« PreviousContinue »
of God with deep and true contrition, and with seriousness and earnestness beseeching him to incline our hearts to keep his laws.
Q. What have you to observe in regard to the collect, epistle, and gospel, which succeed the ten commandments >
A. The reading of portions out of the epistles and gospels is a very ancient usage in the Church. The epistles and gospels now in use were, it is thought, selected by St. Je. rome; and the collects are believed to be of equal antiquity, and perhaps framed by that father of the Church. It may be remarked, that as our Saviour's disciples “ went before his face to every city and place, whither he himself would come;' so here the epistle, as the word of the servants, is read first, that it may be as a harbinger to the gospel, to which, as being the word of Christ, their great Master, the last place and greatest honour are reserved. Though the congregation sit during the reading of the epistle, they stand while the gospel is read, paying this particular mark of reverence to the record of what our blessed Lord did, spake, or suffered for our salvation.
Q. In order to the more judicious arrangement of the epistles and gospels, has not the Church divided the year into two great portions ?
A. For the more judicious arrangement of the epistles and gospels, the Church has divided the year into two parts: the former takes in the period from Advent to Trinity Sunday, and the latter comprises all the Sundays from Trinity to Advent.
Q. What have you to observe in regard to the former portion of the year, and the object of the epistles and gospels that are appointed for it?
A. The design of the former portion of the year, is to commemorate Christ's living among us. Beginning at Advent, we first celebrate his incarnation in general; and, after that, the several particulars of it in their order: bis nativity, circumcision, and manifestation to the Gentiles; his doctrine and miracles; his baptism, fasting, and temptation ; his agony and bloody sweat; his cross and passion; his precious death and burial; his glorious resurrection and ascension; and his sending the Holy Ghost to comfort us. As during this period, therefore, it is the design of the Church to celebrate the agency of the blessed Trinity in the work
of our redemption, the chief end of the epistles and gospels is to make us remember what unspeakable benefits we receive from the Father, first by his Son, and then by the Holy Ghost; accordingly, this portion of the year is very aptly concluded on Trinity Sunday, by giving praise and glory to the whole blessed Trinity.
Q. What is the design of the latter portion of the year, and of the epistles and gospels that are appointed for it?
A. The design of the latter portion of the year, is to instruct us to live after the example of Christ. Having, in the first part of the year, learned the mysteries of our religion, we are taught, in the second, what we are to practise, that we may build upon our faith a holy and virtuous life. The epistles and gospels, therefore, for this portion of the year, are such as most easily and plainly instruct and lead us in the true paths of Christianity.
Q. Is it not the duty of the congregation to join in the psalms that are sung during the service?
A. The singing of psalms being an important and delight. ful part of public worship, it is the duty of the congregation unitedly to join in it. The melody of the voice should always express and cherish the thankfulness which should inspire our hearts when recounting the praises of our God and Saviour.
Q. When a sermon is delivered, with what dispositions ought we to hear it?
A. However frail and unworthy the ministering servants of the sanctuary may be, yet, as they bear the commission of God, and are appointed by him to promulgate the terms of salvation, we should listen to their instructions with humble and earnest attention; and our prayers should be directed to God, that he would impress the truths which they may deliver, on our hearts, to our conviction, our consolation, and our growth in holiness and virtue.
Q. Is it not incumbent on us to be present in the Church at the commencement of the service ?
A. It is our duty to attend to the whole of the public worship of the Church. If we miss the beginning of the service, we lose the opportunity of confessing our sins, and the comfort of hearing our pardon declared. To come into the Church after the commencement of the service, disturbs
the devotion of the congregation, and discovers very crimi. nal carelessness and irreverence.
Q. Should we not, on our first entrance into the Church, secretly address God in prayer ?
A. On our first entrance into the Church, we should secretly, on our knees, address God in prayer, for the aids of his Holy Spirit to worship him acceptably. The following prayer for this purpose may be used:
Almighty God, who dost vouchsafe to dwell in temples made with hands, teach me now to act as in thy immediate presence, and enable me to worship thee in spirit and in truth. . By the gracious influences of thy Holy Spirit, help my infirmities, and dispose my heart to seriousness, atten. tion, and devotion; that this opportunity of worshipping thee, O God, in thy holy temple, may tend to the honour of thy holy name, and the benefit of my soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Q. Should we not secretly address God in prayer after he conclusion of the service?
