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sessed the most perfect knowledge of the divine will. We have, therefore, the greatest reason to put our trust and confidence in that method of attaining salvation which he has revealed; for it was the contrivance of infinite wisdom, it is the gift of infinite mercy, it is assured to the penitent and faithful, by infinite truth and power.
Q. Wherein consists the perfection of our Saviour's doctrine and precepts ?
A. The doctrine of Christ sheds the most clear and glorious lustre on every subject connected with the spiritual welfare and happiness of man. His Gospel conveys to us just and exalted views of the nature of God, of the perfection of his attributes, of the spirituality of his worship, of the means of access to the throne of his mercy, of the eternal destiny of man on all these momentous and important subjects, reason conveyed only faint and uncertain knowledge. The precepts of Christ shed new and striking light on all the important duties which we owe to God, our neighbour, and ourselves: they are calculated, by their purity and perfec tion, to raise our nature to the highest improvement of which it is capable. To prevent our falling into sinful actions, our Saviour lays a restraint upon our thoughts, which influence our conduct, and commands us to govern our senses, which give birth to our thoughts :* to obviate all those evils which proceed from an inordinate desire of riches, he insists on that admirable temper of mind distinguished in his Gospel by poverty of spirit, which teaches us to be humble and contented in every condition: to keep us at a distance from the temptations of lying and de action, he has forbidden all idle words,2 that the care to avoid them may secure us from falling into those greater faults: to hinder the fatal effects of anger and revenge, he has commanded us to love our enemies, and to do good to them who do evil to us: to facilitate the practice of the virtue of patience, so necessary in this vale of tears, he has manifested to us the treasures that are hid in adversity, and the advantage of being persecuted for his sake; assuring us, that what the world calls misfortune and calamity, often proves the instruments of our happiness, both in this life and the nextblessed are they that mourn, blessed are they that are perse. cuted and to make us quiet and easy in our own minds, and mild and gentle in our conduct to others, he requires us
z Matt. xii. 36.
x Matt. v. 28.
Matt. v. 3.
to have a quick sense of our own weaknesses and defects, and readily to condescend to the lowest offices, for the good of our neighbours.c
Q. Wherein appears the excellence of our Saviour's example?
A. Our Saviour has set us, in his life, a bright and perfect example of all the virtues which he requires us to cultivate. To impress on us the duties of piety and devotion, he frequently retired, and spent whole nights in prayer;d from worldly occurrences he always sought to raise matter for spiritual thoughts; and he conformed not only to divine institutions, but to human appointments, that tended to promote religion. To teach us humility, the King of glory condescended to the poverty of a stable: this Wisdom of the Father became dumb, and was reduced to the simplicity of an infant. To teach us the duty of universal benevolence, the whole course of his life was employed in doing good. To engage us to suppress all ambiti us. desires, he refused the offer of the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and when the people would have made him a king, he silently withdrew, and they knew not where to find him. To impress on us the duty of obedience to government, he cheerfully paid tribute, though he was free from any such obligation, and was forced to work a miracle to perform it.i To excite us to live above the world, he chose to have no part nor share in the possessions of it, the Son of man not having where to lay his head; and though he denied himself in the lawful pleasures and satisfactions of life, yet he was perfectly contented in his mean condition. To teach us. in all our sufferings to be resigned to the will of God, in his bitter agony and death he renounced the strong inclination of nature to life, he overcame the aversion of nature to suffering, and cheerfully submitted to the appointment of his Father. To teach us that we should not value the judgment of the world so highly as to permit a regard to it to lead us. to transgress the laws of God, he made himself of no reputation; and, in order to do good to mankind, was contented to be esteemed one of the worst of men, to be in league with Beelzebub,m an impostor, a friend and companion of publicans and sinners, and a seducer of the people." To teach us.
c Matt. xi. 29.
f Acts x. 38.
i Matt. xvii, 24, 25, &c. i Phil, 2, 7.
d Matt. xiv. 23; Luke vi. 12.
g Matt. iv. 8, &c.
m Luke xi. 15.
e John x. 22.
h John vi. 15.
k Matt. xxvi. 39
a Matt. xi, 19,
to resist all temptations to anger, and to preserve an evenness of mind under all provocations, he bore, on all occasions, 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 does our Saviour offer us in the performance of our duty?
A. To animate us to repentance, and to excite us to holiness, 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 might be made happy; he became poor, that we might be made rich; he submitted to the death of the cross, that we might live for ever. The 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 given us his own Son, shall he not with him freely give us also all things?r
John xiv. 5, &c. P John x. 32.
q Luke xxii. 34, r Rom. viii. 32.
Q. How ought we to express our thankfulness for the incarnation 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 thanksgiving; by complying with the great design of this wonderful plan of redemption, which teaches us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world ;s and by imitating the infinite love of God, and as he so loved us, to love one another.t
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 opportunities 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 expressions of our gratitude, we should, by endeavouring to do good both to the bodies and souls of men, show that we are indeed the followers 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 joyful 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 to 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 scandel of our Saviour and his holy religion, and to our own great guilt and condemnation.
$ Tit. ii, 12
t 1 John iv. 11.
u Tit. ii, 13
ST. STEPHEN, THE FIRST MARTYR, DECEMBER 26.
Q. WHAT reason has been assigned for placing the
festivals 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. Ste
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.w
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; and by his ministrations
w The office of a Deacon has been explained, page 55.
v Acts vi. 5. x Acts vi. 8,