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Q. What may we learn from the Observation of this Festival?
A. To dedicate the Vigour of our Youth, and the Flower of our Days, to the Practice of Religion ; because, as it is the properest and most necessary Season to receive the Impressions of Piety and Virtue, so it is then most acceptable to God, the Perfection of whose Nature requires that we should offer up to him the Prime of our Age, and the Excellency of our Strength. To purify ourselves both in Body and Soul ; and to practise that Obedience which our Saviour, and the blessed Virgin, taught by their Example. To return to God, whatever we receive from him, and to make an entire Sacrifice to his Majesty of what is most dear and precious to us. Not to despise, but respect the Poor, who, in their outward Circumstances, bear so great a Resemblance to the blessed Jesus, and his holy Family. To bless God that he hath manifeited to us the Consolation of Israel, to give Light to us that sat in Darkness, and in the Shadow of Death, and to guide our Feet into the Way of Peace. Above all, to cloath ourselves with Humility, to be meek and lowly in Heart, that we may find rest for our Souls.
Q. Is Humility particularly a Christian Virtue ?
A. The Heathen Philosophers were so little acquainted with this Virtue, that they had no Name for it; what they expressed by the Word we now use, was Meanness and Bafeness of Mind, which provoked their contempt and Anger rather than Applause : And the Jews fo valued themselves upon their Privileges, that
they were too apt to contemn the rest of Mankind. Our Saviour first caught ic in its greatest Perfection, and indeed his whole Life was but so many repeated Instances of Humility and wonderful Condescension for our Sakes : He begins his divine Sermon upon the Mount with this Precept, he lays it as the Foundation of our spiritual Building, without which we cannot dircharge our Dury either to God or Man.
Q. Wherein consists the Humility of a Chrifian?
A. In not thinking better of himself than he deserves, in having a just Sense of all his Weaknesses and Defects, which will create a low and mean Opinion of himself; and in condescending to the meanest Offices for the Good of his Fellow Chriftians. For thus our Saviour made himself to us a Pattern of this Virtue, by taking upon him our frail Nature, and by suffering the greatest Affronts and Indignities, and Pains of this Life, in order to shew us the Way to Heaven, and thereby open to us the Gates of everlasting Life. It restrains the immoderate Desire of Honour, by teaching us not to exalt-ourfelves, nor to do any Thing through Strife or Vain-glory. It makes us rejoice in the Excellencies of our Brethren, and sincerely congratulate those Abilities that entitle them to a greater Share of Value and Esteem than we can pretend to. The Difficulty of this Virtue proceeds from that Self-Love which is planted in our Natures, and, when indulged, will be too apt to deceive us in the Judgment we form concerning ourselves.
Q. How is Humility the Foundation of other Christian Virtues ?
A. It makes us ready to believe what God reveals, and to pay our due Obedience to him from the Sense of our own Meanness, and his Excellency: And by removing the great Obstacle of our Failb; which is a Vanity to di
stinguish ourselves from the unthinking Croud, Joh.5.44. I love can we believe, when we receive Honour one
of another, and seek not the Honour that cometh from God only? It makes us put our Hope and Confidence in God, because, being weak and miserable of ourselves, without him we can do nothing. It increases our Love to God, by making us sensible how unworthy we are of the least of those many Favours we receive from him. It teaches us to rejoice in the Prosperity of our Neighbour, by infusing the most favour. able Opinion of his Worth. It disposes us to relieve those Wants, and compassionate those Amictions which we ourselves have deserved. It makes us patient under all the Troubles and Calamities of Life, because we have provoked God by our Sins. Our Prayers and our Fasts will find no Acceptance, except they proceed from an humble Mind, and our best Works will stand us in little Stead, if they are stained with Pride and Vain-Glory.
Q. Wherein confifts the Exercise of Humility ?
A. In avoiding to publish our own Praises, or to beg the Praises of others, by giving them a Handle to commend us. In not placing too much Pleasure and Satisfaction in hearing the good Things that are said of us, because they are often rather the Effect of Civility and Charity than what we deserve. In doing no thing on Purpose to draw the Eyes and good
Opinion of Men, but purely to please God. In bearing the Reproaches, the Injuries, and Affronts of bad Men with Patience and Meekness; the Reproofs of our Friends with Thankfulness. In not contemning others, though inferiour to us in some Advantages of Body or Mind, but being ready to give them that Honour and Praise they justly deserve. In pittying and compassionating the Sins and Follies of our Fellow-Christians, it being the Effect of God's Grace that we are not overcome by the same Temptations. In carrying ourselves with great Respect to our Superiors, with Courtesy and Affability to our Inferiors, and submitting to the lowest Offices for the Service of our Neighbour. In receiving from the Hands of God all Afflictions and Trials with entire Refignation and Submission, as Offenders under the Hands of Justice.
Q. Wherein appears the Folly of Pride ?
A. In that we value ourselves very frequently upon Things that add no true Worth to us, that neither make us better nor wiser; that are in their own Nature perishable, and of which we are not Proprietors but Stewards. Or if the Things be valuable in themselves, they are God's immediate Work in us; and to be proud of them is the surest Way to loose them. Thus to overlook our Defects hinders us from making any farther Improvement, and the being polsessed with an Opinion we deserve more than we have, eats out all the Pleasure of our present Enjoyments. Besides, the proud Man misses the very End he aimed at, for instead of Honour and Applause, he meets with Contempt and Ignominy
Q. What are the best Helps to attain Humility ?
A. To remember that all the Advantages we enjoy, either of Body or Mind, above others, are not the Effect of our Merit, but of God's Bounty. That those whom we are apt to contemn are valuable in the Sight of God, the only Fountain of true Honour. That by having consented to Sin, we have committed the most shameful Action imaginable, the moft contrary to Justice and right Reason, and to all sort of Decency and that as long as we are cloathed with Flesh and Blood, we are still liable to the same Offences against the Majesty of Heaven and Earth. To suppress all proud and vain Thoughts when they first arise in our Minds, not to suffer them to sport in the Scene of our Imagination. To keep a constant Watch over our Words and Actions, that we may check the first Tendencies to Pride.
I. For Ac. Lmighty and everlasting God, I humbly ceptance
beseech thy Majesty, that, as thy only, with God,
begotten Son was this Day presented in the Temple in Substance of our Flesh; so I may be presented unto thee with a pure and clean Heart, by the fame thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.