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upon the “sure foundation.” There are many persons who may think themselves aggrieved by uncharitable suspicions, whom we are prepared to regard with far different feelings than they imagine; though our favourable opinion may possibly refer to other principles than those which regulate their estimate of themselves. Various are the characters from whom we are compelled to withhold our full concurrence, whom nevertheless we would gladly congratulate as “not far from the kingdom of God.” Some are not yet sufficiently strong in faith to confess the extent of their convictions—the fear of man keeps them back ; like Nicodemus, they will “come to Jesus by night;" and like him too, may, in the progress of ingenuous inquiry, hear some truths wbich at first they may feel inclined to reject as strange and unaccountable. Others, of a more liberal spirit, are withheld by prejudice; they have taken up certain notions on the subject of religion, without examining the foundation on which they rest,
and the Gospel meets with an unwilling reception, because it militates against their preconceived opinions. Such was Nathanael —"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ?”—But they are “ Israelites indeed in whom there is no guile;"-point out the Saviour to them as exhibited in the Gospel ; say, as was said to Nathanael, “ Come and see :"-remove the prejudice, and you gain the man. The history of the Ethiopian nobleman will make us acquainted with another class of sincere inquirers ;—they have had scanty means of information ;-have been living out of the reach of privileges ;-the Bible is in their hands; but if you inquire, “Understand ye what you read ?” they will answer with him, “ How can we, except some man should guide us ?” Let but some other Philip join himself unto them; take that same Scripture and "preach unto them Jesus," and they will believe.
Apollos may furnish the portrait of a further class. They are " eloquent men and mighty in the Scriptures;” “ fervent in spirit, " and anxious to do good to the extent of their knowledge and ability; they " teach and speak diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John;" i.e. proclaim the necessity of "repentance and fruits meet for repentance," while their views remain clouded and their ideas indefinite respecting the character and offices of " the Great High Priest of our profession;" they require some " Aquila and Priscilla to explain to them the way of God more perfectly.' Many other characters mentioned in Scripture might be referred to in illustration of the subject, and exhibit the efforts of an honest mind struggling under every disadvantage arising from early prejudices and partial knowledge. To trace the origin of such an honesty of intention, would lead us into a far different train of inquiry: it will be sufficient for our present purpose to observe, that wherever it exists, it may be expected sooner or later to issue in the removal of prejudice, the enlargement of spiritual understanding, and the establishment of faith.
We now hasten to conclude, trusting that enough has been said to vindicate ourselves from the charge of passing an indiscriminate sentence of condemnation on all persons who fall short of our own particular standard, and to prove that while we cannot recede from a single position, connected with the evidence of genuine piety which we have hitherto maintained, or shut our eyes to the general state of the world,
called Christian ; we are capable of making a distinction between the ill-informed judgment and somewhat inconsistent conduct of the sincere inquirer, and the careless indifference of the worldling and the white-washed formality of the Pharisee.
ON THE RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE OF ASCENSION DAY (HOLY
MR. EDITOR,— As an introduction to the remarks which I would offer to you in this communication, I will cite the following passage from an interesting periodical of the sister island, viz. The Christian Examiner, and Church of Ireland Magazine.*
The Church of England shewed much wisdom, when, upon her emerging from the darkness of popery, she retained still some things, desecrated indeed by superstitious abuse, yet in themselves good and useful; among which is to be reckoned the observance of days of fast and festival. For it would seem necessary indeed to man, constituted as he is, that he be often reminded of the great truths of his religion; and the annual returning of stated periods, set apart for the more particular meditating upon and honouring some remarkable occurrences connected with the gospel history, affords, both to the pastors and to the congregations in connexion with our Church, much room for bringing strongly before their thoughts those important facts upon which, as upon a foundation, is raised the entire fabric of our Christian hopes, and confidences, and consolations.
We must, therefore, declare ourselves of the number of those, who profess to see and to have experienced the utility of our calendar, chequered with its antique remembrance of holy days. We find benefit, as we float gradually down life's current, from beholding as it were upon the banks those marks which the piety of our forefathers has set up here and there to recall us to the contemplation of things spiritual. Nor do we envy that man his affectation of superior wisdom, who is above being indebted to such helps as these; who would know nothing of that season which we are on the eve of celebrating, any more than of any other days of his existence; or who would refuse to acknowledge some thing of a peculiar solemnity in that appeal which our Church now makes to all her children, saying to them, as in the words of Isaiah, “ Behold your God.”
If our Church then has set apart a season wherein to commemorate Christ's coming, who shall say that in so doing she has not acted wisely and well? To make religion all ceremony, is to treat man as though he were all body; to divest it of all ceremony, is to treat him as if he were all spirit. Why then should there not be a Christmastide to summon up our feelings of religious joy ? If there be anything in stated seasons and appointed times, to kindle the associations of gratitude and love, let us be thankful that we have such. And if the common feelings of our people have bid them welcome in this antique festival with some outward shewing of worldly preparation for pleasure, let us not be hasty, in the abstracted wisdom of our speculations, to stay them altogether, or to discountenance them. We are no friends to riot and revelry at any time; for such the Christian should never attune his heart. But that Christmas should be a season to gather together around the paternal hearth, the smiling faces of children, and of grandchildren; that it should be a season to bid the poor man's hut (and cottage) enjoy a brighter gleam, to put raiment upon his shivering limbs, and kindlier food upon his scanty board; this we would desire earnestly. Often in the days of our childhood have we looked
# For December, 1825.
forward, longing for the happy time of Christmas ; and though now with the Apostle we trust we have put away "childish things,” we cannot consent to have our anticipations of Christmas counted among the number. We wish it still to continue a time of gladness and festivity, a time of distribution and liberality; and ever may it bring to young and old, to rich and poor, the heart-cheering recollection of that first and best of giftsGod's gift to sinners—the gift of a Saviour.
Some of these remarks, Mr. Editor, are of general application. Some of them so beautifully advocate the cause of Christmas, that I would fain hope you will present them also to your English readers. Christmas, however, is but recently once more past, with all its pleasing associations, varied customs, cheering recreations, animated praises, and Christian meditations. The Epiphany, too, is past; and this year it added to the general instruction of Sunday, an appropriate subject which it is very necessary to explain, in order to guard against the misinterpretation of many perverted passages of St. Paul's Epistles ; a subject which we Gentiles should ever bear in mind, for we are partakers of the benefit, and almost all the Christian duties are by St. Paul enforced by this motive, that “the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel. But on this topic I forbear at present to enlarge. We are now approaching several other holy seasons, and to one of them I think there is need that greater attention should be paid.
You, Mr. Editor, and you, gentle reader, have already anticipated that I allude to the season of Lent, Passion week, Good Friday, Easter, and Whitsuntide. Perhaps Ash Wednesday may have been also remembered. But let me remind you that your Almanack for 1828 will present Holy Thursday to your eye, if you refer to May 15, and that for that day, under the title of “ The Ascension Day," a Collect, Epistle, and Gospel are found in the Book of Common Prayer. Í should be wrong if I did not allow, that in our Cathedrals and Úniversities, and in many parishes, the day is observed. But I would ask, is it known, remembered, and observed, as are Christmas Day and Good Friday? Is it not wholly omitted in those various Acts of Parliament for building new churches, under particular circumstances, in which it is expressly provided that there shall be divine service on Christmas Day and Good Friday? Ascension Day is omitted because the observance of it is already less' general. But is there any reason why this should be the case ?
None, in the judgment of the Church. For many other days the Church has provided Proper Lessons; and a Collect, Epistle, and Gospel. But Proper Psalms are appointed only for the following days; Christmas Day, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Day, Ascension Day, and Whit Sunday. Again, proper sacramental prefaces to the Trisagium in the Communion Service are appointed to be used on Christmas Day, Easter Day, Ascension Day, Whit Sunday, and Trinity Sunday. It is evident, therefore, that the Church designed that Ascension Day, and Good Friday, which always happen on a Week Day, and Christmas Day, which generally does, should be considered of the same importance, and equally observed; though perhaps it was not intended that the Sacrament should be administered on Good
Friday, as being a Fast Day. The reason obviously is, that these days, together with Easter Day and Whit Sunday, were equally important as commemorative of the principal events of our Saviour's life especially connected with man's redemption.*
The consequences of this alleged comparative neglect of Ascension Day, I conceive to be these. 1. A comparative inattention to the important fact of our Lord's Ascension, although it is noticed in our Creeds as prominently as the others. 2. Although its immediate consequence, our Lord's session at the right hand of God, is also noticed in our Creeds, as equally important with the fact of his Ascension, yet this truth also, so awful and yet so consolatory, is comparatively overlooked, and too generally noticed only in some passing remark of our
What wonder then, that the exaltation of the risen and ascended Son of God, his eternal Priesthood, and constant all prevailing intercession as our Mediator and Advocate, as well as our Saviour and Judge, are so seldom insisted on? The very terms used, though familiar to the ear, have not dropped upon the understanding and heart of many, by the gently distilling dew of Christian instruction. Would the doctrinal system of so many be confined to the consideration of Christ's atonement, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the doctrine of the Trinity, had the other truths been as prominently exhibited by the observance of the festival of Holy Thursday? Let us then remedy this error; and let the Church not only in the provisions made for the ritual of the Christian year, but in her praclical observance of them,“ hold forth the word of life,” by endeavouring that no one fact or doctrine of the Gospel shall ever fall into oblivion, among our own members, or others, and her silence be the occasion. I could enlarge further on this head, but I forbear.t 3. I will add as a further consequence, that not only the knowledge, but tlie consolations of the Christian, and from the joint influence of these, his progress in holiness, must be diminished by the omission we are noticing. If the birth of the Saviour causes joy-his death and resurrection, confidence towards God and the gifts of the Spirit, the assurance of aid for his weakness ; that hope mixed with fear, which cheers him, and yet promotes his stability, will derive additional motives from clear views on the subjects immediately connected with our Saviour's ascension. They bring daily to his view, amidst his daily temptations and trials, the recollection that He who died, and promised the Spirit, and will come to judge, is his daily MEDIATOR and ADVOCATE, the Lord of the living as well as of the dead, the Head of his Church. I will answer two objections, and draw to a conclusion.
“ Does not the title of the Sunday after Ascension Day, and do not the Scriptures then read, answer all the ends for which you are contending, and which we grant to be desirable ?" I answer, not with sufficient prominence; and rather as pre-supposing the observance of Ascension Day, and a
. These considerations are sufficient to shew the design of the Church, although we do not find a Homily for Ascension Day.
+ The writer found in himself and others the comparative inattention which he here specifies; and was thus led to inquire into the cause. That assigned in this paper seems sufficient to account for it; and it shews the unspeakable value of the recurring fasts and festivals of the Church, and the importance of giving them due prominence.
knowledge of that fact, and its design and consequences. A reference to the Book of Common Prayer will shew, that the services of that day apply the fact considered on Ascension Day, as preparatory to the consideration of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the following Sunday, which is Whit Sunday.
Another objector will say, “ If the Church is open on Ascension Day, there will be but a handful of auditors." There are, generally, fewer attendants on Good Friday and Christmas Day, than on Sundays; for the din of worldly business is but partially hushed on the former, and festive preparations, and greetings of distant friends, keep many from Church on the latter. If you can assemble but a few, the good will not be less certain; and though more evidently limited, it may be really as extensive. Those present may be benefited: and they may be individuals from as many families, who may carry into their respective families somewhat of the instruction obtained. However few they be, and though they be all who can or will attend, the very announcement by the minister on the previous Sunday, that the day will be observed, may direct to the subject the attention of many of those who perhaps would, but cannot join you. This consideration, I trust, may prevail wherever there is not absolute and irremediable discouragement. At any rate, let us but see to it, that in the prominence given to this, as well as to every other leading fact of the Gospel history, we declare, at such times, and in such manner as our circumstances enable us, " the whole couusel of God,” and all for which I am pleading will be virtually attained, There are many towns, at least, where the day may
very usefully observed as the fixed time for the Anniversary Sermon and Annual Meeting of District Committees of the religious Societies of the Church. If many of the parishes in the district be so small that a congregation can hardly be collected, or if one part of the day only be devoted to that purpose, there will be this advantage in the measure here suggested, that such Anniversary Sermon will be preached at a regular service of the Church. In one large deanery, a District Committee of the Society for Propagating the Gospel now assembles in the morning of Ascension Day at the Church, and the Public Meeting is held after the service. In another large district, where several of the Clergy have morning service in their respective Churches, the Anniversary Sermon of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge is preached at a town Church in the afternoon, and followed by a Public Meeting. A more appropriate day cannot be selected; for, as St. Paul declares, (in a passage selected for the second afternoon lesson) “ When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. And he gave some apostles ; and some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers ; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come, in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine, &c.”—Eph. iv. 1-16.
I remain, Mr. Editor, yours, &c.
F. V. H.'