Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you.
Benedictus Deus et Pater Domini nostri Jesu Christi, Qui secundum misceriordiam Suam magnam regeneravit nos in spem vivam, per resurrectionem Jesu Christi ex mortuis,
In haereditatem incorruptibilem, et incontanimatam, et immarcescibilem, conservatam in caelis in vobis.
The sum of this text, and if ye will the name of it too, is set down in the very first word of it. It is a Benedictus; the first word is so. The first word Benedictus, and if you look, the last words is 'for you.' Give me leave to read it 'for us,' to put in ourselves, seeing to us and for us it was written. So a benedictus it is, from us to God, for something coming from God to, or 'for us.'
[364/365] Something? Nay many. Benedictus is but one word, but the first word; the rest of the words of both the verses, are 'for us' all.
And many they are. We reduce them to three: 1. Our regeneration which is past; 2. Our hope, which is present; 3. and our inheritance, which is to come. 1. Regenerating or begetting, is of itself a benefit; we get life by it, if nothing else. 2. But to beget to an inheritance, is more than simply to beget. 3. And yet more than that, to beget to such an inheritance as this, of which so many excellent things are here spoken.
Three then, in this: 1. To be begotten; 2. To be begotten to inherit; 3. To be begotten to inherit such an inheritance.
But then, an inheritance is no present matter. All heirs be 'heirs under hope,' usque dum, 'till the appointed time.' So, comes hope in. Therefore, first 'to hope.' After, to the thing hoped for, the inheritance itself. There is a resemblance of both these in the two seasons of the year. At this time, the time of Christ's resurrection, and of our celebrating it, 'to hope' as to the blossom or blade, rising now in the spring; to the 'inheritance' - that, as the crop or fruit to come after at harvest, and the 'harvest' of this crop, saith our Saviour, 'is the end of the world.'
We are not yet come to the point. Regenerate whereto? - to a lively hope. 'Hope' whereof? - of an 'inheritance.' 'Inheritance' what manner one. Such as is here set down.
But all these whereby? Per resurrectionem, 'by the resurrection of Christ.' All by Him, all by that. This 'by' is the main here. This di_ the di_ paoîu that runs through all this text. For all arise from Christ arising from the dead.
Now if from Christ rising, then from Christ at this feast. For this is the feast of Christ's rising, and so this the proper Benedictus for this feast. We had a Benedictus made by Zachariah, St. John Baptist's Father, for His birth, for Christmas-day, known by the name of Benedictus. We have here now another for His rising, for Easter- day of St. Peter's setting. And this it is.
For the order, we will put the words in no other, for we can put them in no better than they stand; every one is in his due place, from the first to the last.
[365/366] 1. 'God' first, and the true God, 'the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.' 2. Then 'His mercy,' the cause moving. 3. Then 'Christ's resurrection,' the means working. 4. Then 'our regenerating' the act producing.
Producing 1. 'hope,' first, of the inheritance; 2. then after, the 'inheritance' we hope for. Of which, two points there are: 1. How it is qualified; 'uncorrupt, undefiled, not fading,' - every one hath his weight. 2. Then, how seated; even, 'in Heaven:' there it is, there 'kept' it is. And which is the capital chief point of all, 'kept for us' there.
Now then for these. 1. For His 'mercy,' first. 2. For our 'regenerating by His mercy.' 3. For the 'hope' of this 'inheritance,' 4. but more for the 'inheritance' itself. specially such an one, so conditioned as here is set down. 5. For 'keeping it for us in Heaven,' in this verse. 6. For 'keeping us' for it on earth, the next verse. For these all; but above all for the means of all, the rising of Christ, this day's work, the dew of this new birth, the gate of this hope, the pledge of this inheritance. For these, owe we this Benedictus to God. And this day are we to pay it, every one of us. It is a sin of omission not to do it; he that doth not, is a debtor.
To God the Father, the Qui; and to Christ our Lord, the per Quem, by Whom and by Whose rising, lose this life when we will, we have hope of a better; betide our inheritance on earth what shall, we have another 'kept for us in Heaven.' Thus, every one naturally ariseth out of other.
'Blessed be God.' Yea, blessed, and thanked, and praised; Benedictus, magnificat, jubilate, and all. All; but here 'blessed' suits best, - that the best and proper return for a blessing. That we 'inherit' is the 'blessing;' the hope is a 'blessed hope;' but the 'inheritance' is the state of blessedness itself. Therefore, Benedictus bene dicitur, Benedictus is said well. Said well of God, 'Who is above all blessed for ever;' well also of a Father, Benedictus a fit term for Him. And God, in the tenor of this whole text, is brought in as 'a Father,' 'a Father begetting;' begetting us first by nature, begetting us again in it by grace.
