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Q. WHAT do you mean by Advent Sundays ?
A. Advent Sundays are the four Sundays that precede the great festival of our Saviour's nativity ; Advent being the season appointed by the Church to prepare our minds, by proper meditations, for a due commemoration of Christ's coming in the flesh.
Q. When is the first Sunday in Advent ?
A. The first Sunday in Advent is always the nearest Sunday to the feast of St. Andrew, whether before or after.
Q. Does not the Church compute the beginning of the year at this time of Advent?
A. The Church computes the beginning of the year, and renews the annual course of her services, at this season of Advent. She does not number her days, or measure her seasons, so much by the motion of the sun, as by the course of her Saviour, that true Sun of righteousness, who began now to rise upon the world, and, as the day-star on high, to enlighten those who sat in spiritual darkness.
Q. What have you to observe in regard to the epistles and gospels appointed for these Sundays ?
Ā. The epistles and gospels are all very ancient, and very proper for the time. They assure us of the truth of Christ's first coming; and, as a proper means to bring our lives to a conformity with the end and design of it, they point out to us the prospect of his second coming, when he will execute vengeance on all those who obey not his Gospel.
Q. With what temper of mind ought we to commemorate the great blessing of Christ's coming in the flesh ?
A. We should commemorate the great blessing of Christ's coming in the flesh, with firm purposes and sincere resolutions of conforming ourselves to the end and design of our Saviour's coming into the world. For, since the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the Devil, the great care and business of our lives should be, to avoid every thing that is evil, to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and not
¢ ! John iji, 8,
suffer sin to reign in our mortal bodies, that we should obey it in the lusts thereof. Since he gave himself for us, to purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, we should give all diligence to add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperance, to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity; for if these things be in us, and abound, we shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the know. ledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Q. What consideration doth the Church offer, to induce us to bring our lives to a conformity with the design of Christ's coming in the flesh ?
A. The consideration of his second coming to judge the world, when he will execute vengeance upon all those who obey not the Gospel, is presented to us in the services of Advent, to induce us to conform ourselves to the design of Christ's first coming, which was, that he might purify us unto himself, a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Q. What do you mean by Christ's coming to judgment ?
À. Our Lord Jesus Christ shall, at the end of the world, descend from heaven in his human nature, and summon all mankind to appear before his tribunal, where they shall have all their actions strictly examined, and, according to the nature of them, be adjudged to eternal happiness or eternal misery.
Q. Doth not reason render probable a general judgment ?
A. The light of nature discovers to us an essential difference between good and evil; whence, by the common consent of mankind, rewards are affixed to the one, and punish, ments to the other; and as men govern their actions in relation to these essential differences of good and evil, so are their hopes and their fears. The practice of virtue is attended not only with present quiet and satisfaction, but with the comfortable hope of a future recompence; the commission of any wicked action, however secret, fills the mind with horror and remorse. This sensibility of conscience would be very unaccountable, without the natural apprehension and acknowledgment of future rewards and punishments. The dispensations of God's providence towards men in this world are apparently very unjust; good men often suffer even for the sake of righteousness, and bad men as frequently prosper and flourish by the means of their d Rom. vi, 12.
f2 Pet. I. 5, 6, 7 8
e Tit. ii. 14,
wickedness : so that, to vindicate the justice of God's pro ceedings, it seems reasonable there should be a future judgment, for a suitable distribution of rewards and punishments.
Q. How does it appear from Scripture that there shall be a general judgment ?
A. God hath given assurance unto all men, that he will judge the world by Jesus Christ, in that he raised him from the dead. The process of the great day," with several of the particular circumstances of it, are fully described by our Saviour. St. Paul declares expressly, that we must all appear, and stand before the judgment-seat of Christ ;' St. Peter, that the day of the Lord shall come, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat. No doctrine appears more clear, and express, and fundamental, in the word of God, than that of a general judgment.
Q. When shall this general judgment be?
A. The general judgment shall take place at the end of the world. When the state of our trial and probation shall be finished, it will be a proper season for the distribution of public justice; for rewarding all those with eternal life, who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality; and for rendering to them that obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish."
