Gambar halaman

added for their encouragement, “ According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not'." And still more appositely, as we read elsewhere, “Nehemiah and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared : for this day is holy unto our Lord; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength ?.” The sacred narrative proceeds; “So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be yė grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.And after this they proceeded to keep the feast of tabernacles, with “olive branches and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. . . . And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun, unto that day, had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.'

We have a still more remarkable and solemn instance of the duty of keeping festival and rejoicing even in the darkest day, in our Lord's own history. If there was 1 Haggai ii. 5.

Neh. viii. 9, 10.

a season in which gloom was allowable, it was on the days and hours before His Passion : but He who came to bring joy on earth and not sorrow; who came eating and drinking, because He was the true Bread from heaven; who changed the water into wine at a marriage feast, and fed the hungry thousands in the wilderness; even in that awful time when His spirit fainted within Him, when, as He testified, His "soul was troubled," aud He was led to cry, “Father, save Me from this hour,” and more solemnly and secretly, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me;" He, our great Exemplar, kept the feast-nay, anticipated it, as if though He Himself was to be the very Paschal Lamb, still He was not thereby excused from sharing in the typical rite. « With desire" did He "desire to eat that passover” with His disciples before He suffered. And a few days before it, He took part in a public and (as it were) triumphant pageant, as though the bitterness of death had been already passed. He came to Bethany, where He had raised Lazarus; and there they made Him a supper; and Mary took the precious ointment and poured it on His head, and anointed His feet, and the house was filled with the fragrance. And next the people took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet Him, and strewed their garments in the way, and cried, “Hosanna, Blessed is the King of Israel, that cometh in the Name of the Lord I”

To rejoice, then, and to keep festival, is a Christian duty, under all circumstances. Indeed, is not this plain, by considering the obligation, yet the nature, of that chief Gospel Ordinance which we celebrate to-day ? able;

There is an ordinance which we are bound to observe always till the Lord come: is it an ordinance of humiliation and self-abasement, or is it a feast? The Holy Eucharist is a Feast; we cannot help feasting, we cannot elude our destiny of joy and thanksgiving, if we would be Christians.

As I have already remarked, the same rule is to be observed even in the instance of personal penitence, which is on no account to be separated from the duty of Christian cheerfulness. Penitents are as little at liberty to release themselves from Christian joy as from Christian love; love alone can make repentance and where there is love, there joy must be present also. The true penance is not to put away God's blessings, but to add chastisements. As Adam did not lose the flowers of Eden on his fall, but thorns and thistles sprung up around them; and he still had bread, but was forced to eat it in the sweat of his face; and as the Israelites ate their Paschal lamb with bitter herbs; so in like manner we show our repentance, not in rejecting what God gives, but in adding what sin deserves.

And I will add, that there is much which is expedient as well as dutiful in this simple adherence to the plain formularies of Christian devotion and practice, even under circumstances unsuitable to them. For if these observances are inconsistent with our actual state, they will force themselves upon our minds as a mockery, and thus suggest to us of what we ought to be, and make us discontented with what we are. Our Lord gives us a pattern of this in His very Prayer, in which we ask that our trespasses may be forgiven, as we forgive them that trespass against us; words which are quite out of place, or rather words which will do us harm, if we are not what Christians should be in spirit, but remember injuries and cherish malice. And thus, in like manner, when we profess to hold the Apostolic faith, yet take up with modern notions of Gospel truth, what is this but a great inconsistency ?-yet a profitable one withal, if through God's grace the profession of what is ancient at length overcomes our attachment to what is novel and unauthorized. And, again, what can be more incongruous than for the run of Christians of this age to call themselves Catholics ? yet their calling themselves so may be the first step to their becoming so. And how little fitted are we to discharge ecclesiastical censures, or to enforce ecclesiastical discipline, or to live by rule! yet, by attempting to do so, we may learn our wants, and seek the supply of them. And how unlike are the best among us to the Saints and Martyrs of old time; to St. Cyprian, or St. Basil, or St. Ambrose, or St. Leo! and what an utter mockery it is to couple their names with modern names, and to compare their words with our words, as is sometimes done! yet, if true love be the tie that binds us to them, since they most certainly cannot move towards us, we through God's mercy perchance may be drawn to them. And in like manner, poor and mean and unworthy as may be our attempts at a ceremonial on days such as this, yet we trust He will accept it, as He did her offering, who did “what she could,” and will vouchsafe to bless it and to make it a means of teaching us a deeper reverence and a more constraining love, and will draw us on into the very bosom of Catholic sanctity and the very heart of Catholic affection, by observances and usages which in themselves are little worth, and excite the jeer or the criticism of the worldly or the profane. In a word, if we claim to be the Church, let us act like the Church, and we shall become the Church. Here, as in other matters, to doubt is to fail, and to go forward is to succeed.

One danger there is,-that of our attempting one of these aspects or constituent portions of the Christian character while we neglect the other.

To attempt Apostolical Christianity at all, we unust attempt it all. It is a whole, and cannot be divided; and to attempt one aspect of it only, is to attempt something else which looks like it, instead of it. “All is not gold that glitters," as the proverb goes; and all is not Catholic and Apostolic which affects what is high and beautiful, and speaks to the imagination. Religion has two sides, a severe side, and a beautiful; and we shall be sure to swerve from the narrow way which leads to life, if we indulge ourselves in what is beautiful, while we put aside what is severe.

I have a hope, my brethren, that we are not committing this fault; for to be aware of the danger is one special preservative against it, in the case of those who wish to do what is right. Had we no other memento of the duty of combining strictness of life with our attention to external religion, this very day would remind us of it, occurring as it does in so close a connexion with the Ember-week. We commemorate the dedication of this Chapel to God's service, either,

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »