Today's contemplation


18th Dec.


On the other benefits of our Saviour to mankind by His Incarnation

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.



19th Dec.



Consider first, that the Son of God, by his incarnation, came also amongst us to be both our king and our priest; and in these qualities to impart all blessings to us; and even to make us also kings and priest to his Father, Apoc i. 6. He is our true Melchisedech, sovereign king and high priest forever; he is the true king of justice, and king of peace; of whose reign there shall be no end. He came, by his incarnation, to dethrone the usurper Satan, and to establish amongst us the kingdom of grace, by which he reigns in all the souls of his true subjects. For his kingdom is not of this world; not like to any of the petty kingdoms of this world; but is of a far more excellent constitution, a more noble foundation, and a more extensive dominion, reaching to all nations and to all ages: it is never to be conquered: it shall be glorious for evermore. Of this great king and his reign the royal prophet sings, (Ps. lxxi.,) 'Give to the king thy judgment, O God - to judge thy people with justice, and thy poor with judgment. Let the mountains receive peace for the people, and the hills justice. He shall judge the poor of the people, and he shall save the children of the poor, and he shall bring down the oppressor, (the devil.) And he shall continue with the sun, and beyond the moon, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the fleece, and as showers falling gently upon the earth. In his days shall justice spring up, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away. And he shall rule from sea to sea: all kings of the earth shall adore him; all nations shall serve him. For he shall deliver the poor from the mighty, and he shall save the souls of the poor. He shall redeem their souls from usuries and iniquities, and their names shall be honourable in his sight.' Such, Christians, is our great king, who shall rule us for evermore: and such are the blessings he brings us by his reign; according to what is written in the same psalm: 'In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed. O let his name then be blessed for evermore; and blessed be his heavenly Father, who worketh these wonderful things in our favour. Yea, blessed be the name of his majesty for ever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. So be it. So be it.'

Consider 2ndly, that the Son of God, incarnate for us, is not only our king; he is our priest too - the high priest of God and man. 'Now every high priest,' says the apostle, Heb v. 1, 'taken from among men, is appointed for men, in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sin.' And thus the Son of God, becoming man by his incarnation, was called by his Father, and anointed to this high priestly office by his holy Spirit, to execute every branch of it to the glory of his Father, and in behalf of us men. This he did 'in the days of his flesh, that is, of his mortal life, by offering up prayers and supplications, with a strong cry and tears,' Heb. v. 7: this he did in death, by the great sacrifice for the sins of the whole world which he then offered upon the altar of the cross. This he still continues to do in the sanctuary of heaven, into which he has carried the blood of his sacrifice, to be there presented before the throne of his Father; where also with his blood he continually makes intercession for the obtaining of mercy, grace, and salvation for us. Such are the benefits which are derived from the everlasting priesthood of our Lord. 'Seeing then,' says the apostle, 'that we have this great high priest, that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God: let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities; but one temped in all things like as we, yet without sin. Let us go, therefore, with confidence to the throne of grace; that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.' Heb. vi 14, 15, 16.

Consider 3rdly, that Christ our Lord, not content with executing the priestly office in our behalf, whilst he was here upon earth in his own person; and continuing to execute it himself after his ascension into the sanctuary of heaven, was pleased moreover, before his departure hence, to ordain others, not as his successors (for his priesthood is eternal,) but as his ministers, to exercise in his name, and for the benefit of his people, all the offices and functions of the priesthood here amongst us; he assisting and co-operating with them from heaven; and as he has promised, being always with them, and keeping up a perpetual succession of them all days, even till the consummation of the world, Matt. xxviii. 18, 19, 10. So that we not only owe to that great high priest, and to his priesthood, all those blessings which he himself in person has at any time bestowed upon mankind, but also those many graces and spiritual benefits which he daily confers upon us, by the ministry of men, whom he has employed and commissioned to preach his gospel, administer sacraments, remit sins to his name, bless in his name, impart the grace of Holy Ghost by imposition of hand, and to consecrate and offer up daily to his name his body and blood for all the great ends of sacrifice. In all these offices our Lord assists us as our high priest; and whatsoever grace is here given to the faithful, it is all derived from his priesthood, who has imparted indeed to those whom he has made his vicegerents the doctrine, the authority , the spirit, the anointing, and the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which he has received of his Father; yet so that in all their performances, he himself is still the principal actor. See then, Christians, how happy we are in having such a high priest.

Conclude to keep up in your souls a grateful sense of the innumerable benefits which have been conferred upon all mankind by the incarnation of the Son of God, by which he is become our king and our priest. Adhere to him in both these his qualities; daily beg that he would establish his reign in you, and by his priesthood deliver you from your sins, and bring you to his Father, to be eternally his.



20th Dec.


Consider first, that the Son of God by his incarnation did not only come amongst us to be our king and our priest, but to be our sacrifice too, and in that quality to be an inexhaustible source of all good to our souls. Man, from the beginning, always owed to his God the homage of adoration, praise, and glory; he was ever bound to make him the best offerings he was able; he owed his God perpetual thanksgiving for his perpetual goodness and bounty to him; and he was ever bound to acknowledge, by prayer, his total dependence upon this giver of all good gifts, without whom he could do nothing. But after sin he contracted a new debt, by which he was bound to make satisfaction also to the divine justice for the offence he had committed. hence we find, from the beginning of the world, frequent mention in the scriptures of sacrifices offered to God; hence, in the law, were so many ordinances, relating to burnt-offerings, sin-offerings, and peace-offerings: as so many different kinds of sacrifices to answer the different branches of man's duty to his maker. But alas! how little proportion was there in all, or any of these ancient sacrifices, with those great ends for which they were offered! How insignificant in itself, (abstracting from that sacrifice to come, of which they were all types,) was all that homage, adoration, glory, and thanksgiving, which was paid to the infinite majesty of God by these oblations of oxen, goats, and sheep! How much less could the blood of oxen or blood of goats take away sins, or be a proper atonement for the great sin of the world, by which man had fallen from his God! Therefore the Son of God came by his incarnation to make himself the victim and sacrifice of all mankind, to substitute himself instead of all those ancient burnt-offerings, sin-offerings, and peace-offerings; to answer in a most perfect manner all the ends of sacrifice; and to wash away all our sins with his own most precious blood. O blessed be his name through all generations, for his infinite goodness to us!

