PREACHED IN THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS-DAY, 1624.
Isaiah vii. 14.
Part of the first Lesson that Evening.
Therefore the Lord shall give you a sign; Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
St. Bernaed spent his consideration upon three remarkable conjunctions this day. First, a conjunction of God and man in one person, Christ Jesus; then, a conjunction of the incompatible titles, maid and mother, in one blessed woman, the blessed Virgin Mary; and thirdly, a conjunction of faith and the reason of man, that so believes and comprehends those two conjunctions. Let us accompany these three with another strange conjunction, in the first word of this text, therefore; for that joins.the, anger of God and his mercy together. God chides and rebukes the king Ahaz by the prophet, he is angry with him, and therefore, says the text, because he is angry he will give him a sign, a seal of mercy, Therefore the Lord shall give you a sign, Behold, ct> virgin, &c. This therefore, shall therefore be a first part of this exercise, that God takes any occasion to show mercy; and a second shall be, the particular way of his mercy declared here,
The Lord shall give you a sign; and then a third and last, what this sign was, Behold, a virgin, &c.
In these three parts we shall walk by these steps; having made our entrance into the first, with that general consideration, that God's mercy is always in season, upon that station, upon that height, we shall look into the particular occasions of God's mercy here, what this king Ahaz had done to alien God, and to avert his mercy, and in those two branches we shall determine that part. In the second, we shall also first make this general entrance, that God persists in his own ways, goes forward with his own purposes, and then what his way and his purpose here was, he would give them a sign; and further we shall not extend that second part. In the third, we have more steps to make; first, what this sign is in general; it is, that there is a Redeemer given. And then how thus; first, a virgin shall conceive, she shall be a virgin then; and a virgin shall bring forth, she shall be a virgin then; and she shall bear a son, and therefore he is of her substance, not only man, but man of her; and this virgin shall call this son Immanuel, God with us, that is, God and man in one person. Though the angel at the conception tell Joseph, that he shall call his name Jesus1, and tell Mary herself, that she shall call his name Jesus', yet the blessed Virgin herself shall have a further reach, a clearer illustration, She shall call his name Immanuel, God with us: others were called Jesus; Joshua was so, divers others were so; but, in the Scriptures there was never any but Christ called Immanuel. Though Jesus signify a Saviour, Joseph was able to call this child Jesus, upon a more peculiar reason and way of salvation than others who had that name, because they had saved the people from present calamities and imminent dangers; for the angel told Joseph that he should therefore be called Jesus, because he should save the people from their sins; and so no Joshua, no other J esus, was a Jesus. But the blessed Virgin saw more than this; not only that he should be such a Jesus as should save them from their sins, but she saw the manner how, that he should be Immanuel, God with us, God and man in one person; that so, being man, he might suffer, and being God, that should give an infinite value
1 Matt. i. 21. 5 Luke i. 31.
to his sufferings, according to the contract passed between the Father and him; and so he should be Jesus, a saviour, a saviour from sin, and this by this way and means. And then that all this should be established and declared by an infallible sign, with this, Ecce, Behold; that whosoever can call upon God by that name Immanuel, that is, confess Christ to become in the flesh, that man shall have an ecee, a light, a sign, a token, an assurance that this Immanuel, this Jesus, this Saviour belongs unto him, and he shall be able to say, Behold, mine eyes have seen thy salvation.
We begin with that which is older than our beginning, and shall over-live our end, the mercy of God. / will sing of thy mercy and judgment3, says David; when we fix ourselves upon the meditation and modulation of the mercy of God, even his judgments cannot put us out of tune, but we shall sing and be cheerful even in them. As God made grass for beasts before he made beasts, and beasts for man before he made man: as in that first generation, the creation, so in the regeneration, our recreating, he begins with that which was necessary for that which follows, mercy before judgment. Nay, to say that mercy was first, is but to post-date mercy; to prefer mercy but so, is to diminish mercy; the names of first or last derogate from it, for first and last are but rags of time, and his mercy hath no relation to time, no limitation in time, it is not first nor last, but eternal, everlasting; let the devil make me so far desperate as to conceive a time when there was no mercy, and he hath made me so far an atheist as to conceive a time when there was no God; if I despoil him of his mercy any one minute, and say, Now God hath no mercy, for that minute I discontinue his very Godhead and his being. Later grammarians have wrung the name of mercy out of misery; misericordia prwsumit miseriam, say these, there could be no subsequent mercy if there were no precedent misery; but the true root of the word mercy, through all the prophets, is racham, and racham is diligere, to love; as long as there hath been love, (and God is love,) there hath been mercy; and mercy considered externally, and in the practice and in the effect, began not at the helping of man, when man was fallen
»Psal. ci. l.
and become miserable; but at the making of man, when man was nothing. So then here we consider not mercy as it is radically in God, and an essential attribute of his, but productively in us, as it is an action, a working upon us, and that more especially, as God takes all occasions to exercise that action, and to shed that mercy upon us: for particular mercies are feathers of his wings, and that prayer, Lord let thy mercy lighten upon us, as our trust is in thee, is our birdlime; particular mercies are that cloud of quails which hovered over the host of Israel, and that prayer, Lord let thy mercy lighten upon us, is our net to catch, our Gomer to fill of those quails. The air is not so full of motes, of atoms, as the church is of mercies; and as we can suck in no part of air but we take in those motes, those atoms; so here in the congregation, we cannot suck in a word from the preacher, we cannot speak, we cannot sigh a prayer to God, but that that whole breath and air is made of mercy. But we call not upon you from this text to consider God's ordinary mercy, that which he exhibits to all in the ministry of his church; nor his miraculous mercy, his extraordinary deliverances of states and churches; but we call upon particular consciences, by occasion of this text, to call to mind God's occasional mercies to them; such mercies as a regenerate man will call mercies, though a natural man would call them accidents, or occurrences, or contingencies: a man wakes at midnight full of unclean thoughts, and he hears a passing-bell; this is an occasional mercy, if he call that his own knell, and consider how unfit he was to be called out of thte world then, how unready to receive that voice, Fool, this night they shall fetch away thy soul. The adulterer, whose eye waits for the twilight, goes forth, and casts his eyes upon forbidden houses, and would enter, and sees a Lord have mercy upon us upon the door; this is an occasional mercy, if this bring him to know that they who lie sick of the plague within pass through a furnace, but by God's grace, to heaven; and he without carries his own furnace to hell, his lustful loins to everlasting perdition. What an occasional mercy had Balaam when his ass catechised him! What an occasional mercy had one thief when the other catechized him so, Art not thou afraid, being under the same condemnation? What an occasional mercy had all they that saw that when the devil* himself fought for the name of Jesus, and wounded the sons of Sceva for exorcising in the name of Jesus, with that indignation, with that increpation, Jesus we know, and Paul we know, but who are ye? If I should declare what God hath done (done occasionally,) for my soul, where he instructed me for fear of falling, where he raised me when I was fallen, perchance you would rather fix your thoughts upon my illness, and wonder at that, than at God's goodness, and glorify him in that; rather wonder at my sins than at his mercies, rather consider how ill a man I was, than how good a God he is. If I should inquire upon what occasion God elected me, and writ my name in the book of life, I should sooner be afraid that it were not so, than find a reason why it should be so. God made sun and moon to distinguish seasons, and day and night, and we cannot have the fruits of the earth but in their seasons; but God hath made no decree to distinguish the seasons of his mercies; in Paradise, the fruits were ripe the first minute, and in heaven it is always autumn, his mercies are ever in their maturity. We ask our daily bread, and God never says you should have come yesterday, he never says you must again to-morrow, but to-day if you will hear his mice, to-day he will hear you. If some king of the earth have so large an extent of dominion in north and south, as that he hath winter and summer together in his dominions, so large an extent east and west, as that he hath day and night together in his dominions, much more hath God mercy and judg-" ment together; he brought light out of darkness, not . out of a lesser light; he can bring thy summer out of winter, though thou have no spring; though in the ways of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now, wintred and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damped and benumbed, smothered and stupified till now, now God comes to thee, not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the sun at noon, to illustrate all shadows, as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries, all occasions invite his mercies, and all times are his seasons.
