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Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology

John Cosin Works, Sermons, Volume One


Preached at Datchet near Windsor, on the second Sunday after Epiphany, A.D. MDCXXIV;
at the marriage of Mr. Abraham de Laune and Mrs. Mary Wheeler.
pp. 44-57.

Transcribed by Dr. Marianne Dorman
AD 2003


St. John ii.1-2

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the Mother of Jesus was there:
And Jesus was also called and his disciples, unto the marriage.

It is a marriage day with us, and it is a marriage day with the text; a marriage appointed you, whom it concerns, I doubt not by the care and providence of God; a text appointed by the care and order of the Church, for you see how it falls out to be that portion of Scripture here which the Church hath allotted to be universally read for the Gospel of this very day. The Gospel of the Sunday is, or should be, the theme of all our sermons throughout the revolution of the whole year. And this day is, or may be thought at least, the fittest of all other days of the year to celebrate a marriage on, it being the very day wherein Christ celebrated one Himself, with his own presence at it.

The choice of this day then, for your purpose, hath saved me the choice of a text for mine, for it hath given me one here ready to my hand, while time Church's intention met both so happily together. And it being Solomon's rule that men should speak their words as near as near as might be in season, and while it is called to-day, as St. Paul speaks; sure if ever [44/45] we shall keep his rule, as we shall keep it to-day, and speak of opus diei in die suo, bring the day and thee work of thee day together; for he that runs may read some happy correspond-ence between thee work of this day, and the words of this text; that at least for the text's sake, (however the sermon proves,) for the text's sake, and for the Gospel's sake you may say, as they seem, sicut audivimus, sic etam vidimus, as we have heard so have we seen, and as we have seen so have we heard here in the house of our God.

The text then being thus fixed to the present occasion, before we proceed to that business, it would be suited in the words to the present time too, according to the revelation of the year; for whether we had had a marriage here to-day or no, we should have had the same Service, the same Sunday, the same Gospel, and, if a sermon, the same text. Howsoever, the second Sunday after the Epiphany would have come and gone for all that; and this Gospel must have been read upon it: and we must have a care to observe the order and solemnity of the Church Service amid the Church Sunday, as well as of any marriage day whatsoever.

You are to know, then, that this is Epiphany time. Yon see they are called the Sundays of the epiphany; and Epiphany time is the time of the Manifestation; the time when Christ was pleased to manifest Himself, and make His glory known to the world. According to which, the Church hath suited her office, and fitted us with a course of service, that might help to bring into our minds in order, the things themselves, as they were done here by Christ our Saviour while He was upon the earth.

Thus there were three great and prime manifestations that He made of Himself. The Church begins with them at Twelfth Day. The first, that He made to the Gentiles; and accordingly propounds to you the Gospel of the star that appeared in the East, with the Collect, 'God, Which didst manifest thy only begotten Son to the Gentiles.' The next was the first manifestation we read of which He made of Himself to the Jews, while he sate with them in the Temple, and shewed them what He was, even at twelve years of age; [45/46] and accordingly did the Church propound that story for the Gospel the last Sunday, which was the first after the Epiphany. The third was the first manifestation that He made of himself to his disciples, who had been called but a little before, and were now invited with him to the marriage at Cana. Answerable whereunto is the Gospel propounded unto us by the Church this third day, 'and the third day there was a marriage in Cana,' so it begins; and at it, Jesus 'manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him,' so it ends. There were other miracles whereby Christ manifested himself too, and they have their times hereafter; but these were the first, in every kind, as St. John says, 'This was the beginning of miracles that He did;' and therefore hath the Church appointed the three first days after his Nativity, for the solemn memory and anniversary celebration of them.

