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the catechumen is directed to profess his faith in "God the Son, who redeemed him and all mankind." And the office for the communion, in full and pointed language, declares that Christ hath "made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world;" declarations wholly inconsistent with the opinions, that Christ died only for the elect, and that those who have once received grace, can never finally fall away.*
Q. What may we learn from the commemoration of St. Paul's conversion?
A. The consideration of St. Paul's conversion should lead us to adore the miraculous grace of God which called him to be an apostle, and to bless God for the inestimable advantages we enjoy from the labours and instructions of this zealous apostle. The mercy of God to him who was "the chief of sinners," should inspire us with confidence to apply to God for pardon under a sense of our guilt. The zeal and faithfulness of St. Paul after his conversion, should excite us to show the sincerity of our repentance, by actions most opposed to our former sins.
Q. As St. Paul is represented as having "consented" to the death of St. Stephen, he may be said to be a partaker of the guilt of those who slew this holy martyr. State what is meant by partaking in other men's sins.
A. We may be said to partake in other men's sins, when we abet or connive at the commission of them; or when, after the commission, we approve or justify them.
Q. In what ways may we abet or connive at wicked actions, so as to become partakers in the guilt of them?
A. Magistrates, masters, or parents, become sharers in the guilt of any evil actions, when they do not use their power to prevent or punish them; when they order and command the commission; or when they do not refuse to concur in or countenance any improper measures. The ministers of the Church may become partakers of other men's guilt, when they neglect faithfully to declare the terms of salvation, and to warn sinners to flee from the wrath to come; and all persons who set a bad example, become
*That the Episcopal Church in America does not receive the seventeenth article, in a sense which favours the doctrine of absolute election, is evident from the circumstance, that, in the General Convention of the Church in 1801, which formally ratified the articles, it is believed, there was not one member who was friendly to those opinions concerning the divine decrees which are usually styled Calvinistic.
answerable for all the pernicious effect which that example may have on others.
Q. In what ways may we become partakers of men's sins after they are committed?
A. We may become partakers of men's sins after they are committed, either by openly approving them, by being secretly pleased with them, or by praising, justifying, and defending the commission of them.
The PRESENTATION of CHRIST in the Temple, commonly called, The PURIFICATION of ST. MARY the VIRGIN, February 2.
Q. WHAT festival does the Church celebrate this day?
A. The Church this day celebrates the presentation of Christ in the temple, commonly called, The Purification of St. Mary the Virgin.
Q. What is the design of the epistle and gospel for the day?
A. The epistle contains a prediction of the first advent of the Messiah, when he should come to his temple; which prediction was fulfilled at the presentation of Christ in the temple, of which the gospel gives an account.
Q. What was the Jewish law of purification with which the blessed Virgin complied?
A. By the Jewish law of purification, all the women were obliged to separate themselves from the congregation forty days after the birth of a male child, and eighty days after the birth of a female: and when the days of their purifying were fulfilled, if they were rich, they brought a lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin-offering; if poor, two turtles or two young pigeons, which the priest offered before the Lord, and made an atonement for them.
Q. What does this rite of purification import?
x Lev. xiir
A. This rite of purification was designed to teach the hereditary stain and corruption of human nature. As an acknowledgment and proof of this, the child was not only circumcised, but the mother cleansed by an offering for sin. Q. What did the law require concerning the presentation of the first-born?
A. The law required that every male child should be consecrated and set apart to the immediate service of God. When God exempted from the destruction which he brought upon the Egyptians, the first-born of the Hebrews, he commanded that they should be dedicated to the service of the altar, or redeemed at the price of five shekels; and though, afterwards, the Levites were substituted instead of the firstborn for the service of the tabernacle, yet the traces of the old law remained, and mothers were obliged to present their first-born in the temple, and to pay a ransom to the priest. The price of redemption was the same both to rich and poor, as were the charges of their burials; admonishing us of the equality which nature hath established between all men, in coming into the world and going out of it.
Q. What doth the redeeming of the first-born signify to
A. The redemption of the first-born under the Jewish law, may be considered as referring to the redemption of God's people, called "the Church of the first-born," who are written in heaven, and redeemed, not with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ.
Q. Since there was no impurity in the birth of our blessed Saviour, and since the blessed Virgin contracted no impurity by bringing him forth, why did they submit to these laws?
A. Being born under the law, it became our Saviour to fulfil all righteousness; and the blessed Virgin, by complying with the law, expressed great humility, obedience, and reverence to public institutions.
Q. What should we learn from this exemplary submission of the blessed Virgin to the rites of the law?
A. From this submission of the blessed Virgin to rites of which she could not stand in need, we may learn, that the public institutions and ordinances of religion ought to be obeyed, when not contrary to the laws of God, even though the ends to be answered by them, may not be answered by them in our particular cases.
y Exod. xiii. 2, 15.
z Numb. xviii. 16. a Numb. viii. 16, 17, 18. b Heb. xii. 23.
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."d
Q. Was not our blessed Saviour, at his presentation in the temple, manifested to the devout Simeon and Anna?
A. 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 very time when Christ was presented in the temple, he was, by the guidance of God's Spirit, brought thither: and the prophetess 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 should be excited 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 a 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
f Luke ii. 37, 8:0
c Luke ii. 24. d 2 Cor. viii, 9.
e Luke ii. 25, &c.
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 rendered her the distinguished object of divine favour, should teach us the high importance, obligation, and excellence, of the virtue of humility.
Q. Is not humility eminently a Christian virtue?
A. Humility is eminently a Christian virtue, being taught in the greatest perfection by Christ, both by precept and his own blessed 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 vain-glorious display of them: it will lead us to receive with thankfulness just reproofs, and to bear with patience injuries and insults: it will lead us 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?
A. Pride leads us to value ourselves very frequently upon things which add no true worth to us, which are in their own nature perishable, and of which we are not proprietors,