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“ beseech” our “ merciful Lord to shed His bright “ beams of light upon His church.” We know (if indeed we have any spiritual knowledge) that His “ bright beams of light” are indispensably necessary to the instruction, the consolation, and the holy activity of His church, and of every individual member of it.
Concerning the Gentiles, before the sun of righteousness arose upon them, the Apostle St. Paul testifies, that they “walked in the vanity of “ their minds, being alienated from the life of God
through the ignorance that was in them, because “ of the blindness of their heart.” And though the visible church of God is differently situated from the gentile world with respect to the means of information; yet it is evident that the external means of instruction which it possesses must be unavailing, without internal light shed on the understanding by the influence of Divine grace. Christ alone, by the power of His Spirit, can reveal to the souls of men “the things that belong “unto their peace.” He who “opened the heart “ of Lydia," so that she attended to the things “ which were spoken by Paul,” can alone “open
our understandings to understand the Scripas tures.” The light shines in vain to a blind man. With all the boasted powers of reason, and the wonderful energies of the human understanding, we cannot know “the things of the Spirit of God, but so far as He removes the vail of ignorance and unbelief from our hearts. And therefore it is promised that all the people of God shall be “ taught of God.”
Let us inquire whether, professing ourselves to be members of the church of England, and joining in the petition of our collect, we are indeed anxious to enjoy in ourselves, and that
the whole church should enjoy, "the bright "beams of light" which the Sun of righteousness diffuses. Do we indeed renounce our own understanding, and perceive its insufficiency in explaining the mysteries of the kingdom of God? Do our private supplications testify that we are conscious of our own ignorance? Do we pray over the Bible as well as read it?
The material Sun is the cause of all comfort in the material world. By his rays all our corporeal energies and refreshments are produced. Thereby our blood is kept in a state of circulation, respiration is maintained in our lungs, and our nerves perform their office in sensation. * Thereby all our food is produced, prepared for our use, and concocted in the stomach so as to nourish us. There is nothing which contributes to the existence or well-being of animal life, which does not depend on this powerful agent. In like manner all spiritual consolation arises from, and is dependent on, "the bright beams" of "the Sun of righteousness." "In Him we
live, and move, and have our being." His bright beams" " give unto them that mourn "in Zion beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." When our portion of the earth enjoys a more copious communication of the sun-beams, new chearfulness is universally diffused, and new beauty clothes the face of nature. And when the soul is brought nigh to Christ, and the cold, dark, barren, and tempestuous season of "winter is past," and "the rain" of sorrow "is over and gone;" then "the flowers," the blossoms of holiness, begin
* See Jones's Trinitarian Analogy, § 1 and 2.
to "appear:" "the time of the singing of birds," a season of love and joy," is come," in which "the voice of the turtle is heard." "The fig"tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines "with the tender grape give a good smell❞— "The fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus "Christ to the glory and praise of God," are produced. Winter, it is well known, is brought on chiefly by a change of the relative position of the earth and the sun. It is not that the sun is really weaker in itself, but, from this change of position, its rays falling obliquely upon the globe are weakened in their effect; the earth gets gradually cooler, and the long nights and short days greatly contribute as well to the coldness as to the gloominess of winter. So it is in the other case. The Sun of righteousness is eternally the same. His glory and His strength admit of no diminution. But the fall has so placed us, that, in our natural state, we receive not the direct beams of His grace, but only, if I may so speak, the oblique blessings of His providence. When "the Sun of " righteousness arises with healing in his beams,” then the spiritual spring commences, and the new creation smiles. These changes, however, both in nature and in grace, are gradual. We are not instantaneously plunged into the cold and darkness of winter, neither are we all at once warmed and dazzled with the strength of a midsummer sun. It is a mercy that we are not, and strongly marks the wisdom and the goodness of Divine Providence. But as the days are lengthened, and our part of the globe falls more directly under the solar rays, the earth gets warmer, the sap is drawn upward in the plants and trees, and the earth assumes the
gay and splendid livery of spring. “Thus « dual also are the effects of the beams of our
spiritual sun, both on the church at large, “ and on its individual members." *
Having implored in general terms the illumination of the church, we proceed to a particular act of supplication with a reference to the
a ministry of St. John, for whose labours of love we this day adore the Divine goodness. We pray, “ that the church, being enlightened by is the doctrine of the blessed apostle and evan“ gelist St. John, may so walk in the light of “ God's truth, that it may at length attain to “ the light of everlasting life, through Jesus “ Christ our Lord. Amen."
In the book of the Revelation the ministers of the gospel are compared to stars in the planetary system, which, revolving in their several appointed orbits round the sun, receive from it all the light which they shed on other bodies. These are of different magnitudes, and occupy different places in the heaven, or etherial expanse, which is a well known emblem of the church. Among the stars which have studded and beautified the firmament of the Christian church, the apostles and evangelists have been of the first magnitude, and among these St. John was not the least. Placed near the sun he derived peculiar splendour from that approximation, which he diffused not only on that part of the celestial vault occupied by his own peculiar orbit, but also on the most distant objects. His personal ministry was eminently useful, but his writings will enlighten the church of God to the end of time. Even we who were “afar off,”
# Williams on the Song of Songs, p. 220, 221.
both with respect to time and place, from the scene of his personal labours, have been enlightened by his doctrine.
Our Apostle and Evangelist was a native of Bethsaida, the son of Zebedee, and brother of James. The two brothers were fishermen by trade, till Christ called them to become fishers of men.
James and John were called to the apostolic office, when they were with Zebedee their father employed in mending their nets, and were “ surnamed Boanerges, that is, the
sons of thunder.” Our apostle St. John was peculiarly honoured by his Divine Master, during His abode on earth, both before and after His crucifixion, and also after His ascension into heaven. For St. John was one of the favoured three, whom our Lord took with Him to the mount to be the witnesses of His glorious transfiguration. He was one of the two whom Christ sent to prepare the last passover. He leaned on Jesus's breast at supper, and to him the traitor was pointed out by a private token. He was one of those who were selected to be with his Lord, during His tremendous agony in Gethsemane, and though, through human frailty, he fled with the rest of the disciples, when his dear Master was apprehended, * yet he speedily returned and “ followed Him into the high
priest's palace to see the end." John is moreover thought to have been the disciple who, being known unto the high priest, went in with Jesus, and afterwards brought in Peter also.
* The ancients conceive John to have been that young man who followed after Christ having a linen cloth cast about his naked body, which, when the officers laid hold on him, he left in their hands, and fled naked from them.Cave's Life of St. John,