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Holy Ghoft, art most high in the Glory of God the Father. Amen.
Mr. Kettlewell. Thankful
HAT am I, dear Lord, that thou shouldst leave the Right Hand of God, and come Christ's he to vifit me? Hadft thou no Eafe in thy own Breast, ing made fo long as I lay plunged in Mifery? How camest thou, being fo highly exalted, and the Eternal Son of God, to have any affectionate Concern at all for me? Was I not a deformed polluted Wretch, and thy profefied Enemy? and was not either of thefe enough to turn away thy Face from me? But if, notwithstanding all this, thy overflowing Goodness would put thee upon doing fomething for my Sake; why muft thou come thyfelf upon Earth, and be fubject to the Miseries of human Nature, and to the Affronts of an ungrateful World, to bleed and die to redeem me? How unfathomable is thy Grace, and what an unfearchable Depth of Love is this, which thou haft opened to us? O! how happy do I think myself in it, and how doth my Heart rejoice at the Remembrance of it! Lord! I love thee dearly, and long to love thee more: Would I had the Heart of the Seraphim, that I might be all over Love, and feel my Soul affected to that Degree which I defire, and thou infinitely deservest of me: I wish no greater Pleasure than to be found perfect in thy Love, and to have thee fo dear to me, that I may contemn all the gilded Vanities and Allurements of this World at the Thoughts of it. O! that thou wouldst fill me, if that might be, with an Affection full and abfolute, like thy own, that fo I might love thee infinitely, as I am beloved by thee. At least poffefs me with fuch a Sense of thy Love, and fuch a Thankfulness for all thy Favours, as is fomewhat worthy of thee: Though fhould I offer the utmost Acknowledgments, which the most
affected and enlarged Heart can pay, I fhould not give thee the thousandth Part of what I owe thee. Let all the Angels adore thy glorious Goodnefs, and all the Sons of Men, fo long as they have a Tongue to speak, fet forth thy noble Praise; for thou, O fweeteft Jefu, art the Son of the Bleffed, the Joy and Glory of the World, the Lamb of God, the Saviour of Mankind, who waft flain for our Sakes, and art alive again, and fitteft now for ever at the Right Hand of Power, in the Glory of the Father, that Angels may fubmit to thee, and all the World may worship thee, and praise thy Goodnefs, Power, and Glory, to all Eternity. Amen.
Saint Stephen, December 26.
WHAT Festival doth the Church celebrate
A. That of the first Martyr, St. Stephen.
A. The Scripture gives us no particular Notice of either. That he was a Jew is unquestionable; he Acts vii. owns this in his Apology to the People; but whether born at Jerufalem, or among the difperfed in the Gentile Provinces, is impoffible to determine. Antiquity reckoneth him, and that probably enough, among the feventy Difciples; and indeed his admirable Knowledge in the Chriftian Doctrine, and his fingular Ability in proving Jefus to be the Mellias, argue him to have been trained up under our Saviour's immediate Inftitutions for fome confiderable Time.
Q. What Character do the Scriptures give us of St. Stephen?
Acts vi. 5.
A. They describe him as a Man full of Fai.h and the Holy Ghost; which imply, that he had great Zeal and Piety, and that he was endowed with extraordinary Mcafures of that Divine Spirit that was lately fhed upon the Church, and thereby peculiarly qualified for that Place of Honour and Ufefulness he was advanced to.
Q. What Function did St. Stephen exercife in the Church?
A. The Office of a Deacon, which had its Original upon the Murmuring of the Grecians, who were probably Profelytes, Jews by Religion, and Gentiles by Defcent, against the Hebrews, who were Jews both by Religion and Birth; That their Widows were neglected in the daily Miniftration, when Believers had all Things in common, and were fupplied out of one Treafury: To prevent any Mifmanagement for the future, the Apoftles appointed feven Men of boneft Report, full of the Holy Ghost and of Wisdom, to fuperintend the Neceffities of the Poor, to make daily Provifion for their public Feafts, and to keep and diftribute the Treafure of the Church, of which St. Stephen was one; whereby the Apoftles had more Leifure to attend those Affairs that were more immediately ferviceable to the Souls of Men.
