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Consider this, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Psalm 1. 22. To shut up all, let us pray and labour that we may never, never be gathered, or come into the place of Judas, the place and state of reprobate and for ever lost spirits; from this, good Lord, deliver us, that when we die, we may go to the region of the godly, to paradise, to Abraham's bosom, and at the resurrection may sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. And in order hereunto, let us here thoroughly purge ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, 2 Cor. vii. 1. for there is no purgation to be expected in the other life. Yea, let us endeavour to excel in virtue here, that so we may have a more abundant entrance both into the joys of paradise, and also into the fuller glories of the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Which God of his infinite mercy grant, through the same Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, &c.
[These two Sermons were republished in 1765 by Leonard Chappellow, B. D. "together with some extracts relating to the "same subject, taken from writers of distinguished note and cha
racter, with a preface." They were also noticed by the writer of "An Historical Review of the Controversy concerning an intermediate State, and the separate Existence of the Soul, between "Death and the general Resurrection," published in 1765, where some defects in Bishop Bull's reasoning are pointed out.]
THE LOW AND MEAN CONDITION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN CONSIDERED; AS ALSO THE SINGULAR GRACE AND FAVOUR OF GOD VOUCHSAFED TO HER; AND THAT RESPECT WHICH IS DUE TO HER FROM US UPON THAT ACCOUNT, WHEREIN THE INVOCATION OF HER BY THE PAPISTS IS CONFUTED.
LUKE i. 48, 49.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden : for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done for me great things ; and holy is his name.
UPON the very hearing of my text read, every man will presently perceive it to be a part of the magnificat, or the divine song of the blessed Virgin, into which she brake forth upon the prophetic salutation of the inspired Elizabeth to her, recited from ver. 41 to 45 inclusively. For this song is daily sung or rehearsed in our churches; and may it ever continue so to be, both for the excellency of it, and because thereby the prophecy of the blessed Virgin in my text is in part fulfilled, that future generations should call her blessed.
The song, as Grotius thinks, hath respect to the time of the children of Israel's departure out of Egypt, by which the time of the Messias was figured and typified, not without a wonderful congruity of circumstances disposed by divine Providence.
[This Sermon was preached some time after the year 1671.]
There was then a Miriam, that is a Mary, a virgin and prophetess, the sister of Aaron, leading a female troop in the divine praises, Exod. xv. 20, 21. And here there is another Miriam or Mary overshadowed with the Holy Ghost, to be celebrated above all women, and therefore celebrating the praises of God. There was then, in the second place, an Elizabeth, the wife of Aaron; and here there is another Elizabeth, married to a priest of the line of Aaron.
Throughout this excellent song the sacred Virgin expresseth a deep sense of her own unworthiness, and upon that account a profound resentment of the singular favour of the Almighty bestowed on her. Her magnificat is not a magnifying of herself, but of the Lord. For thus it begins, "My soul doth magnify "the Lord;" not myself, who am but a poor unworthy handmaid of the Lord; but the Lord himself, who hath so highly dignified and advanced me, though unworthy. She first sings in the lowest and deepest note of humility, and then raiseth her song to the highest strain of gratitude and thanksgiving, admiring the transcendent honour to which, by the goodness of God, she was exalted. For in the former part of my text, she sincerely acknowledgeth the very mean condition she was in, when the divine grace surprised her, for he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. and then she sets forth the superlative dignity that God had advanced her to, for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Let us a little stay upon that lower ground, from
[b Elisheba, Exod. vi. 23. which is the same as Elizabeth.]
whence the holy Virgin takes her rise, and consider her humble acknowledgment of her own meanness and unworthiness, expressed in these words, 'Ezéβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αὑτοῦ, which our translators have well rendered, he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For the word ταπείνωσις signifies here the same with ταπεινότης, a mean, base, or vile condition; as our body of a base condition, or our vile body, Phil. iii. 21. And it is often by the Seventy joined with a verb signifying to behold, respect, or regard, as here, and used to express a poor mean condition, or, which is more, an afflicted condition, whereby one is brought very low, as we use to phrase it. So 2 Kings xiv. 26. The Lord saw the affliction of Israel. And Psalm xxv. 18. Look upon mine affliction. But it is especially to be noted, that the words of Hannah upon much a like occasion, 1 Sam. i. 11. are in the LXX. almost the same with the words of my text. If indeed thou wilt look upon the affliction of thine handmaiden. Erasmus had long ago observed this, and corrected the vulgar Latin, too closely followed here by our older English translation, which hath it, he hath regarded humilitatem ancillæ, the humility or lowliness of his handmaiden, as that signifies the virtue of the mind, which we commonly call humility, but is more properly called modesty, and by the Greeks termed Tamεoppoσún. This erroneous translation the pretenders to merit at Rome had greedily catched at, and thence inferred, that the blessed
• Τὸ σῶμα τῆς ταπεινώσεως ἡμῶν.
4 Εἶδε Κύριος τὴν ταπείνωσιν Ισραήλ.
• Εἶδε τὴν ταπείνωσίν μου.
ὁ Ἐὰν ἐπιβλέπων ἐπιβλέψης ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης σοῦ,
Virgin was for the merit of her humility so highly advanced by God. But Erasmus clearly evinced that Taπeivwσis is rather in this place to be rendered parvitas, vilitas," the littleness," or "vileness," that is, the low and mean estate of thine handmaiden. The ignorant and angry monks indeed fell very foul upon that excellent man for this his criticism; whence there arose a proverb in that time, concerning any man that should attempt to amend that which could not be better expressed, vult corrigere magnificat, "the man would correct the magnificat." But the more learned papists are since grown wiser, and have subscribed to the interpretation of Erasmus ; among whom is the judicious Maldonat, who gives us this clear account of it: "If we weigh," saith he, "the sense of these words, it is so much the less 'credible, that Mary should here have spoken of her "own virtue, by how much more she excelled in "that virtue. For I cannot think it to be humility, "for a man not only to know, but also to proclaim "himself to be humble. Humility is the only virtue "that knows not itself: and I cannot tell how it 66 comes to pass, that the humble person, as soon as "he knows, or makes known, his own humility, "loseth it. And besides, it was not the design of "the most humble and holy Virgin to declare, that "by her merits she obtained so great a benefit; but " rather to profess herself utterly unworthy of such a favour. She intended not therefore to say that "her virtue, but rather her low and mean estate, and, in a word, her unworthiness, was regarded by "God: that although she was altogether unworthy "of it, yet God was pleased to vouchsafe her so great 66 an honour. Thus to speak became her, both as a