Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people. And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant Israel.
It is a blessed day, our blessed Saviour's birthday; and a blessed text we have here for it both a day and text to bless him in; a text top-full of blessings, and a day wherein they came; blessed persons, and blessed doings in the text. Blessed persons: the blessed God, our blessed Lord, blessed David; and a blessed people, for a redeemed people are so. 'Blessed are the people that are in such a case.' Blessed doings in it too. God blessing, and man blessing: God visiting, redeeming, saving mightily, saving Israel: and one of Israel, in the name of all the rest, mightily blessing him for so doing to it. All these blessings as well remembered as came in the day. Never was text so fraught with blessings: never rose day so fair with blessings: never saw Israel such a one before: never shall Israel or any people see such a day again for blessings, till we come into the land of blessedness.
All that can be said to dim it is, that this is not the day that blessed Zachary gave this blessing in; it may be, nor was this day that God gave this blessing, neither. Time itself runs upon such uneven wheels, that we are fain to borrow hours and minutes to make up the reckoning of our years and days. It is enough that we count near it; it were [143/144] enough if it were a day only set apart by holy Church to recount it in, though it were nothing near it, nothing near the day when the Lord God of' Israel thus visited and redeemed his people. Our business is, not to be exact chronologers of the days of our salvation, but exact performers of our duties, our thanksgivings and praises for it.
Good Zachary does it here before this redemption was fully wrought, six months before this 'horn of salvation' did appear. If we do it a few days before or after, it matters not. To bless God for it, That is the business: only we must be allowed a day to do it in, either first or last; but the Church having pitched it generally everywhere much about this time, we Take it as we find it; quarrel no more with the Church for doing it now, than we do with Zachary for doing it then, when he more forestalled the time than we call possibly mistake it.
Being therefore, come hither to-day upon account the account of blessing God; and having here a day of blessing, and a text of blessing, we shall divide the words into blessings too.
God's blessing and man's blessing, God's blessing man, and man's blessing God again.
I. God's blessing hath in it these particulars.
(1.) His visiting: 'he hath visited.' (2.) His redeeming us: 'and redeemed.' (3.) His saving or raising up a 'salvation for us.' That salvation, (4) no mean or little one, but 'a mighty salvation :' so one of our translations. A salvation (5) with a horn to hold by, an 'universal salvation.' For us, (6) all of us, the very people to hold by; an universal salvation. A salvation (7) 'raised up;' an eminent salvation. 'Raised up' (8) in the right house, 'in the house of David,' a royal, a glorious salvation. Raised up, lastly, upon a right ground too David's relation to him: 'his servant David;' or God's goodness to his servants: a singular and especial salvation for them above the rest. This is God's blessing man, the first, general with the particulars.
II. Man's blessing God is the second, and that has these: (1) An acknowledgement of God's blessings, and his blessed-ness, visiting, redeeming) saving, &c. That blessings they [144/145] are, and his they are: he visited, he redeemed, &c He therefore blessed for so doing.
(2) A particular applying and setting ourselves to bless for them; a Benedicitus, a hymn set and begun upon it.
(3) A desire that others, even all, would do so too; for eÙcsghtÕj may have as well stw as st after it; Benedictus; as well sit as est to follow it, (for, there is neither here;) so may be and is,--as well a wish that others would, as a way that we ourselves may, bless him by.
This is all man's blessing God, the poor pittances we bless him with; acknowledgements, endeavours, and desires, all that we can give him for all his blessings; a very short return, however, to be given him, such as it is; and to-day, however, it day set apart to do it in.
For all these blessings either rose upon us with the sun to-day, or are to rise from us ere it rise to-morrow; our Lord's nativity being the chief ground both of God's blessing us and our blessing him. To-day it was he began to visit, to redeem, to save, to raise up his horn and ours. To-day then, sure, we to raise up our voices for it in a Benedictus, in hymns and praises. All that is in the Text was on his part set on foot as it were to-day; no reason in the world but what is on ours should be so too. That it may, I shall first spread God's blessings here before you, so the better to stir up yours.
