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The distinguishing feature of the age, is rapidity. We now perform in a single day a journey, which in our fathers' time occupied several, and send messages ver similar distances in a moment. The natural effect of this rapidity of movement, is to increase the pecuniary value of time, and thereby to put all men into a hurry. We do things now more rapidly than our ancestors, but the consequence is not that we have more leisure, but that we have less. The more we have the power of doing, the more we attempt. Our ancestors were content to toil hard, live hard, and as the reward of their labour and self denial, to rise one or two steps in the social scale in the course of a long life. We insist on living luxuriously all our days, and yet in passing from the very bottom to the very top of society, while we yet retain youth enough to accommodate ourselves to, and enjoy our elevation.
In order to attain this, we must however work hard, much harder than our fathers. We must give ourselves soul and body to the profession in which we are embarked, “ we must join night to day and Sunday to the week.” Religion must wait our leisure, the leisure of the slaves of Mammon; and when Mammon for a moment relaxes his demands, Belial stands ready to fill up the vacancy with worldly pleasures. These facts give a new force to the sacred injunction, not to be “conformed to this world." The time is not very far off, if it be not already here, when a christian
must deliberately resolve to be poor, and this too, at a time when all the world is resolving to be rich.
A separation between the Church and the world, wider than any that has existed since the days of Constantine, must soon take place. The watchword of the world is 'progress,' an unholy, agitating, absorbing progress, which knows no stop, and allows no rest. Whoever becomes a votary of wealth gets involved in that progress, and looses all power of attending to the concerns of his soul. The christian's watchword too, is 'progress.' A progress different from that of the world, a progress in personal holiness, a progress in the extension of the Church. Both are making progress but not in the same direction, and of course, they are hourly getting farther apart. Their views, feelings, and hopes, are becoming more and more diverse. At the beginning of their career they were in part occupied with the same objects, but in a short time both are removed from those objects and engaged with new ones.
These reflections are very awful, they may even be said to be appalling; but they may be in one view a source of hope. The early Church gained on the world, but in later days the world has gained on the Church. But when the Church was thus gaining on the world, they were avowed antagonists. There was no friendship or communion between them. But as the Church became less watchful and more secular, the world disguised itself as the Church, and professed to be the Church, and then the Church lost her power, and the world more and more gained upon her. Men fancied that the world was not so bad as had been represented, that they might serve it and God too; and then the things of sight prevailed over the things of faith, and men became worldlings ere they discovered that they had impaired their christian character.
Now, progress is likely to separate the Church and the world again. The world will soon so engross the whole man, that christians will see the necessity of abjuring it practically, unless they prefer an abjuration of christianity. What is meant by abjuring the world, is not a departure out of it to conventual walls and monastic seclusion, but an entire and systematic mortification of self to it, and of it to self; such as St. Paul's, when he declared that he gloried in the cross of Christ, by which the world was crucified to him, and himself to the world. In some form or other, between the Church and the world there will arise a direct opposition, a struggle for the mastery. The world emancipated from the homage which it now pays to the forms of christianity, will be its avowed enemy, and will persecute it in some way or other. Often indeed under false colours, but perhaps in the old fashioned way of Nero or Dioclesian.
The practical lesson we would draw from this is, that we should restrain our desires---be content in the station of life in which we find ourselves, and let our moderation be known unto all men. We are “members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.” Our business is to preserve our title to our inheritance, and having that which is more valuable than all the world, not lightly to part with it, in exchange for the nothings of wealth and pleasure. Let the world make its boasted progress and let us make progress too, forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth to those things that are before ; let us press towards the mark for the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
ORIGIN OF CHRISTIAN FESTIVALS.
Our Lord and His Apostles observed all the Jewish Festivals, as well those of Divine appointment, as those which were of human institution. The Gospels tell us that our Blessed Lord, in His care to observe the Mosaic Law, and so “ to fulfil all righteousness," was diligent in His attendance upon those festivals which the Jews in His time observed.
On the Sabbaths He went to the Synagogues, which were places of assembly, not for sacrifice, but for prayer, with reading and expounding of the Scriptures; and there, as well as in the Temple, speaking “as never man spake," He distributed to all the 'bread of life,' the gospel of eternal salvation. When charged by the Pharisees with having broken the Sabbath, by healing an infirm woman, and a man with the dropsy, He did not defend His conduct so much by setting forth His claim to be Lord of the Sabbath, as by justifying Himself as a Jew; shewing that what He had done was in strict accordance with the spirit of that Law which they brought forward to condemn Him. (Luke xiii. 13. and xiv. 5.) He went regularly every year to the feast of the passover at Jerusalem, and we read that in the last year of His ministry, and there is no reason to look upon this as a solitary instance, He attended the Feast of Tabernacles, and that of the Dedication. But when He ascended into Heaven, He left no directions for the religious observance of any day or season, by his disciples.
After his ascension and the descent of the Holy Ghost, the apostles and disciples formed themselves into a separate society or community, but they nevertheless still continued to observe the hours of prayer, the Temple and Synagogue service, and the Festivals of the Jewish Church and nation, thus walking in the steps of their Divine Master, when He was no longer with them. And this observance of the ancient feasts and services, they continued to practise until they were not allowed by the Jews to take part therein. And when, through the jealousy of their countrymen, they were prevented from worshipping together with them any more, they shewed their attachment to the faith of their forefathers, and the old customs, by adopting the Jewish Festivals into the infant Church, and connecting them with the Christian faith, by attaching to them something which bore a resemblance or analogy to the ancient rites. In fact so strongly did they cling to these venerable ordinances of the Old Church, that it
was necessary for St. Paul, again and again to remonstrate with the Jewish converts, for giving an undue and superstitious importance to the former rites and customs, and for seeking to impose them as a yoke upon the Gentile Christians. But the same apostle, while thus contending against excessive and servile adherence to Jewish observance, sanctioned the keeping sacred of days, where it was done to edification. (Rom. xiv.5,6. Col. ii. 16.)
And although in Gal. iv. 10, he declaims against the observance of days and times, it was only against such an observance as had already been denounced in the Jewish Law, (Deut. xviii. 10.) an observance for superstitious or perhaps idolatrous purposes. The pious Robert Nelson observes upon this passage, (Eph.iv. 10.) “ The kind of days, the observation of which is condemned, were such as were dedicated by the heathens to their false gods, or such as were observed by them as lucky or unlucky days; these being the abominations of the heathens condemned in Deut.; or those of the Jews, which though abrogated, the Judaizing Christians attempted to impose upon the Galatians, as necessary to salvation.”
The practice of the early Church, with regard to Festivals, appears to have been the same as that of our Lord, with regard to the sacraments; He took those which existed in the Jewish Church, and altering the sign, and increasing the grace, adapted them to the new state of things which He had established; and so the Apostles and early Christians, acting under the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, established Festivals according to the analogy of the Jews, evangelizing every thing they could, and introducing new holydays or new rites, only where the Jewish ritual did not supply one, which would bear adaptation to Christianity. This was the case at least with the Sabbaths now observed as the Lord's Day, and the Festivals of the Passover and Pentecost now kept as Easter and Whitsuntide. Others of later introduction, owe their origin principally to the desire of the Church to commemorate, either some event in our Lord's life upon earth, or the grace given by God to men, as shown forth in the holy lives and triumphant deaths of His Saints and Martyrs.
The object of these Festivals is to bring before the minds of Christians, at stated periods, those facts of our Saviour's history, or that of His Saints, which best deserve our attention and praise; to call forth our feelings of gratitude, and to encourage us to the practice of christian virtues. And in keeping these festivals, members of the Church of England have the satisfaction