But thereby hangs a scruple, for what are we that we should take upon us to bless God? St. Peter says it here; St. Paul seems to gainsay it. 'Without all question,' saith he, 'he [366/367] less is blessed by the greater.' And is He less, or we greater, that we should offer to bless Him? And if not as 'God,' not as a 'Father,' the next word. For, shall the child presume to bless his father? It becomes him not. He us then, and not we Him.
Yes, He us, and we Him too. We have so many texts for it, I make no doubt but there is blessing both ways. Of the many, I remember that one of St. Paul's, Benedictus Deus Qui benedixit nos, 'Blessed be God for blessing us.' As if these were reciprocal, these; one the echo, the reflection of the other. Equal they are not. It were fond to imagine the father gives the child no other blessing, but the child can give him as good again. No: aliter nos Deum, aliter Deus nos; otherwise God blesseth us, and the parent who represent God in begetting our bodies, and the priest who represents Him, in begetting again our souls. Otherwise, we them. God's is real; ours but verbal. Him cum effectu, ever; ours, if it be but cum effectu, that is all. His operative, ours but optative. What then? he that wisheth heartily, would do more than wish if his power were according. Even that then, in want of power to shew a good will, I know not how, but we take it well ever. God doth I am sure, as appeareth by the goat's hair of the Old Testament, and by the widow's mites in the New. And this St. Peter's, but expressing a good mind only. And without all question thus, the greater may be blessed even of the less; not tanquam potestatem habens, but tanquam vota faciens. So we may say Benedictus Deus, and let us then say it.
What say we then, when we say Benedixtus?'`It is a word compound.' Take it in sunder, and dicere is to say somewhat, to speak, and that we can; and bene is, speaking to speak well, and that we ought. To speak is confession, to speak well is praise; and praise becometh Him, and us to give it Him.
Put together in one word, and then benedicere 'to bless,' in the phrase of ours and of all tongues else, is not so much omnia bona dicere, 'to speak all good of Him,' as omnia bona vovere, to wish 'all good to Him.' And that becomes Him too; not only laus but votum, specially, where votum is totum, where we have little else left us but it.
[367/368] And what good can we wish Him that He has not? Bonorum nostrorum non eget, saith the Psalmist, nor benedictionum neither. We can add nothing to Him by our benedictus; say we it, say we it not, He is blessed alike.
True; to Him we cannot wish - not His person, but to His name we can, and He is blessed when His name is blessed; we can wish His name more blessedly used, and not in cursing and cursed oaths, as daily we hear it.
And to His Word we can wish it more devoutly heard, and not as a few strains of wit, as our manner is.
Yea, even to His Person we can. There is a way to do that, inasmuch as He and His Church are now grown into one, make but one person; what is said or done to it, is said or done to Himself. Bless it, and He is blessed.
In a word then, to bless God is to wish His name may be glorious; to wish His word may be prosperous; to wish His Church may be happy. By wearing of which Name, and by hearing of which word, and by being in, and of which Church, we receive the blessing here upon earth that will make us for ever blessed in heaven. This we say, if we mark what we say, when we say, 'Blessed be God.'
'God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,' This is stylo novo, the style of the New Testament; ye read it not in the Old, no, nor in Zachary's, and this of St. Peter's, it fell out, this. The sun was yet under the horizon when Zachary made his, but now up and of a good height. And thereupon, this taken up by St. Peter her; by St. Paul, 1 Cor. 1 Ephes. 1 and upon great reason.
'Blessed be God.' Say that, and no more, and never a Jew, Turk, or Pagan, but will say as much. `Blessed be God,' we; 'blessed be God,' they. It is never the worse for that. But yet, seeing the world then was, still is, full of 'many gods,' and 'many lords,' it would be known which God. For we would not bestow our Benedictus upon any but the true God; neither they, nor we, I dare say. Which is then the true God? Pater Domini nostri Jesu Christi; and he that is not so, is a false feigned, is an idol. Put them to it then, out this addition to, and neither Turk, Jew, nor Pagan will say after you; none but the Christian. For this is the Christian man's Benedicitus.
