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burdened, and waits for his “ deliverance from “ the bondage of corruption into the glorious
liberty of the children of God.”
Here then is the churchman's test of communion with that holy body, to which he professes to belong; the criterion of his connection with “ the holy catholic church.” Does the reader experience any such desires, as dictate the prayer in our collect? Does the state of his heart correspond with the language of his tongue, when he joins the congregation in the use of it?
Does he really wish in all things, without making any exception, to obey " God's blessed will?” Let him examine if there be no idol to which he cleaves, and from which he would be loth to part ;--if there be no lust which he indulges, and for the mortification of which his prayer is not upfeigned. Is the whole will of God, as expressed in His law, truly “ blessed” in his estimation? Does he assent unto it as “ holy, just, and good ?” Is the yoke of Christ easy to his soul, and His burden light ?
The ground of confidence in our address to the mercy-seat, which our collect proposes, concurs with the object of our celebration. For the circumcision of Christ, in unison with the other meritorious acts of His life and death, affords a plea which cannot fail of its effects, and is a solid basis for the hope of success in our supplications. He was circumcised in the flesh to procure for us "the true circumcision of the Spirit:" His precious blood flowed under
” the knife of a ceremonial institution, that we might be cleansed from moral defilement, and made partakers of that moral conformity to God, without whịch no man can see His face.
« In Him” believers « are circumcised with “ the circumcision made without hands, in “ putting off the body of the sins of the flesh,
by the circumcision of Christ. Let us ask then in faith, nothing doubting, for this “true « circumcision of the Spirit, through the same “ Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The commencement of a new year, which, according to our civil division of time, takes place on this day, unites with the collect in calling us to self-examination on the important subject of a preparation for eternity. Let it not be delayed. Time flies. Death approaches. The season for prayer, and penitence, and faith, elapses apace. Who can tell what the present year may produce, as to the reader or writer of these pages? Surely it becomes us to use our collect with increased energy of soul. For how much remains to be done; and how short is the time for doing it! It is an incontrovertible truth, that “he who soweth to the flesh shall “ of the flesh reap corruption; and that he “ who soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit
reap life everlasting."
THE EPIPHANY, OR THE MANIFESTATION OF
O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only begotten Son to the Gentiles; mercifully grant, that we which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
HREE great manifestations of the " glory
"of God in the face of Jesus Christ" are by our church celebrated at the same time, having occurred according to the testimony of St. Chrysostom on the same day in different years. The first of these is the arrival of the wise men, under the conduct of a supernatural star, to worship the infant Saviour at Bethlehem. The second is the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ in the river Jordan by the ministry of John; when the Holy Ghost, like a dove, lighted upon him, and a voice was heard from heaven, declaring, "This is my beloved Son, " in whom I am well pleased. The third is the first miracle wrought at Cana of Galilee. Each of these events is recorded in different parts of the service appointed for the Epiphany; but the collect, epistle, and gospel, refer wholly
to the former of them.
Our present collect is of great antiquity, and contains-A statement of the fact which it commemorates--and A prayer founded thereon.
The mercy which the church celebrates this day is the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles; of which an instance and a prelude were given in the case of the eastern Magii, who were conducted
by the leading of a star” from their own country to the place of our Lord's nativity. As the limitation of the church to the family of Abraham took place in a gradual and progressive manner, so also did its enlargement. The middle wall of partition between the Jews and Gentiles was some time in building, and it was also some time in taking down. Indeed the remark of our Lord, that “the kingdom of God cometh not with ob“servation,” may be applied to the whole process of redemption.
The first inquiry that arises on our collect, respects the history of those persons whose advent to Bethlehem is therein commemorated. On this subject the Scripture is silent; but it is generally supposed, from the name given them, that they were Gentile philosophers, or sages of the Magian religion. “ This sect chiefly flourished in Persia ; and, considering this circumstance, and what is said, Math. ii. 16, it seems much more probable that the Magii, who arrived at Jerusalem some considerable time after our Saviour's birth, should come from the distant country of Persia, or Parthia, than from the neighbouring region of Arabia. Suetonius, not to mention other historians, expressly tells us, that an antient and uninterrupted opinion prevailed in all the east, that it was decreed by the fates, that at that time (namely, at the beginning of the last Jewish war) some coming out of Judea should obtain the dominion.
No wonder that such an opinion should be propagated throughout the east, when we consider the vast number of Jews which were spread over · all the eastern countries. In the reign of Ahasuerus, or Artaxerxes Longimanus, the Jews were dispersed throughout all the provinces of the vast Persian empire, (Esth. iii. 8;) and that in numbers sufficient to defend themselves against their enemies in those provinces, (Esth. ix. 2, 16;) and many of the people of the land also became Jews, (Esth. viii. 17.) After the Babylonish captivity, the Jews increased so fast, that we find them not only throughout Asia, but also in Africa, particularly in Egypt, in great numbers, and in many cities and islands of Europe (comp. Acts ii. 511;) and wherever they dwelt, they made many proselytes to their religion; and in their attempts to this purpose, no doubt, they must very much spread the expectation of the Messiah's comingan article so important in itself, and so flattering to their national vanity. These opportunities of being informed of the approaching advent of the GREAT KING the Magians of Persia had in common with many other people. Add to this, that Zoroaster, the famous reformer of the Magian sect, had in all probability been a servant to the prophet Daniel; and as he had adopted so many other things in his scheme from the Jewish religion, so there is the highest reason to think that he would not fail to instruct his followers in such an interesting point as that of the Messiah's coming, the time and circumstances of which had been so particularly foretold by his master. Dan. ix. 24-27. Accordingly, the writers of the universal history observe, that "Zoroaster is said by "credible authors to have predicted the coming of "the Messiah, and this not in dark and obscure