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blood of Cæsar, his prince, and his father by love, endearments, and adoption; and Cato was but a wise man all day, at night he was used to drink too liberally; and both he and Socrates did give their wives unto their friends P; the philosopher and the censor were procurers of their wives' unchastity: and yet these were the best among the Gentiles. But how happy and richly furnished are Christians with precedents of saints, whose faith and revelations have been productive. of more spiritual graces, and greater degrees of moral perfections! And this I call the privilege of a very great assistance, that I might advance the reputation and account of the life of the glorious Jesu, which is not abated by the imperfections of human nature, as they were, but receives great heightenings and perfection from the Divinity of his person, of which they were never capable.
17. Let us therefore press after Jesus, as Elisha did after his master, with an inseparable prosecution, even whithersoever he goes; that, according to the reasonableness and proportion expressed in St. Paul's advice, "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we may also bear the image of the heavenly ." For, "In vain are we called Christians, if we live not according to the example and discipline of Christ, the Father of the institution'." When St. Laurence was in the midst of the torments of the gridiron, he made this to be the matter of his joy and eucharist, that he was admitted to the gates through which Jesus had entered; and therefore thrice happy are they, who walk in his courts all their days. And it is yet a nearer union and vicinity, to imprint his life in our souls, and express in our exterior converse; and this is done
P Athenagoras, lib. iii. et xiii. et Theognis de sc. Idem testantur Laertius et Lactantius. Hoc notat S. Cyrillus, 1. vi. contra Julian.
Narratur et prisci Catonis
Sæpe mero caluisse virtus.-Horat. 3. 21. 11.
Majorum et sapientissimorum disciplina, Græci Socratis et Romani Catonis, qui uxores suas amicis communicaverunt, quas in matrimonium duxerant liberorum causâ, et alibi creandorum, nescio quidem an invitas : quid nam de castitate curarent, quam mariti tam facilè donaverant? O sapientiæ Atticæ, O Romanæ gravitatis exemplum! Leno est philosophus et censor.-Tertul. Apolog. c. 59.
q 1 Cor. xv. 49.
Dictum Malachia Abbat. apud S. Bernardum, in Vitâ S. Mal.
by him only, who (as St. Prosper describes the duty) despises all those gilded vanities which he despised, that fears none of those sadnesses which he suffered, that practises or also teaches those doctrines which he taught, and hopes for the accomplishment of all his promises. And this is truest religion, and the most solemn adoration'.
O eternal, holy, and most glorious Jesu, who hast united two natures of distance infinite, descending to the lownesses of human nature, that thou mightest exalt human nature to a participation of the Divinity; we, thy people, that sat in darkness and in the shadows of death, have seen great light, to entertain our understandings and enlighten our souls with its excellent influences; for the excellency of thy sanctity, shining gloriously in every part of thy life, is like thy angel, the pillar of fire, which called thy children from the darknesses of Egypt. Lord, open mine eyes, and give me power to behold thy righteous glories; and let my soul be so entertained with affections and holy ardours, that I may never look back upon the flames of Sodom, but may follow thy light, which recreates and enlightens, and guides us to the mountains of safety, and sanctuaries of holiness. Holy Jesu, since thy image. is imprinted on our nature by creation, let me also express thy image by all the parts of a holy life, conforming my will and affections to thy holy precepts; submitting my understanding to thy dictates and lessons of perfection; imitating thy sweetnesses and excellencies of society, thy devotion in prayer, thy conformity to God, thy zeal tempered with meekness, thy patience heightened with charity; that heart, and hands, and eyes, and all my faculties, may grow up with the increase of God, till I come to the full measure of the stature of Christ, even to be a perfect man in Christ Jesus; that at last in thy light I may see light, and reap the fruits of glory from the seeds of sanctity, in the imitation of thy holy life, O blessed and holy Saviour Jesus! Amen.
Lib. ii. de Vita Contemplat. c. 21.
OUR BLESSED LORD AND SAVIOUR
BEGINNING AT THE ANNUNCIATION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, UNTIL HIS BAPTISM AND TEMPTATION INCLUSIVELY.
The History of the Conception of Jesus.
1. WHEN the fulness of time was come, after the frequent repetition of promises, the expectation of the Jewish nation, the longings and tedious waitings of all holy persons, the departure of the "sceptre from Judah, and the lawgiver from between his feet;" when the number of Daniel's years was accomplished, and the Egyptian and Syrian kingdoms had their period; God, having great compassion towards mankind, remembering his promises, and our great necessities, sent his Son into the world, to take upon him our nature, and all that guilt of sin, which stuck close to our nature, and all that punishment, which was consequent to our sin: which came to pass after this manner.
2. In the days of Herod the king, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a holy maid, called Mary, espoused to Joseph, and found her in a capacity and excellent disposition to receive the greatest honour, that ever was done to the daughters of men. Her employment was holy and pious, her person young, her years florid and springing, her body chaste, her mind humble, and a rare repository of divine graces. She was full of grace and excellencies; and God poured upon her a full measure of honour, in making her the mother of the Messias : for the angel came to her, and said, Hail, thou that art
highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women."
3. We cannot but imagine the great mixture of innocent disturbances and holy passions, that, in the first address of the angel, did rather discompose her settledness, and interrupt the silence of her spirits, than dispossess her dominion, which she ever kept over those subjects, which never had been taught to rebel beyond the mere possibilities of natural imperfection. But if the angel appeared in the shape of a man, it was an unusual arrest to the blessed Virgin, who was accustomed to retirements and solitariness, and had not known an experience of admitting a comely person, but a stranger, to her closet and privacies. But if the heavenly messenger did retain a diviner form, more symbolical to angelical nature, and more proportionable to his glorious message, although her daily employment was a conversation with angels, who, in their daily ministering to the saints, did behold her chaste conversation, coupled with fear, yet they used not any affrighting glories in the offices of their daily attendances, but were seen only by spiritual discernings. However, so it happened, that "when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind, what manner of salutation this should be."
4. But the angel, who came with designs of honour and comfort to her, not willing that the inequality and glory of the messenger should, like too glorious a light to a weaker eye, rather confound the faculty than enlighten the organ, did, before her thoughts could find a tongue, invite her to a more familiar confidence than possibly a tender virgin (though of the greatest serenity and composure) could have put on, in the presence of such a beauty and such a holiness. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus."
5. The holy Virgin knew herself a person very unlikely to be a mother: for, although the desires of becoming a mother to the Messias were great in every of the daughters of Jacob, and about that time the expectation of his revelation was high and pregnant, and therefore she was espoused to an honest and a just person of her kindred and family,
and so might not despair to become a mother; yet she was a person of a rare sanctity, and so mortified a spirit, that for all this desponsation of her, according to the desire of her parents, and the custom of the nation, she had not set one step toward the consummation of her marriage, so much as in thought; and possibly had set herself back from it by a vow of chastity and holy celibate: for "Mary said unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"
6. But the angel, who was a person of that nature, which knows no conjunctions but those of love and duty, knew that the piety of her soul, and the religion of her chaste purposes, was a great imitator of angelical purity, and therefore perceived where the philosophy of her question did consist; and, being taught of God, declared that the manner should be as miraculous, as the message itself was glorious. For the angel told her, that this should not be done by any way, which our sin and the shame of Adam had unhallowed, by turning nature into a blush, and forcing her to a retirement from a public attesting the means of her own preservation; but the whole matter was from God, and so should the manner be: for "the angel said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God."
7. When the blessed Virgin was so ascertained, that she should be a mother and a maid, and that two glories, like the two luminaries of Heaven, should meet in her, that she might in such a way become the mother of her Lord, that she might with better advantages be his servant; then all her hopes and all her desires received such satisfaction, and filled all the corners of her heart so much, as indeed it was fain to make room for its reception. But she to whom the greatest things of religion, and the transportations of devotion, were made familiar, by the assiduity and piety of her daily practices, however she was full of joy, yet she was carried like a full vessel, without the violent tossings of
quæ ventre beato