These things, if they were better heeded by us, and known to us, than they are, I suppose we should affect the office and love the service of the Church better than we do: while the ignorance of them makes us esteem of God's solemn service, so divinely disposed as it is, no otherwise than as if it were a bare reading of so many lines, to spend away time, as in some places it is accounted; or an introduction to usher in a sermon, and wait upon it like a handmaid upon her mistress, as in others; while God knows it is the greatest happiness that we, His poor servants, can attain to here on earth, orderly, and duly, and solemnly, to serve him as the Angels do in heaven, that is, day by day to magnify Hint, to do Him honour and public homage, to send up prayers, as Angels from earth, and to receive down blessings, as Angels from heaven, [46/47] to commemorate His mercies, and to hear with our ears, what our fathers (that is, the priests and ministers of God) shall tell us, the noble acts that He did, in the old time before us. Among which, this that the Church hath propounded to-day for the Gospel, and which I have propounded to-day for my text, is a chief one; the first noble act, the beginning of miracles, as St. John says a little forward, that Christ did after his baptism.

And now the text is suited to the time, both for the occasion which we have to celebrate, and for the day which the Church is to celebrate.

It divideth itself into these parts:

The solemnizing of a marriage, 'And there was a marriage,' the first.

The place where it was, 'at Cana,' the second.

The time when it was, 'upon the third day,' and the third point too.

The guests that were at it, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Jesus himself; and Jesus's disciples, the fourth point.

And lastly, how they came there. They were invited to it, 'And Jesus was also called, and His disciples, to the marriage.'

The end of all will be that we make the same use of it which they did, and then we shall be sure to have the same benefit which they had, even the presence of Christ and blessing of Almighty God among us.

Of these then, or of as many of these as the time will suffer us that we may speak, to the honour of God's most holy Name, &c. &c. &c.

I shall desire &c.

'And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee.'

'There was a marriage.' That is the first.

Whose marriage this was, that we cannot tell. They did but shoot at rovers, those old friars, that out of an old apocryphal gospel were wont to tell us the story how that St. John [47/48] thee Evangelist was the man, and the Virgin Mary's niece was the woman, that were to be married here in Cana, but that when the feast was done, Christ called away the bride-groom, and made a disciple of him; and St. Jerome must be brought in to make up the case, when, as God knows, there is no such meaning in the Father; and it seems they forgot that St. John was called long before this time, laid was one of the first disciples that was called, as he says himself here, His disciples were called with Jesus to the marriage. What could become of them? curious wits forsooth must be searching, and lose their wits for their labour. What have to do with that which God and His Gospel have not been pleased to tell us? It is enough, be the marriage whose soever it was, we are told that marriage is an honourable estate of life in all men, a state ordained by God Himself in paradise, a state without which there can be no society in this world durable; and albeit single life be a thing more angelical and divine, yet because the replenishing of the earth first with [48/49] goodly inhabitants, and then of heaven with glorious saints, depended upon the conjunction of man and wife, when there was but a man alone, God made him a woman and a helper for him; a helper for many ends, for the propagation of his kind, for the education of his children, for the rule of his servants, for the guiding of his estate; and therefore man and woman, being to join themselves for such purposes, they had need have some insoluble knot to tie them together, and that is the bond of matrimony, which, when God hath tied, no man can unloose again. This is the state that is here spoken of; that you here are to undertake; a state that hath been ever more or less esteemed of as a thing sacred and religious; the title which the heathens give it is holy, saith Dionysius Halicarnassus, and the rites wherewith these Jews here did solemnize it in their rituals, as in ours, are called 'Sancta'.

For the time. 'The third day there was a marriage.' What this third day was, is needless to let you know, whether the third day of the week, or the third day after his baptism; but be it as it was, a fit time it was for Christ to be there, and to manifest himself at it. Christ chose this time to he at a marriage; had it been at some other time, perhaps He would not have been there; but this was a fit time both to make good the testimony of John Baptist, and to show wherefore He came into the world. St. John Baptist had told wonderful things of him but a few days since, and no doubt but the people wondered what manner of person He should he, That should take away the sins of the world. A wonder lasts not long, yet three days at least it useth to tarry, that they might have proof therefore of St. John Baptist's testimony in time. The third day, [40/50] as there fell a marriage upon it, not without God's providence came Christ to work a miracle and confirm betimes what St. John had said of Him, that the people might perceive he had no false prophet to his forerunner.

