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“ He that loves not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed k.”
7. Upon the consideration of these glories, if a pious soul shall, upon the supports of faith and love, enter into the stable where this great King was born, and with affections behold every member of the holy body, and thence pass into the soul of Jesus, we may see a scheme of holy meditations, enough to entertain all the degrees of our love and of our understanding, and make the mystery of the nativity as fruitful of holy thoughts, as it was of blessings to us. And it may serve instead of a description of the person of Jesus, conveyed to us in imperfect and apocryphal schemes. If we could behold his sacred feet with those affections which the holy Virgin did, we have transmitted to us those mysteries in story, which she had first in part by spiritual and divine infused light, and afterwards by observation. Those holy feet, tender, and unable to support his sacred body, should bear him over all the province of his cure, with great zeal for the gaining of souls, to the belief and obedience of his holy laws; those are the feet, that should walk upon seas and hills of water, as upon firm pavement; at which the lepers and diseased persons should stoop, and gather health up; which Mary Magdalen should wash with tears, and wipe with her hair, and anoint with costly nard, as expressions of love and adoration, and there find absolution and remedy for her sins; and which, finally, should be rent by the nails of the cross, and afterwards ascend above the heavens, making the earth to be his footstool. From hence take patterns of imitation, that our piety be symbolical, that our affections be passionate and eucharistical, full of love, and wonder, and adoration; that our feet tread in the same steps, and that we transfer the symbol into mystery, and the mystery to devotion, praying the holy Jesus to actuate the same mercies in
which were finished at his holy feet, forgiving our sins, healing our sicknesses; and then place ourselves irremoveably, becoming his disciples, and strictly observing the rules of his , holy institution,“ sitting at the feet” of this our greatest Master.
* 1 Cor. xvi. 22.
8. In the same manner a pious person may (with the blessed Virgin) pass to the consideration of his holy hands, which were so often lifted up to God in prayer;. whose touch was miraculous and medicinal, cleansing lepers, restoring perishing limbs, opening blind eyes, raising dead persons to life; those hands which fed many thousands, by two miracles of multiplication; that purged the temple from profaneness ; that, in a sacramental manner, bare his own body, and gave it to be the food and refreshment of elect souls, and after were cloven and rent upon the cross, till the wounds became (after the resurrection) so many transparencies and glorious instruments of solemn, spiritual, and efficacious benediction. Transmit this meditation into affections and practices,“ lifting up pure hands” in prayer, that our devotions be united to the merits of his glorious intercession; and putting ourselves into his hands and holy providence, let us beg those effects upon our souls and spiritual cures, which his precious hands did operate upon their bodies, transferring those similitudes to our ghostly and personal advantages.
9. We may also behold his holy breast, and consider, that there lay that sacred heart, like the dove within the ark, speaking peace to us, being the regiment of love and sorrows, the fountain of both the sacraments, running out in the two holy streams of blood and water, when the rock was smitten, when his holy side was pierced : and there, with St. John, let us lay our head, and place our heart, and thence draw a treasure of holy revelations and affections, that we may rest in him only, and upon him lay our burdens, filling every corner of our heart with thoughts of the most amiable and beloved Jesus.
10. In like manner we may unite the day of his nativity with the day of his passion, and consider all the parts of his body, as it was instrumental in all the work of our redemption; and so imitate, and in some proportion partake of, that great variety of sweetnesses, and amorous reflexes, and gracious intercourses, which passed between the blessed Virgin and the holy Child, according to his present capacities, and the clarity of that light, which was communicated to her by Divine infusion. And all the members of this blessed Child, his eyes, his face, his head, all the organs of his senses, afford variety of entertainment and motion to our affections, according as they served, in their several employments and co-operations, in the mysteries of our restitution.