Q. Though the Care of the Poor was a main Part of the Deacon's Office, was it the whole?
4. No: For had this been all, the Apoflles needed not to have been fo exact in their Choice of Perfons, nor have ufed fuch folemn Rites of Confecration to ordain them to it. But the ferving Tables implied alfo their Attendance at the Table of the Lord's Supper; for in thofe Days their Agape, or Love-Feafts, where Rich and Poor fat down together, were at the fame Time with the holy Eucharift, and bothadminiftered every Day; fo that their Miniftration refpected the one and the other, and thus
we find it was the Practice in the Primitive Church afterwards; befides they were allowed to preach and Aas viii. baptize, as is plain by Philip the Deacon, who did
Q. How were the firft Deacons ordained to their Office?
A. Seven Men of good Report, full of Wisdom and the Holy Ghost, were by the People prefented to Acts vi. 3. the Apostles; who firft made their Addrefs to Heaven for a Bleffing upon their Undertaking, and then laid their Hands upon them; an ancient Symbolic Rite of Inveftiture and Confecration to any extraordinary Office.
Q. Who were those that oppofed and difputed with St. Stephen?
A. Several of the Members of five Synagogues, of Ver. 9. which there were very many at Jerufalem,eftablished for expounding the Law, and for Prayer. In fome Apartments joining to thefe, were Schools or Colleges for the Inftruction and Education of Youth; which being built by Jews, who were Foreigners, were called after the Name of their Countries. But, notwithstanding their Subtilty and Learning, they were not able to refift the Wisdom and the Spirit by Ver. 10. which be fpake.
Q. Being baffled in this Attempt, what Method did they take to fupprefs the Doctrine be taught?
A. They fuborned Men of profligate Confcien- Ver. 11. ces to undermine him by falfe Accufations; that fo he might fall a Sacrifice to their Spite and Malice, and that by the Hand of public Juftice.
Q. What did thefe falfe Witneffes depofe against
A. That they had heard him Speak blafpemous Ver. 13, Words against Mofes, and against God. That he 4. fhould threaten the Ruin of the Temple, and the Abolition of the Mofaic Rites; and blafphemously
affirm, that Jefus of Nazareth fhould take away that Religion, which had been established by Mofes, and by God himfelf.
Q. What was the Sum of St. Stephen's Defence? A. That if they looked back to their Forefather Abraham, they would find that God chofe him to be a Father of the Faithful, when he lived among Idolatrous Nations; and that he ferved God acceptably without those external Rites they laid fo great Strefs upon. And, when he entered into Covenant with him, he made Use of no Ceremony but that of Circumcifion; and that without any other fixed Rite but this, the fucceeding Patriarchs worfhipped God for feveral Ages, till the Time of Mofes, who was appointed by God to conduct them out of the Houfe of Bondage, who had foretold, that God would raise up to them a Prophet like unto him, and that they should hear him. That when their Fathers lapfed into Idolatry, God commanded MoJes to fet up a Tabernacle, as a Place of public Worfhip; which, after fome Years, gave place to a standing Temple, defigned by David, but built by Solomon; which, though ftately, was not abfolutely neceffary, from the Nature of that infinite Being they worshipped. And that therefore there could not be that Neceffity for thofe Mofaic Rites they pretended; especially fince they were defigned to laft but for a Time; but that it was their refractory Humour, as it had been their Ancestors, to refift the Holy Ghost, and to perfecute and flay those Prophets that foretold the Coming of the Meffias, the Holy One, of whom they had been the Betrayers and Murderers, without any Regard to that Law he came to fuifil.
Q. How did the Judges bear his Defence?
A. They expreffed all Signs of Rage and Fury, their Confciences being ftung with the Truths he delivered, which prevented the Application he de