Consider 2ndly, what great things the Son of God has done for us all in making himself our sacrifice; and what great things he has enabled us to do by virtue of his sacrifice. In dying for us upon the cross, he has made himself a holocaust or whole burnt-offering for us, of most sweet savour to his heavenly Father; a sacrifice of homage, adoration, praise, and glory, worthy of the infinite majesty of God, because of the infinite dignity both of the offerer and of the offering. In bowing down his head, and yielding up his spirit for us by his death he has also made an oblation of himself, infinitely agreeable to his Father, for all the other ends of sacrifice - here he offered a thanksgiving, truly worthy of God, both for himself and for us; a peace-offering of infinite value, for purchasing peace and all happiness for us, and for opening in our favour all the fountains of grace and life; and particularly he here made himself a sin-offering for us all; a victim of propitiation of infinite virtue, for taking away all the sins of the world, and reconciling and bringing back lost man to an eternal union with his God. And this great sacrifice of his, with all its fruits, he has in such a manner made over to us, as to authorize and enable us to offer up the same sacrifice with him, and in his name, to his Father, for all the same ends as he did; and to give thereby infinite glory to God, and to procure infinite blessings to ourselves and to all the world.

Consider 3rdly, that this sacrifice which Christ our Lord offered up to his Father on the altar of the cross, (as a homage and adoration, which, as man, he paid to him by his death; a thank-offering of infinite value, as an atonement of sin more than sufficient to cancel the sins of ten thousand worlds, though infinite in malice; and as an oblation of infinite merit, in the way of prayer and impetration of all graces and blessings from God for all mankind, both for time and eternity,) did not expire by his death, no more than his priesthood did. The whole victim of his sacrifice was restored to him again at his resurrection, and he has carried it with him, at his ascension, to the sanctuary of heaven; where with it, he continually gives adoration and thanks to his Father, both in his own and our name, and continually pleads for mercy and grace for us. But this is not all; he has also appointed this same sacrifice to be kept up for ever in his church, in the sacred mysteries; and to be offered up daily for the like intentions, on thousands of altars, in all nations, as long as the world shall endure: himself in person, though invisibly officiating there, both as priest and victim - both as offerer and offering. See then, my soul, if anything more can be desired to make us completely happy, who have continually amongst us such a sacrifice, in which we have the source of all happiness, and the sovereign means of all good.

Conclude never to be wanting on thy part in a due correspondence in all these graces and blessings of heaven, which the Son of God has purchased for thee by his sacrifice, and which he daily seeks to enrich thee with, by the application of the fruits of his sacrifice, in the daily oblation of his own body and blood. O learn then, my soul, to unite all thy performances with those of the Son of God - incarnate for the love of thee - and daily offer thyself with him, who daily offers himself in sacrifice for the love of thee! Unite all thy adoration, praise, and thanksgiving, with that which thy Saviour, as man, continually presents to his Father in heaven, and with all that which he daily offers him on a million of altars here upon earth; and thy adoration, praise, and thanksgiving, will not fail of being accepted. In like manner unite all thy prayers and supplications for mercy with those of Jesus Christ, and with his sacrifice; and thou wilt always find through him both mercy and grace.



21st Dec.


Consider first, that in celebrating the festivals of the saints, we must principally have in view the glorifying of the God of the saints, and the giving him thanks for the wonders of his grace in them; and all that glory to which he has exalted them, and with which he has crowned them to all eternity. Now, God is wonderful indeed in all his saints, but in none more than in the meanest condition in life, as it were from the earth, and from the dunghill, to make them the princes of his people; the pillars and foundations of his church; prodigies of his grace; full of his divine Spirit; dispensers of all his treasures, and workers of all kind of wonders here upon earth; and now has exalted to sit with him on his throne in heaven, to come one day with him to be the judges both of men and angels. See, then, Christians, what subjects we have to meditate upon, on the festivals of the apostles; what motives we have to praise and glorify God for all he has done for them, and through them for us all; what encouragements we here have, however mean and poor we may be in all that is good, to rely on the power, goodness, and mercy of our God, who loves to work his greatest wonders in favour of such as are little and humble; and what lessons we have for our instruction and our imitation, in the ready correspondence of the apostles with divine grace, and their diligent co-operation with it unto the end.

Consider 2ndly, from the epistle read on this day, (Eph. iii. 19,) the great advantages we have received, through the ministry of the apostles, in our being called to the Christian religion, of which they were the first preachers and teachers. 'For now,' says St. Paul, speaking to all Christians, 'you are no more strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow-citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God; built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building framed together groweth up into a holy temple in the Lord,' &c. Yes, Christians, it was by the ministry of the apostles we were originally brought to all this good; and as the same apostle adds, Heb. xii. 21, by our admission into the church of God, 'we are come to mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the company of many thousands of angels, and to the church of the firstborn, who are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all; and to the spirits of the just made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the New Testament, and to the sprinkling of blood, which speaketh better than that of Abel:' viz., by crying to heaven for mercy, and not for justice. O happy communion of saints! A communion in all that is good, with all that are good; to which we have been introduced by the apostles of Christ. O glory for evermore be to their Lord, the author of all their good and our good!

Consider 3rdly, the particular lessons which St. Thomas teaches us by his example. When the other disciples opposed our Saviour's going back to Jerusalem where the Jews had lately sought his death, St. Thomas alone generously said: 'Let us also go, that we may die with him,' John xi. 16. Such was his love for his master, and such his courage in his cause. Are we in the like dispositions? Are we willing to die with Christ, or for Christ, when we are frightened with every little difficulty or danger, and ever ready to turn our backs upon him, rather that to risk anything for him, or part with our own humour or satisfaction for the love of him? St. Thomas was slow of belief with regard to the resurrection of our Lord, till he was favoured both with the sight of him and the handling of his wounds; but then he yielded himself up immediately, and cries out with the most lively faith and ardent love 'My Lord and my God!' This lively faith and ardent love continued with him, ever growing and increasing, and carried him through all his apostolic labours amongst so many barbarous nations (to which he is said to have preached the gospel) and through all his sufferings, till by glorious martyrdom it brought him to his Lord, and eternally united him to him. O that we had but some little share in this lively faith and ardent love! It would make all our labours and suffering easy to us, and bring us also to our Lord.

Conclude so to glorify God in this saint, as to encourage thyself also to walk in his footsteps by an imitation of his virtures, in hopes of sharing in his happiness. And for this end ever beg his prayers and intercession.



22nd Dec.



