PREACHED ON CHRISTMAS-DAY, 1625.
Galatians iv. 4 and 5.
Biit when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
We are met here to celebrate the generation of Christ Jesus; but says the prophet1, who shall declare his generation, his age I for, for his essential generation, by which he is the Son of God,
1 Isaiah liii. 8.
the angels, who are almost six thousand years older than we, are no nearer to that generation of his, than if they had been made but yesterday. Eternity hath no such distinctions, no limits, no periods, no seasons, no months, no years, no days; Methusalem, who was so long lived, was no elder in respect of eternity, than David's son by Bathsheba, that died the first week. The first fiat in the creation of Adam, and the last note of the blowing of the trumpets to judgment, (though there be between these, as it is ordinarily received, two thousand years of nature between the creation and the giving of the law by Moses, and two thousand years of the law between that and the coming of Christ, and two thousand years of grace and gospel between Christ's first and his second coming,) yet this creation and this judgment are not a minute asunder in respect of eternity, which hath no minutes. Whence then arises all our vexation and labour, all our anxieties and anguishes, all our suits and pleadings for long leases, for many lives, for many years' purchase in this world, when, if we be in our way to the eternal King of the eternal kingdom, Christ Jesus, all we are not yet, all the world shall never be, a minute old; generationem ejus quis enarrabit, what tongue can declare, what heart can conceive his generation, which was so long before any heart or tongue was made? But we come not now to consider that eternal generation, not Christ merely as the Son of God, but the son of Mary too; and that generation the Holy Ghost hath told us was in the fulness of time: When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth, fyc.
In which words we have these three considerations: first, the time of Christ's coming, and that was the fulness of time; and then the manner of his coming, which is expressed in two degrees of humiliation: one, that he was made of a woman; the other, that he was made under the law. And then, the third part is, the purpose of his coming, which also was twofold; for first, he came to redeem them who were under the law,—all; and secondly, he came that we (we the elect of God in him,) might receive adoption; when the fulness of time was come, Sfc.
For the full consideration of this fulness of time, we shall first consider this fulness in respect of the Jews, and then in respect of all nations, and lastly in respect of ourselves. The Jews might have seen the fulness of time, the Gentiles did (in some measure,) see it, and we must (if we will have any benefit by it,) see it too. It is an observation of St. Cyril, that none of the saints of God, nor such as were noted to be exemplarily religious and sanctified men, did ever celebrate with any festival solemnity their own birth-day. Pharaoh celebrated his own nativity8, but who would make Pharaoh his example? And besides he polluted that festival with the blood of one of his servants. Herod celebrated his nativity, but who would think it an honour to be like Herod? And besides, he polluted that festival with the blood of John Baptist. But the just contemplation of the miseries and calamities of this life into which our birth-day is the door and the entrance, is so far from giving any just occasion of a festival, as it hath often transported the best disposed saints and servants of God to a distemper, to a malediction, and cursing of their birthday3. Cursed be the day wherein I was born, and let not that day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Let the day perish wherein I was bom, let that day be darkness, and let not God regard it from above*. How much misery is presaged to us, when we come so generally weeping into the world, that, perchance, in the whole body of history we read but of one child, Zoroaster, that laughed at his birth. What miserable revolutions and changes, what downfalls, what break-necks, and precipitations may we justly think ourselves ordained to, if we consider that in our coming into this world out of our mother's womb, we do not make account that a child comes right, except it come with the head forward, and thereby prefigure that headlong falling into calamities which it must suffer after I Though therefore the days of the martyrs, which are for our example celebrated in the Christian church, be ordinarily called natalitia martyrum, the birth-day of the martyrs, yet that is not intended of their birth in this world, but of their birth in the next; when by death their souls were new delivered of their prisons here, and they newly born into the kingdom of heaven; that day, upon that reason, the day of their death, was called their birth-day, and celebrated in the church by that name. Only to Christ Jesus, the fulness of time was at his birth; not because he also had not a painful life to pass through,
8 Gen. xl. 22. 3 Jer. xx. 4 Job iii.
but because the work of our redemption was an entire work, and all that Christ said, or did, or suffered, concurred to our salvation, as well his mother's swathing him in little clouts, as Joseph's shrouding him in a funeral sheet; as well his cold lying in tho manger, as his cold dying upon the cross; as well the puer natus, as the consummatum est; as well his birth, as his death, is said to have been the fulness of time.
First, we consider it to have been so to the Jews; for this was that fulness, in which all the prophecies concerning the Messiah were exactly fulfilled :—That he must come whilst the monarchy of Rome flourished5; and before the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed6; that he must be born in Bethlehem7; that he must be born of a virgin8; his person, his actions, his passion so distinctly prophesied, so exactly accomplished, as no word being left unfulfilled, this must necessarily be a fulness of time. So fully was the time of the Messiah's coming, come, that though Some of the Jews say now, that there is no certain time revealed in the Scriptures when the Messiah shall come, and others of them say that there was a time determined and revealed, and that this time was the time, but by reason of their great sins he did not come at his time; yet, when they examine their own supputations, they are so convinced with that evidence that this was that fulness of time, that now they express a kind of conditional acknowledgment of it, by this barbarous and inhuman custom of theirs, that they always keep in readiness the blood of some Christian, with which they anoint the body of any that dies amongst them, with these words, If Jesus Christ were the Messiah, theii may the blood of this Christiou avail thee to salvation; so that by their doubt, and their implied consent in this action, this was the fulness of time, when Christ Jesus did come, that the Messiah should come.
It was so to the Jews, and it was so to the Gentiles too. It filled those wise men which dwelt so far in the east, that thay followed the star from thence to Jerusalem. Herod was so full of it, that he filled the country with streams of innocent blood, and lest he should spare that one innocent child, killed all. The two emperors of Homo, Vespasian and Domitian, were so full of it, that in
5 Dan. ii. 6 Hagg. ii. 7 Mich. v. 8 Isaiah vii.
jealousyof a Messiah to come then, from that race, they took special care for the destruction of all of the posterity of David; All the whole people were so full of it, that divers false Messiahs, "Barcocab and Moses of Crete, and others, rose up, and drew and deceived the people, as if they had been the Messiah, because that was ordinarily known and received to be the time of his coming. And the devil himself was so full of it, as that in his oracles he gave that answer, that an Hebrew child should be God over all gods; and brought the emperor to erect an altar to this Messiah, Christ Jesus, though he knew not what he did. This was the fulness that filled Jew and Gentile, kings and philosophers, strangers and inhabitants, counterfeits and devils, to the expectation of a Messiah; and when comes this fulness of time to us, that we feel this Messiah born in ourselves S
In this fulness, in this coming of our Saviour into us, we should find a threefold fulness in ourselves; we should find a fulness of nature, (because not only of spiritual, but of natural and temporal things, all the right which we have in this world is in, and for, and by Christ, for so we end all our prayers of all sorts with that clause, per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum; Grant this, 0 Lord, for our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus' sake) and we should find a fulness of grace, a daily sense of improvement, growth in grace, a filling of all former vacuities, a supplying of all emptinesses in our souls, till we came to Stephen's fulness10, Full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, and full of the Holy Ghost and faith, and full of faith and pou-er". And so we should come to find a fulness of glory, that is, an apprehension and inchoation of heaven in this life; for the glory of the next world is not in the measure of that glory, but in the measure of my capacity; it is not that I shall have as much as any soul hath, but that I shall have as much as my soul can receive • it is not in an equality with the rest, but in a fulness in myself. And so as I shall have a fulness of nature, that is, such an ability and such a use of natural faculties, and such a portion of the natural things of this world, as shall serve to fill up God's purpose in me. And as I shall have a fulness of grace, that is, such a measure of