If it were not thus in general, it would never have been so in this particular, in our case, in the text, in King Ahaz; if God
4 Acts ix. 14,
did not seek occasion to do good to all ho would never have found occasion to do good to King Ahaz. Subjects are to look upon the faults of princes with the spectacles of obedience and reverence to their place and persons; little and dark spectacles, and so their faults and errors are to appear little and excusable to them; God's perspective glass, his spectacle, is the whole world; he looks not upon the sun in his sphere only, but as he works upon the whole earth: and he looks upon kings, not only what harm they do at home, but what harm they occasion abroad; and through that spectacle the faults of princes, in God's eye, are multiplied far above those of private men. Ahaz had such faults, and yet God sought occasion of mercy. Jotham, his father, is called a good king, and yet all idolatry was not removed in his time, and he was a good king for all that. Ahaz is called ill, both because himself sacrificed idolatrously, (and the king was a commanding person,) and because he made the priest Uriah to do so, (and the priest was an exemplar5 person,) and because he made his son commit the, abominations of the heathen; (and the actions of the king's son pierce far in leading others.) Ahaz had these faults, and yet God sought occasion of mercy. If the evening sky be red, you promise yourselves a fair day", says Christ; you would not do so if the evening were black and cloudy; when you see the fields white with corn, you say harvest is ready1; you would not do so if they were white with frost. If ye consent and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land", says God in the prophet; shall ye do so if you refuse and rebel? Ahaz did; and yet God sought occasion of mercy. There arise diseases for which there is no probatum est in all the books of physicians; there is scarce any sin of which we have not had experiments of God's mercies; he concludes with no sin, excludes no occasion, precludes no person; and so we have done with our first part, God's general disposition for the rule, declared in Ahaz' case for the example.
Our second part consists of a rule and an example too; the rule, that God goes forward in his own ways, proceeds as he begun, in mercy; the example, what his proceeding, what his
5 That is, a person set for an example.
° Matt. xvi. 2. 7 John iv. 35. 8 Isaiah i. 19,
subsequent mercy to Ahaz was. One of the most convenient hieroglyphics of God is a circle, and a circle is endless; whom God loves, he loves to the end; and not only to their own end, to their death, but to his end, and his end is, that he might love them still. His hailstones and his thunderbolts, and his showers of blood, (emblems and instruments of his judgments,) fall down in a direct line, and affect and strike some one person or place; his sun, and moon, and stars, (emblems and instruments of his blessings,) move circularly, and communicate themselves to all. His church is his chariot; in that he moves more gloriously than in the sun; as much more as his begotten Son exceeds his created sun, and his Son of glory and of his right hand, the sun of the firmament; and this church, his chariot, moves in that communicable motion circularly; it began in the east, it came to us, and is passing now, shining out now in the farthest west. As the sun does not set to any nation, but withdraw itself, and return again, God, in the exercise of his mercy, does not set to thy soul, though he benight it with an affliction. Remember that our Saviour Christ himself, in many actions and passions of our human nature and infirmities, smothered that divinity, and suffered it not to work, but yet it was always in him, and wrought most powerfully in the deepest danger; when he was absolutely dead it raised him again; if Christ slumbered the Godhead in himself, the mercy of God may be slumbered, it may be hidden from his servants, but it cannot be taken away, and in the greatest necessities it shall break out. The blessed Virgin was overshadowed, but it was with the Holy Ghost that overshadowed her; thine understanding, thy conscience may be so too, and yet it may be the work of the Holy Ghost, who moves in thy darkness, and will bring light even out of that, knowledge out of thine ignorance, clearness out of thy scruples, and consolation out of thy dejection of spirit. God is thy portion, says David; David does not speak so narrowly, so penuriously, as to say, God hath given thee thy portion, and thou must look for no more; but, God is thy portion, and as long as he is God, he hath more to give, and as long as thou art his, thou hast more to receive. Thou canst not have so good a title to a subsequent blessing as a former blessing; where thou art an ancient tenant,
