7 DECEMBER 08
Morning Prayer: Psalm 119:1-16; Isaiah 55; II Timothy 3
Mass: Romans 15:4-13; St. Luke 21:25-33
Evening Prayer: Psalm 67, 111; Isaiah 11:1-10; St. John 5:30-40
FROM the duty of preparation we pass to the means of preparation provided for us by God; and the first of these to be considered is the Bible. We are to think of the Bible as a means rather than an end. The perfection of the Bible lies in its adaptation to human needs. The inspiration of the Bible is to be sought in its power to inspire human hearts, and is not of the letter, but of the spirit. The proof of inspiration given in 2 Tim. iii. 16 is that Holy Scripture is “profitable for instruction in righteousness,” just as the excellence of a teacher does not consist in omniscience but in his power to teach, and the excellence of a physician in his power to cure. The Bible is a practical book written with a practical object, “for our learning,” and if it fulfils this object, and when rightly used “makes us wise unto salvation,” it is the book we need, and it is futile to object that “it is not of such a sort and so promulged as weak men are apt to fancy should have been the case with a book containing a Divine Revelation.” (Butler.)
ROMANS xv. 4. A BOOK OF HOPE.
This is concerned with the Old Testament only, as containing the “things which were written aforetime.” We are to regard the Old Testament as :—
A. A Book of Hope.
Its very object was to kindle hope, and keep it alive. Its cove-nants’ all pointed to a better covenant; its sacrifices, so inadequate in themselves, all pointed to a more availing sacrifice that could take away sin; its prophecies, to a better dispensation surely coming in the dim future. To Christians this record has an abiding value, as the history of men who “trusted in God and were not confounded.” These Old Testament Scriptures were “written for our learning,” and still have a lesson for us.
S. Paul adds that we who have received good hope in Christ must be patient towards others.
B. A Book of Hope for the Jews.
Christ came to fulfil all the hopes of the Jews, and “to confirm the promises made unto the fathers,” and to set His seal on all the promises of the Old Testament. He came as “A Minister of the Circumcision,” i.e., with a special mission to the Jews. Their nation was big with Messianic hope. Christ came to show that this hope was not mistaken, and, as Prophet, Priest, and King, He fulfilled all that God had promised.
C. A Book of Hope for the Gentiles.
Many promises of God to the Gentiles were scattered through the Old Testament. Christ came to fulfil these, and “open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.” Nothing is more remark. able than the presence of these passages so apparently alien to Jewish exclusiveness, yet so necessary to prepare the way for a wider dispensation under the spreading tree that was to spring from the root of Jesse.
D. A Book of Hope for Us.
The Old Testament has still a message, and a message of hope. In our own trials and difficulties we may turn to the example of those who in darker days still kept faithful to the God of Hope, and were not confounded, and may draw lessons of patience and comfort. We have in this passage a most happy Pilgrim’s Progress— first “patience,” then “comfort,” then “hope,” and lastly, something higher still, “joy and peace in believing.”
S. LUKE xxi. 25. A MESSAGE OF HOPE.
This contains the New Testament message of Hope, and our great duty of preparation for the final Advent.
A. The World in Despair.
Without Christ the course of this world will be without hope. All will be distress, perplexity, fear, and foreboding, and those who have not learned to love Christ will ever dread His appearing.
B. The Christian Hope.
That which will make others fear will inspire the Christian with eager hope. He will look up and lift up his head as he sees redemption drawing nigh. He will look upon the coming storms as the equinoctial gales that usher in the spring and summertide of God’s Kingdom, and the perfect sunshine of Christ’s presence.
C. The Certainty of the Christian Hope.
It is sure as the sure word of Christ. All else shall pass away, but Christ’s words never, and each generation shall find them true. Science can only tell us that heaven and earth shall pass away, and that the powers of heaven shall be shaken. The Bible is a book of calm confidence. It sees the worst and yet hopes for the best, looking onward to the Kingdom that cannot be shaken, and full of faith in Him Who is “the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Hence, from cover to cover, the Bible is a Book of Hope, and the Book of the God of Hope.
A prayer for the right use of Holy Scripture, especially as a preparation for the Second Advent.
A. The Nature of the Bible.
It is both human and Divine, human because “written by holy men of old,” Divine because they wrote as “moved by the Holy Ghost.” Our Church recognises both elements in the phrase, “‘Who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written.”
