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A. By the Adminiftration of Angels; for as certain Shepherds were keeping Watch over their Luke ii. 9. Flocks by Night, the Angel of the Lord came upon them, and the Glory of the Lord fhone round about them; fo that the Splendor of the Appearance confounded their Senfes, and made them fore afraid: But the Angel quickly diffipated the Terror that feized them, with the Tidings he brought of great Joy to all People, in thefe comfortable Words, unto you is born this Day, in the City of David, a Saviour, which is Chrift the Lord.
Luke ii. 10, 11.
Q. How were the Shepherds directed to find this new-born King?
A. Left they fhould expect a Prince accompanied with outward Pomp and Magnificence, the Angel defcribeth the Meannefs and Obfcurity of his Circumstances, as a Token to guide them in the Search of this new-born Prince, This fhall be a Sign unto you, ye shall find the Babe wrapped in fwaddling Clothes, and lying in a Manger. Upon this Notice, the Shepherds without Delay went to Bethlehem, and found the Narrative verified, and published to the World both what they had seen and heard concerning the Holy Child Jefus.
Q. How was this joyful News received by the Angels and the Shepherds?
A. The Multitude of the Heavenly Hoft praised God in that devout Hymn, Glory to God in the higheft, and on Earth Peace, Good-will towards Men. And the Shepherds, when they had found the real Completion of what was told them by the Angel, returned, glorifying and praising God.
Q. Since this Angelical Hymn hath been retained in the Offices of the Church ever fince the primitive Times of Christianity, what may we understand by it?
A. That the bleffed Angels excited one another to give Glory and Praife to God for his wonderful Works towards the Children of Men. That it is our
conftant Duty to acknowledge his Majefty and
Q. What may we learn from the Circumstances of eur Saviour's Birth, and the Publication thereof?
A. It ought to reconcile us to a State of Poverty: For fince the blessed Jefus chofe to be born in fo mean and obfcure a Manner, and preferred it before the Splendor and Pomp of the Rich and Great, the Poor ought to bear a low Condition with Patience and Contentedness, and the Rich not to undervalue and contemn it. In publishing the News of his Birth, our Saviour paffed by the Wife and the Luke ii. 8, Powerful, and revealed it to the poor Shepherds; he 17. manifefteth it to them by an Angel, and maketh them the Inftruments of communicating the Knowledge of it to the Rich and Great. God in- Ch. iv. 18. carnate preacheth the Gospel to the Poor; and mean illiterate Fishermen are employed to preach it to the Kings and Sovereigns of the Earth. And if ever the rich attain Happiness, they must be poor Matt, v. 3. in Spirit, and fit loose to what they enjoy.
Q. What Expectation was there in the World about the Time of the Mefliah's appearing !
A. The Jews were in a general Expectation of him, as appears from the ancient and general Tradition received from the School of Elias; that at the End of the fecond two thousand Years the Meffias bould E 4
come. And likewife from that particular Computation of the Jewish Doctors, not long before our Saviour's Coming; who upon a folemn Debate of that Matter, did determine the Meffias would come within fifty Years. And this is confirmed from the great Jealoufy, which Herod had concerning a King of the Jews, that was expected to be born about Lib. 7. c. that Time. And from the Teftimony of Jofephus, who tells us, the Jews rebelled against the Romans, being encouraged thereto by a celebrated Prophecy in their Scriptures that about that Time a famous Prince should be born among them, that should rule the World.
Q. Was the Gentile World in any Expectation of fuch an Appearance?
Lib. 5. Hift.
A. Yes; this is evident from the famous Testimonies of two eminent Roman Hiftorians, Suetonius Lib.8.c.4. and Tacitus. The former fays, There was an ancient and general Opinion famous throughout all the Eaftern Parts, that the Fates had determined that there should come out of Judea those that should govern the World. Which Words feem to be a verbal Tranflation of Mic. v. 3. that Prophecy in Micah, that out of Judah should come the Ruler. Tacitus's Teftimony is, That a great many were poffeffed with a Perfuafion, that it was contained in the ancient Books of the Priefts, that at that very Time the East should prevail, and that they who fhould govern the World, were to come out of Judea. Which Phrafe, that the East should prevail, refers Zech.iii. 8. to that Title given the Mellias by the Prophet Zechariah; where he is called the Man whofe Name is the Eaft; for though we tranflate it Branch, yet the Hebrew Word ignifieth both; and may be rendered the one as well as the other.