And the third day, (that is, presently after,) because Christ chose to do his beginning of miracles at a marriage, it was to tell us wherefore He came, to unite himself to his Church, and make a heavenly marriage, &c.

Now as Christ chose his time, and as the Church hath chose this time to propound the story of this marriage, so must we choose our times for it too; we have no miracles to work, but we have times to observe; there is a time for all things, a time to laugh and a time to weep. This is no weeping time; it is a time of joy, it butts upon Christmas time, it is the third day since we began to celebrate the nativity of Christ, and a marriage time fits well withal. A time of mourning would not have done so well; and had Christ met with a marriage as He had been going to the wilderness to fast forty days, surely He would never have turned into it; but now when His time of fasting was done He went to a marriage. There is an order of the Church which forbids the solemnizing of marriages at certain times in the year not that it is unlawful at any time, but that it is not expedient at some. For duties belonging to marriage and mirth, and offices appertaining to penance and sorrow, are things altogether unsuitable; all the Prophets and all the Apostles tell us as much. And therefore as we might well think it a marvellous absurd thing to see in a church a solemn wedding kept upon a public and solemn flay of fasting, so likewise our predecessors thought it fit to restrain the liberty of marriages during the time which was appointed either for preparation unto, or for exercise of general humiliation in prayer, and fasting, amid weeping for our sins upon some days, which we commit all the days of our life, and perhaps should never think of any sorrow for them, had not the Church ordained such times to moan and lead us thereunto: such are the times of Advent, of Lent, of Ember times, and the like; for if all times were open, we should, [50/51] &c. it is enough that some are open then, and it will be the greater commendation for you then, and the less trouble to your minds, that you are come hither in a due time to cele-brate your marriage, even in a time of joy, when Christ came to this, without breaking any order or godly discipline of the Church.

For the place, in Cana of Galilee, we shall not need to say much; it was in that very place whereabout John Baptist was a-baptizing and preaching to the people of Christ; that so in the same place his doctrine might be confirmed, and the people's faith strengthened. The place which you have chosen is in your father's house, as Jacob was married to his wife in Laban's, her father's and her mother's own home; which will be a joy to them that see it, and a better confirming of their hope for God's blessing upon you.

Now for the guests; 'And the Mother of Jesus was there.' Clandestine and stolen marriages, whereat nobody might be present, were ever odious to God and men; this was none of them. It was the glory of our predecessors solemnly to celebrate their marriages, and to have as many witnesses at them as they could get; and all to a good end; that they might pray, and testify low religiously the espoused gave their faith one to the other, to remain inviolable to their lives' end; that if they kept it so, it might be a joy to them; if they brake it, so many witnesses might rise up against them.

Witnesses and guests in this time, then, might be many; we are to speak of them that were extraordinary only; for it was St. John's intent, by naming those more than any other, to have us take some especial heed of them. Here is first, the Mother of Jesus. Mary was a woman that had found grace amid favour with God, a woman that was saluted from heaven with an Angel, one whom all generations were to call 'blessed', who was then a saint on earth, who is now a most glorious saint in heaven. Sure they must needs think some great blessing would come upon the marriage, the rather by having her there. The custom was their to call grave [51/52] matrons to the wedding of young people, that so they might have a pattern of modesty, and gravity, and godliness, and honesty, for them to imitate all their life after. Now as the world goes in our days, these customs are almost forgotten; for we use to call the youth of the parish and the minstrels of the country; music and melody are the two matrons we look after; Venus for the Virgins, and Bacchus for Christ. A sad difference! as if men and women meant to purchase jollity enough for one day of their marriage, and repentance enough for all the days of their life after. This is a fashion for gentiles; the people of the nations may frisk, vos autem non sic, it must not, and I am glad it is not like to be so with you, who (God be thanked) have been better taught.

'And Mary the Mother of Jesus was there,' Her being there commended the marriage as a thing not wantonly, or lightly, or suddenly undertaken, (as God knows they are too often so with us,) but solemnly and deliberately in the fear of God, as they were then, as they ought to be now, according to order, as our Church book teacheth us to speak. Had it been otherwise, surely she would never have been there; but being so, and her being at it, it brought on a better guest than she was; which is the next thing, 'And Jesus was also called to the marriage.'

