« PreviousContinue »
fest unto the soul of thy servant, the unspeakable riches of thy love and mercy to mankind, in that great work of our redemption. Vouchsafe to affect my heart with a lively sense of that infinite goodness of thine towards the most wretched of thy creatures; that for our sake thou camest down, and clothedst thyself in our flesh,- and clothedst that pure and holy flesh with all the miseries that are incident to this sinful flesh of ours; and wast content to undergo a bitter, painful, and ignominious death from the hands of man, that by dying thou mightest overcome death, and ransom him from that hell, to which he was (without thee) irrecoverably forfeited; and fetch him forth to life, liberty, and glory. O let me not only see, but feel this thy great mystery of godliness effectually working me to all hearty thankfulness for so inestimable a mercy; to all holy resolutions to glorify thee in all my actions, in all my sufferings. Didst thou, O Saviour, being God eternal, take flesh for me ; and shall not I, when thou callest, be willing to lay down this sinful flesh for thee again? Wert thou content to abridge thyself, for the time, not only of thy heavenly magnificence, but of all earthly comforts, for my sake; and shall not I, for thy dear sake, renounce all the wicked pleasures of sin ? Didst thou wear out the days of thy flesh in poverty, toil, reproach, and all earthly hardships ; and shall I spend my time in pampering this flesh in wanton pleasures, in the ambitious and covetous pursuit of vain honours and deceitful riches ? Blessed Lord, thou wert manifested in the flesh, not only to be a ransom for our souls, but to be a precedent for our lives. Far, far be
it from me thus to imitate the great pattern of holiness!
O Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith and salvation, teach me to tread in thy gracious steps; to run with patience the race that is set before me; to endure the cross, to despise the shamë, to be crucified to the world, to work all righteousness.
V. How easily could I be drawn to envy the privilege of those eyes, which saw thee here walking upon earth, O God and Saviour, in the days of thy manifesting thyself in flesh! Oh what a happy spectacle was this, to see the face of him in whom the Godhead dwelt bodily! All the world is not worth such a sight. Whither could I not wish to go, to see but a just portraiture of that shape, wherein thou wert pleased to converse with men ? But thine holy apostle checks this useless curiosity in me, while he says, “If we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him so no more,” 2 Cor. v. 16. It is not the outside of thy human form, the view whereof can make us more holy or more happy : Judas saw thee as well as he that lay in thy bosom; those saw thee that maligned and persecuted thee, and shall once again see thee to their utmost horror, see him whom they pierced. They saw that flesh in which God was manifested; they saw not God mani. fested in the flesh. It is our great comfort and privilege, that it was flesh wherein God was manifested; but it is not in the flesh, but in the Deity, to render us blessed. O Saviour, I dare not beg of thee so to manifest thyself to me, as thou didst to thy chosen vessel in his way to Damascus, or to thy first martyr in the storm of his stoning; these miraculous manifestations are not for my meanness to sue for. But let me never cease to crave of thee a double manifestation of thyself to me; be pleased to manifest thyself to me in the clear illuminations of thy Spirit; let me, by the eyes of my faith, clearly see thee lying in the manger, and walking upon earth, and tempted in the wilderness, and arraigned in the judgmenthall, and suffering upon Calvary, and rising out of thy tomb, and ascending from thy Olivet, and reigning in heaven, and there interceding for me. And after my approaching dissolution, let my soul see thee in that glorified flesh wherein thou wert manifested to the world, and in the majesty of that all-glorious Deity, which assumed it, to that ever blessed society of glory.
VI. It was thy mercy, O God, that thou wouldst not keep up thyself close in thine eternal, spiritual, and incomprehensible essence, unknown to thy creatures upon earth, but that thou wouldst be manifested to the world. It was yet thy further mercy, that thou wert not only pleased to manifest thyself to man in the wonderful works of thy creation; (since those invisible things of thine are understood, and clearly seen by the things that are made, even thine eternal power and Godhead, Rom. i. 20;) but to manifest thyself yet more clearly to us in thy sacred word, the blessed oracles of thine eternal truth. But it was the highest pitch of thy mercy, that thou wouldst manifest thyself yet more to us in the flesh : thou mightest have sent us thy gracious messages by the hands of thy angels, those glorious ministering spirits that do continually attend thy throne; this would not content thee, but such was thy love to us for
lorn wretches, that thou wouldst come thyself, to finish the work of our redemption. Neither didst thou think it enough to come to us in a spiritual way, imparting thyself to us by secret suggestions and inspirations, by dreams and visions, but wouldst vouchsafe openly to be manifested in our flesh. How then, O my God, how wert thou manifested in the flesh? Was not the flesh thy veil ? And wherefore serves a veil, but to hide and cover? Did not thy Deity then lie hid and obscured, whilst thou wert here on earth, under the veil of thy flesh ? How then wert thou manifested in that fesh, wherein thou didst lie obscured ? Surely thou wert certainly manifested in respect of thy presence, in that sacred flesh of thine ; though for the time thy power and majesty lay hid under the veil. Sometimes thou wert pleased that this sun of thy Deity should break forth in the glorious beams of Divine operations, to the dazzling of the eyes of men and devils, to the full proof of thine omnipotent power against thy envious gainsayers; at other times thou wert content it should be clouded over with the dim and dusky appearances of human infirmity: the more thou wert obscured, the more didst thou manifest thy most admirable humility, and unparalleled love to mankind, whose weakness thou disdainedst not to take up: and the more thou didst exert thy power in thy miraculous works, the more didst thou glorify thyself, and vindicate thine Almighty Deity, thus manifested in the flesh. Oh that thou wouldst enable me to give thee the due praise, both of thy infinite mercy, in this thy humble obscurity, and of thy Divine omnipotence, who, as thou wert manifested in the flesh, so also wast justified in the Spirit.
as a mere man.
VII. He that should have seen thee, O Sa. viour, working in Joseph's shop, or walking in the fields or streets of Nazareth, or journeying towards Jerusalem, would have looked upon thee
Neither did thy garb or countenance bewray any difference in thee from the ordinary sort of men; so did thy Godhead please to conceal it for a time in that flesh, wherein thou wouldst be manifested. It was thine all-working and co-essential Spirit, by whose evident testi. monies, and mighty operations, thy Deity was irrefragably made good to the world. If the doubtful sons of men shall in their peevish infidelity be apt to renew the question of John's disciples, “ Art thou he that should come, or shall we look for another?” thine ever blessed and coeternal Spirit hath fully justified thee, for that only true, absolute, perfect Mediator, by whom the great work of man's redemption is accomplished. While the gates of hell want neither power, nor malice, nor subtlety, it is not possible that thy Divine person should fail to have enemies. These, in all successions of times, have dared to open their blasphemous mouths against thy blessed Deity: but against all their hellish oppositions, thou wert still, and shalt be ever justified by thy co-omnipotent Spirit; in those convincing wonders which thou wroughtest upon earth; in those miraculous gifts and graces, which thou pouredst out upon men ; in that glorious resurrection and ascension of thine, wherein thou didst victoriously triumph over all the powers of death and hell. Lo then, ye perverse Jews and scoffing Gentiles, who are still ready to upbraid us with the impotency and sufferings of a despised