Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): The Son of God was made man to make men the sons of God

The voice of gladness hath resounded in our land, the voice of exultation and salvation in the tents of sinners (Ps. 118:15; Sg. 2:12; Jer. 33:11). A good word has been heard, a consoling word, a speech full of joy fulness, a rumour worthy of all acceptance (1 Tim. 1:15). Sing praise, O ye mountains (Is. 49:13), and all ye trees of the woods. Clap your hands before the face of the Lord, because He cometh (Is. 55:12; Ps. 96:12-13; Is. 1:2). Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth! Be amazed, and let every creature give praise; but thou beyond others, O man!

JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda.

What heart so stony as not to be softened at these words? What soul is not melted at this voice of her Beloved? What announcement could be sweeter? What intelligence more enrapturing? Was its like ever heard before? Or when did the world ever receive such tidings?

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda.

O short word, telling of the Eternal Word abbreviated for us! O word full of heavenly delights! The heart is oppressed by its mellifluous sweetness, and longs to pour forth its redundant riches, but words refuse their service. So overpowering is the music of this short speech that it loses melody if one iota is changed.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda.

O Nativity of spotless sanctity! O birth honourable for the world, birth pleasing and welcome to men, because of the magnificence of the benefit it bestows; birth incomprehensible to the angels, by reason of the depth and sacredness of the mystery! In all its circumstances it is wonderful because of its singular excellence and novelty. Its precedent has not been known, nor has its like ever followed. O birth alone without sorrow, alone without shame, free from corruption, not unlocking, but consecrating the temple of the Virgin’s womb! O Nativity above nature, yet for the sake of nature! Surpassing it by the excellence of the miracle, repairing it by the virtue of the mystery! Who shall declare this generation? The angel announces it. Almighty Power overshadows it. The Spirit of the Most High comes upon it. The Virgin believes. By faith she conceives. The Virgin brings forth. The Virgin remains a virgin. Who is not filled with astonishment? The Son of the Most High is born. The Son, begotten of God before all ages, is Incarnate! The Word is become an Infant! Who can sufficiently admire?

And it is not a needless Nativity, a superfluous condescension of Infinite Majesty.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda.

Awake, you who lie in the dust awake and give praise. Behold, the Lord cometh with salvation. He comes with salvation, He comes with unction, He comes with glory. Jesus cannot come without salvation, Christ cannot come without unction, nor the Son of God without glory. For He Himself is salvation, He is unction, He is glory, as it is written, “A wise son is the glory of his father” (Prov. 10:1).

Happy the soul who has tasted this fruit of salvation, and is drawn to “run in the odour of his ointments” (Sg. 1:3) that she may “see his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father.” Take courage, you who were lost: Jesus comes to seek and save that which was lost. Ye sick, return to health: Christ comes to heal the contrite of heart with the unction of His mercy. Rejoice, all you who desire great things: the Son of God comes down to you that He may make you the co-heirs of His kingdom. I beseech you, then, Lord, heal me, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; glorify me, and I shall be glorious. Then indeed shall my soul bless the Lord, and all that is within me praise His Holy Name, when He shall have been merciful to my iniquities, have healed my infirmities, and have filled my desire with good things.

On account of these three precious gifts of salvation, unction, and glory, it is consoling to hear that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born. For why is He called Jesus, but because He shall save His people from their sins? Why has He willed to be named Christ, but because He will soften the yoke of His law by the unction of His grace? Why was the Son of God made man, but to make men the sons of God? Who shall resist His will? If Jesus justifies, who can condemn? If Christ heals, who can wound? If the Son of God exalts, who shall cast us down?

Since Jesus is born, let everyone rejoice whom the consciousness of sin has condemned as deserving of eternal punishment. For the compassion of Jesus exceeds all crimes, however great their number and enormity. Since Christ is born, let him rejoice who wages war with the vices inherent in our nature. No disorder of the soul, how inveterate soever, can withstand the unction which Christ brings. Since the Son of God is born, let him rejoice who desires great things, for a great rewarder comes. “This is the heir”; let us receive Him devoutly, “and the in heritance shall be ours.” For He Who has given us His own Son, how has He not with Him given us all things ? Let no one disbelieve, let no one doubt; we have a most trustworthy testimony. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.”

The only-begotten Son of God desired to have brethren, that He might be the first among many brethren. Even human frailty has no cause to hesitate. He has become the brother of men; He has become the Son of man; He has become man. “Et Homo factus est.” And, if man thinks this incredible, sense enforces belief.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda.

Behold what condescension! It is not in the royal city of Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem, which is the least of the thousands of Juda. O Bethlehem! O little Bethlehem! Once little, now magnified by the Lord! He has magnified thee Who, though great, became little in thee.

Rejoice, O Bethlehem, and make holiday in thy streets with songs of Alleluia! What city on hearing of thy good fortune will not envy thee that most precious stable and the glory of its manger? In all the wide world thy name is now celebrated, and all generations call thee blessed. Everywhere glorious things are said of thee, O little city of God. Everywhere is sung, “A man is born in her, and the Most High himself hath founded her” (Ps. 86:3, 5). Everywhere it is proclaimed, everywhere it is made known that

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda.

Nor is it idly added “of Juda.” This word reminds us of God’s promise to our fathers. “The sceptre shall not be taken from Juda, nor the leader from his thigh, until he come who is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations” (Gen. 49:10). “For salvation is of the Jews” (Jn. 4:22); “salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47; Is. 49:6). To Juda Jacob says: “Thee shall thy brethren praise: thy hands shall be on the necks of thy enemies” (Gen. 49:8). All these words we see fulfilled in Christ, Who, ascending on high, led captivity captive, yet derived no earthly advantage therefrom, but rather gave gifts to men. These and similar prophecies are recalled to the mind by the words “Bethlehem of Juda.”

And we have no need to inquire whether anything good can come from Bethlehem; it is sufficient for us to know that our Lord willed to be born there. For doubtless there were in the world noble palaces which He might have judged worthy of His choice – palaces where the King of Glory might have been received more honourably; but it was not to purchase them that He came from His royal throne. In his left hand were riches and glory; in His right hand length of days (Prov. 3:16). There was an endless supply of these treasures in heaven, but poverty could not be found there. Earth abounded and superabounded in this kind of merchandise, and men knew not its value. The Son of God was desirous of it. He came down from heaven to make it His own, and so render it precious to us by His choice. Adorn thy bridal-chamber, O Sion, devout soul, but with humility and with poverty. These are the swathing-bands that please our Infant Jesus; these are the rich robes in which Mary tells us He loves to be clothed. Sacrifice to thy God the abominations of the Egyptians.

Remember, too, that it is in Bethlehem of Juda that Jesus is born; and be very careful lest you fail to be found there, lest He fail to be received by you. Bethlehem is the house of bread; Juda signifies confession or praise. If, then, you replenish your soul with the food of the Divine Word, the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and devoutly receive the Bread which came down from heaven, and which giveth life to the world; if the vessel of your body is made strong and able to hold the new wine by being refreshed and strengthened with His new and glorified flesh; if, moreover, you live by faith, and have no need to weep because you have forgotten to eat your bread, then, indeed, you are become a Bethlehem fitted to receive our Lord.

But see that praise be not wanting. Put on praise and beauty; these are the garments Christ approves of in those who serve Him. The Apostle commends them to you in a few words: “In the heart we believe unto righteousness; by the mouth is made confession unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10). Let, then, righteousness be in the heart, the righteousness which is of faith. This alone has glory before God. Let confession also be in the mouth unto salvation, and you are sure to receive Him Who was born in Bethlehem of Juda, Jesus Christ the Son of God.

– Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), First Sermon on the Vigil of our Lord’s Nativity

Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563): God elected us in Christ and on account of Christ

In their articulation of the doctrine of God’s eternal election, early modern Reformed theologians were very careful to express the fact that God did not elect his chosen people in the abstract, but rather God’s election was always founded on Christ as the only mediator. Election is always “in Christ” (in Christo) and “on account of Christ” (propter Christum). The prominent Reformer Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563), who served as professor of theology at Bern, explains this in his Loci Communes Sacrae Theologiae (1561 edition, p. 249-250, own translation):

Although it is evident that our election is not in any respect to be attributed to any quality or worthiness in us, but only to the pleasure, will, and purpose of God, and that we cannot identify any cause besides his immense goodness for why it was bestowed on us, yet it is not at all proper for us to believe that it is not dependent on an intermediary in whom, before the foundation of the world, the majesty of God chose humans unto himself, who would be so different to him in nature, and who would be wretched in so many ways. For this election is instituted in such a way that it cannot permit the separation of the elector from the elect. For just as reprobation excludes any connection between those who are reprobated and the one who reprobates them, so election joins the elect with the elector, and this conjunction of two very different natures, of God and of man, could not be made without the unifying link of some mediator.

Heat and cold cannot be united, except in some mean which accommodates them both; so it was much less possible that man, who is colder than ice, should without some mediator be united to God, who is a consuming fire. These things are clear to all, except to those who, considering neither the eminence of the divine majesty nor the abjectness of human infirmity and corruption, fancy that they can be conjoined to God – I know not by what rites or works – without a mediator.

Now, who that mediator is, in whom God has chosen us before the foundation of the world and has united us unto himself by a perpetual conjunction, the Apostle diligently expresses to the Ephesians (1:3-4), saying: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” And so we are chosen by God the Father in Christ his Son in an eternal election before time, that is to say, the world was only made afterwards.

In this we see that it was so determined from eternity, that we should be saved through Christ the mediator, the Son of God. And it was so predestined that the same eternal Word should be born in his time in our flesh, so that by the very same one by whom we were to be created, in the same we were also elected to be redeemed and saved. In this way our faith in our mediator and saviour Christ has altogether a most ancient foundation, that is to say, eternal, and laid down before all times and ages. In this way we were also in Christ before the world was made, that is to say, by virtue of this eternal election. He did not elect us as being in him before we were chosen, but he elected us so that we may be in him and be saved through him.

Chrysostom takes en autō [in him] to be the same as di’ autou [through him]. But, in my judgment, just as it is not proper for us to say of Christ, as our mediator, that he is our elector, so it is not proper to say that we have been elected by him. But it is proper to say, as the Apostle does, that we have been elected in him by God the Father. God elected us on account of Christ, he elected us in Christ: On account of Christ, as mediator; in Christ, as the head of the elect or those who are to be saved. And it was not at his birth according to the flesh that he was first made the mediator, head, and saviour of the elect, but he was constituted as such from eternity by the Father, and we were chosen in him and on account of him before we were born. When God determined the head or mediator of those who would be saved, he simultaneously also determined those that would be saved by him as his members, which determination the Apostle calls the election made in Christ.