[368/369] Now ever since idolatry first took head, it hath been held fit, they that are God's chosen people of all the people upon earth, they should have some mark of severance to distinguish, as theirs the true God, so themselves the true worshippers from the false. So to steel our Benedictus right upon the right God, this is added.
2. For this cause, but not for this alone. When we bless Him, I dare say we would bless Him with His best title. So hath it been ever. You shall observe in titles ever, upon the coming of a greater the less is laid down. 'No more, The Lord liveth That brought thee out of Egypt, but, The Lord liveth That brought thy captivity from the North.' And now no more that neither, for here is one that after it came puts them down all, as being indeed the greatest of them all, the greatest that ever was, or that ever shall be. One, which when we add, we set our Bendictus at the highest.
For, if this be to be God, to be bounteous, beneficial, as we seem to think, when we say homo homini Deus, in nothing was God ever so beneficial, so bounteous, and so in nothing ever so God, as in 'sending His only begotten Son into the world.' In that God specially, and for that specially 'blessed.' And because a greater than His Son He hath not, and so a greater than This shall never come, therefore this will never be laid down. This shall be His title for ever, for ever to have a place, and a chief place, in our Benedictus.
And yet there is another, on Christ's behalf 'our Lord;' even to bring Him in too. For, seeing all that which follows comes not but by the rising of Christ, and so by Christ, I see not how well we can leave Him out. All the good that comes to us, as it comes to us from God, so it comes to us by Christ. God the Qui, Christ the per Quem. God the cause - from Him cometh all, Christ and all. Christ the means - by Him cometh all, God and all. All things from God, and nothing from God immediately, but mediante Christo. He the cause mediate, the Mediator, the Medium. No Benefactus, and so no Benedictus without Him.
This is most plain in this here. Benedictus Deus generavit Christum, first, 'That did generate Christ,' before benedictus Deus Qui regeneravit nos, 'that did regenerate us.' If He not generate, we no regenerate; then no children, [369/370] then no inheritance, then all this text void. For in Him this text, and all other texts are 'yea and Amen.'
By this time we see why this addition. 1. It is His title of severance; 2. It is the highest title of His honour; 3. It takes in Christ Who would not be left out in our Benedictus. Dixit Dominus Domino meo, 'the Lord said to my Lord,' to take both Lords in, and leave neither out. And so shall we knit it well to that which follows.
From the party whom, we pass to the cause why. For we say not this Benedicitus, as we may say an one here, without any cause, Benedictus for nothing; nay, otherwhile a Benedictus for a malefactor, for a shrewed turn; yea, and glad an fain too. No, here is a Qui, and in this Qui there is a quia. That doth it, that is, for doing it; 'that regnerates us,' that is, for regenerating us, for God is ever aforehand with us. Regeneravit is the preter; that is past before any Benedictus come from us.
Pater Qui Regeneravit follows well, is kindly. For generation, it is actus paternus, 'the proper act of a father.' But before we come to it, let us not stride over that which in the text stands before it - secundum miscericordiam. God did this, did all that follows, but upon what motive? 'According to' what did He it? 'According to His mercy.' And mercy well accords well with a Father; no compassion, no heart like His. And as well with regeneravit, for 'of His own goodwill begat He us.' How else? When as yet we were not, what should move Him but His mere mercy? Well therefore said, regeneravit secundum; for generation is but secundum, but a 'second,' not a first. Would you have a primum, a 'first,' for it? that first is His mercy ever.
But the benefits ensuing are too great to run in the common current of mercy. As they then are, so is the mercy that goes to them. 'Great:' therefore 'according to His great mercy.' 'Mercy' the thing, 'great' the measure. And 'great' would not be passed by, lest we pass not greatly by it; lest we conceive and count of it, as but of some ordinary matter.
But indeed polÚ is rather multa, than magna; a word of number, rather than magnitude. The meaning is; no single mercy would do it -no, though great, there must be many.
[370/371] For many the defects to be removed, many the sins to be forgiven, many the perfections to be attained; therefore 'according to His manifold mercy.'
'According' is well said. For that indeed is the chord, to which this and all our Benedictusses are to be tuned. That the centre, from which all the lines are drawn. The line of Christ's birth in Zacahriah's Benedictus, 'through the tender mercies of our God, whereby the Day-spring from on high did' lately 'visit us.' The line of Christ's resurrection, in St. Peter's Benedictus, according to His manifold mercies,' whereby this Day-spring from on high doth now visit us. The line of all the rest, if we had time to go through all the rest.
