VT., ON CHRISTMAS EVE, 1842.
J. M. STEARNS, PUBLISHER
AND thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord's law may be in thy mouth:--for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year. Exodus, XIII, 8-10.
THERE is no feature more striking in that great Divine Economy for the preservation of true religion in the world which is recorded in the Bible, than the Divine institution of stated festivals, in commemoration of the different particular acts of Divine power and mercy. We find that this system of setting apart the returns of particular days to the religious commemoration of particular acts of God's power and mercy, was commenced at the very creation of the world and before the fall of man. In six days God created the heavens and the earth; and they were finished, and all the host of them, and on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made. This sacred resting of the Almighty from the work of creation was the first thing which was made the subject of religious commemoration in a stated festival, or holy day. "God blessed the seventh day; and sanctified it; because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made." Thus was instituted the weekly rest or Sabbath, by the observance of which is kept alive among men the memory and the belief of the truth that this visible world is not an eternal thing, nor was formed gradually by chance or the blind operation of natural laws, but is a creature of God, created out of nothing by the Almighty in the period of six days, after which He rested from His work. Thus it has been and now is to all mankind by whom it is observed, for a sign upon their hand and for a memorial between their eyes; that the Lord's law should be in their mouth; that they may not forget their entire dependence upon Him who once created [3/4] the world itself out of nothing; and that they may learn thereby to remember their Creator, both in the days of their youth, when they are first taught by their parents the meaning of this weekly rest of the Sabbath, and also all the days of their life to all generations. And it may be declared I think without fear, that it would be impossible to keep up the knowledge of religion among men if this weekly commemoration of the Divine resting after the creation from all the works, were to be laid aside and forgotten.
For the doctrine of the creation of the world by God lies at the basis of all religion, and with that all other religious truth would surely disappear. This is the reason why, as we may understand, when God called the Jews out of Egypt and established them in the land of Promise to be a peculiar people, that they might preserve His Holy Name and His true worship, and be a seed to serve Him, until the coming of Christ, although He ordained many other holy days or feasts of commemoration, yet He did not abolish that of the Sabbath as being no longer necessary now that so many others were instituted, but re-enacted it with still greater solemnity amid the thunders of Sinai, and made the observance of it, as a holy rest, one of the commandments of the Law. There is one thing however to be observed, my brethren, in regard to the re-enactment of the law of the Sabbath, as a part bf the covenant made with the Jewish people. It is very remarkable as showing the principle on which the Sabbath itself and other festivals were afterwards to be perpetuated in the Christian Church; and I call your attention to it particularly as having a special bearing on the subject of this discourse.
The Sabbath was instituted as a memorial of the Creation, and of God's resting from His works on the seventh day; and in the publication of the law on Mount Sinai, this reason is mentioned, as you all know. But to this in the Jewish church was added the commemoration of their deliverance from Egypt, which henceforth was to be connected with the observance of the Sabbath. In the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy, where we learn that the giving of the law on Mount Sinai was of the nature of a covenant made with the children of Israel, the Fourth commandment is delivered thus:--"Keep the Sabbath-day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God commanded thee. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates, that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou [4/5] wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath-day." Not a word is said of the creation and of God's resting from the works, which God himself by his own mouth assigned as the reason of the weekly Sabbath; but it is declared to be an ordinance for the benefit of servants and laborers, "that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest;" and they are bid to remember their own servitude in Egypt, and their deliverance from it by the Lord, and finally it is said, "therefore," that is, because thou wast so delivered, and that thou mayest remember it,--"therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the Sabbath-day."
This is very wonderful; and it plainly shows that when the Sabbath was re-enacted, and imposed as an observance upon the Jews, as a law of their covenant, it was made a memorial to them, not only of the resting from the works on the seventh day, but also of their deliverance from the land of Egypt. Now this deliverance from Egypt was in itself but a type of our deliverance from sin, the house of spiritual bondage; and by bearing this in mind, we may understand what is meant by the abolition of the Jewish Sabbath, or rather by its observance not being obligatory upon the Christian Church. "Let no man therefore judge you in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days, which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ." So far as the Jewish Sabbath commemorated the deliverance from Egypt, which was a shadow of the deliverance to come by Christ, it was abolished, and its observance was no longer binding. But although the Jewish Sabbath was thus abolished, the weekly religious rest was not abolished; only instead of commemorating the deliverance from Egypt, which was a shadow; it now added the commemoration of our deliverance from sin by the resurrection of Christ, which was the body or substance. A change was quietly made by the Apostles, from the seventh to the first day of the week, thus adding a commemoration of Christ's resurrection to that of the resting from the works; and manifesting even in the continued observance of the weekly festival our Christian freedom from the Jewish law. For as the deliverance from Egypt was added by Moses, so the resurrection of Christ was added by the Apostles, to the ancient weekly memorial of the creation:--by the one it was made a Jewish, by the other a Christian Feast.