I. Man's blessing indeed it is That stands first here; yet God's it is that is so. He first blesses before we bless, before we either can, or can think to do it. But you must know it, is a day, and a business too, where all things seem out of order at the first: high things made low, and low things high: the first made last, and the last first. God made man, and man God: the very course of nature out of order, quite. No wonder, then, that the words That tell us it are so too; that our blessing should he set before God's. However, this certainly it must teach us,- that the first thing we ought now to think or speak of is blessing God. Yet the way to do that best, is to understand his blessings first. I shall take them in their order; so his visiting I begin with.
Indeed, there they begin all: \Xpesk_yato that is the rise of all God's blessings. His looking down upon us, or looking [145/146] over us, (so the word signifies before it comes to visiting,) is the source of all his mercies. There is nothing else to cause them, but that loving eye he hath to his poor creatures, the pleasure he takes to look upon them. That here brings him down to visit them.
For I must tell you now, this visiting is a coming down: down from heaven, down from his glory, down to purpose, when he came so low as flesh; and a visiting indeed, when he came so near us. He visited in former times, but by his proxies, by his angels, the ushers of his glory, or by his prophets, or by a cloud, or by a fire. Here it was first he visited in person. \Xpesk_yato was but a looking down from heaven till now, a looking on us at a distance;--(and that was a blessing too, that he would any way look upon such poor worms as we;) it could not be construed visiting properly till this day came. Now first it is so without a figure.
Yet it is not good old Zachary too quick? Does he not cry out \Xpesk_yato too soon? Our blessed Saviour was not yet born; how says he then, the Lord 'hath visited and redeemed his people?' Answer we might, The good old man here prophesies,--(it is said so just the verse before,) and after the manner of prophets speaks of things to come as done already. But we need not this strain to help us out. Christ was already really come down from heaven, had been now three months incarnate, had begun his visit, had beheld the 'lowliness of his handmaid,' says his blessed mother. The angel had told her twelve weeks since, 'Her Lord was with her,' verse 28 of this chapter. Blessed Zachary understood it, verse 43, though he could not speak it. As soon as he could, he does, and breaks out into a song of praise, (that was his prophesying,) for this new made visit, this new raised 'salvation.'
That word slipped ere I was aware comes in before the time. But it is well it did; you might else perhaps have mistaken visiting for punishing: so it went commonliest in Scripture till to-day. It does not here. This business has altered it from its old deception. And yet punishing sometimes [146/147] is a blessing too; it is a mercy we oft stand in need of to bring us home to God; but it is infinitely a greater when he comes himself to fetch us home, as now he does. Shall I show you how great it is?
Why, then (i.) it is a visit of grace and honour that he made us here; he visited us, as great and noble persons do their inferiors, to do them honour. Hence, 'whence is it to me,' says S. Elizabeth, 'that the mother of my Lord should come unto me?' &c. She, good soul, knew not how to value such an honour, nor whence it was. Whence then is this, O Lord, that the Lord of that blessed mother, my Lord himself, should come unto me? That is a far higher honour, and no reason of it to be given, but that so it shall be done to those whom this great King of heaven and earth delighteth thus to honour. It is a blessing, first, this that we speak of, by which God owns and honours us.
(ii.) It was a visit of charity. He visited his people, as charitable men do the poor man's house, to seek some occasion to bestow an alms. He 'went about doing good,' says S. Peter. As poor as he was, (and the Apostle tells us, poor he was,) he had a 'bag for the poor;' and 'for our sakes' it was 'he became poor,' says S. Paul; emptied bag and himself, and all to make us rich.
(iii.) It was a visit of service too. He visited us as the physician does his patient, to serve his necessity, to cure and recover him. The innumerable multitudes of the sick, and lame, and blind, and deaf, and dumb, and lepers, and possessed, that he daily healed and cured, will sufficiently evince he visited them also as a physician. So it was a blessing. (iii.) that cures all diseases, makes all sound and whole again.
His visit (iv.) was a visit of brotherly love and kindness. He visited jus, as David did his brethren, to supply their wants, 'carry them provision, and take their pledge.' He did so, and much more; becomes himself by this visit our provision, makes his body our meat, and his blood our drink, and himself our pledge; supplies all our defects and wants, and enters himself body for body, and soul for soul, [147/148] to make all good. This a visiting no brother could do more no brother so much.
His visit (v.) was not of petty kindnesses, but great mercies, abundant mercies too. he visited us as holy David says he does the earth: 'Thou visitest the earth and blessest it: thou makest it very plenteous. Thou waterest her furrows, thou sendest rain into the little valleys thereof; thou makest it soft with the drops of rain, and blessest the increase of it.' he not only furnishes our necessities, but replenishes us with the abundances, makes us soft, and plump, and fat, and fruitful, by his heavenly dews and showers. This (v.) a visit of abundant, superabundant mercies.
His visit (vi.) was a visit of friendship, and that is more yet. He visited us, as blessed Mary did her cousin Elizabeth; came to us to rejoice and be merry with us. So acquainted has he now made himself with us by this visit, that he now vouchsafes to call us 'friends;' he eats, and drinks, and dwells, and tarries with us; makes it his delight to be among the sons of men. This is a visit, I know not a name good enough to give it.
(vii.) And yet, lastly, his visit was not a common and ordinary friendship neither, but of a friendship that holds to death. He visited us, as the priest or confessor does the dying man. When health, and strength, and mirth, and physicians, and friends, have all given us over, he stands by and comforts us, and elves us not till he has fitted us wholly to his own bosom. A visit of everlasting friendship, or an everlasting visit. Was this visit in the text.
Thus I have showed you a sevenfold visit that our Lord had made us;--made God's first blessing into seven. A visit of honour, a visit of charity, a visit of service, a visit of kindness, a visit of mercy, a visit of friendship, and a visit of everlasting love. all these ways he visited his people, and still visits them all the ways he can imagine, to bless them and do them good.
And yet I should have thought I had forgot one, if it did not fall in with the blessing we are to consider next: redeeming. For he visited us also, as he is said to do the children of Israel: to bring us out of the land of Egypt, [148/149] out of the house of bondage. He visited us to redeem us, or 'visited and redeemed.'
(2.) Now, if 'redeemed,' captives it seems we were. And so we were, under a fourfold captivity. To the world, to sin, to death, and to the devil.
'The world' (i.) that had ensnared and fettered us, so wholly taken us, that it had taken away our names, and we were called by the name of the world, instead of that of men; as if we were grown such worldlings, that we had even lost our natures and our names, even the best of us. The elect are sometimes called so too. To redeem our honours and us thence, 'God sent his Son,' (says S. John) and 'he chose us out of it.'
'Sin' (ii.) that had made us captives too; chained us up so fast, that the best of us cannot but cry out sometimes, 'Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?' and none but this Visitor could or can,--'God through Jesus Christ;' so S. Paul presently adds upon it, and would have us thank and bless him for it.
'Death' (iii.) that had also got dominion over us: for 'no more dominion' signifies it had it once, and kept us shrewdly under. But 'Christ Jesus by his appearing,' (they are the Apostle's words,) 'has abolished death;' 'made us free from sin and death.'
The 'devil,' (iv.) he took us 'captive also at his will.' But 'for this purpose was the Son of God manifested,' says S. John, 'that he might destroy the works of the devil.' And, as high as the fiend carries it, he will 'bruise him under our feet.' Now to be delivered from such masters as these, is a blessing without question.
All the question is, how either Zachary could say so long before our Saviour's birth, or we so presently upon it, he 'hath redeemed;' when S. Peter says, it was by his 'blood;' S. Paul, 'through his death.' Why, very well both the one and the other. At his birth was this redemption first begun, the foundation laid; at his death it was finished. In his incarnation and nativity, he took the flesh that died, and the blood he shed; and we might truly have been said to be redeemed by his blood, though he had not shed it, and by his death, though he had not died; [149/150] because he had already taken on our flesh and blood, and from that very moment became mortal, and began to died; or, to speak a little plainer, he brought the price of our redemption with him at his birth, he paid it down for us at his death. The writings, as it were, and covenants between God and him about it, were agreed on at his birth, were engrossing all his life, and sealed by him at his death. So it is as true to day as any day, he 'redeemed.' And had not this day been first in the business, the other could not have been at all, or first or last. O blessed day, that hast thus laid the foundation of all our good ones! O ever blessed Lord, who hast thus 'visited and redeemed' us; what shall we do unto thee, how shall we bless thee?
(3.) Nay, and yet (3) thou hast 'saved' us too. That is the next blessing to be considered. And it is worth considering.
For redeemed indeed we might be, and yet not saved; redeemed, and yet fall again into the same bad hands, or into worse; redeemed from evils past, and yet perish by some to come. It is this salvation that makes all safe.
Where (i.) we are 'saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us,' every thing that may hereafter hurt us, as well as we were redeemed from all that did. 'Nor life, nor death, nor height nor depth, nor any thing can separate us' now, 'from the love of God in Christ Jesus;' all things shall continually 'work for good;' all work henceforward for our salvation.
Especially seeing he saves us (ii.) from our sins, as the Angel tells us; does not redeem us only from the slavery of our former sins, and the punishments we lay sadly under for them, but preserves and saves us from slipping back into the old, and from falling into new ones. It is a continual salvation.
Nay, (iii.) it is an eternal one too he saves us with; he 'the author of eternal salvation.' There we shall be safe indeed. All salvations here may have some clouds to darken them, some winds to shake them, something sometimes to interrupt them, somewhat or other to tarnish or soil their glory. New enemies may be daily raised up to us. [150/151] Sin will be always bustling with us: here we had need to be saved and saved again, daily and hourly saved; but with this salvation, once saved and saved for ever. Well may we pray with holy David: 'Oh visit us with this salvation.' And well may we term it now, as our translation does, a 'mighty salvation.'
(4.) and mighty, sure, we may justly style it. For it required a mighty power, a mighty Person, a mighty price, and mighty works, to bring such mighty things to pass. And it had them all.
(i.) A mighty power,--almighty too. No created power could do it. Horse and man and all things else 'but vain things to save a man,' 'to deliver his soul from the hand of hell.'
(ii.) A mighty Person, the very God of might. 'I the Saviour, and besides me none.' No other person able to effect it.
(iii.) A mighty price it cost. No 'corruptible things,' says S. Peter. Nothing but the blood of the son of God, the precious blood of Jesus Christ; no less could compass it.
(iv.) Mighty works, lastly, and mighty workings to work things about; miracles and wonders, good store, it cost to accomplish the work of our salvation, such as He only who was 'mighty before God and all the people,' could bring to pass. And this adds much to the glory of this salvation, that it was done by such great hands and ways as these.
But not the works only that wrought it, but the works it wrought, speak the salvation mighty too. Mighty, for certain, which neither the unworthiness of our persons, nor the weaknesses of our natures, nor the habits of our sins, nor the imperfections of our works, nor the malice of our enemies, nor any power, or strength, or subtlety of men or devils, were able to hinder or control; but that, maugre all, it spread itself to the very ends of the earth, carried all before it. A salvation we may trust to, we need not fear; 'in this mercy of the Most Highest we shall not miscarry.'
(5.) For (5) we have here gotten a good horn to hold by; 'a horn of salvation,' the original gives it; a salvation not only strong but sure. Salvation, that is, a Saviour too, one [151/152] that we may confidently lay hold on, one that neither can nor will deceive or fail us: for,
(i.) He is a king; so the horn signifies in the prophetic phrase. The four, and seven, and ten horns there, so many kings; and it stands not with the honour of a king to deceive or disappoint us.
(ii) And he is not a king without a kingdom. He hath a kingdom. (ii.) and power to help us. The horn signifies that too in the style of prophecy: because in the horn lies the strength, and power, and dominion, as it were, of the creature that hath it. and the power of a kingdom, I can tell you, is good hold.