Consider first, that the ember weeks, at the four seasons of the year, are the times set aside by the church, from the earliest ages, for fasting and prayer. The primitive church had that zealous regard for the glory of God, and the sanctification of the souls of her children, by training them up to these religious exercises, so much recommended by the word of God, that she would not suffer any of the four parts of the year to pass, without calling upon them all to sanctify one week at least by more than ordinary devotion and by offering up to God therein the tribute of a penitential fast. In which she had also moreover in view, that by their diligence in this practice, her children might draw down a blessing from God on all their labours, and on the fruits of the earth; that they might give thanks for the blessings already received, and implore the divine mercy for the forgiveness of the sins they were continually committing. Christians, let us, at these holy times, enter into these views of our holy mother the church; and by joining, as it were, in a body with all the people of God upon earth, in fasting, in almsdeeds, and in humble prayer, make the best return we are able to the giver of all good gifts, for all his benefits; beg a continuance of his graces and blessings, and the pardon of all our sins, through the merits of the passion and death of his only Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Consider 2ndly, that these penitential fasts of the ember weeks are also instituted in order to turn away the judgments of God, which we have too great reason to apprehend may be hanging over our heads on account of our sins. For if we duly consider the multitude an enormity of the crimes that are daily and hourly committed amongst Christians of all degrees and conditions - crimes that continually cry to heaven for vengeance - and how few there are, in comparison, that are not frequently falling into mortal sin, in one shape or another; we cannot but fear lest the very worst of God's judgments may be speedily falling upon Christendom, if not averted by prayer and penance. It is then not only a duty of obedience to our mother the Church, but a charity also that we owe both to ourselves and to our neighbours, to join, at these times, in prayer and penance, in order to prevent those dismal visitations of divine justice, and to turn now to the Lord, with our whole heart, in fasting, and weeping, and mourning, as the prophet admonishes, (Joel iii.,) that so by entering into dispositions of true penitents, and seriously turning away from the evil of our sins, we may prevail with our merciful God to turn away also his scourges from us, which we have deserved by our sins. O that Christians would remember this on all their days of fasting; and would always enter into the true spirit of these institutions, chiefly designed for the abolishing sin, and appeasing the divine justice! thus would they offer up to God such a fast as he has chosen. Thus would their fastings draw down a blessing from him.

Consider 3rdly, that the ember weeks are also set aside by the church of Christ for the times of giving Holy Orders, which by apostolical traditions, and by the example of the apostles, ought to be accompanied with prayer and fasting. Acts xiii. 2, 3; xiv. 22. Yes, Christians, as there is not any one thing on which both the general good of the whole church, and the welfare of every soul in particular, so much depends as upon having saints for our pastors, and such as may be men according to God's own heart - who both by word and work may continually promote the glory of God and the salvation of souls - so there is not any one thing which more pressingly calls for our prayers and fasting than the obtaining such pastors from God. This should indeed have a great part in our devotions at all times, but more especially at these times of their ordination. Bad priest are sometimes permitted by God, as one of his most dreadful judgments upon the sins of the people. It is the business then of all Christians, by praying well, and living well, to avert this judgment, and to obtain better guides.

Conclude to labour by more than ordinary devotion and penance at these holy times, to answer all the ends of these ancient institutions. This ember week in particular, and all the latter parts of Advent, (that is twelve whole days before Christmas,) by an ancient custom of the primitive English church, was dedicated by our catholic ancestors to fasting, watchings, prayer, and alms; and all the faithful, at this time, betook themselves to confession and penance, in order to prepare themselves for a worthy participation of the body of the Lord on Christmas-day, as we learn from B. Egbert, who was Archbishop of York about a thousand years ago. (In Dialogo de Ecclesiastica Institutione.) O how much have we degenerated from this ancient piety!



23rd Dec.


On the preparation for the birth of Christ

Consider first, that when the time drew near in which the world was to be blessed with the birth of our Saviour, the blessed virgin, who bore him in her womb, and her chaste spouse St. Joseph, in obedience to the edict of the Emperor Augustus, took a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, there to be enrolled in the city of David, as they were both of them of the royal stock of David. The emperor, in giving out these orders, had no other view than the gratifying his vanity, or this avarice, by the tax imposed on that occasion. But God, who had ordained and foretold long before, by his prophet Micheas, that his son should be born in Bethlehem, was pleased to bring about his eternal decrees in this manner, and to prepare, by this occasion a place for his birth, suitable to the great designs for which he sent him into the world. For behold, after a long and wearisome winter's journey, when the blessed mother, with the Son of God in her womb, was arrived at Bethlehem, the town was full; and none of the inhabitants, not even of their own kindred and family, would receive them into their houses, or give them any entertainment; the very inns would not lodge them; there was no room for them. O ye heavens! stand astonished to see the Son of God, the Lord and maker of heaven and earth, thus debase himself, form the very beginning, as not to allow himself, even in his very birth, any of the common conveniences of life; no not so much as a house to cover his head! O let him be so much the more dear to us, by how much he has made himself more mean and contemptible for the love of us.

Consider 2ndly, what kind of a place the king of heaven prepared on this occasion for the birth of his Son. St Joseph, after seeking in vain for a lodging in the town, found out at last an open stable, or stall for beast, exposed on all sides to the inclemency of the weather; which, for want of better accommodations, their poverty and humility were contended to take up with. and this was the palace the divine wisdom made choice of for the birth of our great king; the manger here, which had served for the ox and the ass, was the royal bed of state in which he was first laid upon his coming down amongst us. Oh, how has the Word incarnate here annihilated himself for us! Oh, how loudly has he condemned, from his very birth, our corrupt self-love in all its branches; with all the maxims of worldly pride, and the favourite inclinations of flesh and blood. Man fell originally from God, by proudly affecting a superior excellence which might make him like to God, by coveting to have what God did not allow him, and by seeking to gratify his sensual appetite with the forbidden fruit: therefore the Son of God begins his mortal life by the exercise of a most profound humility, to cure our pride - by embracing a voluntary poverty, even to the want of all things, in opposition to our covetousness and love of the mammon of the world, and by choosing for himself hardships and sufferings in opposition to our love of sensual and worldly pleasures. O let us study well these lessons, which this heavenly master begins to teach us by his great example, even from his first appearance amongst us.

Consider 3rdly, Christian souls, that the Son of God, who heretofore came down from heaven to be born into this world for you, earnestly desires at present to be spiritually born in you. See then, that you correspond on your part with this his earnest desire, by preparing your souls for him and giving them up to him. O be not like those unhappy Bethlehemites who refused him a place in their houses, and would not find any room for him! But then, if you are willing to admit him, take care to discharge from your inward house all such company as is disagreeable to him. For how great soever his desire is of coming and being spiritually born in your souls, he will not come thither as long as you wilfully entertain there his and your mortal enemies, the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life - those very enemies whom he came from heaven to fight against, and against whom he has declared an eternal war by the austerity, poverty, and humility of his birth, of his education, and of his whole life and death. Moreover, if you desire to have him to abide in you by virtue of a spiritual birth, you must allow him the chiefest place in your heart and soul, by driving far away from you all irregular affections to the world or to any creature whatsoever. For though he did not disdain the stable nor the crib, the ox nor the ass, he will not endure a heart divided or occupied by unclean affections, and which will not give him the whole, without a partner in love.

Conclude to let nothing be wanting on your part to insure to yourselves the happiness of having the Son of God spiritually born in your soul. O invite him thither with all possible affection; be ready to give up all things else that he may abide with you; and beg of him, who knows your poverty and misery, that he would prepare himself a place in you, and furnish your souls with all those ornaments of virtue and grace which are suitable to this his spiritual birth.




24th Dec.


