The Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology
by Mark Frank
[Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1849]
transcribed by Dr
THE SECOND SERMON
ON THE DAY OF
THE PURIFICATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN.
S. LUKE ii. 28.
Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God.
AND we have also this day taken him, and are now returned again to bless God. Taken him we have in our hands, in our mouths; et dulcedine replentur viscera, "and our bowels are filled with his sweetness," filled as the moon at the full, and we cannot hold our peace; we must needs give thanks after this holy supper for so royal a feast.
Indeed, were the business, either of the day, or the taking or receiving, done as soon as we had taken him up in our arms, or down into our bowels, Simeon might have spared his blessing, and both you and I all further labour. But receiving so gloriously great things at the hands of God, we cannot for shame but return him somewhat, a thanksgiving sermon, or an anthem; and being in the strength of this meat to walk not only forty days before we thus eat again of this kind of bread, or drink of this rock, but forty years perhaps for some of usand all of us all our lives, in the power and strength of this food, in the virtue of this grace this day afforded us, by the efficacy of the offering this day offered for us,we cannot after it be such unclean beasts but that we will chew the cud, the meat that this day we have taken, and relish our mouths again with the taste and savour of this days food; refresh our souls and selves with a thankful remembrance of this days mercy, and offer our evening sacrifice as we have already done our morning.
So that it will not be amiss to take Christ again into our arms, though but to look upon him, and see what we have taken, what we have done; that if we have taken him somewhat untowardly, as people that are not used to handle children seldom but doas people that are not enough acquainted with the child Jesus, as many do him,as the best handlers of him amongst us cannot altogether excuse ourselves from much imperfection in the doing,we may by a review amend what is amiss and what is past in much weakness in the time of receiving; or before it, in the preparation towards it, may be corrected for the future by a continued taking him into our arms in a holy life and conversation.
For many ways there are of taking him; and that is one which above all is not to be forgotten, as without which all other taking him is to no purpose but to play with him or to mock him. But I must first remember where I left, and come to that in order as I go.
Four particulars I pointed at in the words; four parts of this second general of Christs reception, or Simeons gratulatory acceptation of him: suscipiens, suscipiendi modus, susceptionis tempus, and suscipientis benedictio.
The taker or receiver: Simeon, "he."
The manner of taking or receiving him: "took him up in his arms."
The time of this taking: "then," when he was brought into the temple, and presented there.
The takers or receivers gratulation of thanksgiving for it: "and blessed God." "Then too he," &c.
The taker or receiver of Christ, "he," comes first to be taken notice of; and Simeon was "he." The common and most received opinion of him is, that he was a priest; for the priests office it was (1) to receive the offerings of the Lord: and behold, here, "he" it is that takes him into his arms, and receives him at the hands of his parents, as Eli did Samuel of Elkanah and Hannah. And (2) their office it was to bless the peopleAarons and his sons; and that does Simeon; takes the child, and blesses the parents, "he." But the Christian priest does more, blesses the child, too. No priest of the law could do that: it is the minister of the Gospel only that can do that; that has that authority, to consecrate, and bless, and take, and all. He it is that blesses the dead elements, and quickens them into holy things by the ministration of his office, by the virtue of his function. Till he blesses, they are but common bread and wine; when he has taken and offered them, then they are holy; then they are the means, and pledges, and seals of grace; then they convey Christ unto the faithful receivers soul. This is the mystery of the Gospel and so I speak it; not literally of Christs person, but mystically of his body and blood, as offered and taken in the sacrament.
But after the blessing, the taking concerns us all; and though it concerns us not whether Simeon was a priest or not, yet it both concerns us (1) that he that blesses and offers be a priest, as much as it concerns us that it be the sacrament we would have, which cannot be offered but by the hands to which Christ committed that power and authority; and (2) that we ourselves that take be some way qualified in the same respects as old Simeon here, of whom we may be certain of his sanctity, whatever of his priesthood.
