heart and good conscience and faith unfeigned, the first epistle to Timothie the first chapter. It doth teach us to walk in the simplenesse of the faith of our Father Abraham, and to doe his works, John the eighth chapter. It teacheth us to exalt and magnifie Gods name; for exaltatio nomini Domini scutum populorum.