Consider first, that the time being now come in which the Son of God was to be born into this world, in the silence of the night and in the obscurity of a stable, the eternal Word of God, by whom all things were made, issued out from his nine months' close confinement in his mother's womb, without any detriment of her virginal integrity: and so came to dwell amongst us. See, my soul, and contemplate with thy inward eyes this lovely babe - O how lovely indeed and loving to us! - already beginning to suffer for thee, and to weep bitterly for thy sins. See how this blessed mother takes him up from the ground shivering with cold; see with what profound reverence on the one hand, and with what ardent love and affection on the other, she embraces him, and carefully wraps him up in swaddling clothes, and lays him in the manger. But see also, in the midst of all this poverty and humility of this newborn king, all the heavenly choirs of angels and archangels, and al the cherubim and seraphim, descending from heaven to adore their Lord, and to sing their hymns of praise and glory to him, according to that of the apostle, Heb. i. 6, that when God brought his firstborn into the world he said: 'Let all the angels of God adore him.' Christians, let us join with all these heavenly spirits; let us join with the blessed virgin, the mother of God, in our homage and adoration, praise and thanksgiving, to the Son of God, born into this world to be our Emmanuel, (God with us,) and to save us: let us welcome him at his birth, and embrace him with all the affection of our souls.

Consider 2ndly, what we read, Luke ii., that at the time of the birth of our Lord, 'There were in the same country shepherds watching and keeping the night watches over their flock. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them, and they feared with a great fear. And the angel said to them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people; for this day is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. And this shall be a sign unto you: you shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying, Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill!' See, Christians, you study well the lessons designed for you in this whole passage. Behold, a heavenly messenger is here sent to carry the first news, the happy tidings of the birth of the Son of God - born into this world to be the Saviour of the world. But to whom do you think does God send this joyful message, this heavenly embassy? Not to any of the great ones of this world, not to any of the worldly wise, nor to the learned, nor to the rich, nor to any of them that lived at their ease and wallowed in sensual pleasures. No; their pride and self-conceit, their love of the world, and of the things of this world, their love of sensual and carnal pleasures, fastened them down to the earth and disqualified them for the visits of heaven. What manner of men, then, were they who were favoured with his glorious vision and this heavenly message, and in consequence of it were the first, after the blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, that had the happiness to see and to worship the Saviour of the world - to believe in him themselves, and to preach and publish his coming to their neighbours? O, they were poor, humble, harmless shepherds, keeping the night watches over their flocks, attentive to the business of their humble calling, and likely employing that silent time of the night in joining the praises of God and prayer with the care of their sheep. Now, such as these are commonly the favourites of the most high, who resists the proud and gives his grace to the humble.. See, my soul, these be also thy dispositions if thou wouldst be favoured by our Lord with his divine graces.

Consider 3rdly, the words of the angel to the shepherds: 'I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people, for this day is born to you a Saviour.' See, Christians, what ought to be the subject of your joy at this holy time. A Saviour is born this day to you, who comes to save his people from their sins; who comes to deliver you from the power and slavery of the devil, and from hell and damnation; and to bring to you mercy, grace, and salvation. O here is a just subject of true joy indeed! Not like the joys of worldlings, which are either vain and foolish, or base and filthy; but a joy in the Lord and in his goodness, which opens to us by this mystery the gate of joys that shall never end. O let us then join with all the heavenly choirs in the sacred hymn they sung on this occasion: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill!' Let us ever glorify him who has wrought these wonders for us, and who has sent us, by the birth of his Son, justice and abundance of peace till the moon be taken away. O how lovely and desirable is this peace! But it is only bestowed on men of goodwill: 'For there is no peace to the wicked, saith the Lord,' Isaia xlvii. 22.

Conclude to imitate the shepherds, by going over with them in spirit to Bethlehem this night, and thee paying your homage, and making your offerings to your new-born king. The offering he calls for is that of your heart. O give it him without reserve! But let it be a loving heart, to answer that love which has brought him down from heaven to you: let it be a contrite and humble heart, in consideration of your ingratitude and manifold sins against him.



25th Dec.

Parvulus filius hodie natus est nobis, et vocabitur Deus, fortis, alleluia, alleluia.

Consider first, that the devotion of this holy time, and of this day in particular, calls us to the crib of Bethlehem, there to contemplate our infant Saviour, and to entertain our souls with him. O what a large field have we here opened to us for our meditations! Christians, place yourselves in spirit near the manger of our Lord, and fix the eyes of your soul upon him. Reflect who this is whom you see here lying before you, as a helpless infant, in this open stall; suffering and weeping, poor and humble, wrapt up in these mean swaddling clothes, and laid in this crib, between an ox and an ass. O! your faith will inform you that under all these mean appearances lies concealed the Lord of glory! This infant, not yet one day old, is the eternal Son of the eternal God; this weak helpless babe is he, who by his almighty power made both heaven and earth; he who is here wrapt up so straitly, and confined to this narrow crib, fills heaven and earth with his incomprehensible immensity; this speechless child is God's own Word, who called all things out of nothing, and whom all things obey. O wonderful mystery which has thus joined together the highest and the lowest; all that is great in heaven, with all that is little and contemptible upon earth, in the person of this infant God! But what is the meaning of all this? What has brought this great God down to this stable, to this crib? Why has he thus debased and perfectly annihilated himself? O my soul, it is for thy sake; it is for the love of thee; it is to redeem thee, and deliver thee from sin and hell; it is to give an example of all virtue; it is to draw thy heart to himself, and to engage thee to love him.

Consider 2ndly, and study well the great lessons which the Son of God desires to teach thee from the crib. Learn to be humble, by the contemplation of his unparalleled humiliations, which he here so joyfully embraces for thy sake; learn to be poor in spirit, by the consideration of his voluntary poverty; learn mortification and self-denial, by the view of his sufferings, which are all of his own choice. Learn of him here to despise this cheating world and all its empty show, its painted toys, its childish amusements, and all the allurements of its sensual pleasures, which he, who is the wisdom of God, despises and condemns in his birth. But especially apply thyself to study well, and to learn from the contemplation of the Son of God in the crib, the infinite charity of God, his infinite love for thee, and the infinite enormity of sin, by which we continually rebel against this infinite charity. O my soul, if thou couldst but penetrate, with thy inward eyes, into the heart of this thy infant God, what heavenly flames wouldst thou there discover of a more than seraphic love for thee! Thou wouldst here meet thyself, in the midst of the heart of thy Saviour, where he has so long ago given thee a place. O there thou wouldst effectually learn both to hate thy sins and to love thy God.

Consider 3rdly, the affections with which thou oughtest to accompany thy meditations in the stable of Bethlehem, if thou desirest to entertain here in a proper manner thy new-born king and Saviour. Here thou must exercise thyself in acts of all the three divine or theological virtues; of a lively faith in This thy infant God and all his sacred truths - which lie here concealed in this mystery of his incarnation and birth - and all the wonders of his almighty power, wisdom, and goodness, which he has here wrought for the love of us; and of all the treasures of heaven, which he here brings with him to communicate to our souls; of a most firm hope and confidence in his infinite power, mercy, and goodness, which he discovers to thee in this mystery; of a most ardent love for him in return for all that love which he here shows thee. Then pour forth thy soul in his presence, in acts of adoration, praise, and glory; in acts of thanksgiving for all he has done for thee and for the whole world; in acts of oblation of thy whole being, and of all the powers of thy soul, to his love and service: and make at his feet (who is come to be the great high priest of God and man) an humble confession of all thy sins, with a most hearty sorrow and contrition for having ever offended so good a God; craving mercy, pardon, and absolution of him, and through him, and firmly resolving upon a new life for the future.

Conclude to let this be thy daily exercise during this holy time of Christmas, and not to suffer worldly entertainments or diversions to keep thee out of the company of thy Saviour, at least so far as to hinder thee from waiting often on him, and spending a competent part of thy time with him, in proper meditations and affections. If thou art at a loss to know how thou oughtest to entertain thyself with him, beg of him to teach thee, for he comes to be thy teacher. And if thou art sensible of the meanness of thy own performances, in point of adoration, praise, glory, thanksgiving, &c., offer up to the eternal Father the adoration, praise, glory, and thanksgiving of this thy new-born Saviour, to supply thy defects.



26th Dec.


Consider first, that St. Stephen was the first martyr; that is, the first who bore witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ by laying down his life for him; the first who after the death and passion of the Son of God returned him blood for blood, life for life; the first that was so happy as to be made a victim of divine love, a holocaust of sweet savour in the sight of God; in fine, the first that washed his robes by martyrdom in the blood of the Lamb, and is now at the head of his heavenly train, 'who stand before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, where he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell over them; and they shall no more hunger nor thirst, neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall rule them, and shall lead them to the living fountains of waters,' &c., Apoc. vii. 15, &c. O my soul, what a glory, what a happiness is it to lay down life itself for divine love! But alas! how far are the generality of Christians from this perfection of charity, who are so unwilling to suffer even the least inconvenience for the sake of their heavenly lover? And is not this our case too? O let us love at least these generous lovers of our God; let us conceive a holy envy for their happiness, by sighing and praying for a share of their charity and love.

Consider 2ndly, the character that is given to St. Stephen by the spirit of God: 'He was a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost,' Acts vi. 5. 'He was full of grace and fortitude, and did great wonders and miracles among the people,' verse 8. 'By his zeal the word of the Lord increased, and the number of the disciples was multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly,' verse 7, 'and though many adversaries rose up, who disputed against him, there are none of them able to resist the wisdom and spirit that spoke,' verse 10. And when he was hurried by them before the council, all that were there 'saw his face, as if it had been the face of an angel,' verse 15. His zeal for the faith of Christ, and the courage and constancy with which he maintained it before the council, was rewarded with a heavenly vision, in which he 'saw the glory of God, and the Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God,' Acts vii. 55. And his bearing testimony to this truth drew on him his martyrdom: for presently,'casting him forth out of the city, they stoned him,' and invoking the Lord, he said, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And falling on his knees, he cried with a loud voice, saying, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this he fell asleep in the Lord,' Acts vii. 57, 58, 59. Christians, what admirable lessons and examples have we here of all the virtues, in a heroic degree, in the life and death of this glorious saint? He was full of faith; he was full of the Holy Ghost and his gifts; he was full of grace, he was full of fortitude, he was full of zeal, he was full of heavenly wisdom, he was full of divine charity; in a word, he was full of God and of all good. O how happy shall we be, if we seriously endeavour to walk in the footsteps of this great saint by an imitation of these his virtues!

Consider 3rdly, that as amongst the virtues of St. Stephen none was more remarkable than his charity, so none more pressingly calls for our imitation. Charity has two branches, the love of God and the love of our neighbours: the love of God with our whole heart, and with our whole soul; and the love of our neighbours as ourselves. The love of God is exercised by seeking and by promoting in all things the glory of God; by sanctifying his name, both by word and work; by labouring to propagate his kingdom; by a perpetual dedication of our whole selves to his divine service. Thus did St. Stephen continually exercise himself in the most perfect acts of the love of God, not by the bare profession of the tongue, but by works and in truth. In like manner, the love of our neighbours is exercised by seeking and promoting their true and everlasting welfare upon all occasions, by withdrawing them from the error of their way, and from the broad road that leads to perdition, and bringing them to God and to his grace: thus also did St. Stephen continually exercise himself in the most perfect acts of the love of his neighbours, by his preaching and by his prayers; by his zeal for the salvation of their souls; and by his sparing no pains to bring them to Christ, through this charity cost him his life. Now 'greater love than this no man hath, that a man should lay down his life for his friends,' John xv. 13. But the most difficult point of all in the line of charity as it regards our neighbours, is the love of our enemies; of which St. Stephen has given us a most glorious example in his last dying prayer for them that were actually stoning him. 'Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.'

Conclude to honour this great saint, by diligently imitating his love for his God, his zeal for his glory, and for the salvation of souls; his fortitude and constancy in his sufferings, and his charity for his enemies. And to this end beg the assistance of his prayers.



27th Dec.



Consider first, upon how many accounts we ought to honour St. John, the beloved disciple of the Son of God; and to glorify God in him, for the extraordinary gifts and graces bestowed upon him. He was called in his youth, whilst he was as yet innocent and pure, to follow our Lord Jesus; and he readily obeyed the call, and left both his parents and all things else for the sake of Christ. His zeal and fortitude in the cause of his master procured him the name of Boanerges, or a son of thunder. The purity of his soul and body made him a special favourite of his Lord; who therefore admitted him to lean upon his bosom at his last supper, and to draw from that sacred fountain of life the heavenly waters of grace and truth; and on the following day, when he was dying upon the cross, he recommended his virgin mother to his care, that she might be his mother, and he might be her son. O blessed saint, great favourite both of Jesus and Mary, introduce us also, by the interest thou hast now in heaven, into some share in their favour, by procuring for us, by thy prayers, the grace to imitate thy purity.

Consider 2ndly, to what a height St. John was raised by divine grace. He was made an apostle, and one of the chiefest of the apostles; even one of the three that were chosen by our Lord to be witness both of his glory on Mount Thabor, and of is anguish and agony on Mount Oliver. he was also an Evangelist or writer of the gospel, (which none of the other apostles were, except St. Matthew,) and amongst the four Evangelists is compared to the eagle, (which flies high, and looks upon the sun with a steadfast eye,) because of his sublime beginning, by taking his first flight up to the eternal Word, by whom all things were made; and his following throughout his whole gospel the same sublime course, with his eye still fixed on this great sun of justice, and the immense light of his divinity. St. John was also a martyr, by drinking of the chalice of his Lord, (as he had foretold him,) by a long course of sufferings; and by being at length sentenced to death by the tyrant Domitian, and cast into a vessel of boiling oil, from whence he was delivered by an evident miracle. In fine, he was a prophet, to whom our Lord revealed an infinity of heavenly secrets and mysteries relating to latter times, which we find recorded in his Apocalypse, written during his banishment in the isle of Patmos. See then, my soul how many titles this great saint has to our veneration. But remember, at the same time, that the veneration which will please him best, will be a love and imitation of his virtues.

