For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty we might be rich.
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." And do you know any grace of the Lord Jesus Christ like this day's grace, the grace of Christmas? any grace or favour like that grace and favour he this day did us, when be so graced our nature as to take it on him? Surely, whether this grace be his becoming poor, or our making rich, never was it seen more than this day it was. Never was he poorer than this day showed him, a poor little naked thing in rags. Never we rich till this day made us so, when he being rich became poor, that we being poor might be made rich.
And rich, not in the worst, but in the best riches; rich in grace, but above all grace in Christmas grace, in love and liberality to the poor, the very grace which the Apostle brings in the poverty of Christ here to persuade the Corinthians to. "See," says he, "that ye abound in this grace also. "For ye know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ." He was so full of it, "that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor;" made himself poor to make us rich, that being made rich we might be rich: to the poor, bestow some of his own riches upon him again, some at least upon [160/161] him who gave us all supply his poverty who enriched ours; be the more bountiful to the poor, seeing be is now become like one of them, that as through his poverty we were made rich, so even in our very poverty we might abound also to "the riches of liberality." So the Macedonians did; so would he fain have the Corinthians too here, in covert terms; so he would be understood, and so are we to understand him. Christ's poverty here brought in as an argument to persuade to liberality.
A grace so correspondent to the pattern of the Lord Jesus, so answerable both to the purport of Christmas and purpose of the text, that it is hard to say, whether the day better explains the text, or the text the day. For whether we take the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ towards us, downward, or the grace of the lord Jesus in us towards him, upward--whether for the grace he did us in becoming poor for our sakes, or for the grace we are to show to his poor members for his sake again, for his becoming poor and making of us rich--I see not how or where I could have chosen a better Christmas text, a text for the day, or a day for the text.
For here, is both the doctrine and use of Christmas; the doctrine of Christ's free grace, and the free use and application of it too. The doctrine, that "our Lord Jesus Christ, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that through his poverty we might be rich."
The use, that we are to "know" it, and acknowledge it; know it for a grace and favour; yea, know the grace, knots it for a pattern too: "for ye know" it, that is, to that end ye knew it, to take pattern by it, to return grace again for grace, to show grace to his for his grace to us, to supply his poverty in his members for his so gracious supplying ours, to answer the riches of his grace with being rich; in this "grace" also, in the grace of love and charity to the poor; the best way to be rich, and to abound to the riches of his glory.
But more to appropriate it to the day, you may please to take it in these particulars: Christ's birth; the Christian's benefit; the evidence of both; the inference upon all.
[162/163] l. Christ's birth. Egenus factus, when he became poor."
11. The Christian's benefit. Propter vos it was, "for your sakes" it was, et ut vos divites, "that ye through his poverty might he rich."
111. The evidence of both. Scitis; no less than that of science; "ye know" it.
IV. The inference upon all. Scitis enim, for ye know it;--for what? For it grace and favour. Scitis gratiam, the first: and ut vos divites essetis, "that ye might be rich" in the same grace he was. Then, secondly, that ye may do answerable to your knowledge; for propter nos it is, for "our sakes he became poor," that for his sake we might look the better upon the poor; for that he made us rich, that we might be rich in good works; for that he made us rich by the way of poverty, that we might know our riches have a near relation to poverty, are given us for the poor as well as for our-selves.
These are the parts. And of all these the sum is, that Christ's birth is the Christian's benefit; the knowledge of which ought to stir us up to Christian charity: or, nearer the phrase of the text, that our Lord Jesus Christ, though he was rich, became poor to make us rich; rich in, all good gifts and graces, but especially in this of love and mercy to the poor; came down in grace to us to that purpose, both in the text and in the day, the whole and business of them both. I shall prosecute it in order, and begin with those words in the text that seem to point us to the birth of Christ--egenus factus: and if that were the original, the factus would be plain for his being made man. But as it is it is plain enough; he could not become poor but by becoming man.
I. For there is not so poor a thing as man; indeed no creature poor but man: no creature lost its estate, and place, and honour, thrust out of doors, and turned as it were a-begging abroad into the wide world, but man. Other creatures keep their nature and place, to which they were created; man only he kept nothing; first lost his clothes, his robe of innocence in which he was first clad; was then turned naked out of his dwelling, out of Paradise, only his nakedness covered a little with a few ragged leaves; [163/164] fain upon that to work, and toil, and labour for his living to get his bead; forced to run here and there about the world to get it. All the creatures that were lately but his servants stood gazing and wondering at him, and knew him not, would no longer own him for their lord, he looked so poor, so despicable, when he had sinned; they that before were all at his command, by the dominion he had received over them, now neither obeyed his command nor knew his voice, so perfectly had he lost the very semblance of their late great master, so perfectly poor was he become. The devil kept a power, and awe, and principality, though he lost his seat; got a kingdom, though he lost his glory; but man lost all, glory and grace, riches and honour, estate and power, peace and ease, shelter and safety and all: so that to become poor can be nothing else but to become man; and Christ's, becoming so, must be his becoming man.
Yet not to know it only, but to know it for a grace, as S. Paul would have us, we must know (1) who it is that be-came poor;--(2) how poor he became, who became poor; -(3) what he was still, though he became poor. "Our Lord Jesus Christ," says thee text, he it is; egenus factus, he came to very want, pltècense, to a kind of penury like that of beggars. Yet ploÚsij ên for all that it is; he continued rich still, though he was poor; he could not lose his infinity of riches, though he took on his poverty; quitted not his Deity, though he covered it with the rags of his humanity.
We first look upon his person, our "Lord Jesus Christ." He is a Lord, it seems, that became poor, that (i.) first: land truly, the first and only time that we read he entitled himself Lord, it follows presently, be hath need. "The Lord hath need." This may be true, as the Italian observes, of the lords and princes of the world; none need commonly so much, as they, nor they before they came to be lords and princes; but of the Lord -, and Prince of Peace of Heaven, as our Lord surely is, that is somewhat strange that he should have any need; yet so it is: and it may serve to teach the best of us, of men, lords, and great ones too, to be content sometimes to suffer need, seeing the Lord of lords was found pour.
[164/165] "Jesus" (ii.) it is, was found so. "Jesus" is a Saviour, and that is as a stranger. A Saviour that is poor is like to prove but a poor Saviour. Yet this, is oftentimes God's method; the "poor and base things of the world, and things that are despised," to "confound the rich," and "noble," and the "mighty;" "that no flesh," as, the Apostle infers there, "might glory in his presence." This very name of Jesus was then sent by an angel to be given him, when he had first told he should be born, born of poor virgin, and yet save his people from their sins; that we may know God needs nothing to help him; his very poverty is our salvation. Jesus poor; the poorest contemptible means he can save us by.
Nay, event the Christ, (iii.) the Messiah so long expected, comes poor when he was expected, rich, to show the vanity of men's conceit and fancies when they will go alone. Christ, the King of Israel, the great Prophet, the everlasting High Priest; and Archbishop of our souls, he came poor, that men might give over looking upon the outward appearance of things, and think it no diminution to this calling, of priest or prophet to he sometimes in a low and mean condition, see-ing the Christ himself, anointed with the holy oil above all priests and prophets, came in no other.
And now this we have gotten by considering the person, that if h that is Priest, and Prophet, and Saviour, and Lord, and the Lord of all, may become poor, and God do all his work notwithstanding y him; then poverty is neither dishonourable in. itself, nor so disadvantageous in its own nature, but that God can still make use of it to his service; does still most make use of it, dispenses his heavenly treasure to us more commonly in "earthen vessels" than gold and silver; and we therefore not, to slight the ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ, though become poor, "their bodily presence weak, and their speech, contemptible," as S. Paul's undervaluers speak. For their Lord and ours became poor himself, as pour as the poorest; which will appear by the second consideration. I am now to show you how poor he became, of whom it is here said he "became poor."