thou wilt look to be preferred before a stranger; and that is thy title to God's future mercies, if thou have been formerly accustomed to them. The sun is not weary with six thousand years shining; God cannot be weary of doing good; and therefore never say, God hath given me these and these temporal things, and I have scattered them wastefully, surely he will give me no more; these and these spiritual graces, and I have neglected them, abused them, surely he will give me no more; for, for things created, we have instruments to measure them; we know the compass of a meridian, and the depth of a diameter of the earth, and we know this, even of the uppermost sphere in the heavens; but when we come to the throne of God himself, the orb of the saints and angels that see his face, and the virtues and powers that flow from thence, we have no balance to weigh them, no instruments to measure them, no hearts to conceive them; so for temporal things, we know the most that man can have; for we know all the world; but for God's mercy and his spiritual graces, as that language in which God spake, the Hebrew, hath no superlative, so that which he promises, in all that he hath spoken, his mercy, hath no superlative; he shows no mercy which you can call his greatest mercy, his mercy is never at the highest; whatsoever he hath done for thy soul, or for any other, in applying himself to it, he can exceed that. Only he can raise a tower whose top shall reach to heaven; the basis of the highest building is but the earth; but though thou be but a tabernacle of earth, God shall raise thee piece by piece into a spiritual building; and after one story of creation, and another of vocation, and another of sanctification, he shall bring thee up to meet thyself in the bosom of thy God, where thou wast at first, in an eternal election; God is a circle himself, and he will make thee one; go not thou about to square either circle, to bring that which is equal in itself to angles and corners, into dark and sad suspicions of God, or of thyself, that God can give, or that thou canst receive, no more mercy than thou hast had already.
This, then, is the course of God's mercy, he proceeds as he begun, which was the first branch of this second part; it is always in motion, and always moving towards all, always perpendicular, right over every one of us, and always circular, always communicable to all; and then the particular beam of this mercy shed upon Ahaz here in our text is, Dabit signum, The Lord shall give you a sign. It is a great degree of mercy that he affords us signs. A natural man is not made of reason alone, but of reason and sense; a regenerate man is not made of faith alone, but of faith and reason; and signs, external things, assist us all.
In the creation it was part of the office of the sun and moon to be significative; he created them for signs, as well as for seasons; he directed the Jews to Christ by signs, by sacrifices, and sacraments, and ceremonies; and he entertains us with Christ by the same means too; we know where to find Christ; in his house, in his church; and we know at what sign he dwells; where the word is rightly preached, and the sacraments duly administered. It is truly and wisely said, Sic habenda fides verbo Dei, ut subsidia minime contemnamus"; we must so far satisfy ourselves with the word of God as that we despise not those other subsidiary helps which God in his church hath afforded us; which is true (as of sacraments especially,) so of other sacramental, and ritual, and ceremonial things, which assist the working of the sacraments, though they infuse no power into the sacraments. For, therefore does the prophet say when Ahaz refused a sign, Is it a small thing to weary (or disobey) men, but that you will weary (disobey) God himself10? He disobeys God in the way of contumacy, who refuses hie signs, his outward assistances, his ceremonies which are induced by his authority, derived from him, upon men, in his church, and so made a part, or a help, of his ordinary service, as sacraments and sacramental things are.
There are signs of another sort, not fixed by God's ordinance, but signs which particular men have sometimes desired at God's hand, for a farther manifestation of God's will, in which it is not otherwise already fully manifested and revealed. For to seek such signs in things which are sufficiently declared by God, or to seek them with a resolution that I will leave a duty undone except I receive a sign, this is to tempt God, and to seek a way
