Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology
Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume One
SERMONS OF THE NATIVITY.
PREACHED UPON CHRISTMAS-DAY, 1605.
Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Tuesday, the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCV.
Transcribed by Dr Marianne Dorman
For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham.
Nusquam enim angelos apprehendit; sed semen Abrahae apprehendit.
And even because this day He took not the angels' nature upon Him, but took our nature in "the seed of Abraham," therefore hold we this day as a high feast; therefore meet we thus every year in a holy assembly, upon us a dignity which upon the angels He bestowed not. That He, as in the chapter before the Apostle setteth Him forth, That is, "the brightness of His Father's glory, the very character of His substance, the Heir of all things, by Whom He made the world;" He, when both needed itNHis taking upon Him their natureNand both stood before Him, men and Angels, "the Angels He took not," but men "He took;" was made Man, was not made an Angel; that is, did more for them than He did for the Angels of Heaven.
Elsewhere the Apostle doth deliver this very point positively, and that, not without some vehemency; "Without all question great is the mystery of godliness: God is manifested in the flesh." Which is in effect the same that is here said, but that here it is delivered by way of comparison; for this speech is evidently a comparison. If he had thus set it down, "Our nature He took," that had been positive; but setting it down [1/2] thus, "Ours He took, the AngelsO He took not," it is certainly comparative.
1. Now the masters of speech tell us that there is power in the positive if it be given forth with an earnest asseveration, but nothing to that that is in the comparative. It is nothing so full to say, "I will never forget you," as thus to say it; "Can a mother forget the child of her own womb? Well, if she can, yet will not I forget you." Nothing so forcible to say thus, "I will hold my word with you," as thus, "Heaven and earth shall pass, but My word shall not pass." The comparative expressing is without all question more significant; and this here is such. Theirs, the AngelsO, nusquam, "at no handO He took, but ours He did.
2. Now the comparison is, as is the thing in nature whereunto it is made; if the thing be ordinary, the comparison is according; but then is it full of force, when it is with no means or base thing, but with the chief and choice of all the creatures as here it is, even with the Angels themselves; for then it is at the highest. 1. That of Elihu in Job, that God "teacheth us more than the beasts, and giveth us more understanding than the fowls of the air;" that is, that God has been more gracious to us than to them, being made of the same mould that we are; that yet He hath given us a privilege above themNthis is much. 2. That of the Psalmist, "He hath not dealt so with every nation," nay, not with any other nation, in giving us the knowledge of His heavenly truth and laws; even, that we have a prerogative, if we be compared with the rest of mankind;Nmore than the beasts, much; more than all men besides, much more. 3. But this here, nusquam Angelos, etc, that He hath given us a preeminence above the AngelsNthat is a comparison at the very highest, and farther we cannot go.
3. One degree yet more; and that is this. As in comparisons making it skill much the excellency of the thing wherewithal it is compared, the pitch that is taken in it. It is one thing to make it in tanto, another, in toto. One thing when it is in degreesNthat more, this less; this not so much as that, yet that somewhat thoughNanother, when one is, the other is not at all. So is it here; Assumpsit; non assumpsit; [2/3] "us He did take; the Angels, o"dE`pou not in any wise;" not in a less, or a lower degree than us, but them "not at all." So it is with the highest, and at the highest. So much is said here, and more cannot be said.
The only exception that may be made to these comparisons is, that most-what they be odious; it breedeth a kind of disdain in the higher to be matched with the lower, especially to be overmatched with the lower, especially to be overmatched with him. We need not fear it here. The blessed Spirits, the Angels, will take no offence at is; they will not remove Jacob's ladder for all this, or descend to us, or ascend for us, ever a whit the slower, because He is become "the Son of Man." There is not in them that envious mind that was in the elder brother in the Gospel, when the younger was received to grace after his riotous course.