At all times mercy cometh in, at no time out of time I trust, we shall die with it in our mouths. Let us make much of it while we live, never pass by it but say it, say it as oft as we can; blessed be God, blessed be His mercy. 'God' that doth it; His 'mercy, according to' which He doth it. Doth it, and doth all else, at this and all other feasts; at Easter, at Christians, the Fifth of November, and all. 'Blessed be He for His mercy; yes, many times blessed for His manifold mercies.'
'Mercy' then first; regeneravit. Regeneravit may be said with reference to Christ. Generavit Christum, regeneravit nos, and not amiss. But better and more properly, both to us. Generavit nos, 'begot us,' first in Adam to this; regeneravit nos, 'begot us again' in Christ, the second Adam, to the hope of a better life.
But why is it not so then, Qui generavit without re. Why begin we not with that? Verily, even for that, even for our natural generation, we owe Him a Benedictus. But what should I say? Unless, beside our first generavit, we be so happy as to have our part in this second, regeneravit; the former I doubt will hardly prove worth a Benedictus. But if this come come to it, then for both a benedictus indeed. Otherwise, as our Saviour said to Nicodemus, 'no man, unless he be thus born again,' by his first birth, be it never so high or noble, is a whit the nearer this inheritance following. For all our goodly generavit we so much boast of, it would go [371/372] wrong with us but for this. Well therefore may we all say, Benedictus Qui regeneravit.
Now re has in it two powers, re is 'again, the second time;' so it suit well with secundum, it is the second. For two there be: 1. that old creation, 2. and the 'new creature' in Christ. And two births; - we see it daily. A child is brought into the world, but it is carried out again to the Church, there to be born and brought forth anew, by the sacrament of Regeneration.
But re is not only again, but again, as it were, upon a loss. Not a second only, but a second upon the failing of the first. So doth re imply for ever. Re-demption, a buying again upon a former aliening. Re-conciliation, upon a former falling out. Re-stitution, upon a former attainder. Re-surrection, upon a fall taken formely. Re-generation, upon a former de- generating from our first estate.
Our first would not serve, it was corrupt, it was defiled, it did degenerate. Degenerating made us filios iræ; and ira principis, much more ira Dei, mors est. So children of death, death and damnation; and there left us, and all by means of the corruption and soil of our former degenerate generation.
Never ask then Quid opus est re? Re cannot be spared. There was more than need of a new, a second, a re-generation, to make us children of grace again, and so of life; which He hath given us power to be made 'by the washing of the new birth,' 'the fountain which He hath opened to the House of Israel for sin and uncleannness'- even for the sin and uncleanness of the first. Will ye have it plainly? Benedictus Deus Qui generatos ad mortem, regeneravit ad vitam; or, Qui generatos ad timorem mortis regeneravit ad spem vitæ. That we, we that were begotten to the fear of death, or to a deadly fear; us He hath begotten anew to the hope of life, or 'to a lively hope.'
This act of regenerating is determined doubly; ej is twice repeated. 1. 'To hope' first; 2. then, 'to the inheritance:' ye may put them together, to the hope of an inheritance. But thus parted they stand, because of our two estates, to serve them both: 1.'hope' in this life, 2. 'inheritance' in that 'to come;' hope while here in state of grace, 'inheritance' when there in state of glory. [372/373] But because, as we said, an 'inheritance' is no present matter- it is come and to be come to; from begetting we step not straight to entering upon our inheritance, but the state of heirs is a state of expectancy, and so a fit object for hope, donec, 'till' the time come. Therefore we begin with that, regeneravit in spem.
There needs no great benedictus for in spem; hope is no great matter. For what is hope? What but vigilantis somnium, 'a waking man's dream?' And such as hope indeed it may be, for such hopes there be many in the world. But this is none such.
To shew it is none such, it is severed by two terms; 1. Regeneravit, and 2. Vivam. They are worth the marking, both.
1. Regeneravit first; that it is spes generatus, which implies there is another but inflata, but 'blown into' us, or we sprinkled or perfumed with it. Such there is, but not this; but this is per viam generationis, and generatio, we know terminatur ad substantiam, 'brings forth a substance.' So this is a substantial hope, called therefore by St. Paul, the helmet of hope, the anchor of hope, things of substance that will hold, that have metal in them.
2. Then mark vivam. And vivam follows well of regeneravit. For they who are begotten are so to live, to have life. Vivam also imports there is a dead, or a dying hope; but this is not such, but a living.