From this continued observance of the ancient weekly rest, by the Apostles, and by the Christian Church ever since, we learn however several important things to which I now call your attention.
 First, that there is nothing in the Christian Dispensation which is either inconsistent with the religious observance of commemorative days, or which renders them unnecessary. You know there are some who think it is an infringement of Christian liberty that we should be obliged to keep even the Christian Sabbath. So there are some who think that under a dispensation of the Spirit such outward memorials of divine truth are no longer needful; but we are well assured that neither did the Apostles observe any thing inconsistent with Christian liberty, and therefore the Christian Sabbath or Lord's Day is not inconsistent with Christian liberty, for the Apostles observed it; nor did God ever ordain any thing in its own nature superfluous and unnecessary, and therefore the weekly rest cannot be unnecessary, for God ordained it, and that as one of the ten commandments of the moral law, from obedience to which no Christian man is free. But if the observance of the Christian Sabbath is not unnecessary, nor injurious to Christian liberty, then the observance of commemorative days in general, is not unnecessary or inconsistent with Christian liberty.
Secondly, we learn by the manner in which the weekly rest is preserved among Christians;--the Sabbath being observed, but the day of the week changed, and a new purpose added, namely, that of commemorating the resurrection of Christ, on the first day of the week;--that this is the principle on which all the Jewish feasts which the Apostles continued to observe, were (so to speak) christianized, and adapted to the new position of the church under the gospel. Thus the Apostles continued to observe the Paschal Feast or Passover, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul said of it, "I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem;" (Acts Xviii. 21,) by which it appears that Paul, like the other Apostles who we know observed it, kept that feast. But then they did not observe it as the Jews did; they made it a memorial not of the deliverance from Egypt and Pharaoh on the night of the first Passover, hut of the deliverance from sin and Satan on the night of the last of the old Jewish Passovers; by the sacrifice of the Son of God, and by his resurrection from the dead:--they kept the feast; but there is no reason to think that they ate the Passover Lamb, but rather they partook of the Lord's Supper instead of it;--the very day, it seems, of the greatest solemnity was changed from the day of the paschal full moon, on which the Jews ate the Passover, to the Lord's Day immediately following; and so the Jewish Passover was changed into the Christian Easter, and like the weekly Lord's Day, so this great annual Lord's Day, first observed by the Apostles themselves, [6/7] as we read in the New Testament, has been observed ever since by the Christian Church.
Just so the Feast of Pentecost, in which the Israelites were commanded to commemorate the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, was turned by the Apostles into a commemoration of the descent of the Holy Ghost, which was given on the very same day. Indeed it is very remarkable when we think of it, that as the law was given to Moses and to Israel on Mount Sinai just fifty days after the bringing them out of Egypt by the blood of the Paschal Lamb, so the Spirit was given to the Apostles and the Church, just fifty days after the redemption of the world by the sacrifice of Christ, the true Paschal Lamb, which delivered us all out of the land of Egypt, the house of spiritual bondage; so that the same day of Pentecost which before commemorated the giving of the law, now under the Christian name of Whitsunday, commemorates the giving of the Spirit; just as the same Paschal Feast which commemorated the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, does now as the Festival of Easter, commemorate our deliverance from sin, by the resurrection of Christ;--and as the same Sabbath or day of rest which under the Patriarchal dispensation commemorated simply the resting of God from his works on the seventh day, and in the Jewish church did commemorate both this and also the deliverance from Egypt, doth now as the Lord's Day, commemorate both the divine rest on the seventh day, and the resurrection of Christ on the first; and our own deliverance from sin of which the Jews' deliverance from Egypt was never more than a shadow and a type.