The Holy Spirit bears witness to him (1) that "he was a just man," dikaios, just and upright in his dealing, "in the righteousness which is by the law unblameable," as S. Paul of himself; yet has even such a one need of Christ; is not fully and completely righteous till he take Christ into his arms by faith, till he add the righteousness which is by faith. Yet is that other so good a disposition to this, that,whatever some men, to excuse their own laziness or looseness, and the devil to encourage it, have ungodly vented to the world, that the moral, righteous, honest man is further off from Christ than the most dissolute and debauched sinner, yet,we see, that first that takes hold on Christ is said to be a "just," that is, a moral, honest, man, who does all right and justice, no wrong or injury to his neighbour; and, whoever he is that Christ suffers to take him into his arms, has already cleansed his hands by some works of repentance and at least stedfast resolution to be what is said of Simeonhomo justus, to be righteous and just. Without such purposes, at least, no taking him, to be sure.
He is (2) styled eulabhs, "devout" and pious: homo timoratus the Latin renders it, "a man timorous" to offend God, and reverently respecting holy things. And with such affections, devotion and reverence and fear and trembling, are we to approach the table of the Lord, to receive and take him: we shall else take nothing but the rags he is wrapped in, himself will vanish out of our hands.
He (3) was that "he" that "waited for the consolation of Israel." And none but such a "he,"one that waits, and looks, and longs, and thirsts and hungers after Christ, the "consolation of Israel" and all the isles of the Gentiles too,none but he shall have the honour and happiness of Christs embraces; "to them" only "that look for him will he appear" either in grace or glory.
"Upon him (4) was the Holy Ghost:" and he only who is the "temple of the Holy Ghost," whose soul is so, whose body is so, shall truly and really touch "the Child Jesus." He will not dwell or come into those arms which the Holy Ghost has not made holy. Holy things must not be cast to dogs, to the unclean and impure, nor be laid up in unclean places; nor indeed can any receive him, or so much as call him by his name, "but by the Holy Ghost," how fain soever he would call or come.
This point would have done well to have been considered before your receiving, and I hope you did; but it is seasonable too now, that if you have purified yourselves beforeapproached in righteousness, with devotion, reverence, with hungering and thirsting, believing and hoping for him, and in the power of the Holy Ghostyou may so continue: if you have been deficient in any, you may reinforce yourselves, ask pardon, and set yourselves more strictly to righteousness and devotion, good desires and holy practices, hereafter.
As there is none too young to be brought to him, so there is none too old to come and take him. Old Simeon, now ready to depart the world, has yet strength enough to hold this Child in his aged arms; him that by being held, upholds him and all the world. None too old for Christs company. Though he be here a Child, he is the "Ancient of days" elsewhere. There is no pretending age against his service. In the old law the priests at fifty were exempted from the service of the tabernacle, the Mosaical service of the law: but nor fifty, nor sixty, nor a hundred, nor any years, can excuse us from the service of the Gospel,Christs service,nor debar us from it. To that, the outward strength and vigour of the body was necessary: to Christ, the inward vivacity and action of the soul will suffice where the body can do little. And as there is no time too long for Christs service, nor from our first childhood to our second; so there is none too late, if but strength to reach out a hand and take that, which is no burden, but an ease to bear, the greatest ease of the sick or weary or aged soul. This is a point may comfort us when all worldly comforts are past us: when, like old Barzillai, we have neither pleasure nor taste in our meat or drink, we may find sweetness in Christs body and blood. When "the grasshopper is a burden," this Child is none; when the "keepers of the house tremble," our hands may yet hold Him full fast; when "they that look out of the windows be darkened," we may stedfastly behold him; when "the grinders cease," we may yet eat this bread of life; he that "rises at the voice of the bird," may sleep soundly with this Child in his arms; when "all desire shall fail," this desire of the nations will not leave him; when he is "going to his long home," this Child will both accompany and conduct him to his rest.
Oh the comfort of this Child in our old age, when we are ready to go out of the world, ready to depart!no comfort like it; no warmth like that which reflects from the flesh of this young Childhis being flesh, made and offered to us, and taken by us. When no Abishag can warm us, this Shunammite can; when none can cherish us, he can "stay us with flagons, and comfort us with apples;" when no earthly fire in our bosoms can give us heat, with this Child in our arms we grow young again, and renew our years unto eternity. Oh comfortable and happy old age, that has his arms furnished with the Child Jesus! "Forsake me not, O Lord, in mine old age," nor draw thyself out of mine arms "when I am grey-headed," and I shall seek no other love, no other embraces.