Grot. de Ver. lib. 5. §14.
Q. What was the great Advantage of our Saviour's appearing in the World?
A. The fcattering and difpelling that Cloud of Idolatry, and that Corruption of Manners, which had. fatally overspread it. For the most contemptible
Objects were thought worthy of divine Honours, the Jews themselves having at one Time as many Jer. ii. 28. Gods as Cities; and the moft brutish and scandalous Vices prevailed, not only amongst the most polifhed Part of Mankind, but even in the folemn Acts of the Gentile Worship. Upon which Account our Saviour became a Light to lighten the Gentiles, as he was the Glory of his People Ifrael. So that under the Conduct of fuch a Guide, we cannot fail of acquiring the Knowledge of God's Will in this World, and the comfortable Expectation of Life everlasting in the World to come.
Q. Wherein did our Saviour exceed all those that had before him made known the Will of God to Mankind?
A. In the Dignity and Excellency of his Perfon, whereby he knew the best and fureft Ways of attaining Happiness. In the Clearnefs and Perfection of his Precepts. In the Brightness of his own Example, and in the Encouragements of gracious Affiftances, and glorious Rewards, which he hath promised to all those that engage and perfevere in his Service.
Q. How was our Saviour qualified by the Dignity - of bis Perfon to reveal to us the Will of God?
A. He who lay in the Bofom of the Father, and had the Spirit communicated to him without Meafure, in whom dwelt the Fulness of the Godhead bodily, could not want a perfect Knowledge of what was most agreeable to the divine Will; and confequently we have abundant Reafon to put our Truft and Confidence in that Method of attaining Salvation he hath difcovered, because it was the Contrivance of infinite Wisdom, and cannot fail of Succefs, if we are not wanting to ourselves in heartily embracing it.
Q. Wherein confifteth the Perfection of his Doctrine? A. In that it directs us to the true Object of Worfhip, and gives us rational and worthy Notions of that Being we are obliged to adore; and is moft fitly adapted to raise our Natures to the greatest Improvement
Col. ii. 9.
provement they are capable of. To prevent our falling into finful Actions, our Saviour layeth a Restraint upon our Thoughts, which lead to them, Mat. v.28. and obligeth us to govern our Looks, which give Birth to our Thoughts. To obviate all thofe Evils, which proceed from an inordinate Defire of Riches, he hath discovered to us that admirable Temper of Mind diftinguifhed in his Gofpel by Poverty of Spirit, which maketh us even fit loofe to the good Things we poffefs. To keep us at a Diftance from the Temptations of Lying and Detraction, he hath forMat. xii. bid all idle Words, that the Care to avoid them might fecure us from falling into those greater Faults. To hinder the fatal Effects of Anger and Revenge, he hath nipped thefe Paffions in the Bud, Mat. v. 44. by commanding us to love our Enemies, and to do Good to them that do Evil to us. To facilitate the Virtue of Patience, fo neceffary in this Vale of Tears, he hath manifefted to us the Treasures that are hid in Adveríity, and the Advantage of being perfecuted for his Sake: that what the World calls. Misfortune and Calamity, often proveth the bleffed Occasion of making us happy both in this Life Ver. 4, 10. and the next. Bleffed are they that mourn, Blessed are they that are perfecuted. And to make us quiet and eafy in ourselves, and gentle to others, he requireth us to have a quick Senfe of our own Weakneffes and Defects, and readily to condefcend to the lowest Offices for the Good of our Neighbours.
Q. Wherein appears the Brightness of our Saviour's Example?
A. In that he hath fet us a perfect Pattern of all thofe folid and needful Virtues which he requireth from us, and in his own Perfon hath recommended to us the most hard and difficult, as well as thofe Mat. xiv. that are most useful and beneficial. To teach us Piety and Devotion, he frequently retired, and spent whole Nights in Prayer; and from worldly Occur