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A. It was necessary that the Son of God should be circumcised, in order that he might become subject unto the Law, and, sustaining the penalties of the Law in our stead, might expiate our sins by his own blood.
Q. What is the import of that sacred name which was imposed upon the Son of God when he was circumcised ?
A. The name of Jesus, which was given to our Saviour at bis circumcision, implies his office-to save his people from their sins; that by his death he should deliver them from the punishment due to sin, and by his grace should deliver them from its power and dominion.
Q. What may we learn from the observation of this festival ?
A. This festival should impress on us the necessity of that spiritual circumcision, or change of heart and life, which our Saviour has made the condition of salvation. The example of Christ, who, in obedience to the will of God, submitted to an humiliating and painful rite, should teach us humility, and the duty of submission to all the ordinances of the Church. “ The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.”
Q. What does this spiritual circumcision signify ?
Å. This 'spiritual circumcision implies the weaning of our affections from the world, and placing thern upon heaven; a strict government of our sensual appetites; a total abstinence from forbidden pleasures, and moderation in the pursuit of those which are lawful. In fine, it denotes a conformity of our hearts and lives to the holy image and commands of God; and until we are thus renewed by the spirit and power of Christ, we are none of his.
Q. What should the commencement of a new year suggest unto us?
A. The commencement of a new year should suggest to us the great value of time, which God has given us for the purpose of working out our salvation; and upou the improvement of which, therefore, depends our eternal destiny. Of time, little is at our own disposal; what is past, cannot be recalled; the future is uncertain; the present is all that we can call our own, and this is continually fleeting. In this short and uncertain period we have a concern of infinite importance to secure, even our eternal salvation; and this requires the whole force and vigour of our minds, the labour and industry of all our days. This important concern, therefore, should not be left to a sick deu, or the evening of our lives, when our strength and our reason are departing from us : now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. If we obstinately resist and contemn the offers of divine grace, the things that belong to our eternal peace may be for ever hidden from our eyes.
c Matt. i. 21.
Q. In what manner ought we to employ and regulate our time?
A. We ought to redeem the time which we have misspent, by sincerely lamenting our past follies and transgressions ; by adoring the infinite patience and goodness of God, who spared us when we deserved punishment; and by seeking to make our peace with him, by lively penitence, and holy and obedient faith in his Son Jesus. The necessary business of this life should be conducted from a sacred regard to the laws of God, and to the account we must render at his tribunal : the salvation of our own souls, the good of our fellow-men, the glory of God, should be the momentous ends at which we should earnestly aim in all our actions: diligence, zeal, and order, should characterize the management of both our temporal and spiritual concerns: and should it please God to prosper the work of our hands, we should evidence our gratitude to him, and lay up an unfailing treasure in heaven, by devoting a portion of our wealth to the establishment or aid of pious and benevolent institutions. Thus faithfully devoting our time, our talents and advantages, to the honour and service of God, we may humbly rejoice in his favour here, and confidently look forvard to the fruition of his blessed presence hereafter.
THE EPIPHANY, JANUARY 6.
Q. WHAT festival does the Church celebrate this day?
A. The Church this day celebrates the festival of the Epiphany. This word signifying manifestation, may be applied to Christmas-day, when Christ was manifested in the flesh; but it is appropriated by the Church to this day, when he was manifested to the Gentiles.
Q. What is the design of the Church in celebrating this festival ?
A. In celebrating this festival, we design to show our gratitude to God, for manifesting the Gospel to the Gentile world; thus vouchsafing to them equal privileges with the Jews : and the first instance of this divine favour to the Gentile world was, when the birth of Christ was declared to the wise men of the East.
Q. What is the design of the lessons and the epistle and gospel for the day?
A. The first lessons contain prophecies of the increase of the Church, by the abundant accession of the Gentiles; the second lesson for the morning, and the epistle, contain a vindication of this gracious dispensation of God to the Gentile world; the gospel gives an account of the manifestation of the Saviour to the wise men of the East; and the second lesson for the evening service, contains an account of the mani. festation of the divine power of Christ, by the first miracle which he wrought at Cana of Galilee.
