Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology
Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume One
SERMONS OF THE NATIVITY.
PREACHED UPON CHRISTMAS-DAY, 1607.
Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Thursday, the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCVII
Transcribed by Dr Marianne Dorman
1 Timothy iii:16
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
Et manifeste magnum est pietatis sacramentum,
quod manifestatum est in carne, justificatum
est in Spiritu, apparuit angelis, praedicatum
est Gentibus, creditum est in mundo, assumptum
est in gloria.
O^The mysteryO here mentioned is the mystery of this feast, and this feast the feast of this mystery; for as at this feast O^God was manifested in the flesh.O In that it is a great mystery, it makes the feast great. In that it is a mystery of godliness, it should make it likewise a feast of godliness, great we grant, and godly too we trust. Would God, as godly as great, and no more O^controversyO of one than of the other!
The manifestation of God in the flesh the Evangelists set down by way of a history; the Apostle [i.e. Paul] goeth farther, and findeth a deep mystery in it, and for a mystery commends it unto us. Now there is a difference between these two, manyNthis for one; that a man may hear a story, and never wash his hands, but a mystery requireth both the hands and heart to be clean that shall deal with it. [32/33]
Speaking of it then as a mystery, the Apostle doth here propound two things; I. First that it is one; O^without controversy.O&c. II. Then, what it is; O^God manifested,O &c. III. And out of these a third will grow necessarily, because mysteries will admit a fellowship, how to order the matter that we may have our O^fellowship in this mystery.O
In the first part, four things he affirmeth; 1. that it is a O^mystery;O 2. a O^mystery of godliness;O 3. that it is a O^greatO one; 4. a O^great one without controversy.O
Then doth he, as it were, rend the veil in sunder, and shew us what it is: 1. O^God manifested;O 2. O^manifested in the flesh.O
Which mystery, how it may concern us, will be our third and last consideration. And that two ways: 1. by the operation of it in us; 2. by the initiation of us into it.
A mystery it is, presented to us in that term by the Apostle to stir up our attention. Omnes homines naturñ scire desiderant, O^all men even by nature love to be knowing.O The philosopher hath made it his ground, and set it in the front of his metaphysics. So saith philosophy.
And even to this day, saith divinity, doth the O^tree of knowledgeO still work in the sons of Eve; we still reckon the attaining of knowledge a thing to be desired, and be it good or evil, we love to be knowing, all the sort of us. Knowing, but what? Not such things as every one knoweth that goeth by the way, vulgar and trivial; tush, those are nothing. But metaphysics that are the arcana of philosophy; mysteries that are the secrets of divinity; such as few besides are admitted to; those be the things we desire to know. We see it in the Bethshemites, they longed to be prying into the Ark of God; they were heathen. We see it in the people of God too, they pressed too near the Mount; rails were fain to be set to keep them back. It is because it is held a point of a deep wit to search out secrets, as in Joseph. At least of special favour to be received so far, as Vobis datum est nosse mysteria. All desire to be in credit. The mention of mysteries will make us stand attentive; why then, if our nature like so well of mysteries, Ecce ostendo vobis vobis mysterium, O^Behold I shew you a mystery, saith the Apostle.
A O^mystery of godliness.O The world has her mysteries [33/34] in all arts and trades, (yea, mechanical, pertaining to this life;) which are imparted to none but such as are filii scienti3/4, O^apprentices to them.O These have their mysteries; have them, nay are nothing but mysteries. So they delight to style themselves by the name of such and such a mystery. Now themselves by the name of such and such a mystery. Now Pietas est qu3/4estus, and ad omnia utilis, O^a trade of good return,O to be in request with us; whether we look O^to this life present,O saith he, O^or to that to come.O Therefore, to be allowed her mysteries; at least as all other trades are. The rather, for that there is mysterium iniquitatis. And it were somewhat hard that there should not be mysterium pietatis, to encounter and to match it, that O^BabylonO should be allowed the name of O^mysteryO and Sion not. It were an evident non sequitur, that there should be profunda Satan3/4, O^deep things of Satan;O and that there should not be O^deep and profound things of God and godliness, for the Spirit to search out.O But such there beNmysteries of godliness. And we will, I trust, stand affected as in all other trades, so in this, to be acquainted with these; and, as the Apostles speaketh, to pierce ad interiora velaminis, O^to that which is within the veil,O to the very O^mystery of godliness.O
It is not only a O^mystery of godliness,O but a O^greatO one. The Apostle, where he saith, O^If I knew all mysteries,O giveth us to understand, there be more than one; there is a plurality of them. And here in this place telleth us, they be not all of one scantling; there is magis and minus in them; some little, some great. 1. Some great, if you will, according to all the dimensions, length and breadth, &c. 2. Or great, virtute, non mole O^of greater value, more precious than other.O 3. Or great, a third way, that is, gravida mysteriis, O^one mystery, but hath many mysteries with it.O That such there are, and that this here is one of them, O^great.O Now that which leadeth us to make account of mysteries, will likewise lead us to make great account of great mysteries, such as this is.
