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o resist all temptations to anger, and to preserve an evenaess of mind under all provocations, he bore, on all occusions, with the dulness and slowness of the understanding of his disciples,' and answered the sharpest reproaches of his enemies with calm arguments and modest silence.” To impress on us that difficult duty of loving our enemies, he prayed most earnestly for his, even when, in an agonizing death, he felt the most bitter effects of their cruel malice."
Q. What encouragement and aid doés our Saviour offer us in the performance of our duty ?
A. To animate us to repentance, and to excite us to holi. ness, he offers pardon and forgiveness of our sins, and perfect reconciliation to God by the merits of his death and passion. He supplies us with strength to perform our duty, by enlightening our dark minds, by exciting our wills to that which is good, and by raising our courage under difficulties and dangers: he alarms our fears, by the threatenings of eternal punishment; and encourages our hopes, by the promises of everlasting rewards. These are the most powerful considerations to induce men to renounce sin, and to lead them to the practice of every virtue.
Q. What are the affections which we should exercise on this joyful festival?
A. On this joyful festival we should contemplate, with holy admiration and gratitude, the stupendous love of God towards mankind, in sending no less a person than his own Son, and no less dear to him than his only begotten Son, to accomplish our salvation. Our hearts should be warmed with lively gratitude to the blessed Jesus, for his wonderful humility and compassion in undertaking the work of our redemption : for he who lodged in the bosom of his Father, came into the world, and had not where to lay his head; he who had heaven for his throne, was contented to be born in a stable, to be laid in a manger, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes. He became miserable, that we night be made happy; he became poor, that we might be made rich; he subInitted to the death of the cross, that we might live for ever. 'i'he consideration of the infinite love of God in the redemption, should inspire us with the most lively confidence in his mercy, under a penitent sense of our sins; for he who hath Liven us his own Son, shall he not with him freely give 11.3 also all things?
o John slv. 5, &c.
p John 1. 32.
9 Luke xxiii. 34,
r Rom. viii. 32
Q. How ought we to express our thankfulness for the in carnation of the Son of God ?
A. We should express our thankfulness for the incarnation of the Son of God, by devout acts of praise and thanks. giving; by complying with the great design of this wonderful plan of redemption, which teaches us to deny all ungodliness and worldy lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world ;' and by imitating the infinite love of God, and as he so loved us, to love one another.'
Q. How should we express our gratitude to the blessed Jesus for his infinite love, in condescending to become our Redeemer?
A. We should express our gratitude to the blessed Jesus for his infinite love, in condescending to become our Redeemer, by sincerely believing in him; by cordially receiving him as our divine Prophet and instructor, our gracious High Priest and intercessor, our almighty King, obeying his commands, trusting in his intercession, and submitting to his laws; and by earnestly endeavouring to advance daily in piety and virtue, that we may be conformed to the likeness of that holy Redeemer whom we love. Our gratitude should also be expressed, by setting a great value upon
all the means and opportunitiess of holding communion with him; by meditating upon his glorious character and offices; by earnestly imploring his mercy and grace; and by commemorating his infinite love in the holy Eucharist: and to complete the ex. pressions of our gratitude, we should, by endeavouring to do good both to the bodies and souls of men, show that we are indeed the foilowers of that compassionate Jesus, who came into the world to save lost mankind. If, in this way, we express our gratitude to our blessed Lord, we may, with joy. ful confidence, look forward to his glorious appearing," as our Judge and King, to exalt us to the eternal fruition of the joys of his presence.
Q. How is the observation of this festival abused ?
A. This festival is abused, when, instead of devoting it !0 the exercises of piety, we chiefly employ it in vain and idle pleasures; when our joy degenerates into sin and sensuality; and when we indulge in luxury and intemperance, to the great scandal of our Saviour and his holy religion, and !.0 our own great guilt and condemnation.
. Tit. li. 12.
tl John iv. II.
u Tit. ii 13.
Q. WHAT reason has been assigned for placing the festi. vals of St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents immediately after Christmas ?
A. For placing the festivals of St. Stephen, St. John, and the Holy Innocents immediately after Christmas, the following reason, among others, has been assigned : that St. Stephen was the first who suffered martyrdom ; St. John was the disciple whom Jesus loved ; and the slaughter of the Holy Innocents was the first considerable consequence of our Saviour's birth. Thus martyrdom, love, and innocence, are first magnified as things wherein Christ is most honoured.
Q. What have you to observe in regard to the collect, epistle, and gospel for the day?
A. The collect teaches us to pray that we may imitate this holy martyr, in his lively faith of immortal glory, and in his forgiveness of his enemies; the epistle gives us an account of his martyrdom ; and the gospel assures us, that his blood, and the blood of all those who suffer for the name of Christ, shall be required at the hands of those who shed it.
Q. What character do the Scriptures give us of St. Stephen ?
A. St. Stephen, who was a Jew, and probably one of the seventy disciples, is described in Scripture as a man full of faith and the Holy Ghost. This character implies, that he had great zeal and piety, and that he was endowed with extraordinary measures of that divine Spirit which had been shed upon the Church on the day of Pentecost; by which he was peculiarly qualified for the honourable and useful office of Deacon, to which he had been advanced."
Q. What was the treatment which St. Stephen received from the Jews to whom he preached the Gospel ?
A. St. Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people ;k and by his ministrations
w The office of a Deacon has been explained, page 51.
• Acts vi. 5. 1. Acte vi. 8.
the word of God increased' so much, that the malice of the unbelieving Jews was excited against Stephen. There were synagogues or colleges established at Jerusalem, not only for expounding the law and for prayer, but for the instruction of youth. These colleges, being sometimes built by Jews who were foreigners, were called after the names of the respective countries of those who built them. Certain members of these synagogues were excited to oppose and dispute with St. Stephen, but not being able to resist the spirit and the wisdom with which he spake, they suborned false witnesses to depose against him, that they had heard him speak biasphemous words against Moses, and against God; that he had threatened the destruction of the temple, and the abolition of that religion which had been established by Moses, and by God himself.
Q. What was the substance of the defence which St. Ste. phen made against the accusation of the Jews ?
A. In answer to the accusation of the Jews, that he was guilty of blasphemy, in setting the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth above the Mosaic law, which was established by God, St. Stephen endeavoured to prove that the Mosaic rights and economy were not designed to be of essential and permanent obligation. He accordingly told them, that if they would look back to their forefather Abraham, they would find that God chose him to be a father of the faithful when he lived among idolatrous nations, and that he served God acceptably, without those external rites upon which they laid so great stress; that when God entered into covenant with him, no ceremony was appointed but that of circumcision; and that, by this rite, the succeeding patriarchs worshipped God for several ages. And when Moses was appointed by God to conduct their forefathers out of the house of bondage, he signified, that the law which he imposed upon them, should be superseded by another law, by foretelling, that God would raise up to them a prophet like unto him, and that they should hear him. By these and similar arguments, he endeavoured to prove to them that there could not be that necessity for those Mosaic rites which they pretended ; that these
1 rites were designed to last but for a time; and that it was that refractory humour which they inherited from their forefathers, who had persecuted and slain those prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah, which led them to resist
y Acts vi. 7.
% Acts vi. 9
the Holy Ghost, and to betray and murder that just One," who came to fulfil that law for which they pretended so great regard.
Q. How did the judges bear his defence ?
A. The judges expressed the greatest rage and fury, their consciences being stung with the truths which St. Stephen delivered. But, regardless of their resentment, he fixed his eyes and thoughts upon Heaven: and when, being full of the Holy Ghost, he declared that he saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, his adversaries asserted that he was a blasphemer, and resolved upon his death, without
A. St. Stephen was stoned to death, which was one of the punishments inflicted by the Jews for great and enormous crimes. The witnesses, whose hands were to be first upon him, putting off, according to custom, their upper garments, laid them down at Saul's feet;d while the holy saint was upon his knees, recommending his soul to God, and praying for his murderers, that the guilt of his death might not be laid to their charge. In this manner, copying the example of his blessed Master, whom he implored to receive his spirit. this holy martyr fell asleep.
Q. What may we learn from the observation of this festival ?
A. St. Stephen was calm and resigned under the greatest sufferings, looking steadfastly to the glory prepared for him. Hence we may learn, that a firm belief and persuasion of another life, is the great support of a good man under the sufferings of the present. St. Stephen, by the animating succours of the Holy Ghost, triumphantly suffered martyrdom. Hence we may learn, that when malice and opposition to the truth lead men to persecute the faithful servants of God, he will graciously assist his suffering people with extraordinary communications of his grace. St. Stephen meekly, yet resolutely proclaimed and defended the divine religion of his Master. Hence we should learn, that no opposition or calumny from bad men, should discourage us from doing all the good in our power: and that we should, on all proper occasions, defend, and seek to promote the honour of God with courage and resolution, and yet with that patience and moderation which best become the adva
c Acts vii. 56.
@ Acts vii. 51.
b Acts vii. 52.