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ON THE PURIFICATION,
ŁUKE, 11. 22.
And when the days of her purification according to
the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord.
Among the many advantages we enjoy in these seats of learning and religion, it may surely be deemed one, that an honourable respect is paid to those sacred festivals which the church of England, in her wisdom, has thought proper to retain. These are few, and they are important; so few, that the necessary prosecution of secular business is not too much broken in upon; so important, that nothing seems to have been appointed in vain. They com. pose a celestial circle, of which Christ is the centre: his first and faithful friends forin the circumference, reflecting back on him the glory received from him. They visit us in their annual course with messages from above, each teaching us something to believe, and, in consequence, something to do. They bring repeatedly to our remembrance, truths which we are apt to forget : they secure to us little intervals of rest froin worldly cares, that our hearts with our
be lifted up to God in the heavens: they revive our zeal and fervour in performing the offices of religion: they cheer the heart with sentiments of gratitude and thankfulness: they confirm us in habits of obedience to the institutions of the church and the injunctions of our superiors : they stir us up to att imitation of those who have gone before us in the way of holiness: they minister an occasion to our children, of inquiring into the meaning of their institution; and afford us an opportunity of explaining the several doctrines and duties of Christianity to which they refer: in short, to use the words of the excellent Hooker, " they are the splendour and out“ ward dignity of our religion, forcible witnesses of " ancient truth, provocations to the exercises of all
piety, shadows of our endless felicity in heaven, “ on earth everlasting records and memorials; where“in they who cannot be drawn to hearken unto that ” we teach, may, only by looking upon that we do, ” in a manner read whatever we believe. Well to “ celebrate these religious and sacred days, is to spend the flower of our time happilya."
Let us, therefore, arrest the festival of the day, and detain it while we learn from it those useful lessons it is prepared to teach, concerning the purification of the blessed Virgin; the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple; the sacrifice offered upon the occasion; and the behaviour of Simeon and Anna.
If we look into the law of Moses, we find it ordained, that the woman who had born a male child,
Ecclesiastical Polity, v. 71.
for forty days thence ensuing (a period, for wbatever reason, often fixed on in cases of humiliation), was to be accounted impure, to touch no hallowed thing, nor to approach the sanctuary. At the expiration of that term, she was to repair, for the first time, to the temple, and there to have an atonement made for her by the priest.
With respect to the whole class of those incidents and maladies to which the body is subject, thus regarded in the eye of the divine law as unclean; from the nature of the ordinance itself, as well as from numberless passages in the writings of the prophets, and more especially in the New Testament, it should seem evident, that something farther was intended than may at first sight appear.
“ The law stood,” among other things, " in divers outward wasbings “ and cleansings.” But may it not be bere asked, as in another instance, “Doth God take care for these? Or saith he it not for our sake?” Hath he' not enjoined such external rites, for the sake of conveying by them to future ages and generations, no less than to those then present, some truths of universal use and importance ?
Of one thing we are all well assured. That alone which renders 'man and the creation otherwise than acceptable in the sight of their Maker, is sin. That alone which can reinstate them in his favour, is the redemption by Christ. By means of the former we are affirmed to have become “corrupted, polluted, “ defiled, unclean;" by the instrumentality of the latter we are said to be "purged, purified, washed, “cleansed”-terms all borrowed from the legal cere.
monies, at once explaining them, and being explained by them.
Could the shadow of a doubt remain upon this head, it inust be dispersed by that full, direct, express declaration, which the apostle has made, in the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews; persons, who, if their education had been what it ought to have been, would have known these things, and not needed that any man should teach them.
“ The first tabernacle was a figure for the time “then present, in which were offered both gifts and " sacrifices, that could not make him that did the “s service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; “ which stood only in meats, and drinks, and divers. “ washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them “ till the time of reformation. But Christ being come,
an high priest of good things to come, by a greater “ and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, “ that is to say, not of this building; neither by the “ blood of goats and calves, bụt by his own blood, “ he entered in once into the holy place, having ob“ tained eternal redemption for us.
For if the blood “ of bulls, and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer “ sprinkling the unelean, sanctifieth to the purifying “ of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of “ Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered " bimself without spot to God, purge your conscience “ from dead works to serve the living God? Almost “ all things are by the law purged with blood, and " without shedding of blood there is no remission. “It was, therefore, 'necessary that the patterns of " things in the heavens should be purified with these;
“ but the heavenly things themselves with better sa"crifices than these. For Christ is not entered into w the holy places made with hands, which are the
figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
” It seems impossible, that, by any paraphrase or commentary, these words can be rendered plainer than they are in themselves.
To apply, therefore, this general reasoning of the apostle to the ceremony of the day, the purification of women after childbirth under the law; if it be asked, what such ceremony was intended to import? can a better answer be given to the question, than that which is given by the standard writer on the festivals of our church?
“ It imports, that, since Adam's fall, we are con" ceived in sin; that our birth is impure; that we “ derive from our parents an hereditary stain, where
by we are naturally unclean, and children of wrath; “and to show the contagion thereof, not only the “ child was circumcised, but the mother also was “cleansed by a sacrifice for sin.”
But here the difficulty may be thought rather increased than diminished; since nothing of this kind could hold good respecting the blessed Virgin, and
that holy thing which was born of her," and justly called " The Son of God.” The morning of his birth was indeed “a morning without clouds.” No spot then şullied the face of heaven. Why, therefore, must such a mother, and such a Son, pay obedience to the law? The Son paid obedience, as when he submitted to be circumcised, and to be baptized å