Nay, viva is more than vivens; 'lively,' than 'living.' Where viva is said of aught, as of stone or water, the meaning is they spring, they grow, they have life in themselves. And such is the water of our regeneration; not from the brook of Tema, in Job the sixth, that in summer will be dry, but the water of Jordan, a running river. There, Christ was Himself baptized; there He began and laid the Sacrament of our new birth, to show what the nature of the hope is it yields, even viva, with life in it.
And indeed, regeneravit is a good verb to join with hope. There is in hope a kind of regendering power; it begets men, as it were anew. And viva is a good epithet for it. When one droops, gives him hope, his spirits will come to him afresh; it will make him alive again, who was half dead.
[373/374] As Jacob, when he was put in hope to see Joseph alive, it is said, Revixit spiritus Jacob, 'his spirit revived in him;' he shewed, spes was viva, hope was a reviver.
Never so well see, this, as this day, in them who went to Emmaus. With cold hearts - cold and dead, God wot, till they heard the Scriptures opened to this point; and then 'did we not,' said they, 'feel our hearts warm, no hot, within us?' Such a vital heat, they found and felt, came form this hope. For, to say truth, what is it to give life to them that have it already, dum spiro, that are alive, that can fetch their breath? it is not worthy, that, to be called spes viva. Spes viva indeed is that which, when breath and life and all fails, fails not; that that then puts life into us, dum expiro, when life is going away; that, when this life we must forego, bids let it go; when that is gone, shows us hope of another.
This is viva indeed. Nay this is vita, for the hope of that life immortal is the very life of this life mortal. And for such a hope, Benedictus Deus, 'Blessed be God.'
And whence has it this life? The next word shews it, vivam, per resurrectionem. The viveness, as I may say, the vivacity, the vigour it has from Christ's rising, and by His rising opening to us the gate of life at large. What life? Any life? This life? No; vivam per resurrectionem. Not this here, falsi seculit vita, as even the heathen man called it, but the other, the life of the resurrection, the true life indeed. Not to live here still as we do, but to rise again and live as Christ this day did. That so we mistake not the life, and take the wrong for the right. For so shall we mistake in our hope also, as commonly we do.
For shall we do hope no wrong? The truth is, hope hears evil without a cause. The fault is not hope's, the fault is our own; we put it where we should not, and then lay the blame upon hope, where we should blame ourselves for wrong putting it. For if ye put it not right, this is a general rule: As is that we hope in, so is our hope. 'Ye lean on a reed,' saith Esay. 'Ye take hold by a cobweb' - Job. 'Ye catch at a shadow,' saith the Wise Man. And can it be then but this hope must deceive you?
We for the most part put it wrong, for we put it in them [374/375] that live this transistory perishing life; we put it in them who must die, and then our hope die with them, and so prove a dying hope. 'Miserable is that man, that among the dead is his hope,' saith the Wise Man. The Psalm best expresseth it: 'our hope is in the sons of men;' and they live by breath, and when that is gone, 'they turn to dust;' and then there 'lies our hope in the dust.' For how can ever a dying object yield as living hope?
But put it in one who dies not, who will never die, and then it will be spes viva, indeed. No reed, no cob-web-hope then, but helmet, anchor-hope; 'hope that will never confound you.'
And who is that, or where is he, that we might hope in him? That is Jesus Christus spes nostra, 'Jesus Christ, our hope' - so calls Him St. Paul. Such will their hope be who have Christ for their hope.
Yet not Christ every way considered: not as yesterday, in the grave; not as the day before, giving up the spirit upon the cross; dead and buried yields but dead hope. But in Jesus Christus hodie, that is Christus resurgens, Christ not now a living soul, but a quickening Spirit.
In Christ's life then, but not in His mortal life. They that so hoped in Him, to Emmaus they went this day with nos autem sperabamus, 'we did hope;' 'did' while He was alive, but now, now He is dead, no more hope now. And for two days, as He was, so was their hope, dead and buried; and if He had risen no more, had been quite dead for ever. But this day He revived and rose again; - so did their hope too.
To this life we are regenerate by the resurrection of Christ; - right. As to death generate by the fall of the first Adam, so to life regenerate by the rising again of Christ, the second.
And these two, resurrection and regeneration, match well. The regeneration of the soul is the first resurrection; and the resurrection of the body, is the last generation. So doth our Saviour Christ term it: 'in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit' - that is, at the general resurrection. So was His own; His resurrection, His regeneration. 'This day have I begotten Thee,' the verse of the Psalm, the Apostle [375/376] applies to Christ's eternal generation. But so does he to His resurrection also, for then was Christ Himself regenerate as it were, begotten in a sort anew, and brought forth out of the grave, as out of the womb, the very womb wherein He was born to the immortal, that is, to the true life.