Consider 3rdly, that the writings of St. John recommend nothing so much as charity and verity, love and truth, These they continually inculcate: charity, because God is charity; he is all love, he has died for love; 'Let us therefore love God,' saith he,'because God first hath loved us.' 'But then this,' saith he, 'is the love of God, this is the Charity we owe him, to keep his commandments. and this commandment we have from God, (the favourite commandment indeed of the Son of God,) that we should love one another.' This love for one another all his epistles are full of; they all breathe this sweet odour; with this they join verity or truth; loving in truth, walking in truth, for the sake of truth, which abideth in us, and shall be with us for ever. And what is this truth, and the life? Such was always the doctrine of St. John: this he perpetually preached, both by word and writing: such was the spirit of this disciple of love.

Conclude to embrace, with all thy soul, this charity and verity, this love and truth so much recommended by St. John, or rather by the spirit of God, through him. Keep close to this charity and verity here, and it will abide with thee for ever hereafter, and will make thee happy for endless ages.



28th Dec.



Consider first, that the Son of God, who was born into this world to be the Saviour of the world, was no sooner born, but he began to be persecuted by the children of this world. The wicked king Herod, to secure to himself and his family the temporal kingdom of Judea, seeks the life of this new-born king - of whose birth he had been informed by the sages of the East - and in order to compass his impious design, employs both craft, and (when this was eluded) open violence, by the barbarous massacre of the innocents. But all to no other purpose than to show how vain are the designs and efforts of men against the decrees of God; according to that of the wise man, Prov. xxi. 30, 'There is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord.' Our new-born Saviour, by divine admonition, was carried away to Egypt, out of the reach of the tyrant, and all his barbarity only served to render the birth of the Messias more illustrious, by spreading the fame of it through all the world, and to crown at the same time so many innocent martyrs; whilst, for his own part, it brought a perpetual odium upon his infamous memory, which no length of tie can ever efface, and drew down most terrible judgments (within the compass of a year) upon his head; and as to his numerous family, for which he was so solicitous, they quickly lost the kingdom, and were in a short time totally extirpated. O see, Christians, how sad a thing it is wilfully to fight against our Saviour by known sin, and how dismal the consequences are of all such undertakings.

Consider 2ndly, that we read, Matt. ii. 16. &c., 'Then Herod, perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry, and sending, killed all the male children that were in Bethlehem and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under.' These, my soul, are the Holy Innocents, whose feast we celebrate this day as happy martyrs, bearing testimony, not by their words but by their blood, to the birth of the Son of God. These are the first victims, immolated as so many lambs, to illustrate the coming of our Lamb of God, born into this world to take away the sins of the world. These are the first flowers of the martyrs, cropt in the very bud by the impious persecutor of Christ; these the first-fruits produced by the coming of our Lord, and presented by him to his Father, to be followed afterwards by that abundant harvest out of all nations of innumerable glorious champions of Christ, who should maintain his cause by the testimony of their blood. To these the church applies in the lesson of this day that of Apoc. xiv. 4, 5, 'These are they who were not defiled with women: for they are virgins. These follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were purchased from among men, the first-fruits to God and to the Lamb: and in their mouth there was found no lie; for they are without spot before the throne of God.' O let us honour these first martyrs of the Son of God.

Consider 3rdly, that purity, innocence, and temporal sufferings are by divine appointment the way to eternal happiness. By this road the Holy Innocents arrived thither. O how happy are all they that are walking in this road! See then, Christians, how greatly you are deceived in flying so much from sufferings, since these are to bring you to your God. There was lamentations and great mourning in Bethlehem of the mothers of the Holy Innocents: they were not to be comforted because they had lost their children. In the meantime there was a great joy in heaven for their happy transmigration to a region of endless bliss. Thus, when the world is sorrowful, heaven rejoices; because the sufferings of this short time produce for the sufferers an eternal weight of glory in that blessed kingdom, whereas they that are without sufferings are in danger of never coming thither.

Conclude to embrace whatsoever share may be appointed for thee in the sufferings of this life, as designed by divine Providence to help thee to heaven. Assure thyself that thy God knows what is best for thee, and that he sends thee what he knows to be the best. Had not the Innocents been brought to God by the means of their sufferings they might have lived to have crucified their Lord, and instead of being eternally happy, might have been eternally miserable.



29th Dec.


On the Gospel of the Good Shepherd, John x.,
read on the Feast of St. Thomas of Canterbury

Consider first, that the Son of God, by his incarnation and birth, did not only come amongst us to be our Father and to be our head - our king, our priest, and our sacrifice; our bother and our friend our physician and our advocate: - but also recommends himself to us in this gospel under the amiable quality of the good shepherd and pastor of our souls. 'I am the good shepherd,' saith he, verse 11: 'the good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and runneth away, and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep: but the hireling runneth away, because he is a hireling; and he hath no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep,' &c. O, Christians, how happy are we in such a shepherd - so good, so loving, so careful of our true welfare! O he is the good shepherd indeed, that came down form heaven to seek the poor sheep that was lost, and when he had found it took it upon his own shoulders, to carry it home with joy to his heavenly fold, Luke xv. O how dearly have his sheep cost him! O how truly has he made good in himself that sentence, that 'the good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep!' O let us ever embrace and love, follow and obey this true shepherd of our souls!

Consider 2ndly, in how many ways this heavenly shepherd is daily providing for all the necessities of his sheep, and the tender affection he perpetually shows them. 'The Lord ruleth me,' (or as it is in the original, is my shepherd,) saith the Psalmist, Ps xxi., 'and I shall want nothing: he hath set me in a place of pasture.' Yes, Christians, he has placed our souls here in the midst of rich pastures of his divine word and sacraments, in the communion of his church. He hath brought us up by the streams of the living waters of his grace, which are ever flowing to refresh and nourish us. He conducts us to the paths of justice, he converts our souls, he is with us even when we are walking in the midst of the shadow of death; his rod and his staff still comfort and support us. But O give ear, my soul, to what follows in the same Psalm: 'Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that afflict me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and thy chalice, which inebriated me, how goodly is it!' Here are benefits indeed of this divine pastor of our souls: he has prepared a table for us, in which he feeds his sheep with his own most sacred body and blood; he anoints our heads with the divine oil of his holy Spirit, and he inebriates us with the goodly chalice of his passion, continually offered up on our altars, to be a plentiful source to us of all heavenly grace. and in consequence of all these favours already bestowed on us he encourages us to conclude with the royal prophet, 'that his mercy will follow us all the days of our life, and that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days even to a happy eternity.'