Wherefore we must not consider this mystery of our election by halves or piecemeal, but in full and as a whole, with both these parts joined together, with sincere faith and highest devotion, admiration, and gratitude to Christ our mediator, head, and saviour. And for the confirmation of the certainty of our salvation in our hearts, we must also consider how our election is grounded and built upon the same counsel of God, the same eternity, and indeed the same strength as the mystery of Christ.

John Boys (1571-1625) on Sursum Corda (“Lift up your hearts”)

John Boys


John Boys (1571-1625) was Dean of Canterbury for the final 6 years of his life, during the reign of James I. Boys was particularly known for his exposition or commentary on the various parts of the liturgy of the Church of England, or the Book of Common Prayer.

In the Book of Common Prayer’s Holy Communion service, directly after the confession and absolution, the eucharistic liturgy begins with the minister exclaiming, “Lift up your hearts!” (Latin: Sursum corda), with the people responding, “We lift them up unto the Lord!”

Boys comments on the Sursum corda in his An Exposition of al the principal Scriptures vsed in our English Liturgie (1610), p. 118-119 (spelling modernized in places):

Sursum corda seems to be taken out of the Lamentations of Jeremy (3:41): Levemus corda nostra cum manibus ad dominum in coelos: used in the Church at least 300 years before Popery was known in the world. For Augustine who lived within 400 years after Christ, and the blessed Martyr Cyprian, who died an. 259, make mention of it in their writings often (Cyprian in Serm. de Orat. Dominic.; Augustine De Vera Religione, cap. 3. and Epist. 156. and [as Cassander observes] Epist. ad Dardan. & Lib. de Bono Perseverantiae. Sursum corda then is no rag of Rome, no piece of Popery, but used in all liturgies of the ancient Church (Perkins, Reformed Catholike); and that which may content the Novelist most, it was borrowed (as Master Fox thinks) not from the Latin, but from the Greek Churches. Howsoever, it is exceeding fit: for Almighty God in his holy service requires our heart principally: Son, give me thine heart (Prov. 23:26): so that when we come to his Temple, specially to his table, every one must say with David, I lift up my soul to thee (Ps. 25:1). For (as the Church of Scotland says truly, in the minister’s exhortation before the communion) the only way to receive worthily the Lord’s Supper, is to lift up our minds by faith above all things worldly and sensible, and thereby to enter into heaven, that we may find and receive Christ, where he dwelleth: a point well urged also by our Church in her Homily concerning the worthy receiving of the Sacrament: part the first.

The Papists entertain this clause still in the Roman Missal; but it makes against their real presence. For if Christ’s body (Io. Combis, Compen. Theolog. Lib. 6. Cap. 14) so large in quantity, as it was on the cross, be present in the Sacrament; what need any man lift up his heart, when as he holds it in his hand? Totum hoc (saith Augustine, Serm. de temp. 174) fide tenemus, oculis cordis intuemur; dominus ascendit in coelum, ascendat cum illo cor nostrum: His body (Acts 3:21) must be contained in heaven until the time that all things are restored: it cannot descend down to us, we must ascend up to it. So Nicolaus Cabasila writes in his exposition of the Liturgy (Cap. 26 apud Bibliothec. Pat. Tom. 4); the Priest after some speech to the people doth erect their minds, and lift up their thoughts, and saith, Sursum corda; let us think on things above, not on things below. They consent and say, that they lift up their hearts thither where their treasure is, even to heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of his Father.

Anthony Tuckney (1599-1670) on Christ as the causa finalis of a Christian’s life



Anthony Tuckney (1599-1670) was a divine of the Westminster Assembly, successively master of Emmanuel and St John’s colleges in Cambridge, and Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, before being removed from his positions at the Restoration (1660).

In a 1658 sermon in the University Church of St Mary before the University of Cambridge, Tuckney preached on Phil. 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, in which he touched on Christ as the causa finalis of a Christian’s life:

Christ is a Christian’s life, when he is causa finalis, when he, his honour and service is the main end and scope, at which in the course of his life he chiefly aimeth and labours to promote, as knowing or designing no end of his life than to live to God, according to Ps. 119:17, Deal bountifully with thy servant that I may live and keep thy Word. This is that, which interpreters generally agree in to be principal thing intended by the Apostle in this expression [i.e. for me to live is Christ] which diverse of them diversely paraphrase, but to the same purpose.

If I live it is to Christ, so the Æthiopick reads it. Non alia causa volui vivere, nisi Christi, I would not live for any cause else, but Christ’s. So Hierom [i.e. Jerome], I have consecrated my life to Christ and his Gospel. So Estius, He is the scope of my life. So Piscator, Si vixero, nihil aliud mihi proposui, non alia mercede vivo, &c. I propound nothing else in my whole life, I desire no other stipend or wages for all my work and warfare, but only to honour and serve Christ in the Gospel. So Calvin. Aquinas (methinks) well resolveth it. Life importeth motion, and is the active principle of it; and therefore as in other cases, the end that moves the agent to act he properly calls his life (Ut venatores venationem, amici amicum): So Christ and his glory (as being that, which as his main end, setteth the Christian on working) may well be called his life, in which he liveth, and in the design and prosecution whereof the strength of his life is spent and exercised.