When the Apostle tells us of the "great mystery," that "God was manifested in the flesh," immediately after he tells that He was "seen of the Angels;" and lest we might think they saw it, as we do many things here which we would not see, St. Peter tells us, that desiderant prospicere, that with "desire and delightO they saw it, and cannot be satisfied with the sight of it, pleased them well. And even this day, the day it was done, an Angel was the first that came to bring news of it to the shepherds; and he no sooner had delivered his message, but "presently there was with him a whole choir of angels," singing, and joying and making melody, for this e"dokELa ?u uqr?poij "good-will of God towards men." So that, without dread of any disdain or exception on the Angels' part, we may proceed in our text.I. Wherein first, of the parties compared; Angels, and Men.II. Then, 1. of that, wherein they are compared, "assumption," or "apprehension;" in the word "taking:' 2. And not every "taking," but apprehensio seminis, "taking on Him the seed.O11I. Lastly, of this term, "Abraham's seed;" the choice of that word, or term, to express mankind by, thus taken on by Him. That He saith not, "but men He took;" or, "but the seed of Adam," or "the seed of the woman He took;" "but the seed of Abraham He took.O1. Of the parties compared, Angels and Men. These two we must first compare, that we may the more clearly see the greatness of the grace and benefit this day vouchsafed us. [3/4] No long process will need to lay before you how far inferior our nature is to that of angels; it is a comparison without comparison. It is too apparent; if we be laid together, or weighed together, we shall be found minus habentes, "far too light." They are in express terms said, both in the Old and in the New Testaments, "to excel us in power;" and as in power, so in all the rest. This one thing, may suffice to show the odds; that our nature, that we, when we are at our very highest perfectionNit is even thus expressedNthat we come near, or are therein like to, or as an angel. Perfect beauty in St. Stephen; "they saw his face as the face of an Angel." Perfect wisdom in David; "my Lord the King is wise, as an Angel of God." Perfect eloquence in St. Paul; "though I speak with the tongues of men, nay of Angels." All our excellency, our highest and most perfect estate, is but to be as they; therefore, they above us far.But to come nearer; What are the Angels? Surely, they are Spirits;NGlorious Spirits;NHeavenly Spirits;NImmortal Spirits. For their nature or substance, Spirits; for their quality or property, glorious; for their place or abode, Heavenly; for their durance or continuance, immortal.And what is "the seed of Abraham?" but as Abraham himself is? And what is Abraham? Let him answer himself; "I am dust and ashes." What is "the seed of Abraham?" Let one answer in the persons of all the rest; dicens putredini, &c. "saying to rottenness, Thou art my mother; and to the worms, Ye are my brethren." 1. They are Spirits; now, what are we- what is this; the seed of Abraham?" Flesh. And what is the very harvest of this seed of flesh? what, but corruption, and rottenness, and worms? This is the substance of our bodies.2. They, glorious Spirits; we vile bodiesNbear with it, it is the Holy Ghost's own terms; "Who shall change our vile bodiesONand not only base and vile, but filthy and unclean; ex immundo conceptum semine, "conceived of unclean seed." There is the metal. And the mould is no better; the womb wherein we were conceived, vile, base, filthy, and unclean. This is our quality.3. They, Heavenly Spirits, Angels of Heaven; that is, their place of abode is in Heaven above. Ours is here below p.5. in the dust, inter pulices, et culices, tineas, araneas, et vermes; Our place is here "among fleas and flies, moths and spiders, and crawling worms." There is our place of dwelling.4. They, immortal Spirits; that is their durance. Our time is proclaimed in the prophet: flesh; "all flesh is grass, and the glory of it as the flower of the field;ONfrom April to June. The scythe comes, nay the "wind but bloweth and we are gone," withering sooner than the grass which is short, nay "fadingO sooner than the "flower of the grass." which is much shorter; nay, saith Job, "rubbed in pieces more easily than any moth.OThis we are to them, if you lay us together. And if you weigh us upon the "balance," we are "altogether lighter than vanity itself;" there is our weight. And if you value us, "man is but a thing of nought;" there is our worth. Hoc est omnis homo, this is Abraham, and this is "Abraham's seed;" and who would