« ForrigeFortsæt »
COMING OF CHRIST, OR ADVENT.
THOUGH antiquity is no proof of any holy season, yet the holiness of the season derives an original authenticity from its early celebration, and is a link in the chain of piety, descending from above. "The days and times which we celebrate," says Hooker," have relation all unto one head; we begin, therefore, our ecclesiastical year with the glorious annunciation of our Saviour's birth by angelical embassage. There being hereunto added his blessed nativity itself, the mystery of his legal circumcision, the testification of his true incarnation, his resurrection, his ascension into heaven, and the admirable sending down of his Spirit upon his chosen, and (which consequently ensued,) the notice of that incomparable Trinity, thereby given to the Church of God 1."
1 Eccl. Polity, b. 5. s. 70.
"The first initiation of our Saviour into the office of a mediator was his manifestation in the flesh and incarnation; promised all along from the fall of wretched man, until, as the Apostle said, the fulness of time was come. God himself having thus led in the nativity of our Saviour with a train of anteceding predictions to assure men that he would come; the Christian Church thought it also expedient, that the day of commemoration that he is come, should be somewhat more than ordinarily attended. And upon this account she hath assigned to this great festival the four Sundays preceding, which are, as it were, one Christmas-eve, or as so many heralds to proclaim the approaching of his feast. The nativity sermon ascribed to Cyprian begins with adest diu expectata nativitas, i. e. the long looked for nativity, which we expected all this time of Advent, is come at length '."
I.-The Introduction of the Christian and Ecclesiastical Year.
THE distribution of holy seasons through the annual circuit of the sun, is one of those benefits which distinguish the established order of a primitive Church. Anniversaries of great events have always been considered as an original custom of commemoration, ap
1 L'Estrange's Alliance of Divine Offices, p. 137.
propriate to almost every age and nation. Periods of time marked by circumstances of unusual oceurrence become, more or less, traditional, even amongst uncultivated savages. It is strange, yet obvious, how customs of countries have travelled, by some invisible line, to regions far, distant from their own; exactly as we may trace the features of an Asiatic, or the face of an American Esquimaux. There are connections, therefore, not immediately perceived, which, doubtless, are parts of that plan of Divine providence which demonstrates that we are all children of one family, and that the uniting link never has been broken. If customs and features are thus communicated, certain traditions may be the same not innate (as Locke seems to imagine) it must be derived from an original tradition of those to whom it had been imparted. The almost universal remembrance of a deluge, and the circumstance of a floating ark, to be met with under various circumstances, and in diverse quarters of the globe, is a sufficient proof, how commemorative incidents have descended to a remote posterity1.
If the idea of a God be
In civilized countries of great celebrity, memorable events have been held in great estimation, although no recollection of a supernatural character may have been connected with them. Athens and Rome present us with classical remembrances of great and heroic actions,
1 Faber's Pagan Idolatry, passim.
which have been the wonder and astonishment of succeeding generations; but eminent as these are in the history of the world, the authentic annals of the Jewish legislator excite, not merely the astonishment of the man, but the faith of the believer: not merely, as recollecting the event which had occurred, but the consequences of that event, which extends its influence into a new and an unknown world. The books of Moses stand upon their own foundation, and are succeeded by a series of writers, actuated by the same Divine Spirit of truth; totally unconnected with each other, and yet combining in the same principle, where no collusion ever could be suspected; differing, it may be, in language and in talent, yet upholding the same holy cause in the same unison of opinion.
That anniversaries of great events formed a large part of this dispensation needs no evidence beyond itself. Indeed, in the earliest period of the patriarchal age, the institution of sacrifice constituted a memorable era; an allusion to a circumstance of atonement, which must have had a beginning from an equally memorable cause. The established memorial of the Passover need alone be mentioned in the history of the Jews: and in the history of Christianity-Do this in remembrance of ME, is an everlasting admonition.
More need not be added to show, not only the propriety, but the obligation, of a serious attention to the various important incidents of the ecclesiastical year.
Every believer of the Gospel will approach with