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"curse us, to do good to them that hate us, and "to pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us, that we may be the children of "our Father, which is in heaven.' And "Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example "that we should follow His steps." Our hope of receiving a pardon from God is connected with a forgiving temper. For God will only "forgive "our debts, as we forgive our debtors." We solicit mercy for ourselves on this ground. Unless therefore we are labouring to cultivate this spirit of charity, we have no reason to call ourselves the disciples of Christ, nor to expect a place among His followers.
But how difficult is the cultivation of this spirit of meekness and love! For how sweet is the exercise of anger and revenge! And how prone are we, either by thought or deed, as it may be in our power, to shew resentment against those who have injured us, and even to justify the act! O what need then have we to pray for Divine grace, that we may imitate the bright example of St. Stephen; that, like David in his conduct towards Shimei and Saul, we may submit with resignation to whatever injurious treatment we meet with; that, like the Apostles, being reviled we may bless; being perse"cuted we may suffer it; being defamed we may intreat;" that we may at all times" pos"sess our souls in patience," and commit our cause to God.
Our collect, not without reason, has taught us to pray that, with a view to the attainment of this holy temper, we may be "filled with the Holy Ghost;" for Christianity is above nature. Philosophy cannot eradicate a vindictive spirit from our bosoms; nor can any efforts of unsanc
tified reason ever endue us with that spirit of meekness which St. Stephen exhibited in his dying moments. Nothing but Divine grace can counteract the tiger-like disposition of fallen man, and transform the lion into a lamb. Nemo me impunè lacessit, No one shall provoke me with impurity, is the natural language of the human heart. But when the soul is “ filled “ with the Holy Ghost,” it is transformed into a conformity to Christ, as we see by the instance which the protomartyr affords. May we be “ followers of them who through faith and pa“ tience inherit the promises.”
It may be said, that we are never likely to be placed in circumstances similar to those of St. Stephen, and therefore shall have no opportunity of imitating his example. But let it be remembered that every day affords scope for the exercise of the same grace and if in small matters we are easy to be provoked, we may well question whether we should stand the test of greater trials. Surely the impatience of our spirit, on the slightest provocations and injuries, should teach us the necessity of praying earnestly, “that, being filled with the Holy Ghost, for we may learn to love and bless our perse“ cutors by the example of St. Stephen, who “ prayed for his murderers to Thee, O blessed “ Jesus, who standeșt at the right hand of God “ to succour all those who suffer for Thee, our
only mediator and advocate. Amen." *
* The necessity and nature of a forgiving temper is admirably explained and enforced by Bishop Hopkins, in his Practical Exposition of the Lord's Prayer.
ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST'S DAY.
Merciful Lord, we beseech thee to cast thy bright beams of light upon thy church; that it, being enlightened by the doctrine of thy blessed Apostle and Evangelist St. John, may so walk in the light of thy truth, that it may at length attain to the light of everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
various emblems which are
A introduced in Scripture for the purpose
of illustrating spiritual things, there is none so glorious as the sun; for there is no other natural object that is of equal splendour and utility. It might well be supposed that this beautiful luminary, in its appearance so magnificent, and in its influence so beneficial, would be employed as the representative of its Maker. And this is the fact. "The Lord God is a sun;" and Christ, God-man, is "the sun of righteousness "with healing in His wings." "I" says He, "am the light of the world; he that followeth 15 me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have "the light of life.” As the sun in the world of nature is the cause and support of life, vegetable and animal; as his approach revives the earth, and renews the seasons of the year; so is Christ the cause of all spiritual life, the restorer of all things in the intellectual and moral world. The effulgence of His bright beams constitutes "the "acceptable year of the Lord."
The moon is an emblem of the church, which, like her representative in the material heavens, has no light of her own, but derives whatever illumination she possesses from the Sun of righteous
The changes of the moon, occasioned by its apparent exposure to the solar rays or removal from them with respect to us, afford an apt figure of the mutations which the church of God has experienced. Sometimes, like the moon at the close of her last quarter, she has been searcely visible; while at other times, like the moon when completely illuminated, she has shone with full-orbed light. It was (as a celebrated writer has remarked)* with a reference to this resemblance, that the new moons were observed by the Jews as religious festivals under the ceremonial law; which, as the Apostle has informed us, were “a 6 shadow of things to come.”
Christ then is the one Sun in the spiritual ho'rizon, from whom all light and life proceed. Like His glorious emblem, He is only to be seen by means of His own light; without which we must be totally ignorant of Him " whom to know is “ life eternal.” “God, who commanded the light “ to shine out of darkness, must shine into our “ hearts to give us the knowledge of His glory “ in the face of Jesus Christ.” Independent of His word and Spirit, we should know nothing of God, His being and attributes ; of the way of deriving happiness from Him; or of our own obligations to Him.
As the Sun is the means of revealing itself, so all other things are discoverable only by the com
* Jones on the Figurative Language of the Holy Scriptures.-“ Neomenia (adumbrabant) illuminationem eccle
per Christum solem justitiæ, vel vitæ novæ sanctifica. tionem,” Davenant, in Epist. ad Coloss. cap. ii. v. 17.
munication of its rays; for the eye is useless without light. And, in like manner, reason without revelation can afford us no information respecting ourselves, the nature and guilt of sin, our danger as transgressors, or the way of escape "from the "wrath to come." Hence heathen nations, though possessed of the same natural faculties with ourselves, are at this day in ignorance of all Divine truth. They They "sit in darkness and the
"shadow of death." It is true that those on whom the light of revelation shines may be destitute of saving knowledge; yet the fault is not in the sun but in the organs of vision, which are so injured through the fall that they are incapable of performing their office, until they are anointed with Christ's eye-salve.
The natural Sun is not diminished in its splendour in consequence of having shone for nearly six thousand years. It still "goeth forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and rejoiceth "as a giant to run his race." The sun of righteousness hath emitted its healing beams for the same period of time, and instead of being diminished in splendour, shines with a clearer and more widely diffused light than ever. A great multitude which no man can number, have been enlightened and comforted by His radiance; and millions yet unborn shall bask in His rays.
The light of the natural sun is a vivifying light, and is the cause of all life, growth, and beauty. Christ is "the light of life." His rays are influential. They quicken, warm, and invigorate wherever they are shed. Independently of them, all the dreariness of a moral winter universally prevails. But their return produces spring, summer, and autumn, in sweet succession.
These remarks will help to illustrate the collect for St. John the Evangelist's day, in which "we