9 Barchochebas, a Jew, who carried ou his imposture in Egypt.
10 Acts vi. 3. 11 Ver. 5 and 8.
grace as shall make me discern a temptation, and resist a temptation, or at least repent it, if I have not effectually resisted it; so even here I shall have a fulness of glory, that is, as much of that glory as a wayfaring soul is capable of in this world. All these fulnesses I shall have, if I can find and feel in myself this birth of Christ. His eternal birth in heaven is inexpressible, where he was born without a mother; his birth on earth is inexpressible too, where he was born without a father; but thou shalt feel the joy of his third birth in thy soul most inexpressible this day, where he is born this day, if thou wilt, without father or mother; that is, without any former, or any other reason than his own mere goodness that should beget that love in him towards thee, and without any matter or merit in thee which should enable thee to conceive him. He had a heavenly birth, by which he was the eternal Son of God, and without that he had not been a person able to redeem thee; he had a human birth, by which he was the son of Mary, and without that he had not been sensible in himself of thine infirmities and necessities; but this day, if thou wilt, he hath a spiritual birth in thy soul, without which both his divine and his human birth are utterly unprofitable to thee, and thou art no better than if there had never been Son of God in heaven, nor son of Mary upon earth. Eveni8 the stork in the air knoweth her appointed time, and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow observe the time of their coming, but my people knoweth not the judgments of the Lord. For if you do know your time, you know that now is your fulness of time; this is your particular Christmas-day; when, if you be but as careful to cleanse your souls, as you are your houses: if you will but follow that counsel of St. Augustine, Quicquid non vis inveniri in domo tua, non inveniat Deus in anima tua; That uncleanness which you would be loth your neighbour should find in your houses, let not God nor his angels find in your souls, Christ Jesus is certainly born, and will as certainly grow up in your souls.
We pass from this to our second part, the manner of his coming; where we proposed two degrees of Christ's humiliation, that he was made of a woman, and made under the law. In the
2 Jer. viii.
first alone are two degrees too, that he takes the name of the son of a woman, and wanes the glorious name of the Son of God; and then, that he takes the name of the son of a woman, and wanes the miraculous name of the son of a virgin. For the first, Christ ever refers himself to his Father; as he says, The Father which sent me, gave me a commandment what I should say, and what I should speak": so for all that which he did or suffered, he says, My meat is to do his will that sent me, and to finish his work1*: and so, though he say, I am come out from the Father, and am come into the world": yet, be where he will, still he and his Father were all one. But divesting that glory, or slumbering it in his flesh, till the Father glorify him again with that glory which he had with him from the beginning, in his ascension, he humbles himself here to that addition, The son of a woman, made of a woman.
Christ waned the glorious name of Son of God, and the miraculous name of Son of a virgin too; which is not omitted to draw into doubt the perpetual virginity of the blessed Virgin, the mother of Christ; she is not called a woman, as though she were not a maid; when it is said, Joseph knew her not, donee peperit, till she brought forth her son, this did not imply his knowledge of her after, no more than when God says to Christ, donee ponam, sit at my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool, that imports that Christ should remove from his right hand after; for here is a perpetual donee in both places; for evermore, the ancient expositors have understood that place of Ezekiel to be intended of the perpetual virginity of Mary: This gate shall be shut, and shall not be opened, and no man shall enter by it. Solomon hath an exclamation, Is there any thing whereof a man may say, Behold this is new? and he answers himself immediately before, There is no new thing under the sun. But behold, here is a greater than Solomon, and he says, now in action, by being born of a Virgin, as he had said long before, in prophesy, The Lord hath created a new thing upon earth, a woman shall compass a man If this had been spoken of such a woman^s were no maid, this had been no new thing; as it was, it was without example, and without natural reason; si ratio reddi posset, (says
13Johnxii. 14 John iv. 15 John 1G. 16 Jer. xxxi. 2.