9 Calvin. 10 Ver. 13.
to excuse myself for not doing that which I was bound to do by the strength of an old commandment, and ought not to look for a new sign. But the greatest fault in this kind is, that if God, of his abundant goodness, do give me a sign for my clearer directions, and I resist that sign, I dispute against that sign, I turn it another way, upon nature, upon fortune, upon mistaking, that so I may go mine own way, and not be bound, by believing that sign to be from God, to go that way to which God by that sign calls me. And this was Ahaz' case; God spoke unto him, and said, Ask a sign11, (that he would deliver him from the enemy that besieged Jerusalem,) and he said, / will not ask a sign, nor tempt God; for though St. Augustine and some with him, ascribe this refusal of Ahaz to a religious modesty, yet St. Hierome, and with him the greatest party, justly impute this for a fault to Ahaz; both because the sign was offered him from God, and not sought by himself, (which is the case that is most subject to error,) and because the prophet, who understood God's mind and the king's mind too, takes knowledge of it as of a great fault, In this thou hast contemned and wearied not man but God. For though there be but a few cases in which we may put God to give a sign, (for Christ calls the Pharisees an evil and an adulterous generation1*, therefore because thej sought a sign,) yet God gave Moses a sign of a rod changed into a serpent13, and a sign of good flesh changed into leprous, and leprous into good, unasked; and after Abraham, asks a sign, Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit the land141 And God gave him a sign. So Gideon, in a modest timorousness, asks a sign15, and presses God to a second sign; first, he would have all the dew upon the fleece, and then none of the dew upon the fleece. God does give signs, and when he does so, he gives also irradiations, illustrations of the understanding, that they may be discerned to be his signs; and when they are so, it is but a pretended modesty to say we will not tempt God to ask a sign, we will not trouble God to tell us whether this be a sign or no, but against all significations from God go on as though all were but natural accidents.
God gives signs to them that ask them upon due grounds, (so to Abraham, so to Gideon,) and it is too long for this time to
"Ver. 11. 18 Matt. xii. 39. 18 Exod. iv. 14 Gen. xv. 8. 15Jud.vi.36.
We are come to our third part, which is more peculiar to this day; it is first, what the sign is in general, and then some more particular circumstances, Behold a virgin shall conceive, &c. In general, then, the sign that God gives Ahaz and his company is, that there shall be a Messias, a Redeemer given. Now how is this future thing, (there shall be a Messias,) a sign of their present deliverance from that siege? First, in the notion of the prophet it was not a future thing; for as in God's own sight, so in their sight, to whom he opens himself, future things are present. So this prophet says, Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given1"; he was not given, he was not born in six hundred years after that; but such is the clearness of a prophet's sight, such is the infallibility of God's declared purpose. So then, if the prophet could have made the king believe with such an assuredness as if he had seen it done, that God would give a deliverance to all mankind by a Messias, that had been sign enough, evidence enough to have argued thereupon, that God who had done so much a greater work, would also give him a deliverance from that enemy that pressed him then; if I can fix myself, with the strength of faith, upon that which God hath done for man, I cannot doubt of his mercy in any distress; if I lack a sign, I seek no other but this, that God was made man for me; which the church and church writers have well expressed by the word incarnation, for that acknowledges and denotes that God was made my flesh; it were not so strange that he who is spirit should be made my spirit, my soul, but he was made my flesh; therefore have the fathers delighted themselves in the variation of that word; so far as that Hilary calls it corporationem, that God assumed my body; and Damascen calls it inhuTnanationem, that God became [this man, soul and body; and Irenaeus calls it adunationem, and Nyssen contemperationem, a mingling, says one, an uniting, says the other, of two, of God and man in one person. Shall I ask what needs all this I what needed God to have put himself to this? I may say with St. Augustine, Alio modo poterat Deus nos liberare, sed si aliter faceret, similiter vestrw stultitiw displiceret; what other way soever God hath taken for our salvation, our curiosity would no more have been satisfied in that way than in this; but God having chosen the way of redemption, which was the way of justice, God could do no otherwise; Si homo non vicisset inimicum hominis, non juste mctus esset inimicus, says Irenseus; as if a man should get a battle by the power of the devil without fighting, this were not a just victory; so if God, in man's behalf, had conquered the devil without man, without dying, it had not been a just conquest. I must not ask why God took this way to incarnate his Son; and shall I ask how this was done? I do not
