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Q. What became of St. Matthew after our Saviour's ascension ?
A. St. Matthew continued with the rest of the disciples till our Saviour's ascension, and then, for about eight years, he preached in Judea ; and afterwards he travelled into Parthia and Ethiopia, where he converted multitudes to Christianity. It is most probable he suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, though the manner of his death is altogeiher uncertain.
Q. What writings has St. Matthew left behind him ?
A. St. Matthew has left the Gospel that goes under his name. He was qualified to write a history of our Saviour, as he was an eye-witness of the life and actions of Christ, and could have no inducement to deceive or mislead. This Gospel, which, it is supposed, was originally written in Hebrew, and afterwards translated into Greek, was written by St. Matthew about eight years after the death of Christ, for the particular use of the Jewish converts.
Q. What instruction does this festival afford ?
A. The mercy and condescension of Christ in choosing for one of his most intimate friends and companions a despised publican, should teach us that God will accept and pardon the worst of sinners, if they will forsake their evil ways, and become obedient to the calls and invitations of divine grace. The readiness with which St. Matthew obeyed this call, and the humble and self-denying spirit which he discovered, should excite us cheerfully to renounce all worldly pleasures and advantages in the service of our divine Master, and especially to repress that inordinate love of riches, which invariably withdraws our affections from God and his service.
Q. Wherein consists the nature of covetousness ?
A. Covetousness consists in an immoderate love of riches, leading to an eager and insatiable pursuit of them, and often to unlawful and dishonest means of acquiring them. It leads us to hoard up our wealth, neither employing it for our own enjoyment, nor for the good of others.
Q. Is not covetousness a most odious and injurious pas. sion ?
A. The inordinate love of wealth alienates the mind from God, and withdravs the attention of men from the care of their souls. It hardens the heart to the sentiments of piety, to the influences of divine grace, to the calls of benevolence; and it is the parent of almost all the fraud and injustice, cruelty and oppression, falsehood and perjury, that are committed in the world.
Q. Is not covetousness a most unreasonable vice?
A. Covetousness is an insatiable passion, which is never gratified, which can never attain the contentment and happiness at which it aims. It mistakes too the nature of happiness ; for this is seldom to be found in abundance of wealth, but in such a competency as is adequate to the conveniences and comforts of life. W Godliness with conteniment is great gain.”
Q. What are the best means to cvercome this passion? A. We should consider the uncertainty and the unsatisfying nature of that wealth at which we aim, and should therefore repress all immoderate solicitude for it. Seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, we should rest satisfied, that while faithful and diligent in a course of honest industry, all things necessary to our worldly comfort the good providence of God will confer upon us. We should propose to ourselves higher objects of pursuit than any which the world can afford, even those pleasures which are at God's right hand, in whose presence there is fulness of joy. These we should earnestly desire; these should be the objects of our most vigorous pursuit. And mindful that we must render, at the awful tribunal of heaven, an account of our stewardship, we should take care so to employ our wealth in useful and benevolent purposes, that it may minise ter to our joy, and not to our shame at the last great day.
Sr. MICHAEL, and ALL ANGELS, September 29.
A FESTIVAL. 2. WHAT account do the Scriptures give of St. Michael ?
A. The Scriptures inform us that St. Michael was an archangel, who presided over the Jewish nation, as other archangels did over the Gentile world ;¥ that he had an army of angels under his command, with whom he fought with the dragon, or Satan, and his angels ;and that, contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses.a
Q. What does the fight mentioned in the Revelation, of St. Michael and his angels, with the dragon and his angels, most probably signify?
A. It is generally supposed that it denotes some eminent victory of the Christian Church, by the assistance of these ministering spirits, over the power and malice of the devil and his angels, who set themselves, with all their force, to persecute and destroy the Church.
Q. What is supposed to be meant by the contest about the body of Moses?
A. It is thought by some* that the controversy about the body of Moses relates to the controversy about rebuilding the Jewish temple and worship; and that this may, in a figurative sense, be as fitly styled the body of Moses, as the Christian Church is called the body of Christ.
In support of this supposition it is urged, that the passage of St. Jude is cited from Zechariah ;d where the rebuilding the temple is treated of. Otherst interpret this passage in a literal sense, and are of opinion, that St. Michael, by the order of God, bid the body of Moses after his death, and that the devil endeavoured to discover it, as a fit means to entice the people, 10 idolatry by the worship of the body of him whom they so much venerated.
Q. What is meant by the term angel?
A. The term angel, in general, signifies no more than a messenger or ambassador employed upon the errand of ano. ther; but in Scripture, and in common way of speaking, it is taken for a celestial spirit, employed as a messenger to execute the commission of God.
Q. What proof is there of the existence of angels ? A. The clear and express testimony of Scripture, which gives us an account of their appearance to patriarchs and holy men of old, establishes, beyond a doubt, the existence and ministry of angels.
Q. What do you observe concerning the nature of angels ?
A. Though some of the ancient philosophers and the primitive fathers attributed to angels bodies which they called ethereal, it is the most current opinion of the Christian Church, and seems most agreeable to Scripture, that angels are pure spirits, invisible and imperceptible to our senses. It appears, however, from Scripture, that they have a power to assume light and airy bodies, and to appear in a human shape.
• Dr. Hammond.
b Zech. iii.
+ Archbishop Tillotson.
Q. What are the properties ascribed to angels?
A. Angels are described in Scripture as endowed with great understanding and power, much superior to what is possessed by man. They are said to excel in strength, in knowledge, and in wisdom; and in purity and holiness; whence the title holy angels are given to them. They are represented as full of wings, to denote the great swiftness and activity of their motions. And heir office consists constantly attending upon the great and glorious King of heaven and earth, expecting his commands, and ready to execute his will.
Q. Wherein consists the ministry of good angels?
A. We are taught that angels are employed by God to accomplish the designs of his providence, to declare his counsels and will to his Church. By angels most of the divine messages were conveyed to the prophets; and the birth of John the Baptist, the conception of the blessed Virgin, and the birth and resurrection of Christ, were announced by angels. We are taught also, that they are “ ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of sal· vation ;
;"e to protect and succour, to comfort, assist, and direct those who, by sincere repentance and faith in Christ, Jabour to approve themselves to their heavenly Master.
Q. What has been the general opinion of mankind concerning guardian angels?
A. It has been an opinion generally received among Jews and Christians, and Pagans also, that every man has a guar. dian angel appointed him by God, to take a special care of him and his concerns, both temporal and spiritual. Abraham seems to countenance this opinion, when he says to his stew. ard,“ The Lord, before whom I walk, will send his angel with thee, and prosper thy way.
»f David seems of the same opinion, when he says, “ The angel of the Lord encampeth about those who fear him."! Our Saviour seems to refer to this truth in these words, “ Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones,” these humble believers, “ for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven." And, as was before mentioned, their being “sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation,” supposes them ready to do all good offices to good men.
c Psal. ciii 20; 2 Sam. xiv. 17, 20; Matt. xxv. 31.
e Heb. i. 14.
h Matt, xviii. 10.
f Gen. xxiv. 40.
Q. What are the particular offices of good angels towards good men ?
A. Good angels not only protect and deliver good men from outward dangers and evils, but also suggest to them good thoughts and affections, and excite them to good works and actions. When evil angels assail believers by temptations, the good angels are ready to succour and strengthen them, that they sink not under these temptations. At the awful hour of death they stand by the faithful, ready to comfort and assist them, and to receive and conduct their souls to the mansions of the blessed. And, finally, when the Son of man shall come in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory to judge the world, the holy angels shall attend him; and he shall send them to gather his chosen and faithful people, from one end of heaven to the other.
Q. Wherein consists the ministry of bad angels?
A. Bad angels are employed in trying and exercising the righteous; in punishing the wicked, and in executing vengeance upon them in another world. They set themselves in opposition to the glory of God and the salvation of mankind; though they are restrained in the exercise of their power.
Q. Ought we to implore the intercession and prayers of good angels ?
A. We have no authority from Scripture for imploring the intercession and prayers of good angels. The Scripture directs us to the mediation alone of Christ Jesus, "the only mediator between God and man.” To implore the aid of any other intercessors in heaven, but him, would derogate from the efficacy of his all-prevailing intercession. To address our prayers to angels and departed saints, supposes that they hear us; of course, as all men are equally bound to address these prayers to them, they must be every where present; and we thus blasphemously ascribe to them an attribute of divinity. The worship of angels and saints, and of their images, as practised in the Church of Rome, is certainly the most criminal idolatry: for it is at the time, in the place, in the posture, and with every other circumstance of divine worship; and they are addressed in the same prayers that are offered up to God and the blessed Redeemer! This worship is severely reproved by St. Paul : « Let no man deceive you in a voluntary humility and worshipping of
i job i. and ii.; Rev. ii. 10; 1 Sam. xvi. 14; 1 Kings xxii. 20, &c.