Consider 3rdly, what we owe, in quality of the sheep of Christ, to this divine shepherd. He tells us, John x. 3, 4, 5, 'That his sheep hear the voice of their shepherd; that he calleth his own sheep by name and leadeth them out; that he goeth before them; and that the sheep follow him, because they know his voice; but a stranger they follow not, but fly from him, because they know not the voice of strangers.' And again, verses 27, 28, 'My sheep hear my voice; and I know them; and they follow me. and I give them eternal life; and they shall not perish for ever; and no man shall snatch them out of my hand.' Christians, do we keep close to this heavenly shepherd? Do we follow him both by our faith, and by our life? Do we know him and hear his voice? Do we fly from strangers, the world, the flesh, and the devil? If so, we are his sheep indeed; and if we persevere, he will bring us in spite of the world, the flesh, and the devil, to the pastures of eternal life. But if we run away from our shepherd, to follow these strangers, we must expect to fall a prey to the wolves.

Conclude to embrace your divine Saviour, under this amiable character of the pastor and shepherd of your souls; and as nothing has been wanting on his side to fulfil, to the utmost perfection, even beyond all expression and imagination, every part of the character of the good shepherd; see nothing be wanting on your side to fulfil, by a perpetual correspondence with his grace, every part of the character of good sheep.



30th Dec.


Consider first, that the year is now come to a conclusion: it is just upon the point of expiring: all these twelve months that are now past, have flown away into the gulf of eternity; they are now no more; they shall return to us no more. all our years pass in this manner, they all hasten away one after another and hurry us along with them, till they bring us also into an endless and unchangeable eternity. Our years will all be soon over; we shall find ourselves at the end of our lives much sooner than we imagine. O let us not then set our hearts upon any of these transitory things. Let us despise all that pass away with this short life, and learn to adhere to God alone, who never passes away, because he is eternal. Let us always be prepared for our departure hence.

Consider 2ndly, that as the year is now past and gone, so are all the pleasures of it: all our diversions, all our amusements, in which we have spent our time this year, are now no more: the remembrance of them is but like that of a dream. O, such is the condition of all things that pass with time! Why then do we set our esteem or affection upon any of them? Why are we not practically and feelingly convinced of the emptiness and vanity of them all; and that nothing deserves our love or attention but God and eternity? And as the pleasures of the year are all past, so are all the displeasures and uneasinesses, pains and mortifications of it: they are also now no more than like a dream: and so will all temporal evils appear to us a little while hence when we shall see ourselves upon the brink of eternity. Let us learn, then, only to fear those evils which will have no end, and the evil of sin, which leads to these never-ending evils.

Consider 3rdly, how you have spent your time this year. It was all given you by your creator, in order to bring you forward to him, and to a happy eternity. O how many favours and blessings have you received from him every day of the year! How many graces and invitations to good! And what use have you made of these favours? What virtue have you acquired this year? What vice have you rooted out? What passions have you overcome? Have you made any improvement at all in virtue, since the beginning of the year? Instead of going forward to God, have you not rather gone backward? Alas! what an account will you have to give one day for all this precious time, and for all these graces and blessings, spiritual or corporal, which you have so ungratefully abused and perverted during the course of this year. Then as to your sins, whether of omission or commission against God, your neighbours, or yourselves - which you have been guilty of this year, either by thought, word, or deed - what a dreadful scene will open itself to your eyes upon a little examination! And little have you done during the course of this year to cancel them by penance. O, how melancholy would your case be, if your eternal lot were to be determined by your performances of the past year!

Conclude by giving thanks to God for all his blessings of this year; and especially for his patience and forbearance with you in your sins. Return now at least to him with your whole heart; begging mercy and pardon of all the sins of the year, and for all the sins of your life. And resolve, with God's grace, if he is pleased to give you another year, to spend it in such a manner as to secure to your souls the never-ending year of a happy eternity.



1st Jan.



Consider first, that on this day we keep the Octave of the birth of Christ, together with the festivity of his circumcision. when being yet but eight days old, he began to shed his sacred blood in obedience to his Father's will; subjecting himself to that most painful and most humbling ceremony, and bearing therein the resemblance of a criminal, as if he, like the rest had stood in need of the circumcising knife for the expiation of sin. Christians, learn here, from your infant Saviour, the lessons he desires to teach you in his circumcision; his unparalleled humility, his perfect obedience and conformity to his Father's will; his patience in suffering, and his ardent love and charity for us. He came to discharge the immense debt we owed by our sins to his Father's justice, by shedding the last drop of his blood in expiation of them; and behold he has here given us an earnest of this payment, by submitting himself this day to the knife of circumcision.

Consider 2ndly, and set before your eyes this divine infant, this innocent lamb of God, this beloved of your souls, beautiful beyond the children of men, all embrued in his own most sacred blood; and suffering in that tender age the cruel smart of a most sensible wound. O how sensible indeed to him! O how sensible to the loving heart of his blessed Virgin Mother! See with what affection she embraces him: se with what anguish of heart she bewails his sufferings: see with what tender compassion she strives to afford him all the comfort she is able. Learn of her the like affections of love and compassion for your suffering Lord.

O my soul, embrace, with her, thy infant Saviour, bleeding for thee. 'A bloody spouse thou are to me,' said Sephora to Moses, Exod. iv. 25: when to deliver him from the hand of the angel that threatened him with death, she touched his feet with the blood of her child whom she had just then circumcised. O how truly is our dear Redeemer a sponsus sanguinum, a bloody spouse to our souls, for whom he gives now this first fruit, and for whom he will one day give all his blood, to rescue us from the hand of the destroying angel! O blessed be his divine charity for ever!

Consider 3rdly, that it is the duty of all Christians to imitate our Lord's circumcision, by a spiritual circumcision of the heart, which God so often calls for in the Scriptures, and always preferred before the carnal circumcision. This spiritual circumcision requires of us a cutting off, or retrenching, all disorderly affections to the world and its pomps; to the mammon of iniquity, and to the flesh, and its lusts; and a serious application of our souls to a daily mortification of our passions and corrupt inclinations. My soul, let us heartily embrace, and daily put in practice, this circumcision of the heart.

Conclude to make a return of thy heart to thy infant Saviour, who began on this day to shed his blood for thee; but see it be a heart purified, by a spiritual circumcision, from all such affections as are disagreeable to him.



2nd Jan.



Consider first, how many years of your life are now past and gone; how long it is since you first came to the knowledge of good and evil; and in what manner you have spent all this precious time, given you for no other end but that you might employ it in the love and service of your God, and in securing the salvation of your immortal soul. Alas! have any of these past years been spent in such a manner as to answer this great end? Is not that one and only business for which you came into the world, still to be begun? Have not all these years, which one after another have flowed away into the gulf of eternity, been utterly lost to your souls? It is well if they have not; considering how soon the greatest part of Christians, after their coming to the use of reason, fall from the grace of their baptism; how quickly they gave themselves up to follow the bent of their corrupt inclinations and passions; and in what a forgetfulness of God they generally pass their days. Ah! my soul, what a sad thought it would be, if during all these years thou hast hitherto lived, instead of storing up provisions for a happy eternity, thou hast been only 'treasuring up to thyself wrath against the day of wrath!'