Christ is his A and Ω, all he hath or is, he hath from him, and all he is, hath, or can do, is all for him. All manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, I have laid up for thee, O my beloved, saith the spouse (Song of Songs 7:13). The best, the all of a Christian’s abilities, gifts, graces whatsoever, and how precious soever they be, they are all for Christ, ready prest to serve him, paid in as a tribute to him. As of him, so to him are all things (Rom. 11:36). As there is one God the Father of whom are all things, and we εἰς αὐτόν for Him, so one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1 Cor. 8:6), yea, and to him and for him: for of him it’s elsewhere said, Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; and so whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8). And these last words give a sufficient reason of the former: if we are the Lord’s, then we should live to the Lord; if we be not our own men, but Christ’s ransomed servants, then, as the Master’s service, honour, and advantage is or ought to be the servant’s aim and scope in his whole employment, so Christ’s should be ours, and so he becomes our life.

For we live much in our ends and designs which we project and endeavour to promote, and according to them, though not only yet especially, our lives are to be judged of. As in other cases, so in this particular, if the constant tendencies and real intentions of our souls be seriously for Christ, to please, honour, and serve him, this is to have Christ for our life, and thus to live (in the Apostle’s phrase here) is Christ, when (as he spake in the verse foregoing) our ἀποκαραδοκίαν, the earnestest outlookings of our souls are, that Christ may be glorified by us, whether by life or by death. And this is best, when it is in our more frequent actual thoughts and intentions of it; however it must be in our inward general and habitual disposition, frame, and purpose of heart, and constant course of life, as a traveller’s resolved intention of his journey’s end at his first setting out, and after progress in the way to it, though at every step he maketh he do not actually think of it.

In a word, when we own no other interests but Christ’s, or at least none that are contrary, but only such as are reducible and subordinate to it, when we neither start nor pursue any other false games, which (adversa fronte) broadly look and run counter contrary to him, no nor with a squint eye look aside to these golden apples of pleasure, profit, or other self-advantage cast in our way, when we seem to take never so speedy and straight course to him: but when our eyes look right on, and our eyelids look straight before us, as Solomon speaketh (Prov. 4:25), as they (Jer. 50:5) who asked the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, and as it’s said of our Saviour, τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ ἦν πορευόμενον, that his face was going, or, as though he would go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:53), so when with a single eye and heart we directly and indeclinably eye and look at Christ and his glory, so that all that observe us may well take notice which way our eye and heart look, this is to have Christ indeed fully both in our eye and heart, and so Christ is our life, when thus in our heart, the seat of life.

– Anthony Tuckney (1599-1670), Forty Sermons upon Several Occasions (1676), p. 655-657.

John Pearson (1613-1686): Christ was most unmerciful to himself, that he might be most merciful unto us

John Pearson


John Pearson (1613-1686) was widely regarded in his own day and long afterwards as the premier theologian within the later seventeenth-century Church of England. Pearson was the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Master of Trinity College in Cambridge before becoming Bishop of Chester. He was widely esteemed for the depth of his expertise in patristics and the oriental languages, and his renown was particularly due to his Exposition of the Creed (first edition 1659), which was the dominant theological textbook in the Church of England during the later Stuart period.

In his discussion of the fourth article of the Apostle’s Creed (“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried”), Pearson first discusses the suffering which Christ experienced bodily during his passion, before focusing on the suffering which he underwent in his soul, making it clear that “as our Saviour took upon him both parts of the nature of man [viz., body and soul], so he suffered in them both, that he might be a Saviour of the whole.” The following extract, in which he discusses the depths of Christ’s suffering in the soul, is from the 4th edition (1676), p. 190-193:

We ought… to endeavour to reach, if it were possible, the knowledge how far and in what degree [Christ] suffered; how bitter that grief, how great that sorrow and that anguish was. Which though we can never fully and exactly measure, yet we may infallibly know thus much, both from the expression of the Spirit of God, and from the occasion of his sufferings, that the griefs and sorrows which he felt, and the anguish which he underwent, were most incomparably far beyond all sorrows of which any person here was sensible or capable.

The Evangelists have in such language expressed his agony, as cannot but raise in us the highest admiration at the bitterness of that passion. He began to be sorrowful, saith S. Matthew (26:37); He began to be sore amazed, saith S. Mark (14:33); and to be very heavy, saith both: and yet these words in our translation come far short of the original expression, which render him suddenly, upon a present and immediate apprehension, possessed with fear, horror and amazement, encompassed with grief, and overwhelmed with sorrow, pressed down with consternation and dejection of mind, tormented with anxiety and disquietude of spirit.

This he first expressed to his disciples, saying, My soul is exceeding sorrowful; and, lest they should not fully apprehend the excess, adding, even unto death; as if the pangs of death had already encompassed him, and, as the Psalmist speaks, the pain of hell had got hold upon him. He went but a little farther before he expressed the same to his Father, falling on his face and praying, even with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death (Heb. 5:7). Nor were his cries or tears sufficient evidences of his inward sufferings, nor could the sorrows of his breast be poured forth either at his lips or eyes; the innumerable pores of all his body must give a passage to more lively representations of the bitter anguish of his soul: and therefore while he prayed more earnestly, in that agony his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. As the Psalmist had before declared, I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint my heart is like wax it is melted in the midst of my bowels (Ps. 22:14). The heart of our Saviour was as it were melted with fear and astonishment, and all the parts of his body at the same time inflamed with anguish and agony: well then might that melting produce a sweat and that inflamed and rarified blood force a passage through the numerous pores.