I have wondered often why Mary should be named first, and Jesus after her; why not Jesus before Mary? and I find it is for nothing else but to tell us that unless Mary had been there first, Jesus would never have come thither. Mary's being there made it a solemn and a grave meeting; to such a meeting Christ would come; had it been without Mary, that is, without gravity and sobriety, He would have turned another way, and never have vouchsafed His presence at it. And the only reason why Christ comes to no more of our weddings than He does,--as you see by the effect of most on them, is because we invite not His Mother first, that is, sobriety and temperance, and a holy religious intent to be joined together now, to live together hereafter in the fear of God, and keeping of His commandments. But forsooth, all our thoughts must be taken up with the pleasure [52/53] and jollity that we shall now come to enjoy, with the honour and worship that shall now be done us, over that we had before; with the wealth that we shall wallow in, especially if the portion and the jointure be any thing great; and therefore Christ seldom or never comes among us at such times.

For He hath sent His Mother before himself, and if she finds the place fit for her, then good, He will come after; if otherwise, there is no place for him, He would have our thoughts taken up with a wife's virtues, when we marry one, and not with her visage; with her goodness that she brings, and not with her goods: the worst wives having many times the best portions, and the best wives (such a one as Esther was) having oft times none at all. Marry, the world runs now for wives as Judas ran to the High-Priest for money, with quantum dabis, what will ye give? no matter what she hath besides, though both would do well together, howsoever. And if the maiden chance to say, with Peter, aurum et argentum tum non est mihi, 'gold and silver have I none, but such as I have shall be yours,' let her be as obedient as ever Sarah was, as devout as Anna, as loving as Rebecca, as virtuous as the Virgin Mary,--yet all shall be esteemed as nothing, quærenda pecunia primum est, other things may mend it, but money makes the match. It will hardly he believed, if we tell the world that money commonly mars it; but believe it or not, that which makes it good, is goodness; and to have the Mother of Jesus, and the blessing of Jesus with it, is worth the greatest dowry that now-a-days is given; to want them, be the dowry what it will be, be the beauty of the maid, the credit of her house, the greatness of her stock, never so great, all will be but vanity, and turn to vexation of spirit. A woman is like a ship, saith Solomon; she is like a ship indeed; if she hath not gravity to balance her, and discretion to guide her, she flies up and down without a pilot; inconstant, light-headed and vain; now she loves, and anon she hates; now she obeys, and anon she scorns; gentle to [53/54] day, and rough to-morrow; she goes by tides and all her goodness takes her by fits, like the good days of a double tertian; and though she seems good for seven days at first, she makes amends and is naught seven years after; so that, as it was said of Jephthah's daughter, that she went out to bewail the days of her virginity, may be said in truth of many men's daughters. For if they bring not more of Mary and Jesus with them than of other company, and more of their virtues than of other endowments, they, or their husbands, may go out and bewail the days of their marriage too, and wish they were set in their single life again. And what I say of one sex, for equity's sake I say of the other too.

'And Jesus was also called, with His disciples, to the marriage.' It may be that they were called out of some special devotion and faith that they had in Him, that all things should go well with them, both that day and all their days after, if they might but be blessed with His presence once; for so king David would needs have the Ark of God into his house, and his house was the better for it ever after; and so Zaccheus received Christ into his house with joy, and salvation was brought unto his house by it.

But whether it were out of faith or confidence in him, or no, as yet it was early days with any believers, sure we are it was out of charity and good affection to him, neither did they lose their reward for that. He that receives a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall have a prophet's reward; and Christ would come when He was called, were it but to com-mend charity and hospitality to us, and to tell us how facile He is of His own goodness; that be, the persons what they will that call him, if they do but call upon him lie will hear, and give there their desire withal; nay, so full of goodness, that if they forget to call, He will come and call and knock Himself, if they will but open to him, not shut the doors against Him, they shall have his blessing. That if any call now; but for the call of marriage more specially, because there is more need of Him then, than at any other time.

