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Of the Sundays after EASTER. 2. WHAT have you to observe concerning the Sundays after Easter?
A. The Sundays after Easter all relate to the resurrection of Christ, and the promise of the Comforter. Accordingly, these glorious causes of joy and exultation are the principal subjects of all the gospels from Easter to Whit. suntide. The epistles exhort us to seek diligently those holy graces and virtues which alone can entitle us to the glorious rewards which Christ, by his resurrection, hath assured to all his faithful servants. On the first Sunday after Easter, being the octave of Easter, there used to be a repetition of part of the service of Easter Day; and hence this Sunday, being celebrated in like manner as that feast but in a lower degree, obtained the name of Low Sunday.
ST. MARK THE EVANGELIST, April 25.
WHAT account have we of the evangelist St. Mark, whose festival the Church this day commemorates ?
A. St. Mark, though a Roman by name, was born of Jewish parents, originally descended of the tribe of Levi. He was converted by some of the apostles, probably by St. Peter, whose companion he was in all his travels, supplying the place of an amanuensis or interpreter. For Christian assemblies in those days being made up of men of different nations, when the apostles -addressed them in the language of the nation to which the greater number of the assembly belonged, it was necessary that some person should interpret what was said to those who were of a different nation. This was the office of St. Mark, in his attendance upon St. Peter.
Q. What is the object of the epistle and gospel for this Jav?
A. The epistle and gospel inculcate the necessity of our firm adherence to that Saviour, whose life and doctrines are recorded by this evangelist and others.
Q. What do you mean by an evangelist, the title bestowed upon St. Mark
A. The title evangelist was at first given to all those who preached the Gospel : but it was afterwards confined to those four who wrote the history of the life of Christ; which history is styled the Gospel, or good tidings ;* the plan of salvation promulgated through Jesus Christ, being the source of everlasting life and bliss.
Q. Where was St. Mark sent to plant Christianity ?
A. St. Mark was sent by St. Peter into Egypt, to Alexandria, and the parts adjacent, where his ministry was eminently successful. He afterwards went westwards to Lybia, and other countries; the barbarous and idolatrous inhabitants of which he converted to the Christian faith, by his preaching and miracles. On his return to Alexandria, he organized the Church, by constituting its officers and governors.
Q. How did St. Mark suffer martyrdom ?
A. While he was celebrating divine worship at the festival of Easter, he was seized by the people, who were enraged at his opposition to their base idolatry, and dragged through the streets on the ground to prison, where, in the night, his soul was animated and encouraged by a divine vision. The rage of the people being still unsatisfied, early the next morning they came again, and so tore off his nesh, by dragging him about on the ground, that he expired in their arms.
Q. What account do you give of the gospel written by St. Mark ?
A. St. Mark wrote his gospel at the request of his converts at Rome. It is generally looked upon as a supplement to St. Matthew's gospel, as it gives a more particular account than St. Matthew does of some events of our Saviour's life.
Q. What may we learn from the observation of this festival ?
A. The principal instruction which we may receive from this festival, is that to which the Church directs us in the collect for the dày; that we should diligently seek to estą
• Ευαγγέλιον. .
blish our faith in the truth of that holy Gospel which the evangelist St. Mark was, with others, an instrument in promulgating. We should, therefore, diligently read and study those divine writings which contain the words of eternal life.
Q. How does it appear that it is the duty of all Christians to read the Scriptures ?
A. The sacred Scriptures explain the conditions of salvation, without the knowledge and practice of which we can never attain happiness. The articles of our faith proposed in Scripture, and the precepts for the direction of our lives, necessarily affect all the members of the Christian Church and, therefore, the holy Scriptures ought to be read and studied by all people. The apostles, in their epistles, address Christians in general; which is a proof that their writings were designed for general use.
The Bereans are commended for searching the Scriptures, and Timothy praised for "having known them from a child."a
Q. What was the practice of the Jews and primitive Christians in regard to reading the Scriptures ?
A. Among the Jews, the law was read and expounded every Sabbath day in their synagogues; and it is made the character of a good man among them, to meditate upon it day and night. The primitive fathers press the reading of the Scriptures upon the people, as a duty of indispensable obligation; as the best preservative against heretical opinions, as well as a bad life. In order that the Bible might be generally read, it was early translated into all languages. Those who, in times of persecution, delivered up the sacred records of their faith, were styled traditors; which circumstance is a proof that the Bible was in general use and circulation among the people.
Q. But are not people in general apt to misapply and pervert the Scriptures?
A. The best things may be abused; and though, in St. Peter's time, some persons wrested the Scriptures to their own destruction, he no where forbids the reading of them. The prohibition of them would give rise to much greater evils than the general use of them can possibly produce.
Q. How does it appear that the Scriptures are the word of God ?
A. The writers of the books of Scripture lay claim to
z Acts xvii, 11.
a 2 Tim. iii. 15.
b Psalm i. 2
divine inspirattion, and established their claim by the exercise of miraculous powers, which proved that they were not impostors. These miraculous powers procured at first the reception of their writings, which have been handed down as books divinely inspired, by the concurring testimony of every age.
Q. Wherein consist the perfection and perspicuity of the sacred Scriptures ?
A. The sacred Scriptures contain all truths necessary for salvation; and these truths are delivered with such plainness and perspicuity, that all persons may discover and understand them, who will bring to the study of the sacred volume, a humble and teachable disposition; and who, in dependence upon divine grace, will diligently and faithfully exercise the powers of reason, and use the lights which the Creeds of the universal Church afford.
Q. With what dispositions of mind ought we to read the Scriptures ?
A. We should read the Scriptures with reverence, with humility, and modesty; for they are the oracles of the infinitely wise and glorious God, and we are weak and imperfect creatures. We should read them also with earnest prayers for divine illumination, and with an honest and pious disposition of mind, free from prepossession and prejudice, from vanity and self-confidence; for “ he that doeth the will of God, shall kriow of the doctrine, whether it be of God."
Q. State some of the principal rules to be observed in the interpretation of Scripture ?
A. In the interpretation of Scripture, we should endeavour to explain difficult passages by those that are more clear. We should carefully attend to the peculiar phraseology of Scripture,* and acquaint ourselves with those ancient usages and customs to which many parts of Scripture allude. We should be careful not to wrest any part of Scripture to support our favourite preconceived opinions ; and in interpreting it, we should take as our guide, those
c Rom. x. 14; Col. i. 25; 1 Peter i, 12, &c. &c. d John vii. 17. Things spiritual are, with great force and beauty, in Scripture, illus. trated and explained by comparisons drawn from the objects of nature, from positive institutions, from the customs of society, from personal characters and actions, and from historical events: and the nature of this figurative style, and the rules for interpreting it, are judiciously and elegantly explained by the Rev. William Jones, of Nayland, in his work on the figa-. rative language of Scripture.
creeds and confessions of faith which have been receivect in the Church, at all times, in all places, and by all persons, and which thus possess antiquity, universality, and general consent. Of this description are the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.*
ST. PHILIP AND ST. JAMES.
A FESTIVAL. What account do you give of the apostle St.Philip? A. St. Philip the apostle was a native of Bethsaida, a town bordering upon the sea of Tiberius; from which obscure and contemptible place our Saviour chose his discipless in order to confound the wisdom and power of this world. He had the honour of being first called to be a disciple of our blessed Saviour, and was his constant companion and follower, He brought Nathaniel, a person of great note and eminence, to the knowledge of the Messiah ;e and to him the Gentile proselytes made their application to see the Saviour of the world. With him our Lord had that discourse concerning himself before the last paschal supper,
* The rule-Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus, credendum 28-is certainly the safest and best rule in the interpretation of Scripture. That error may, for a season, pervade the Church, cannot be denied; but to suppose that those doctrines in which the great body of Christians have in all ages been agreed, may yet be erroneous, is to admit that it is impossible to ascertain the true sense of Scripture. Had antiquity been sacredly adhered to, we should never have
heard of the doctrines of transubstantiation, purgatory, supremacy of the Pope, and other corruptions of the Church of Rome, in which she has departed from the primitive faith and usage; nor, among Protestants, of the doctrines of absolute election, irresistible grace, &c. which were wholly unknown for the four first centuries after Christ. Had primitive universal usage been followed, we should never have witDessed the rejection, by any set of Christians, of the Episcopal Order ; which has been handed down from the apostolic age, and by which the priesthood is transmitted from the divine Head of the Church. Much sound and useful truth may be derived from the Commonitory of Vincenzius Lirinensis, in which the above rule for interpreting Scripture is stated, explained, and defended; and from the excellent notes of its learned and orthodex translator, the Rev. William Reeves, who has published this tract in the same volumes with his translation of the Apologies of Justin, 'Tertullian, &c. John i. 45.
* John jj 2. & Johar xix. 8 %