stand to compare these with Angels? Truly, there is no comparison; they are, incomparably, far better than the best of us.Now then, this is the rule of reason, the guide of all choice; evermore to take the better and leave the worse. Thus would man do; H3/4c est lex hominis. Here then cometh the matter of admiration: notwithstanding these things stand thus, between the Angels and "AbrahamOs seed;" they, Spirits, glorious, heavenly, immortal;Nyet "took He notO them, yet "in no wise took He them, but the seed of Abraham." "The seed of AbrahamO with their bodies, "vile bodies," earthly bodies of clay, bodies of mortality, corruption and death;Nthese He took, these He took all for that. Men, and not Angels; so it is: and that granted to us that denied to them. Granted to us, so base, that denied them so glorious. Denied, and strongly denied; o", o"dE`pou, "not, not in any wise, not at any hand," to them. They, every way, in every thing else, above and before us; in this beneath and behind us. And we, unworthy, wretched men that we are, above and before the Angels, the Cherubim, the Seraphim, and all the Principalities, and Thrones, in this dignity. This being beyond the rules and reach of all reason is surely matter of astonishment. ToOto, saith St. Chrysostom , [4/5] this it casteth me into an ecstasy, and maketh me to imagine of our nature some great matter, I cannot well express what. Thus it is, "It is the Lord, let him do what seems good in His own eyes." And with this, I pass over to the second point. This little is enough, to show what odds between the parties here matched. It will much better appear, this, when we shall weigh the word u`pilambnetai, that wherein they are matched. Wherein two degrees we observed; 1. Apprehendit, and 2. Apprehendit semen.1. Of apprehendit, first. Many words were more obvious, and offered themselves to the Apostle, no doubtl suscepit, or assumpsit, or other such like. "This word was sought for, certainly, and made choice of,"saith the Greek Scholiast; and he can best tell us it is no common word, and tell us also what it weigheth. DhloUN d
,saith he, ~ti yNmeUNj ?feo`gomen, AE d ?dELwke,kaoN di?kwu INfqase, kaoN fqsaj ?pelbeto; "this word supposeth a flight of the one party, and a pursuit of the otherNa pursuit eager, and so long till he overtake;" and when he has overtaken, ?pilambaunmenoj, aprehendens, "laying fast hold, and seizing surely on him." So two things it supposes; 1. a flight of the one, and 2, a hot pursuit of the other.It may well suppose a flight. For of the Angels there were that fled, that kept not their original, but forsook and fell away from their first estate. And man fell, and fled too, and "hid himself in the thick treesO from the presence of God. And this is the first issue. Upon the Angels' flight He stirred not, sat still, never vouchsafed to follow them; let them go whither they would, as if they had not been worth the while. Nay, He never assumed aught by way of promise for them; no promise in the Old, to be born nor suffer; no Gospel in the New Testament, neither was born nor suffered for them.But when man fell He did all; made after him presently with Ubi es? sought to reclaim him, "What have you done? Why have you done so?" Protested enmity to him that had drawn him thus away, made His assumpsit of "the womanOs seed.OAnd, which is yet more, when that would not serve sent after him still by the hand of His Prophets, to solicit his return.And, which is yet more, when that would not serve neither, [6/7] went after Himself in person; left His "ninety-and-nine in the fold," and got Him after the "lost sheep;" never left till He "found him, laid him on His own shoulders, and brought him home again.OIt was much even but to look after us, to respect us do far who were not worth the cast of His eye; much to call us back, or vouchsafe us an Ubi esBut more, when we came not for all that, to send after us. For if He had but only been content to give us leave to come to Him again, but given us leave to come to Him again, but given us leave to "lay holdO on Him, to "touch but the hem of His garmentONHimself sitting still, and never calling to us, nor sending after usNit had been favour enough, far above that we worth. But not only to send by others, but to come Himself after us; to say, Corpus apta Mihi, Ecce venio; "Get Me a body, I will Myself after Him;ONthis was exceeding much, that we fled, and He followed us flying.But yet this is not all, this is but to follow. He not only followed, but did it so with such eagerness, with such earnestness, as that is worthy a second consideration. To follow is somewhat, yet