Obrazy na stronie

given to Archbishop Parker, Bishop Grindal, and others; "to peruse the order of the Lessons, throughout the whole year, and to cause new calendars to be printed." In pursuance of which the present Table of Sunday Lessons was prepared, and came out the same year. We may then consider it as Archbishop Parker's : and surely not one among the Reformers might be more thoroughly depended on for a sound practical view of things. Farther than this, we have no direct information. We must be guided therefore entirely by the internal evidence of the Lessons themselves.

The series begins from Septuagesima Sunday, because it was the custom of the early Church to read the Book of Genesis in Lent'. Let us examine them in their order, ending with the 6th Sunday after Epiphany in the following year. We shall find, if I mistake not, that the selection may be accounted for on this supposition, viz. That the arrangers desired to exhibit God's former dealings with His chosen people collectively and the return made by them to GoD, in such manner as might best illustrate His dealing with each individual, chosen now to be in His Church, and the snares and temptations most apt to beset us as Christians.

Certainly, there does exist a very wonderful analogy between these two cases, that of the Jewish nation delineated in the Bible, and that of a baptized Christian, as known by daily experience : an analogy most striking in itself, most clearly pointed out more than once in the New Testament, and very serviceable, if rightly understood in many great points of faith and practice. This analogy arises out of the fact, that Christians severally are, what the Jews collectively were, partakers of an especial Covenant.

It is to be supposed, that the Great Enemy has his peculiar way of dealing with souls placed in such a relation, as with parents, children, subjects, and others, according to their several relations. To exhibit such his purpose and proceedings, and to exemplify also the counteracting methods of providence, seems to be one especial purpose of the historical portions of the Old Testament : in which the prophetical are here included.

To give an instance of what is here meant. One of the most prevailing temptations to unbelief and careless practice is the daily experience we have, of Christians behaving so very differently from what one should expect, à priori, in God's elect. It does

1 See Wheatley on the Common Prayer, ch. iii, sect. x. § 4.

not seem as if, left to ourselves, we should have any adequate idea of the kind of hypocrisy described by Bishop Butler, in his Sermon on Self-deceit, and elsewhere; I mean the temper which leads men to act towards GOD ALMIGHTY, (whom, in theory and understanding, they own,) as if it were in their power to deceive Him. To explain this for the benefit of those most in danger, seems one great purpose of the Old Testament: to explain it, I say, for the benefit of unworthy Christians, who may discern themselves, by anticipation, in the faithless demeanour of the Jews.

It is conceivable that a series of extracts might be made, to illustrate this matter more particularly, i. e. on a principle of admonition. Would not such a series coincide, very nearly, with the Sunday Lessons?

1 Gen. xix. • Exod. iii.

Thus, the first and second chapters of Genesis, represent man as at first placed in covenant with his Maker; the third, sixth, and ninth represent his fall, and the wonderful mixture of judgment and mercy which prepared him for the recovery, which God had in store for him, by virtue of a New Covenant. Then (Gen. xii.) follows the first definite step towards the establishment of that New Covenant: the call of Abraham to be the select pattern and spiritual progenitor of all who shall ever be saved by it. And here again judgment is shown mingled with mercy, and thorough probation accompanying both, by the two selected chapters of Abraham's history; the fall of Sodom', and the sacrifice of Isaac'. Then begins the account of Jacob and his family, the other great section of the Patriarchal History; displaying on the one hand, the great danger of taking liberties with moral duty, under the notion of being favourites with GoD; (for the subsequent misfortunes of Jacob's family are clearly traceable to that first want of faith ;) on the other hand, the mysterious ways of Providence, turning those misfortunes and errors into means for the great purpose of preparing a covenanted nation to take the place of the covenanted family'.

With Exodus begins the history of that nation, which may perhaps not improperly be styled the appropriate type of each backsliding Christian, as Abraham we know was the type of the faithful. The chapters selected show, first, GoD preparing the way for their election; then their reluctant acceptance of the favour"; next, the actual process of their deliverance; the whole being so

2 Gen. xxii.
Exod. v.

3 Gen. xxvii. xxxiv. xxxix. xlii. xliii. xlv.

6 Exod. ix. x. xii. xiv.

arranged, that this latter shall correspond with the season of Easter; which is indeed (so to speak) the point of sight of the whole Christian Calendar, as the passover is of the Jewish.

But to proceed the Lessons from Easter to Whit-Sunday (taking into account the great days of Easter-week and Ascension,) are so many specimens of the transgressions of the elect people, and of the methods taken to chastise or reclaim them'. The case of Balaam, most evidently needs not to be excepted from this account; for never was a clearer analogy than between him and the Jewish people: they murmuring and rebelling with the Shechinah before their eyes; he coveting the reward of iniquity, perhaps plotting seduction in his heart, while he heard the words of God, and saw the vision of the ALMIGHTY. No analogy can be more exact; except it be that between the same miserable man, and a Christian baptized, sinning against faith and knowledge.

The Lessons for Trinity-Sunday, as was natural, interrupt for one week the progress of the history, for the purpose of reviewing the whole course. The mind is carried back, first, to God's original intent in creating man after His own image'; next, to the appointed condition or mean, by which that image is to be regained; viz. the imitation of Abraham's faith. In effect, they rehearse to us both Covenants; that of Paradise, and that of the Gospel.

Resuming our view of the covenanted people, we contemplate them first victorious, peaceful and comparatively innocent, renewing their engagements with their Maker in the days of Joshua"; in the days of the Judges backsliding and factious, but not yet deliberately unbelieving; next, trained by Eli's sons to irreverence for holy things'; and not ill-prepared to apostatize, by choosing a king on principles of accommodation and worldly policy 9.

