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With the occasional services of our Church, however, though their excellence is equal, the case is not the same. They are not always prized as they ought to be. Either they are too often overlooked altogether, or being applied to only on the particular occasions to which they severally refer, they are then partially or slightly regarded, their excellencies passed over unheeded, and their value consequently not understood. At the same time, they are so thoroughly practical both in the instruction and the comfort they convey; the sentiments which they proclaim find so ready a response from every considerate mind, in weal or in woe: they teach so forcibly the responsibility of the different members of Christian families to God and their fellowcreatures—from the hoary head of age preparing to meet its God, to the youthful heart looking for safe guidance upon entering a world of trial; that it may haply be no useless work to call more general attention to them: not so much as showing the several particulars in which they harmonize with the word of God, as by incidental notices of that harmony: pointing specially their practical bearing, and exhibiting the beautiful manner in which they are adapted to their purpose, of preparing all the families of the earth to become the families of God; directing aright our feelings, and giving the expression of them, when we find ourselves placed in the circumstances, to meet which they are appointed. Indeed upon those special occasions which chequer life, and are more immediately of individual interest, these services come home to us with a truth and force, which, if we give due heed to them, cannot fail to excite at once our veneration and our gratitude. How admirably they temper our joy or sorrow, as the events, which may have led us more immediately to our God, call forth fear or hope, gladness or mourning, they best can tell, who with an earnest desire to do all things as unto God and to his glory, gladly accept aid so ready and so powerful. Moreover, as in the daily service of the Church, so in these her occasional services also, the spirit which pervades them is so heavenly, the language in which they are framed is so scriptural, so beautiful, so clear ; that whilst to the unlearned they supply sound instruction and a ready safeguard against error; to them and to the learned alike they offer rich and unfailing consolation, by guiding them to Him, who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” To the illustrious in their greatness, and to the unknown in their lowliness, they offer what the world can never give. The aid they supply is proffered as to beings, who “ brought nothing into this world, neither may carry anything out;" beings, who are born helpless; and who, in themselves, helpless go out of it. Uninfluenced, therefore, by those merely adventitious circumstances of earthly distinction, which might interpose against truth, the Church boldly appeals at once to the heart; and so truly does she meet every better feeling, every juster fear, every nobler hope, that to the heart, thus freed 'from worldly entanglements, her appeal cannot be in vain.
In the following pages, however, though my hope is, as my endeavour has been, to render the work generally useful, by offering such reflections, as from lack of time and opportunity, may not have presented themselves to the minds of many who yet are ready to receive aid from the Church of which they profess
themselves members, I have addressed myself most frequently to the Mother: especially when the particular service, as that for the Churching of Women," applies at once to herself; or when, as in those for Baptism and Confirmation, they concern more specially the younger Christian. Indeed, the reflections upon all the services, even when the observations may not be addressed directly to the Mother, will be found calculated, I trust, to assist her in opening the subject, and explaining it to her children. The Mother's patient love it is, which frames the first lispings of prayer. To her we owe the unwearied diligence with which, line upon line, precept upon precept, were imprinted on our minds the elements of that faith, which is now our life. As years rolled on, and to childhood succeeded youth, the same vigilant care taught us to confirm our Christian vows: till at length, with a heart full of anxiety for our truest welfare, she led us to the table of the Lord; there to seal our profession by the high and solemn ordinance, which the Saviour himself appointed and sanctified. To her therefore, generally, we look for impressing upon her children the value of the other occasional services provided by the Church, to meet those seasons of alternate joy and sorrow, which mark human life; in the encouraging hope, that when those she loves be called to mourn or to rejoice, they may find joy heightened, and sorrow relieved, and both sanctified, by receiving either as from the Lord, and in each seeking his blessing. True it is, that Both parents are equally responsible to God, that their children be brought up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord,” and so trained for their, final home in heaven; yet from the active habits of life which
usually demand the time and attention of Fathers, the early bringing up of children, both mind and body, must rest with the Mother. Hence, to the Mother chiefly are the following reflections submitted. Nor
we too highly estimate the value of this her early care. Hers is the important task thus to preoccupy the ground—thus at once to sow in the heart good seed, lest tares spring up. And we may be well assured that this is no unimportant consideration ; for however philosophy may determine as to material nature, the workings of our own minds must convince us, that intellectual nature allows no vacuum. The mind must be employed and occupied in some way ; and that way will be evil, if it be not preoccupied with good. The most genial soil, if uncultivated, will bring forth weeds, thorns, and briers. The hard rock is covered with its moss: something must spring from it. Therefore in the mind and heart of her child, the mother, under God's blessing, plants truth, to the exclusion of error. The wisdom of this provident care is self-evident; where faith is fixed, doubt enters not; where the fear of God is strong, the fear of man is powerless; and where the hope of heaven flourishes, despair fades away. Nor is it possible for any one to meditate seriously upon these services, without admiring their beautiful harmony with the Holy Scriptures. There, all the great doctrines of the Gospel stand prominent, not only as they relate to us with regard to eternity, but as they bear upon human life, and the more striking events which characterize it. The fall of man and its consequences; a corrupt nature and its remedy; the soul, lost by sin, by grace renewed ; an angry God reconciled by the all prevailing merits of his Son, our Saviour Christ; the poor made wise, and the learned simple, by the Spirit vouchsafed from heaven to the faithful; unfailing protection to the Church ensured by the promised help of its ever present and gracious Founder; the care of God's Providence, and the shadowing of his grace, as severally our protection in things temporal, our safety in things spiritual—these truths and their consequences are so essential to our attaining the one thing needful, that the services which plainly set them forth for our consideration, and forcibly urge them upon our adoption, must surely claim our especial regard, win upon our affections as they convince our understandings, and be acknowledged as an invaluable gift of the Church, towards aiding her children in working out their own salvation, and keeping the path to heaven.
In explaining the Catechism, care has been taken more fully to elucidate the authority on which its doctrines rest, and their perfect agreement with the Word of God. For we may reasonably trust, that, aided by this admirable summary of their religion, even the Young - should they find the nature and grounds of their faith questioned—may “not fall from their stedfastness," but be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them."
As the Catechism forms a connecting link between the ordinance of Baptism and the rite of Confirmation, it finds its appropriate place in this volume between those services.