that may be done faintly, and afar off; but to follow through thick and thin, to follow hard and not to give over, never to give over till He overtakeNthat is it.And He gave not over His pursuit, though it were long and laborious, and He full weary; though it cast Him into a "sweat," a "sweat of blood." Angelis suis non pepercit, saith St. Peter, "The Angels offending, He spared not them;" man offending, He spared him, and to spare him, saith St. Paul, "He spared not His own Son." Nor His own Son spared not Himself, but followed His pursuit through danger, distress, yea, through death itself. Followed, and so followed, as nothing made Him leave following till He overtook.And when He had overtaken, for those two are but pre-supposed, the more kindly to bring in the word ?pelbeto, when, I say, He had overtaken them, cometh in fitly and properly ?pilambuetai. Which is not every "taking," not suscipere or assumere, but manum injicere, arripere, apprehendere; "to seize upon it with great vehemency, to lay hold on it with both hands as upon a thing we are glad we have got, [7/8] and will be loath to let go again." We know assumpsit and apprehendit both "take;" but apprehendit with far more fervour and zeal than the other. Assumpsit, any common ordinary thing; apprehendit, a thing of price which we hold dear, and much esteem of.Now to the former comparison, of what they, and what we, but specially what we, add this threefold consideration; 1. That He denied it to the Angels, o": denied it "peremptorily," o"dE`pou, neither looked, nor called, nor sent, nor went after them; neither took hold of them, nor suffered them to take hold of Him, or any promise from Him; denied it them, and denied it them thus. 2. But granted it us, and granted it how? That He followed us first, and that, with pain; and seized on us after, and that, with great desire: we flying and not worth the following, and lying and not worth the taking up. 1. That He gave not leave for us to come to Him; or sat still, and suffered us to return, and take hold; yet this He did. 2. That He did not look after us, nor call after us, nor send after us only; yet all this He did too. 3. But Himself rose out of His place, and came after us, and with hand and foot made after us, followed us with His feet; and seized on us with His hands, and that, per viam, non assumptionis, sed apprehensionis, the manner more than the thing itself. All these if we lay together, and when we have done, weigh them well, it is able to work with us. Surely it must demonstrate to us the care, the love, the affection, He had to us, we know no cause why; being but, as Abraham was, dust; and as Abraham's seed Jacob said, less, and not worthy of any one of these; no, not of the meanest of His mercies. Especially, when the same thing so graciously granted us was denied to no less persons than the Angels, far more worthy than we. Sure He would not have done it for us, and not for them, if He had not esteemed of us, made more account of us than of them.And yet, behold a far greater than all these; which is, apprehendit semen. He took not the person, but "He took the seed," that is, the nature of man. Many there be that can be content to take upon them the persons, and to represent them, whose natures nothing could hire them once to take upon them. But the seed is the nature; yea, as the philosopher saith, natur3/4 intimum, "the very internal essence of nature is the seed." [8/9] The Apostle sheweth what his meaning is of this "taking the seed," when the verse next afore save one he saith, that "Forasmuch as the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also would take part with them by taking the same." To take the flesh and blood, He must needs take the seed, for from the seed the flesh and blood doth proceed; which is nothing else but the blessed apprehension of our nature by this day's nativity. Whereby He and we become not only one flesh, as man and wife do by conjugal union, but even one blood too, as brethren by natural union; per omnia similis, saith the Apostle, in the next verse after again, sin only set aside; "Alike and suitable to us in all things," flesh and blood and nature and all. So taking "the seed of Abraham;" so was, and so is truly termed in the Scriptures. Which is it that doth consummate, and knit up all this point, and is the head of all. For in all other "apprehensions" we may let go, and lay down when we will; but thisNthis "taking on the seed," the nature of manNcan never be put off. It is an "assumption" without a deposition. One we are, He and we, and so we must be; one, as this day, so for ever.
