HOMILY ON THE NATIVITY
AN HOMILIE OR SERMON
concerning the Natiuity and birth of our
Sauiour Iesus Christ
AMong all the creatures that GOD made in the beginning of the world most excellent and wonderfull in their kinde, there was none (as the Scripture beareth witnesse) to bee compared almost in any point vnto man, who aswell in body and soule exceeded all other no lesse, then the Sunne in brightnesse and light exceedeth euery small and little star in the firmament. Hee was made according to the image and similitude of GOD, hee was indued with all kinde of heauenly gifts, hee had no spot of vncleannesse in him, he was found and perfect in all parts, both outwardly and inwardly, his reason was vncorrupt, his vnderstanding was pure and good, his will was obedient and godly, he was made altogether like vnto GOD, in righteousnesse, in holinesse, in wisedome, in trueth, to bee short in all kinde of perfection.
When he was thus created and made, Almighty GOD, in token of his great loue towards him, chose out a speciall place of the earth for him, namely Paradise, where he liued in all tranquility and pleasure, hauing great abundance of worldly goodes, and lacking nothing that he might iustly require or desire to haue. For as it is sayde, GOD made him Lord and ruler ouer all the workes of his handes, that he should haue vnder his feete all sheepe and oxen, all beastes of the fielde, all soules of the ayre, all fishes of the sea (Psalms 8.6-8), and vse them alwayes at his owne pleasure, according as he should haue neede. Was not this a mirrour of perfection? Was not this a full perfect and blessed estate? Could any thing else bee well added hereunto, or greater felicity desired in this world? But as the common nature of all men is, in time of prosperity and wealth, to forget not onely themselues, but also GOD: Euen so did this first man Adam, who hauing but one commandement at GODS hand, namely that hee should not eate of the fruite of knowledge of good and ill, did notwithstanding, most vnmindefully, or rather most wilfully breake it, in forgetting the straite charge of his maker, and giuing eare to the craftie suggestion of that wicked serpent the deuill. Whereby it came to passe, that as before he was blessed, so now he was accursed, as before hee was loued, so now hee was abhorred, as before hee was most beautifull and pretious, so now hee was most vile and wretched in the sight of his Lord and maker. In stead of the Image of GOD, he was now become the Image of the deuill. In steade of the citizen of heauen, he was become the bond-slaue of hell, hauing in himselfe no one part of his former purity and cleannesse, but being altogether spotted and defiled, insomuch that now hee seemed to bee nothing else but a lumpe of sinne, and therefore by the iust iudgement of GOD, was condemned to euerlasting death. This so great and miserable a plague, if it had onely rested on Adam, who first offended, it had beene so much the easier, and might the better haue beene borne. But it fell not onely on him, but also on his posterity and children for euer, so that the whole broode of Adams flesh should sustaine the selfe same fall and punishment, which their forefather by his offence most iustly had deserued. Saint Paul in the fifth Chapter to the Romanes sayth, By the offence of onely Adam, the fault came vpon all men to condemnation, and by one mans disobedience many were made sinners. By which wordes wee are taught, that as in Adam all men vniuersally sinned: so in Adam all men vniuersally receiued the reward of sinne, that is to say, became mortall, and subiect vnto death, hauing in themselues nothing but euerlasting damnation both of body and soule. They became (as Dauid sayth) corrupt and abominable, they went all out of the way, there was none that did good, no not one. O what a miserable and wofull state was this, that the sinne of one man should destroy and condemne all men, that nothing in all the world might bee looked for, but onely panges of death, and paines of hell? Had it beene any maruaile if mankinde had beene vtterly driuen to desparation, being thus fallen from life to death, from saluation to destruction, from heauen to hell? But behold the great goodnesse and tender mercy of GOD in his behalfe: albeit mans wickednesse and sinfull behauiour was such, that it deserued not in any part to be forgiuen, yet to the intent he might not bee cleane destitute of all hope and comfort in time to come, hee ordained a new Couenant, and made a sure promise thereof, namely, that hee would send a Messias or Mediatour into the world, which should make intercession, and put himselfe as a stay betweene both parties, to pacifie the wrath and indignation conceiued against sinne, and to deliuer man out of the miserable curse and cursed misery, whereinto he was fallen headlong by disobeying the will and commandement of the onely Lord and maker. This couenant and promise was first made vnto Adam himselfe immediatly after his fall, as wee reade in the 3. of Genesis, where GOD said to the serpent on this wise: I will put enmity betweene thee and the woman, betweene thy seed and her seede. He shall breake thine head, and thou shalt bruise his heele.