It is then a principle of the gospel dispensation that stated commemorations of the acts of God's power and mercy, are not abolished: only they are made significant of higher evangelical truth than before; or to speak more precisely, these feasts as observed under the gospel, signify evangelical truth more plainly than they did under the law. Thus when the Sabbath, originally instituted in commemoration of God's resting from his works, was made in the Jewish dispensation to signify further, over and above this, the deliverance from Egypt, this new meaning put upon the Sabbath had a secret reference to our future deliverance from sin by the death and resurrection of Christ; and when by the change of the day from the seventh to the first day of the week, the Sabbath, now called the Lord's Day, was made to signify expressly and plainly Christ's resurrection and our resurrection with him from the death of sin, the meaning of the weekly festival was not so much changed, as it was more clearly manifested, so that what under the old dispensation was shadowed [7/8] forth by it, was now explicitly revealed. So the Passover,--which commemorated annually, and with greater solemnity than did the weekly Sabbath, the selfsame deliverance from Egypt,--had a secret reference to the future deliverance from sin by the blood of Christ, the true Paschal Lamb, slain from the foundation of the world; and when it was changed by the Apostles into the Easter Festival, and made the annual and more solemn commemoration of the resurrection of Christ, which was also commemorated weekly on the Lord's Day, the meaning of the Passover or Easter solemnity was not changed at all, but only more clearly manifested, so that what under the old dispensation was shadowed forth, was now explicitly revealed as the meaning of this Divinely instituted feast.
Just so the feast of Pentecost among the Jews commemorated the covenant made in Sinai by the giving of the law; hut it had a secret reference all the time to the new covenant that was to be made in Jerusalem by the giving of the Spirit on that same day of Pentecost; as it is written, "Behold the days come when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;" and the Pentecostal Psalm which the Jews used to sing in the temple service on that day, and which commemorates the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, this very psalm is fall of tike plainest allusions to the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, and to the preaching of the gospel and conversion of the Gentiles which followed; and the Church still sings this very psalm on the day of Pentecost, or Whitsunday as we call it, as the most proper that could be selected to commemorate the outpouring of the Spirit:--so that the real meaning of the feast as it was observed by the Apostles, and is still observed by the Church, is not changed from the meaning which it had wider the Law, only it is more clearly manifested; so that what before was shadowed forth is new explicitly revealed, as the true meaning of this Divinely instituted feast. For as our seventh article of religion sublimely declares, "The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament, everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard which feign that the OM Fathers did look only for transitory promises." The great festival system established by God himself in the Jewish Church, was not intended, my brethren, merely to preserve the memory of those acts of power and mercy by which God delivered the people of Israel, or took them to be His covenant people, but from the very first it signified and prefigured those acts of power and mercy by [8/9] which He delivered the WORLD, and entered into covenant with the CHURCH through the blood of His Son; nor was it intended that the observance of these feasts should only continue so long as their meaning was as yet imperfectly understood, (because the acts of power and mercy which they secretly signified and shadowed forth were not yet fully accomplished;) but rather they were intended to be much more observed when at length their true meaning should be fully revealed; and, some changes being made in the manner of observance, as in the change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week, and in the observance of Easter and Pentecost, from being kept only in Jerusalem, to being kept all over the World, it was meant that all these should be continued, in order to keep in perpetual memory those great acts of power and mercy by which we were redeemed, and to spread the knowledge of them among all lands.
There is indeed no special command for the observance of these feasts in the New Testament; there is no direct authority even for the change of the Sabbath to the first day of the week, or even for the continued observance of the Sabbath; but it Is clear from the inspired writings that the Apostles and primitive Christians did as a matter of fact observe the first day of the week, and the feasts of Easter and of Pentecost also; and we know that the whole Church ever since has observed both the weekly feast of the Lord's Day, and the annual feasts of Easter and Whitsunday, as having been commanded to do so by the Apostles.