And emergent or issuing from this, are all those other "apprehendings," or seizures of the persons of menNby which God layeth hold on them, and bringeth them back from error to truth, and from sin to grace, who have been from the beginning, or shall be to the end of the world. That of Abraham himself, whom God laid hold of, and brought from out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and the idols he there worshipped. That of our Apostle St. Paul, that was "apprehended" in the way to Damascus. That of St. Peter, that in the very act of sin was "seized on" with bitter remorse for it. All those, and all these, whereby men daily are laid hold in spirit, and taken from the by-paths of sins and error, and reduced in the right way; and so their persons recovered to God, and seized to His use. All these "apprehensions of the branchesO come from this "apprehension of the seed," they their beginning and their being from this day's "taking," even semen apprehendit; our receiving His Spirit, for "taking our flesh." This seed wherewith Abraham is made the son of God, from the seed wherewith Christ is made the Son of Abraham.
 And the end why He thus took upon Him "the seed of Abraham" was, because He took upon Him to deliver "the seed of Abraham." Deliver them He could not except He destroyed "death, and the lord of death, the devil." Them He could not destroy unless He died; die He could not except He were mortal; mortal He could not be except He took our nature on him, that is the "seed of Abraham." But taking it He became mortal, died, destroyed death, delivered us; was Himself "apprehended" that we might be let go.One thing more then out of this word apprehendit. The former toucheth His love, whereby He so laid hold of us, as of a thing very precious to Him. This now toucheth our danger, whereby He so caught us, as if He had not it had been a great venture but we had sunk and perished. One and the same word, apprehendit, sorteth well to express both His affection whereby He did it, and our great peril whereby we needed it. We had been before laid hold of and "apprehendedO by one, mentioned in the fourteenth verse, he that hath "power of death, even the devil;" we were in danger to be swallowed up by him, we needed one to lay hold on us fast, and to pluck us out of his jaws. So He did. And I would have you mark, it is the same word that is used to St. Peter in like danger, when, being ready to sink, ?pelbeto, Christ "caught him by the handO and saved him. The same here in the Greek, that in the Hebrew is used to Lot and his daughters in the like danger, when "the Angels caught him, and by strong hand plucked him out of Sodom." One delivered from the water, the other from the fire.And it may truly be said, inasmuch as all God's promises, as well touching temporal as eternal deliverances, and as well corporal as spiritual, be "in Christ yea, and AmenO- yea, in the giving forth, Amen in the performingNthat even our temporal delivery from the dangers that daily compass us about, even from this last so great and so fearful as the like was never imagined before; all have their ground from this great "apprehension," are fruits of this seed Seed here, this blessed Seed, for Whose sake and for Whose truth's sake that we (though unworthily) profess we were by Him caught hold of, and so plucked out of it; and but for which Seed, facti essemus sicut Sodoma, [10/11] "We had been even as Sodom," and perished in the fire, and the powder there had even blow up all.And may not I add to this apprehendit ut liberaret, the other in the eighth chapter following, apprehendit ut manu duceret; to this of "taking us by the hand to deliver us," that "of taking us by the hand to guide us;" and so out of one word present Him to you, not only as our Delivered, but as our Guide too? Our Deliverer to rid us from him that hath "power of death," our Guide to Him that hath "power of life," to lead us even by the way of truth to the path of life, by the stations of well-doing to the "mansions in His Father's House." Seeing He hath signified it is His pleasure not to let go our hands, but to hold us still till He has brought us, "that where His, we may also be." This also is incident to apprehendit, but because it is out of the compass of the text I touch it only, and pass it.And can we now pass by this, but we must ask the question that St. John Baptist's mother sometime asked on the like occasion? Unde mihi hoc? saith she; Unde nobis hoc? may we say. Not, quod mater Domini, but quod Dominus Ipse venit ad nos; "Whence cometh thus unto us, that the Lord Himself thus came unto us and took us, letting the Angels go?" Angels are better than the best of us, and reason would ever the better should be taken; how then were we taken that were not the better?Sure, not without good ground, say the Fathers, who have adventured to search out the technology of this point; such reasons as might serve for inducements to Him that is promus ad miserendum, "naturally inclined to pity;" why upon us He would rather have compassion. And two divers such I find; I will touch only one or two of them.