And as the evangelists’ expressions, so the occasion of the grief will manifest the height and bitterness thereof. For God laid on his own Son the iniquities of us all; and as we are obliged to be sorry for our particular sins, so was he grieved for the sins of us all. If then we consider the perfection and latitude of his knowledge, he understood all the sins of men for which he suffered, all the evil and the guilt, all the offence against the Majesty, and ingratitude against the goodness of God, which was contained in all those sins. If we look upon his absolute conformity to the will of God, he was inflamed with most ardent love, he was most zealous of his glory, and most studious to preserve that right which was so highly violated by those sins. If we look upon his relation to the sons of men, he loved them all far more than any did themselves, he knew those sins were of themselves sufficient to bring eternal destruction on their souls and bodies, he considered them whom he so much loved as lying under the wrath of God whom he so truly worshipped. If we reflect upon those graces which were without measure diffused through his soul, and caused him with the greatest habitual detestation to abhor all sin: If we consider all these circumstances, we cannot wonder at that grief and sorrow. For if the true contrition of one single sinner, bleeding under the sting of the law only for his own iniquities, all which notwithstanding he knoweth not, cannot be performed without great bitterness of sorrow and remorse, what bounds can we set unto that grief, what measures to that anguish, which proceedeth from a full apprehension of all the transgressions of so many millions of sinners?

Add unto all these present apprehensions the immediate hand of God pressing upon him all this load, laying on his shoulders at once an heap of the sorrows which can happen unto any of the saints of God; that he, being touched with the feeling of our infirmities, might become a merciful high priest, able and willing to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15). Thus may we behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto that sorrow which was done unto him, wherewith the Lord afflicted him in the day of his fierce anger (Lam. 1:12). And from hence we may and must conclude, that the Saviour of man, as he took the whole nature of man, so he suffered in whatsoever he took, in his body by infirmities and external injuries, in his soul by fears and sorrows, by unknown and inexpressible anguishes…

That our Saviour did thus suffer is most necessary to believe. First, that thereby we may be assured of the verity of his human nature. For if he were not man, then could not man be redeemed by him; and if that nature in which he appeared were not truly human then could he not be truly man. But we may be well assured that he took on him our nature, when we see him subject unto our infirmities. We know the Godhead is of infinite perfection, and therefore is exalted far above all possibility of molestation. When therefore we see our Saviour truly suffer, we know his divine essence suffered not, and thence acknowledge the addition of his human nature as the proper subject of his passion. And from hence we may infallibly conclude: surely that Mediator between God and man was truly man, as we are men, who when he fasted was hungry, when he travelled was thirsty and weary as we are, who being grieved wept, being in an agony sweat[ed], being scourged bled, and being crucified died.

Secondly, it was necessary Christ should suffer for the redemption of lapsed men, and their reconciliation unto God; which was not otherwise to be performed than by a plenary satisfaction to his will. He therefore was by all his sufferings made an expiation, atonement and propitiation for all our sins. For salvation is impossible unto sinners without remission of sin, and remission in the decree of God impossible without effusion of blood. Our redemption therefore could not be wrought but by the blood of the redeemer, but by a Lamb slain, but by a suffering Saviour.

Thirdly, it behoved Christ to suffer that he might purchase thereby eternal happiness in the heavens both for himself the head, and for the members of his body. He drunk of the brook in the way, therefore hath he lift up his head (Ps. 110:7). Ought not Christ to suffer, and so to enter into his own glory? (Luk. 24:26) And doth he not by the same right by which he entered into it, confer that glory upon us? The recompense of the reward was set before him, and through an intuition of it he cheerfully underwent whatsoever was laid upon him. He must therefore necessarily suffer to obtain that happiness, who is therefore happy because he suffered.

Fourthly, it was necessary Christ should suffer, that we might be assured that he is truly affected with a most tender compassion of our afflictions. For this end was he subjected to misery, that he might become prone unto mercy: for this purpose was he made a sacrifice, that he might be a compassionate high priest: and therefore was he most unmerciful to himself, that he might be most merciful unto us.

Fifthly, it was necessary the Son of man should suffer, thereby to shew us that we are to suffer, and to teach us how we are to suffer. For if these things were done to the green tree, what shall be done to the dry? Nay, if God spared not his natural, his eternal, his only-begotten Son, how shall he spare his adopted sons, who are best known to be children because they are chastised, and appear to be in his paternal affection because they lie under his fatherly correction? We are therefore heirs only because coheirs with Christ, and we shall be kings only because we shall reign together with him. It is a certain and infallible consequence, If Christ be risen, then shall we also rise; and we must look for as strong a coherence in this other, If Christ hath suffered then must we expect to suffer. And as he taught the necessity of, so he left us the direction in, our sufferings. Great was the example of Job, but far short of absolute perfection: the pattern beyond all exception is alone our Saviour, who hath taught us in all our afflictions the exercise of admirable humility, perfect patience, and absolute submission unto the will of God.

And now we may perceive the full importance of this part of the Article, and every Christian may thereby understand what he is to believe, and what he is conceived to profess, when he makes this confession of his faith: He suffered. For hereby everyone is obliged to intend thus much: I am really persuaded within myself, and do make a sincere profession of this as a most necessary, certain, and infallible truth, that the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father, and of the same essence with the Father, did for the redemption of mankind really and truly suffer, not in his divinity, which was impassible, but in his humanity, which in the days of his humiliation was subject unto our infirmities. That as he is a perfect redeemer of the whole man, so he was a complete sufferer in the whole: in his body, by such dolorous infirmities as arise internally from human frailties, and by such pains as are inflicted by external injuries; in his soul, by fearful apprehensions, by unknown sorrows, by anguish inexpressible. And in this latitude and propriety I believe our Saviour suffered.