There is precisely the same reason for observing one as for observing the other; all alike were Divinely instituted in the beginning, to signify and commemorate those acts of Divine power and mercy by which mankind were redeemed; all alike were observed by the Apostles, but in a peculiar, that is, in a Christian or Evangelical manner, as feasts of the Gospel; and all alike have ever since been observed by the Church in all parts of the world. Except the Presbyterians and Congregationalists and other dissenting sects in Great Britain and the United States, there is no people in the world professing the Christian name that does not observe all these feasts, as Christian feasts, in commemoration of those acts of Divine power and mercy by which mankind was redeemed. The Lutheran and Reformed Churches on the Continent of Europe observe them; and even the Congregationalist missionaries sent out by the American Board to the Eastern countries, there observe these feasts, although they do not at home. The Congregationalist missionaries of the American Board in Constantinople and other parts of the East, keep [9/10] not only Easter, but Good Friday and Christmas, just like Episcopalians at home; because if they did not, the people in those ancient Churches which were planted by the Apostles themselves, would not believe that they were really Christians;--not keeping any of the Christian feasts; not commemorating the birth of Christ, as they do on Christmas; not commemorating the death of Christ, as they do on Good Friday; not commemorating his resurrection, as they do at Easter;--if they were by any means thought to be really Christians at all, they would never be thought orthodox Christians; and it would be seen at once that they were persons who for some reason or other had separated from the ancient and regular orthodox Churches of the country that they came from; and a separation of this kind is thought so great a sin by those Eastern Christians, that they never would listen a moment to those whom they believed to be guilty of it.
So that the Congregationalist missionaries in the East are in a manner obliged to observe the great festivals of the Church, just as for the same reason they use the Church service in the Prayer book, in their ministrations; in burying the dead, and even in baptism; and wear the gown, as Episcopal clergymen do at home. For there is no primitive Church in the world that does or ever did otherwise. I have no doubt that the motives of these missionaries are very good for doing all this, but I think it ought to be known that they do it. There is certainly no harm in Congregationalist ministers keeping Christmas, and Good Friday, and Easter, in Constantinople, and Smyrna, and Beyroot, and other places, I only wish that they would keep these great Christian Feasts at home as well; but at least they ought not to object to Episcopalians, and to our ancient and Apostolic Church, that we continue to observe them, as we have always done since the times, and after the example, of the Apostles themselves.
And now, my brethren and friends, I am prepared to state the reason, not why we observe Christmas and other Christian Feasts,--we observe them because they have been handed down to us from the beginning,--but why the observance is to be held scriptural, and right, and useful. I shall speak of the feasts in general and of our system of festivals, and of Christmas in particular.
First, then, as I have already shown, the System of festivals, in commemoration of the great acts of Divine power and mercy by which we were created and redeemed and sanctified, is a system instituted by the Divine Wisdom itself at the very beginning of the world, continued and extended by the festival system of the Jewish [10/11] Church, which was meant to be a type of the Christian; and perpetuated by the Apostles, only with a clearer manifestation of its meaning and purpose; and ever since religiously maintained by the Church.
Christmas itself, which some may consider as a peculiarly Christian festival; had its type and counterpart among the Jews in the Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorated the fact that God made the whole people of Israel to dwell in tabernacles or tents in the Wilderness; but which prefigured and secretly signified that God would cause His true and only begotten Son to dwell in a tabernacle of flesh in the wilderness of this world; (as St. John says, 'The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us;') which we now commemorate by this festival kept in memory of the birth of Christ. This is the more remarkable, inasmuch as there is no reason to think that the primitive Church had the feast of Tabernacles in mind when they first began to keep the feast of Christmas; nor was the feast of Tabernacles ever observed by the early Christians, as were those of Easter and Pentecost.
Secondly: the observance of these feasts is highly useful now, for the same reason as before the coming of Christ; namely, as the text has it, to be for a sign upon our hands, and for a memorial between our eyes, that the Lord's law, that is, now, the great articles of the Christian faith, may be in our mouth; that we may keep up for ever the memory and belief of those acts of God's power and mercy by which we were redeemed, and by the belief of which we are made Christians.
It is for this purpose that God who always works by means, ordained the system of feasts, including both the weekly feast of the Lord's Day, and the annual festivals. It is one of the ordinary means of preserving a knowledge of true religion in the world.--Some of you, my brethren, heard it not long since stated from this pulpit, by a missionary from the East, that probably the only thing which has kept up the knowledge of Christianity among the Christians of those countries, unable as they are to read, and few or none of their clergy being able to preach, is their constant observance of the different festivals. All the great facts of redemption, all the most important passages in the life of the Saviour, His birth, His circumcision, His adoration by the Wise men, His baptism, His fasting, His riding into Jerusalem, His sufferings, and death, and burial, and rising again, His ascension, and the coming of the Holy Ghost, are all connected with the different festivals in regular order, and are taught to children by their parents from year to year, and year after [11/12] year are impressed more and more deeply upon their minds, and are believed with an habitual faith by the whole Christian population of those countries, however ignorant in other respects.
