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to the apostleship, should lead all who are concerned in seleeting persons for the ministry, to use the greatest caution, and solemnly to invoke the divine guidance and blessing; and should teach all who are candidates for the ministry, seriously to examine their own hearts, whether they possess that sincere zeal for the glory of God, and the good of souls, which only will authorize them in trusting that they are called by the Holy Ghost to the office of the ministry. Since the wickedness of Judas did not invalidate his commission, we may learn that we shall not be justified in withdrawing from the ordinances of God, because he who administers them is a bad man. The lamentable fall of Judas, and the remorse which he discovered, should teach us carefully to avoid the sin of covetousness, which was the cause of his fall; to preserve our consciences free from guilt, which will rob us of our repose and peace; and diligently to watch over our hearts and ways, lest we be betrayed into sin, and ultimately be led into apostacy from God.
Q. Explain the duty of watchfulness.
A. The duty of watchfulness consists in wisely foreseeing the dangers which threaten our souls, and then in diligently endeavouring to escape or overcome them.
Q. How may we foresee the dangers that threaten us?
A. We should diligently endeavour to find out what are the temptations to which, from natural constitution, from professional pursuits, or from the company with which we associate, we are most exposed; that thus we may discover the first beginnings of evil, and be on our guard against the first approaches of our spiritual enemy.
Q. How may we preserve our piety against the assaults of temptation ?
A. Our safety will generally consist in avoiding temptation whenever it is in our power: but when called to encounter it, we should " put on the whole armour of God.” In order to overcome the temptation to increase our property by unlawful means, we should impress ourselves with a lively belief of the constant presence of God with us, and of the solemn account we must render at his tribunal. In order to overcome the seducing temptations of pleasure, we should live under the lively hope of enjoying those pleasures which are at God's right hand for evermore: we should gird ourselves with truth, that no profit may prevail upon us to be insincere or faithless in our words and promises : we should guard ourselves with righteousness, and keep our
consciences void of offence: and then we may resolutely sustain the trials and persecutions to which we may be called. By the sword of the spirit, by lively confidence in the animating promises of the word of God, and by earnest prayer to him for the succours of his grace, we shall be enabled to overcome the assaults of temptation, and to put to flight all the enemies of our salvation.
Q. Is nut watchfulness an important and necessary duty ?
A. Possessing a frail and depraved nature, surrounded by innumerable temptations, and exposed to the secret, but artful and powerful assaults of the great adversary, by diligent watchfulness alone shall we be able to persevere in the service of God, and to avoid that remorse and misery which will for ever overwhelm us, should we finally become the victims of temptation.
The ANNUNCIATION of the blessed VIRGIN MARY,
WHAT is meant by the ainunciation of the blessed Virgin, which the Church this day celebrates ?
A. By the annunciation of the blessed Virgin is meant, the declaration which the angel Gabriel made to the blessed Mary, that she should be the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ; that this her Son should be great, and called the Son of the Highest ; that the Lord God should give unto him the throne of his father David; that he should reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and that of his kingdom there shall be no end. On him should be settled a spiri. tual kingdom, of which the temporal one of David was a type; he should be vested with the absolute government of the Church, the spiritual house of Jacob. The kingdom of David was to come to an end, but the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah was to last for ever.
Q. What have you to observe in regard to the epistle and gospel for the day?
1. The epistle contains the prophecy in Isaiah concerning the miraculous birth of Christ; and the gospel recites the fulfilment of this prediction.
Q. What was the salutation of the angel to the blessed Virgin?
Å. The angel addressed the blessed Virgin with the salutation—“Hail, thou that art highly favoured; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.' The address was suited to the glorious tidings that were to follow, and led the Virgin to expect, that, as a reward for her humble, holy, and pious graces, some distinguished honour was to be conferred upon her.
Q. What were the circumstances that followed this salutation of the angel?
A. Judging herself unworthy of this distinguished honour, Mary was troubled at the saying of the angel ; and penetrated with profound amazement at the assurance, that of her should be born the promised Messiah," the Son of the Highest," she inquires-- How can this be?” The angel then reveals the miraculous conception of the Saviour by the power of the Holy Ghost; and to confirm her faith, declares to her the display of the power of God in the case of her cousin Elizabeth. Mary, yielding full faith to the celestial messenger, humbly and piously exclaimed_" Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word.” Afterwards, on a visit to Elizabeth, she burst forth in a thankful expression of the distinguishing goodness of God to her, celebrating his love and mercy in that sublime hymn styled the Magnificat.'