16 Isaiah ix. 6.
ask how rhubarb, or how aloes came by this or this virtue, to purge this or this humour in my body: In talibus rebus, tota ratio facti, estpotentiafacientisTM. Even in natural things all the reason of all that is done is the power and the will of him who infused that virtue into that creature; and therefore much more when we come to these supernatural points, such as this birth of Christ, we embrace St. Basil's modesty and abstinence, Nativitas ista silentio honoretur, This mystery is not so well celebrated with our words and discourse, as with a holy silence and meditation: Immo potius ne cogitationibus permittatur, Nay (says that father) there may be danger in giving ourselves leave to think or study too much of it. Ne dixeris quando (says he) prwteri hanc interrogationem, Ask not thyself over-curiously when this mystery was accomplished: be not over-vehement, over-peremptory (so far as to the perplexing of thine own reason and understanding, or so far as to the despising of the reasons of other men) in calculating the time, the day, or hour of this nativity. Prwteri ham interrogationem, pass over this question in good time, and with convenient satisfaction, quando, when Christ was born; but noli inquirere quomodo (says St. Basil still) never come to that question how it was done, cum ad hoc nihil sit quod responderi possit, for God has given us no faculties to comprehend it, no way to answer it. That is enough which we have in St. John: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus is come in the flesh is of God1"; for since it was a coming of Jesus, Jesus was before: so he was God; and since he came in the flesh, he is now made man; and that God and man are so met, is a sign to me that God and I shall never be parted.
This is the sign in general; that God hath had such a care of all men is a sign to me that he hath a care of me; but then there are signs of this sign, divers, all these: a virgin shall conceive, a virgin shall bring forth, bring forth a son, and (whatsoever have been prophesied before) she shall call his name Immanuel.
First, a virgin shall be a mother, which is a very particular sign, and was seen but once. That which Gellius and Pliny say, that a virgin had a child almost two hundred years before Christ; that which Genebrard says, that the like fell out in
18 John 1 iv. 2.
France in his time, are not within our faith, and they are without our reason; our faith stoops not down to them, and our reason reaches not up to them. Of this virgin in our text, if that be true, which Aquinas cites out of the Roman story, that in the times of Constantine and Irene, upon a dead body found in a sepulchre there was found this inscription, in a plate of gold, Christu s nascetur ex virgine, et ego credo in eum, Christ shall be born of a virgin, and I believe in that Christ, with this addition in that inscription, 0 Sol, sub Irene, et Constantini temporibm, iterim me videbis, Though I be now buried from the sight of the sun, yet in Constantine's time the sun shall see me again; if this be true, yet our ground is not upon such testimony: if God had not said it, I would never have believed it. And therefore I must have leave to doubt of that which some of the Roman casuists have delivered, that a virgin may continue a virgin upon earth, and receive the particular dignity of a virgin in heaven, and yet have have a child, by the insinuation and practice of the devil, so that there shall be a father and a mother, and yet both they, virgins. That this mother in our text was a virgin, is a peculiar, a singular sign, given as such hy God, never done but then; and it is a singular testimony how acceptable to God that state of virginity is. He does not dishonour physic that magnifies health, nor does he dishonour marriage that praises virginity: let them embrace that state that can, and certainly many more might do it than do, if they would try whether they could or no; and if they would follow St. Cyprian's way, Virgo non tantum esse, sed et intelligi esse debet, et credi; it is not enough for a virgin to be a virgin in her own knowledge, but she must govern herself so as that others may see that she is one, and see that she hath a desire and a disposition to continue so still, lta, ut nemo cum virginem viderit dubitet an sit virgo, says that father, she must appear in such garments, in such language, and in such motions (for as a wife may wear other clothes, so she may speak other words than a virgin may do) as they that see her may not question nor dispute whether she be a maid or no. The word in the text is derived a latendo, from retiring, from privateness; and Tertullian, who makes the note, notes withal, that Ipsa concnpiscentia non latendi, non estpudica. The very concupiscence of cgnversation and visits is not chaste: Stadium plaeendi, pubUcatione sui, periclitatur, says the same author; curious dressings are for public eyes, and the virgin that desires to publish hersejf, is weary of that state. It is usefully added by hira, Dum perr cutitur oculis alienis, fron s duratur, et pudor ferity?, the eyes of others, that strike upon her (if she be willing to stand out that battery) dry up that hlood that should blush, and wear out that chastity which should be preserved. So precious is virginity in, God's eye, as that he looks upon that with a more jealous eye than upon other states.