The Bible is our lesson-book as “written for our learning.” It is not out of date, for every age may say it was written for our learning. If merely human it would lack authority to teach; if merely Divine we could not attain to its lessons.
B. The Right Use of the Bible.
This is to be a matter for prayer, for He by Whom it was caused to be written can alone cause it to be read with profit. It is not merely to be heard when read by others, but to be read by ourselves, and read with attention—not merely read, but studied andassimilated.
C. The Blessings of such Spiritual Study.
These are threefold—Patience which can endure trials, Comfort that can be happy beneath the rod, Hope that all trial will one day be at an end. Such spiritual study is to be a great means of preparation for the Second Advent as giving hope of everlasting life, to be welcomed with eagerness and retained with perseverance.
***PREPARATION BY THE WORD, by the Rev. Prebendary Melville Scott, D.D., from The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, A Devotional Exposition of the Continuous Teaching of the Church Throughout the Year, S.P.C.K., London, 1902***
THE COLLECT FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENTBlessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
THE COLLECT FOR ADVENTAlmighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.
SAINT FOR TODAY
St. Ambrose, Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor (340-397)
Ambrose was governor of Northern Italy, with capital at Milan. When the see of Milan fell vacant, it seemed likely that rioting would result, since the city was evenly divided between Arians and Athanasians. (Explanatory Note: Athanasians affirm that the Logos or Word (John 1:1) is fully God in the same sense that the Father is, while Arians affirm that the Logos is a creature, the first being created by the Father. East Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Prebyterians, Reformed, Baptists, Methodists, etc. are Athanasians. The Watchtower Society (J_____h's Witnesses), the Philippine group called the Iglesia ni Christi (spelling?), and some other groups are Arians. The Unitarians started out as Arians, and some of them still hold this position.) Ambrose went to the meeting where the election was to take place, and appealed to the crowd for order and good will on both sides. He ended up being elected bishop with the support of both sides.
He gave away his wealth, and lived in simplicity. By his preaching, he converted the diocese to the Athanasian position, except for the Goths and some members of the Imperial Household. (Note: The Arian emperor Constantius (son of Constantine the Great) had sent missionaries (Arians, of course) to convert the Gothic tribes. The Goths were the chief source of mercenary troops for the Empire. Thus for many years the Army was Arian although a majority of civilians were Athanasian.) On one occasion, the Empress ordered him to turn over a church to the Arians so that her Gothic soldiers could worship in it. Ambrose refused, and he and his people occupied the church. Ambrose composed Latin hymns in the rhythm of "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow," and taught them to the people, who sang them in the church as the soldiers surrounded it. The Goths were unwilling to attack a hymn-singing congregation, and Ambrose won that dispute.
He subsequently won another dispute, when the Emperor, enraged by a crowd who defied him, ordered them all killed by his soldiers. When he next appeared at church, Ambrose met him at the door and said, "You may not come in. There is blood on your hands." The emperor finally agreed to do public penance and to promise that thereafter he would never carry out a sentence of death without a forty-day delay after pronouncing it. Less creditable, to modern Christians, is Ambrose's dispute with the emperor when certain Christians burned a Jewish synagogue, and the emperor commanded them to make restitution. Ambrose maintained that no Christian could be compelled to provide money for the building of a non-Christian house of worship, no matter what the circumstances.
Ambrose was largely responsible for the conversion of St. Augustine. The hymn Te Deum Laudamus ("We praise Thee, O God") was long thought to have been composed by Ambrose in thanksgiving for that conversion. The current opinion is that Ambrose did not write it, but that he may well have written the Creed known as the Athanasian Creed. He is perhaps the first writer of Christian hymns with rhyme and (accentual) meter, and northern Italy still uses his style of plainchant, known as Ambrosian chant, rather than the more widespread Gregorian chant. On the negative side, many Christians will regret his contribution to increased preoccupation with the relics of martyrs. He died 4 April 397, but (because this date so often falls in Holy Week or Easter Week) he is commonly remembered on the anniversary of his consecration as bishop, 7 December.
Ambrose is regarded as one of the Eight Great Doctors (=Teachers) of the Undivided Church. The list includes four Latin (Western) Doctors (Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Pope Gregory the Great), and four Greek (Eastern) Doctors (Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus -- not to be confused with Gregory of Nyssa, the brother of Basil).
***written by James Kiefer, www.missionstclare.com***
THE COLLECT FOR ST. AMBROSE
O God, by whose providence Saint Ambrose was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation : grant, we beseech thee; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate in heaven. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.