(iii.) And this kingdom (iii.) is not an ordinary kingdom. As this horn is above the flesh, so this kingdom too, 'not of this world,' the likelier still to conduct us to the other, and there set us safe.
And yet, likelier, (iv.) because it is not a fading but a durable one, a horn that will hold. Saul was anointed with a 'vial' of oil, to intimate the brittleness and shortness of his kingdom; but David with a 'horn,' to signify the continuance and strength of his; that it should be a 'throne established for ever.' And made good it was by this day's Horn raised out of his house, of whose 'kingdom there shall be no end,' says the Prophet. So no failure to be afraid of here. It is a sure salvation we have by him.
And if I may now have the liberty to tell you more particularly what kind of horn he may most fairly be said to be, you will be the more ready to catch at it.
He is, then, (i.) a horn of oil to anoint us also 'kings and priests;' for so he makes us, says S. John.
He is (ii.) the true cornucopia, the horn of plenty, 'full of grace and truth,' and all good things else: for 'out of his fullness we all receive' ours, says the same Apostle.
He is (iii.) one of the horns of the altar, or indeed all of them, whither we may safely fly in all our dangers and distresses; where we may lie secure when all the world had left us; a sure hold now, you will confess, that is so high, so strong, so powerful, so above corruption, so lasting, so everlasting, so full of lasting honours, plenties, and securities.
[152/153] (6.) And yet, as mighty, and sure, and as easy to catch hold on as this salvation is,- were it not for this _mÐn, were it not for 'us,' had we no claim, no interest in it,--what were we the better either for the horn or the salvation? It is this 'for us,' that comes next to be considered, that raises up our horns, that makes us glad.
For this _mÐn, this 'us,' is not the Jews alone; they had the first title, right indeed, but not the only to it. There is an "Israel of God,' ('peace be upon it,' says the Apostle,) as well as an 'Israel after the flesh.' There are sons of Abraham's faith, as well as of his body, to whom this salvation is sent as well as unto them. Blessed Zachary brings in 'those that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death' into the number; the Gentiles as well as Jews into the light of it; it is omni populo, 'to all people' whatsoever in the angels' message, chapter ii. Of our Evangelist, verse 10.
All people, and all degrees and orders of them, rich and poor, one with another; so populus signifies, not the plebes taken out of it, not the lowest or meanest of the people escaped or forgotten. It is an universal salvation that is here set up. God does not straiten heaven, though men do; he 'would have all men to be saved,' (though some men need a horn, indeed, to get such a salvation down, yet so it is) and to this purpose he 'has raised this salvation up,' which is the nest advance of this salvation we are next to handle.
(7.) And he raised it (i.) as a beacon or standard upon a hill, that all nations and languages, all kind of persons, might flock in unto it.
Raised it (ii.) as from the dead, Ìgeire. All hopes of it now were in the dust. For the temporal condition of the Jews their enemies oppressed them and had them in subjection; long they had so; and all the attempts for deliverance had been so often baffled that they durst hope no longer. For their spiritual condition both Jew and Gentile were all concluded under sin; the one blinded with his own superstition, the other shut up in ignorance and darkness; when, on a sudden, was this 'day-spring from on high,' this horn, this ray of light,--for I see not why this horn, as well as those of Moses' face, may not be construed so,--this ray, [153/154] this 'horn,' I say, raised up to light them both into the ways of salvation.
Raised up, (iii.) as the horn out of the flesh; a Saviour raised up thence to-day. Though from above he came, into the flesh he came, that thence being made sensible of our infirmities, he might the easier bear with them.
Raised up, (iv.) lastly, to raise up our thoughts from all inferior expectations, and fix them where they should be for deliverance and salvation; cornu exaltum; this salvation eminent for the vastness, the opportunity, the convenience, the proportion it carries:--the seventh particular we observe in God's blessing, the fourth advancing of this salvation.
