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By John William Burgeon
Romans xv. 4. [ Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our admonition. As often as Septuagesima Sunday comes round, we are struck by the solemn reading of the first two Chapters of the Book of Genesis. ext Sunday, the third and the sixth Chapters of the same Book will be read. It is evidently the Church's purpose to make a fresh beginning as on this day. Ought we not, at such a time, to seek to acquire a definite notion, both of what the Church does, and why she does it ? I am much mistaken if a slight inquiry into this matter will not impress us strongly with the wisdom as well as the beauty of the Church's method. Easter Day, as every Christian knows, is the very crown and glory of the Christian Year. And why ? Because we then commemorate our deliverance from Sin and Death, liw'm^ ^^^\
THE SU DAY CALLED SEPTUAGESIMA. the Forty days of Lent in remembrance of our Load's forty days of Fasting and Temptation, — and having, at the close of that solemn but most sacred and precious season, kept the anniversary of His final conflict with Satan, when, upon the Cross, He was more than Conqueror ; — we celebrate at Easter our Lord's Triumphant Resurrection from the Grave. That event is, in a man-
ner, the central point of our Religion. Of course, it could not so much as have been at all, without that earlier event which we call to mind on Christmas Day: and of course it would have availed us nothing without the subsequent Ascension of Cheist into Heaven, and sending of the HoLr Ghost. But for all that, the most glorious of our yearly Festivals is Easter. On that day, we celebrate Christ's victory over the Grave, — ^which is the pledge and earnest of ours. By dying. He overcame Death. His Resurrection is therefore the undoing of the ancient curse. It is the recovery to us of Lost Paradise. It is Man's restoration from the consequences of his Fall. The obedience of the Second Man, the Second Adam, hath repaired the injury brought to our race by the disobedience of our first Father Adam, and reversed the sentence of Death which was then passed' upon us, his Children.
FBOPE& LESSO S FROM SEFTUAGESIMA TO EASTER. ow, to prepare us for the intelligent contem-' plation of the recovery of Man's ature in the Person of Christ, it is needful that we should be first presented with the picture of Man's Fall in the person of Adam. Hence therefore the chapter of Genesis which will be read next Sunday, and which will be followed up presently by the history of the gradual corruption of the whole human family. — More yet. At Easter, we celebrate the beginning of a ew Creation. We witness " new Heavens and a new Earth." In the Second Adam, the great Human family is re-created, and begins afresh. To be in Curist, is to be " a new Creature." " Old things have passed away : behold, all things are become new." It is not enough therefore that we should begin
with the History of the Fall. We must begin with the History of Creation, — which has been rehearsed to us this morning. These two great events then are set over against each other, — Creation and Redemption : and they make up together the whole History of Man. Over against our Fall, in the person of Adam, I say, is set our recovery, in the Person of Christ. It is in this way that this Sunday and the next are set over against the Sunday be«» fore Easter and Easter Day. Septuag^«va\^ Sa^
THB SU DAY CALLED SEPTUAGE8IMA* therefore the beginning of a new season, — the grandest season of the year ; and you will readily understand why, at such a time, we should demote a few moments, at the outset, to call attention to the beautiful structure of this part of •our Table of Proper Lessons. For you will perceive, as the Sundays go by, that the chief events in the downward history of our race which followed the Fall of our first Parents, are singled out of Scripture, — selected, •even from that selection, — for our notice. Thus, the wickedness of Man, which brought in the Flood, — is followed, the Sunday after next, by God's Covenant with oah when the Flood was ended, — and the Call of Abraham. Then comes the destruction of the Cities of the plain, — and the Sacrifice of Isaac. Then, the history of Jacob's blessing, and Dinah's fall. Then, the
story of Joseph, beginning with his Temptation in Egypt : by which means it is beautifully <rontrived that Exodus shall be begun when Lent is drawing to its close ; and the history of the Bedemption of God's People out of Egypt shall he read during those very days when the redeemed of God, the Christian Church, the true Israel, are calling to mind their own Redemption ^m a worse bondage than that of Egypt, their
PKOFER LESSO S FROM SEPTUAGESIMA TO EASTER. owD introduction to a better Canaan than that ou the other side of Jordan, — the glorious hope, I mean, of the Gospel, — which is none other thaa a pledge and earnest of that Heavenly "rest which remaineth for the people of God." Because Septuagesima, then, is the first Sunday of the whole Lenten season, — preparing the way for it, as Advent prepares the way for Christmas, and Lent itself for Easter, — on Sep^ tuagesima is sounded the first warning note of all that is to follow. It is not only true that because it begins a fresh season of the Christian Year, we begin on that day to read the Bible afresh ; for then we might as well begin to read it in Advent, or at Easter, or on Trinity Sunday. — It is not only true that because the Sin of Adam led to the Sacrifice of Christ, therefore the history of Man's Sin must now be rehearsed from the beginning: for then it would have sufficed to begin with the history of Man a Fail, and to select for the Lessons instances of human guilt. o I More than that is meant by the Church's method at this time. The Creation of the World, — and the Temptation of Adam and Eve, — ^the Fall and its dreary conse*
quences, — ^are all set over against the Temptation of Chbist and His meritorious Passion, — His
THE SU DAY CALLED SEPTUAGESIMA. Cross and His Resurrection, — His Ascension into Heaven, and His sending of the Holy Ghost. The latter set of events is implied to be the counterpart of the former. On Easter Day, virhen our Saviour Christ rises from the grave, — the ** first begotten of the dead," " the first-born among many Brethren," — behold, there is a new beginning, the Creation of " a new Heaven and a new Earth :" " behold, all things are become new !" . . . And tlmt, — (I repeat it for the last time,) — that is why this morning's first lesson has related how, " in the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth." On what has been spoken, I will venture to make three short remarks. 1. We must needs be very insensible to the highest Beauty and the Divinest Truth, if the contemplation of such a profound method and purpose in our Sunday Lessons, kindles within us no glow of secret, sacred, solemn pleasure : no awe and wonder: no reverent admiration. But our admiration we shall reserve rather for the Book which admits of such a selection and arrangement of subjects, than for the Apostolic wisdom which selected and arranged. This first ; and next^ 2. Surely, the evidences thus brought before. i$0
PROPER LESSO S FROM SEFTUAGESIMA TO EASTER. US of a Divine plan and purpose, — the indications thus supplied of a mighty Providence which has been at work from the beginning, for the recovery of our lost Race, — must fill our hearts to overflowing with corresponding sentiments, now of gratitude — ^now of wonder — now of amazement — now of love. For no other purpose, be assured, is the record given : not in order to inform the understanding, but to move the heart. 3. And lastly, when, Sunday after Sunday, individual cases of Faith and Obedience, or again of sinfulness and self-will come before us, — let us not fail to recognize our individual responsibility]; the importance of our acts as individual men. Adam, — Eve, — oah, — ^Abraham, — Lot, — Isaac, — Jacob, — Esau, — Dinah, — Joseph, — these are but individuals; yet links are they — (even a weak girl like Dinah is a link) — in the chain of GoD*8 Providence: and none may understand the part which is given them to play in the furtherance of God's counsels: and none may know what will be the issues of a single act for good or for evil. In some such spirit, Friends and Brethren, I invite you to attend to the proper Lessons for every Sunday between this and Easter Day.
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