But if the Church in those countries, my friends and brethren, had been like those societies which reject as useless or unlawful the observance of such festivals, the very name of Christianity would have been long ago lost among them, and the population would have sunk back into paganism, or apostatized to the religion of the false prophet.
And what has been the consequence of the rejection of the ancient system of festivals, for instance in our own New England? Let me speak to you frankly on this point, my friends and brethren. For many things I honor and venerate the memory of our Puritan ancestors: nor will I yield to am man living in the honest pride which one may feel to be their descendant: but I do not think they were inspired and infallible men: I think that in some things they mistook; they had a "zeal toward God," but it was not in all respects a zeal "according to knowledge." They were many of them eminently sincere, pious and religious men:--but in some things they sinned;--in ignorance I trust, not in presumption,--but still they sinned; and one thing they did was to reject the ancient system of festivals, observed by the Church from the very beginning. In particular they rejected as you know, my brethren, the feast of Christmas, observed in commemoration of Christ's holy nativity,--and what has been the consequence?
Is it not true that in a large part of New England, once the stronghold of the Puritan faith, the very congregations and their ministers have become Unitarians, and the opinion has become prevalent among them that the first chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel and of the Gospel of St. Luke, in which alone the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus Christ are recorded, are spurious and not a part of the primitive Gospel:--and that the whole story is a fable, and that our blessed Lord, instead of being Immanuel, God with us, the eternal Word made flesh, was no more than the son of Joseph and Mary by ordinary generation? Is it not true that a New Testament has been printed, and is used by the Unitarians of Congregational and Puritan New England, once so firm in the orthodox faith of the Trinity, in which these portions of those two Gospels are printed in brackets, with a long note falsely declaring that they are spurious and unworthy of credit. Now I say could this have happened; or at any rate could such a poisonous and infidel doctrine have become current in a large section of New England, and be embraced by pastors and people, if the [12/13] Puritans had retained and constantly observed, the old Festival system which was instituted by the Divine Wisdom itself, to keep up the perpetual memory and belief of those acts of Divine power and mercy by which man was redeemed? and in particular if they had retained and observed this holy feast of Christ's Nativity, in which we commemorate that great event in the economy of salvation, the birth, in the fulness of times, of the life giving Seed of the Woman;--the great act of God's Almighty Power and saving Mercy by which He who was the Eternal Son, begotten of His Father before all worlds, was born in the world; born of a pure Virgin; by a spotless and undefined birth; that our unclean birth might be cleansed, and that we who are born of the flesh, may by grace be born of the Spirit, and become the sons of God?
Suppose that every year from the first settlement of New England to the present evening, this ordinance had been kept in his season; Suppose that every year on Christmas Eve, every house of worship in New England had been decorated with the signs of festal joy, with green wreaths and boughs, and inscriptions, like this sanctuary in which you are now assembled, and the whole population had met with cordial salutations of Christmas welcome, and assembled for worship and united with their Pastors in such a prayer as that which at this season the Church puts in the mouth of her ministers,--Almighty God, Who hast given us Thy only begotten Son to take our nature upon Him, and as at this time to be horn of a pure Virgin; grant that toe, being regenerate and made Thy children by adoption and grace may daily be renewed by Thy Holy Spirit, through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Same Spirit, ever one God, world without end,"--do you suppose it would have turned out then, that the greater pan of the congregations in some sections would have come to think that our Saviour was the proper Son of Joseph, and not really a Divine person?--do you suppose that a large proportion,--in some sections, a majority--of Pastors would have turned Unitarians and hare succeeded in misleading their whole congregations into such a deadly heresy?