'By His Resurrection.' And if you ask how, Esay tells us; there goeth from His resurrection an influence, which shall have an operation like that of the dew of the spring; which when He will let fall, 'the earth will yield her dead,' as at the falling of the dew the herbs now rise, and shoot forth again. Which term therefore, of regenerating, was well chosen, as fitting well with His rising and the time of it. The time I say, of the year, of the week, and if you will, of the day too. For He rose in the dawning; then is the day regenerate; and in primâ sabbati - that, the first begetting of the week; and in the spring, when all that were winter-starved, withered and dead, are regenerate again, and rise up anew.
We pass now to the 'inheritance.' But as we pass, will ye observe the situation first? It is well worth your observing, that the resurrection is placed in the midst, between our hope and our inheritance. 'To hope' before it - before the resurrection, hope; but after 'to the inheritance' itself, to the full possession and fruition of it. So from the estate of hope, by the resurrection as by a bridge, pass we over to the enjoying our inheritance. And that falls well with the feast, which is the feast of the Passover. The resurrection is so too; pass we do from spes to res. So passed Christ; so we to pass. Every word stands exactly in his place and order.
An inheritance accords well with 'according to His mercy.' We have it not of ourselves, or by our merits, - by the pol_ of them; but of Him, and by His mercies, and the pol_ of them; else were it a purchase, and no inheritance. It comes to us freely, as the inheritance to children.
Well with 'mercy;' and well with regeneravit. For the inheritance is of children, pertains to the chjildren, either of generation by nature, or of regeneration by grace. By the former He is Pater Domini nostri, by the latter He is Pater noster.
[376/377] But yet for all that, ad hæriditatem is a new point. Begetting is properly, but to life, and nothing else; the greater part by far are begotten so. To inherit besides, not one of a thousand. Ask poor men's children, ask younger brethren. But this here not in vivam only, but in hæriditatem also, and these are two. 1. To be begotten, vivam; 2. to be heirs, hæreditatem It is not Lazarus' resurrection, to rise again to the condition he had before. It is Christ's rising, to receive 'an inheritance 'withal.
Nor shall we need to doubt any prejudice to God, from Whom it comes, by our coming to this inheritance. Vivam and hæreditatem, there, will stand well together; here they will not. Here, the inheritance comes not but by the death of the party in possession, but there, no prejudice to the ancestor; he dies not for the heir to succeed. There is successio minorum sine recessione majorum. A succession, as of lights; the second burns clear, yet the first goes not out, but burns as clear as it.
Nor no prejudice to the heir neither; to us by Him, nor to Him by us. It is not as here, one carries it from all, and all the rest go without; or, if they come in, his part is the less. No; it is of the nature of light, and other such spiritual things, as sounds and smells, which be omnibus una, et singulis tota.
If there be a thousand together, every one sees, hears, smells as much, as he should do, if there were no more but himself alone. Such is this, not ergo aliquos verstûm, but erga vos.
And as we said, one thing it is to be born, another so to inherit, so say we again now: One thing to be born to an inheritance, another to such an inheritance as this here. For in inheritances there is great odds, one much better than another, even here with us; but this better, incomparably better, another manner inheritance far than any with us here. We would know what manner one, and St. Peter gives us a little overture, how it is conditioned, that we may know it is worth a Benedictus. E theologiâ negativâ he doth it; there is no other way to describe things to come, but by removing from them such defects as, we complain, are incident and encumber all we can inherit here.
Three they are: 1. Corrumpi, 2. Contaminari, 3. Marcescere, [377/378] 'corruption, soil and fading,' to which nos nostraque, 'we and all ours' are subject. Of which three, 1. Corruption refers to the very being itself; 2. Defiling, to the sincere and true being, without all foreign mixture; 3. Fading, to the beauty, the prime and flourishing estate that each hath.
The substance, that corrupts and comes to nothing, suppose by death, for corruption is contrary to generation. The undefiled pure estate, that is soiled and imbased by some bad thing coming to it from without, as it might be by infection or sickness. And though both these hold, the best estate long will not, but lose the lustre by and by, and fade away of itself. St. Peter enlarges this after in this chapter, taking his theme from the voice in Esay forty. 'All flesh is grass, and the glory of it as the flower of the grass.' The grass itself lasts not long, but the flower of the grass nothing so long as the grass itself. Let there be no blasting to corrupt it, no canker to defile it, yet of itself it falls off, and leaves the stalks standing.
