Page images
PDF
EPUB

into the Church, live in a course of sin and disobedience, will incur the heavy condemnation of having resisted God's grace, of having done despite unto his Spirit, of having contemned the offers of divine mercy, and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing.

Q. What are the distinguishing blessings annexed to sincere communion with the Church ?

A. The sincere members of the Church of Christ enjoy a sure and express title to the remission of their sins; to the prevailing intercession of Jesus, their gracious advocate, with the Father; to the powerful aids and consolations of the Holy Spirit ; to the enlivening favour and protection of God; to a participation of the immortal glories to which the Church of the redeemed will finally be advanced. All mankind are in the hands of an infinitely merciful and righteous God, who will judge them according to their works; but his covenanted and distinguishing mercies are the peculiar portion of the sincere members of the Church, the mystical body of Christ, his beloved Son.

CHAPTER XX.

OF THE SUNDAYS IN LENT.

[ocr errors]

How are the Sundays in Lent named ? A. The Sundays in Lent are generally termed from their number, being called the first, second, &c. Sunday in Lent: but the fourth Sunday is sometimes called Midlent Sunday ; and the fifth Sunday is called Passion Sunday, though this name might perhaps be more properly applied to the following Sunday, which is the Sunday next before Easter, and which has obtained the appellation of Palm Sunday, in commemoration of our Saviour's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the multitude that attended him strewed palm branches in his way.

Q. What is the design of the Church on these Sundays?

A. Sunday being a festival, the Church allows us to interrupt our fasts on the Sundays in Lent; but it is still her earnest desire to keep us in mind of the solemn duties which are appropriate to the season. Accordingly, in the epistles for the three first Sundays, we are taught the necessity of

mortifying our sinful passions; the epistle for the fourth Sunday shows, by a striking allegory, the superior excellence of that covenant which Christ, by his death, sealed, over the law of Moses; the epistle for the fifth Sunday points out to us the divine purifying efficacy of the blood of Christ; and the epistle for the Sunday next before Easter, exhorts us to humility, from the consideration of the infinite condescension of the Son of God, in submitting, for our sakes, to the death of the cross. The gospel, for the first Sunday, to animate us to resist temptation, recites the history of Christ's temptation in the wilderness : the gospels for the four following Sundays, with a view to excite us to the imitation of the benevolence of Christ, and to confirm our faith in him, set before us some striking instances of his divine compassion and power, and of that forcible reasoning whereby he vindicated his divine claims: the gospel for the Sunday next before Easter, commences the recital of the sufferings of Christ, which the ensuing week more particularly commemorates.

CHAPTER XXI.

OF THE PASSION-WEEK.

.

By what names has this week been commonly called? A. The week next before Easter has been called Passion Week, because it is particularly devoted to the commemoration of the passion and death of Christ. It is also called the Great Week, on account of the important transactions which it witnessed, and the exalted blessings derived to us from them : and it is also called the Holy Week, from the extraordinary and solemn exercises of devotion which the Church prescribes in it.

Q. How was this week observed by the primitive Christians ?

A. This week was observed by the primitive Christians with great strictness of fasting and humiliation. They applied themselves to prayer, both in public and private; to hearing and reading God's holy word; and to exercising a most solemn repentance for those sins which occasioned the sufferings of the Lord of life.

Q. How is this week now observed by the Church?

A. The Church calls us every day this week to the cor templation of our Lord's sufferings, which are recited in the lessons, epistles, and gospels; in order that our humiliation may be increased by the consideration of the sufferings of Christ; and that, with penitent hearts, and firm resolutions of dying unto sin, we may accompany the Saviour through the several stages of his bitter passion. In conformity with the design of the Church, we should, in this week, enlarge our private devotions, and abstain from all indulgences inconsistent with the seriousness that should possess our hearts.

CHAPTER XXII.

Of the Thursday before EASTER.
WHAT is this day called ?
Q.

A. This day is called [ Dies Mandati] Mandate, or Maunday-Thursday, because our Saviour commanded his apostles to commemorate the holy sacrament of the supper, which he this day instituted, after the celebration of the passover.

Q. What have you to remark concerning the epistle and gospel for the day?

Ā. The gospel for the day is suitable to the season, treating of our Saviour's passion; and the epistle contains an account of the institution of the Lord's supper.

Q. Explain the nature and end of the Lord's supper, or. holy Eucharist.

A. The holy Eucharist is a sacrament of the Church, in which bread and wine, consecrated to represent the body. and blood of Christ, are offered unto God, in “remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby." Christ, when he instituted the sacrament of the supper, blessed bread and wine, to represent his body and blood then, by these symbols, sacramentally given or offered, and shed for the sins of the world: and by enjoining it on his apostles, thus “to show forth his death till his coming again,” he gave them and their successors authority to consecrate bread and wine to be symbols of his body and blood, and to offer them up as a

memorial unto God. The bread and wine thus offered unto God, are to be received by the faithful, as a solemn pledge of their being restored to the favour of God. In this holy sacrament, the Church, under the symbols of bread and wine, commemorates the passion and sacrifice of Christ, in order that all who " worthily receive those holy mysteries, may obtain remission of their sins, and all other benefits of Christ's passion; may be filled with God's grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Christ, that he may dwell in them, and they in him.”

Q. It will be proper to explain the form of service for the holy communion, appointed by the Church. What is meant by “the offertory," which the minister is directed to begin after the sermon, when the communion is to be administered ?

A. After the sermon, when there is a communion, the minister returns to the Lord's table, and reads several sentences from Scripture, which explain and urge the duty of charity. This part of the service, from being used while the people are offering their alms by oblations, is called the ofertory.

Q. By whom, and for what purpose, are the bread and wine placed upon the table ?

A. 'The bread and wine are then placed upon the table by the priest, as a solemn acknowledgment of God's sovereignty over the creatures. To this offering of the bread and wine to God the term oblation refers, in the prayer for Christ's Church militant, which follows the offertory. The bread and wine are here offered simply as such ; they are afterwards offered as consecrated symbols of the body and blood of Christ.

Q. What follows next in the service ?

A. The alms for the poor, the devotions or gifts which used formerly to be made for the clergy, and the oblations of the bread and wine, being now presented unto God, and placed before him on his holy table, the Church then pro. ceeds to the duty of intercession, in a solemn and affecting prayer for Christ's Church militant.

ē. What is the design of the exhortations that are to be used on the Sunday before the communion ?

A. The exhortations to be used when notice is given of the communion, are designed to set forth the necessary preparation for this holy sacrament, and the great danger and guilt of refusing to participate of it. The primitive Church did not need these exhortations; for then the communion

was administered whenever public worship was celebrated, and all the faithful partook of it.

Q. What is the design of the exhortation appointed to be used at the administration of the communion ?

A. The exhortation used at the administration of the communion, in animating and affecting language, sets forth and enforces the dispositions with which we ought to approach the Lord's table.

Q. What follows the exhortation ?

A. After the exhortation, the priest invites the people to draw near : accordingly, it would appear proper for all the communicants to come from the more remote parts of the church, as near as possible to the Lord's table; and that they may come with lively faith in the merits of Christ, he calls upon them previously to confess their sins; which is accordingly done in words the most solemn and pathetic, The priest then, in a form of absolution, authoritatively declares the forgiveness of sins-thus conveying peace and consolation to the humble and contrite : and still further to strengthen the hopes of the penitent, he recites some sentences from Scripture, which, in the most lively manner, exhibit the mercy of God through Jesus Christ, to all who truly turn to him.

Q. What do you remark concerning the lauds and an. thems?

A. The communicants having exercised their charity, having humbly confessed their sins, and received the comforting declaration of God's mercy in the absolution, they are now prepared for the solemn duty of thanksgiving, the more appropriate design of the Lord's supper, which was. anciently called the holy Eucharist. Elevated, as it were, above the world, they seem prepared to enter into the heaven of heavens, there to join with angels and glorified saints, in adoring and praising the everlasting Jehovah. Accordingly, after the priest and people, in short sentences, mutually excite one another to the duty of praise, the priest, in the name of the people, makes a solemn acknowledgment to God, of their obligation to thank and praise him: and then both priest and people break forth in an animating act of thanksgiving, used in the most ancient liturgies; which, from the epithet holy being thrice repeated, as addressed to the three persons of the Trinity, is called The Trisagium, or thrice holy,* On certain festivals there are proper prefaces.

Terraglor,

« PreviousContinue »