Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology
Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume One
SERMONS OF THE NATIVITY.
PREACHED UPON CHRISTMAS-DAY, 1611.
Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Wednesday, the Twenty-fifth of December, A.D. MDCXI.
Transcribed by Dr Marianne Dorman
St. John i:14.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis: et vidimus gloriam ejus, gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiae, et veritatis.
There is in the Old Testament, in the tenth of Ezekiel, and in the New, in the fourth of the Revelation, a vision of four sundry shapes, a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. It hath been usually received, to apply these four to the four Evangelists, and of them the eagle to St. John. The nature of the eagle is by God Himself described by two properties, 1. elevare ad ardua, no fowl under Heaven towereth so high; 2. and ubicunque fuerit cadaver statim adest; none so soon or so suddenly down upon the body as he. Both these do lively express themselves in St. John, and no where more lively than in this Gospel. Wherein, as an eagle in the clouds, he first mounteth wonderfully high beyond Moses and his in principio, with an higher in principio than it; beyond Genesis and the world's creation: that the ‘the Word was then with God and was God.’ This may well be termed the eagle's flight, so exceeding high as the clearest eye hath much ado to follow him. Yet so far as they can follow him, the very philosophers have been driven to admire the penning of [85/86] this Gospel. But after this, as an eagle again, (ubi corpus, ibi aquila,) down he cometh directly from the height of Heaven, and lights upon the body of His flesh, the mystery of His incarnation: and tells us, that He that ‘in the beginning was apud Deum and Deus’—He ‘in the fulness of time’ was apud homines and homo. He dwelt not long aloft, he knew it was not to purpose; Verbum Deus is far above our reach. Verbum caro, that concerns us. No time but it concerns us, but this time above others. This feast is held, this assembly met, for no other end but to celebrate the contents of the text, that the Word being made flesh this day came to dwell among us.
Two parts there be in the text, sensibly parted by a parenthesis. I. That without the parenthesis is that he would have us believe Verbum caro &c. II. That within is the affidavit, vidimus. &c. In the former three things are affirmed of the Word. 1. Factum e nobis; 2. habitavit in nobis; 3. plenum pro nobis; 1. that the Word was made flesh of us; 2. dwelt with us; 3. was full for us.
Then followeth the affidavit of these. That St. John, and other more besides, saw, and so spake no more than they knew; nor testify no more than they had seen. The best proof that can be. They saw (though not the Word Himself yet) His glory. And that glory such as would suit with none but Him; and so, every way sufficient to demonstrate Him the only Son of God.
And, after all this one more there is without which His making, dwelling and seeing, were to little purpose; that is, that as He came not obscurely but was seen, so He came not empty but ‘full of grace and truth.’ This fulness was not for Himself, but for us; et de plenitudine Ejus omnes accepimus.
There is not anything that concerneth this mystery, but is within the text. His two natures, ‘the Word,’ and ‘flesh:’ 1. ‘Word,’ divine; 2. ‘flesh,’ human. The union of them in factum est; union into a Person, in habitavit; habitare, est personĺ. 3. Then His office also— ™sk»uwse, which is not only habitavit, but castrametavit in nobis, not only took a house, but ‘pitched a pavilion’ in us; not only, factus incola, ‘made our neighbour,’ but made a champion for us to understand our quarrel and to fight a combat. 4. And last, the [86/87] benefit, ‘made,’ that he might ‘dwell;’ and ‘dwell’ that He might impart to us, and we derive from Him, that whereof He was full, and we were empty—we had need, and He had store; ‘grace and truth.’
All reducible to these three: I. Quod Verbum caro; II. Quid Verbum carni; III. Quid caro Verbo. I. ‘That the Word became flesh;’ the mystery. II. ‘What the Word did for flesh;’ the benefit. III. ‘And what flesh is to do to the Word again;’ the duty.
We are in a deep point, and a dangerous. It will not be amiss to pause a little on the three terms, Verbum, caro and factum est. ‘The Word.’ 1. There be that take this name to be given Him, as who should say; He, of Whom so many excellent words are spoken all along this book, so many words of promise and prophesy, and all of Him—so the word, objective. 2. Others; for that He discloseth to us all God's counsel, even as the word openeth the mind of man; by Whom as His Word, we know whatsoever we know of the Father's mind: so the word effective. 3. A third; for that He cometh not only as Jesus to save us but as the Word to teach us, we as to honour Him so learn His word as the way to our salvation: so the word prĺceptive.
4. These are all well and true all but all short. We may have use of them, but there is a farther matter than all these. This Word, as we find in the affidavit, is ‘the Only-begotten of the Father.’ These two are one and the same, but need to be set in two terms, that what is wanting in the one may be supplied by the other; (so high is the divine nature above our reach as no one term is able to express it; it is well if divers will do it.) In this they agree; as the Son is to the Father, so is the word to the mind. The Son, Proles parentis; the word, proles mentis. They proceed, both. The Son from the Father, the word from the mind; and so note out unto us a party proceeding, a second Person from the first; from Him that begetteth, the Son; from him that speaketh, the word; against Sabellius.
The Son referreth to a living nature, the Word addeth further an intellectual nature; generare est viventium, loqui intelligentium, that there is in Him not only the nature and life, but the wisdom of the Father. [87/88]
Both proceed. The Word sheweth the manner; the Son, the truth of His proceeding. With us the son is not begot but by flesh, by propagation; the Word therefore requisite to shew His proceeding was after no carnal manner, but as the word from the mind. A better term could not be devised. For there is not in all the world a more pure, simple, inconcrete procreation than that whereby the mind conceiveth the word within it, by dixit in corde. For in itself and of itself doth the mind produce it without help of any mixture of ought, without any passion stirring or agitation at all. Such was the issue of the Word eternal. But then, lest we might imagine God's Word to be Him no other than ours is to us, not of our substance; He makes amends for that and tells us ‘He is the Only-begotten,’ and so of the substance of His Father, (‘very God, of very God,’) as all begotten sons be. The Word, to shew His proceeding pure and merely spiritual; the Son, to shew that for all that it is true and substantial. Truly consubstantial with the Father, as the Son; but in all clean and pure manner conceived, as the Word.
The Son though He be consubstantial, yet the Person of His Father may have a being long before Him. The Word makes amends for that. For the mind's conceiving and the mind cannot be severed a moment; if one be eternal, both are. So then as the Son He is consubstantial, as the Word He is coeternal.
But He begins with the Word. His care being first to tell us of the pureness of His generation before of His generation itself; but after, by little and little unfoldeth Himself and tells, He is so the Word as the Son also. Indeed, it was best beginning with the Word. That term the heathen wise men, the philosophers, would never stumble at, but brook it well enough; as indeed they did not with approbation only but with high admiration, read and magnify the beginning of this Gospel. Witness Tertul. in Apol., Euseb. in Prĺpar., August. de Civit., 10, and Theoderet. It was conform to their reason, Quod Deus ab ĺterno intelligit, and that Noąj and Dėgoj, ‘the conceiving of the mind,’ and ‘the mind’ must needs be coeternal—the mind never without it; as the Prophet saith, Egressus Ejus a diebus ĺternitatis. This for the Word of much more that might be said of it. [88/89]
As the Word and the Only-begotten refer to One, so does caro and in nobis, flesh and in us; that is such flesh as in us, that is such flesh as is in us, human flesh. 1.To express the union fully, a better word could not be chosen. It is a part for the whole, and the worser part for the whole of purpose. For in this case our nature is best set out by the worser part. For this we know; if the worse be taken, the better will not be left behind. If He abhor not the flesh, of the spirit there will be no question. More forcible it is to say, ‘He was made flesh,’ than ‘He was made man,’ though both be true. He vouchsafed to become man, nothing so much as to become flesh, the very lowest and basest part of man.
Besides, from the flesh, as from Eve, came the beginning of transgression—longing after the forbidden fruit, refused the Word quite; so, of all other, least likely to be taken. The Word not refusing it, the rest have good hope.
But there is a kind of necessity to use the term flesh. If He had said ‘man,’ man might be taken for a person. He took no person, but our nature He took. Flesh is no person but nature only, and so best expresseth it. And if soul, it might have been taken, as if He took not the flesh but mediante anima; but so He did not but as immediately and as soon the flesh as the soul, in one instant both.
Yet one more. It will not be amiss to tell you; the word that is Hebrew for flesh the same is also Hebrew for good tidings rcn- as we call it, the Gospel; sure, not without the Holy Spirit so dispensing it. There could be no other meaning but that some incarnation, or making flesh, should be generally good news for the whole world. To let us know this good tidings is come to pass He tells us, the Word is now become flesh.
Thus why flesh; why the Word, flesh. Caro Verbum was our bane. Flesh would be the Word; nay, wiser than the Word, and know what was evil better than it. If caro Verbum, our bane, then Verbum caro our remedy.
Surely, if the Word would become flesh, it were so most kindly. The Word was Pars lĺsa, ‘the Party that was most offended.’ If He would undertake it, if He against Whom the offence was would be Author of the reconciliation, there were none to that. It were so most proper. [89/90]
But in other respect He were fit too. He had said above, ‘all things were made by Him;’ a kind of meetness there were, ut per quem facta omnia per eundem refecta, ‘He that first made them should restore them; He that built repair’—so is best ever.
And indeed, sic oportet implere omnem justitiam, ‘that were the way to fulfil all justice;’ if the Word would take flesh, He might make full amends for the flesh's fault in rejecting the Word. So is justice; that flesh for flesh, and not the flesh of oxen and sheep but even that flesh that sinneth (our flesh) should suffer for it, and so suffering make satisfaction to justice.
Why then, factum est caro, ‘the Word is made flesh;’ this makes up all. For, factum est, ergo est; ‘He is made flesh, therefore is flesh.’ Fieri terminatur ad esse, ‘the end of making is being.’ And per modum naturĺ,(so is ™gýueto the Greek word:) ‘this being is natural;’ et nativitas est via ad naturam, ‘and nativity is the way to nature.’ So, to be born; as this day He was. Venit per carnem, santat per verbum, ‘that all flesh may see the salvation of God.’ ‘Made’ it was; against Manicheus holding that He had no true body; as if factum had been fictum, or making were mocking. Made it was, but how made? Not convertendo, ‘the Word converted into flesh,’ as Cerinthus; or ‘flesh converted into the Word,’ Verbum caro facta est, as Valentinus; for the Deity cannot be changed into any thing, not any thing into it. Nor made conciliando, as friends are made, so as they continue two several persons still; and while the flesh suffered the Word stood by and looked on, as Nestorius, that is cum carne, not caro; ‘made with flesh,’ not ‘flesh;’ and never was one person said to be made another. Nor made by compounding; and so a third thing produced of both, as Eutyches. For so, He should be neither of both, Word nor flesh, neither God nor man.
But ‘made’ He was; St. Paul tells us how; assumendo, ‘by taking the seed of Abraham.’ His generation eternal, as Verbum Deus, is as the inditing the word within the heart. His generation in time, Verbum caro, is as the uttering it forth with the voice. The inward motion of the mind taketh unto it a natural body of air, and so becometh vocal: it is not changed into it, the word remaineth still as it was, yet they [90/91] two become one voice. Take a similitude from ourselves. Our soul is not turned into nor compounded with the body, yet they two though distinct in natures grow into one man. So, into the Godhead was the manhood taken; the natures preserved without confusion, the person entire without division. Take the definition of the fourth General Council: Sic factum est caro ut maneret Verbum, non immutando quod erat, sed suscipiendo quod non erat, nostra auxit, sua non miniut; nec Sacramentum pietatis detrimentum Deitatis; ‘He was so made flesh that He ceased not to be the Word, never changing that He was, but taking that He was not; we were the better, He was never the worse; the mystery of godliness was no detriment to the Godhead, nor the honour of the creature wrong to the Creator.’
And now, being past these points of belief I come to that which I had much rather stand on, and so it is best for us; that which may stir up our love to Him That thus became flesh for us.
First, comparing factum with dictum. For if we were so much beholden for verbum dictum, ‘the word spoken,’ the promise; how much more for Verbum factum, ‘the performance?’ If for factum carni, ‘the word that came to flesh,’ how then for factum caro, ‘became flesh?’
Then, taking factum absolutely. The Word ‘by Whom all things were made,’ to come to be made Itself. It is more for Him, fierei, ‘to be made’ any thing, than facere, ‘to make’ another world, yea many worlds more. There is more a great deal in this factum est, than in omnia per Ipsum facta sunt; in ‘He made,’ than in ‘All things by him were made.’
Factum est, with what He was made. For if made, made the most complete thing of all that every He had made; made a Spirit, for God is a Spirit,—some degree of nearness between them; but what is man that He should be made him, or the son of man that He should take his nature upon Him!
If man, yet the more noble part, the immortal part, the soul; what else? There are some points of His image in that; it understandeth, it loveth, hath a kind of capacity of the word. So hath not the flesh. It is res bruta, ‘common to them with us;’ neither able to understand, or love, or in any degree capable of it. Make it the soul, ‘the precious soul,’ [91/92]—so calleth it Solomon; not the body, ‘the vile body,’—so the Apostle calleth it. Of the Word He said ever, vidimus gloriam Ejus, we saw the glory of It. Of the flesh we may say, vidimus sordes ejus, ‘we see daily that comes from it;’ as non est vilius sterquilinium, ‘on the dung-hill worse is not to be seen,’ Set not precious a stone in so base metal.
But this is not all. If He must be made, for love of God make Him something wherein is some good, for ‘in our flesh’ St. Paul saith ‘there dwelleth no good;’ yea, ‘the very wisdom of the flesh at flat defiance with the word.’ Make it somewhat else. For there is not only a huge distance, but main repugnancy between them. Yet for all this non potest solvi Scriptura, ‘the Word was made flesh.’
I add yet farther; what flesh? The flesh of an infant. What, Verbum infans, the Word an infant? The Word and not able to speak a word? How evil agreeth this! This He put up. How born, how entertained? In a stately palace, cradle of ivory, robes of estate? No; but a stable for His palace, a manger for His cradle, poor clouts for His array. This was His beginning. Follow Him further, if no better afterwards; what flesh afterwards? Sudans et algens,in cold and heat, hungry and thirsty, faint and weary. Is His end any better? that makes up all: what flesh then? Cujus livore sanati, black and blue, bloody and swollen, rent and torn, the thorns and nails sticking in His flesh; and such flesh He was made. A great factum certainly, and much to be made of. To have been made caput Angelorum had been an abasement; to be minoratus Angelis is more; but to be novissimus virorum, ‘in worst case of all men,’ no, ‘a worm and no man;’ so to be born, so arrayed, and so housed, and so handled—there is not the meanest flesh but is better. So to be made, and so unmade; to take it on, and lay it off, with so great indignity: weigh it and wonder at it that ever He would endure to be made flesh, and to be made on this manner. What was it made the Word thus to be made flesh? Non est lex hominis ista, ‘the flesh would never have been brought to it.’ It was God and in God nothing but love; dilexit with sic, charitatis with an ecce; fecit amor ut Verbum caro fieret; Zelus Domini exercitum fecit hoc. Love only did it. Quid sit, possit, debeat, non recipit jus amoris, ‘That only [92/93] cares not for any exinanivit, any humiliavit se, any emptying, humbling, loss of reputation; love respects it not, cares not what flesh He be made, so the flesh be made by it.’
‘And dwelt.’ Factum est is the word of nature; habitavit of person; habitate est personĺ. And two there are not. It is no habitaverunt; therefore, but one person.
And habitavit is a word of continuance; that which was begin in factum, is continued in habitavit. Not only made, but made stay, made His abode with us; not appeared and was gone again straight, but for a time took up His dwelling; factus caro, factus incola. And this word concerns this day properly. This is the day, the first day of habitavit in nobis. Incarnate He was in the Virgin's womb, His taking flesh could not be seen. But this draweth after it a vidimus, dwelt and was seen visibly.
And this leadeth us to a third, conversatus est. Factum, and factum familare; that He withdrew not Himself into some solitary place, but was Verbum prope nos, ‘near us,’ near neighbours to us. Babitu inventus ut homo, ‘in His habit, and in His habitation, found as a man.’ One might ask Him as they at verse 38, ubi habitas, ‘Sir, where dwell you?’ and He invited them to come and see.
And ™sk»wse is not every dwelling, but a dwelling in skhuŻ, ‘a tent’ that is but for a time. Not a house to stand for ever, but a tent to be taken down again. Which as it sheweth His Tabernacle if the nature of ours, mortal; so withall, that He came but of an errand, to sojourn till He had done it. A work He had for which He was sent; that being done, He laid His Tabernacle off again.
And even that work itself is in skhĒsai, for it is a word militare. Soldiers dwell in tents. As if He were now factus caro, incola, miles, as it some battle were toward. And indeed from the beginning, the very third of Genesis, there was war proclaimed between the woman's Seed and the serpent's. An enemy we had, strong and mighty; had, and have still; not one, but many, a whole camp of them. They had prevailed, and led us away ‘captive under the law of sin.’ Dux nobis opus est, ‘a champion we stood in need of’ to rescue us. And here we have One now, even Dux Messias as Daniel calleth Him. He, as this day, came into the camp, set up His pavilion [93/94] among us. The Tabernacle of God was with men. He might not stay eight days in the camp but He must take Sacramentum militare; so He did. And the ceremony of it was to be stricken, and to bleed some small quantity. So He was at His Circumcision, and after He performed the battle at His Passion. Where, though it cost Him His life, yet the victory fell on His side; ‘captivity was led captive,’ and we were delivered. His tent was but a forerunner to His combat. That for His dwelling. Now the affidavit.
As the word habitavit pointeth us to this first day of the feast, and His tent to the middle day when He undertook our quarrel; so vidimus now is proper to the last day, the day of manifestation, or Epiphany. He dwelt; and not invisibly or obscurely, but so as He might be and was seen. Even this very day, vidimus, might the shepherds say, ‘we saw’ His Angels and heard them sing, and then went to Bethlehem and saw Himself. Vidimus, might the wise man say; ‘we saw His star in the East,’ and we are come to see Himself. This they might say, and truly; for these things were not done in obscuro. But, as we said, this clause is the affidavit, it is inferred as a proof. You tell us of His making, and His dwelling; quomodo constat? How shall it appear? Vidimus is the best proof that can be; ‘He saw it, was an eye-witness of what he testified.’
2. And it is not vivi, but vidimus; more eyes than one. Not he alone, others more saw it besides him. ‘In the mouth of two or three witnesses’—Peter, James and he, (vidimus) were in the holy Mount together, and saw Him transfigured. Nay, a whole ‘cloud of witnesses,’ one hundred and twenty, saw Him taken up into Heaven out of their sight, in the Mount of Olives. Well might he say, vidimus.
3. And that not per transennam, ‘at a blush,’ passing by; but had a full sight, looked well upon Him, at leisure; did it throughly, for a good time together. It is not ∆ręu but qe£sasqai, the word whence a theatre is derived: as men with good heed behold things there, so did we intentively all the acts and scenes of His life.
4. But I ask, what saw they? The flesh peradventure; the Word they could not see. He is God, and ‘God hath no man ever seen.’ True; that they could not, yet His glory they might and did. Which glory was an infallible demonstration of His presence there. ‘Through the veil of His flesh’ such beams He cast, as behind those clouds they might know there was a sun; as that way only could He be made visible to the eyes of flesh, which otherwise could not behold Him.
But it may be it was some wrong this; but such as was seen in Moses', or in Stephen's countenance. He answers that and tell us, It was not quasi servi, ‘like a servant;’ nay, nor quasi filii, ‘like any adopted sons;’ but this glory was every way such as well might it beseem the Word or only Son, but could agree to no creature, though never so glorious. To none but Him; and so being proprium quarto modo might be a medius terminusin a demonstration.
And if you ask what that glory might be? With a word to say to the wind and storm, Obmutesce; and to diseases, Volo. Mundare; and to death itself, Tibi dico, Surge. His miracles they shewed His glory, is expressly said in the next chapter, ver. 11. The star at His birth, the eclipse at His death, the glory of His changing in the Mount; but above all, His glorious Ascension, and receiving up into Heaven. All which they saw, as being in the theatre all the while from the epitasis to the very catastrophe. Therefore he tells us here and again in his Epistle, he writes nothing but ‘what he saw and beheld and even his hands had handled of the Word of Life.’ We may believe him; and he and his contestes suffered many things for the truth of their witness, and the whole world since hath believed this their affidavit. Now are we past the parenthesis.
But what, is all that a vidimus? nothing but a mask to be seen? came He only to make a glorious show to them all? No; but as He came not obscure, but was seen, so He came not empty but full and was felt of them that saw Him not. Vidimus is not all—a verse after there is accepimus; to see His glory they receive of His fulness, they and we.
Many are the perfections whereof He is full. Two only here chosen out, as two streams. 1. Grace, and 2. Truth. With them He cometh, with the fulness of them; not of one of [94/95] them, but of both. Grace referreth to the Son, truth to the Word, grace is to adopt us, truth to beget us anew; for ‘of His own will He hath begotten us by the Word of truth.’
2.And these do very fitly follow after glory. Glory of itself terrifies and makes stand aloof, grace invites; and His glory is such as is full of grace. His mercy, as great as His Majesty full out. A blessed thing it is when these two meet, and they that are in glory are full of grace, too. It is not so with every one that is in glory; but though there be grace, unless there be truth too, all is nothing. For grace, because it is plausible and pleaseth the people, it is effected; there is a taking on grace in face and phrase, but when all is done, it wanteth sound truth. That is right grace that hath truth joined to it. Verbum gratiĺ, and verbum charitatis both, and it is both. Yea, verbum caro, His word is not wind, it hath flesh on it; His truth is, as it were, the flesh of His grace. Thus may be the consequence.
3.But of these two choice is made, as of those our nature stood most in need of. Out of grace we were and without grace, as sinners and in errors wandering up and down; as even the best of our nature did at His coming into the flesh. This is the state He found us in when He came among us.
Against the first, gratificavit nos in Dilecto, ‘He brought us in grace again, through His beloved Son.’ Gratiam pro gratia, He saith after straight, ‘For the grace His Son had with Him, He received us to grace.’
Against the latter, He brought us truth to set us in the right way. Via, Veritas, et Vita—Veritas between both—Via et Veritas, or Veritas Viĺ, ‘the true Way;’ Vita et Veritas, or Veritas Vitĺ, the true Life that is Life eternal. We cannot be without either.
4. This for our need. But within a verse after I find these two set in opposition to the Law, and the Law to them; as if St. John pointed us whereto we should refer them. The Law full of rigour, many threats, and curses in it—Christ bringeth the word of grace, opposeth to that. The Law full of empty shadows and ceremonies which truth is set against; Corpus autem Christus, ‘Christ the very Body,’ to Lex habens umbram; so, requisite to quit us of the Law—the Law, the Word that married flesh. [96/97]
The bringing of these two together is a great matter; and together they must be. Grace, take it from truth, and it is fallax, ‘but a vizor,’ but a mere illusion. Truth sever if from grace, and it is ingrata, ‘but an unpleasant thing.’ Grace and truth kept in sunder, and never met before; but when the Word and flesh met, then ‘did they meet and kiss each other,’ saith the Prophet, and doth with a whole Psalm celebrate this meeting.
They must meet, and grace be first, as here. We shall never endure the severity of His truth, unless grace come before and allay it. But when grace has brought us to Him, truth will hold us with Him. By grace we shall accomplish what truth requireth at our hands; that so, receiving grace, and walking in truth, we may come to the third and reward of both, glory.
‘Full’ of them; and the word would not be passed. We find others full of grace, as His blessed Mother, and as St. Stephen. Theirs reacheth not to us; none of them have more than serves for themselves. For, the Spirit is given them but by measure; but plenitudo vasis in them, ‘the fulness of a vessel;’ if ye take any thing out to pour into another, it is the less for it. But His is plenitudo fontis, ‘the fulness of a fountain,’ which is never drawn dry; qui implet abyssum, et non minoratur, ‘fills a great pool and itself never the less.’ Of which fulness they all received, and He never the emptier. We shall not need to go to any other storehouse, or help to supply of fill up Christ with any other, as if He were but half full. He is full, full of both. Our care is to be make ourselves fit vessels, and there is all.
Thus far, quod Verbum factum caro. Now, quid Verbum carni, the benefit, and that which the benefit every draweth with it, the duty, quid caro Verbo? 1. Factus caro benefaciet carni, ‘being made flesh He will be a benefactor to it.’ ‘No man ever hated his flesh,’ and no more can He us, who are ‘flesh of His flesh,’ and no more can He us, who are ‘flesh of His flesh,’ or rather, He of ours. He seeth us daily in Himself, He cannot look upon His flesh but He must think upon us. And God the Father cannot now hate the flesh which the Word is made; which is now taken into one person with His only Son, and united to the Deity itself. If He love the Word, He must love it too, for the Word is become it; [97/98] either love both, or hate both. But love it certainly; for, as this day, ‘when He brought His Son’ clothed with it ‘into the world,’ He gave express commandment all His Angels should worship Him, so clothed, and our flesh in Him; a new dignity which is this day accrued to our nature, to be adored of the blessed Angels. Our nature questionless is set in high favour with God: God send our persons so too, and all shall be well.
1.Besides, good hope we now have that He being now flesh, all flesh may come to Him to present Him with their requests. Time was when they fled from Him, but ad factum carnem jam veniet omnis caro. For since He dwelt amongst us, all may resort to Him, yea, even sinners; and of them it is said, Hic recipit peccatores, et comedit cum eis; ‘He receiveth them, receiveth them even to His table.’
2. A second hope, that seeing He hath made our flesh His Tabernacle, He will not suffer this of ours—the same with that of His—to fall down quite and come to nothing; the same He dwells in Himself not to perish utterly; but repair it again and raise it out of the dust. So that insuper caro nostra requiescet in spe, ‘our very body may rest in hope,’ to be restored again, and ‘made like to His glorious Body.’
3. A third; that where it was, ‘flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God,’ it is reversed; flesh and blood will, for flesh and blood already doth. It is that St. John is about to infer the former verse out of this, viz. ‘to them gave He power to be made the sons of God:’ for Ex quo hoc verum est Filium Dei Filium hominis fieri potuisse, non est incredibile, &c. ‘Since sure it is that the Son of God is made the Son of man, it is not incredible but that the sons of men may be made the sons of God.’ Not incredible, nay, securitas nobis data est, ‘a kind of bond is entered, security given.’ Seeing this verse is true, so is the last, dedit potestem, ‘He gave power;’ and well might. Why? For ‘the Word is made flesh,’ and therefore flesh may have reciprocal hope to be regenerate by the Word and adopted through grace, and so exalted to the glorious dignity of the sons of God.
And because grace and truth do this, we shall fail of neither of them. He is full, and not for Himself; He needs them not. He hath them for us, and hath sufficient. Neither [98/99] shall be wanting, if we be not wanting to ourselves. His grace shall prevent us, and His truth follow us all the days of our life.
