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God hath blessed some of us perhaps with greater estates than ever he blessed them, yet we must not think ourselves above them, nor be at all the less respectful to them. Christ, we see, was infinitely above his mother, yet as she was his mother he was both subject and respectful to her. He was not ashamed to own her as she stood by the cross, but, in the view and hearing of all there present, gave his disciple a charge to take care of her, leaving us an example, that such amongst us as have parents, provide for them if they need it, as for our children, both while we live and when we come to die.
And as he was to his natural so was he to his civil parents, the magistrates under which he lived, submissive and faithful; for though, as he was God, he was infinitely above them in heaven, yet, as he was man, he was below them on earth, having committed all civil power into their hands, without reserving any at all for himself. So that, though they received their commission from him, yet now himself could not act without receiving a commission from them. And therefore, having no commission from them to do it, he would not intrench so much upon their privilege and power as to determine the controversy betwixt the two brethren contending about their inheritance. 'Man," saith he, "who made me a judge or a divider over you?"* And to show his submission to the civil magistrates as highly as possibly he could, rather than offend them he wrought a miracle to pay the tax which they had charged upon him. And when the officers were sent to take him, though he had more than twelve legions of angels at his service to have fought for him if he had pleased, yet he would not employ them, nor suffer his own disciples to make any resistance. And though some of late days, who call themselves Christians, have acted quite contrary to our blessed Saviour in this particular, I hope better things of my readers, even that they will behave themselves more like Christ, who though he was supreme governor of the world, yet would not resist, but submitted to the civil power which himself had entrusted men withal.
Moreover, although whilst he was here he was really not only the best but greatest man upon earth, yet he carried himself to others with that meekness, humility, and respect, as if he had been the least: as he never admired any man for his riches, so neither did he despise any man for his poverty; poor men and rich were all alike to him. He was lowly and respectful to the lowest, as he was to the highest that he conversed with: he affected no titles of honour, nor gaped after popular air, but submitted himself to the meanest services that he could, for the good of others, even to the washing his own disciples' feet, and all to teach us that we can never think too lowly of ourselves, nor do anything that is beneath us; propounding himself as our example, especially in this particular: "Learn of me," saith he, "for I am meek and lowly in heart.§
Luke xii. 14. † Matt. xvii. 27.
Matt. xxvi. 52, 53.
§ Matt. xi. 29.
His humility also was the more remarkable, in that his bounty and goodness to others was so great, for "he went about doing good.' ." Wheresoever you read he was, you read still of some good work or other he did there. Whatsoever company he conversed with, they still went better from him than they came unto him, if they came out of a good end. By him, as himself said, "The blind received their sight, and the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, and the deaf heard, the dead were raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached unto them." Yea, it is observable, that we never read of any person whatsoever that came to him, desiring any kindness or favour of him, but he still received it, and that whether he was friend or foe. For indeed, though he had many inveterate and implacable enemies in the world, yet he bore no grudge or malice against them, but expressed as much love and favour for them as to his greatest friends. Insomuch, that when they had gotten him upon the cross, and fastened his hands and feet unto it, in the midst of all that pain and torment which they put him to, he still prayed for them.‡
Oh! how happy, how blessed a people should we be, could we but follow our blessed Saviour in this particular! How well would it be with us, could we but be thus loving to one another, as Christ was to all, even his most bitter enemies! We may assure ourselves it is not only our misery, but our sin too, unless we be So. And our sin will be the greater, now we know our Master's pleasure, unless we do it. And therefore, let all such amongst us as desire to carry ourselves as Christ himself did, and as becometh his disciples in the world, begin here.
Be submissive and obedient both to our parents and governors, humble in our own sight, despise none, but be charitable, loving, and good to all; by this shall all men know that we are Christ's disciples indeed.
Having thus seen our Saviour's carriage towards men, we shall now consider his piety and devotion towards God: not as if it was possible for me to express theexcellency and perfection of those religious acts which he performed continually within his soul to God, every one of his faculties being as entire in itself, and as perfect in its acts, as it was first made or designed to be. There was no darkness, nor so much as gloominess in his mind, no error nor mistake in his judgment, no bribery nor corruption in his conscience, no obstinacy nor perverseness in his will, no irregularity nor disorder in his affections, no spot, no blot, no blemish, not the least imperfection or infirmity in his whole soul. And, therefore, even whilst his body was on earth, his head and heart were still in heaven. For he never troubled his head nor so much as concerned himself about anything here below, any further than to do all the good he could, his thought being wholly taken up with considering how to advance God's glory and man's eternal happiness. And as for his heart, that was the altar on which the
* Acts x. 38.
† Matt. xi. 5.
Luke xxiii. 34.
sacred fire of divine love was always burning, the flames whereof continually ascended up to heaven, being accompanied with the most ardent and fervent desires of, and delight in, the chiefest good.
But it must not be expected that I should give an exact description of that eminent and most perfect holiness which our blessed Saviour was inwardly adorned with and continually employed in ; which I am as unable to express as desirous to imitate. But, howsoever, I shall endeavour to mind the reader in general of such acts of piety and devotion, which are particularly recorded, on purpose for our imitation.
First, therefore, it is observed of our Saviour, that "from a child he increased in wisdom as he did in stature."* Where by wisdom we are to understand the knowledge of God and divine things. For our Saviour having taken our nature into his person, with all its frailties and infirmities as it is a created being, he did not in that nature presently know all things which were to be known. It is true, as God, he then knew all things as well as he had from all eternity; but we are now speaking of him as man, like one of us in all things except sin. But we continue some considerable time after we are born before we know anything, or come to the use of our reason; the rational soul not being able to exert or manifest itself until the natural phlegm and radical moisture of the body, which in infants is predominant, be so digested that the body be rightly qualified and its organs fitted for the soul to work upon and to make use of. And though our Saviour came to the use of his reason, as man, far sooner than we are wont to do, yet we must not think that he knew all things as soon as he was born; for that the nature he assumed was not capable of; neither could he then be said, as he is, to increase in wisdom, for where there is a perfection there can be no increase.
But here, before we proceed further, it will be necessary to answer an objection which some may make against this. For, if our Saviour, as man, knew not all things, then he was not perfect, not absolutely free from sin, ignorance itself being a sin.
To this I have these things to answer: first, it is no sin for a creature to be ignorant of some things, because it is impossible for a creature to know all things; for to be omniscient is God's prerogative, neither is a creature capable of it because he is but finite, whereas the knowledge of all things, or omniscience, is itself an infinite act, and therefore to be performed only by an infinite being. Hence it is that no creature in the world ever was or ever could be made omniscient; but there are many things which Adam in his integrity, and the very angels themselves, are ignorant of; as our Saviour, speaking of the day of Judgment, saith, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." But the angels are never the less perfect, because they know not this. Nay, it is observable
* Luke ii. 52.
Mark xiii. 32.
that the Son himself, as man, knew it not: neither, saith he, "the Son, but the Father;" and if he knew it not then, much less was it necessary for him to know it when a child.
Secondly, as to be ignorant of some things is no sin, so neither is any ignorance at all sin but that whereby a man is ignorant of what he is bound to know: "For all sin is the transgression of the law." And, therefore, if there be no law obliging me to know such or such things, I do not sin by being ignorant of them, for I transgress no law. Now, though all men are bound by the law of God to know him, and their duty to him, yet infants, so long as infants, are not neither can be obnoxious or subject to that law, they being in a natural incapacity, yea, impossibility to perform it; but as they become by degrees capable of knowing anything, they are obliged, questionless, to know him first from whom they receive their knowledge.
And thus it was that our blessed Saviour perfectly fulfilled the law of God; in that although he might still continue ignorant of many things, yet, howsoever, he all along knew all that he was bound to know, and as he grew by degrees more and more capable of knowing anything, so did he increase still more in true wisdom, or in the knowledge of God: so that by that time he was twelve years old, he was able to dispute with the great doctors and learned Rabbies among the Jews; and after that, as he grew in stature, so did he grow in wisdom too, and in favour both with God and man.
And, verily, although we did not follow our blessed Saviour in this particular, when we were children, we ought, howsoever, to endeavour it now we are men and women, even to grow in wisdom, and every day add something to our spiritual stature, so as to let never a day pass over our heads without being better acquainted with God's goodness to us, or our duty to Him. And by this example of our Saviour's growing in wisdom when a child, we should also learn to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and not to strive so much to make them rich, as to use all means to make them wise and good, that they may do as their Saviour did, even grow in wisdom and in stature, and in the favour both of God and man
And as our Saviour grew in wisdom when a child, so did he use and manifest it when he came to be a man, by devoting himself wholly unto the service of the living God, and to the exercise of all true grace and virtue; wherein his blessed soul was so much taken up that he had neither time nor heart to mind those toys and trifles which silly mortals upon earth are so much apt to dote on. It is true, all the world was his, but he had given it all away to others, not reserving for himself so much as a house to put his head in.* And what money he had hoarded up you may gather from his working a miracle to pay his tribute or poll-money, which came not to much above a shilling. Indeed, he came into the world, and went out again, without ever taking any notice of any pleasures,
Matt. viii. 20.
honours, or riches in it, as if there had been no such thing there, as really there was not or ever will be; all the pomp and glory of this deceitful world having no other being in existence but only in our distempered fancies and imaginations; and therefore our Saviour, whose fancy was sound, and his imagination untainted, looked upon all the world and the glory of it as not worthy to be looked upon, seeing nothing in it wherefore it should be desired. And therefore, instead of spending his time in the childish pursuit of clouds and shadows, he made the service of God not only his business but his recreation too, his food as well as work. "It is my meat," saith he, "to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work."* This was all the riches, honours, and pleasures which he sought for in the world, even to do the will of him that sent him thither, to finish the work which he came about; and so he did before he went away: Father, I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou sentest me to do."+ If, therefore, we would be Christ's disciples, so as to follow him, we see what we must do, and how we must behave and carry ourselves whilst we are here below; we must not spend our time nor throw away our precious and short-lived days upon the trifles and impertinences of this transient world, as if we came hither for nothing else but to take and scrape up a little dust and dirt together, or to wallow ourselves, like swine, in the mire of carnal pleasures and delights. No, we may assure ourselves we have greater things to do and far more noble designs to carry on whilst we continue in this vale of tears, even "to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and to make our calling and election sure," and to serve God here so as to enjoy him for ever. This is the work we came about, and which we must not only do, but do it too with pleasure and delight, and never leave until we have accomplished it; we must make it our only pleasure to please God, account it our only honour to honour him, and esteem his love and favour to be the only wealth and riches that we can enjoy; we must think ourselves no further happy than we find ourselves to be truly holy, and therefore devote our lives wholly to him in whom we live. This is to live as Christ lived, and by consequence as Christians ought to do.
On the Day of Judgment.
EARL OF ROSCOMMON.
BORN 1632; died 1684. The present poem is an adaptation of the celebrated hymn, "Dies iræ," and the Earl died repeating the first two lines of his own version with the most devotional fervour.
That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
*John iv. 34.
+ John xvii. 4.