[54/55] (1.) For first, they that marry are like them that venture at sea; they venture their estate, venture their peace, venture their liberty; yea many a two venture their souls too, as Solomon did with his concubines, and Herod with his brother's wife; that if Christ be not at hand to save them, they are ever and anon ready to perish.

(2.) They that marry must commonly leave father and mother, and sister and brother, and kindred, and a great deal of other comforts which they were wont to enjoy; that if Christ were not at hand to be as all these unto them, most an end it would so fall out, that the latter end of these people would be worse than the beginning. But when Christ comes to the marriage, there will be no want of other company. If thou must forsake thy father's house, said God to Jacob, be not afraid of that, for Ego Dominus tecum ero, I will be with thee. It is some comfort yet that we shall have somebody with us, when we must leave our wonted acquaintance, and yet here is not every somebody, but here is Christ Himself, that by his presence here hath promised His presence and assistance to all them that shall join themselves and live according to His holy ordinance. And they that have Him shall be in Enoch's case, though all the world forsake them yet shall they walk with God; or in Daniel's, who had none but Michael the archangel to help him, there is company enough; and as Christ, when all forsook Him and fled, 'Yet am I not alone, for the Father is with Me.' Joh.16.32 So whatsoever they be put to, yet are they not alone, for Christ is with them. And though men think themselves safe enough, as long as they be in their father's house, yet this, erat Jesus ibi, is worth all; for Isaac was in his father's house, and yet he had like to have lost his life if God had not been with him; and Jacob was in his mother's house and yet the best counsel she could give him was to, take to his heels from the fury of Esau; the Shunamite's child in his mother's lap, and yet not safe. If God and Christ be not with us, nobody is with us; if They will vouch-safe Their presence, nobody will be against us. A fruitful vine shall grow upon the tops of our houses, and our children shall stand like olive branches round about our table; which is the happiness, that I wish from this day [55/56] forward may befall you, as it hath done others of your stock before you.

(3.) The married life is so full of troubles, vexations, crosses, while (as God made the order at first) the man must sweat with weariness abroad, and the woman wear herself with sorrow at home; she to bring forth children, and he to bring them up; and though all their life be spent in some ease, yet when they grow to age, to be despised of others, to be lame, and blind, and deaf, to have palsies, and gouts, and agues upon them; why, if Christ were not by to help them, and to comfort them with His presence, what joy could they take in such a state of life, that had brought all these miseries upon them?

(4.) Last of all; had not Christ vouchsafed His presence at this marriage, men might have had cause to doubt, as they did in the Gospel, whether it were good to marry at all, or no for first, He was a virgin Himself, and his Mother, she was a virgin; neither He nor she would lead any other lives; and married life itself seems to be but an imperfect state, the state of perfection is virginity, so much commended by our Saviour, so highly esteemed by St. Paul. Besides, those that thought themselves wise men of old, were little in love with marriage, insomuch that one said it would be a happy world if there were no women in it; as Cato; and that if they were out, God would come oftener among us than He does; that a woman was a necessary evil, and that a wise man would never marry one of them. All which considered, it was necessary that Christ should confirm the honour and honesty of this estate by his presence, as being a state of life, for all their discourse, both pleasing and acceptable to God, if it be undertaken according to His holy will and ordinance.

And what greater comfort can there be to any than to [56/57] know that the state wherein they live is pleasing to Almighty God, without which confidence every day would be a dismal, a miserable day unto them.

Then to make an end. If you that are here to be married, would have all things to succeed well with you, you are to take this marriage here for a pattern to make yours by. If wantonness and lightness, with their attendants, he sent away, and Mary the Mother of Jesus be sent for to you; if Christ and his disciples be invited to bless your marriage day now, to guide you in your married life hereafter, Christ is so gentle and ready to be with you, that He will work miracles but you shall have a blessing; it will do you good all the days of your life, and after this marriage, and this life, bring you at last to a more lasting marriage with the Lamb, and a life that shall never fail.

To which He bring us all, Who hath purchased the same for us, Christ Jesus, &c., to Whom, &c

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