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THE SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
Q. W HAT have you to observe in regard to this day? A. It was a custom among the primitive Christians to observe the octave, or eighth day after their principal feasts, with great solemnity; and upon every day between the feast and the octave, as upon the octave itself, they used to repeat some part of the service that was performed on the feast day. In imitation of this custom, this day generally falling within the octave of Christmas, the collect then used is repeated now. The lessons, the epistle, and gospel, still set forth the mysteries of our redemption by the birth of Christ.
The CIRcuMcision of our Lord j ESUS CHRIST, or New YEAR’s DAY, january 1.
Q. W W HAT festival doth the Church celebrate this day & A. The Church this day celebrates the festival of the circumcision of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when eight days were accomplished, subjected himself to this rite, and first shed his sacred blood for us. Q. What have you to observe in regard to the lessons and the epistle and gospel for this day? A. The first lesson for the morning, gives an account of the institution of circumcision. The first lesson for the evening, both the second lessons, and the epistle, tend to show, that though the circumcision of the flesh is abrogated, God still requires that circumcision of the heart, which the external rite denoted and enforced. The gospel records the circumcision of our blessed Saviour, and the divine and sacred mame which was them imposed upon him. Q. Explain the rite of circumcision.
A. Circumcision was a rite of the Jewish law, whereby that people were received into covenant with God. It was, under a severe penalty,” to be administered on the eighth day after the birth of the child. It was first enjoined on Abraham, as a token of the covenant God made with him and his posterity;” and it was renewed by Joshua, when the Israelites entered the land of Canaan; having been disused by them for forty years, during their sojourning in the wilderness. Q. What was the original design of this rite * A. The original design of this rite was, that every son of Abraham might bear in his body the seal of the inheritance of the land of promise, and the sign of their being in covenant with God... The visible sign was designed to remind them of their allegiance to the only true God, and to excite them to strive after the invisible grace which it sealed, his favour, and an eternal inheritance in the kingdom of heaven. Q. What rite in the Christian Church answers to that of circumcision under the law 3 A. When all distinction between the children of Abraham and other nations was abolished, and Gentiles as well as Jews rendered capable of entering into covenant with God, the rite of circumcision was abolished, and the sacrament of baptism substituted. By this rite, children are entered into covenant with God under the Gospel, as they were, under the Law, by circumcision; and become, by baptism, obliged to observe the commands of the Gospel, as the circumcised infant became a debtor to the whole Law of Moses.” That infants are proper subjects of baptism, as they were of circumcision, there can be no doubt. If infants, under the Jewish dispensation, were admitted into covenant with God by circumcision, how can it be improper that, under the Gospel, they should be admitted into covenant with him by baptism P. The language of Christ is, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God.” Since they sustain the lamentable consequences of the fall, it is certainly proper that they should enjoy the means of redemption which God has provided in his holy Church, into which baptism is the only mode of admission ; for the Saviour himself declares, that except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” In the primitive Church, baptism was administered to infants; and the custom was considered as of apostolic institution. Q. Why was Jesus Christ circumcised, since he was holy and without sin 3 A. It was necessary that the Son of God should be circumcised, in order that he might become subject unto the Law, and, sustaining the penalties of the Law in our stead, might expiate our sins by his own blood. Q. What is the import of that sacred name which was inposed upon the Son of God when he was circumcised ? A. The name of Jesus, which was given to our Saviour at his circumcision, implies his office—to save his people from their sins; that by his death he should deliver them from the punishment due to sin, and by his grace should deliver them from its power and dominion. Q. What may we learn from the observation of this festival 2 A. This festival should impress on us the necessity of that spiritual circumcision, or change of heart and life, which our Saviour has made the condition of salvation. The example of Christ, who, in obedience to the will of God, submitted to an humiliating and painful rite, should teach us humility, and the duty of submission to all the ordinances of the Church. “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord.” Q. What does this spiritual circumcision signify 3 A. This spiritual circumcision implies the weaning of our affections from the world, and placing them upon heaven; a strict government of our sensual appetites; a total abstimence from forbidden pleasures, and moderation in the pursuit of those which are lawful. In fine, it denotes a comformity of our hearts and lives to the holy image and commands of God; and until we are thus renewed by the spirit and power of Christ, we are none of his. Q: What should the commencement of a new year suggest wnto us 2 A. The commencement of a new year should suggest to us the great value of time, which God has given us for the purpose of working out our salvation; i upon the improvement of which, therefore, depends our eternal destiny. Of time, little is at our own disposal; what is past, cannot be recalled; the future is uncertain; the present is all that
y Gen., xvii, 14. z Gen. xvii. 10. & Gal. v. 3, John iii. 5,
we can call our own, and this is continually fleeting. In this short and uncertain period we have a concern of infinite importance to secure, even our eternal salvation; and this requires the whole force and vigour of our minds, the labour and industry of all our days. This important concern, therefore, should not be left to a sick bed, or the evening of our lives, when our strength and our reason are departing from us: now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. If we obstimately resist and contemn the offers of divine grace, the things that belong to our eternal peace may be for ever hidden from our eyes. Q. In what manner ought we to employ and regulate our time 3 A. We ought to redeem the time which we have mispent, by sincerely lamenting our past follies and transgressions; by adoring the infinite patience and goodness of God, who spared us when we deserved punishment; and by seeking to make our peace with him, by lively penitence, and holy and obedient faith in his Son Jesus. The necessary business of this life should be conducted from a sacred regard to the laws of God, and to the account we must render at his tribunal: the salvation of our own souls, the good of our fellowmen, the glory of God, should be the momentous ends at which we should earnestly aim in all our actions: diligence, zeal, and order, should characterize the management of both our temporal and spiritual concerns: and should it please God to prosper the work of our hands, we should evidence our gratitude to him, and lay up an unfailing treasure in heaven, by devoting a portion of our wealth to the establishment or aid of pious and benevolent institutions. Thus faithfully devoting our time, our talents and advantages, te the honour and service of God, we may humbly rejoice in his favour here, and confidently look forward to the fruition of his blessed presence hereafter.
THE EPIPHANY, JANUARY 6.
Q. WHAT festival does the Church celebrate this day 3 A. The Church this day celebrates the festival of the Epiphany. This word signifying manifestation, may be applied to Christmas-day, when Christ was manifested in the flesh; but it is appropriated by the Church to this day, when he was manifested to the Gentiles. Q. What is the design of the Church in celebrating this jestival 2 A. In celebrating this festival, we design to show our gratitude to God, for manifesting the Gospel to the Gentile world; thus vouchsafing to them equal privileges with the Jews : and the first instance of this divine favour to the Gentile world was, when the birth of Christ was declared to the wise men of the East. Q. What is the design of the lessons and the epistle and gospel for the day? A. The first lessons contain prophecies of the increase of the Church, by the abundant accession of the Gentiles; the second lessom for the morning, and the epistle, contain a vindication of this gracious dispensation of God to the Gentile world; the gospel gives an account of the manifestation of the Saviour to the wise men of the East; and the second lesson for the evening service, contains an account of the manifestation of the ão. power of Christ, by the first miracle which he wrought at Cana of Galilee. Q. Who were the wise men to whom our Saviour was manifested * A. Our Saviour was manifested to the wise men of the East, called, in Greek, magi; who were celebrated for their learning, particularly their knowledge and skill in astronomy; to which study the priests and great men of the East devoted themselves. Q. In what manner did God manifest the birth of the Saviour to the wise men 2 4. The birth of Christ was manifested to the wise men by the appearance of a luminous meteor, which was ob