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STILL the wintry blast roars in the leafless forest, and piles the driven snow along the mountain's brow. The vegetable world is dead; and crusted is the ground with chilling frost. No song, sters now enliven the grove; but all is mute, save when the rising winds proclaim the power of all-subduing winter. The feathered tribes now droop beneath the shelving rock; or now and then attempt a feeble Alight, to pick their scanty fare, where withered weeds scatter around their fallen branches, and sow their seeds for the coming year. But few, and those of hardy race, venture the inclement storm, and cut their way through falling sleet, and the chilled atmos. phere. Now flocks and herds tamed and made social by the piercing cold, croud around the well stored barn, eye the lowering heavens, snuff the coming storm, and with eloquent low, ask their apportioned boon; while the generous steed, housed from the keener air, neighs at his master's well known step, and gratefully receives his bounty. No living creature now but shivers, droops, and dreads the long protracted night, which cuts short the day, and hides the sun's warming beams.
Amid this scene, this dreary waste of winter, what, О man, should be thy contemplations ? How should thy mind be occupied ? He who commands the seasons to roll, is the author of thy life. He set this world in order for thy habitation; and none of its changes come round, but they come fraught with instruction for thee, if thou wilt make use of that wisdom which is thy portion. Open then the eyes of thy understanding, and behold in this season an emblem of man, when arrived to old age. The blood which danced with pleasure in the spring time of life, beat high and fervid in the summer of youth, and in the autumn of maturity moved strong, though tema perate, urged on by great designs; now cold and sluggish, scarce crawls along the veins. The shivering and benumbed limbs but feebly perform their office. All the nobler affections of the heart are grown listless, languid. Society cannot charm, friendship cannot warm the decaying spirits ; nor aught rouse up the once alert and active passions. Cold winter has come, and frozen almost to the bottom, the stream of life : slowly it trickles along, scarce percei.
ved, and soon shall cease. But the passing season invites the thoughtful to look further than this, and behold an emblem of death. However vigorous and active may now be the youthful frame, after a few more returning winters, it shall be, as now are the frozen clods of the valley, bereft of life and motion, nor feeling aught of any passion; there to sleep during the long winter of the grave; until spring return, re-open the bud of life, and expand its leaves anew ; as shall be the case with the vegetable world, which now lies cold and dead, shrouded in a frosty grave. Art thou then, O man, whosoever thou art, prepared for this long and dismal winter, that is so soon coming ? Hast thou laid in a store of such provisions as thou mayest need ? Hast thou secured a right to draw upon that rich treasury, which God has laid up in his Son; and to be dispensed in just proportion to all such as love and fear him, and have wrought faithfully in his vineyard, while the season of labour lasted? If thou hast had the wisdom to make this preparation in good time, it shall assuredly last until the spring of immortality returns; a spring that will be perpetual ; ever smiling and delightful, in which the tempest of evil'shall be no more, the pinching frost of sorrow and mourning shall not appear; but there shall be one eternal sunshine, from the countenance of the Almighty.
When the labour and business of the short-lived day is over, seated by the cheerful fire-side, think of the comfort's you enjoy from civilization and arts, and thank the Author of your being, that he has cast your lot amid so many blessings. Housed within the wellceiled room, with a bed of down for your repose, encompassed with a manifold covering, shorn from the harmless flock, you hear the tempest roar; it beats in vain against your dwelling; you regard not its rage. The all-piercing frost cannot approach you. You sleep away the long and dreary night undistarbed. In the morning you renew the blazing hearth; around you throng your prattling offspring, and greet you with smiles. After adoring his goodness who hath preserved you during the midnight hour, a comfortable repast sends you again to your labour and your business. If a view of these blessings is not sufficient to excite in your emotions of gratitude and praise, cast your contemplations into the wilderness, and contrast your situation with that of the savage : But half inclosed by his ill constructed hut: On the cold ground he lies; the pitiless storm beating upon his naked head ; and his limbs but ill clad in the spoils of some recent slaughtered beast. Cold and comfortless his fare ; uncheery and unsocial his hours. Few indeed his wants, but as few his pleasures. He drags on a life that is little more than one continued blank. For this wide difference, for those pre-eminent advantages which civilized man enjoys above the savage; advantages introduced by inventive genius, aided by inspiration, unbounded thanks are due: and how doubly due at this inclement season, when so many benefits are resulting from them; when every moment they are administering comfort, and swelling the pleasures of life. Not to be thankful, would indicate more insensibility than hardens the heart of a savage. Not to be sensible of the favours conferred thus on polished society, would argue more stupidity than one would willingly own. And not to wish that the blessing might be extend. ed wherever man is found, would argue a selfish ingratitude, too base to be found dwelling in the bosoms of those professing to be Christians.
Are you in affluent circumstances, enjoying all the comforts and conveniences of a well constructed dwelling, and a plentiful table? Are your granaries and cellars stored with all the necessaries of life? and your cup and your basket running over with elegancies from foreign climes, poured into them in exchange for your full coffers? Have you your warm apartments, and downy beds for repose, in which you are lulled to sleep by the roaring tempest, but feel none of its power? Then recollect that even in civilized life, among your neighbours, there are those who are shivering before a small pittance of fire, while the cold blast pierces the humble cottage at numerous chinks, and their little ones hovering round in tattered garments, scarce knowing what it is to have enjoyed a full meal. At the recollection of this, doth not charity glow in your bosom? Doth she not admonish you to put forth a helping hand ? She bids you find einployment for such as are able and willing to be employed; and to those who are unable, she bids you give a portion of such as you have: to comfort them with fuel from your forests, if you have them; or with food from your stores; and above all, with advice and direction, how in future they may ward off want and necessity. Thus will you draw down upon you the blessing of him who had no helper. They who meet you in the gate, will do you reverence; and you will treasure up a store against time of need, infinitely preferable to that which is dispensed.
There remains yet one duty more peculiar to the season, on which it is useful to descant. « The merciful- man is merciful to his beast.” Expose not then, the animals subject to your authority to needless inconveniences, but house and feed them to the utmost of your power. The docile horse, who carries you with so much speed from place to place; who with so much alacrity obeys your commands, deserves this care. The patient ox, who transports fuel to your door, for your present comfort. The cow, who affords you so much nourishment; and the tender flocks who lend you their coats to defend your limbs from the present cold, have a claim, in return, upon your tenderness. Mark how they shiver and tremble, when excluded from the warm shelter; how piteously they moan, and ask for their portion of meat in its season; and with how much gratitude they receive it at your hands. Exercise tenderness and humanity towards them, and it will habituate you to the duty towards men. It will invigorate the kindly emotions, which know not how to endure the sight of pain and misery, without endeavouring to afford relief; and which of course will not inflict them without manifest reason and necessity.
In the study and practice of these duties, spend thy nights and days. While the hoar frost is scattered abroad like es; while the snow descends like wool, to cover the face of the earth; or the hail rattles against thy dwelling; with reverential awe remember whose hand rules the raging elements, whose Almighty Power restrains their fury, that they rend not thy habitation, to crush thee in its ruins, or turn thee out naked and defenceless to the cold. To that Being who brings about the seasons, let gratitude swell thy heart, and praise dwell on thy tongue, for his daily mercies. Wait thus the return of spring; when the snows shall dissolve, the streams shall be unbound from their icy fetters, and the now crusted soil shall again yield to the cultivator's hand, and be prepared to pour forth its treasures for thy sustenance and comfort, when winter again shall return.
ON THE USE OF SPONSORS IN BAPTISM.
[Concluded from p. 26.) THE form of contract, as it is in the office of our Church, is to be found in the Liturgies of all the ancient Churches of Christ throughout the world, almost in the very same words. An agreement and harmony so particular and general, must have for its foundation some common origin; and there are only two from whence it could be derived ; either from apostolical institution, or decrees of general councils ; each of which is an authority that gives a binding force to any rite or institution in the Church. The judgment and practice of the Church in the time of St. Augustin, about 300 years after the death of St. John, is thus given us by that Father. . “Those unwritten traditions which we observe, which also are observed throughout the world, ought to be understood and retained, as commended and appointed either by the Apostles themselves, or by full general councils whose authority is ofthe highest use in the Church.**
Another general maxim, given by the same writer is - That which the universal Church holds, and was not instituted by general councils, but always continued in use, is most rightly believed to be delivered by the Apostles' authority. A strict adherence to this rule, is a sure guide to unity in faith and communion. · Hence, as Bishop Beveredge informs us, whenever there arose any controversy about an ecclesiastical rite or ceremony adopted by any particular Church, it was the custom always to enquire, what had been the constant and universal practice of the Church in that instance, and from thence to draw up a judgment. Of such procedure, examples are every where to be met with. St. Paul himself stands at the head. As a final resolution of a question, which had divided the Church of Corinth, he tells them, “But if any man seems to be contentious, or still dissatisfied, this must quiet him and put an end to all debate ; “ we have no such custom, nor the Church of God." This agreement, in every thing to which it clearly applies, will appear decisive to every one who will understand it, and withal believes the Apostle spoke by inspiration ; for then it will follow, that God himself dictated it to him.
By this test, our reformers were able to discover the innovations, and all the declensions of the Church of Rome, from the primitive and apostolic Church. By this measure, as an authentic comment
apon the holy scriptures, they detected the corruptions in faith and worship; the misrepresentations and abuse of the authorities pretended for their foundation, and the fallacy of the reasonings alledgedin their vindication. While we attend with care, and confess as we ought, the wisdom and piety of this procedure, it teaches us a very interesting and weighty lesson.
On the one side, the danger, and in fact, the great errors into which men run when they leave the scriptures, and interpret the authority and acts of the Church, by their own private conceptions, interested and party opinions ; and on the other, the no less hazard of plunging into perhaps equally as wild errors when they leave the Church, and in the same way, interpret the scriptures. The former has been the conduct of the Church of Rome, and the cause of their many and great errors; the latter is done by sectarists, and enthusiasts of all classes, by whom the scriptures have been made to speak whateyer their wrangling or sullen tempers, and heated fancies happened to dictate.
Believing as we do, one holy Catholic Church, and the communion of saints, which must be an external visible communion in that one visible Church, or there can be no certain faith about it; the true and safe way is to adhere stedfastly to what hath been handed down through the medium of this Church, and hath been universally approved of by it, as agreeable to the word and will of God; and made our duty by the authority he hath given to it.
The ground of our faith and worship, as disciples of Christ, and members of his holy Church, which have now been laid down, is a test, on which we may rely for the trial of all our rites and usages in the sacred offices of religion. The scriptures are the rule of faith, but not the only rule in things pertaining to religion ; we have seen there is an ecclesiastical rule, founded on the authority and unity of the Church. Directing our researches by these, and keeping them together, we may determine more correctly the case of sponsors. They who have departed from what, as we have ample proof, was the universal practice in the Church, before the reformation, reproach the Church of God, and justify themselves by saying, that sponsors are contrary to scripture ; for the truth of which, they give this negative proof, that they are not commanded or mentioned. Let this be the criterion, that nothing is to be allowed but what is commanded, and the objectors themselves would feel the consequence. If every injunction of the Church, or religious action is contrary to scripture, which has not an express command, the blessed virgin transgressed in going up to Jerusalem at the festival ; because the males only were commanded; and all women do the same, who partake of the holy communion, because no mention is made of them. In a word, the Lord's day, and all holy days, and the whole of our worsläp would be criminated by this kind of reasoning. Would it not be absurd to conclude, that in the days of the Apostles, women were not admitted to receive the Lord's supper, merely from the circomstance of their doing it not being expressed? And, although we read not in the writings of the Apostles, that they ore dered sponsors at the baptism of infants ; does it afford any argument