Afterward, the selfe same couenant was also more amply and plainely renewed vnto Abraham, where GOD promised him, that in his seede all Nations and families of the earth should be blessed (Genesis 12.3, 22.18). Againe, it was continued and confirmed vnto Isahac, in the same fourme of wordes, as it was before vnto his father (Genesis 26.4). And to the intent that mankinde might not despayre, but alwayes liue in hope, Almighty GOD neuer ceased to publish, repeate, confirme, and continue the same, by diuers and sundry testimonies of his Prophets, who for the better perswasion of the thing, prophesied the time, the place, the manner and circumstance of his birth, the affliction of his life, the kinde of his death, the glory of his resurrection, the receiuing of his kingdome, the deliuerance of his people, with all other circumstances belonging thereunto. Esaias prophesied that he should be borne of a virgine, and called Emanuel. Micheas prophesied that he should bee borne in Bethlehem, a place of Iurie. Ezechiel prophesied that he should come of the stocke and linage of Dauid. Daniel prophesied that all Nations and languages should serue him. Zacharie prophesied that hee should come in pouertie, riding vpon an Asse. Malachie prophesied that hee should send Elias before him, which was Iohn the Baptist. Ieremie prophesied that he should bee solde for thirtie pieces of siluer &c. And all this was done, that the promise and couenant of GOD, made vnto Abraham and his posteritie concerning the redemption of the worlde, might bee credited and fully beleeued. Now as the Apostle Paul saith, when the fulnesse of time was come, that is, the perfection and course of yeeres, appoynted from the beginning, then GOD according to his former couenant and promise, sent a Messias, otherwise called a Mediatour, vnto the world, not such a one as Moses was, not such a one as Iosua, Saul, or Dauid was: but such a one as should deliuer mankinde from the bitter curse of the Law, and make perfect satisfaction by his death, for the sinnes of all people, namely he sent his deare and onely Sonne Iesus Christ, borne (as the Apostle saith) of a woman, and made vnder the Law, that he might redeeme them that were in bondage of the law, and make them the children of GOD by adoption. Was not this a wonderfull great loue towards vs that were his professed and open enemies, towards vs that were by nature the children of wrath, and firebrands of hell fire? In this (saith Saint Iohn) appeared the great loue of GOD, that he sent his onely begotten Sonne into the world to saue vs, when we were his extreme enemies. Herein is loue, not that we loued him, but that he loued vs, and sent his Sonne to be a reconciliation for our sinnes. S. Paul also saith, Christ, when we were yet of no strength, dyed for vs being vngodly. Doubtlesse a man wil scarse dye for a righteous man. Peraduenture some one durst dye for him of whom they haue receiued good But GOD setteth out his loue towards vs, in that he sent Christ to die for vs, when we were yet void of all goodnesse (Rom 5.6-8). This and such other comparisons doeth the Apostle vse, to amplifie and set forth the tender mercy and great goodnesse of GOD, declared towards mankinde, in sending downe a Sauiour from heauen, euen Christ the Lord. Which one benefite among all other is so great and wonderfull, that neither tongue can well expresse it, neither heart thinke it, much lesse giue sufficient thanks to GOD for it. But here is a great controuersie betweene vs and the Iewes, whether the same Iesus which was borne of the virgine Mary, be the true Messias, and true Sauiour of the world, so long promised and prophesied of before. They, as they are, and haue bene alwayes proud and stiffe necked, would neuer acknowledge him vntill this day, but haue looked and waited for another to come. They haue this fond imagination in their heads, that & the; Messias shall come, not as Christ did, like a poore pilgrime & meeke soule riding vpon an Asse: but like a valiant and mighty King in great royalty and honour. Not as Christ did, with a few fishermen, and men of small estimation in the world: but with a great army of strong men, with a great traine of wise & noble men, as Knights, Lords, Earles, Dukes, Princes and so forth. Neither doe they thinke that their Messias shall slanderously suffer death, as Christ did: but that he shal stoutly conquer and manfully subdue all his enemies, and finally obteine such a kingdome on earth, as neuer was seene from the beginning. While they faine vnto themselues after this sorte a Messias of their owne brayne, they deceiue themselues, and account Christ as an abiect and scorne of the world. Therefore Christ crucified (as S. Paul saith) is vnto the Iewes a stumbling blocke, and to the Gentiles foolishnes, because they thinke it an absurd thing, and contrary to all reason, that a redeemer and Sauiour of the whole world, should be handled after such a sort as he was, namely scorned, reuiled, scourged, condemned, and last of all cruelly hanged. This, I say, seemed in their eyes strange, and most absurd, and therefore neither they would at that time, neither will they as yet, acknowledge Christ to be their Messias and Sauiour. But we (dearely beloued) that hope and looke to be saued, must both stedfastly beleeue, and also boldly confesse, that the same Iesus, which was borne of the virgin Mary, was the true Messias and Mediatiour betweene GOD and man, promised & prophesied of so long before. For as the Apostle writeth: With the heart man beleeueth vnto righteousnesse, and with the mouth confession is made vnto saluation. Againe in the same place: Whosoeuer beleeueth in him, shall neuer be ashamed nor confounded (Rom.10.10-11). Whereto agreeeth also the testimony of S. Iohn, written in the fourth Chapter of his first generall Epistle, on this wise: Whosoeuer confesseth that Iesus is the Sonne of GOD, he dwelleth in GOD, and GOD in him.
