« הקודםהמשך »
many valuable hours, and endangered the loss of my immortal soul. Let me no longer waste my time in ease and pleasure, in unprofitable studies, and more unprofitable conversation ; but grant that by diligence and honesty in my calling, by constancy and fervour in my devotions, by moderation and temperance in my enjoyments, by justice and charity in all my words and actions, and by keeping a conscience void of offence towards God and man, I may be able to give a good account of it in the day of judgment; and be accepted in and through the merits of Jesus Christ, my only mediator and advocate. Amen.
THE EPIPHANY, JANUARY 6. Q. What Festival does the church celebrate this day?
A. The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of our Saviour Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
Q. To what Gentiles was our Saviour this day manifested ?
A. To the wise men of the East, called Magi, who were famous for all sorts of learning, especially celebrated for their knowledge and skill in astronomy; and in the East, their priests and men of the best quality dedicated themselves to these studies. Though some authors are of opinion, that the Greek word, we translate wise men, is in the Scripture always taken in the worst sense, for men practising magical and unlawful arts; and if it be so understood, it magnifies the power and grace of Christ the more, that, among the Gentiles, men of such a profession should be the first adorers of that blessed Jesus.
Q. What other signification has the word Epiphany?
A. It signifies Christ's appearance in the world, the nativity of our Saviour ; which, among the ancients, is commonly styled the appearing simply, or the appearing of God. And the feast of the nativity being celebrated twelve days, of which the first and the last, according to the custom of the Jews in their feasts, were high or chief days of solemnity, each of these might fitly be called Epiphany in that sense, and not only referring to the star, though not excluding but containing it also, as a special circumstance belonging to the nativity. Besides, the word has been farther made use of to express the glorious manifestation of our Saviour's baptism, and his miraculous power at the marriage in Cana, by turning water into wine.
Q. How did God manifest the birth of our Saviour to the wise men?
A. By a luminous appearance of a star in the lower region of the air, observed by those wise men to differ from the ordinary stars of heaven; which as a new prodigious sight, seemed to them to presage something of great moment and consideration. For new stars among the Gentiles, were sometimes looked upon as omens, that infants born at the time of their appearance should arrive at great power. The appearance of the star, and the journey of the Chaldæan wise men, are mentioned by Chalcidius, the Platonist. It seems not improbable, what some authors have suggested, that this seeming star, which appeared to the wise men in the East, might be that glorious light which shone upon the Bethlehem shepherds, when the angel came to impart to them the tidings of our Saviour's birth; which at a distance
• Mat. iii. 16, 17. John ii. 11.
might appear like a star, or, at least, after it had thus shone upon the shepherds, might be lifted up on high, and then formed into the likeness of a star,
Q. How could the wise men guess at the birth of our Saviour from the appearance of this star?
A. Some think they might receive light in this matter from the prophecy of Balaam," or from some other prophecies in Daniel; but as one seems too obscure for the determining any particular time, so the others were probably not known to the Chaldæans. It is more likely they might be governed by that general expectation, the world was then in, of an universal monarch and by the particular expectation the Jews had of the Messias' coming in that age, which might easily be promulged to the neighbouring nations. Though besides this, some way of divine revelation may be supposed by their calling him King of the Jews. For when God gave an extraordinary sign, we may well imagine he would take care to have it understood.
Q. How did they learn that our Saviour should be born in Bethlehem ?
A Upon their arrival at Jerusalem, they published the cause and design of their journey, which gave great uneasiness to Herod, who was jealous of any competitor ; upon which Herod enquired of those who had greatest skill in the ancient prophecies, what place was assigned for the birth of the expected Messias ; when he understood that Bethlehem was marked out for that honour, he communicated to the wise men the determination of the chief priests and scribes, with a design to destroy this young prince if they discovered him ;4 strictly charging them to bring him word, pretending that he would
+ Numb. xxiv. 17.
Mat. ii. 2.
# Mat. ii. 4, 8.
go and worship him; which trouble and jealousy of Herod confirms the expectation the Jews had of a king to be born about that time.
Q. How did the wise men find the young child Jesus?
A. By the help of the same star which appeared to them in their own country; which was now visible to them again, and conducted them in their search of our Saviour, by going before them, and standing still where the young child was; which was matter of great joy and satisfaction to them.
Q. How did the wise men behave themselves upon their finding our Saviour ?
A They fell down and worshipped him, and opened their treasures, and presented unto him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh ; the most valuable product of their own country,' Thereby also acknowledging his majesty, according to the custom all over the East, where they were wont to approach kings with presents. And by the quality of their gifts they seemed to describe the object of their adoration ; for they offered myrrh as to a man that was to be delivered to death and the grave for our salvation ; gold, as to a king, whose kingdom shall have no end; incense, as to a God, who was made known to them that sought him not.
Q. Why did God manifest his Son to the Gentiles?
A. That his grace might appear to all men. the Jews had notice of our Saviour's birth by the appearance of angels to the shepherds, so the Gentiles received it now by the appearance of a star; thereby shewing that the time was come wherein the wall of partition should be broken down, and that all nations should be one sheepfold under one shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Q. Wherein appears the zeal and courage of these wise men ?
A. That upon the appearance of an extraordinary star, they undertook so long and tedious a journey; neither regarding the discourses of the world, which might charge them with folly and rashness, nor considering the dangers of going to proclaim a new-born king at the court of a jealous prince.
Q. What may we learn from the observation of this Festival ?
A. That true wisdom doth not so much consist in a great understanding, furnished with a large stock of universal learning, as in the use of such advantages to the noblest purposes of serving God and doing good. That no man is too great to be religious, because piety and virtue are the only qualities that ennoble the mind, without which birth and title will never give a man a solid and lasting character. Readily to obey all divine inspirations; for though God prevents us with his grace, yet he expects we should make a right use of it. Not to be discouraged with any difficulty that lies in the way of our duty; and notwithstanding the censures of the world, which will be apt to condemn us, when we depart from the common road of its loose maxims, yet cheerfully to obey when obligation calls. To quit our country, and all the advantages of life, when obedience to God's commands makes it necessary. To take care to testify the sincerity of our faith by not being barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. To make the outward acts of our adoration, and the doing homage to the Deity, real expressions of the sense of our minds and inward affections. To offer to him the treasure of our hearts, which is the chief sacrifice he requires.
Q. What virtues does the offerings of the wise men