Yet have we not allNone point further. It is a O^greatO oneNa O^great one without controversy.O For even of those mysteries that are great, all are not great alike. Many great there are, yet is not the greatness of all generally acknowledged in confesso. Doubts are made, questions arise about them; all are [34/35] not manifesto magna. We see in our days how men languish about some points, which they would have thought to be great; and great controversies there be, and great books of controversies about them. Well, howsoever it is with other, it is not so with this. This is AEmologoumu`nwj, taken pro confessi, O^great;O O^great without controversy;O the manifesting of God in the flesh is a mystery manifestly great. Being then one of the mysteries of religion, a great one among them; so great, as though questions grow about the greatness of others, none may about this; I hope there will be no more question, or controversy of our account, and our great account of it, than there is of the mystery itself, and the greatness of it.
But before we go any further to remove the veil, and shew what it is, let us pause here awhile, till we have rendered thanks to God, and said with Nanzianzen, Cpij t\ makapELJ Qe?, &c. Now yet, blessed by God That, among divers other mysteries about which there are so many mists and clouds of controversies raised in all ages, and even in this of ours, hath yet left us some clear and without controversy; manifest and yet great; and again, great and yet manifest. So great as no exception to be taken; so manifest, as no question to be made about them.
Withal, to reform our judgments in this point. For a false conceit is crept into the minds of men, to think points of religion that be manifest to be certain petty points scarce worth the hearing. ThoseNyea those be great, and none but those, that have great disputes about them. It is not so; To m
n nagkaUNa,&c. Those that are necessary He hath made plain: those that [are] not plain, not necessary. What better proof than this here? This here a mystery, a great oneNreligion hath no greaterNyet manifest, and in confesso, with all Christians. Zachary's prophecy and promise touching Christ, wherewith He concludeth his Benedictus, (we hear it every day,) shall not deceive us for this mystery; He came O^to guide our feet into the way of peace.O A way of peace then will be whereof all parts will agree, even in the midst of a world of controversies. That there need not such ado in complaining, if men did not delight rather to be treading mazes than to walk in the ways of peace. For even still such a way there is, which lieth fair enough and would lead [35/36] us sure enough to salvation; if leaving those other rough labrinyths we would but O^be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.O
Yea further the Apostle doth assure us, that if whereunto we are come and wherein we all agree, we would constantly proceed by the rule, those things wherein we are O^otherwise mindedO even them would God reveal unto us. That is He makes no controversy but controversies would cease, if conscience were made of the practice of that which is out of controversy. And I would to God it were so, and that this here, and such other manifeste magna were in account. With the Apostle himself it was so. He sheweth plainly what reckoning he made of this plain mystery in that having been O^ravished in spirit up to the third heavens, and there heard wonderful high mysteries, past man's utterance;O yet reckoned he all those nothing, in comparison of this plain mystery here, nay O^esteemed himself not to know any thing at allO but this.
And as he esteemeth it himself, so would he have us. It is his express charge we see in the verse next before, where he tells his Bishop Timothy how he would have him, his Priests, Deacons, occupy themselves in his absence. This he commends to them; wills them to be doing with this mystery. That you may know what to do, saith he, what? do but deal with this point; throughly deal with it. Howsoever it is manifest, it is great; great regard to be had to it, great pains to be bestowed about it. And even so then let us do, and see now another while this mystery what it is.
O^God is manifested in the flesh.O Being one of the mysteries of godliness, it cannot be but God must be a part, and a chief part of it. And God being a part maketh it great. For great must that needs be whereof He is a part, of O^Whose greatness there is no end.O And mark first, that it is not aliquid Dei, but DEUS; not any thing divine, or of God, but God Himself. Divers things, divers O^invisible things of GodOhad been formerly made manifest; His eternal power, wisdom, providence, in and since the creation. They be no mysteries, but this is; that not the things of God, but God's own self; not O^the beams of His brightness,O but the very character of His substance, the very Nature and Person of God. This is a great mystery. [36/37]
Of God, the prophet Esay saith, Vere Deus absconditus es tu; God is of Himself a mystery, and hidden; and that which is strange, hidden with light which will make any eyes past looking on Him. But a hidden God our nature did not endure. Will you hear them speak it plainly? Fac nobis deos, O^makes us visible gods who may go before us,O and we see them. Mystical, invisible gods we cannot skill of. This we would have; God to be manifested. Why then, O^God is manifested.O
O^ManifestedO wherein? Sure, if God will condescend to be manifested, there is none but will think it is meet to be, and it would be, in the most glorious creature that is under or above the sun; none, good enough. Yea, in what thing soever, be it never so excellent, for God to manifest Himself in, is a disparagement therein? O^Without controversyO it is not. Why, what is flesh? It is no mystery to tell what it is; it is O^dust,O saith the Patriarch Abraham. It is O^grass,O saith the Prophet Esay; foenum, O^grass cut down, and withering.O It is O^corruption,O not corruptible, but even corruption itself, saith the Apostle Paul. There being then, as Abraham saith to him, csma mu`ga, O^so great a gulph, so huge a space, so infinite a distanceO between those two, between God and dust, God and hay, God and corruption, as no coming of one at the other; sileat omnis caro, O^talk not of flesh.O Were it not a proud desire and full of presumption, to wish things so remote to come together? to wish that the Deity in the flesh may be made manifest? Yet we see wished it was, by one in a place in reasonable express terms, O^O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother!O That is, O that He might be O^manifested in the flesh!O O that He might be! and so He was. Not only manifest at all; that is great; but manifest in the flesh; that is greater. For if gold mixed though it be with silver is abased by it, what if it be mixed with the rust of iron or dross of lead? This must needs be great in itself, but greater with us; with us especially that make such ado at any though never so little disparagement; and that if any, though not much our inferior, be ranked with us, take ourselves mightily wrong. We cannot choose but hold this mystery for great, and say with St. Augustine, [37/38] Deus; quid gloriosius? Caro; quid vilius? Deus in carne; quid mirabilius? O^God; what more glorious? flesh; what more base? Then, God in the flesh; what more marvellous?O
But I ask further, O^manifested in the flesh?O what flesh? or how manifested? In what flesh? What! in the pride and beauty of our nature? No; but in the most disgraceful estate of it that might be. And how manifested? Ad gloriam, for O^His credit or glory?O No; but ad ignominiam, O^to His great contempt and shame.O So to have been manifested as in the holy mount, O^His face as the sun,O His garments as O^light-manning;O between Moses and Elias, in all glory and glorious mannerNthis had not been so great an impeachment. Was that the manner? No; but how? In clouts, in a stable, in a manger. The God Whom O^the heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain,O in a little child's flesh not a span long; and that flesh of a child not very well conditioned, as you may read in the sixteenth of Ezekiel.
So to-day, but after much worse. To-day, in the flesh of a poor babe crying in the cratch, in medio animalium; after, in the rent and torn flesh of a condemned person hanging on the cross, in medio latronum, in the midst of other manner persons than Moses and Elias; that men even hid their faces at Him, not for the brightness of His glory, but for sorrow and shame. Call you this manifesting? Nay, well doth the Apostle call it the O^veil of flesh,O as whereby He was rather obscured than any way set forth; yea eclipsed in all the darkest points of it. Verily the condition of the flesh was more than the flesh itself, and the manner of the manifestation far more than the manifestation itself was. Both still make the mystery greater and greater.
And now to weigh the word O^manifestedO another while; because that may seem to be terrminus diminuens, O^a qualified term,O rather abating than any way tending to make great the mystery; in that a thing may be manifested and not be that for which it is manifested, be manifested for one thing and be another. Would to God we had not too plain example of these even in that we are about, in godliness itself; that there were not that manifested themselves ?n morf?ei, O^in the visor or mask of godliness,O but be nothing less. Well this, how or wheresoever it may be with men, with God it is not; [38/39] He is not like to us; and howsoever, not here in this. For first, it is not in the shadow, show, or shape of flesh, but in very flesh itself. Then it is not, saith the Greek Scholiast, fanerwqeoNj: fan?oNj, which importeth but O^an apparition, transistory, for a season, and then vanisheth again;O but O^a manifestation;O such as is, say theym, permanent, which passeth not, but lasteth for ever. And to put all out of question that here is nihil personatum, but even persona, He that here is said to be O^God manifested in the flesh,' is in another place said to be Verbum caro factum, O^the Word made flesh.' So manifested that made; so taking our nature, as His and it are grown into one person, never to be severed or taken in sunder any more. And in sign thereof that flesh wherein He is manifested in the beginning of the verse, in the end of the verse in the very same flesh He is O^received up into glory,O and in the same shall appear again at His second manifestation.
And yet to go further; I say that this word O^manifestedO is so far from being terminus diminuens, that it doth greatly ampliate and enlarge the mystery yet still. To be and to be manifested, esse and videri, dici de and esse in, are two things. And as in some cases it is more to be than to be manifested, so in some other it is more to be manifested than to be; and namely in this here. More for God to be manifested, than to be in the flesh. It is well known, when a great high person doeth fall into low estate, he careth not so much for being so, as for appearing such; manifest him not, and you do him a pleasure. More it is for him to be made known, than to be what he is. O it is naturally given us to hide our abasing what we can. Our misery must be kept in a mystery, and that mystery not manifested in any wise. O^Blow a trumpet in Sion,O if any good come to us; but whist, O^let it not be heard in Gath, nor in Ascalon,O if any any evil fall upon us. Not so much as Naomi, we see but when she was fallen into poverty, she could not endure to be called by that name; no, her name was Mara, as if she had been some other party; so loath she was to have her misery made manifest. Humility intrinsical is not so much; it is the manifesting our humility that poseth us. That David should have been humble in heart before God and His Ark, [39/40] that Michael could have borne well enough. This was the grief; that David must make it manifest, O^uncover himself, wear an ephod,O and thereby as she thought mightily disgrace and make himself O^vile in the eyes of his servants.O That was it she took so ill; not to be so much, as to be manifest; that same manifesting marred all. And why would Nicodemus come to Christ but not but by candlelight, but that to be seen manifestly to come, was with him a far greater matter than to come. By all which it appeareth, that in the case of abasement to seem is more than to be. dici de than esse in; and so here nosci more than nasci. And I make no question but we may reckon these two as two distinct degrees. 1. He abhorred not to become flesh. 2. He abhorred not to have it manifestly known. It was not done, this, in a corner, in an out-corner of Galilee; but in the City of David. His poor clouts manifested by a star; His shameful death published by a great eclipse; yea that it might be manifest indeed, (as it followeth after in the verse,) He would have it preached over all the world.
But when we have done and said all that ever we can, if we had all mysteries and no love, the Apostle telleth us it is nothing. We can have no mystery except love be manifest. So is it. Two several time does the Apostle tell us, 1. apparuit gratia; 2. apparuit amor erga homines. At the opening of this mystery there appeared the grace of God, and the love of God towards mankind. Velatio Deitatis, revelatio charitatis; O^as manifest as God was in the flesh, so manifest was His love unto flesh.O And then, because great love a great mystery, Dilexit goes never alone, but with sic; so Christ: ecce quantum charitatem; so St. John. Sure, how great and apparent humility, so great and apparent love. And His humility was too apparent. So we have O^God manifested in the flesh,O Deus charitas; for if ever He were love or showed it in this He was it, and showed it both. God that is O^loveO was O^manifested in the flesh.O
To make an end, one question more. To what end? Cui bono? O^who is the better for all this?O God that is manifested, or the flesh wherein He is manifested? Not God; so to Him there groweth nothing out of this manifestation. It is for the good of the flesh, that O^God was manifested in the flesh.O [40/41]. 1. For the good present: for we let go that of the Psalmist now, O^Thou that hearest the prayer, to Thee shall all flesh come;O and much better and more properly say, O^Thou that art manifested in the flesh, to Thee shall all flesh come; with boldness entering into the holy place, by the new and living way prepared for us through the veil that is, His flesh.O 2. And for the good to come; for we are put in hope that the end of this manifesting God in the flesh will be the manifesting of the flesh in Him, even as He is; and that which is the end of the verse be the end of all, O^the receiving us up into His glory.O To this haven arriveth this mystery of the manifestation of it.
The end of this second part is but the beginning of the third. For hearing that it is so great and of so great avail rising by it, that it is qu3/4stus multo uberrimus, O^a trade so beneficial;O it makes us seek how to incorporate ourselves, as in the third of the Ephesians he speaketh, how to have our part and fellowship in this trade or mystery. And that may we do, saith he in the same place, si opertur in nobis, that is O^if it prove to us, as it is in itself, a mystery.O I know it were a thing very easy for a speculative Divine to lead you along, and let you see that this mystery is the substance of all the ceremonies, and the fulfilling of all prophecies; that all Moses' veils, and all the Prophets' visions, are recapitulated in it. But it is a point of speculation; we hear those points too often, and love them too well: points of practice are less pleasing, bit more profitable for us; namely, how we may get into the partnership of this mystery.
There is this difference between a ceremony and a mystery. A ceremony represents and signifies, but works nothing; a mystery doth both. Besides that it signifieth, it has his operation; and work it doth, else mystery is it none. You may see it by the mystery of iniquity; that does operari, O^was at workO in the Apostles' time; and it is no way to be admitted, but that the mystery of godliness should have like operative force.
If you ask what it is to work? It is to do, as all other agents; ut assimulet passum, O^to make that it works on like itself;O to bring forth in it the very same quality. This the rather, for that this day being a birth-day, and the mystery of [41/42] it a birth or generation; in that, we know, the natural and most proper work is sui simile procreare, O^to beget and bring forth the very like to itself.O And what should the O^mystery of godlinessO beget in us but godliness? What the O^mystery of godlinessO in this chapter, but the exercise of godliness in the next? To shew, we must make St. Basil's skhtiko of it; for his skhtiko and St. Paul's gumnastiko I take to be all one.
First within, after the manner of a mystery, by entering into ourselves, and saying with St. Peter, O^Seeing then God has dealt with us, what manner of person ought we to be, in all holy conversation and godliness?O How ought we to esteem Him who so esteemed us? How to esteem ourselves whom He hath so esteemed? How without soil or spot to keep that flesh wherein God has O^manifestedO Himself, that nothing comes from it but such as may become that flesh which is now all one with the flesh of the Son of God.
Provided that it be not all within; for we deal not with a mystery alone, but with a manifestation too. That therefore our godliness be not only mystical but manifest, as God was. As the mystery, so the godliness of it; O^greatO and conspicious, both. For that is the complaint, that in our godliness, nowadays, we go very mystically to work indeed; we keep it under a veil, and nothing manifest but opera carnis, which makes St. James cry, ostende mihi, shew it me, and St. Paul tells us, that the life of Jesus must not only be had in our spirit, but manifest in our flesh. For godliness is not only faith which referreth to the mystery as we have it directly at the ninth verse, the O^mystery of faith;O but it is love too, which referreth to the manifestation. For in hoc cognoscimus, saith St. John, O^by this we know, ourselves;O and in hoc cognoscent omnes, saith Christ, O^by this shall all men knowO that we are His. And if faith work by love, the mystery will be so manifest in us, as we shall need no prospective glasses, or optic instruments, to make it visible; all men shall take notice of it.
And yet remaineth there one point, than which there is not one more peculiar to a mystery. That which the Apostle calleth initiating; whereby we grow into the fellowship of this and what mysteries soever. For this we are to [42/43] understand that mysteries go not all by hearing; no, they be dispensed also; and men are to esteem of us, says, he, not only as of the unfolders, but as of O^the stewards,O or dispensers O^of the mysteries of God.O Operari mysteriis is a phrase well known to the very heathen themselves; that mysteries, as they work, so they are to be wrought. That they are to be handled, and that our hands are to be clean washed yet we offer to touch them.
By which I understand the mystery of godliness, or exercise of godlinessNcall it whether ye willNwhich we call the Sacrament; the Greek hath no other word for it but Mysterion, whereby the Church offereth to initiate us into the fellowship of this day's mystery. Nothing sorts better than these two mysteries one with the other; the dispensation of a mystery with the mystery of dispensation. It doth manifestly represent, it doth mystically impart what it respresenteth. There is in it even by the very institution both a manifestation, and that visibly, to set before us this flesh; and a mystical communication to infeoffe us in it or make us partakers of it. For the elements; what can be more properly fit to represent unto us the union with our nature, than things that do unite themselves to our nature? And if we be to dispense the mysteries in due season, what season more due than that His flesh and Blood be set before us that time that He was O^manifested in flesh and bloodO for us? Thus we shall be initiate.
You look to hear of a consummation of it too; and consummate it will be, but not yet; not till the days of the voice of the seventh Angel. Then shall the mystery of God be finished. So we find it directly, but not before. When He that was this day O^manifested in the flesh,O shall manifest to the flesh the fulness of this mystery, His eternity, glory, and bliss. So, still it remaineth a mystery in part; a part thereof there still remaineth behind to be manifested. What He is appeareth; what we shall be doth not yet appear, but shall at the second appearing. Two veils we read of: 1. The veil of His flesh; 2. And the veil where our hope hath cast anchor, even within the veil, meaning Heaven itself. The first is rent; these mysteries are remembrances of it. The second also shall be, as we also with it; and as He, in the end of [43/44] the verse, so we with Him in the end shall be O^received up into glory.O To the consummation of which great mystery, even that great manifestation, He vouchsafe to bring us all, That was this day for us all O^manifested in the flesh,O O^Jesus Christ the righteous,O &c.