Q. What does the Church direct us to believe concerning the incarnation of the Son of God, which took place im. mediately on this annunciation of the angel to the blessed Virgin?
A. “ The Son, who is the word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance ; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the godhead and manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man; who truly suffered, was crucified, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men."u
Articles of Religion, Art. 2.
t Loke i. 46.
Q. What is the meaning of the Church, when she says, that the godhead and manhood are joined together in one person, whereof is one Christ?
A. The design of the Church, in declaring that the divine and human natures are united together in the person of Christ, is to express, that there is a true and proper communication of names, characters, and properties, from the two natures, to the one person made up of them.
Q. Is not the doctrine of the incarnation incomprehensible?
A. Our feeble powers cannot comprehend the mysterious union of the divine and human nature in the person of Christ; neither can we comprehend the infinite and eternal essence of God, or the secret tie that connects together in one person the soul and body. If, therefore, we reject the doctrine of the incarnation, because it is incomprehensible. we must also reject the existence of God, and the union of the soul and body; both of whicli baffle our comprehension. Every truth relating to the divine nature, must necessarily transcend the comprehension of a finite creature. To believe in the mystery of the incarnation, it should be sufficient for us to know, that God has revealed it in his holy word, and that the most glorious blessings are connected with it.
Q. In what sense may the blessed Virgin Mary be styled the mother of our Lord ?
A. As the eternal Son of God took upon him our nature, and was born of the Virgin, in this respect she may be called the mother of our Lord.
Q. What reverence do we owe to the blessed Virgin ?
A. We should highly esteem and reverence the blessed Virgin, who was distinguished for her humility, virtue, and piety; and who enjoyed the exalted honour of being the mother of our blessed Lord. But to invoke her mercy and aid, or to offer up our prayers through her mediation, thus to render unto her divine honours, would be the most impi. ous idolatry, and presumptuous insult to that divine Saviour, who is the only “ Mediator between God and man."
Q. What instruction does this festival afford us?
A. We should be excited to imitate, on all occasions, the modesty and humility of the blessed Virgin, who did not permit herself to be unduly elated with the distinguished honour conferred upon her. The wonderful condescension of the Son of God in taking our nature upon him, should
v Luke i, 43
lead us evermore to adore and praise him, and to endeavour to fulfil the design of his coming into the world, which was to redeem us from all iniquity. As he was pleased to be united to our nature, so it should be our supreme care and business to be spiritually uvited to him, that thus we may partake of the blessings of his redemption.
Q. By what means are Christians united to Christ?
A. The Scriptures uniformly refer to the sacrament of baptism, as the rite in which our union with Christ commenced. In this sacrament, on our profession to believe what Christ hath revealed, to perform what he hath commanded, to renounce whatever he hath forbidden, and steadfastly to love and serve him, we are made members of that mystical body, the Church, whereof he is the head. Our union with Christ must be maintained, by “ continuing steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers ;''; we must steadfastly adhere to that form of sound words handed down from the apostolic age; we must maintain fellowship with the apostles, and, through them, with Christ, by submitting to the priesthood, in the orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, who derive their authority, by regular transmission, from Christ, the head of the Church; we must constantly and devoutly partake of the Lord's supper; and attend on the public prayers of the Church. Thus continuing in communion with the Church, we shall “grow up united into him in all things, which is the head, Jesus Christ."y
Q. Can our communion with the Church be sincere, or will it be effectual to our salvation, unless it produces holiness of heart and life?
1. Upon their admission into the Church by baptism, all Christians receive the influences of the Holy Spirit, to enable them to work out their salvation, and to secure, by a life of faith and holy obedience, the remission of sins, the favour of God, and everlasting life; blessings which, in baptism, were conditionally conferred. Communion with the Church is the appointed mode by which their faith and obedience are to be quickened and preserved, and made accept-. able unto God; but unless their communion with the Church conduces to this end, and advances them into a conformity to Christ, their holy and divine head, it is not sincere, and will. not be effectual to their salvation: Those who, admitted * 1 Cor. xi. 13; Gal. üi. 27; Rom. vi. 3, &c. % Acis ii, 42. y Eph. iv. 15.