(2.) And that, not only that poor thing called man, that [165/166] poor worm and dust, that poor vanity and nothing we call man, but the very poorest of the name; the novissimus virorum the lag and fag of all, "a very scum of men," says the Prophet, "and the very outcast of the people." So poor, that there is not a way to be poor in but he was poor in.
(i) Poorly descended; a poor carpenter's wife his mother.
(ii.) Poorly born; in a stable amongst beasts; poorly wrapped in rags, poorly cradled in a manger, poorly bedded upon a lock of hay, poorly attended by the ox and ass, poorly every way provided for; not a fire to dress him at in the depth of winter, only the stream and breath of the beasts to keep him warm; cobwebs for hangings, the dung of the beasts for his perfumes, noise and lowings, neighing and brayings, for his music; every thing as poor about him as want and necessity could make it.
(iii.) Poorly bred too; a carpenter, it seems by S. Mark (vi. 3), at his reputed father's trade.
(iv.) Poorly living too; not a house to put; his head in, not a pillow of his own to lay his head on, not a room to sup in but what he borrowed; no money, nor meat, but by miracle charity; not so much as a bucket to draw water, or a up to drink it in. Nay more, for ptècense is more, he was poor even to beggary, was fain to beg even water itself, in the last cited chapter; had a bag carried always by one of his disciples to receive anything that charitable-minded would put into it; his disciples were so low driven, following him, that they were fain sometimes to "pull the ears of corn" as they passed by, to satisfy their hunger: "five or seven loaves, with two of three little fishes" among them all, was great provision with them. Indeed, we read not punctually that he begged at any time, but the see him as near it as was possible, if he did not; and the word ptècense in all profane writers never signifies less.
But let it be and: what we translate it, merely poor-though the Prophet David, in the person of Christ, cries mendicus sum et pauper: "I am a poor beggar;" be it yet but poor, yet so poor it is he was, that he was poor in all, every way poor. Poor in spirit; none poorer, none more willing to be trampled on; suffered men to "plough upon his back, and make long furrows;" make a poor thing of him indeed, do anything what [166/167] they would with him. Poor in flesh too. "They may tell all my bones," says the Prophet of him; "they stand staring and looking upon me," a mere gazing-stock of poverty, a miracle of poverty, marvellous poor. Poor in reputation. He made himself of no reputation, took upon himself the form a servant," says S. Paul; of a servant, of a slave; valued at the lowest price a man could be, "thirty pieces of silver." So poor he could scarce speak out. Non clamabit, says the Evangelist. It was fulfilled: you could scarce hear his voice in the streets. In a word, so poor, that he was, as I may say, ashamed of his name; denied it, as it were, to him that called him by it: "Why callest thou me good?" when yet he only was so.
Lastly, poor he was in his death too; betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, forsaken by the rest; stripped off to his very skin, abused, derided, despised by all; died the most ignominious death of all--the death of slaves anal varlets. And can you now tell me how he should become poorer? or can you tell me why we should think much at any tine to become poor like him? or not rather cry out, Ob blessed poverty, that art now sanctified by Christ's putting on! How canst thou but be desirable and becoming, since Christ himself became poor? If God become man, what would be an angel, though he might? If Christ, the eternal riches, think it becomes him to he poor, who would make it his business to be rich? Give me rags for clothes, bread for meat, and water for drink, a stable for a palace, thee earth for a bed, and straw for a covering, so Christ be in them, so he be with them, so this poverty be his, so it be for him. I will lay me down in peace; and take my rest upon the hardest stone or coldest ground, and I will eat my brownest bread and pulse, and drink my water or my tears with joy and gladness, now they are seasoned by my Master's use. I will neglect my body, and submit my spirit, and hold my peace, even from good words too, because he did so; I will be content with all, because he was so. The servant must not be better than his Lord, nor the disciple than his Master. Our Lord poor, our Jesus poor, our Christ poor,--and we striving to be rich ! What an incongruity! The camel and the needle's eye [167/168] never fitted worse. Poverty we must be contented with, if we will have him; poor at least in spirit we must be, ready for the other when it comes; and when it comes we must think it is becoming,--very much become the disciple to be like the Master, the servant wear his Lord's livery. "For our sakes he became poor;" and we must not therefore think much to be made so for his, he it to an ptècense, the extremist.
Especially seeing poverty is no such Gorgon, no such terrible-looked monster, since Christ wore it over his richest robes, even chose to be poor though lie was rich, would needs be poor, and appear to be so for all his riches. Indeed, it was the riches of his grace that made him poor; had he not been rich, superlatively rich in that, in grace and favour to us, he would never have put on the tatters of humanity, never at least have put on the raggedest of diem all, not only the poverty of our nature, but even the nature of poverty, that he might become like one of us, and dwell among us. And it was the riches of his glory, too, that could turn this poverty to his glory. What glory like that which makes all things glorious, rags and beggary?--what riches like his, or who so rich as he, that can make poverty more glorious than the robes and diadems of kings and emperors?--who so often, for his religion's sake, have quitted all their secular glories, plenties, delicates, and attendants, for russet coats, and ordinary fare, and rigours, and hard-ship, above that which wandering beggars suffer in the depth of winter. Christianity no sooner began to dawn into day, but that we find the professors selling all, as if they thought it an indecency at least to possess more than their Master did; though they were rich they became poor, because their Lord became so though lie was rich.
(3.) But when men of rich become poor, the case is much different yet from that of Christ's; men cease to be rich when they come to poverty, but not so Christ: he is poor and rich together: ploÚsioj ên ptècense being rich he yet showed poor. "The rich and poor meet together" never truer any way than here; et utriusque operator est Doininus, the Lord is both himself, as well as worker of them both in others. For in this low condition of his it is that S. Paul [168/169] yet talks so often of the riches of Christ, the "riches of his grace," the "riches of his glory," the "riches of the glory of his inheritance," the "exceeding greatness of his power," the "exceeding riches" the "unsearchable riches of Christ;" Christ, he in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," his very reproach and poverty "greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt." So Moses thought and reckoned, says the Apostle, when he saw his riches but under a veil; saw but a glimpse and shadow of them, at two thousand years' distance too. So rich in Christ, _ ploÚsioj the only rich; so great are his riches.
Indeed, the riches of the Godhead--that is, all riches indeed-dwell all in him; though he became man, he left not to be God; our rags only covered the robes of the Divinity; his poverty only served for a veil to cover those "unspeakable riches;" to teach us (i.) not to boast and brag at any time of our riches, not to exalt ourselves when we are made rich, or when the glory of our house is increased, but to be as humble notwithstanding as the poorest and lowest wretch; to teach us, (ii.) that riches and poverty may stand together as well in Christians as in Christ; the riches of grace and the poverty of estate, and again the riches of estate and poverty of spirit; to teach us, (iii.) not to put off the riches of grace for fear of poverty; not quit our religion or our innocence for fear of becoming poor by them; to teach us, (iv.) lastly, that we may be rich in God's sight, in truth and verity, how poor soever we are in the eyes of the world, how needy and naked soever we appear. He that, "being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God," even whilst he was so, "made himself of no reputation"--of as low a rank as could be; and being "the brightness of his Father's glory, the express image of his person," and "upholding all things with the word of his power," veils all this glory, darkens all this brightness, conceals all this power, under the infirmities and necessities of flesh and poverty; yet only veils all this great riches, hides and lays it up for us, that "through his poverty we might be rich." The next point we are to handle,--the Christian's benefit from Christ's birth, the Christian's gain by Christ's losses, the Christian's making rich by Christ's being made poor.
[169/170] II. And need had he to be rich indeed, to enrich so many; need to be rich, whose very poverty can enrich us. To speak the very truth, his very poverty is our riches. It is his rags that clothed our nakedness, it is his stable that builds us palaces, it is his hunger that filled our emptiness, it is his thirst that takes off our dryness, it is his necessity that supplies all ours; he made himself a slave to make us free, a servant to make us sons; he came down, to lift us up; he became, as it were, nothing, to make us all. The very poverty of Christ is the riches of the Christian; and he that can cheerfully put that on after him, is rich indeed, can want nothing: for he that can be content to be poor for Christ, who though he has nothing is content, he wants not though he has not; and if he want not, he is rich--nay, only rich: for he that wants but the least, though he have never so much, never so full coffers, never so many possessions, nay, and kingdoms too, he is not rich, with all his riches. The poor pious soul that lives contented in his cell, and feeds on nothing but bread and water, and joys in it because it is for Christ, he is rich, and abounds, and has all; sleeps securer in a wilderness amongst wild beasts, softer upon Jacob's pillar, warmer under the vast canopy of heaven, than great princes in their fortified castles, upon the down of swans, with all their silks and em-broideries about them: for neither a "man's life," nor his riches consist "in the abundance of the things that he possesseth." He is rich whom Christ's poverty, or poverty for Christ, enriches with godliness and contentment. That is "great gain;" that is great riches, says S. Paul: so great that we need not look after the petty, fading, transitory riches of the world; they are but dross and dung, compared to the true riches, the riches of grace and glory we have by Jesus Christ.
For, call the rich man whom you will--seek all the expres-sions the Scripture has to call the rich man by--he that is rich in the grace of Christ may lay title to them all. He that abounds in gold and silver, is he rich? Behold, Christ calls to us to "buy gold" of him, "tried in the fire, that we may be rich;" and he sells all "without money;" it is then easy coming by it, easy being rich; nay, the very trial of our faith is "more precious than gold." A Christian in the sorest trials, poverty or reproach or death, is rich, you hear, [170/171] in being so. He that has abundance of rich clothes and garments, is he rich? Christ calls us to buy them too at the same easy rate; "white raiment," the raiment of princes and great men, in the forenamed place of the Revelation; and with the long white robe of Christ's righteousness the faithful Christian is apparelled; so none richer in clothes than he. He that heaps up silver like the dust, and molten gold like the clay in the streets; is he rich? How rich then is he that counts the silver like the dust, and the gold like clay; who is so rich that he contemns those riches! He that has his garners full of wheat, and his presses with new wine; is he rich, say we? How rich then is he that lives wholly upon heavenly manna, and drinks the wine of angels, as the true Christian does? He that "washes his steps in butter," and has "rivers of oil" flowing to him out of the rock;" is he rich? How much richer then is he that is anointed with the heavenly oil, with the oil of perpetual joy and gladness in the Spirit, as the true believer is! He that abounds in cattle, who cannot number his herds and flocks; is he rich, tell me? How mightily far richer is he that possesses God, whose are "all the beasts of the moun-tains," and all "the cattle upon a thousand hills!" and him he possesses that possesses Christ: that is, one of his, the poorest of them. He that has stately and magnificent houses, good store, richly decked and furnished too; is he rich, think you? If he be, how infinitely more rich are they who have heaven for their house, and all the furniture fit for theirs! In a word, may he be called rich who is highly born, richly seated, gloriously attended? How rich then is he that is born of God, as the true Christian is, whom he makes to "sit together with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus;" upon whom the angels continually attend, about whom they daily pitch their tents, to whom they are all but "ministering spirits, sent forth to wait upon them as upon the heirs of salvation!" Will not all this serve the turn? What then plainer now at last, than that he tells us he has made us "kings and priests?" Kings, they cannot come under a lower notion than rich; and though priests, of late, are not always so, yet a "royal priesthood," as S. Peter calls us, will be rich.
So that now, after the several styles of rich men in Scripture, [171/172] you see the Christian may be truly styled rich, if either abundance or increase, clothes or furniture, houses or attend-ants, may be said to make one rich, or if kings themselves may be called such.
Yet, above all this, he is richer still; even in poverty he is rich, and can make others rich. "As poor," says the Apostle, "yet making many rich; and as having nothing, and yet possessing all things." Here is the prerogative of christian riches above all others: none can rob us of them; no poverty can lose them. "I know how to abound, and how to want," says S. Paul; how to abound in the midst of want. They are riches, the riches of grace, that thieves cannot steal nor moths corrupt; such as satiate the weary soul, such as make us, with S. Paul, in all estates to be content, count all riches, all joy, even the sorest and bitterest poverty or temptation. And When the riches of grace have heaped up our treasuries here with all cheerfulness, then open they to us the treasuries of glory, riches so far beyond what the world call so, that all here is but mere beggary, and want, and misery, in com-parison, not to be named or thought on.
The use of this is to instruct us henceforward to labour only for the true riches; to be rich in grace, to be plentiful in good works; not to squander away our days, like children in running after painted butterflies, in heaping up gold and silver, as S. James speaks, to lie and rust, and cry out against us; not to build our dwellings, or fix our desires, or place our affections upon earthly rubbish; not to precount our lands or houses, our clothes or furniture, our full bags or our nume-rous stock and daily increase, our riches; but to reckon Christ our riches, his grace our wealth, his reproach our honour, his poverty our plenty, his glory the sum and crown of all our riches and glory. For if "you know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," this you know also, that it is worth the seeking; that it is riches, and honour, and glory, how poor soever it looks to the eye of the world. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ it is only that makes us rich, and poverty his way to enrich its by, contrary to the way of the world: "and this ye know," says the Apostle; it is so plain and evident I need not tell you, for ye know it. The third point,--the evidence of all that has been said.
[172/173] III. "For ye know" it; for ye know nothing if you know not this. It was a thing not done in a corner; all the corners of the world rang of it, from the utmost corners of Arabia to the ends of the earth. The wise men came purposely from the east to see this poor little new-born child: et tibi serviet ultima Thule, sang the poet; the utmost confines of the west came in presently to serve him; the whole world is witness of it long ago. Nor were ever Christians ashamed either of this grace or poverty until of late. It was thought a thing worth knowing, worth keeping in remembrance by an anni-versary too.
Indeed, were it not a thing well known, it would not be believed that the Lord of all should become so poor as to have almost nothing of it all. But "we saw it," says S. John, the "Word made flesh;" this great high Lord made little, and low enough, "heard it, saw it with our eyes, looked upon it, and our hands too handled it;" had all the evidence possibly could be had, the evidence of ear, and eye, and hand; know it by them all. And not we only, not S. John only, but all men know it. For "this grace of God that bringeth salvation," that is, the true grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, "hath appeared unto all men," says S. Paul. So that they either know it, or if they know it not it is their own fault; for it has appeared, and has been often declared unto them: so that it is no wonder that the Apostle should tell the Corinthians that they know it; they could not be Christians without knowing it, nor it seems men in those days neither that knew it not.
And yet, as generally as it was known, it was a "grace" to know it; one of the most special gifts and graces, the know-ledge of the grace of Christ." For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ;" and that ye know it, is his grace. You could not know it without it; none but they to whom it is given can know it as they should.
IV. That we may know it so as well as they, we are now, in the last place, to consider what the Apostle would infer upon us by it, what should be the issue of this knowledge.
(l.) The acknowledgment of the grace: and then (2) the practice of it. "For ye know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich," yet he so loved the poor as [173/174] to bestow all his riches freely upon them; upon us that were poor and naked and miserable, and being thrust out of our first home, never since could find any certain dwelling-place. And, therefore, the after his example, being now enriched by him, should be rich in our mercy and bounty to the poor; for if his grace was such to us when we were poor, we should show the like to the poor now we are rich.
But that we may be the readier to this, we must first be sensible of the other, thoroughly sensible of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; acknowledge it for a grace, a thing merely of his own good will and favour, that he would thus become poor to make us rich. Know we and acknowledge many graces in this one grace.
A grace to our humanity, that he would grace it with putting on.
A grace to poverty, that he would wear that too.
A grace to our persons as well as to our natures, that it was for our sakes he did it.
A grace to our condition, that it was only to enrich it. Know we then again and acknowledge it from hence.
(i) That poverty is now become a grace; a grace to which the "kingdom of God is promised," poverty of spirit. Nay, "the poor, and vile, and base things too bath God chosen," saith S. Paul; the poor are now elect, contrary quite to the fancy that the Jews had of them, whose proverb it was, that the Spirit never descended upon the poor; answer-able to which it was then the cry, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" any prophet or great good come out of so poor a place as that?
(ii.) Know we again, that Christ's poverty, above all, or poverty for his sake, is a grace indeed; for to you it is given, given as a great gift of grace and honour" to suffer for his name." And it is a part of our "calling," says S. Peter, a specialty of that grace.
(iii.) Know we that our riches are his grace too. In vain we rise up early and go late to bed; all our care, and pains, and labour, is nothing to make us rich without his blessing: "The blessing of the Lord it is that maketh rich."
(iv.) Know we, however these may prove, the riches of Christ can prove no other. All the virtues and graces of our [174/175] souls, all the spiritual joy, fulness, and contentment, are merely his; they the proper "grace" of the Lord Jesus Christ; no grace above them, no grace near them; nothing can render us so gracious in the eyes of God as they; they are above gold and rubies and precious stones. These and all the rest being acknowledged in the text, we may well acknowledge that there was good reason to put an article, an emphasis, upon c£rin t_n c£ri, the grace.
Yet to make all up, all these graces, you must know all the several graces, outward and inward, come all from this one grace of Christ's becoming poor, being made man and becoming one of us. To this it is we owe all we have or hope, to the grace of Christ at Christmas; and therefore now are to add some practice to all this knowledge, to return some grace again for all this grace.
(i.) Gratia is thanks: let us return that first; thank God and our Saviour for this grace of his, whence all grace flows, and for all the several graces as they at any time flow down upon us. Gratia Deo, thanks to God.
(ii.) Gratia is goodwill and favour; let us show that to others." Goodwill towards men."
(iii.) But goodwill is not enough: good works are graces; let us study to increase and abound, and to be rich in them.
(iv.) Yet gratia is, in S. Paul's style in this chapter, ver. l, (2Cor. 8.1.) and elsewhere, bounty and liberality to the poor; rich in this grace especially we are to be. It is the peculiar grace of Christmas, hospitality and bounty to the poor. It is the very grace S. Paul here provokes the Corinthians to, by the example of those of Macedonia and Achaia, who "to their power and beyond their power," he bears them witness, were not only willing to supply "the necessities of the saints," but even entreated him and them to take it. By the example also of Christ, who both became himself poor, that we might be the more compassionate to the poor now he was in the number; and made us rich, that we might have wherewith to show our compassion to them. Now, surely if Christ be poor, and put himself among them, who would not give freely to them, seeing he may chance even to give to Christ [175/176] himself among them when he gives
However, what is given to any of them he owns it as to himself: "What ye do to the least of these my brethren, ye do it unto me." And can any that pretends Christ be so wretchedly miserable as not to part with his money upon this score? Can any be so ungrateful as not to give him a little, who gave them all? Shall he become poor for our sakes, and we not show ourselves rich for his? It were too little in reason not to make ourselves poor again for him, not to be as free to him as he to us. Yet he will be contented with a little for his all, that we should out of our abundance supply the want of his poor members. He is gracious: behold the grace of our Lord in this too, in complying with our infirmities; not commanding us, as he might, to impoverish ourselves with acts of mercy, but to be only rich and abundant in them; to which yet he promises more grace still, the reward of glory. "Come, ye blessed of my Father,"--ye who supply and help my poor ones,--"come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;" where ye that have followed me in my poverty, or become poor for my sake, or have been rich in bounty to the poor, as it were to a kind of poverty, shall then reign with me amidst all the riches of eternal glory.