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Q. What offerings did the blessed Virgin make?
A. The blessed Virgin made the offerings of the poor, a pair of turtles, or two young pigeons. The Saviour chose a humble and poor family when he came into the world, displaying his great goodness and condescension ; for “though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich.”
Q. Was not our blessed Saviour, at his presentation in the temple, manifested to the devout Simeon and Anna ?
Ā. Simeon being a just and devout man, waiting for the consolation of Israel, the appearance of the promised Messiah, God was pleased to reveal to him, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ; and at this
time when Christ was presented in the temple, he was, by the guidance of God's Spirit, brought thither :' and the prophetees Anna, constantly and devoutly attending the service of the temple, came in at the same instant. They both gave thanks to God, and spoke of the Saviour to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem ; Simeon pouring forth the grateful joy of his heart in a devout hymn of praise.
Q. What may we learn from this eminent privilege which was conferred on Simeon and Anna ?
A. From this privilege conferred on Simeon and Anna, as a reward for their exemplary piety and devotion, we shoul I be exrited constantly and devoutly to attend the ordinances of religion, in the steadfast hope, that God will manifest to our souls his mercy and favour.
Q. What may we learn from the observation of this festival ?
A. Our Saviour, when an infant, was dedicated by his pious mother to the service of God: hence we should learn the duty of devoting our children to God in baptism, and of bringing them up in the knowledge and fear of him. The legal rite of purification to which the blessed Virgin submitted, should impress on us the necessity of that purity of heart and mind, without which we are unworthy to approach
most holy God. The poverty of the family in which Christ was born, which appears from the meanness of the offering that the blessed Virgin presented, should powerfully impress upon us the infinite condescension of our blessed Redeemer, and teach us, that poverty and meanness of condition in the world, are no obstacles to the divine favour. Imitating the pious zeal of the holy Simeon and Anna, we should devoutly bless God that he has manifested to us the Saviour, the consolation of Israel, the desire of all nations; that he has shed the light of salvation on us who sat in the region of darkness, and in the shadow of death, and has guided our feet in the way of peace. Above all, the meekness and lowliness which the blessed Virgin uniformly displayed, and which renc'ered her the distinguished object of divine favour, should teach us the high importance, obligation, and excellence, of the virtue of humility.
e Luke il. 25, &c. f Luke ii. 37, &zoo
& Luke ii. 24.
de Cor. viii
2. Is not humility eminently a Christian virtue ?
Å. Humility is eminently a Christian virtue, being taught in the greatest perfection by Christ, both by precept and his own Wessed example. The heathen philosophers had so little idea of this virtue, that they designated by the term humility, the opprobrious qualities, meanness and baseness of mind.
Q. Explain the virtue of humility.
A. Founded on a deep sense of the weakness and guilt of human nature, humility will prevent the Christian from overvaluing the advantages and talents which he may possess, and will lead him to refer them all to the unmerited bounty and grace of God. It will repress the immoderate desire of the honours and applauses of the world, and will prevent us from having recourse to mean and unworthy methods of obtaining them. This virtue will prevent us from being unduly solicitous that our virtues and talents should be known to the world, and will repress an ostentatious and vainglorious display of them : it will lead us to receive with thankfulness just reproofs, and to bear with patience injuries and insults : it will lead is to pity and compassionate the sins and follies of our fellow-men, to behave with all due respect to our superiors, with courtesy and affability to our inferiors, and to descend to the meanest offices for the good of our neighbour ; not contemning him, because inferior to us in any advantages of body or mind. Finally, under the influence of an humble sense of our offences against God, which merit his just wrath and displeasure, we shall receive with resignation and submission, all the trials and afflictions which he allots us.
Q. Wherein appears the folly of pride ?
Å. Pride leads us to value ourselves very frequently upon things which add no true worth to us, which are in their own nature perishable, 7 d of which we are not proprietors,
but stewards. Every thing that we enjoy, we hold at the disposal of God; and it is the extreme of folly, therefore, to pride ourselves on what we hold on such a dependent tenure. Pride leads us to overlook our defects, and thus hinders our improvement; and inflaming us with an opinion that we deserve more than we possess, excites discontent and fretful. ness, which entirely mar our enjoyment. The proud man also misses the very end at which he aims; sor, instead of receiving the honour and applause of mankind, he becomes the just object of their scorn and contempt.