Consider 2ndly, the present state and condition of your conscience. What is your life at present? How stand accounts between your soul and God? What would you think, if this day you were to be called to the bar of divine justice? Would you not earnestly desire a delay? alas! how few live in the manner in which they would be glad to be found, when death shall overtake them! and yet they are not ignorant, that death generally comes when least expected, and that, generally speaking, as men live, so they die. Ah! my soul, deceive not thyself, not suffer thyself to be imposed upon by the enemy. Thy time, to all appearance, will be much shorter than thou art willing to think; this very year perhaps may be thy last; it will certainly be so to many thousands, who expect it as little as thyself. Set, then, thy house in order now; begin this very day to rectify the whole state of thy interior, and live henceforward as thou desirest to die. There cannot be so great a security where eternity is at stake.

Consider 3rdly, that the mercy of God has borne with you for so many years past, and, notwithstanding all the provocations of your repeated crimes and perpetual ingratitude, has brought you now to the beginning of this New Year, out of a sincere desire, that now at least you might begin a new life, and such a life as might secure to your soul that true life which never ends. You have been, alas! like the barren 'fig-tree, planted in his vineyard,' which hitherto is willing to try once more, in hopes of our doing better for the future. But, O take care to disappoint him no more, by refusing him the fruits he expects of a thorough amendment of life, lest he pass an irrevocable sentence, for the barren tree to be cut down, and cast into the fire.

Conclude to begin, from this very hour, to turn away from sin; and to dedicate yourselves henceforward in good earnest to the love and service of your God. Alas! how few Christians seem to be truly in earnest in this greatest of all concerns, where their all is at stake for eternity.



3rd Jan.



Consider first, that in the epistle which is read on New Year's Day, Titus ii. 11-15, the Apostle has in a few words declared to us the rules we are to follow in our lives, in consequence of the Son of God coming amongst us: viz., what are we to renounce; what we are to practise; what we are to look for; and what we are to attend to. 'The Grace of God our Saviour,' saith he, 'hath appeared to all men; instructing us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly, and justly, and godly in this world; looking for that blessed hope, and the coming of the glory of that great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works.' O how many great lessons are here contained in a few words! Let us reflect on them one after another.

Consider therefore, 2ndly, the end for which our God and Saviour came down amongst us by the mystery of his incarnation - to enlighten us by his Gospel and by his life; and at length offer to himself in sacrifice for us, by his death upon the cross.'He gave himself for us,' saith the Apostle, 'that he might redeem us from all iniquity:' by setting us at liberty from being slaves to Satan, sin, and hell: by breaking asunder all the chains of our vices and passions: and by purchasing all mercy, grace, and salvation for us: to the end that, by the virtue of his precious blood, 'he might cleanse us for himself, and make us an acceptable people (a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation,' 1 Pet. ii. 9), a zealous 'pursuer of all good works.'See, Christians, what kind of men we ought to be, in consequence of what the Son of God has done for us, in coming down from heaven for us, and laying down his life for us. O let us never more degenerate, by leading lives unworthy of him! Let us never more return to our former slavery!

Consider 3rdly, that being purchased by the Son of God with so great a price, we are to consider ourselves henceforward as his property; and therefore we must not pretend to dispose of ourselves any otherwise than according to his will and pleasure. This ought to be our rule in all we do: this we ought to consult in all our deliberations: this holy will of him that has bought us with his own blood should be in every thing a law to us, so as ever to renounce all that we know to be displeasing to him; and ever to pursue with all our strength what we know to be agreeable to him. 'You are not your own; you are bought with a great price,' says the Apostle, 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20. 'Glorify, and bear God in your body.'

Conclude to take in practice for the rule of your life this holy will of our Redeemer, and according to the whole extent of the Apostle's exposition and declaration of the Christian's rule, Titus ii. 11, &c., and you will be religious men indeed, of that excellent order which Jesus Christ came from heaven to institute, and you will be with him for ever.



4th Jan.


On what we are to renounce by the Christian's Rule

Consider first, that in consequence of our redemption through Jesus Christ, we are bound, by the tenour of our rule above rehearsed, to deny, that is, to renounce, all 'ungodliness and worldly desires,' and to be 'clean from all iniquity;' we are to run away from all evil, but more especially from the evils here named, the first of which is 'ungodliness,' which is usually the first crime we commit, and the source of all the rest. For by ungodliness we understand, either the giving away from God what belongs to him, or the refusing him the service and love which we owe him. Now here the sinner usually begins to revolt. He is indispensably obliged to dedicate himself to God from his first coming to the use of reason; instead of which, like the apostate angels, he turns himself away from him, he refuses him his heart, which he so justly claims, and gives it away to empty toys and lying follies. This is 'ungodliness;' this in a kind of idolatry, in preferring the creature before the Creator; this is the source of innumerable evils; this is the very bane of the world. O let us renounce it and detest it!

Consider 2ndly, what those baits are which Satan usually employs to draw us away from God; for no man ever chooses to serve the devil for his own sake, or for any love he has for him: but the tempter sets before us the deceitful appearances of some worldly honour, profit, or pleasure, and with these he allures deluded mortals to his service; these are the gilded pills with which he poisons the soul; with which he draws millions into hell. Therefore the Christian's rules require that, together with 'ungodliness,' he should also 'deny' all 'worldly desires,' that is, all affections to these worldly toys and cheating vanities, as the most effectual means of disarming all of us. For when we despise all that he can offer, and even fly and abhor his choicest allurements, he stands confounded, and can do no more.

Consider 3rdly, that these worldly lusts and desires which the Christian must renounce, are, in particular, those of which the beloved disciple writes, 1 John ii. 15, 16. 'Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father (the love of God) is not in him; for all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, and concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life.' It is on account of this 'triple concupiscence,' which reigns in all places, that the 'whole world,' as the same apostle tells us (ch. v. 19) 'is seated in wickedness:' so that if we desire to belong to Christ in good earnest, and to profess ourselves religious under this rule, we must declare a perpetual war against this triple concupiscence, and its abettors, vis., the world and our corrupt nature; and then we may despise all the devils in hell. Yes, Christians, renounce but these three capital enemies of your souls, viz., the love of sensual pleasures, the love of gratifying the covetous eye with worldly toys, and the love of worldly honour, and you shall be 'cleansed from all iniquity.'

Conclude to be ever zealous observers of your rule, by 'denying ungodliness and worldly desires;' and turn your heart, to seek your happiness in other kinds of honours, riches, and pleasures such as the world cannot give, and which may stay with you for ever.