Q. But if every man, upon his death, passes into a state of happiness or misery, what need is there of a general judge ment?
A. Though it is plain from Scripture, that good men, when they die, pass into a state of happiness, and bad men into a state of misery; yet all the declarations of our Saviour and his apostles concerning the judgment, with the parables that relate to it, plainly refer to the last and general judgment; for then it is only that the whole man shall be completely happy, or completely miserable : then it is that the bodies of men shall be raised ; and as they have been partakers with the soul, either in obeying or offending God, so shall they then share in the rewards or punishments of it. Then it is that the reasonableness of God's providence, in relation to the sufferings of good men in this world, will be fully justified, and his goodness as amply vindicated in those severe punishments that shall be eternally inflicted upon the wicked. Moreover, this general judgment is necessary, to display the majesty and glory of our blessed Saviour ; that, by this public act of honour and authority, he may receive some recompense for the contempt and ignominy which he met with from a wicked and ungrateful world; and that his despised servants may be owned by him in the sight of angels and men ; that public justice may be done to those virtues which their humility took care to conceal, and which were sullied by the calumnies and slanders of malicious men.
i Rom. xiv, 10. 2 Cor. y. 10
g Acts xvii. 31. j
2 Pet. iii. 10.
h Matt. xxv.
Q. To whom hath God committed the administration of this judgment ?
A. The Lord Jesus Christ is constituted by God to administer the judgment of the great day. God will judge the world in righteousness by that man Jesus Christ, whom he hath ordained.' The Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels; and then shall he reward every man according to his works." The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." The apostles were commanded to preach unto the people, and testify, that it is Jesus who is ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead.
Q. Why is the administration of this judgment committed to the Lord Jesus Christ?
A. The adıninistration of the general judgment is 'committed to our blessed Saviour, in order that he may receive public honour in that nature wherein he suffered; that he, who, for our sakes, stood before an earthly tribunal, may constituted judge of the whole world ; that he, who was despised and rejected of men, may appear in the glory of his Father, attended with an innumerable train of holy angels; that he, who was condemned and crucified to absolve us, may receive authority to absolve and condemn the whole race of mankind.
Q. Who are those that shall be judged ?
A. Angels and all mankind shall be judged. The fallen angels are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day. All men that have ever lived in the world, and those that shall be alive at our Saviour's coming, shall be gathered before him," who is or
I Acts xvii. 31
m Matt. xvi. 27.
n John v. 22.
dained by God to be judge of quick and dead," and they shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, both small and great. Power shall not exempt the kings of the earth and the great men, neither shall meanness excuse the poorest slave.
Q. For what shall we be judged?
A. We shall be judged for all things which we have done in the body, whether they be good or bad. All our thoughts, words, and actions, shall then undergo the severest scrutiny.
Q. By what measures shall the sentence of the great day påss upon men ?
A. The sentence of the last day shall pass upon men according to the nature and quality of their actions. The wicked shall go into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal."
Q. But will the degrees of their good and bad actions bi considered, as well as the nature and quality of them?
A. The Scripture plainly and expressly asserts, that the rewards and punishments of the next life shall bear a proportion to the good or evil men have done in this. That servant which knew his master's will, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes; for to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required;" he that soweth sparingly, shall reap sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully, shall reap bountifully. In the parable of the talents, our Saviour plainly teaches us, that men are rewarded according to the improvements they make. He that had gained ten talents, is made ruler over ten cities, and he that had gained five talents, ruler over five cities." St. Paul expressly affirms, that the glory of the saints shall be different at the resurrection. The more conformed any man is to the divine image, the greater capacity he has for the enjoyment of God; and the more advanced he is in wickedness, ihe more susceptible he is of torment, the more deserving of divine wrath.
Q. Is the time fixed for our Saviour's coming to judgment?
A. The time and season for that great judgment is appointed by God, and reserved as a secret to himself. Of
Acts x. 42.
s Rev. xi. 18. vi. 15. Job xxxiv. 19.
t 2 Cor. v. 10.