The blessed mother of God in our text was a virgin: when I virgo concipiet, says our text, a virgin shall conceive; when she conceived she was a virgin. There are three l^presies, all noted by St. Augustine, that impeach the virginity of this most blessed woman. The Cerinthians said she conceived by ordinary generation; Jovinian said she was delivered by ordinary means; and Helvidius said she had children after: all against all the world besides themselves, and against one another. For the first, that is enough which St. Basil says, that if the word virgin in our text signified no more buf adolescentulam, a yavmg woman (as they pretend) it had been an impertinent, an absurd thing for the prophet to have made that a sign and a wonder, that a young woman should have a child. This is enough, but that is abundantly enough, that St. Matthew, who spoke with the same spirit that Esay did, says in a word, which can admit no misinterpretation, that that was fulfilled which Esay had said, a virgin shall conceiveTM. St. Matthew's word, without question, is a virgin, and not a young woman, and St. Matthew took Esay's word to be so too; and St. Matthew (at least he that spake in St. Matthew) did not, could not mistake, and mistake himself, for it was one and the same Hojy Ghost that spake both. Christ says therefore of himself, vermis mm, I am a worm80; biit says St. Ambrose, vermis de manna, a worm out of a pure substance, a holy man from a blessed virgin, virgo concepit, she was a virgin then, then when she had conceived.
She was was so too, in party,, then when she was delivered; Jovinian denied that: a better than he (Tertullian) denied it,
19 Matt i. 23. "Psalm 22
Virgo quantum a viro, non quantum a partu, says he, she was such a virgin as knew no man, not such a virgin as needed no midwife: Virgo concepit, says he, in partu nupsit, a virgin in her conception, but a wife in the deliverance of her son. Let that be wrapped up amongst Tertullian's errors; he had many: the text clears it, A virgin shall conceive, a virgin shall bear a son. The Apostle's creed clears it, says St. Augustine, when it says, bom of the Virgin Mary; and St. Ambrose clears it, when he says, with such indignation, De via iniquitatis produntur dicere, virgo concepit, sed non virgo generavit, It is said that there are some men so impious as to deny that she remained a virgin at the birth of her son. St. Ambrose wondered there should be, scarce believed it to be any other than a rumour or a slander, that there could be any so impious as to deny that; and yet there have been some so impious"1 as to charge Calvin with that impiety, with denying her to be a virgin then. It is true he makes it not a matter of faith to defend her perpetual virginity; but that is not this case, of her virginity in her deliverance; and even of that (of her perpetual virginity) he says thus, Nemo unquam questionem movebit, nisi curiosus, nemopertinaciter insistet, nisi contentiosus rixator; he is over-curious, that will make any doubt of it, but no man will persist in the denial of it, but a contentious wrangler; and in that very point St. Basil says fully as much as Calvin; but at his birth, and after his birth, there is evidence enough in this text; A virgin shall conceive, a virgin shall bring forth, a virgin shall call him Immanuel. In all those future and subsequent acts still it is the same person, and in the same condition.
Pariet, et pariet filium, she shall bring forth a. son; if a son, then of the substance of his mother; that the Anabaptists deny; but had it not been so, Christ had not been true man, and then man were yet unredeemed. He is her son, but not her ward; his Father cannot die; her son, but yet he asked her no leave to stay at Jerusalem, nor to dispute with the doctors, nor to go about his Father's work. His settling of religion, his governing the church, his dispensing of his graces, is not by warrant from her; they that call upon the bishop of Rome, in that
voice, impera regibus, command kings and emperors admit of that voice, impera filio, to her, that she should command her son. The natural obedience of children to parents holds not in such civil things as are public. A woman may be a queen-dowager, and yet a subject; the blessed Virgin Mary may be in a high rank, and yet no sovereign; Blessed art thou amongst women**, says the angel to her, amongst women, above women, but not above any person of the Trinity, that she should command her son. Luther was awake and risen, but he was not ready: he had seen light, and looked toward it, but yet saw not so clearly by it, then when he said, that the blessed virgin was of a middle condition, between Christ and man; that man hath his conception and his quickening (by the infusion of the soul) in original sin; that Christ had it in neither, no sin in his conception, none in his inanimation, in the infusion of his soul. But, says Luther, howsoever it were at the conception, certainly at the inanimation, at the quickening, she was preserved from original sin. Now what needs this? May I not say that I had rather be redeemed by Christ Jesus than be innocent, rather be beholden to Christ's death for my salvation, than to Adam's standing in his innocency? Epiphanius said enough, par detrimentum afferunt religioni, they hurt religion as much, that ascribe too little to the blessed virgin, as they who ascribe too much. Much is due to her, and this among the rest, that she had so clear notions above all others, what kind of person her son was, that as Adam gave names according to natures, so the prophet here leaves it to her to name her son according to his office, she shall call his name Immanuel,
We told you at first, that both Joseph and Mary were told by the angel that his name was to be Jesus, and we told you also, that others besides him had been called by that name of Jesus, but, as though others were called Jesus (for Joshua is called so, Heb. iv. 8. If Jesus had given them rest, that is, if Joshua had, &c., and the son of Josedech is called so. throughout the prophet Aggai) yet there is observed a difference in the pointing and sounding of those names from this our Jesus; so, though other women were called Mary as well as the blessed virgin, yet the Evangelists evermore make a difference between her name and
£4 Luke i. 28.