It is now the time of flowers, and from flowers doth the Apostle take his term of marcescere. It is properly the fading of the rose. Straight of itself doth the rose marcere and the violet livere, 'wax pale and wane.' Their best, their flourishing estate they hold not long; neither the flowers that are worn, nor they that wear them neither - they, nor we; but decay we do, God wot, in a short time.
And as we, so they; as heirs, so the inheritances themselves. Their corruptible has not put on incorruption neither. They corrupt daily, we see, from one to another. One man's inheritance corrupts, by anothers man's purchase. To them who had them, and have them not, they are corrupt. And not that way alone; divers other escheat for want of heirs, confiscate for some offences, rioted and made away by unthriftiness; the heir stripped and turned clean out, the inheritance wasted and quite brought to nothing. At least, if not they to us, we to them corrupt, which comes all to one.
But say, they stand and corrupt not, another complaint there is; their soil, their miasmÕj, is but too evident. They soil us, their soil we brush off, wipe, rub, wash off daily; in summer dust, in winter dirt; these and sundry like [378/379] inquinamenta mundi, nothing in this region but subject to soil. Why, the 'inheritance' itself, we call it soil; and how can it but then but soil us? or how can there be any undefiled inheritance?
But make them and keep them as clean as you can, take them even at the best, yet fade they do sensibly; Jonah's worm, once a year, bites them by the root and they wither. Every year at least they fall into a marasmus, lose flowers and leaves and all, till they be regenerate by a resurrection, or rise again by a regeneration, as it were; till this time, the time of the spring comes about, and bring them forth new again.
So whatsoever we here can inherit, is subject to one, no to all of these. It corrupts, takes soil, fades. Is it not so? find we not St. Peter saith true? find we it not by proof daily? One or other, are we not still complaining of, specially of the fading? For though they fade not of themselves, yet to us they fade the fading to us, even before themselves fade. Eat we not till that fades, and we as weary of our fulness, as we were of our fasting? We are weary and we rest; rest we not till that fades, and we as weary of our rest, as ever we were of our weariness?
Yes indeed so it is, and that so it is, the very faithfulness of the creature to us. Thus by these defects to tire us, and not suffer us to set our rest upon them, upon any inheritance here, but to chase us from themselves, and force us up to God the Creator, with Whom there is 'an inheritance laid up,' in danger of none of these. But, 1. 'incorrupt,' that shall hold the being, and none every disinherit or disseize us of it; 2. 'undefiled,' that shall hold the assay, and never be imbased by any bad mixture; 3. and 'that shall never fade away' or fall into any marasmus, but hold out in the prime perfection it ever had. And if there be upon earth a state like this, it is now at this time. Now, all things generate anew; the soil of winter is gone, and of summer is not yet come. Now nothing fades, but all springs fresh and green. At this time here, but at all times there, a perpetual spring, no other season there but that. For such 'an inheritance,' 'Blessed be God!'
But where may this be ? For all this while we know not that. Only this we know, wherever it is, it is not here - upon earth no such seat, All here savour of the nature of the soil, [379/380] corrumpi, contaminari, marcescere, are the proper passions of earth, and all earthly things; but 'in Heaven' it may well be. There is no contrary to corrupt, nihil inquinatum, nothing to defile there. And there all things keep and continue to this day in their first estate, the original beauty they ever had. There then it is, and we thither to lift up our hearts, whither the very frame of our bodies gives, as if there were somewhat remaining for us there.
It is thought, there is some farther thing meant by St. Peter - he writes to the dispersed Jews - and that by in cælo he gives them an item, this inheritance is no new Canaan here on earth, nor Christ any earthly Messias to settle them in a new land of promise; -no, that was for the Synagogue, qnht_ qnht_ij ephgge/lleto qnht_ was itself mortal, is dead and buried since, and so had but mortal things to promise to her children who she did generate to mortality. The Church of Christ, 'the heavenly Jerusalem,' hath other manner of promises to her children, regenerate by the immortal seed of the Word and Spirit of God. To them she holdeth forth things immortal and heavenly, yea Heaven and immortality itself.