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635): Christ himself is the very heaven of heaven



I desire to depart, and to bee with Christ (Phil. 1:23).

To be with Christ that came from heaven to be here on earth with us, and descended that we should ascend, to be with him that hath done and suffered so much for us, to be with Christ that delighted to be with us, to be with Christ that emptyed himselfe, and became of no reputation, that became poore to make us rich, to be with Christ our husband now contracted here, that all may bee made up in heaven, this was the thing Paul desired.

Why doth he not say, I desire to be in heaven?

Because heaven is not heaven without Christ, it is better to be in any place with Christ than to be in heaven it selfe without him, all delicacies without Christ are but as a funerall banquet, where the master of the feast is away, there is nothing but solemnnesse: what is all, without Christ? I say the joyes of heaven are not the joyes of heaven without Christ; he is the very heaven of heaven.

True love is carryed to the person; It is adulterous love, to love the thing, or the gift more than the person, S. Paul loved the person of Christ, because hee felt sweet experience that Christ loved him; his love was but a reflection of Christ’s love first, he loved to see Christ, to embrace him, and enjoy him, that had done so much and suffered so much for his soule, that had forgiven him so many sins, &c.

The reason is, because it is best of all; To be with Christ is to be at the spring-head of all happines, it is to be in our proper element, every creature thinkes it selfe best in its owne element, that is the place it thrives in, and enjoyes its happinesse in; now Christ is the element of a Christian.

– Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), ‘Christ is Best’, The Saint’s Safetie in Evill Times (1633), 186-189.

George Abbot (1562-1633): This is the Christian’s surest anchor



George Abbot (1562-1633) was the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633. He had previously been master of University College, Oxford, bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, and bishop of London. He was furthermore part of the translation committee which translated the Gospels, Acts, and the Book of Revelation for the Authorized Version of the Bible (a.k.a. the King James Version).

In 1600, Abbot published his Exposition upon the Prophet Jonah, which consisted of sermons/lectures preached to the University of Oxford in the University Church (St Mary’s). In Lecture XII Abbot preached on Jonah 2:5-6, culminating with Jonah’s calling upon the LORD as “LORD my God”:

20 The only thing now remaining, is the confident appellation, which he useth to the Lord, Jehovah o my God. This sheweth a faith beyond faith, and a hope beyond hope: when he knew that the Lord was angry, and extremely wrathful at him, yet to cling in so to his mercy, as to appropriate to himself a portion in his maker. For what greater insinuation of confidence can there be, than by particular application to apprehend God’s mercy: to lay hold upon him as on a father; and that not as we say, with a reference to the communion of saints, Our father which art in heaven (Matt. 6:9), but my father and my God. This hath been the perfect trust of the faithful in all ages, which hath encouraged them to approach with boldness, unto the throne of grace. My God, my Godsaith David (Ps. 22:1). And, thou that art the God of my salvation(Ps. 51:14). And Job, I am sure that my Redeemer liveth(Job 19:25). My spiritsaith the Virgin Mary, doth rejoice in God my Saviour(Luk. 1:47). My Lord and my God, saith Thomas (Joh. 20:28). Paul saith of himself, I live by faith in the Son of God, who hath loved me and given himself for me(Gal. 2:20). This true faith doth close with God, and incorporateth itself into the body of the Redeemer.

21 And this is it, which bringeth comfort unto the wounded soul, and afflicted conscience, not that Christ is a Saviour, for what am I the better for that? but a Saviour unto me. That I am one of the adoption, reconciled and brought into favour, sealed up against that day, when the quick and dead shall be judged: my portion is with the Highest, mine inheritance with the Saints. How could flesh and blood ever bear the heat of strong temptation, without this firm persuasion? What is it to my belly, that bread is prepared for [an]other, unless I be assured that my part is therein? What is it to my soul, that Christ hath died for [an]other, unless I know that my sins are washed away in his blood? It may be good for Moses, it may be good for Paul, or Peter, or James, or Stephen, but what is it unto me? It is Meusthen and Tuus, as Luther did well teach, it is my God and thy Saviourwhich doth satisfy thirsty consciences (Luther in Epist. ad Galatas). There is the joy of the Spirit, when men come to that measure. Then it is a blessed doctrine which instilleth that faith into us; and in that, if in anything, doth appear the fruit of the Gospel, which is preached in our days: that people sick and dying, being taught before in their health, can give [the] most divine words, and right admirable speeches, in this behalf whereof I speak, sayings full of holy trust and assurance; which as it is a thing most comfortable to themselves (beyond all gold and treasure, which are but as dung and dross to a man yielding up the ghost), so it bringeth good meditations unto the standers by, in causing them to acknowledge very evident and plain arguments of election in the other, whom they see to be so possessed with joy in the holy Ghost, and so rapt up, as if they had already one foot within the heaven.

22 But it is otherwise with the ignorant; they lie grovelling upon the ground, and cannot mount up with the eagle. So is it in that doctrine which the Church of Rome doth maintain, when their people are taught, that they must believe in general, that some shall go to heaven, that some belong to God: but to say or think, that [they] themselves shall be certainly of that number, or constantly to hope it, that is boldness overmuch, that is over-weening presumption. They are to wish and pray, that it may be so with them, but yet it appertaineth to them evermore to doubt because they know not the worthiness of their merits: a most uncomfortable opinion, which cannot choose but distract the heart of a dying man, that he must not dare to believe with confidence, that he shall go to God: that Jesus is his Saviour, & the pardoner of his faults. No marvel if the life and death of such who hearken unto them, be full of sighs and sobs, & groans, and fears, and doubts, since quietness and settled rest cannot be in their hearts. They have a way to walk, but what is the end they know not. They are sure of their departure, but whither they cannot tell. A lamentable taking, and wherein of necessity must be small joy. How contrary hereunto doth Saint Paul speak, being justified by faith we have peace toward God, through our Lord Jesus Christ(Rom. 5:1). How contrary to this doth Saint John speak in the name of the faithful, we know that we are of God(1 Joh. 5:19). How doth dejected Jonah yet keep him fast to this tackling, when he crieth o Lord my God?

23 And this is the surest anchor, whereunto a Christian man may possibly know how to trust. This is it which in the blasts of adversity, will keep him fast at the root; which in the waves of temptation, will hold him fast by the chin, which in the greatest discomforts, and very pangs of death, will bring him to life again: To ground himself upon this, as on a rock assured, that his God is his father, that Jesus is his redeemer, that the holy Ghost doth sanctify him, that although he sin oft-times, yet evermore he is forgiven; and albeit he do transgress daily, yet it is still forgotten; that whether he live or die, yet ever he is the Lord’s. Good father lead us so by thy most blessed Spirit, that we never do fall from this. But although sin hang upon us, as it did upon the Prophet, yet raise us so by thy love, that laying hold on thy promises, and the sweetness of thy favour, we may reap eternal life, to the which o blessed Lord bring us for thine own Son Christ his sake, to whom with thee and thy Spirit, be laud for evermore.

John Hall (1633-1710): A prayer in time of prosperity

John Hall_Bp_of_Bristol


A prayer in time of prosperity by the bishop of Bristol and master of Pembroke College, Oxford, John Hall (1633-1710), to be found at the beginning of his Jacob’s Ladder: Or, The Devout Soul’s Ascension to Heaven (1676), p. 154-157:

Heavenly Father, Lord of plenty, thou who hast created the world by thy power, and continuest thy love in thy providence and protection; to thee do I render thanks for my plenty, and to thee do I offer the service of my store. What I have, is thine; for the earth is thine, and all that therein is; the compass of the world, and they that dwell therein; it is thou only that commandest thy blessing in the store-houses, and in all that thy servants do set their hands unto. Lord make me one of thy faithful servants, that what thou hast sent me, may be a testimony of thy love, and not of thy hatred. Make me always to magnify thee in the time of plenty, and not to be high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in thee the living God, who givest me all things richly to enjoy. O suffer me not to treasure up the deceitful riches of this sinful world as thereby forgetting to be rich toward thee, but as from thy bounty I receive these temporal blessings, so in thy mercy make me abound in grace, that always having sufficiency in all things, I may abound to every good work.

In this my prosperity, prepare me for adversity, if it shall please thee at any time to send it unto me, give me a sense of the afflictions of many of thy saints and distressed servants, and enlarge my heart that I may be ready and forward to contribute to their necessities. Make me to shew mercy with cheerfulness, and to possess with thankfulness what thou sendest unto me, that I may neither forget thee in thy poor members, nor deny thee to be the giver. Let me never stop mine ears at the cries of the distressed who beg for relief in the name of thyself. Thou, Christ, who wert rich didst for my sake become poor, that so through thy poverty thou mightiest make me rich; Lord make me as willing to the poor for thy sake, always considering that the vanities of the earth are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed. Make me labour for heavenly riches, and for the ornament of the hidden man in the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in thy sight of great price.

Make me, O heavenly Father, rich in thyself, rich unto liberality, rich in good works and in faith: make me to buy of thee gold tried in the fire that I may be rich, and white raiment that I may be clothed, that the shame of my nakedness may not appear. Let me always remember that great account which one day I must render to thee, the Lord of heaven and earth, that so I may serve thee here with my substance in my body, and in my soul with zeal and devotion; and hereafter be received to thine everlasting glory, through the merits of thy Son in thy bosom Jesus Christ, my only Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) on the Lord’s Supper and assurance



It was the principal end of Christ’s institution of the Sacrament of the Supper, that he might assure them of his love, and that he might seal up to them the forgiveness of their sins, the acceptance of their persons, and the salvation of their souls (Matt. 26:27-28). The nature of a seal is to make things sure and firm among men; so the Supper of the Lord is Christ’s broad seal, it is Christ’s privy-seal, whereby he seals and assures his people that they are happy here, that they shall be more happy hereafter, that they are everlastingly beloved of God, that his heart is set upon them, that their names are written in the book of life, that there is laid up for them a crown of righteousness, and that nothing shall be able to separate them from himwho is their light, their crown, their all in all (2 Tim. 4:8; Col. 3:11). In this sacrament Christ comes forth and shows his love, his heart, his bowels, his blood, that his children may no longer say, ‘Doth the Lord Jesus love us? Doth he delight in us, &c?’ but that they may say with the spouse, I am my beloved’s and his desire is towards me(Songs 7:10).

Many precious Christians there are, that have lain long under fears and doubts, sighing and mourning, and that have run from minister to minister, and from one duty to another, &c, and yet could never be persuaded of the love of Christ to their poor souls, but still their fears and doubts have followed them, till they have waited upon the Lord in this glorious ordinance, by which the Lord hath assured them of the remission of their sins, and the salvation of their souls. In this ordinance God hath given them mannahto eat, and a white stone, and new name, which no man knoweth, but he that receiveth it. Tell me, you precious believing souls, whether you have not found God in this ordinance, often whispering of you in the ear, saying, Sons and daughters be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you? I know you have.

– Thomas Brooks (1608–1680), Heaven on Earth (1654), p.23-25.

John Calvin (1509-1564): Christians should not tremble at the fear of death



In my spare time over the past while I have been reading several early modern commentaries on the twelfth article of the Apostles’ Creed concerning the life eternal, as well as other sources touching on this theme, particularly on the immense consolation it provides to believers in the face of death. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.ix.5-6, John Calvin (1509-1564) writes about the benefits of meditating on the future life, and counsels Christians on why they have no reason to fear death:

[M]any who boast of being Christians, instead of thus longing for death, are so afraid of it that they tremble at the very mention of it as a thing ominous and dreadful. We cannot wonder, indeed, that our natural feelings should be somewhat shocked at the mention of our dissolution. But it is altogether intolerable that the light of piety should not be so powerful in a Christian breast as with greater consolation to overcome and suppress that fear. For if we reflect that this our tabernacle, unstable, defective, corruptible, fading, pining, and putrid, is dissolved, in order that it may forthwith be renewed in sure, perfect, incorruptible, in fine, in heavenly glory, will not faith compel us eagerly to desire what nature dreads? If we reflect that by death we are recalled from exile to inhabit our native country, a heavenly country, shall this give us no comfort? But everything longs for permanent existence. I admit this, and therefore contend that we ought to look to future immortality, where we may obtain that fixed condition which nowhere appears on the earth. For Paul admirably enjoins believers to hasten cheerfully to death, not because they “would be unclothed, but clothed upon,” (2 Cor. 5:2). Shall the lower animals, and inanimate creatures themselves even wood and stone, as conscious of their present vanity, long for the final resurrection, that they may with the sons of God be delivered from vanity (Rom. 8:19); and shall we, endued with the light of intellect, and more than intellect, enlightened by the Spirit of God, when our essence is in question, rise no higher than the corruption of this earth? […] This, however let us hold as fixed, that no man has made much progress in the school of Christ who does not look forward with joy to the day of death and final resurrection (2 Tim. 4:18; Tit. 2:13) for Paul distinguishes all believers by this mark; and the usual course of Scripture is to direct us thither whenever it would furnish us with an argument for substantial joy. “Look up,” says our Lord, “and lift up your heads: for your redemption draweth nigh,” (Luke 21:28). Is it reasonable, I ask, that what he intended to have a powerful effect in stirring us up to alacrity and exultation should produce nothing but sadness and consternation? If it is so, why do we still glory in him as our Master? Therefore, let us come to a sounder mind, and how repugnant so ever the blind and stupid longing of the flesh may be, let us doubt not to desire the advent of the Lord not in wish only, but with earnest sighs, as the most propitious of all events. He will come as a Redeemer to deliver us from an immense abyss of evil and misery, and lead us to the blessed inheritance of his life and glory.

6. Thus, indeed, it is; the whole body of the faithful, so long as they live on the earth, must be like sheep for the slaughter, in order that they may be conformed to Christ their head (Rom. 8:36). Most deplorable, therefore, would their situation be did they not, by raising their mind to heaven, become superior to all that is in the world, and rise above the present aspect of affairs (1 Cor. 15:19). On the other hand, when once they have raised their head above all earthly objects, though they see the wicked flourishing in wealth and honour, and enjoying profound peace, indulging in luxury and splendour, and revelling in all kinds of delights, though they should moreover be wickedly assailed by them, suffer insult from their pride, be robbed by their avarice, or assailed by any other passion, they will have no difficulty in bearing up under these evils. They will turn their eye to that day (Isaiah 25:8; Rev. 7:17), on which the Lord will receive his faithful servants, wipe away all tears from their eyes, clothe them in a robe of glory and joy, feed them with the ineffable sweetness of his pleasures, exalt them to share with him in his greatness; in fine, admit them to a participation in his happiness. But the wicked who may have flourished on the earth, he will cast forth in extreme ignominy, will change their delights into torments, their laughter and joy into wailing and gnashing of teeth, their peace into the gnawing of conscience, and punish their luxury with unquenchable fire. He will also place their necks under the feet of the godly, whose patience they abused. For, as Paul declares, “it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven,” (2 Thess. 1:6, 7). This, indeed, is our only consolation; deprived of it, we must either give way to despondency, or resort to our destruction to the vain solace of the world. The Psalmist confesses, “My feet were almost gone: my steps had well nigh slipt: for I was envious at the foolish when I saw the prosperity of the wicked,” (Psalm 73:3, 4); and he found no resting-place until he entered the sanctuary, and considered the latter end of the righteous and the wicked. To conclude in one word, the cross of Christ then only triumphs in the breasts of believers over the devil and the flesh, sin and sinners, when their eyes are directed to the power of his resurrection.