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fliction after another, until we end the journey of life, and are called unto our rest. For a man must be exercised with afflictions, and renounce his own will, until he be brought under, and his flesh subdued; that it may obey the spirit, and walk joyfully in the will and obedience of God.
Wherefore let no man think, of himself, to get to heaven by leading a quiet life, and following plea
Christ saith, Luke xviii. 25. “ It is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” And in the Acts of the Apostles, Paul teacheth, that through great tribulation we enter into the kingdom of God. Again, Abraham saith to the rich man, Luke xvi. 25. 66 Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.' It was also necessary that Christ should suffer, and by the cross enter into his glory. And St. Paul saith, 2 Tim. iii. 12. “ All that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.” Here we may learn that all is poison which is according to the lusts of the flesh : wherefore Paul saith to the Romans, viii. 13. “ If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die : but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” The spirit which is of God, is ready to suffer, but the flesh resisteth.
This Jesus signified by his answer to Peter : when he showed to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the Jews, and be slain also. When Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee; Jesus turned, and said unto Peter, get thee behind me, Satan; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be
It is here manifest that the reason of man strives against the will of God. God will have us
enter into glory by the cross and persecution; but the flesh resisteth, and is troubled in affliction. Moreover, they that are endued with the spirit of God, rejoice if they be afflicted for his sake ; as it is written of the apostles ; Acts v. 41. “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.'
James saith in his epistle, chap. i. 2. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations : knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." O how necessary is patience for a christian ! We must enter into a new kind of life; and if calamity comes, we must not burst forth into evil speeches, and take it impatiently, but we must lift our hearts to God, and bear affliction with a patient mind; he will deliver us when it seemeth good to him. We must always think that he bears a fatherly affection toward us; even when he sends persecution, anguish, affliction, and adversity ; as Hebrews xi. 5. “ Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children: my son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him ; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be with out chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons." God give us his divine grace that we may courageously pass through all afflictions and temptations, and with the Lord Christ be regenerate into a new life. Amen.
Matthew II. From the 1st to the 11th verse, inclusive.
1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the
days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from
the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that was born King of the Jews ? for
we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship
him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was
troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes
of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ,
should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea ; for thus
it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least
among the princes of Juda ; for out of thee shall come a
Governour, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, in
quired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go, and search
diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship
him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed ; and lo, the
star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding
great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him : and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
We celebrate this day, concerning the appearing of our Lord Jesus; who appeared a special comfort to all who sought him with a strong faith. First, to the wise men who came from the East : Secondly, to John the Baptist; when being about thirty years of age, he was baptized of him in Jordan; when the Holy Ghost, and voice of the Father, gave testimony of him, that he was the son of God: Thirdly, when he
showed his glory and power in a miracle ; where he turned water into wine at a marriage ; by which he would procure reverence and estimation to matrimony; which now in a shameful manner is contemned and rejected by the pope and his adherents, as a miserable and wretched state.
The wise men, who undoubtedly were the governours of the country, when they had seen the star in the East, without delay made haste to Jerusalem, diligently seeking for the new born king of the Jews. They could neither seek nor find out this king, the Lord Christ, but by the star going before them, which led them to the place where he was to be found. So it is with us, we cannot find Christ without the gospel : that must show him to us, and bring us where we may find him. This only is done when we receive the gospel by faith : otherwise, although we may have it, hear it, and know it, it profiteth us nothing; we shall be as the scribes, who had the scriptures, and showed the way to others, not coming into it themselves, for the subject did not touch their hearts.
It is not enough that we have the gospel, or that we hear it: but we must believe it, and lay it up in the secrets of our hearts, or we shall not find Christ. God respecteth not the person ; it matters not whether one be learned or unlearned ; instructed in many places of scripture, or in few ; unto whom God giveth grace, he it is that enjoys Christ. After the wise men had found the child Christ, at Bethlehem, together with Joseph and Mary, by the help of the scripture and guiding of the star, they were not offended at the low condition of him, but being taught by the word, acknowledged him to be the Mesiah, the king of the Jews; for whom they had looked so many years: they then opened their treasures, and offered him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The wise men do not disdain him because be is with
out pomp and splendour, neither do they turn back because they find him and his parents in poverty and misery ; but undoubtedly acknowledge him as king, as they had learned concerning him out of the scripture. Moreover they give him the honour due to a king ; they offer him most precious gifts, which they had brought out of their own country.
Now the world would have done none of these things ; but according to the custom thereof, would have looked for garments of purple, and a retinue of servants and hand-maidens: Thus it bestows its gifts where there was great plenty and abundance before ; yea, it deprives the poor and afflicted of those things they need, and takes bread from the mouth of the hungry. If we will honour Christ with those wise men, we must shut our eyes, and turn them from all which seems fair and goodly to the world. If any thing seem contemptible and ridiculous to the world, let us not be offended, or abhor it; but let this suffice us, that we know it pleaseth God who is in heaven. Let us take heed to ourselves concerning these things; that we may help the needy, comfort the afflicted, and count the calamity of our neighbour as our own.
Whatsoever God hath commanded concerning these things, should be observed ; as to do good to our neighbour, to bear a friendly and willing mind toward him, and assist him in adversity. Christ saith, Mat. v. “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way ; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Here we plainly see that God will not be served, unless we first become reconciled to our neighbour. For the same cause also God rejecteth the sacrifices of the Jews ; as it is said in the prophecy of Isaiah, chap. i. “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto