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wherein our Saviour gently rebukes him for the small improvement he had made, after having so long attended to his instructions.
Q. Where did this apostle preach the Gospel?
A. It is thought he preached the Gospel in Upper Asia, where, by his preaching and miracles, he made many converts,
Q. Where did he suffer martyrdom ?
A. He suffered martyrdom at the city of Hierapolis ; where the magistrates, enraged at his success in preaching the Gospel, put him in prison, and afterwards caused him to be scourged and crucified.
Q. What is the design of the epistle and gospel for the day?
A. The epistle, taken from St. James, exhorts to patience under afflictions and trials, which assailed, with the greatest severity, the apostles and primitive disciples ; and the gospel records the conversation of our Saviour with St. Philip at the last supper.
Q. What account do you give of the apostle St. James ?
A. St. James the Less was probably the son of Joseph by a former wife, and therefore styled the brother of our Lord, in the same sense that our Lord was reputed the son of Joseph. It is thought he was styled the Less, from the stature of his body, to distinguish him from St. James, who was of greater height and bulk, and therefore called the Great. But he acquired a more exalted appellation by the piety and virtue of his life, being styled, on this account, St. James the Just. He was chosen Bishop of Jerusalem, the mother of all other Churches; and was particularly active at the council of the Church at Jerusalem, in the great controversy concerning the obligation of the Jewish rites and ceremonies; for though the case was opened by St. Peter, and discussed by St. Paul, yet the final decree was pronounced by St. James ;h from which circumstance appear the fallacy of the papal claims for the supremacy of St. Peter.
Q. How did St. James suffer martyrdom ?
A. The Scribes and Pharisees, enraged against him for his success in preaching the Gospel, cast him down from a pinnacle of the temple, on the feast of the passover, when he was addressing the people. Being very much bruised,
h Acts 26.7, 12, 13, 19.
i Euseb. lib. i. c. 3.
though not killed by the fall, he recovered so much strength as to get upon his knees, and implore the divine mercy for his barbarous persecutors : and while he was thus praying for them, they loaded him with a shower of stones, and at length beat out his brains.
Q. What was the character of St. James ?
A. St. James was a man of exemplary piety and devotion. Prayer was his constant business and delight. He governed the Church with zeal and fidelity. He was distinguished for the meekness and humility of his temper, and for his temperance and self-denial.
Q. What writings of St. James remain ?
A. His epistle, addressed to the Jewish converts dispersed and scattered abroad, in which he endeavours to strengthen their faith and patience, and to encourage them to perse. verance under the trials that assailed them, is the only one of his writings which remain.
Q. What instruction does this festival afford us?
A. From the readiness with which St. Philip obeyed our Saviour's call to follow him, we should learn readily to obey the secret calls of God's Holy Spirit, and to receive the divine truths of the Gospel. The zeal and resolution of these apostles in promulgating the truth, should animate our exertions in the cause of religion and virtue.
The example of St. James, in praying for his murderers, inculcates on us the duty of forgiving our enemies; and his remarkable self-denial should impress on us the importance of this duty.
0. Explain the duty of self-denial.
A. The duty of self-denial consists in mortifying and restraining our appetites and passions; in being willing to give up all earthly comforts, and to endure the greatest hardships, sooner than do any thing contrary to the commands of God; choosing, like Moses, rather " to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season."
Q. What are the precepts of our Saviour in regard to this duty of self-denial?
A. “ He that loveth father and mother more than me," says our Saviour, “is not worthy of me.”) " If any man cometh after me, and hateth not wife and children, brethren and sisters, he cannot be my disciple." " If he forsaketh
tot all that he hath, and hateth not his own life, and doth not bear his cross, he cannot be my disciple."
Q. What is the meaning of these precepts ?
A. These precepts teach us, that no consideration of pleasure, or fear of pain, should allure or intimidate us from our allegiance to our divine Redeemer; that even the commands of our parents, to whom we are bound by the strong ties of affection and reverence, should not be obeyed, when they contradict the commands of God, whose authority is para. mount to all others; and, therefore, affection for the nearest friend of our bosom, and tenderness to our own offspring, will not justify the transgression of the laws of God, who claims our supreme love and obedience. These precepts imply, that we should relinquish our worldly subsistence sooner than violate the dictates of conscience, and thus forfeit our eternal inheritance; that we should even part with life itself, sooner than disobey that God, who, as he has prepared for his faithful servants immortal rewards, is able also " to destroy both soul and body in hell;" and that, finally, though in the service of our Master we should be assailed by the severest afflictions and persecutions, we should patiently sustain them all, sooner than renounce him who, for our sakes, endured the shame and agony of the cross, and who, if we deny him before men, will deny us before his Father who is in heaven.
Q. Is it not necessary that we should sometimes restrain the indulgence of even our innocent appetites ?
A. If we gratify our appetites in all things where we lawfully may indulge them, they will, at length, obtain such power and dominion over us, that we shall find it very difficult to oppose them at all. In order, therefore, to prevent our appetites from gaining too great an ascendency over us, and in order to preserve our command over them, we should sometimes deny them even in those indulgences that are innocent and lawful.
Q. Is not self-denial a reasonable duty ?
A. God has promised to assist and support us in the mortification of our sinful passions; and has also assured us, that for whatever temporal sacrifices we may make for his sake, we shall be rewarded “a hundred fold.” It must certainly, therefore, appear reasonable and proper, to deny ourselves in things of small moment, in order to obtain
1 Luke xiv. 27, 33.
everlasting rewards. God, as our Creator, Benefactor, and Redeemer, has a supreme claim to our service; and no consideration should ever come in competition with our duty to him, who “ hath given us richly all things to enjoy,” and hath “redeemed us by the precious blood of his own Son." In the practice of self-denial, we are animated by the example of the blessed Jesus, whose whole life was a course of pain and suffering.
o. WHEN does
HEN does the Church observe the fast of the Rogation Days ?
A. The Rogation Days are the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Holy Thursday, or the Ascension of our Lord.
Q. What was the origin of these days?
A. About the middle of the fifth century, Mamericus, Bishop of Vienne, upon the prospect of some dreadful calamities that threatened his diocese, appointed that extraordi. nary supplications, accompanied with fasting, should be offered up to God, on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before the festival of the Ascension. Rogations being the Latin name "given to these supplications, the days on which they were offered were called Rogation days; and the observance of them soon became general in the Church.
Q. What is the design of the Church in observing these days?
A. The design of the Church in enjoining these days to be observed, is not only to prepare us to celebrate, with proper devotion, our Saviour's ascension; but also to appease God's wrath, that so he may be pleased to avert the judgments which our sins have deserved ; and that he may vouchsafe to bless the fruits with which the earth is at this time covered. Christians should therefore observe these days as days of extraordinary humiliation and devotion.
CHAPTER XXXI. The ASCENSION of our LORD JESUS CHRIST.
A FESTIVAL, Q. WHAT event does the Church this day commemorate ?
A. The Church this day commemorates our blessed Saviour's ascension into heaven, and his sitting at the right hand of God. The commemoration of Christ's ascension at the expiration of forty days after the resurrection, has always been observed as a festival in the Church.
Q. Explain the psalms appointed for the morning service,
A. The psalms for the morning service are the 8th, 15th, and 21st. The 8th psalm, which is employed in magnifying God for his wonderful creation of the world, and for his goodness to mankind, may be prophetically applied to the greatest of all mercies, that of exalting our human nature, by the Son of God's assuming our flesh, and ascending with it to heaven. The 15th psalm represents the Saviour, the only person who possessed the perfection of righteousness displayed in the psalm, as ascending "the holy hill," the highest heavens, of which mount Zion was a type ; and the character of this our great High Priest must belong derivatively to his followers, who must follow his steps below, if they would reign with him above. In the 21st psalm, which was plainly fulfilled in the Saviour's ascension, the Church celebrates the glory and stability of his kingdom, on whose “ head” was set " a crown of pure gold,” and to whom was given “long life, even for ever;" his triumphant victory over his “ enemies," who were “all put to fight;" and his glorious “ exaltation in his own strength” as God, who was abased in much weakness as man.
Q. Explain the psalms for the evening service.
A. The psalms for the evening service are the 24th, 47th, and 103d. The 24th psalm was written on occasion of the moving of the ark to the place prepared for it on mount Zion, and is supposed to have been sung as the solemn procession ascended the hill; it is prophetically applied to the establishment of the Christian Church, and to Christ's ascension into heaven. The 47th psalm alludes to the ascent of
m Heb. j. 6, &c.