Consider first, how after the blessed Virgin's consent, and offering herself with a profound humility, with an entire obedience and a perfect conformity to the sacred will of God, by those words: 'Behold the handmaid of the lord, be it done to me according to thy word,'
Luke i. 38, the greatest of all the wonders of God, and of all his works, was immediately effected: even a Man-God, the miracle of miracles. For a human body perfect in all its parts, was formed in an instant by the Holy Ghost, out of the purest blood of the blessed Virgin, and a most excellent rational soul was at the same time created; and this body and soul were joined with and assumed by the eternal Word, the second person of the most adorable Trinity. Thus God was made man, and man was made God; and the blessed Virgin was made mother of God. Thus in her womb was celebrated that sacred wedding of our human nature with the divine person of the Son of God, to the feast of which we are invited, Matt. xxii. Thus was our humanity exalted to the very highest elevation, by being united with, and subsisting by the person of, the eternal Word, and we all in consequence of this elevation of our human nature, have also been wonderfully dignified and exalted, by being raised up to a kindred with the most high God, who by taking to himself our nature, has made us all his brothers and sisters; and by assuming our humanity has made us in some measure partakers of his divinity. O my soul, stand thou astonished at these wonders, which will be a subject of the greatest astonishment both to men and angels for all eternity! O admire and adore, praise and love, with all thy power, and with all thy affections, that infinite goodness that has wrought all these wonders out of love to thee!
Consider 2ndly, the wonders of God in all those graces and excellences which he conferred on the soul of Christ and on his sacred humanity, in the first instance of his conception, in consequence of its being united with the divine person - graces and excellences which are all immense and incomprehensible, and which exceed, without any comparison, all the rest of the wondrous works of God, and all whatsoever he has done at any time in favour of any of his saints, or of all of them put together. For God did not give to this his Son his spirit by measure, (John iii. 34,) as to the rest of his saints, but gave all things into his hands, 'and of his fullness we all receive,' John i. 16, even all grace and truth, according to the measure of his giving it to us, Eph. iv. 7. Now these graces and excellences we may reduce under the following heads: 1. An immense purity from all manner of sin or imperfection whatsoever - not as by privilege but in his own right, as being the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. 2. The grace of sanctity, incomparable exceeding that of all the angels and saints put together; from whence he is called the holy of holies, Dan. ix., that is, the saint of all saints - the Spirit of God resting on him with all his gifts, with an incomprehensible plenitude, Isaias ii. 3. The grace of the beatific vision of the divine essence, and that in the most consummate degree, with proportionable love of the deity and job in God. 4. All the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. 5. The power of working all kinds of miracle and of raising the dead to life by his own will, with a general command over all the elements and over all nature. 6. The power of excellency in forgiving sins, converting sinners, changing their hearts, ordaining sacraments and sacrifices, and distributing amongst men graces and super-natural gifts. 7. The grace of being the perpetual head of all the church, both of heaven and earth, and the source of all blessings, gifts, and graces that either have been, are at present, or shall at any time be bestowed upon this his mystical body, or any of its members. O what subject have we here, my soul, to bless and praise the eternal Father for all these excellent gifts and graces with which he has enriched his Son, the man Christ Jesus! How ought we also to rejoice and congratulate with the sacred humanity of our Saviour on this occasion, and to give thanks without ceasing for all that share or portion of divine grace we continually derive from this overflowing fountain!
Consider 3rdly, in all these graces and excellences conferred on the humanity of Christ in his incarnation, how that of the prophet was verified, Isaias ix. 6, 'A child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God, the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.' Yes, Christians, these great titles here bestowed on your Saviour by the Spirit of God abundantly declare both the wonders that God wrought for him and those which, through his incarnation, he has wrought also for you in giving him to you; that he might be not only your Saviour, your redeemer, and your deliverer, but also your king, your lawgiver, your teacher, your model, your advocate, your physician, your friend, your high priest, and your victim, your father, and your head - in a word, the source of all your good; the way, the truth and the life, in your regard, by whom alone you can go to God. And do not all these great things, effected by the incarnation of the Son of God, show forth the power, the wisdom, the mercy, and goodness of God, with all the other divine attributes, infinitely more than any of the rest of the works of the Almighty!
Conclude to honour by a lively faith, by a serious and frequent meditation, and a sincere devotion, all those wonders of God, wrought, in the incarnation of his Son, both in favour of him and of us, and to lead henceforward such lives as become those who, by this mystery, have been so highly exalted, and brought so near to the very source of all grace and sanctity.
Consider first, how the angels, upon occasion of the birth of Christ, sung forth that blessed hymn, recorded Luke ii. 4,
'Glory to God on high, and on earth peace to men of goodwill;' to give us to understand that the incarnation and birth of the Son of God was designed to produce those two principal fruits, the greater glory of God and the peace and reconciliation of man with God.
The glory of God shines forth most brightly in the incarnation of his Son by the manifestation of his power, of his wisdom, of his goodness, of his justice, and of his mercy, and by setting all these his divine attributes in their most beautiful light. The almighty power of God is here manifested in all these wonders he wrought in this mystery, and especially in that greatest and most glorious of all his wonderful productions, viz., a God-man - a greater work, without comparison, than the creation of ten thousand worlds. The infinite wisdom of God is here manifested in the contrivance of this wonderful way of uniting God and man, the creator and the creature, which were at an infinite distance from each other, so closely together as to be but one and the same person, and of reconciling by this means man, who was fallen from God by sin, in such manner as that, without his divine majesty departing in the least tittle from what was due to the reparation of his glory, he should continually receive from this one man, for every moment of time and eternity, a homage of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and love, infinitely more glorious to the deity than all the homages of ten thousand worlds could be, though they were all full of angels and men eternally employed in nothing else but in glorifying God.
Consider 2ndly, with relation to the other attributes of God, viz., his goodness, his mercy, and his justice, how brightly they also shine forth in the incarnation of his Son, in which, according to the psalmist, (Ps. lxxxiv.,) 'Mercy and truth met each other; justice and peace have kissed.' The infinite mercy of God is set in no less clear a light by this mystery, in his here furnishing us, out of pure compassion, without any regard at all to our merits, with such and so great a redeemer, to be both out priest and our sacrifice, for a propitiation for all our sins. And as to the infinite justice of God, so far from its being set aside in this mystery, or forgetting its right, it never exerted or manifested itself more than when it insisted upon such a satisfaction for sin as could not be paid by any lesser or meaner person than a God made man. So that the justice of God has been in effect more evidently demonstrated by the incarnation of the Son of God, coming down here amongst us to be made a bleeding victim for our sins, than by any other judgments or punishments whatsoever that either have been or ever could be inflicted by the divine majesty, either in time or eternity, for the sins of men.
Consider 3rdly, that the infinite dignity of the person of this God-man, as it gives an infinite dignity and worth to all his performances - even to every thought, word, or action, and every suffering of his - so it is an inexhaustible source from which continually and eternally flows an infinite glory to God from every thought, word, or action, or suffering of his Son, even from the moment of his conception till his expiring upon the cross, as well to all that adoration, praise, glory, thanksgiving, &c., which, as man he shall present to his Father for all eternity. See then, my soul, how very much the incarnation of the Son of God has advanced the glory of his Father; since every motion of the heart of this God made man gives in effect infinitely more glory to the Father, both in time and eternity, than all the adorations and praises of millions of angels and millions of worlds could ever have done, though eternally employed in nothing else but in glorifying God. Besides all that glory which the Son of God incarnate has procured for his Father by his gospel; by his worship which he has established here upon earth; by that great sacrifice of his body and blood, offered up daily on a million of altars, &c., and that kingdom of souls which he has here purchased, to be delivered up hereafter to his Father, to glorify him for all eternity.
Conclude to rejoice in this great glory which the Son of God has procured both for his Father and for himself by his incarnation, and sing to him with the angels hymns of perpetual praise for his having so well associated together in this mystery his own glory with thy peace and salvation.
