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WHAT THEY TEACH.
A SERIES OF SERMONS
ON THE DIFFERENT TIMES AND OCCASIONS
OF THE CHRISTIAN YEAR.
EDITED BY THE REV. HENRY NEWLAND,
RECTOR OF WESTBOURNE; VICAR OF ST. MARY CHURCH, DEVON ;
MASTERS AND CO. 78, NEW BOND STREET;
In undertaking a series of Sermons on the Seasons of the Church, I am quite aware that I am entering upon ground which has been in some measure pre-occupied by the two very excellent serials published by Mr. Parker, the Tracts and the Sermons for the Christian Seasons. It is necessary, therefore, in order to justify my undertaking, that I show in what respect my conception of it differs from that of my predecessors.
Perhaps the easiest way of conveying my impression to others, will be to state how the idea occurred first to myself.
On sending in my contribution to the “Sermons for the Christian Seasons," the editor expressed a wish that each sermon should form a subject complete in itself, disconnected with, and independent of any other. I altered my sermons to suit his requirements; but as, at the same time, I could not fail to see that the Church has exhibited in its Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, a serial and systematic arrangement of doctrines, and that this arrangement is precisely the same in all the Western Churches, evincing thereby a distinct and evident design, it seemed that a scheme professing to be “Sermons for the Christian Seasons," which did not work out, and that fully, the connection of those seasons, must needs be imperfect, however excellent its component parts, because the actual teaching of the Church was a connected system of divinity, while this was, in a great measure, unconnected.
From that time I determined that I would work out my own idea; and the more I have considered it, the more convinced have I become, that it is, and always has been, the intention of the Church, in that arrangement of her services which we call the Christian Year, to follow step by step the system of teaching adopted by the Lord Him
His Apostles for their ministry.
We may observe that He first caused the attention of the world to be drawn to the fact of His own Advent, suggestive of the preparation necessary for such an event; that He then selected certain men, whom He tried and disciplined individually, and taught to imitate Him, by living before them upon earth as man ; that when they had been thus tried, and disciplined, and instructed unto the Kingdom of God, the Lord's mission on earth in respect of teaching was complete, His Church had been created and framed, and was now ready to receive the breath of life : that it was then, and not before, that the great atonement was made, which was the condition of this life that immediately afterwards came the resurrection, the first fruits of it--and that after this, the doctrines dependent on the atonement and the resurrection were revealed; so that whereas before this He had instructed His disciples in their duties as men, He now taught His Apostles their office as churchmen, explaining to them all that up to this time had been incomprehensible for want of the revelations of Good Friday and Easter, those revelations which St. Luke terms emphatically, the “things pertaining to the Kingdom of God :" that when they began to understand these things, and not before, He explained to them what He had before announced of the doctrines connected with the Third Person of the Trinity, bidding them, however, tarry at Jerusalem until they were endowed with power from on high; and that it was then, and not till then, that He sent them out into the world on their several missions as perfect Christians, [Téleloc*] fully instructed in their duties (1) as Christian men, (2) as Christian churchmen, and now at last fully enabled to perform them.
We trace here a distinct plan, a complete scheme of teaching, and my belief is, that the Church in hei Christian Year has followed this implicitly; and, that not only the successions of her seasons, but also the several Sundays and Festivals belonging to those seasons are successive developments of this scheme.
I mean, not only that Advent is the season for the * Believers were called Témenoi and Témezépervor the perfect, becaus they were consummate (finished] Christians.-Bingham.
ing Sunday opens a new help to this preparation, in (1) the Scriptures, (2) the Ministers, and (3) the Invisible Presence of the Lord Christ.
I mean, not only that Christmas is our call to follow the Lord on earth, but that its festivals are so arranged as to show us the disposition of the mind and heart, which the preparations of the former season ought to have produced, and which are absolutely necessary for us before we can hope to follow that example; and that these are, (1) Readiness, St. Andrew; (2) Faith, St. Thomas; (3) Courage, St. Stephen ; (4) Love, St. John ; (5) Purity, Holy Innocents; concluding with (6) Obedience, Circumcision.
Epiphany, I imagine to convey far more than the historical fact, that the Gentiles were admitted to the fold of Christ. I take it to signify the Epiphania, or Manifestation of Christ in the character of the Son of Man, dwelt in “without measure” by the Spirit. The manifestations of this being the virtues recorded in the Gospels of the Season, such as obedience to parents, considerateness to friends, beneficence to mankind in general, while glimpses of the indwelling Godhead are also afforded by the circumstances which accompany these manifestations; such as obedience to earthly parents, combined with “My Father's business ;" assistance given to a relation, combined with “woman, what have I to do with thee?" the healing of the sick, with “speak the word only;" the deliverance of His followers from danger, with “what manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Epiphany in relation to us, I imagine to signify the exhibition of the Perfect Christian, in the Person of Him who alone is perfect.
The Season which follows this, I imagine to be intended by the Church as a time of warning, corresponding with the warnings by which the Lord Himself used to check the over-confidence of His followers ; suggesting as it does a comparison of our own actual lives and conduct, with that of the pattern just exhibited, and bringing before us (1) the work given us, (2) the means afforded us, (3) the perfect Pattern of Christian Love which is set before us.