the other Maries, for her they call Mariam, and the rest Maria. Now this Jesus, in this person, is a real, an actual Saviour, he that hath already really and actually accomplished our salvation. But the blessed Virgin had a clearer illustration than all that, for she only knew, or she knew best, the capacity in which he could be a Saviour, that is, as he is Immanuel, God with us; For she, and she only, knew that he was the son of God, and not of natural generation by man. How much is enwrapped in this name Immanuel, and how little time to unfold it! I am afraid none at all: a minute will serve to repeat that which St. Bernard says, and a day, a life, will not serve to comprehend it; for to comprehend is not to know a thing as far as I can know it, but to know it as far as that a thing can be known, and so only God can comprehend God. Immanuel est verbuni infaus, says the Father; he is the ancient of days, and yet in minority; he is the word itself, and yet speechless: he that is all, that all the prophets spoke of, cannot speak. He adds more: he is puer sapiens, but a child, and yet wiser than the elders, wiser in the cradle than they in the chair; he is more, deus lactens, God, at whose breasts all creatures suck, sucking at his mother's breast, and such a mother as is a maid. Immanuel is God with lis, it is not we with God: God seeks us, comes to us before we to him, and it is God with us, in that notion, in that termination El, which is Deus fortis, the powerful God, not only in infirmity, as when he died in our nature, but as he is Deus fortis, able and ready to assist and deliver us in all encumbrances; so he is with us; and with us, usque ad consummationem, till the end of the world, in his word, and in the Sacraments; for though I may not say, as some have said*3, that by the word of consecration, in the administration of sacrament, Christ is so infallibly produced, as that if Christ had never been incarnate before, yet at the pronouncing of those words of consecration, he must necessarily be incarnate then, yet I ihay say, that God is as effectually present with every worthy receiver, as that he is. not more effectually present with the saints iii heaven.
And this is that, which is intimated in that word, which we seposed at first, for the last of all, ecce, behold; behold a virgin
shall conceive, fyc. God doe3 not furnish a room, and leave it dark; he sets up lights in it; his first care was, that his benefits should be seen; he made light first, and then creatures, to be seen by that light. He sheds himself from my mouth, upon the whole auditory here; he pours himself from my hand, to all the communicants at the table; I can say to you all here, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, and remain with you all; I can say to them all there, The body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for you, preserve you to everlasting life; I can bring it so near; but only the worthy hearer, and the worthy receiver, can call this Lord, this Jesus, this Christ, Immanuel, God with iis; only that virgin soul, devirginated in the blood of Adam, but restored in the blood of the Lamb, hath this ecce, this testimony, this assurance, that God is with him; they that havo this ecce, this testimony, in a rectified conscience, are godfathers to this child Jesus, and may call him Immanuel, God with tis; for, as no man can deceive God, so God can deceive no man; God cannot live in the dark himself, neither can he leave those who are his in the dark. If he be with thee, he will make thee see that he is with thee; and never go out of thy sight, till he have brought thee, where thou canst never go out of his.