Q. Who were the wise men to whom our Saviour was manifested ?
A. Our Saviour was manifested to the wise men of the East, called, in Greek, magi; who were celebrated for their learning, particularly their knowledge and skill in astronomy; to which study the priests and great men of the East devoted themselves.
Q. In what manner did God manifest the birth of the Saviour to the wise men ?
A. The birth of Christ was manifested to the wise men by the appearance of a luminous meteor, which was observed by them to differ from the ordinary stars of heaven, and was considered, agreeably to the notions then prevalent among the Gentiles, to presage something of great moment and importance. The expectation of the appearance of some great personage, founded originally on the prophecies which were delivered to the Jews concerning the coming of the Messiah, was then universal. The appearance of an extraordinary meteor in the heaven would, therefore, be considered as announcing his birth, and would direct these wise men on their journey to Jndea, where this glorious personage was to appear. The appearance of the star, and the journey of the Chaldean wise men in consequence of it, are mentioned by Chalcidius the Platonist."
Q. How did the wise men find the young child Jesus?
Å. Upon applying to Herod at Jerusalem, they were directed by him to Bethlehem, the place pointed out by the prophets as the birth-place of the Messiah. Pursuing their journey to Bethlehem, the luminous meteor, in appearance like a star, again appeared to them, and conducted them to the place where Jesus was.'
Q. Did not the wise men render homage to the Saviour ?
A. When they found the Saviour, they fell down and worshipped him: and as it was customary to approach kings and great men with presents, they opened their treasures, and laid before the Saviour, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the choicest products of their country.
Q. Why did God thus manifest his Son to the wise men of the East?
A. It was the merciful design of God, that his grace should appear unto all men: and as the Jews had notice of our Saviour's birth, by the appearacce of angels to the shepherds ; so the Gentiles were informed of it now, by the manifestation of Christ to the wise men of the East. The time was now come, when the wall of partition should be broken down, and all nations be one fold, under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Q. Did not these wise men evidence the most exalted courage and pious zeal ?
A. These wise men were not intimidated by the difficul. ties and uncertainty of th: ourney, nor by the fear of Herod, who, they had every reason to expect, would be enraged at the mention of a rival king; and though they found the Saviour surrounded by poverty and meanness, they yet offered him profound adoration, as a spiritual Saviour and King.
d Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. ii. c. 25
Matt. ii. 9
Q. What useful instruction does this festival afford ?
A. The wise men of the East, though distinguished for their learning and high stations, readily followed what they believed to be the direction of God, pointing out to them, by the miraculous appearance of a star, the humble Saviour who was born to the world. Hence we should learn the duty of employing all the advantages of birth and station to the noble purposes of religion and piety; we should learn, at all times readily to obey the commandments of God, whatever difficulties may oppose us, whatever censure or ridicule may assail us, whatever sacrifice we may be required to make. Like the wise men who humbly worshipped the new-born Saviour, we should also worship him whom, by faith, we may discern full of grace and truth ; and, offering him the homage of our hearts, place ourselves under his guidance and direction, as our divine Instructor, Redeemer, and King.
Q. What virtues may the offerings which the wise men made to the Saviour be considered as denoting ?
A. Gold, which is the common standard of those good things we enjoy, and wherewith we may relieve the wants of the poor, is a fit emblem for charity and works of mercy, " an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God." David's desiring that his prayer" might be set before God as incense,” and the prayers of the saints ascending up before God“ as the smoke of the incense, show us how fitly our addresses to heaven are represented by frankincense; and the chief use of myrrh being to preserve dead bodies from putrefaction, this may be considerd as an emblem of that holy mortification and self-denial whereby we“ present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable anto God." The offerings with which the Christian, therefore, should glorify his Saviour, are works of charity or mercy, prayer and mortification.
Q. How may we make our riches subservient to the pure poses of charity and mercy, and thus render them an acceptable offering to our blessed Saviour ?
A. Wo make our riches an acceptable offering to Christ, when we apply them to providing for the comfort and hapf Philip. iv. 18.
g Psal. cxli 2
h Rev. viii. 4.
i Rom. xii, 1