St. Bernard,) non esset mirabile, si exempla haleremus, non esset singulare; if there were reason for it, it were no miracle, if there were precedents for it, it were not singular; and God intended both, that it should be a miracle, and that it should be done but once; we see in nature, trees dq bud out, and there is an emission and emanation of flowers and fruits without any help of man, or any act done by him to that tree; we read in Genesis, that the earth had produced all plants and herbs before either any rain fell upon it, or any man tilled it. And these are good helps and illustrations to us, after we have believed that a Virgin brought forth a son; but nothing deduced out of nature could prove this at first to any man, except he believed it before. And therefore blessed be God, that hath given us that strength which the Egyptian midwives said the women of Israel had, that they brought forth children without the help of midwives; that we can humbly believe these mysteries of our religion, by faith, without the hand and help of reason; Si nondum mens idonea, abstrusa itivestigare, sine hwmtatione credantur, says St. Augustine, in things which are not subject to any faculty of ours to be discerned by reason, there is a present exercise of our faith. As we know it to be true that the bush in which God spake to Moses was full of fire, and did burn but not consume, because God hath said so in his book, but yet we do not know how that was done; so we know (by the same evidence,) that the mother of our Saviour was a virgin; but for the manner of this mystery, we rest upon Epiphanius' rule, Quwcunque dicit Deus, credamus quod sint; quomodo, soli Deo cognitum: whatsoever God in his word says, was done, let us believe it to be done; how it was done, as we know that God knows, so we are content not to inquire more than it hath been his pleasure to communicate to us.
She was then, and she was always a virgin; but because this text is of his humiliation, he leaves that name that proceeds from miracle, and descends to that lower name of nature, made of a woman. The spirit of God foresaw that the issue between the church and the heretics would not be Virgin or no Virgin, but whether Christ were made of a woman. Some heretics did question the first; the Helvidians denied her perpetual virginity; but that heresy, and some others that opposed her virginity, vanished in a short time. But the Manichees, that lasted long, and spread far in the old times, and the Anabaptists, which abound yet, deny that Christ was made of a woman; they say, that Christ passed through her as water through a pipe, but took nothing of her substance; and then, if he took not the nature of mankind, he hath not redeemed mankind. And therefore in that prophecy of Jeremiah, that Christ should be born, and in this gospel, in our text, that Christ was born, the Holy Ghost maintains and continues that phrase, made of a woman; and where he begins to express his divinity in miracles, at the marriage in Cana, there Christ himself calls her by no other name, Woman, what have I to do with thee11? And when he had drawn all his miracles to a' glorious consummatum est upon the cross, he calls her there by that name too, Woman, behold thy sonTM. Here, then, was no such curious insisting upon styles and titles, and names of dignities, no unkindness, no displeasure taken, as if one should leave out a right honourable or right worshipful, or an addition of an office or dignity; the powerfulness of Christ's birth consists in this, that he is made of God; the miraculousness of Christ's birth consisted in this, that he was made of a virgin; and yet the prophet and the apostle, two principal secretaries of the Holy Ghost, present him with this addition, made of a woman. Christ had one privilege in his birth which never any prince had, or shall have, that is, that he chose what mother he would have, and might have been born of what woman he would have chosen. And in this large and universal choice, though he chose a woman full of grace to be his mother, yet that he might give spiritual comfort to all sorts of women, first to those who should be unjustly suspected and insimulated of sin and incontinency, when indeed they were innocent, he was content to come of a mother who should be subject to that suspicion, and whom her husband should think to be with child before he married her, and thereupon purpose to put her away18; and then to fill those women who had been guilty of that sin with relief in their consciences against the wrath of God, and with reparation of their reputation and good name in the world,
it was his unsearchable will and pleasure that in all that genealogy and pedigree which he and his spirit hath inspired the evangelists to record of his ancestors, there is not one woman named, of whom Christ is descended, who is not dangerously noted in the Scriptures, to have had some aspersion of incontinence upon her; as both St. Hierome, and St. Ambrose, and St. Chrysostome observes of Thamar, of Bathsheba, and of Ruth also.
So then Christ Jesus, who came only for the relief of sinners, is content to be known to have come not only of poor parents, but of a sinful race; and though he exempted his blessed mother more than any from sin, yet he is now content to be born again of sinful mothers; in that soul that accuses itself most of sin, in that soul that calls now to mind (with remorse, and not with delight,) the several times, and places, and ways wherein she hath offended God; in that soul that acknowledgeth itself to have been a sink of uncleanness, a tabernacle, a synagogue of Satan; in that soul that hath been, as it were, possessed with Mary Magdalen's seven devils, yea with him whose name was Legion, with all devils; in that sinful soul would Christ Jesus fain be born this day, and make that soul his mother, that he might be a regeneration to that soul. We cannot afford Christ such a birth in us as he had, to be born of a virgin; for every one of us well nigh hath married himself to some particular sin, some beloved sin, that he can hardly divorce himself from; nay, no man keeps his faith to that one sin that he hath married himself to, but mingles himself with other sins also. Though covetousness, whom he loves as the wife of his bosom, have made him rich, yet he will commit adultery with another sin, with ambition; and he will part even with those riches for honour; though ambition be his wife, his married sin, yet he will commit adultery with another sin, with licentiousness, and he will endanger his honour to fulfil his lust; ambition may be his wife, but lust is his concubine. We abandon all spiritual chastity, all virginity, we marry our particular sins, and then we divide our loves with other sins too; Thou hast multiplied thy fornications, and yet art not satisfiedTM, is a complaint that reaches us all in spiritual fornications, and goes very far in carnal. And yet, for
8" Ezek. xvi.
