« PoprzedniaDalej »
How often have you deceived, defrauded, or calumniated some of your neighbours? How frequently have you plunged into scenes of excess and intemperance? How have you neglected the service of your God, and the solemn duties of religion? Let conscience do her office, and she will tell you, that frequently indeed these neglects have been noted against you in the registry of heaven. Amidst all these defects and faults, how few good deeds have you done! How much work for repentance! And how little reason for self-commendation! Look back also, and see how many good things the Providence of God has given you to enjoy, and thank the bountiful Giver. You have been blessed with health....Call to mind that it came from him, in whose hands are life and death. You have enjoyed peace and quiet in your dwelling....Bless the holy God for the inestimable gift. You have had no calamities to mourn, no sorrow nor distress to overcloud your days.... Remember that it is of the Lord's goodness, that you have been spared : Or perhaps you have suffered adversity, and are at length delivered....Render a tribute of praise to your great deliverer. You have had another year added to your days....Slight not the gift ; let it not be in vain, and worse than in vain, that you have had so much time for improvement. Call to mind not only what you have done, and what you have enjoyed, but also the events of Providence which have interested your feelings, and receive instruction to guide you in your future conduct. By many events that have fallen under your notice, you have been disturbed and anxious for their consequences.... Where is now that anxiety? It has flown away ; it has vanished; it is now of no consequence. Learn hence to reflect, that in like manner, the anxieties of the coming year will flee away; and are therefore to be endured with patience, and reliance on the good Providence of God, by whom you have hitherto been sustained. Many things have taken place which have afforded you joy and satisfaction.... Where are now those joys ? Fled, like the morning dream. From this consider that earthly joys are short-lived ; and be induced to look beyond the fleeting pleasures of time, to those which are eternal, flowing from the presence of God. You have seen and heard a great deal to convince you, that this world is a world of sin, and therefore a world of sorrow; that men are depraved in their desires, and therefore false and deceitful in their conduct. Be therefore admonished to look, by faith and hope, to that better world, where you will no more feel or fear the evils of depravity and sin. You have seen also some good deeds, which have shone as lights in the midst of a wicked world...strive to imitate them in your future life, as God shall give you opportunity, and lengthen to you the day of grace. • But among all the events that have demanded your attention, none so well deserves your serious contemplation, as the instances of mortality, which have fallen in your way during the annual circuit. Some from among your immediate friends and neighbours, many more of whose deaths you have heard, and many thousands, of whom you know not any thing, save that they are gone ; have taken their departure to that country, from whose bourne no travel
ler returns. The infant from the cradle, the sportive child, the blooming youth, the fond mother, the respected father, and venerable sire, have you seen following each other to the gloomy vale of death. Powerful diseases, the whirlwind's rage, the bursting torrent, the kindling flames, the ocean's billows, war and the sword, have been the messengers of death, to summon hence his victims, however reluctant to go, and to sound in the ears of those who are left, Be ye also ready, for ye knot not how soon ye may be called. Pause a little, and contemplate the awful truth : Lay aside your busy cares, bent on temporal things: Let down your high-raised expectations of present enjoyment: Converse awhile with the King of Terrors, as though you were expecting not to behold another return of the present season. Can you approach him without dismay and an horrible dread? Are you prepared ? Have you nothing to do? Dare you come before the dread tribunal of God, in your present condition ? Take this examination in good part, as from friend to friend : Treasure it up in your heart: Go forth, and prac. tise upon it in your life, during this and every coming year, so long as God shall give you being here on earth ; and it will inspire you with those good resolutions which will be of infinite importance to you, whether you live one year more, or half a century : It will incite you to do that, which, if left undone, must make your condition infinitely dangerous, should you receive the summons to depart within the year, which you know may be the case ; nay, within a month, or a day. Finally, as you have now a new year, so let your life be new, in every thing wherein it wants improvement, in simplicity, sobriety, and godly sincerity. Let it be renewed and made after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness; that you may become fit for that world, where years shall cease to roll, and time be no more measured by days and seasons.
L * *
FOR THE CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE. Mr. Editor, I send you the following Biographical Sketch, compiled from Cave's
Lites of the Primitive Fathers, to be inserted, if you think proper.