Thus have I showed you Simeons silver head and golden hands; Simeon with Jesus in his arms; an old man holding of a Child, a priest embracing of his King, a servant entertaining of his Lord, the first Adam laying hold upon the Second, the Law catching at the Gospel, the old world courting of the new; age and youth, state and religion, humility and greatness, weakness and strength, rigour and mercy, time and eternity, embracing. It is a happy day that makes this union, where the imperfection of the one is helped out and perfected by the perfections of the other. And it is the happier, in that now, in the next place, it directs us how to bear a part in this union, and communicate in this happiness, (Et ipse accepit eum in ulnas,) by taking Him into our arms from whom comes all this "peace upon earth, and good will among men."
Several are the ways of taking Christ. We take him in at our ears when we hear him in his word; we take him in our mouths when we confess him; we take him into our hearts when we desire and love him; we take him upon our necks when we submit to his obedience; we take him upon our knees when we pray unto him; we take him into our hands when we meditate and think upon him. It is good taking him any of these ways; nay, all he must be taken.
But our business at this time is, in our arms or hands to do it; and so to take him is,
1. First, To believe and hope in him. Faith and hope are the two arms of the soul, whereby we take and entertain whatsoever it is we love. And here Simeon did so: he would not so have "waited for the consolation of Israel," had he not fully believed and hoped strongly to attain it; nor would he either so have stretched out his hands to bless the parents, nor his arms to receive the child, nor his voice to sing so loud salvation to the ends of the world, that Jew and Gentile both might hear it.
2. To take him in our hands and arms, is to receive him in the sacraments. Those are the two arms that the Church opens to take him: Baptism, as the left hand, the weaker, for young weaklings; and the Eucharist, as the right and stronger, for those of riper and stronger years; and in these arms he lies at all times to be found, with them he is taken; and when at any time we duly and devoutly use them, we take him by them. And by the one of them we have, I hope, all of us this day taken him.
3. But there is yet a way, and arms, every day to take him with. Good works are the hands; and the two branches of charitydivine charity and brotherly love, that divide the two tables of the law betwixt themare the two arms that embrace him: the good works that proceed from the first are the hands of the one, and they that issue from the second are the other. And I may have leave to call the Ten Commandments the ten fingers that make the hands that received him. Only here is one thing to be observedand worth it toothat these hands and fingers, the duties of the moral law, are to take Christ to them; his merits to supply their defects, his strength to actuate their weakness, his faith to raise their flagging dulness and earthy heaviness, which till then looks not high enough beyond worldly interests, ere they can reach heaven.
But by these hands, thus ordered, purified, and lifted up, no fear of taking Christ wholly, with his greatest benefits and utmost relations. You need not fear the hands, or doubt the virtue of them that are thus first enabled by Christ, but that they are the truest power we hold him by. Let but our goodness die, our righteousness fail, our good deeds vanish out of sight,and Christ does too; he that is the Eternal Wisdom will not dwell in a body that is subject unto sin, that is the vassal of satan, under the dominion or habit of any iniquity.
By those hands, therefore, you are daily to embrace him. These are the hands that keep him, too, that hold him fast. So long as our good works, so long continues he; so long our sanctification; if the one goes, the other does not stayno, is not remembered, says God. God himself forgets it as if it had not been, when once the righteous turns from his righteousness and turns wicked. This day, my beloved, you have taken Christ by the hand of the holy sacrament: that was your morning service: take him now henceforward by continuance in well-doing, by loving God, by loving your neighbourthose two arms of charityand by all the fingers and joints and nerves of good works, all sorts of good works, that you never more be deprived of him.
And yet suscipere is somewhat moresub capere, et sursum capere; or in the English, to take him up. Take up his cross and follow him. Put your neck under even his hardest yoke, if he point it out; that is capere sub and super too; to take on and up; to deny yourselves, and submit to any afflictionany cross, any persecution, any loss of liberty, or limb, or life, or goods, or friends, or any thingrather than part with Jesus, than part our arms to let him go; than any way part with our part, any part or portion in him.
And then, lastly, sursum capere, take him up and offer him again unto his Father; offer him as our lamb for a burnt-offering; offer him as our turtle for sin-offeringfor he is our turtle, of whom it is said, "The voice of the turtle is heard in our land:" offer him as our dove for a sacrifice of thanksgiving, for he is our "love" and "dove;" offer him for our meat-offering, for he is our meat, the very "bread that came down from heaven," fittest therefore of all bread to be offered to heaven again.