11. But his body was but his soul's upper garment, and the considerations of this are as immaterial and spiritual as the soul itself, and more immediate to the mystery of the nativity. This soul is of the same nature and substance with ours; in this inferior to the angels, that of itself it is incomplete, and discursive in a lower order of ratiocination ; but in this superior: 1. That it is personally united to the Divinity, full of the Holy Ghost, overrunning with grace, which was dispensed to it without measure. (And by the mediation of this union, as itself is exalted far above all orders of intelligences, so we also have contracted alliance with God, teaching us not to unravel our excellencies by infamous deportments.) 2. Here also we may meditate, that his memory is indeterminable and unalterable, ever remembering to do us good, and to present our needs to God by the means of his holy intercession, 3. That his understanding is without ignorance, knowing the secrets of our hearts, full of mysterious secrets of his Father's kingdom, in which “ all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God are hidden!.” 4. That his will is impeccable, entertained with an uninterrupted act of love to God, greater than all angels and beatified spirits present to God in the midst of the transportations and ravishments of paradise : that this will is full of love to us, of humility in itself, of conformity to God, wholly resigned by acts of adoration and obedience. It was moved by six wings; zeal of the honour of God, and compunction for our sins, pity to our miseries, and hatred of our impieties; desires of satisfying the wrath of God, and great joy at the consideration of all the fruits of his nativity; the appeasing of his Father, the redemption of his brethren. And upon these wings he mounted up into the throne of glory, carrying our nature with him above the seats of angels. These second considerations present themselves to all, that with piety and devotion behold the holy Babe lying in the obscure and humble place of his nativity.
I Col. ij. 3,
Holy and immortal Jesus, I adore and worship thee, with
the lowest prostrations and humility of soul and body, and give thee all thanks for that great love to us, whereof thy nativity hath made demonstration; for that humility of thiné, expressed in the poor and ignoble circumstances, which thou didst voluntarily choose in the manner of thy birth. And I present to thy holy humanity, enchased in the adorable Divinity, my body and soul; humbly desiring, that as thou didst clothe thyself with a human body, thou mayest invest me with the robes of righteousness, covering my sins, enabling my weaknesses, and sustaining my mortality, till I shall finally, in conformity to thy beauties and perfections, be clothed with the stole of glory. Amen.
Vouchsafe to come to me by a more intimate and spiritual
approximation, that so thou mayest lead me to thy Father; for of myself I cannot move one step towards thee. Take me by the hand, place me in thy heart, that there I may live, and there I may die : that as thou hast united our nature to thy eternal being, thou mightest also unite my person to thine by the interior adunations of love, and obedience, and conformity. Let thy ears be open to my prayers, thy merciful eyes look upon my miseries, thy holy hands be stretched out to my relief and succour: let some of those precious distilling tears, which nature, and thy compassion, and thy sufferings, did cause to distil and drop from those sacred fontinels, water my stony heart, and make it soft, apt for the impressions of a melting, obedient, and corresponding love; and moisten mine eyes, that I may, upon thy stock of pity and weeping, mourn for my sins; that so my tears and sorrows, being drops of water coming from that holy Rock, may indeed be united unto thine, and made precious by such holy mixtures. Amen.
Blessed Jesus, now that thou hast sanctified and exalted
human nature, and made even my body precious by a personal uniting it to the Divinity, teach me so reverently to account of it, that I may not dare to profane it with impure lusts or caitive affections, and unhallow that ground, where thy holy feet have trodden. Give to me ardent desires, and efficacious prosecutions of these holy effects, which thou didst design for us in thy nativity, and other parts of our redemption : give me great confidence in thee, which thou hast encouraged by the exhibition of so glorious favours; great sorrow and confusion of face at the sight of mine own imperfections, and estrangements, and great distances from thee, and the perfections of thy soul; and bring me to thee by the strictnesses of a zealous and affectionate imitation of those sanctities, which, next to the hypostatical union, added lustre and excellency to thy humanity; that I may live here with thee in the expresses of a holy life, and die with thee by mortification and an unwearied patience; and reign with thee in immortal glories, world without end. Amen.
Of nursing Children, in imitation of the blessed Virgin-Mother.
1. These later ages of the world have declined into a softness above the effeminacy of Asian princes, and have contracted customs, which those innocent and healthful days of our ancestors knew not; whose piety was natural, whose charity was operative, whose policy was just and valiant, and whose economy was sincere, and proportionable to the dispositions and requisites of nature. And in this particular, the good women of old gave one of their instancesa. The
a Quòd si pudica mulier in partem juvet
Hor. Epod. ii.