LIFE OF ST. POLYCARP,
BISHOP OP SMYRNA. ST. POLYCARP was born towards the latter end of Nero's reign : Some ancient writers say,at Smyrna. Let that be as it may, he was, by St. John, at an early age, committed to the care and instruction of BUCOLUS, Bishop of Smyrna, and there taught the first principles of the Christian faith. He made such progress in piety and the Christian virtues, that at an early age, he was made deacon, and then catechist of that Church ; an office which he discharged with great diligence and success.
At the death of Bucolus, he was consecrated Bishop of Smyrna by St. John, and other apostolic persons. Eusebius, speaking of Polycarp, says he was familiarly conversant with the Apostles, and received the government of the Church from those who had been eye witnesses and ministers of our Lord. Certain it is, he was what St. John, in his Apocalypse, calls the Angel of the Church of Smyrna; and whoever will compare the sufferings of his martyrdom with the prophetic description drawn by St. John, will find another evidence added to the many thousands, of the truth of Divine revelation.
Not long after the death of St. John, in the year of our Lord 107, the persecutions against the Christians were renewed, under the reign of Trajan; when Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was sentenced to death, and to be transported to Rome for execution. Having lived in all good fellowship for a number of years with Polycarp, in his journey he was permitted to visit Smyrna. After these holy men had mutually embraced each other and discoursed upon the affairs of the Church, Polycarp exhorted Ignatius to hold fast his profession. Ignatius reciprocated his wishes, exhortations, and prayers; commending to his watch and care his Church and people of Antioch.
From Rome, Ignatius sent an epistle to the Bishop and Church of Smyrna; endeavouring to fortify them against the errors of the times, which had crept in amongst them. This epistle, which is extant at this day, is worthy of the serious perusal of all who wish to know what was the faith when first delivered to the Saints. It contains many useful rules and precepts of life, especially such as concern the pastoral and Episcopal office. We hear nothing very particular after this, respecting Polycarp for a number of years; till some unhappy differences in the Church brought him upon the public stage. · About this time the controversy about the observation of Easter was warmly contested between the Eastern and Western Churches; both appealing to apostolical practice. To heal these unhappy divisions, St. Polycarp visited Rome in the year 154; Anicetus being then Bishop of that city. After much disputation, without either party being convinced, they mutually agreed that the main and vital parts of religion” did not consist in rituals and external observances; and, although they would retain their ancient customs, they would not violate the great bond of charity, nor cause a schism to in be made in the Catholic Church. They therefore commemorated the love of Christ in the holy Eucharist; Polycarp consecrating the bread and wine, at the request of Anicetus. Thus these holy and pious fathers of the Church, uniting 'in the fundamental principles of Christianity, in the unity of the Church left us a noble example of that Christian forbearance which ought ever to be exercised towards one another. And happy would it have been for the Christian Church, if their zeal for unity, their forbearance and charity, had been practised in modern times; for then we should not at this day experience so many unhappy divisions among Christians, and such a continued rotation of new sects, visionary schemes, and endless genealogies, which gender strife and arm infidels with new weapons against the Church of God.
During the stay of Polycarp at Rome, he spent much of his time in convincing gainsayers; testifying the truth of those doctrines which he had received from the Apostles; whereby he reclaimed many to the communion of the Church, who had been infected and
overrun with errors, especially the pernicious heresies of Marcion and Valentinus. And when Marcion, meeting him one day accidentally in the street, and resenting his neglect, called out Polycarn, con us; the good man replied, I own thee to be the first born of Saa tan. So religiously cautious (says Ireneus) were the Apostles and their followers to avoid communication with such; observing St. Paul's rule, Mark them that cause divisions, and walk contrary to sound doctrine. And again, Titus, üïi. 9. 10. A man that is an here etic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such, is perverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. Indeed, the piety and zeal of this excellent Father of the Church was frequently disturbed with the poisonous principles, which, even in that age, corrupted the simplicity of the Christian faith. This be would frequently manifest when hearing of schism and heresy, by stopping his ears, and crying out with tears-Good God, unto what times hast thou reserved me, that I should hear such things! aroiding the place and company where such things took place. This apostolical zeal he manifested in all his epistles to the neighbouring Churches; which he learned from St. John, of whom he frequently told the following story:*_That St. John going into a bath at Ephesus, and espying Corinthius the Heresiarch there, he presently started back-Let us be gone, (says he to his companions) leat the bath, wherein there is Corinthius, the enemy of the truth, fail upon our heads. This passage, (says Ireneus) some yet alive heard from St. Polycarp's own mouth, who was personally and intimately acquainted with St. John, and in many of his epistles, speaks of bim in point of character, shape, countenance, miracles, faith, and practice.