(8.) There is an eighth: and it is salvation in the right house. The Lord of the ascendant of our salvation in the kingly house; the best house to make it the more glorious, the house of David. Men would willingly be saved honourably, by a person of honour rather than a base hand. Men love not to owe their lives or honours to an unworthy person; would be beholding to the right king rather than an usurper for them. The house of David here hits right for that; and we cannot but acknowledge a huge blessing in it, even upon this account, that how poorly, sneakingly, and basely we every day betray ourselves into the hands of our enemies, we are yet thus by Christ brought off with honour, and enjoy by him an honourable salvation.
(9.) And yet there is one thing more we would desire, not to owe ourselves to a villain, or a miscreant, or to a wicked and ungodly house or person. To crown his blessings, God has contrived them 'in the house of his servant David.' So God honoureth his servants; so he encourages them to be good. They are the persons, theirs the houses, where salvation dwells. They are the pillars of the earth. To 'David his servant,' and 'Abraham his servant,' and 'Isaac his servant,' and 'Israel his servant,' so run the promises both of a Saviour and salvation, 'to them and to their seed for evermore.'
Sum we up God's blessings now. Gracious visits; perfect redemptions; salvations many, mighty, sure, general, eminent, seasonable, honourable, salvations to us and ours; everlasting too. What would you more? There is nothing [154/155] behind now, but our blessing God for all these blessings. I hope that shall not be so long; for it is but little that is required for so much, and but three particulars that make it up: an acknowledgement of God's blessings; a setting ourselves to some way to bless him for them; and a desire that all would do so too.
II. (1.) The acknowledgement begins it; the acknowledging of God's blessings, the first part of ours: so sure a point of it, that confiteri, to acknowledge or confess the blessing, or him that sends it, is above sixty times in the Book of Psalms set down for blessing. And whole Psalms you have that are nothing else but an enumeration and catalogue of blessings; the 66th, the 103d, the 104th, the 105th, the 107th, the 136th. And the more particular we are in it, the more we bless him. You have heard how particular Zachary is in it here:--'He hath visited,' 'he hath redeemed,' &c.;--given us nine particulars; leaves neither gift nor giver unacknowledged. Honourable it is to do so: honourable to reveal, to 'reveal the works of God,' says the angel; honourable to him, honourable to us: we cannot honour God without it, nor expect honour from him if we will not acknowledge it. 'Come, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul,' is the best way to begin with our blessing.
(2.) But it is but to begin it. We must go on the next way of blessing, set close to it: eÙloghtÕj from eÙlogeÐn, and benedictus from benedicere; both tell us there is much of it in words. Only verbum is factum, and dicere is facere, sometimes in the holy page. So we must take both words and deeds to do it with. The word by the hand of thy servant, as the Scripture sometimes speaks, is the best way to bless him with. Yet to our benedicere in the first sense first. (i.) And to do that, to give him good words, is the least that we can give him; let us be sure, then, not to grudge him them. Confess we that he is good, and gracious, and merciful, full of mercy, plenteous in good ness and truth. Straiten we not his vists, stifle we not his redemption, coop we not up his salvation to a corner; suffer we it to run large and full, that the whole world may bless him for it.
Let us (ii.) speak it out. God's blessings were not done in a corner, no more must ours. Public and solemn they would [155/156] be. And the Church has made it (and text) part of the public service, that every one might bear a part in blessing God. Every one of us, and every thing of us too, our souls and all that is within us, heart and mind and all; all within us, and all without us; our lips praise him, our mouths praise him, our hands praise him, our flesh praises him, our bones say, Who is like him? All the members of our body turn themselves into tongues to bless him.
Bless we him (iii.) in set hymns on purpose, in good votes and wishes, that his Church may prosper, his name be magnified, his glory advanced to the highest pitch, for bene dicere is bene vovere too,
And sanctificare is no less. To bless is sometimes to sanctify. So 'God blessed the seventh day,' is God 'hallowed' it; and to sanctify a day or place to bless him in, is to bless him by his own pattern that he hath set us: well said, if well done, I dare assure you, to set apart both times and places to bless him in.
But dicere is not all, sung never so sweetly, said never so well. 'The Lord bless thee,' in co0mmon phrase, is, 'The Lord do good unto thee.' Indeed, God's blessing is always such; his benedicere is bene facere. His saying is a doing; his blessing a making blessed. It is fit our blessing should be somewhat like it. To himself, indeed, we can do no good. Her neither wants it, nor can be bettered by it. To his we may. Though not to his head, yet to his feet: the poor, we may bless them. And the blessing them is blessing him: for 'inasmuch as ye have done it unto these, you have done it unto me,' says he himself. And truly it must needs be a poor blessing that cannot reach his feet. Nay, it is a poor one if it reach no higher.
Indeed 'he that giveth alms, he sacrifices praise,' says the Son of Syrach. And praise is blessing. But to bless is to honour too. And 'honour the Lord with thy substance,' says a wiser than the Son of Syrach. Something must be done to his own honour: something given or offered to support that here among us; for to bless is to give thanks, and that intimates somewhat to be given to him, as well as said or spoken to him: it will else be verbas dare and not gratias, a mere cheating him of our thanks. As soon as [156/157] Naaman the Syrian was cured of his leprosy, he begs of the Prophet to accept 'a blessing' for it. Nature had taught him God was to be blessed so. When the captains of Israel found by their whole numbers how God had delivered them, they come with a blessing in their hands of 'sixteen thousand seven hundred and fifty shekel' of gold for the house of God. David and his people, the story tells us, blessed him so too; offered incredible sums of gold and silver for the service of the house of God. David and his people, the story tells us, blessed him so too; offered incredible sums of gold and silver for the service of the house of God. And let me tell you, without begging for it, that the house of God being now by this visit in the text made the very office of salvation, where he daily visits us, and entertains us with his body and blood, with holy conferences and discourses, where he seals us every day to the day of redemption, and offers to us all the means of salvation, there can be no way of blessing God so answerable and proportionable to his thus blessing us, as thus blessing him again.
Yet where there is nothing thus to bless him with, there is yet another way of blessing him; nay, where there are other ways, this must be too. To bless him is to glorify him, and a good life does that. By our ill lives 'the name of God is blasphemed,' says the Apostle. Then, by our good ones it must needs be blessed. Zachary seems to point at this way of blessing, when he tells us we were delivered that we might serve our Visitor in 'holiness and righteousness.' And thus, he that has neither eyes to look up, nor hands to lift up, nor feet to go up to the house of blessing, nor tongue to bless him, nor so much as a cross to bless himself or God, not a mite to throw into his treasure, may truly bless him, and be accepted. To this and all the other ways of blessing is the text set. And let all now come in and bear a part in blessing. 'Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,' is now lastly, a call to call them in.
(3.) The Prophet David does so. Sun and moon and stars and light, heaven and earth and waters, both above and under them, dragons and deeps, fire and hail, and snow and vapour, and wind and storm, and hills and tress, and beasts and cattle, worms and storm, and hills and tress, and beasts and cattle, worms and fowl, kings and people, princes and judges, young men and maidens, old men and children, all sexes, degrees, and ages, men and angels, and all kind [157/158] of beings, does he call on to praise, and bless, and magnify their Creator: indeed the whole creation is blessed by this visit, so it is but just they should bless God for it.
Yet how should all these things we mentioned do it? Many of them have no tongues to say, many no sense to understand it. Why, they do it yet: the sun by day. The moon by night, may become torches to light his servants; service. The earth brings forth her corn and wine to furnish out his table; the deep gives up her riches, and brings home golds and silks to adorn his holy altars; the earth brings stones and minerals, the hills and mountain trees and cedars to his house; the fire kindles tapers for it; all the meteors of the air, and all the seasons of the years, do somewhat; every wind blows somewhat towards it. The very birds and swallows get as near to the altar as they can to bless him; the snow and cold and ice crowd as near Christmas as they can, to bear a part in this great solemnity, in our solemnest thanksgivings. Only he that has no need of this visit, no need of Christ or his redemption, that cares not to be saved, needs keep no Christmas, may stand out, or list, or do what he will, at this Benedicitus.
