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THE EPIPHANY, JANUARY 6.
WHAT festival does the Church celebrate this day? 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 Hesh; 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 festival?
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 lesson 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 divine 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, magis 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 Sae viour to the wise men ?
A. The birth of Christ was manifested to the wise men by the appearance of a luminous meteor, which was ob
served by them to differ from the ordinary stars of heaven, and was considered, agreeably to the notions then prevalent among the Gentiles, to presage something of great moment and importance. The expectation of the appearance of some great personage, founded originally on the prophecies which were delivered to the Jews concerning the coming of the Messiah, was then universal. The appearance of an extraordinary meteor in the heaven would, therefore, be considered as announcing his birth, and would direct these wise men on their journey to Judea, where this glorious personage was to appear. The appearance of the star, and the journey of the Chaldean wise men in consequence of it, are mentioned by Chalcidius the Platonist.d
Q. How did the wise men find the young child Jesus?
A. Upon applying to Herod at Jerusalem, they were directed by him to Bethlehem, the place pointed out by the prophets as the birth-place of the Messiah. Pursuing their journey to Bethlehem, the luminous meteor, in appearance like a star, again appeared to them, and conducted them to the place where Jesus was.e
Q. Did not the wise men render homage to the Saviour ?
A. When they found the Saviour, they fell down and worshipped himand as it was customary to approach kings and great men with presents, they opened their treasures, and laid before the Saviour, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, the choicest products of their country.
Q. Why did God thus manifest his Son to the wise men of the East ?
A. It was the merciful design of God, that his grace should appear unto all men: and as the Jews had notice of our Saviour's birth, by the appearance of angels to the shepherds ; so the Gentiles were informed of it now, by the manifestation of Christ to the wise men of the East. The time was now come, when the wall of partition should be broken down, and all nations be one fold, under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Q. Did not these wise men evidence the most exalted courage and pious zeal ?
A. These wise men were not intimidated by the difficulties and uncertainty of the journey, nor by the fear of Herod, who, they had every reason to expect, would be enraged at the mention of a rival king; and though they found the
& Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. z. c. 25.
• Matt. ii. 9.
Saviour surrounded by poverty and meanness, they yet offered him profound adoration, as a spiritual Saviour and King
Q. What useful instruction does this festival afford ?
A. The wise men of the East, though distinguished for their learning and high stations, readily followed what they believed to be the direction of God, pointing out to them, by the miraculous appearance of a star, the bumble Saviour who was born to the world. Hence we should learn the duty of employing all the advantages of birth and station to the noble purposes of religion and piety; we should learn, at all times readily to obey the commandments of God, whatever difficulties may oppose us, whatever censure or ridicule may assail us, whatever sacrifice we may be required to make. Like the wise men who humbly worshipped the new-born Saviour, we should also worship him whom, by faith, we may discern full of grace and truth; and, offering him the homage of our hearts, place ourselves under his guidance and direction, as our divine Instructor, Redeemer, and King.
Q. What virtues may the offerings which the wise men made to the Saviour be considered as denoting ?
A. Gold, which is the common standard of those good things we enjoy, and wherewith we may relieve the wants of the poor, is a fit emblem for charity and works of mercy, "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God." David's desiring that his prayer "might be set before God as incense,"g and the prayers of the saints ascending up before God “as the smoke of the incense,' show us how fitly our addresses to heaven are represented by frankincense; and the chief use of myrrh being to pre. serve dead bodies from putrefaction, this may be considered as an emblem of that holy mortification and self-denia! whereby we“present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God."i The offerings with which the Chris. tian, therefore, should glorify his Saviour, are works of charity or mercy, prayer and mortification.
Q. How may we make our riches subservient to the pure poses of charity and mercy, and thus render them an acceptable offering to our blessed Saviour?
A. We make our riches an acceptable offering to Christ, when we apply them to providing for the comfort and hap
f Philip.iv. 18.
& Psal. cxli. 2
h Rev. vii. 4.
i Rom. xii. 1
piness of our families; to the benefit of pious and benevolent institutions; to the relief of the poor and necessitous; and, in fine, when we faithfully use them as gifts intrusted to us by God, to wliom we are to render an account of our stewardship
Q. When will our prayers be acceptable to God? A. Our prayers, to be acceptable to God, must be offered with such constancy and fervour as will show that we are earnestly desirous of the blessings that we seek, and yet with such modesty and humility as will loudly proclaim our sense of our own unworthiness, and of the infinite condescension of God, in permitting us to approach his throne. Above all, our prayers must be offered with faith, with a firm reliance that, when we perform the conditions on which God has suspended the gift of his favours, he will bestow them upon us, in such a manner, and in such a proportion, as he sees most for our good.
Q. When will our self-denial and mortification be an acceptable offering to God?
A. The duty of self-denial will be acceptable to God, when it leads us not only to abstain from all outward acts of sin, but to resist and endeavour, through divine grace, to overcome our sinful passions and inclinations; and accordingly, sedulously to avoid all those indulgences which expose us to temptation, and strengthen the dominion of sin in our hearts.
Q. With what dispositions should we commemorate the manifestation of our Saviour to the Gentiles ?
A. The manifestation of the Saviour to the Gentile world, by which gracious dispensation of God we have been called out of darkness into his marvellous light,” should be commemorated with lively gratitude, with firm resolutions to walk worthy of our holy vocation, and with earnest prayer to God, that he would be pleased to extend the light of salvation to those who still sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
Q. What is the design of the Church in her proper services for the Sundays after the Epiphany ?
A. As the design of the Church, in all her proper services from Christmas to Epiphany, appears to be to set forth the humanity of the Saviour, and to manifest him in the flesh; so, during the Sundays after the Epiphany, her design appears to be to display his divinity, by recountiug to us in the gospels, some of his first miracles and manifestations of his divine power. The design of the epistles is to excite us to imitate Christ as far as we can, and to manifest ourselves to be his disciples, by a constant practice of all Christian virtues.
Of SEPTUAGESIMA, SEXAGESIMA, and QUINQAGESINA
HY were these Sundays so called ? A. The first Sunday in Lent being called Quadragesima; being the fortieth clay before Easter, the three preceding Sundays were denominated, from the next round numbers, Quinqagesima, fiftieth ; Sexagesima, sixtieth ; and Septuagesima, seventieth day before Easter.
Q. What appears to be the design of the Church in these Sundays?
A. The design of the Church in these Sundays, is to call us from the feasting and joy of Christmas, to prepare for the fasting and humiliation proper for the approaching season of Lent; to bring us from thinking on the manner of Christ's coming into the world, to reflecting on the cause of it-our own sins and miseries; that so, being convinced of the reasonableness of punishing and mortifying ourselves for our sins, we may the more strictly and religiously apply our