First, Man's case was more to be pitied than theirs, because man was tempted by another;Nhad a tempter. The Angels had noneNnone tempted them; but themselves. Et levius est alienñ mente pecñsse quam propriñ, saith Augustine "the offence is the less if it grow from another, than if it breed in ourselves;" and the less the offence, the more pardonable.
Again, Of the Angels, when some fell, other some stood, and so they all did not perish. But in the first man all men fell, and so every mother's child had died, and no flesh been [11/12] saved, for all were in Adam; and so, in and with Adam, all had come to nought. Then cometh the Psalmist's question, Nunquid in vanum, ett.? "What hast Thou made all men for nought?" That cannot be, so great wisdom cannot do so great a work in vain. But in vain it had been if God had not shewed mercy, and therefore was man's case rather of the twain matter of commiseration. (This is Leo.)
And thus have they travailed, and these have they found, why he "apprehend" us rather than them. It may be not amiss. But we will content ourselves for us unde nobis hoc? "whence cometh this to us?" with the answer of the Scriptures. Whence, but from "tender mercies of our God, whereby t his day hath visited us?" Zelus Domini, saith Esay, "the zeal of the Lord of Hosts shall bring it to pass." Propter nimiam charitatem,saith the Apostle; Sic Deus dilexit, saith HeNHe Himself; and we taught by Him say, "Even so, Lord, for so it was Thy good pleasure thus to do."
All this while are we about "taking the seed,"Nthe seed in general. But now, why not men in the second but seed? Or, if "seed" to express our nature, why not "the seed of the woman," but "the seed of Abraham?" It may be thought because he wrote to the Hebrews, he rather used this term of "Abraham's seed," because so they were, and so loved to be styled, and he would please them. But I find the ancient Fathers go farther, and out of it raise matter both of comfort and of direction, and that, for us too.
1. Of comfort, first, with reference to our Saviour, Who taking on Him "Abraham's seed," must withal take on Him the signature of Abraham's seed, and be, as he was circumcised. There is a great matter dependeth even on that. For being circumcised, He "became a debtor to keep the whole Law of God;" which bond we had broken, and forfeited, and incurred the curse annexed, and were ready to be apprehended and committed for it. That so, He keeping the Law might recover back the chirographum contra nos, "the handwriting what was against us," and so set us free of the debt. This bond did not relate to "the seed of the woman," it pertained properly to "the seed of Abraham;" therefore that term fitted us better. Without fail, two distinct benefits they [12/13] are: 1. Factus homo, and 2. Factus sub lege; and so doeth St. Paul recount them. "Made man," that is, "the seed of the woman;" and "made under the Law," that is, "the seed of Abraham." To little purpose He should have taken the one, if He had not also undertaken the other, and as "the seed of Abraham" entered bond for us, and taken our death upon Him. This first.2. And besides this, there is yet another; referring it to the nation, or people, whom He took upon Him. It is sure they were of all other people the most "untoward;" both of the "hardest hearts," and of the "stiffest neck;" and as the heathen man noteth them, of the worst natures. God himself telleth them so; it was for no virtue of theirs, or for any pure naturals in them, that He took them to Him, for they were that way worst of the whole earth. And so then the taking of "Abraham's seed" amounteth to as much as that of St. Paul, no less true than "worthy of all men to be received," that He "came into the world to save sinners," and that chief sinners, as it is certain they were; even "the seed of Abraham," of all the seed of Adam.