'In Heaven,' then. There it is first, and there it is 'kept;' the being there one, the keeping another. For that there it is 'kept,' is happy for us. Earth would not keep it; here it would be in hazard, there is great odds. For my part, I give it for lost, if in this state we were possessed of it, it would go the same way Paradise went. Since it would be lost in earth, it is 'kept' in Heaven. And a Benedictus for that too; as for the regenerating us to it here on earth, so for the keeping, the preserving of it there, in Heaven.
'Kept' and 'for us kept,' else all were nothing: that makes up all, that it is not only preserved, but 'reserved for us there.' As Benedictus the Alpha, so this the Omega of all.
But 'reserved,' as the nature of the word is, and as the nature is of things hoped for, yet under the veil; for spes quae videtur non est spes. But time will come, when the veil shall be taken off, and of that which is now within it there will be a revealing, as followeth in the next verse. And so all begins and ends as the Bible doth. As the Bible with [380/381] Genesis, so this text with regeneration; as the Bible ends in the Apocalypse, so this here with a revelation.
Only it stayeth till the work of regeneration be accomplished. Generation and it takes end both together, and when generation does, then shall corruption likewise, and with it the state of dishonour which is in foulness, and the state of weakness which is in fading; and instead of them, incorruption comes in place with honour and power. And these three: 1. incorruption, 2. honour, and 3. power make the perfect estate of bliss to which Christ this day arose, and which shall be our estate at the Resurrection. That as all began with a resurrection, so it will end with one. Came to us by Christ's rising at the last and great Easter, the true Passover indeed, when from death and misery we shall pass to life and felicity.
Now for this 'inheritance' which is bliss itself, and in the interim for 'the blessed hope set before us, which we have as an anchor of our soul, stedfast and sure, which entereth even within the veil, where Christ the forerunner is already seized of it,' in our names and for our behoofs, for these come we now to our Benedictus.
For if 'God according to His manifold mercy,' have done all this for us, we also according to our duty, as manifold as His mercy, are to do or say at least somewhat again. It accords well that for so many beneficia, one Benedictus at least. It accords well, that His rising should raise in us, and our regenerating beget in us some praise, thanks, blessing at least; but blessing fits best with Benedictus.
First then, dictus, somewhat would be said by way of recognition, this hath God done for us and more also, but this, this very day. Then bene let it be, to speak well of Him for doing thus well by us; a verbal benedictus for a real blessing is as little as may be. For the inheritance which is blessing, for the hope which is blessed, for the blessed cause of both, God's mercy, and the blessed means of both, Christ's resurrection this blessed day, 'Blessed be God!'
But to say benedictus any way is not to content us, but to say it solemnly. How is that? Benedictus in our mouth, and the holy Eucharist in our hands. So to say it; [381/ 382] to seal up, as he in the old, his quid retribuam with calicem salutaris, 'the cup of salvation,' so we in the new, our Benedictus with calix benedictionis, 'the cup of blessing which we bless in His name.' So shall we say it in kind, say it as it would be said. The rather so to do, because by that 'cup of blessing' we shall partake the 'blood of the New Testament,' by which this inheritance, as it was purchased for us, so it is passed to us. Always making full account, that from 'the cup of blessing,' we cannot part but with a blessing.
And yet this is not all, we are not to stay here but to aspire farther, even to strive to be like God; and be like God we shall not, unless our dicere be facere as His is, unless somewhat be done withal. In very deed there is no blessing but with `the hands stretched out' - so our Saviour Himself 'blessed.' The vocal blessing alone is not full, or the Sacramental alone without benedictio manus, that is, the actual blessing. To leave a blessing behind us, to bestow somewhat for which the Church, the poor in it, so will bless us, and bless God for us. In which respect the Apostle so calleth it expressly, eÙlogan, bendictionem, and by that name commends it to the Corinthians. And that is the blessing of blessings, when all is done; that is it for which venite benedicite will be said to us, even for that parting with that here which will feed, cover, and set free the hungry, naked and them in prison. That will prove the blessing real, and stick by us, when all our verbal benedictions will be vanished into air.
So, for a treble blessing from God, 1. our regenerating, 2. our hope, 3. our inheritance, we shall return Him the same number, even three for three. 1. Benedictus of the voice and instrument; 2. Benedicitus of the sign and Sacrament; 3. and Benedictus, of some blessed deed done, for which many blessings upon earth, and the blessing of God from heaven will come upon us. So, as we say here, Benedictus Deus, 'Blessed He.' He shall say, Benedicti vos, 'Blessed ye.' The hearing of which words in the end will make us blessed without end, in Heaven's bliss. To which, &c.