Offer we him as our turtur in our solitude and requirement; (turtus avis solitaria, the turtle is solitary bird;) offer him as our dove in company and in our congregations; (columba avis gregaria, doves fly by flocks together;) offer him in our contemplation, and offer him in our practical conversation.
And offer we up ourselves together with himfor it is an offering day, and we must not stand out nor come in empty;offer up, I say, ourselves as turtles and doves; some, their single estate with the turtle; others, their married with the dove;offer we up the turtles sighs instead of wanton songs; the turtles chastity and purity and the doves simplicity. Let our lives be full of sorrow for our sins, and compassions to our brotherfull of purity and innocency. Keep we still this sursum in suscipere upon the tops of the mountains with the turtle, as near heaven as can be; set no more our foot upon the green trees our boughs, as the turtle does not when his mate is dead; rest we no more upon the green and flourishing, the light and leafy pleasures of the world, but spend the residue of this mournful life in bewailing the widowed Church, our lost both spouse and mother, our deceased Husband and Father too. Thus taking Christ and his offering, and proportioning ours according to it, our heaviness may again be turned into joy, a joyful light spring up again; our Purification become also a Candlemas, an illustrious day of lights and glories.
It is Candlemas-day, I tell you again. Let it be so henceforward with you for ever, perpetual Candlemas, perpetual Christmas; your good works perpetually shine before men, that they also may glorify your Father by that light; and nothing be henceforth heard of but Christ, in your hands and arms and mouths, all your words and works and lives and deaths, nothing but Christ, nothing but Christ, as if you were wholly full this dayas Simeons arms with the Child Jesuswith the Lords Christ.
This work is never unseasonable. Christ may at all times be taken so with reverence into our mouths, or arms, or hearts, or any part about us. Yet he has a proper time besides, and that is when he is presented in the temple after his circumcision and his mothers purification.
At such a time as that, when our hearts are purified by repentance and faith,when the devout soul, which like his mother conceives and brings him forth, has accomplished the days of her purification, and offered the forementioned offerings of the turtle and the dove, and we circumcised with the circumcision of the Spirit, all our excrescent inclinations, exorbitant affections, and superfluous desires cut off,we may with confidence take him into our arms; but until then it is too much sauciness to come so near him; at least presumption to conceive we have him truly in our arms, that he is truly embraced by us, whilst we have other loves, other affections which cannot abide with him, already in our arms, and too ready in our hands.
Profane we him not, therefore, with unhallowed hands, nor touch this holy ark of the covenant with irreverent fingers, lest we die. Many that have done so, says the Apostle, for so doing "are sick" and "weak" upon it, and "many sleep;" that is, die suddenly in their sins, whilst the hallowed meat is yet in their mouths. It is as dangerous as death and damnation too, to take Christ with unpurified and unprepared hearts or hands. Take him not, then, till you are prepared.
Yet (2), if prepared, take him when you can, and as soon as you can-when he is offered to youwhilst you may; today, if you will; it is offering day with him yet, any day too, when he is offered, and whilst he is so: for he always will not be so; it will not be always Candlemas; he will not be offered every day. There is a time when he will go and not return, when he will not any longer strive with flesh; when we shall stretch out our hands and he will not come, nor hear, nor see us neither. To-day, if you will do it, do it; you are not sure of yourselves to-morrow, much less of him. To-day, if you will: if not I know not what day to pitch, nor will you find it easy to meet another, if you at anytime neglect the present. This day, then, "whilst it is called to-day," lay hold of him, wise, and would not be put off by him with a Discedite, 'Hands off! I have nothing to do with you, nor you with me: it is too late.'
Many are the times and days, as well as means and ways, wherein Christ is offered to us; but this day he has been thrust into our arms, put into our hands, and we have taken him. Yet say I still, Take him up in your arms; and I say it without either tautology, or impertinence, or impropriety. Into our hands we have taken him, and, I hope, into our arms, into our bosoms, into our hearts besides: take him yet up higher and higher into our affections, the very natural arms of our souls, more and more into them, nearer and nearer to us, closer and closer to our hearts; embrace and hug him close, as we those we most affectionately love; and hold him fast, that he may no more depart from us, but delight to be with us, as with those that so love him that they cannot live without him.