But not for comfort only, but for direction too doth He use Abraham's name here. Even to entail the benefit coming by it to his seed, that is, to such as he was. For, "for his sake were all nations blessed." And Christ, though He took "the seed of woman," yet doth not benefit any but "the seed of Abraham," even those who follow the steps of his faith. For by faith Abraham took hold of Him by Whom he was in mercy taken hold of: Et tu mitte fidem et tenuisti, saith St. Augustine. That faith of his to him was "accounted for righteousness." To him was, and to us shall be, saith the Apostle, if we be in like sort "apprehensive" of Him. Jacob was, that took such hold on Him as he said plainly, Non dimittam Te, nisi benedixeris mihi; "without a blessing he would not let Him go." Surely, not the Hebrews alone; nay, not the Hebrews at all, for all their carnal propogation. they only are "Abraham's seed" that lay hold of the word of promise. And the Galatians so doing, though they were mere heathen men as we be, yet he telleth them they are "Abraham's seed," and shall be blessed together with him.
 But that is not all; there goeth more to the making us "Abraham's seed," as Christ Himself, the true Seed, teacheth both them and us. Saith He, "If ye be Abraham's sons, then must you do the works of Abraham," which the Apostle well calleth, the "steps" or impressions of "Abraham's faith;" or we may call them the fruits of this seed here. So reasoneth our Saviour: Hoc non fecit Abraham; "This did not he;" if ye do it, ye are not "his seed." "This did he;Ndo ye the like, and his seed ye are." So here is a double "apprehension;" 1. one of St. Paul, 2. the other of St. JamesNwork for both hands to apprehend. Both 1. charitas quæ ex fide; and 2. fides quæ per charitatem operatur. By which we shall be able, saith St. Paul, "to lay hold of eternal life;" and so be "Abraham's seed" here at the first, and come to "Abraham's bosom" there at the last. So have we a brief of semen Abrahæ.
Now what is to be commended to us out of this text for us to lay hold of? Verily first, to take us to our meditation, the meditation which the Psalmist hath, and which the Apostle in this chapter voucheth out of him at the sixth verse. "When I consider," saith he, "the HeavensO -say we, the Angels of HeavenNand see those glorious Spirits passed by, and man taken, even to sigh with him, and say, "Lord, what is man," either Adam or Abraham, "that Thou shouldest be thus mindful of him, or the seed, or sons of either, that Thou shouldest make this do about him!" The case is here far otherwiseNfar more worth our consideration. There, "Thou hast made him a little lower;" here, "Thou hast made him a great deal higher than the Angels." For they, this day first, and ever since, daily have and do adore our nature in the personal union with the Deity. Look you, saith the Apostle, "when He brought His only-begotten Son into the world, this He proclaimed before Him, Let all the Angels worship Him;" and so they did. And upon this very day's "taking the seed" hath ensued, as the Fathers note, a great alteration. Before in the Old Testament, they suffered David to sit upon his knees before them; since, in the New, they endure not St. John should fall down to them, but acknowledge the cast is altered now, and no more superiority, but all fellow-servants. And even in this one part two things [14/15] present themselves unto us; 1. His humility, Qui non est confusus, as in the eleventh verse the Apostle speaketh, "Who was not confounded" thus to take our nature. 2. And withal, the honour and happiness of Abraham's seed, ut digni haberentur, that were "counted worthy to be taken so near unto Him."The next point; that after we have well considered it we be affected with it, and that no otherwise than Abraham was. "Abraham saw it," even this day, and but far off, "and he rejoiced at it;" and so shall we on it, if we be His true seed. It brought forth a Benedictus and a Magnificat, from the true seed of Abraham; if it do not the like from us, certainly it but floats in our brains we but warble about it; but we believe it not, and therefore neither do we rightly understand it. Sure I am, if the Angels had such a feast to keep, if He had done the like for them, they would hold it with all joy and jubilee. They rejoice of our god, but if they had one of their own, they must needs do it after another manner, far more effectually. If we do not as they would do were the case theirs, it is because we are short in conceiving the excellency of the benefit. It would have surely due observation, if it had this due and serious meditation.