Consider first, that as the soul of Christ from the first instant of his conception, by being assumed to the divine person of the Word, was full of all light and knowledge, and consequently enjoyed from the beginning the perfect use of reason and understanding, so the inward powers and faculties of his soul from the first instant of his conception were always employed - they were never idle. Now as the great design of God in the incarnation of his Son was his own glory and the redemption of man, so the continual occupation of the Son of God-made-man was the procuring of his Father's glory and man's salvation: from the very first moment that his soul received a being by creation this was his perpetual employment. It was from the beginning the indispensable duty both of angels and men in their first creation to turn themselves immediately to God by adoration, oblation, and love, and to dedicate themselves eternally to him and to his glory. The omission of this at first was the cause of the condemnation of Lucifer and his companions; and the like omission is to this day the cause of the condemnation of millions of men, who unhappily turn themselves away from God for the sake of the creature. But the soul of Christ, our great deliverer and our most perfect model and pattern, has taught us better things by his nine months' occupation in the Virgin's womb; where, silent as he is, he preaches to us admirable lessons with regard to the glory we ought at all times to give to God.
Consider 2ndly, that these lessons which the Son of God teaches us by his great example in his mother's womb are contained in the different acts of virtue in which he there spent his time. He began, as we learn from the psalmist, (Ps. xxxix. 7,8,9,) by offering himself to the father without reserve to do all his will; he embraced this will in the midst of his heart; he substituted himself in the place of all the ancient sacrifices, to be the great burnt-offering and sin-offering that should be immolated for God's glory and for the expiation of the sins of the world; he presented his body, just then formed by the Holy Ghost, with his ears pierced, (as it was prescribed by the law with relation to such as yield themselves up to be servants for ever,) Deut. xv. 17, to be entirely at the disposal of his Father, a perpetual servant, obedient unto death, even unto the death of the cross. O let us hear from himself these dispositions! 'Sacrifice and oblation thou didst not desire, but thou hast pierced ears for me. Burnt-offerings and sin-offerings thou didst not require: then, said I, Behold, I come. In the head of the book it is written of me that I should do thy will. O my God, I have desired it;, and thy law in the midst of my heart.' O my soul, how happy shall we be if we labour in good earnest to imitate these dispositions of our dear Jesus, by embracing, like him, the will of God and his holy law in the midst of our hearts, and offering ourselves without reserve to be at all times his devoted servants.
Consider 3rdly, that the infinite glory which our Lord gave to his Father all the time he was in his mother's womb: First by the acts of adoration and homage which, a man, he continually paid to God; perfectly annihilating himself to his sight, and continually bowing down all the powers of his soul to offer him a most acceptable worship, worthy of his divine majesty; 2ndly, by acts of praise and thanksgiving which he offered up both for himself and for the whole creation; 3rdly, by acts of oblation and eternal dedication of himself to his Father; to be ever his, both in life and death; both in time and eternity; with a total consecration of his whole soul and body; of his whole will, memory, and understanding, of all his senses and faculties, and of all his thoughts, words, and deeds, to his divine sacrifice; 4thly, by acts of a most pure and most perfect love, zeal, and desire of ever promoting, in all things, and above all things, the sanctification of the name of God, the propagation of his kingdom, and the doing of his will upon earth as it is in heaven. Such acts as these, joined with acts of charity and prayer, for us poor sinners, were the perpetual occupation of Christ our Lord, in his mother's womb. A happy employment indeed, and most worthy of our imitation at all times!
Conclude to embrace, and to follow in the practice of thy life, these heavenly lessons which the Son of God teaches thee by his divine example from his mothers womb: no other exercises can be either more agreeable to him, or to his Father; or more advantageous to thyself.
Consider first, that as the soul of the Son of God from the first instant of his conception in his mother's womb, was ever employed in the love of his heavenly Father, and in a perpetual adoration and oblation of himself to his most holy will; so for the love of his Father, and in consequence of his holy will, he was also employed from the beginning in the love of us, and in the perpetual exercises of an unbounded charity in our regard. His soul in the instant it received a being, was assumed to the divine person of the word; and in the light of this eternal work clearly saw, readily submitted to, lovingly embraced, with an
Ecce venio, Behold, I come that most sacred and adorable decree of the whole blessed Trinity, by which it was ordained that the Son of God should become man for the reparation of the honour and glory of God, infinitely injured and outraged by an and that he should be the Saviour and redeemer of all mankind; that he should take upon him all their sins, to be cancelled with his blood; that by his death he should rescue them form the tyranny of Satan and sin, and a second and everlasting death; and should open in their favour the gates of mercy, grace, and salvation; in a word, that he should be the great mediator of God and man - their high priest and victim. In consequence of, and in obedience to, this heavenly decree, he immediately began, from the first instant of his conception, to exercise himself in all such acts of charity for us, as were agreeable to this his office of our Saviour and mediator, which he ever joined with a perpetual attention to his Father's glory. This was his continual employment in his mother's womb, this was his continual employment in all the time of his life. O let all heaven and earth eternally acknowledge, praise, and bless this his infinite charity!
Consider 2ndly, what these acts of charity were, which the Son of God continually exercised in our regard, from the first instant of his conception. 1. He had us always before his eyes, and in the midst of his heart - he was not one moment without thinking of us. 2. He was perpetually praying for us, that we might be delivered from all our evils, and brought through him to all good. 3. He had a most tender compassion for all our miseries, considering us all as his brethren; and he continually bewailed our sins. 4. He offered himself, without ceasing, to the justice of his Father, to suffer all that he pleased for the expiation of our sins: he had even a longing desire (such was the excess of his love) for the accomplishment of the baptism with which he was to be one day baptized in his blood; because thereby he was to redeem us from our sins. See, my soul, how very early our dear Jesus began to show himself a Jesus, that is a Saviour to us. See how affectionately and effectually too he has loved us, even from his first conception in his mother's womb. And have we hitherto been sensible of these wonders of his love for us? Have we ever yet given to him a proper place in our heart, who has been so much beforehand with us, as to admit us, from the beginning, into the centre of him? O let us detest our past ingratitude in this regard; and henceforward at least, yield ourselves up without reserve captives to his love!
Consider 3rdly, in particular, the sentiments which the soul of our blessed Saviour had, with regard to our sins, and in what manner he was affected by them, even from his conception. He had even then a clear sight, and a most lively sense of all the sins of the whole world, from the first to the last. He saw them all, in the light of God, with all their aggravations, and all their deformity, and infinite malice, from their opposition to the infinite goodness of God. He saw the outrages they all offered to the divine majesty, and how odious they were all in his eyes. And he saw at the same time all the havoc they made in the souls of men, made after God's own image and likeness, and all their dreadful consequences, both for time and eternity. But O what tongue can express, or heart conceive, how strangely his soul was affected with this sight! His love for his heavenly Father, on the one hand, and his zeal for his glory, gave him an inexpressible hatred and horror of all these enemies of God, these high treasons against the divine majesty. and again, his love for us, and concern for our salvation, on the other hand, filled him with more than mortal grief and anguish, for the general corruption with which he saw the whole world infected. and the loss of so many millions of souls. His horror and hatred for our sins was equal to the love he bore to his Father: and the grief and anguish which he continually endured for them, was equal to his love for us; even that love which made him give himself up to the worst of deaths to cancel our sins with his own blood. Thus between the love of his Father, and the love of us, the Son of God lived in a state of continual suffering, even in his mother's womb; and of such bitter sufferings, as nothing but his love could have endured. O Christians, learn here from your dear redeemer, in what manner you ought to be affected with the thoughts of your sins. Learn to hate and detest them above all things, as enemies of your God; learn to hate and detest them as your mortal enemies, and to bewail them all your lifetime.
Conclude to embrace the divine charity of the Son of God, with all the affections of your soul, which has thus exerted itself, even from his mother's womb, in favour of you. But remember that he expects of you a continual return of love, and this, with your whole heart; and that nothing less will content him.
Consider, first, that man in his first creation was highly favoured by his maker, and elevated by him to a supernatural end; he was enriched with the treasures of original grace, justice, and sanctity; and destined to an eternal life with the living God. In the meantime he was placed in the earthly paradise, as in a shadow of that happy life, where if he had kept the law of his great creator, he might have fed upon the tree of life, and so have passed to a better paradise of a true and everlasting life, without going through the gate of death. But alas! by falling from his God by sin, he forfeited all these treasures, and all these advantages: he was stript at once of all the goods of grace; he was strangely wounded in all the powers and faculties of his soul; his understanding was overclouded with ignorance, and deluded with a variety of errors; his memory and imagination was distracted with empty toys and vanities, and hurried away from the remembrance of his God; his will was perverted with malice; his inferior appetite disordered with rebellious passions; and his whole soul became weak beyond expression to everything of good, and strongly bent upon all evil. Thus had unhappy man, by his apostasy from God, lost both his God, and all his good; and had incurred all kind of evils, both of soul and body, for time and for eternity: thus in losing his God he had fallen into the hands of four merciless enemies, sin and Satan, death and hell. Now the Son of God, by his incarnation, came down amongst us in order to deliver us from all these evils which we had incurred by sin; to reconcile us to our God, and to restore us, with infinite advantage, to all that good for which we were first created. What reasons then have we, my soul to rejoice in this incarnation of the Son of God, the sovereign means of all our good, and the source of all mercy, grace, and salvation to us! O what praise and thanksgiving, what perpetual love and service do we owe to this our great deliverer!
Consider 2ndly, how the Son of God coming amongst us, by his incarnation, has brought us from heaven most sovereign and effectual remedies for all our evils. He brought light to us, who were sitting before in darkness, and in the shadow of death; coming in quality of our teacher, (both by word and example) of the great prophet sent to us from God; of our lawgiver, and our apostle; and declaring to us the whole will of God. He brought with him also our ransom, to redeem us from our slavery to Satan and sin, and to make us free indeed: 'He was sent to preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, and to preach the acceptable year of our Lord,' even the great jubilee, of a general remission of all our debts, and a general loosing of all our bands, Luke iv. 19. He came as our physician, to heal our maladies with medicines, made up with his own most sacred blood. 'We were wandering in a wilderness, in a place without water,' Ps.cvi. 'We could find no way to a city for our habitation (our true and everlasting home); we were hungry, and thirsty, (destitute of all proper food for our souls,) and were bound in want, and in irons: we were brought low with labours, and weakened; and there was none to help us.' And he came to deliver us in all these our distresses; to lead us to the right way, to conduct us to our true country; to feed our hungry souls with good things; to break our bonds asunder; to bring us refreshment, comfort, and rest from our labours; to satisfy all our wants; to redress all our miseries; to cure our weakness with his strength; and to raise us up form death to life. All this and much more has the Son of God effected in our favour, by coming down from heaven to be our Emmanuel, that is, to be 'God with us'. And shall we not then, my soul, join with the palmist, in frequently repeating, in admiration at all the wonders of the divine goodness, that sacred hymn: 'Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to him: and his wonderful work to the children of men. Let them exalt him in the church of the people, and praise him in the hair of the ancients: Let them sacrifice to him a sacrifice of praise, and declare his works with joy. O give glory to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever. Let them say so that have been redeemed by the Lord; whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of all countries.' (Ps. cvi.) Yea, let them say so, and sing forth the mercies of the Lord for all eternity! Amen. Amen.
Consider 3rdly, that however great and inexpressible all these graces and benefits are which the Son of God has brought with him by his incarnation, in order to deliver us from all our evils, and to communicate to us all his goods; yet none of them all, nor all of them together, will effectually save us, without our consent and concurrence, and a due correspondence on our part with his mercy and grace, by our yielding ourselves up entirely to him by faith and obedience. For what will it avail us to have the light come down from heaven to shine upon us if we shut our eyes against it, and love the darkness more than light? Or what shall we be the better for the ransom which our redeemer brings with him, and lays down for us, if we prefer our slavery and our chains before the liberty of the children of God, and rather choose to stay with our old master, Satan and sin, amongst the husks of swine, than to go along with our deliverer, who desires to carry us home with him to his Father's house? Alas! so far from being the better for all these graces and benefits brought us by our redeemer, we should indeed be much the worse if we received them all in vain, and, by our ingratitude an obstinacy in sin, pervert them to our greater condemnation. For what greater perversity can there be than that we should know that the way, the truth, and the life is come down from heaven in our favour, and should still choose to go astray from the way, and to follow the father of lies into the regions of death.
Conclude to embrace in such manner your great deliverer, who comes by his incarnation to be your Emmanuel, (God with us,) by a faithful and diligent correspondence with all his mercies and graces, as that he may be always with you, and you may be always with him, and that nothing in life or death may ever separate you from him any more.
Consider first, that the Son of God, by his incarnation, came amongst us to be the Father and the head of all mankind, according to the Spirit and according to grace, as Adam was according to the flesh and according to nature. He came as the second Adam to undo all that evil which the first Adam had done and brought upon us all, and to impart to us all that good which our first father had deprived us of. That as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death, and so both sin and death passed upon all men, justice and grace should in like manner enter into this world by one man, in order to our eternal life. Hence, in quality of our Father, he imparts to us a new generation, a second birth, by which we who, by our natural birth, (by which we descend from the first Adam,) are children of wrath, corrupted by sin, and condemned to hell, are born again by grace, cleansed from sin by his blood, incorporated in him, made children of God, and heirs of everlasting life. In quality of our head, he communicated to us all manner of graces, which in virtue of his merits, are derived from him upon all the members of his mystical body who, by faith and obedience, adhere to him, St. John xv. 4, 5.
Consider 2ndly, the other near relations, marked down in the word of God, which our Lord has been pleased we should have with him by means of his incarnation; such as that of our being now his brethren, (as he has been pleased to call us, Ps. xxii., 'I will declare his name to my brethren,') by his taking our flesh and blood. A relation which gives us an honour not granted to the angels, of being near akin, even by consanguinity, to the Son of God himself; for he never took upon him the nature of the angels, but took our nature, that he might be like to us in all things excepting sin; for so it behoved him that was to be our high priest to make a reconciliation for our sins, Heb ii. 16, 17. He is our eldest brother in the order of God's election, 'the firstborn among many brethren,' Rom. viii. 29, in whom and for whose sake we also are elected, to be conformable to his image here by grace, and hereafter in glory, through him. In this quality of our eldest brother he is also our priest, (as under the law of nature, before the written law, the firstborn were priests) to officiate for us in all things that appertain to God, Heb v. 1; as also our prince, our leader and captain in our warfare, our tutor and governor, our truest friend to promote all our interests, to manage all our causes, to defend us from all our enemies, and to bring us on in our pilgrimage, till he presents us to his Father and our Father in his eternal kingdom. O how happy are we in such a brother.
Consider 3rdly, that by means of the incarnation of the Son of God, we are related to him, not only as children to our father, as members to our head, and as brothers to our eldest brother, but also as a holy building to our foundation, in which he is the cornerstone, in whom all the building framed together groweth up into a holy temple in the Lord - a habitation of God in the spirit, Eph. ii. 20, 21, 22; and as branches to the stock into which we are engrafted, and planted by baptism. Hence our Lord tells us, John xv. 4, 5, 'Abide in me, and I in you. as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can you, except you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.' But of all the relations we have to the Son of God in consequence of his incarnation, there is none more endearing than that of our being made his spouse - the church being the bride, the wife of the Lamb, brought out of his side as eve was from the side of Adam, cast into the deep sleep of death upon the cross; and espoused to him by an everlasting and inviolable contract, of which Christian matrimony is the sacred and mysterious sign - and every particular soul that is in the state of grace, partaking in the dignity and happiness of this near and dear relation of spouses to the Lamb of God. Christians, are you sensible how great this dignity and happiness is, for your souls to be espoused to the Son of God? In consequence of which you should be one spirit with Christ, as Adam and Eve were one flesh. O take care to be ever faithful and true to this divine Spouse, who has loved you and delivered himself up for you, that he might sanctify and cleanse you for himself, with his own most precious blood.
Conclude to behave in your whole life and conversation agreeable in all respects to these sacred relations which you now have with the Son of God; and never to degenerate from such a Father, such a head, such a brother, and such spouse, by any actions unworthy of either the dignity or sanctity of a Christian.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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