But, sure, when all things else thus come in throngs to bless him, and even ice and snow come hot and eager to this feast, and willingly melt themselves into his praised, we should not, methinks, come coldly on to bless him, but come and bring our families and children and neighbours with us, to make the choir as full as possibly we can. Tell one another what Christ did to-day, what he every day does for us; how he visited us to-day, how he still visits us every morning; how he redeemed us to-day, how he does day by day, from one ill or other; how he began to-day to raise up salvation for us, and will not leave raising it for us till we can rise no higher. Tell we our children next, how in this God had respect to David his anointed, and that they must learn to have so. How he had regard to David his servant; will have so to them if they be his servants: let them therefore be sure they be so; fit them thus to sing their parts betimes in hymns, and anthems, and praises to their God; that they cannot speak, may yet lisp it out; and when they can speak out, sing it loud and shrill, that the hollow [158/159] vaults and arches may echo and rebound his praises; not your children only, but stones also be thus raised up for children unto Abraham. It is in the power of your hands grave senators, fathers, and brethren to make 'the stones cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber to answer,' Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power to him that has raised up to us so great salvation.
I look upon this great solemnity of yours as a mere design of blessing God; and the torches that light you hither, as so many lights set up to make the light of your good works shine the greater. You have not only these blessings in the text, but millions more, to invite you to it. Not to repeat the blessings and deliverances I have told you; all blessings and salvations else you owe to this day's visit of the Almighty, to this horn he raised up for us. Let us bring them also into the roll, and thus bless him for them.
Some of you he has delivered out of trouble: bless you him for that. Some of you he has recovered lately from a sickness: bless you him for that. Some of you he has delivered lately from a danger: bless you him for that. You he has visited in distress, visit you his temples, his poor and needy servants; and bless him so. You he has redeemed of late from the gates of death; redeem you the time hereafter, walk circumspectly and soberly, and for the rest of your life serve him better; and bless him so. You he has saved out of his hands of heretics and seducers, save you yourselves henceforward from that untoward generation, and come no more among them. Pay him visit for visit, redemption for redemption, one salvation for another; and bless him so. You he has raised to some honour and preferment, raise you up some pillar of thanksgiving for it. You he has raised to an estate, raise you up some memorial to him out of it. You he has raised out of nothing, you out of desperate condition, your house and family out of ruins; help you God again to raise his house, and he will say you bless him for it. Let there be some token of gratitude set up here, as God set the rainbow in the clouds, that he may look upon it, and remember and save you in the time of need with his mercy for it.
In a word, God has signally and strangely visited us of [159/160] late years with his salvation; redeemed us from our enemies and all that hate us;--those horns, that, like those in Daniel, pushed down and scattered all before them, that threw down our temples, took away our daily service, set up the 'abomination of desolation' in these holy places,--horse, and foot, and arms, and all the instruments of desolation,--and stamped upon all holy things and persons: he has raised us up a mightier horn, to make those horns draw in theirs; a horn 'in the house of his servant David:' restored our David his anointed to us, kept him his servant, returned him as he went, safe and sound in the principles of his religion; restored him and his house, us and ours, kept them at least from utterly pulling down. Oh that men would therefore now praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders he has lately done for the children of men!
As many scarlets now as you please, to adorn your gratitudes; as many torches now as you please, that we may see them; what solemn processions now as you judge fit to make to evidence your blessings to the Lord God of Israel, for what he has done for us, for either our souls, bodies or estates. So shall God again bless all your blessings to you; the poor shall bless us, and the Church shall bless us, and these walls shall bless us, and the children yet unborn shall bless us, and all our blessings be continued to us; we shall be visited, and redeemed, and saved, upon all occasions, in all necessities, on every hand and at every turn, till he bring us at last to his eternal salvation, to sing eternal Allelujahs. Everlasting Benedictuses, hymns, and praises, with all the blessed saints and angels, to God blessed for evermore.
To this glorious blessing He bring us all, who this day came to visit us that he might; Jesus Christ. To whom, &c.