all this we are capable of this conception, Christ may be born in us for all this. As God said unto the prophet, Take thee a wife of fornications and children of fornications, so is Christ Jesus content to take our souls, though too often mothers of fornications; as long as we are united and incorporated in his beloved spouse, the church, conform ourselves to her, grow up in her, hearken to his word in her, feed upon his sacraments in her, acknowledge a seal of reconciliation by the absolution of the minister in her, so long (how unclean soever we have been, if we abhor and forsake our uncleanness now) we participate of the chastity of that spouse of his, the church, and in her are made capable of this conception of Christ Jesus, and so it is as true this hour of us, as it was when the Apostle spoke these words, This is the fulness of time when God sent his Son, fyc.
Now you remember that in this second part (the manner of Christ's coming) we proposed two degrees of humiliation, one which we have handled in a double respect, as he is made filius mulieris, non Dei, the son of a woman, and not the son of God; the other as he is filius mulieris, non Virginis, the son of a woman, and not called the son of a virgin.
The second remains that he was sub lege, under the law; now this phrase, to be under the law, is not always so narrowly limited in the Scriptures as to signify only the law of Moses, for so only the Jews were under the law, and so Christ's coming for them who were under the law, his death and merits, should belong only to the Jews. But St. Augustine observes, that when Christ sent the message of his birth to the wise men in the east by a star, and to the shepherds about Bethlehem by an angel, In pastoribus Judwi, in magis, Gentes vocati, the Jews had their calling in that manifestation to the shepherds, and the Gentiles in that to the wise men in the east. But besides that Christ did submit himself to all the weight even of the ceremonial law of Moses, he was under a heavier law than that, under that lex decreti, the contract and covenant with God the Father; under that oportuit pati, this he ought to suffer, before he could enter into glory; so that his being under the law may be accounted, not a part of his humiliation, as his being made of a woman was, but rather the whole history and frame of his humiliation; all that
VOL. I. E I concerns his obedience, even to that law which the Father had laid upon him: for the life and death of Christ, from the Are Maria to the consummation est, from his coming into this world in his conception to his transmigration upon the cross, was all under this law, heavier than any law that any man is under: namely, the law of the contract and covenant between the Father and him.
Though therefore we may think, judging by the law of reason, that since Christ came to gather a church, and to draw the world to him, it would more have advanced that purpose of his to have been born at Rome, where the seat of the empire and the confluence of all nations was, than in Jewry, and (if he would offer the Gospel first to the Jews) better to have been born at Jerusalem, where all the outward, public, solemn worship of the Jews was, than at obscure Bethlehem, and in Bethlehem, in some better place than in an inn, in a stable, in a manger; though we may think thus in the law of reason, yet non cogitationes mew cogitationes vestrw, says God in the prophet, My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor my laws your laws31, for I am sub lege decreti, under another manner of law than falls within your reading, under an obedience to that covenant, which hath passed between my Father and me, and by those degrees, and no other way, was my humiliation for your redemption to be expressed. Though we may think in the law of reason, that his work of propagating the gospel would have gone better forward, if he had taken for his apostles, some Tullies, or Hortensii, or Senecas, great and persuading orators, instead of his Peter, and John, and Matthew, and those fishermen, and tent-makers, and toll-gatherers; though we might think in reason and in piety too, that when he would humble himself to take our salvation into his care, it had been enough to have been under the law of Moses, to live innocently and righteously without the shedding of his blood; if he would shed blood, it might have been enough to have done so in the Circumcision, and scourging, without dying; if he would die, it might have been enough to have died some less accursed and less ignominous death than the death of the Cross; though we might reasonably enough and piously enough think thus, yet, non
81 Isaiah iv.
cogitationes vestrw, cogitationes mew, says the Lord, your way is not my way, your law is not my late; for Christ was sub lege decreti, and thus as he did, and no other way, it became him to fulfil all righteousness, that is, all that decree of God which he had accepted and acknowledged as righteous. He was so much under Moses' law as he would be; so much under that law, as that ho suffered that law to be wrested against him, and to bo pretended to be broken by him, and to be indicted and condemned by that law. The Jews pressed that law, non sines veneficum vivere, Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live**, when they attributed all his glorious miracles to the power of the devil; and the Romans were incensed against him for treason and sedition, as though he aliened and withdrew the people from Caesar. But he was under a heavier law than J ews or Romans, the law of his Father and his own eternal decree, so far as that he came to that sense of the weight thereof: Eli, Eli, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? and was never delivered from the burden of this law, till he pleaded the performance of all conditions between his Father and him, and delivered up all the evidence thereof in these words, in manus tuas, Into thy hands, 0 Lord, I give my spirit, and so presented both the righteousness of his soul which had fulfilled the law, and the soul itself which was under the law. He died in execution, and so discharged all; and so we have done with our second part, the manner of his coming.
We are come now in our order to our third part, the purpose of Christ's coming, and in that we consider two objects that Christ had, and two subjects to work upon, two kinds of work, and two kinds of persons; first to redeem, and then to adopt. Those are his works, his objects; and then to redeem those that were under the laic, that is, all, but to adopt those whom he had chosen, us; and those are the persons, the subjects that he works upon by his coming.
First then (to begin with the persons) those of the first kind, those that were under the law, for them (as we told you before) the law must not be so narrowly restrained here as to be intended only of Moses' law, for Christ's purpose was not only upon the Jews, for else Naaman the Syrian, by whom God fought great
s> Exod. xxii. 18.
battles before be was cured of his leprosy, and who, when he was cured83, was so zealous of the worship of the true God, that he would needs carry holy earth to make altars of from the place where the prophet dwelt; and else Job, who, though he were of the land of Hus, hath good testimony of being an upright and just man, and one that feared God; and else the widow of Sarepta84, whose meal and oil God preserved unwasted, and whose dead son God raised again at the prayer of Elijah; all these, and all others whom the searching spirit of God seals to his service in all the corners of the earth, because they are strangers in the land of Israel, should not be under the law, and so should have no profit by Christ's being made under the law, if the law should be understood only of the law of Moses; and therefore to be under the law signifies here, thus much, to be a debtor to the law of nature, to have a testimony in our hearts and consciences that there lies a law upon us, which we have no power in ourselves to perform; that to those laws, To love God with all our powers, and to love our neighbour as ourselves, and to do as we would be done to, we find ourselves naturally bound, and yet we find ourselves naturally unable to perform them, and so to need the assistance of another, which must be Christ Jesus, to perform them for us; and so all men, Jews and Gentiles, are under the law, because naturally they feel a law upon them which they break, and therefore wheresoever our power becomes defective in the performance of this law, if our will be not defective too, if we come not to say God hath given us an impossible law, and therefore it is lost labour to go about to perform it, or God hath given us another to perform this law for us, and therefore nothing is required at our hands; if we abstain from these quarrels to the law, and these murmurings at our own infirmity, we shall find that the fulness of time is this day come, this day Christ is come to all that are under the law, that is to all mankind: to all, because all are unable to perform that law, which they all see, by the light of nature, to lie upon them.
These then be the persons of the first kind, all, all the world, God so loved the world that he gave his Son for it, for all the world, and accordingly, venit salvare mundum, the obedience of
83 2 Kings v. £* 1 Kings xvii.
the Son was as large as the love of the Father; he came to save all the world, and he did save all the world: God would have all men, and Christ did save all men. It is therefore fearfully (and scarce allowably said) that Christ did contrary to his Father's will, when he called those to grace of whom he knew his Fathers pleasure to be that they should have no grace; it is fearfully and dangerously said, Absurdum non esse, Deum interdum falsa loqui, et fahum loquenti credendum, that it is not absurd to say (that is, that it may truly be said) that God does sometimes speak untruly, and that we are bound to believe God when he does so; for if we consider the sovereign balm of our souls, the blood of Christ Jesus, there is enough for all the world; if we consider the application of this physic by the ministers of Christ Jesus in the church, he hath given us that spreading commission, to go and preach to every creature, we are bid to offer, to apply, to minister this to all the world. Christ hath excommunicated no nation, no shire, no house, no man: he gives none of his ministers leave to say to any man, thou art not redeemed; he gives no wounded nor afflicted conscience leave to say to itself, I am not redeemed. There may be meat enough brought into the house for all the house, though some be so weak as they cannot (which is the case of the Gentiles) some so stubborn as they will not eat (which is the case of the carnal man, though in the Christian church.)
He came to all; there are the persons, and to redeem all; there is his errand, but how to redeem? St. Hierom says, Gentes non redimuntur, sed emuntur. The Gentiles, says he, are not properly Christ's, by way of redeeming, but by an absolute purchase; to which purpose those words are also applied which the Apostle says to the Corinthians, Ye are bought with aprice*"; St. Hierom's meaning therein is, that if we compare the Jews and the Gentiles, though God permitted the Jews, in punishment of their rebellions, to be captivated by the devil in idolatries, yet the Jews were but as in a mortgage, for they had been God's peculiar people before. But the Gentiles were as the devil's inheritance, for God had never claimed them, nor owned them for his, and therefore God says to Christ, Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance", as though they were
85 1 Cor. vi. 20. 18 Psalm ii. 8.
not his yet, or not his by that title as the Jews were; so that in St. Hierom's construction, the Jews, which were God's people before, were properly redeemed, the Gentiles, to whom God made no title before, are rather bought than redeemed. But, nullum tempus occurrit regi, against the King of kings there runs no prescription; no man can divest his allegiance to his prince, and say he will be subject no longer, and therefore since the Gentiles were his by his first title of creation (for it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves, nor the devil neither) when all we, by our general revolt and prevarication (as we were all collectively in Adam's loins) came to be under that law, Thou shalt die the death, when Christ came in the fulness of time, and delivered us from the sharpest and heaviest clause of that law, which is the second death, then he redeemed us properly, because (though not by the same title of covenant as the Jews were) yet we were his, and sold over to his enemy. These, then, were the persons; all, (none can say that he did not need him, none can say that he may not have him,) and this was his first work, to redeem, to vindicate them from the usurper, to deliver them from the intruder, to emancipate them from the tyrant, to cancel the covenant between hell and them, and restore them so far to their liberty, as that they might come to their first Master if they would: this was redeeming.
