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intervened, and proclaimed a fast, there is no new duty incumbent upon the private, but that we obey the circumstances, letting them to choose the time and the end for us : and though we must prevaricate neither, yet we may improve both; we must not go less, but we may enlarge ; and when fasting is commanded only for repentance, we may also use it to prayers, and to mortification. And we must be curious that we do not obey the letter of the prescription, and violate the intention, but observe all that care in public fasts which we do in private ; knowing that our private ends are included in the public, as our persons are in the communion of saints, and our hopes in the common inheritance of sons: and see that we do not fast in order to a purpose, and yet use it so as that it shall be to no purpose. Whosoever so fasts as that it be not effectual in some degree towards the end, or so fasts that it be accounted, of itself, a duty and an act of religion, without order to its proper end, makes his act vain, because it is unreasonable; or vain, because it is superstitious.
O holy and eternal Jesu, who didst, for our sake, fast forty
days and forty nights, and hast left to us thy example, and thy prediction, that, in the days of thy absence from us, we, thy servants, and children of thy bride-chamber, should fast; teach us to do this act of discipline so, that it may become an act of religion. Let us never be like Esau, valuing a dish of meat above a blessing; but let us deny our appetites of meat and drink, and accustom ourselves to the yoke, and subtract the fuel of our lusts, and the incentives of all our unworthy desires : that, our bodies being free from the intemperances of nutriment, and our spirits from the load and pressure of appetite, we may have no desires but of thee; that our outward man, daily decaying by the violence of time, and mortified by the abatements of its too free and unnecessary support; it may, by degrees, resign to the entire dominion of the soul, and may pass from vanity to piety, from weakness to ghostly strength, from darkness and mixtures of impurity
to great transparences and clarity, in the society of a beatified soul, reigning with thee, in the glories of eternity, O holy and eternal Jesu. Amen.
Of the Miracles which Jesus wrought, for Confirmation of his
Doctrine, during the whole Time of his Preaching. 1. When Jesus had ended his sermon on the mount, he descended into the vallies, to consign his doctrine, by the power of miracles, and the excellency of a rare example; that he might not lay a yoke upon us which himself also would not bear.
But as he became “ the author,” so also “ the finisher of our faith ;” what he designed in proposition, he represented in his own practice; and by these acts made a new sermon, teaching all prelates and spiritual persons to descend from their eminence of contemplation, and the authority and business of their discourses, to apply themselves to do more material and corporal mercies to afflicted persons, and to preach by example, as well as by their homilies. For he that teaches others well, and practises contrary, is like a fair candlestick, bearing a goodly and bright taper, which sends forth light to all the house, but round about itself there is a shadow and circumstant darkness. The prelate should be“ the light,” consuming and spending itself, to enlighten others; scattering his rays round about, from the angles of contemplation, and from the corners of practice; but himself always tending upwards, till at last he expires into the element of love and celestial fruition.
2. But the miracles which Jesus did, were next to infinite; and every circumstance of action that passed from him, as it was intended for mercy, so also for doctrine; and the impotent or diseased persons were not more cured, than we instructed. But, because there was nothing in the actions,
* Nec monstravit tantùm, sed etiam præcessit, ne quis difficultatis gratid iter virtutis horreret. — Lactant,
"Απαντές εσμεν εις το νουθετεϊν σοφοί, ,
Αυτοι δ' αμαρτάνοντες του γινώσκομεν. - Menand. Ennodius in vita Epiphanii: Pingebat actibus suis paginam quam legisseti et quod liber docnerat, vita siguabat.
but what was a pursuance of the doctrines delivered in his sermons, in the sermon we must look after our duty, and look upon his practice as a verification of his doctrine, and instrumental also to other purposes. Therefore, in general, if we consider his miracles, we shall see that he did design them to be a compendium of faith and charity b. For he chose to instance his miracles in actions of mercy, that all his powers might especially determine upon bounty and charity; and yet his acts of charity were so miraculous, that they became an argument of the Divinity of his person and doctrine. Once he turned water into wine, which was a mutation by a supernatural power, in a natural suscipient, where a person was not the subject, but an element; and yet this was done to rescue the poor bridegroom from affront and trouble, and to do honour to the holy rite of marriage. All the rest, (unless we except his walking upon the waters,) during his natural life, were actions of relief and mercy, according to the design of God, manifesting his power most chiefly in showing mercy.
3. The great design of miracles was to prove his mission from God, to convince the world of sin, to demonstrate his power of forgiving sins, to endear his precepts; and that his disciples “ might believe in him, and that, believing, they might have life through his name.” For he, to whom God, by doing miracles, gave testimony from heaven, must needs be sent from God; and he who had received power to restore nature, and to create new organs, and to extract from incapacities, and from privations to reduce habits, was Lord of nature, and, therefore, of all the world. And this could not but create great confidence in his disciples, that himself would verify those great promises, upon which he established his law. But that the argument of miracles might be infallible, and not apt to be reproved, we may observe its eminence by divers circumstances of probability, heightened up to the degree of moral demonstration.
4. First: The holy Jesus “ did miracles which no man (before him, or at that time) “ ever didd.” Moses smote the rock, and water gushed out; but he could not turn that water into wine. Moses cured no diseases, by the empire of his
Acts, x. 38.
• John, xx. 31, x, 38, v. 36.
Jolw, xv. 24.
will, or the word of his mouth; but Jesus “ healed all infirmities.” Elisha raised a dead child to life; but Jesus raised one who had been dead four days, and buried, and corrupted. Elias, and Samuel, and all the prophets, and the succession of the high priests in both the temples, put all together, never did so many or so great miracles as Jesus did. He cured leprous persons by his touch; he restored sight to the blind, who were such not by any intervening accident, hindering the act of the organ, but by nature, who were “ born blind,” and whose eyes had not any natural possibility to receive sight; who could never see without creating of new eyes for them, or some integral part co-operating to vision; and, therefore, the miracle was wholly an effect of a Divine power, for nature did not at all co-operate; or, that I may use the elegant ex, pression of Dante, it was such
à cni natura
for which nature never did heat the iron, nor beat the anvil, He made crooked limbs become straight, and the lame to walk; and habitual diseases and inveterate, of eighteen years' continuance, (and once of thirty-eighit,) did disappear at his speaking, like darkness at the presence of the sun. He cast put devils, who, by the majesty of his person, were forced to confess and worship him; and yet, by his humility and restraints, were cominanded silence, or to go whither he pleased ; and without his leave, all the powers of hell were as infirm and impotent as a withered member, and were not able to stir. He raised three dead persons to life; he fed thousands of people, with two small fishes and five little barley cakes: and, as a consummation of all power and all miracles, he foretold, and verified it, that himself would rise from the dead after three days' sepulture. But when himself had told them, he did miracles “ which no man else ever did," they were not able to reprove his saying with one single instance; but the poor blind man found him out one instance, to verify his assertion: “It was yet never heard, that any man opened the eyes
of one that was born blind.” 5. Secondly: The scene of his preaching and miracles was Judæa, which was the pale of the church, and God's enclosed portion," of whom were the oracles and the fathers, and of
whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ was to come,” and to whom he was promised. Now, since these miracles were for verification of his being the Christ, the promised Messias, they were then to be esteemed a convincing argument; when all things else concurring, as the predictions of the prophets the synchronisms, and the capacity of his person, he brought miracles to attest himself to be the person so declared and signified. God would not suffer his people to be abused by miracles, nor from heaven would speak so loud, in testimony of any thing contrary to his own will and purposes. They to whom he gave the oracles, and the law, and the predictions of the Messias, and declared beforehand, that at the coming of the Messias “ the blind should see, the lame should walk, and the deaf should hear, the lepers should be cleansed, and to the poor the Gospel should be preached,” could not expect a greater conviction for acceptation of a person, than, when that happened, which God himself, by his prophets, had consigned as his future testimony; and if there could have been deception in this, it must needs have been inculpable in the deceived person, to whose error a Divine prophecy had been both nurse and parent. So that, taking the miracles Jesus did, in that conjunction of circumstances, done to that people to whom all their oracles were transmitted by miraculous verifications; miracles so many, so great, so accidentally, and yet so regularly, to all comers and necessitous persons that prayed it, after such predictions and clearest prophecies, and these prophecies owned by himself, and sent, by way of symbol and mysterious answer, to John the Baptist, to whom he described his office, by recounting his miracles in the words of the prediction; there cannot be any fallibility or weakness pretended to this instrument of probation, applied, in such circumstances, to such a people, who, being dear to God, would be preserved from invincible deceptions; and, being commanded by him to expect the Messias in such an equipage of power and demonstration of miracles, were, therefore, not deceived, nor could they, because they were bound to accept it.
6. Thirdly: So that now, we must not look upon these miracles as an argument primarily intended to convince the
e Isa. XXXV. 4, 5. Matt. xi. 5.