The gradual degeneracy and downfal of that unhappy king (the emblem of the Jews of his time, as Balaam had been of a former generation,) and the substitution of one of better mind, are continued through a chain of Lessons to the excision, long after his death, of almost all that remained of his family 10.

1 Exod. xvi. xvii. xx. xxxii. Numbers xvi. xxii. xxiii. xxiv. xxv. Deut. iv. v. vi. vii. viii. ix. x. xii. xiii. xvi. xxx. 2 Gen. i. 3 Gen. xviii. 71 Sam. ii. iii. 10 2 Sam. xxi.

4 Josh. x. 8 1 Sam. xii.

Josh. xxiii. • Judges iv. v. 91 Sam. xiii. xv. xvii.

But, in the mean time, a new source of sin and misery had arisen in the family of David himself. His personal sins, indeed, were fast followed by sincere repentance, and therefore obtained speedy pardon'; but because they were the sins of one with whom a peculiar covenant had been made, they drew down the severest temporal judgments; the sword never departed from his house; and by the dissensions which arose in his time, a way was prepared for the schism and two-fold apostasy, first heretical and afterwards infidel, of the greater part of the chosen people. These, with God's endeavours to reclaim them by the warnings of Elijah and Elisha', and by the sword of Jehu', are traced in the chapters taken from the Books of Kings, from the first curse of Jeroboam's schismatical altar, till the final reprobation and captivity of the ten tribes. In the course of which history, especial emphasis is laid, first on the misfortunes incurred by the nameless prophet from Judah, by king Jehoshaphat and others, for their licentious communication with the heretical and idolatrous tribes', secondly, on the extension of God's favour to the Gentiles, in two instances for ever memorable; which extension, we may believe, was virtually a signal warning to his then elect people.


At length we arrive at the last sad scene of the history; the downfal of the Church of Judah also. We behold a temporary amendment in the days of Hezekiah, occasioned by the combination of miraculous mercy to herself, with judgment on Samaria in her sight'. But we presently read of her thorough relapse; of her resistance to the example and efforts of good Josiah 10; of her sensuality" and oppression ", her neglect " and contempt1 of warnings, all accompanied with high pretences to civilization, and a certain kind of orthodoxy. All these, her dealings with God, are delineated at large by Jeremiah. In the Lessons from Ezekiel we have revealed more of God's dealings with her. He peremptorily orders his message to be delivered, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear 15. He denounces the false prophets, preaching peace where there was no peace; and discovers their secret and vulgar artifices 16. He answers pretences from feigned confor

1 2 Sam. xii. xxiv. 2 Ps. lxxxix. 2 Sam. xii. 14. 4 1 Kings xiii. xvii. xviii. xix. xxi. xxii. 2 Kings v. 62 Kings xviii. 7 1 Kings xiii. xxii. 2 Kings ix. x. 2 Kings v. 92 Kings xvii. xix. 10 2 Kings xxiii. 12 Jerem. xxii. 14 Jerem. xxxvi.

13 Jerem. xxxv.

16 Ezek. xiii.

3 2 Sam. xix.

5 2 Kings ix. x. 8 1 Kings xvii. 11 Jerem. v. 15 Ezek. ii.

mity, from reliance on the remnant of good in the land'; and again, from an affected perplexity at the supposed inequality of his proceedings. He recapitulates, by special message, all their past conduct, as His chosen people3: a summary, answering with marvellous exactness to the sad experience of the Christian world. When all these had failed, He utters, in two fearful parables, a final sentence of direct reprobation. All this we have set before us from Ezekiel. The Lessons from Daniel' serve to show that the chosen people were not yet abandoned; they keep alive hope, and exemplify faith, triumphing in the worst of times; which is also the drift of the prophecy selected from Joel. Then Micah is introduced, like Samuel and Ezekiel, recapitulating the whole course of the probation of the elect"; and Habakkuk', extending the judgment to their oppressors, and reasserting the condition required on their part to make their election not a curse but a blessing. "The just by his faith shall live." Finally, the readings from the Proverbs of Solomon bring the warning home, so to speak to every man's own door. Taken in connexion with all that had gone before, they turn God's miraculous proceeding with the Jews into an available sanction of righteousness, for the meanest man's use on the slightest occasion.

And now, the year drawing to a close, and the mysterious time of Christmas approaching, our Mother, with true parental anxiety, takes up, as it were, the thread of her instructions anew, at that point of the fortunes of Israel, to which the circumstances of civi lized and Christian Europe, especially those of our own country, during the comparatively few years which have passed since the arrangement of the Prayer-Book, may reasonably be thought to correspond most nearly, the Church reverts to the time of Hezekiah, and selects the prophecy of Isaiah as the fittest to prepare the minds for CHRIST's two Advents. By the confession of some who are most apt to find fault, her selection here has been most appropriate. Witness the sins reproved in the Jews; their formality, pride", oppression, drunkenness, presumption, sophistical self-deceit "; their impatience of primitive truth, and reliance upon mere worldly expedients". Witness again the wonderful mixture of triumph and desolation, judgments and mercies, fore

3 Ezek. xx.

7 Habak. ii. 10 Isaiah ii.

' Ezek. xiv.
2 Ezek. xviii.
Dan. iii. vi. Joel ii.

xi.-xvii. xix.

6 Micah vi. 9 Isaiah i.

12 Isai. XXX.

4 Ezek. xxiv. • Prov. i. iii. 11 Isaiah v.

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