Thus it is no impertinence to wish you to take him still, though you have taken him. Thus you are every day to take him, or this day's taking him will come to nothing, or to worse. If you go not on, still taking him nearer and nearer, deeper and deeper every day, into your bosoms and hearts, as you have this day into your hands and mouths, you will be questioned in indignation by him: Why have you taken me into your mouthswhy have you taken me up in your hands, seeing you now seem to hate me; are so soon grown weary of me, and put me from you, and even cast me behind you? Take heed, I beseech you, of doing thus, of drawing back your hands so soon, drawing back at all. For after this favour, whereby you have been made partakers of him, whereby he has so infinitely condescended from himself, as to be received into so unclean, and filthy, and extremely unworthy hands and souls, to be embraced by such vile creatures, what can we render him sufficient for such goodness? It is but this, O man, that he requiresa poor thing, O man, that he requires at thy hand for this vast infinite favour; and thou hast Simeon here doing it before thee, blessing God: "And he took him up in his arms, an blessed God."
Indeed, we can do little if we cannot blessbless Him that blesses us; benedicere, speak well of him; say, he is good and gracious, loving and merciful unto us; tell and speak forth his praise, tell and declare the great and gracious things that he hath done for us, the wonderful things that he this day did for the children of men;came and took their place, and was presented and accepted for them, who we but refuse and rejected personswere fain to send bulls, and lambs, and rams, the very beasts, to plead for them; glad of anything to stand between them and their offended God even the heifer's dung and ashes to make atonement them, and as it were her skin to cover them,till this day, when this holy Child was presented for all, and all those former poor shifts and shelters at an end: no need of those dead offerings more, being fully reconciled by this living One for ever. Bless we him, and praise him, and speak good of him for this.
Bless we him yet more for vouchsafing us the touches of his sacred body, for so kindly coming into our arms. Our own children do not sometimes do so, but come often wit much frowardness and crying, reluctance and unwillingness. This Child Jesus comes of his own accord, slips down from heaven into our laps when we are not aware, is in our arms ere we can stir them up. And that this Son of God should so willingly leave his Father's bosom, the true and only seat of joy and pleasure, for ours, the perfect seat sorrow and misery; and rest himself in our weak arms, who have nor rest nor shelter but in his; that he should thus really infinitely bless us, and yet require no greater a return than our imperfect blessing him again,how can we keep our lips shut, our tongues silent of his praise!
But having this day sealed all these favours and blessings to us by the holy sacrament, the pledge and seal of this love wherewith he loved us-having so really, and fully, and manifestly, and fast, given himself into our arms-we cannot, sure, but bless him both with our tongues and hands; with holy Simeon make an hymn of his goodness, an anthem of his love, a psalm of his mercy, and in sweet numbers carol forth his praise; set our heads to do it, our hearts to indite it, our pens to write it, our voices to sing it, and with the Three Children in their song, invite all the creatures in heaven and earth, angels and men, all the sensible and insensible creatures, to bear us company; so to make a full noise of all kinds of music to set forth his praise. Do it with our hands too, do that which will exalt his praise. Then it is benedixit complete, when it has benefecit next it. We speak best when we do best, when our lives and actions speak it: benedixit and bene vixit, are not so near of sound for nothing: a holy life is not more truly God's blessing to man, than, again, it is man's chiefest and most acceptable blessing God.
Many ways may this blessing God be performed by us ; but as we stand now with some relation to this day's blessing the blessed Eucharist, the feast of blessing, "the cup of blessing" as the Apostle styles itI shall show you, now you have taken it, what blessing is more peculiarly required after it.
Three acts of blessing there are to be performed, after this act of so taking Christ into our arms; and for it three points of blessingfor this great blessing of the Holy Communion thanksgiving, oblation, and petition. Bless him and give thanks to him. Bless him and offer up his Son to him again, and ourselves with him; offer his Son in our own arms, him and ourselves. Bless him and present our petitions to him, our prayers as well as praises. Or, in the language of the text, benedicamusspeak well of him, do somewhat for him, and bring our requests and petitions to him. You see 1 need not run out of the text for any kind of blessing.
1. First, then, bless him with your tongues: "speak good of his name," and let your lips speak forth his "glory" and "wondrous works;" tell the world what he has done for you, what great and mighty things. Salutem ejus evangelizate; tell it out for good tidings, the "tidings of great joy;" be always speaking, always telling it.