Q. Is not humility the foundation of all other virtues ?
A. The distinguishing excellence of humility arises from its being the foundation of all other virtues. Inspiring a sense of our own frailty and unworthiness, and of the majesty and infinite excellence of God, it removes our vanity and selfsufficiency, which are the great obstacles of faith, and makes us ready to believe what God reveals, and to render implicit obedience to him. It excites us to put our confidence in God, from the sense that, being weak and miserable ourselves, without him we can do nothing. It increases our love to God, by making us sensible how unworthy we are of the least of those favours we receive from him. It teaches us to rejoice in the prosperity of our neighbour, by disposing us to form the most favourable opinion of his worth. It disposes us to relieve those wants, and compassionate those afflictions in others, which we ourselves have deserved. It makes us patient under all the troubles and calamities of life, from the conviction that we deserve these calamities as the punishment of our sins. The most exalted acts of virtue will lose their value in the sight of God, if stained with pride and vainglory.
Q. What are the most powerful considerations to excite and cherish the virtue of humility ?
A. The most powerful considerations to excite humility are, that all the advantages we enjoy are the unmerited gifts of God's bounty; and that, being liable daily to transgress against him, we are deperdent on the succours of his grace, and stand daily in deed of his pardoning mercy.
OF THE SOLEMN FAST OF LENT.
Q, WHAT do you mean by the season of Lent ?
A. Lent, in the old Saxon signifying the Spring, has been applied to the Spring fast, or the time of humiliation observed by Christians before the festival of Easter.
Q. What was the probable origin of this fast ? A. This fast probably, like other Christian observances, is of Jewish origin, corresponding with the preparation of the Jews for the yearly expiation; their humiliation being forty days before the expiation, and ours is forty days before the expiation of the sins of the whole world, by the death of Christ.
Q. Is not this fast of great antiquity ?
A. From the very first ages of Christianity, it was customary for Christians to set apart some time for mortification and self-denial, to prepare for the solemn feast of Easter.
Q. Why is this solemn season limited to forty days ?
A. The number forty was very anciently appropriated seasons of repentance and humiliation. This was the nuinber of days, during which God covered the earth with the deluge;" the number of years in which the children of Israel did penance in the wilderness ;' the number of days Mosc: fasted in the mount, and Elijah in the wilderness :* the Nino vites had this number of days allowed for their repentance ;' and our Lord, when he was pleased to fast in the wilderness, observed the same length of time."
Q. Wherein consists the propriety of observing this fast ?
A. The duties of humiliation and repentance are of constant obligation, and are the essential and uniform charac. teristics of the sincere Christian. But there is great propriety in setting apart a season for thy more particular and solemn discharge of duties, which otherwise might be entirely forgotten, or only imperfectly and superficially discharged. When the mournful anniversary approaches of the sufferings and death of Christ, it is highly proper that
Euse. Eccle. Hist. lib. v. cap. 24.
h Gen. vii. 4.
i Num. xiv. 34.
the Church should lay aside the songs of praise and triumph which distinguished the preceding joyful festivals, and in humility and penitence prepare to sympathize in the sorrows of her Lord; it is highly proper that Christians should cail to mind the sins which brought, their Saviour to the cros.), and express their deep sorrow for them by acts of humiliation and self-denial. The solemn and devout exercises of this holy season tend also to strengthen in the soul the sentiments of piety and virtue, and to prepare us for successfully encountering the temptations of the world.
Q. How was the season of Lent observed by the primitive Christians ?
A. This season of humiliation was observed by the primitive Christians with the most rigid strictness. No marriages were allowed. Their festivals were transferred from the ordinary week days to Sunday or Saturday; which last day, among the eastern Christians, was a festival like Sunday. Except on these two days, the Eucharist was not consecrated during Lent; that being an act more suitable to festivals than fasts. The priinitive Christians, during this season, exhibited every external mark of deep penitence and sorrow, particularly abstinence and fasting. They extended the fasting, on every day in Lent, beyond the hour of three in the afternoon, at which time other fasts ended, to the evening.
Q. How should devout Christians spend their time during this season of Lent?
A. With a design to punish ourselves for our past transgressions, and to express our sorrow for them, we should practice the duties of abstinence and fasting, according to the circumstances of our health, and our outward condition in the world. Our external behaviour should correspond with the humiliation and seriousness we now profess. Public assemblies for pleasure and diversion should therefore now be avoided, and the festivities of social intercourse in some degree abated. The public services of the Church should be regularly and reverently attended; and we should devote a more than usual portion of our time to religious retirement; to self-examination, penitence, and prayer ; to acts of charity and mercy; especially to devout and serious meditation on religious subjects.
Q Explain the duty of religious meditation.