So we see quid Verbum carni, what He hath done for us: now our duty reciprocal, quid caro Verbo, what we for Him again. If the Word become flesh, we take order that flesh of ours that the Word hath taken, we take it not and make it una caro with you know whom, or may read. God forbid! Know ye not, ‘the Word is become flesh?’ That flesh is then so to be preserved, that as he saith, ‘We saw the glory,’ so may we, ‘We saw His flesh as the flesh of the only-begotten Son of God.’ Kept with such care, and in such cleanness, as it might beseem His flesh to be kept. And as much may be said for habitavit, the house would be somewhat handsome, as handsome as we could, that is to receive Him. We blame them that this day received Him in a stable; take heed we do not worse ourselves.
But the Fathers press a farther matter yet out of Verbum caro factum; that we also are after our manner verbum carnem facere. ‘to incarnate the word.’ We have a word—we may do it too—which is the type or abstract of the very Word, or wisdom of God; and that is the word which is preached unto us. That word we may, and are to incarnate according to this day's pattern. That we so do. That word is then incarnate, quando verbum in opus, Scripturas in operas convertimus, ‘when we do what is spoken or written, and turn the vocal word into a real work.’ The word with us turneth to nothing but wind. To give it St. John's flesh, and St. James' vidimus, make it both be felt and seen. Especially, since our Saviour Himself saith, ‘He reckoneth of this as His second birth, and of every one that so doth esteemeth as His Mother.’ That is the duty properly belonging to this day, the day of His birth.
And to look also to habitavit as well as factum est. Fit sometimes, sometimes somewhat ‘is done;’ but non habitavit, it vanisheth again, it hath no state in us, it continueth not in us, nor we in it. That it be not only, but remain. By faith factum est; dwell, by perseverance, the true freehold indeed.
And that this we may, to provide for the fourth; to use [99/100] means, to draw from Him that whereof He hath such plenty, ‘grace and truth.’ The breasts that are full have as great pleasure in being drawn, as the child that draweth them. Assure ourselves, it is so here. There is magus desiderium deplendi, in Him that replendi in us; more in Him to part with, than in us to receive. And what means are those? To go to the word and flesh together. The word itself doth well, and of the twain the word hath less cause to complain, but this at other times. But at this now, we are not to content ourselves with one alone; but since He offereth to communicate Himself both ways, never restrain Him to one. The word we hear is the abstract of Verbum; the Sacrament is the antetype of caro, His flesh. What better way than where these are actually joined, actually to partake them both? Not either alone, the word or flesh; but the word and flesh both, for there they are both. If we regard habitavit, this is a sure way, we have a plain text for it; Qui manducat carnem, in Me manet et Ego in Illo, ‘He abides in Me, and I in Him.’ If it be grace and truth we respect, how may we better establish our hearts with grace, or settle our minds in the truth of His promise, than by partaking these the conduit-pipes of His grace, and seals of His truth unto us? Grace and truth now proceeding not from the Word alone, but even from the flesh thereto united; the fountain of the Word flowing into the cistern of His flesh, and from thence deriving down to us this grace and truth, to them who partake Him aright.
But setting them aside, the day ‘the Word was made flesh it is most kindly that a memorial be kept, as well of the flesh as the Word.’ On the feast of their union, they would be united; the day they were joined by Him, they would not be sundered by any; but we to celebrate both, in honour of both. For, judge with yourselves how inconvenient it is to keep a feast in honour of His taking flesh, and even that day abandon His flesh, and never once take t. Verbum est caro if ever to be joined this day, the day of their joining. Accordingly then, as well by the act to testify and represent the Word's making flesh, as to procure He may dwell in us; and dwelling replenish us with His grace and truth. And lastly, that we may hold this feast aright, and do the duty that properly belongs to it, let us by both do honour to both, that from both [100/101] we may receive the fruit of both—grace, to enable us; truth, to guide us to the hope of glory. Not to that in the parenthesis, that is but vidimus quasi; but to the other, videbimus sicut est, ‘to see Him as He is,’ and by seeing to be transformed into the same image of glory.