We shall now draw towards the conclusion of this most excellent and pious man's life, which was crowned with martyrdom.
In the year of our Lord 167, under the reign of M. Antonius, began a most severe persecution of the Christians; in which suffered the Bishop of Smyrna; the particulars of which we have related in an epistle, written not long after his death, by the Church of Smyr. na, directed to all the dioceses of the Holy Catholic Church, and worded by Eusebius; from which I have selected the following: The persecutiont growing hot at Smyrna, and many having already sealed their confession with their blood, the general outcry was, Away with the impious, let Polycarp be sought for. The good man was not disturbed at the news; but resolved to meet his fate with the firmness of a Christian. But his friends knowing his singular usefulness, and that our Lord had given leave to his disciples, when persecuted in one city, to flee to another, prevailed with him to flee into a neighbouring village, where with a few companions, he continued day and night in prayer, earnestly interceding with heaven, for the peace and tranquility of the Church throughout the world. Three days before his apprehension, falling asleep after prayer, he dreamed that his pillow was on fire and burned to ashes, which he told his friends was a presage he should be burnt alive for the cause
· Eusebius L. 4. cap. 14. † Euseb. L. 4. cap. 15.
of Christ. In the mean time he was diligently sought for ; uponi which his friends persuaded him to retire into another village, where he was immediately discovered by a couple of youths; who perceiving him enter an house at evening, gave notice to his enemies; and although he was warned of his danger, and might have escaped, yet he refused, saying the will of the Lord be done. Hearing his persecutors below stairs, he went down, and saluted them with a cheerful and gentle countenance ; insomuch that they who had not hitherto known him, were greatly astonished at his venerable and grave appearance, wondering why any should wish to apprehend this poor old man. Perfectly calm, he ordered a table to be spread, and provisions to be set on; inviting them to partake, only requesting that in the mean time he might have one hour for solemn prayer. Leave being granted, he retired to his devotions; where being divine. ly assisted, he continued nearly two hours ; commending to God the care of all his friends and acquaintance, with the state of the whole Catholic Church throughout the world ; while all that heard him were greatly astonished and grieved, (even his enemies) that so diyine and venerable an old man should be put to death.
His prayer being ended, he voluntarily submitted. They put him upon an ass, and proceeded towards the city. They were soon met by Herod and his father Nicetus, being civilofficers, such as our justices of the peace. Herod was a bitter enemy to Christianity ; notwithstanding, he took Polycarp into his chariot, and by plausible insinuations, sought to undermine his constancy, and persuade him to renounce his faith in Christ. To all which he answered not, except by a silent contempt, shewing them his firmness ; disappointed, they changed their deceitfultone into the most abusive language, and threw him from the carriage with such violence, as to bruise him, and endanger his life ; but undaunted, he hastened on to the place of trial, surrounded with a guard and tumultuous rabble.
[To be continued.]
MEDITATIONS ON THE BEE. GO forth, O my soul, like the industrious Bee, to thy work and to thy labour, until the evening of thy day upon earth. Take the wings of the morning, and fly quickly into the garden of God, the Church of the Redeemed. Visit continually the assemblies of the faithful; those flowers whose unfading beauty graces the inheritance of the beloved; and whose sweetness diffuses around them a savour of life unto life. There feed among the lillies of Paradise, which shine invested with the righteousness of Saints, and towering above the earth, keep their garments unspotted from the dust of corruption. Fly amongst them day by day, and familiarize them all to thy acquaintance. Pass not by them hastily, nor be content to gaze only upon their beauty; but settle and fix thy meditations on them, until thou hast extracted the spirit and life that is in their writings and their examples, the nourishment of wisdom, and the sweetness of consolation. These flowers, it is true, spring from the same earth, the same influences of heaven nourish and support