There is no doubt, but in this poynt all Christian men are fully and perfectly perswaded. Yet shall it not be a lost labour to instruct and furnish you with a few places concerning this matter, that ye may be able to stoppe the blasphemous mouthes of all them, that most Iewishly, or rather deuilishly, shall at any time goe about to teach or maintaine the contrary. First, ye haue the witnesse and testimony of the Angel Gabriel, declared aswell to Zacharie the high Priest, as also to the blessed virgin. Secondly, ye haue the witnesse and testimony of Iohn the Baptist, poynting vnto Christ, and saying, Behold the Lambe of GOD that taketh away the sinnes of the world. Thirdly, ye haue the witnesse and testimonie of GOD the Father, who thundred from heauen, and said, This is my dearely beloued Sonne, in whom I am well pleased, heare him. Fourthly, yee haue the witnesse and testimony of the holy Ghost, which came downe from heauen in manner of a doue, and lighted vpon him in time of his Baptisme. To these might bee added a great number more, namely the witnesse and testimony of the wise men that came to Herod, the witnesse and testimony of Simeon and Anna, the witnesse and testimonie of Andrew and Philip, Nathanael, and Peter, Nicodemus, and Martha, with diuers other: But it were too long to repeate all, and a few places are sufficient in so plaine a matter, specially among them that are already perswaded. Therefore if the priuy impes of Antichrist, and craftie instruments of the deuill, shall attempt or goe about to withdraw you from this true Messias, and perswade you to looke for another that is not yet come: let them not in any case seduce you, but confirme your selues with these and such other testimonies of holy Scripture, which are so sure and certaine, that all the deuils in hell shall neuer be able to withstand them. For as truely as GOD liueth, so truely was Iesus Christ the true Messias and Sauiour of the world, euen the same Iesus which as this day was borne of the Virgine Mary, without all helpe of man, only by the power and operation of the holy Ghost.
Concerning whose nature and substance, because diuers and sundry heresies are risen in these our dayes, through the motion and suggestion of Satan: therefore it shall bee needefull and profitable for your instruction, to speake a word or two also of this part. We are euidently taught in the Scripture, that our Lord and Sauiour Christ consisteth of two seuerall natures, of his manhood, being thereby perfect man, and of his Godhead, being thereby perfect GOD. It is written, The word, that is to say, the second Person in Trinity, became flesh (John 1.14). GOD sending his owne Sonne in the similitude of sinfull flesh, fulfilled those things which the law could not (Romans 8.3-4). Christ being in forme of GOD, tooke on him the forme of a seruant, and was made like vnto man, being found in shape as a man (Philippians 2.6-8). GOD was shewed in flesh, iustified in spirit, seene of Angels, preached to the Gentiles, beleeued on in the world, and receiued vp in glory (1 Timothy 3.16). Also in another place: There is one GOD, and one mediatour betweene GOD and man, euen the man Iesus Christ. These be plaine places for the proofe and declaration of both natures, vnited and knitte together, in one Christ. Let vs diligently consider and waigh the workes that hee did whiles he liued on earth, and wee shall thereby also perceiue the selfe same thing to bee most true. In that hee did hunger and thirst, eate and drinke, sleepe and wake, in that hee preached his Gospel to the people, in that he wept and sorrowed for Ierusalem, in that he payed tribute for himselfe and Peter, in that hee died and suffered death, what other thing did he else declare, but only this, that he was perfect man as wee are? For which cause hee is called in holy Scripture, sometime the sonne of Dauid, sometime the sonne of man, sometime the sonne of Mary, sometime the sonne of Ioseph, and so foorth. Now in that hee forgaue sinnes, in that hee wrought miracles, in that he did cast out deuils, in that he healed men with his onely word, in that hee knew the thoughts of mens heartes, in that hee had the Seas at his commandement, in that hee walked on the water, in that hee rose from death to life, in that he ascended into heauen, and so forth: What other thing did he shew therin, but onely that hee was perfect GOD, coequall with the Father as touching his deitie? Therefore hee sayth, The Father and I are all one, which is to bee vnderstood of his Godhead. For as touching his manhood, he sayth, The Father is greater then I am. Where are now those Marcionites, that denie Christ to haue beene borne in the flesh, or to haue bin perfect man? Where are now those Arians, which deny Christ to haue beene perfect GOD, of equall substance with the Father? If there bee any such, we may easily reprooue them with these testimonies of GODS word, and such other. Whereunto, I am most sure, they shall neuer bee able to answere. For the necessity of our saluation did require such a mediatour & Sauiour, as vnder one person should be a partaker of both natures: It was requisite he should be man, it was also requisit he should be GOD. For as the transgression came by man, so was it meete the satisfaction should bee made by man. And because death, according to S. Paul, is the iust stipende and reward of sinne, therefore to appease the wrath of GOD, and to satisfie his Iustice, it was expedient that our Mediatour should be such a one, as might take vpon him the sins of mankinde and sustaine the due punishment thereof, namely death. Moreouer, hee came in flesh, and in the selfe same flesh ascended into heauen, to declare and testifie vnto vs, that all faithfull people which stedfastly beleeue in him, shall likewise come vnto the same mansion place, whereunto he being our chiefe captaine, is gone before. Last of all, he became man, that wee thereby might receiue the greater comfort, aswell in our prayers, as also in our aduersity, considering with our selues, that we haue a Mediatour that is true man as we are, who also is touched with our infirmities and was tempted euen in like sort as we are. For these and sundry other causes, it was most needfull he should come, as he did, in the flesh.
But because no creature, in that he is onely a creature, hath or may haue power to destroy death, and giue life, to ouercome hell, and purchase heauen, to remit sins, and giue righteousnesse: therefore it was needfull, that our Messias, whose proper duety and office that was, should bee not onely full and perfect man, but also full and perfect GOD, to the intent he might more fully and perfectly make satisfaction for mankinde. GOD sayth, This is my welbeloued Sonne in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3.17). By which place we learne, that Christ appeased and quenched the wrath of his Father, not in that he was onely the sonne of man: But much more in that he was the Sonne of GOD.
Thus ye haue heard declared out of the Scriptures, that Iesus Christ was the true Messias & Sauiour of the world, that he was by nature & substance perfect GOD, & perfect man, & for what cause it was expedient he should be so. Now that wee may bee the more mindfull and thankefull vnto GOD in this behalfe, let vs briefly consider, and call to minde, the manifold and great benefits that wee haue receiued by the Natiuitie and birth of this our Messias and Sauiour.
Before Christes comming into the worlde, all men vniuersally in Adam, were nothing else but a wicked and crooked generation, rotten and corrupt trees, stony ground, full of brambles and bryers, lost sheepe, prodigall sonnes, naughty vnprofitable seruantes, vnrighteous stewardes, workers of iniquity, the broode of Adders, blinde guides, sitting in darkenesse and in the shadow of death: to bee short nothing else but children of perdition, and inheritours of hell fire. To this doeth Saint Paul beare witnesse in diuers places of his Epistle, and Christ also himselfe in sundry places of his Gospel. But after hee was once come downe from heauen, and had taken our frayle nature vpon him, he made all them that would receiue him truely, and beleeue his word, good trees, and good ground, fruitfull and pleasant branches, children of light, citizens of heauen, sheepe of his folde, members of his body, heyres of his Kingdome, his true friendes and brethren, sweet and liuely bread, the elect and chosen people of GOD. For as S. Peter sayeth in his first Epistle and second Chapter: Hee bare our sinnes in his body vpon the Crosse, hee healed vs, and made vs whole by his stripes: and whereas before we were sheepe going astray, he by his comming brought vs home againe to the true Shepheard and Bishop of our soules, making vs a chosen generation, a royall Priesthood, an holy Nation, a particular people of GOD, in that he died for our offences, and rose for our iustification. Saint Paul to Timothie the third Chapter: Wee were (sayth he) in times past, vnwise, disobedient, deceiued, seruing diuers lustes and pleasures, liuing in hatred, enuie, malitiousnesse, and so foorth.
But after the louing kindnesse of GOD our Sauiour appeared towardes mankinde, not according to the righteousnesse that we had done, but according to his great mercy, hee saued vs by the fountaine of the newe birth, and by the renewing of the holy Ghost, which he powred vpon vs abundantly, through Iesus Christ our Sauiour, that wee being once iustified by his grace, should bee heires of eternall life, through hope and faith in his blood.
In these and such other places, is set out before our eyes, as it were in a glasse, the abundant grace of GOD (Matthew 1.21, Matthew 5.17, John 18.37, Luke 4.18-19, John 8.12, Matthew 9.13, Matthew 11.28, John 12.31, Colossians 1.21-22, Hebrews 10, Romans 3.25), receiued in Christ Iesu, which is so much the more wonderfull, because it came not of any desert of ours, but of his meere and tender mercy, euen then when wee were his extreme enemies: But for the better vnderstanding and consideration of this thing, let vs behold the end of his comming, so shall wee perceiue what great commodity and profit his Natiuity hath brought vnto vs miserable and sinfull creatures. The end of his comming, was to saue and deliuer his people, to fulfill the Law for vs, to beare witnesse vnto the trueth, to teach and preach the wordes of his Father, to giue light vnto the world, to call sinners to repentance, to refresh them that labour and bee heauie laden, to cast out the prince of this world, to reconcile vs in the body of his flesh, to dissolue the workes of the deuill, last of all, to become a propitiation for our sinnes, and not for ours onely, but also for the sinnes of the whole world.
These were the chiefe ends wherefore Christ became man, not for any profit that should come to himselfe thereby, but onely for our sakes, that we might vnderstand the will of GOD, be pertakers of his heauenly light, be deliuered out of the deuils clawes: released from the burden of sinne, iustified through faith in his blood, and finally, receiued vp into euerlasting glory, there to raigne with him for euer. Was not this a great and singular loue of Christ towards mankind, that being the expresse and liuely image of GOD, he would notwithstanding humble himselfe, and take vpon him the forme of a seruant, and that onely to saue and redeeme vs? O how much are wee bound to the goodnesse of GOD in this behalfe? how many thankes and praises doe wee owe vnto him for this our saluation wrought by his deare and onely Sonne Christ? who became a pilgrime in earth to make vs citizens in heauen, who became the sonne of man, to make vs the sonnes of GOD, who became obedient to the Law, to deliuer vs from the curse of the Law, who became poore, to make vs rich; vile, to make vs pretious; subiect to death, to make vs liue for euer. What greater loue could we seely creatures desire or wish to haue at GODS hands?
Therefore dearely beloued, let vs not forget this exceeding loue of our Lord and Sauiour, let vs not shew our selues vnmindfull or vnthankfull toward him: but let vs loue him, feare him, obey him, and serue him. Let vs confesse him with our mouthes, prayse him with our tongues, beleeue on him with our hearts, and glorifie him with our good workes. Christ is the light, let vs receiue the light. Christ is the trueth, let vs beleeue the trueth. Christ is the way, let vs follow the way. And because he is our onely master, our onely teacher, our onely shepheard and chiefe captaine: therefore let vs become his seruants, his schollers, his sheepe, and his souldiers. As for sinne, the flesh, the world, and the Diuel, whose seruants and bondslaues, we were before Christs comming, let vs vtterly cast them off, and defie them, as the chiefe and onely enemies of our soule. And seeing wee are once deliuered from their cruell tyranny by Christ, let vs neuer fall into their hands againe, lest we chance to be in a worse case then euer we were before. Happy are they, sayth the Scripture, that continue to the end. Be faythfull (sayth GOD) vntill death, and I will giue thee a crowne of life. Againe he sayth in another place, He that putteth his hand vnto the plough, and looketh backe, is not meet for the kingdome of GOD. Therefore let vs be strong, stedfast, and vnmooueable, abounding alwayes in the workes of the Lord. Let vs receiue Christ, not for a time, but for euer, let vs beleeue his word, not for a time, but for euer, let vs become his seruants, not for a time, but for euer, in consideration that he hath redeemed and saued vs, not for a time, but for euer, and will receiue vs into his heauenly kingdome, there to raigne with him, not for a time, but for euer. To him therefore with the Father and the holy Ghost, be all honour, prayse, and glory, for euer and euer, Amen.
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