Call to all the creatures to bear you company-everything to rejoice with you. Tell your happiness to the woods and mountains in your solitary retirements; tell it to the towns and villages. Speak of it in all companies; tell it to the young men and maids, old men and children, all sexes and ages, what God has done for your souls. Tell it to the summer and winter, both in your prosperity and adversity; let nothing make you forget your thanks. Tell it to the frost and fire, in your coldnesses and in your fervencies and zeals; to the earth and to the waters, in your drynesses of soul and in the sorrows of your hearts; praise him in nil conditions. Tell it to the angels and heavens, as you are about your heavenly business. Tell it to the fowls of the air, even in the midst of your airy thoughts and projects, that they may be such as may set forth his glory. Tell it to the priests and servants of the Lord, to solemnize your thanksgiving. Tell it to the spirits and souls of the righteous, to bear a part with you in your song; and entreat them all, all estates and orders, all conditions and things, to bring in each their blessing, to make up one great and worthy blessing for this day's blessing, to rejoice and sing, exult and triumph with you for this happy armful of eternal blessings this day bestowed upon you. Begin we the blessing: "Blessing, and honour, and power, and glory, and thanks, and praise, and worship, and great glory, be unto God, for ever and ever; and let all the creatures say, Amen."
Bless we him, secondly, with our offerings. Hold we up, first, our hands, and bless him; hold we up our hands, and vow and resolve to serve him from henceforth with hand and heart and all our members; offer him our vows and resolutions, holy ones; strengthen our hands, and renew our purposes, to serve him now henceforward with a high hand, maugre all the pleasures and profits of the world, say what they will against itwith a strong hand, do they what they dare or can against us. Bless him, and resolve to bless him for ever; and every day renew we still our resolutions, that our hands may be so strengthened by them, that none may be able to take him out of our hands.
2. Catch we fast hold of him with our hands when we bless him; clasp him fast by a lively hope, as assured that all our hope is in him, all our hope in holding him; clasp we him fast and bless him.
3. Spread your arms and bless him with your faith; open your souls, and every day more and more let him come in; let it be your continual exercise more and more to trust him, to rely upon him.
4. Open your hands and cast down your blessings upon the poor: he that blesses the poor, blesses God. What you have done to them, says Christ, you did to me. Open your hands and bless God.
5. Cross your hands and beat your breasts; bless him with your hands across, as humbly acknowledging your vileness and unworthiness of so great a favour as his presence; as the seeing, and touching, and handling, and tasting him. He truly blesses God on high, that thus makes himself low.
6. Fill your hands and bless him; bless him with a full hand; both your hands full of blessing, blessings of all sorts, all good works and virtues. An universal obedience is the onliest blessing God: "Simeon" being interpreted, is obedient; and he it is that here blesses: the obedient soul, that at any time only truly blesses God.
7. Wash we yet our hands, before we either open, or spread, or hold up, or cross, or clasp, or fill them: wash we before we bless; wash away our impurities with our tears; bewail and bemoan our defects, and weaknesses, and imperfections, which in our receiving have been too many; that by this hand our oblation and blessing may be offered with pure and unspotted hands and hearts.
8. Clap we then our hands and bless him; do it with joy and not with grief: we may do it well when we have so washed them first. Let it be our way of blessing to do it cheerfully; to settle ourselves to all the works of piety and obedience, of faith, and hope, and charity, and humilityand, in a word, to an universal righteousness, with all the purity we can, with all the strength and resolution we are able. Bless with a cheerful and ready hand; set ourselves ever hereafter merrily to this work.
But remember we all this, while we so use our hands to bless, that we so open and shut, so spread and cross them, that we let not Christ go out the while. Offer we up ourselves and him together. Resolve we, whoever shall take him, shall take us too. we will not part, no not in death; we will live, and die, and sleep, and rise again together; he that will have him shall have us, whether he will or no; he is in our arms, there will we keep him. Yet in lieu of parting with him we will part with ourselves, and offer ourselves for him if that will do it. Yes, and that will do it. Duo minuta habeo, Domine, corpus et animam, says the devout Father. "I have two mites, O Lord," I have two mites to offer, to give thee for thy Son, to offer thee for him "my soul and my body." Them thou shalt have willingly; I am content to part with them, so I may keep him, and they will content him. Offer them up then "a living, reasonable sacrifice," for it will be be "an acceptable service" too, an acceptable blessing of him.
