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luminary seen which was to be “a light to lighten the Gentiles” as well as “ the glory of the people Israel.” Then was, as it were, the first breach made in that “middle wall of partition,” which was so soon after to be wholly broken down and removed ; and which Christ took completely away, when, “ having overcome the sharpness of death, He opened the kingdom of Heaven to all believers ;” and sent His followers to call men out of every nation, and people, and kindred, and tongue, to enlist under the banner of the cross, and by that Sign to conquer. Hence it has been thought good to keep it prominently before our minds by an annual commemoration; not only that our own privileges may be recalled to our thoughts, and a spirit of gratitude on account thereof be kept alive in our breasts, but also that we may be led to consider the responsibilities under which these privileges place us, to extend to others, yet in darkness, that light of truth which we possess; and to manifest by our Lives at home, and by our Missionaries abroad, that Saviour who alone can cleanse from sins men's guilty souls, and who alone can guide their feet into the way of peace and repose.
Passing onwards from the Epiphany, we come next to the season of LENT. The word “ Lent” is an old English or Saxon word signifying “ Spring,” and this name has been given to this season because it always falls in the spring of the year. The season of Lent comprises a period of forty days next before Easter, and, with every other moveable Fast or Festival, is regulated as to the time of its commencement by that Day; beginning sooner or later according as that day is early or late.
This season of forty days is appointed to be observed as a season of special fasting and humiliation, partly in commemoration of Christ's fasting for our sakes forty days and forty nights in the wilderness prior to his being tempted of the Devil; partly as an expression of our sense of sin and sorrow for sin; and partly, that, our bodies being thereby mortified and kept under subjection, and “the flesh being subdued to the spirit,” our minds may be rendered more alive to divine things, and enabled to soar higher in their heavenly contemplations than when chained down to the earth by their longings for gross and sensual things. The Topics on which our minds should dwell during this season are the nature and consequences of sin, as set forth in the history of our Saviour's Sufferings and Death. To these topics, therefore, our attention is directed by the services of the Church during this season.
The Season of Lent begins properly on AshWEDNESDAY, which is the first day of Lent; But the Three Sundays next preceding may be viewed in connexion therewith, having a kind of introductory reference thereto. These Three Sundays between the Epiphany and Lent are called respectively :
Septuagesima SUNDAY, or the third Sunday before
Lent. Seragesima SUNDAY, or the second Sunday before
Lent. Quinquagesima SUNDAY, or the next Sunday before
These names are supposed to have been given to these Sundays for the following reason :They are Latin words signifying, respectively, “seventy,” “ sixty,” and “ fifty;” that is to say, “Septuagesima” means “seventy,” “ Sexagesima” means “sixty,” and “Quinquagesima” means “ fifty;” and these Sundays are supposed to have been so called because they severally fall about that number of days before Easter. The services for these Sundays form, as it were, a
kind of preface to the services for the season of Lent, and are intended to draw our thoughts to. wards the Work of Christ, and the Causes which led to His coming into the world, and so, in a manner, to prepare our minds for a right celebration of the solemn services of Lent itself.
In this Name, by which the first day of Lent has now for a long period been known, there is a reference to a practice that once prevailed in the Church, of causing all scandalous offenders to do public penance on this day, by sitting in sackcloth and ashes at the entrance of the Church; in order that, after this public testimony of their repentance and sorrow for their past misconduct, they might be again restored to those privileges, from which they had been debarred on account of their sins. The practice of putting earth on the head as a token of sorrow is frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, and prevails still in the East; but the modified form of it to which this name refers has long been discontinued here. Nor is its absence any matter of regret; seeing that it is sorrow of heart that is required, and that—not from one or a few only but from all. “ Rend your heart and not your garments,” saith the Lord by His prophet unto us; and it is only when there is
this Inward Sorrow and Contrition that the outward tokens thercof are an acceptable gift to the Lord. (See Isa. lviii. 3-7.) To encourage us in fostering such a truly contrite spirit, we are taught in the Collect for the day, that the sins of all who are truly penitent God will freely forgive; and a prayer for such penitent hearts as God delights in is put into our mouths; which it should be our care to use daily, not then only, but at all other times, because of the importance of the matter to which it refers..
By this Name we distinguish the day on which we commemorate the Crowning Event of the whole Christian system — the Crucifixion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The name “Good Friday ” has most probably been given to it because of the good things procured for man, through the pains Christ endured for us on that day, and purchased for us by the shedding of His precious blood. To this great day the Types and Shadows of the Old Testament dispensation pointed, and from it all the rites and ceremonies of the New derive their efficacy and force. It is as the sun in the heavens, which shineth to the remotest corners of the earth, so that “there is nothing hid from the heat thereof." Backwards