A. After the minister has pronounced the blessing, we should continue some time upon our knees, humbly beseeching Almighty God to pardon what he has seen amiss in us since we came into his presence, and graciously to hear the prayers, and accept the praises which we have offered to him. For this purpose, the following prayer may be used :
Blessed be thy name, O God, for this opportunity of worshipping thee in thy holy temple. Pardon my wan. derings and imperfections: hear and accept my prayers and praises. May the truths of salvation sink deep into my heart, and exhibit in my life the fruits of holine 88 and virtue : and may the worship and services of thy Church on earth, prepare me for the exalted services of thy temple and Church. eternal in the heavens, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.
A. Advent Sundays are the four Sundays that precede the great festival of our Saviour's nativity ; Advent being the season appointed by the Church to prepare our minds, by proper meditations, for a due commemoration of Christ's coming in the flesh.
Q. When is the first Sunday in Advent ?
A. The first Sunday in Advent is always the nearest Sunday to the feast of St. Andrew, whether before or after.
Q. Does not the Church compute the beginning of the year at this time of Advent ?
A. The Church computes the beginning of the year, and renews the annual course of her services, at this season of Advent. She does not number her days, or measure her seasons, so much by the motion of the sun, as by the course of her Saviour, that true Sun of righteousness, who began now to rise upon the world, and, as the daystar on high, to enlighten those who sat in spiritual darkness.
Q. What have you to observe in regard to the epistles and gospels appointed for these Sundays?
1. The epistles and gospels are all very ancient, and very proper for the time. They assure us of the truth of Christ's first coming; and, as a proper means to bring our lives to a conformity with the end and design of it, they point out to us the prospect of his second coming, when he will execute vengeance on all those who obey not his Gospel.
Q. With what temper of mind ought we to commemorate the great blessing of Christ's coming in the flesh ?
À. We should commemorate the great blessing of Christ's coming in the flesh, with firm purposes and sincere resolu. tions of conforming ourselves to the end and design of our Saviour's coming into the world. For, since the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, the great care and business of our lives should be, to avoid every Ching that is evil, to mortify the deeds of the flesh, and not
C 1 John iii. &.
suffer sin to reign in our mortal bodies, that we should obey it in the lusts thereof.d Since he gave himself for us, to purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, we should give all diligence to add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge temperante, to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity; for if these things be in us, and abound, we shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Q. What consideration doth the Church offer, to induce us to bring our lives to a conformity with the design of Christ's coming in the flesh?
A. The consideration of his second coming to judge the world, when he will execute vengeance upon all those who obey not the Gospel, is presented to us in the services of Advent, to induce us to conform ourselves to the design of Christ's first coming, which was, that he might purify us unto himself, a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Q. What do you mean by Christ's coming to judgment?
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ shall, at the end of the world, descend from heaven in his human nature, and summon all mankind to appear before his tribunal, where they shall have all their actions strictly examined, and, according to the nature of them, be adjudged to eternal happiness or eternal misery.
Q. Doth not reason render probable a general judgment ?
A. The light of nature discovers to us an essential difference between good and evil; whence, by the common consent of mankind, rewards are affixed to the one, and punishments to the other; and as men govern their actions in relation to these essential differences of good and evil, so are their hopes and their fears. The practice of virtue is attended not only with present quiet and satisfaction, but with the comfortable hope of a future recompence; the commission of any wicked action, however secret, fills the mind with horror and remorse. This sensibility of conscience would be very unaccountable, without the natural apprehension and acknowledgment of future rewards and punishments. The dispensations of God's providence towards men in this world are apparently very unjust; good men often suffer even for the sake of righteousness, and bad men as frequently prosper and flourish by the means of their
d Rom. vi, 12.
¢ Tit. ii. 14.
f 2 Pet. i. 5, 6, 7, 8.