But in his other work, which is adoption, and where the persons were more particular, not all, but we, Christ hath taken us to him in a straiter and more peculiar title than redeeming; for a servando servi, men who were by another man's valour saved and redeemed from the enemy, or from present death, they became thereby servants to him that saved and redeemed them. Redemption makes us (who were but subjects before, for all are so by creation) servants, but it is but servants; but adoption makes us, who are thus made servants by redemption, sons: for adoption is verbum forense; though it be a word which the Holy Ghost takes, yet he takes it from a civil use and signification, in which it expresses in divers circumstances our adoption into the state of God's children. First, ho that adopted another, must by that law be a man who had no children of his own; and this was God's case towards us: he had no children of his own, we were all the children of wrathnot one of us could be said to be tbe child of God by nature, if we had not had this adoption in Christ. Secondly, he who by that law might adopt, must be a man who had had, or naturally might have had children; for an infant under years, or a man who by nature was disabled from having children, could not adopt another; and this was God's case towards us too, for God had had children without adoption; for by our creation in innocence, we were the sons of God, till we died all in one transgression, and lost all right, and all life, and all means of regaining it, but by this way of adoption in Christ Jesus. Again, no man might adopt an elder man than himself, and so our Father by adoption is not only antiquus dierum, the ancient of days, but antiquior diebus, ancienter than any days, before time was. He is (as Damascene forces himself to express it) super-principale principium, the beginning, and the first beginning, and before the first beginning: he is, says he, aetermis and prw-wternus, eternal, and elder than any eternity that we can take into our imagination. So likewise no man might adopt a man of better quality than himself, and here we are so far from comparing, as that we cannot comprehend his greatness and his goodness, of whom and to whom St. Augustine says well, Quid mihi es? If I shall go about to declare thy goodness, not to the world in general, but quid mihi es, how good thou art to me, Miserere tit loquar, says he, I must have more of thy goodness, to be able to tell thy former goodness: be merciful unto me again, that I may be thereby able to declare how merciful thou wast to me before: except thou speak in me, I cannot declare what thou hast done for me. Lastly, no man might be adopted into any other degree of kindred, but into the name and right of a son: he could not be an adopted brother, nor cousin, nor nephew. And this is especially our dignity; we have the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father, so that as here is a fulness of time in the text, so there is a fulness of persons, all, and a fulness of the work belonging to them, redeeming emancipation, delivering from the chains of Satan (we were his by creation, we sold ourselves for nothing, and he redeemed us without money, that is, without any cost of ours), but because
for all this general redemption, we may turn from him, and suhmit ourselves to other services, therefore he hath adopted iis, drawn into his family and into his more especial care those who are chosen by him to be his. Now that redemption reached to all, there was enough for all: this dispensation of that redemption, this adoption, reaches, only to us: all this is done, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
But who are this We? why, they are the elect of God. But who are they, who are these elect? Qui timide rogat, docet negare; if a man ask me with a diffidence, can I be the adopted son of God that have rebelled against him in all my affections, that have trodden upon his commandments in all mine actions, that have divorced myself from him, in preferring the love of his creatures before himself; that have murmured at his corrections, and thought them too much; that have undervalued his benefits, and thought them too little; that have abandoned and prostituted my body, his temple, to all uncleanness, and my spirit to indevotion and contempt of his ordinances; can I be the adopted Son of God, that have done this? Ne timide roges, ask me not this with a diffidence and distrust in God's mercy, as if thou thoughtest, with Cain, thy iniquities were greater than could be forgiven; but ask me with that holy confidence which belongs to a true convert, am not I, who, though I am never without sin, yet am never without hearty remorse and repentance for my sins; though the weakness of my flesh sometimes betrays me, the strength of his spirit still recovers me; though my body be under the paw of that lion that seeks whom he may devour, yet the lion of Judah raises again and upholds my soul; though I wound my Saviour with many sins, yet all these, be they never so many, I strive against, I lament, confess, and forsake as far as I am able; am not I the child of God, and his adopted son in this state? Roga fidenter, ask me with a holy confidence in thine and my God, et doces affirmare, thy very question gives me mine answer to thee; thou teachest me to say, thou art. God himself teaches me to say so by his Apostle, The foundation of God is sure, and this is the seal; God knoweth who are his, and let them that call upon his name depart from all iniquity. He that departs so far, as to repent former sins, and shut up the ways which he
knows in his conscience do lead him into temptations, he is of this quorum, one of us, one of them who are adopted by Christ to be the sons of God. I am of this quorum, if I preach the Gospel sincerely, and live thereafter (for he preaches twice a day that follows his own doctrine, and does as he says), and you are of this quorum, if you preach over the sermons which you hear, to your own souls in your meditation, to your families in your relation, to the world in your conversation. If you come to this place to meet the Spirit of God, and not to meet one another; if you have sat in this place with a delight in the word of God, and not in the words of any speaker; if you go out of this place in such a disposition as that, if you should meet the last trumpets at the gates, and Christ Jesus in the clouds, you would not entreat him to go back, and stay another year; to enwrap all in one, if you have a religious and sober assurance that you are his, and walk according to your belief, you are his; and, as the fulness of time, so the fulness of grace is come upon you, and you are not only within the first commission, of those who were under the law, and so redeemed, but of this quorum, who are selected out of them, the adopted sons of that God, who never disinherits those that forsake not him.