Yet as we offer up ourselves, we must now, lastly, offer up Christ too. He gave him to us to be an offering for us; to sanctify all our offerings for a blessing to us; to bless all our blessings. And for the perfection of all our righteousness, offerings and sacrifices, prayers and praises, and blessings, to make them accepted, which in themselves and their weak performances no way deserve, he was given us to offer. His perfection will make amends for our imperfections, his purity for our impurities, his strength for our weakness; and for them, when we have done all we can to be accepted, we must offer him, or have all rejected. We must, when we we begin to bless, turn ourselves, with old Jacob, to this caput lectuli, this "beds head," whereon only the soul can rest; or "leaning upon the top of this staff," as the Apostle renders it; the only staff wherein old Israel trusts, the only staff whereon we rely for mercy and acceptance. This is the name of the Angel, in whom only we are to bless, in whom only we are blest; in whom either God blesses us, or we him. This is the sum: he the chief of all our oblations, all our blessings by oblation; and the blessing both of our resolutions and endeavours all; without whom we can do neither the one nor the other, neither resolve good nor practise it. He, therefore, is to be offered with all thankfulness to God by us; his merits only to be pleaded by us: and the form of all our blessing thus to run, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy holy Son, the Child Jesus, give the praise." It was not our own arm that helped us to him; it is not our own arms that can hold him; it is not our own strength that can keep him; it is not our own hands that can present any offering worthy of the least acceptance. To God only, therefore, be the praise, to Christ only the merit, of all our blessings.
Thus we are, lastly, to pray too, that God would accept us and our blessing. Bless him with our petitions.
(1.) That he would please to pardon all our sins, or pass by all our weaknesses, in this days, in every days performance
That (2) he would accept our offerings, and be pleased with us in his Son, accept us in his Beloved.
That (3) he would grant us the benefit of that holy sacrament which we have this day received; all the benefits of his death and passion, the full remission of all our sins, and the fulness of all his graces signified and conveyed by those dreadful.
That (4) he would particularly arm us, every one of us, against their particular corruptions, with strength and grace proportionable to every one, and effectual to us all. For proper and particular petitions, rising from the sense of our several necessities, are this day proper to be asked, and as easy to be obtained, whilst it is his own day, in which he invited us to him, and will deny us nothing that we shall earnestly, faithfully, and devoutly ask him. For this also, to pray, to petition, is benedicere: and it is a way of blessing God to offer up our prayers; thereby acknowledging and confessing his power and goodness, which is no less in other words than to praise and bless him. "He that offers praise, honours him;" and he that presents prayers, professes and proclaims him Almighty Father, gracious, and good, and glorious God, at the very first dash"God blessed for evermore."
Light up now your candles at this evening sacrifice, for the glory of your morning sacrifice: it is Candlemas. Become we all burning and shining lights, to do honour to this day, and the blessed armful of it. Let your souls shine bright with grace, your hands with good works; let God see it, and let man see it; so bless we God. Walk we "as children of the light," as so many walking lights; and offer we ourselves up like so many holy candles to the Father of Light. Be ye sure we light all our lights at this Babes eyes, that lies so enfolded in our arms; and neither use nor acknowledge any other light for better than darkness, that all our best thoughts, and words, and works, must humbly now attend like so many pretty sparks, or rays, or glimmerings, darted from and perpetually reflecting thankfully to that glorious Light; from this day beginning our blessing God, the only lightsome kind of life, till we come to the land of light, there to offer up continual praises, since endless Benedicites and Alleujas, no longer according to the laws or customs upon earth, but after the manner of heaven, and in the choir of angels, with holy Simeon, and Anna, and Mary, and Joseph, all the saints in light and glory everlasting. Amen, amen.
He of his mercy bring us thither, who is the light to conduct us thither; he lead us by the hand, who this day came to lie in our arms; he make all our offerings accepted, who was at this feast presented for us; be bless all our blessings, who this day so blessed us with his presence that we might bless him again; and he one day, in our several due times, receive our spirits into his hands, our souls into his arms, our bodies into his rest, who this day was taken corporally into Simeon's arms, has this day vouchsafed to be spiritually taken into ours,Jesus the Holy Child, the Eternal Son of God the Father. To whom, with the Holy Spirit, be all honour, and praise, and glory, and blessing, from henceforth and for evermore. Amen.