Farther, we are to understand this, "that to whom much is given, of them will much be required;" and as St. Gregory wells saith, Cum crescunt dona, crescunt et rationes donorum, "As the gifts grow, so grow the accounts too;" therefore, that by this new dignity befallen us, Necessitas qu3/4dam nobis imposita est, saith St. Augustine, "there is a certain necessity laid upon us" to become in some measure suitable unto it; in that we are one--one flesh and one blood, with the Son of God. Being thus "in honour," we ought to understand our estate, and not fall into the Psalmist's reproof, that we, "become like the beasts that perish." For if we do indeed think our nature is ennobled by this so high a conjunction, we shall henceforth hold ourselves more dear, and at a higher rate, than to prostitute ourselves to sin, for every base, trifling, and transitory pleasure. For tell me, men that are taken to this degree, shall any of them prove a devil, as Christ said of Judas? or ever, as these with us of late, have to do with any devilish or Judasly fact?
Shall any man, after this "assumption, be as "horse or mule [15/16] that have no understanding,' and in a Christian profession like a brutish life? Nay then, St. Paul tells us further, that if we henceforth "walk like men," like but even carnal or natural men, it is a fault in us. Somewhat must appear in us more than in ordinary men, who are vouchsafed so extraordinary a favour. Somewhat more than common would come from us, if it but for this day's sake.
To conclude; not only thus to frame meditations and resolutions, but even some practice too, out of this act of "apprehension." It is very agreeable to reason, saith the Apostle, that we endeavour and make a proffer, if we may by any means, to "apprehend" Him in His, by Whom we are thus in our nature "apprehended," or, as He termeth it, "comphrended," even Christ Jesus; and be united to Him this day, as He was to us this day, by a mutual and reciprocal "apprehension." We may so, and we are bound so; vere dignum et justum est. And we do so, so oft as we do with St. James lay hold of, "apprehend," or receive insitum verbum, the "word which is daily grafted into us." For "the Word" He is, and in the word He is received by us. But that is not the proper of this day, unless there be another joined unto it. This day Verbum caro factum est, and so must be "apprehended" in both. But specially in His flesh as this day giveth it, as this day would have us. Now "the bread which we break, is it not the partaking of the body, of the flesh, of Jesus Christ?" It is surely, and by it and by nothing more are we made partakers of this blessed union. A little before He said, "Because the children were partakers of flesh and blood, He also would take part with them--may not we say the same? Because He hath so done, taken ours of us, we also ensuing His steps will participate with Him and with His flesh which He hath taken of us. It is most kindly to take part with Him in that which He took part in with us, and that, to no other end, but that He might make the receiving of it by us a means whereby He might "dwell in us, and we in Him." He taking our flesh, and we receiving His Spirit; by His flesh which He took of us receiving His Spirit which He imparteth to us; that, as He by ours became consors humanae naturae, so we by His might become consortes Divinae naturae, "partakers of the Divine nature." Verily, it is the most straight and [16/17] perfect "taking holdO that is. No union so knitteth as it. Not consanguinity; brethren fall out. Not marriage; man and wife are severed. But that which is nourished, and the nourishment wherewithNthey never are, never can be severed, but remain one for ever. With this act then of mutual "taking," taking of His flesh as He has taken ours, let us seal our duty to Him this day, for taking not "Angels," but "the seed of Abraham."
Almighty God, grant &c.