For this is the end proposed by the Divine Wisdom in the institution of the festival system,--to keep up in the world the memory and belief of Divine truth. For this end was the weekly Sabbath--for this was the annual passover instituted; as it is there specially declared, "And it shall come, to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord's Passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote, the Egyptians, and [13/14] delivered our houses," or as the principle is set forth in the language of the text: "And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand and for a memorial between thine eyes that the Lord's law may be in thy mouth:--Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in His season from year to year." If I am asked the use of our system of festivals--I think the question is somewhat profane, since God Him self, as all agree, did once institute a system of festivals; and our system has the same use which that had, and indeed in great part it is only a continuation of it by the Church, as it certainly was observed by the Apostles as long as they lived: and again the weekly Sabbath or Lord's Day is a commemorative festival, as all agree, and our system of festivals which includes the Lord's Days, has the same use and is observed for the same reasons as that: if our system of festivals is not expressly laid down in the New Testament, so neither is the observance of the first day of the week as the Sabbath: both are inferred from the fact that the Apostles kept both; viz: the first day of the week, and the ancient feasts;--but there is another answer, the use of the system of Christian Festivals is to make time, as he flies, a Preacher and a Witness of the everlasting Gospel. I say, the use of the system of Christian festival is, to make Time, as he flies, a Preacher and a Witness of the everlasting Gospel.--'The rolling year,' says the Poet, 'tells of thee.' And so it does; the rolling year tells of God: the days and nights; the changing moons, and varied and still returning seasons of the natural year tell of God the author of Nature; but the year of the Church, its fasts and festivals, and its succession of holy seasons, tells of God as He is manifested in the economy of Grace. Advent, and Christmas, and Epiphany, and Lent, and Easter, and Pentecost, and Trinity, as year after year each is kept in its season, cause Time as He flies away, to proclaim Him, who was born, and was circumcised, and baptized, and tempted, and suffered, and died, and rose again, and ascended, and sent down His Spirit, and will come again to judge.--The system of festivals is Time, redeemed from heathenism, and Christianized; it is the rolling year cast in the mould of the Christian Faith; stamped with the Christian Creed, as with an indelible signature, named with the name of Christ, and impressed with the lineaments of the Gospel.
Again, the system of Christian Festivals is the year turned into a plain catechism for the instruction of the young and the ignorant: by which their attention is called to the great facts of the Gospel [14/15] History, and their memories impressed with the great acts and scenes of redemption; it is a system planned by the Divine Wisdom for the more effectual preservation of true religion in the world; in the Eastern parts of the world, it has proved under Providence in the want of almost every other means of defence, an impregnable outwork of Christianity against the assault of Mohammedanism; and in this Western world, the want of it has been certainly followed by a relapse into heresy and infidelity, and the spread among a Christian community of Anti-Christian errors that sap the very foundations of that faith which rests upon the name of IMMANUEL, God with us.
I have now no time, nor could I without violating the unity of my subject, now speak of the high spiritual purposes which are subserved by the system of Christian Festivals, as it is carried out in the Church, nor would it be possible to do more than hint at these within the limits of a single discourse; neither do I think it a proper subject for an unprepared audience; but all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable; and I think enough has been said to show how that portion of scripture which is the text of this discourse, has an applicability, and how it may be profitable to us: "And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord's law may be in thy mouth:--for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year."
In reply to the inference in this discourse that, the prevalence of Unitarianism in New England, is to be attributed in part to the rejection of the Festival System by our Puritan forefathers, it has been stated that "the first Church in New England which became Unitarian was an Episcopal Church."
This statement of course refers to the case of King's Chapel, Boston; formerly a chapel of the Church, and which at the time of our revolution passed into the hands of the Unitarians. Even if however the history of this change in the proprietorship of King's Chapel warranted the assertion, made by those who are interested in repelling the charge against Congregationalism of a tendency to the Unitarian heresy, that "the first Church in New England which became Unitarian was an Episcopal Church," I do not see how it would affect the argument of the preceeding discourse.--Did Unitarianism in New England take its rise when King's Chapel became a Unitarian Church? Was not the infection of this heresy already spread far and wide among the Congregational Churches? Had not the teaching of a vast body of Congregational ministers been really Socinian for many years, and did it not continue to be so for many years after, before it was openly avowed as such? In fact, what does the earlier avowal of Unitarian sentiments by Mr. Freeman of King's Chapel, prove, except that the Episcopal Church instantly excluded from its communion, and forced into a public avowal of his heresy, one who as a Congregationalist would have been allowed to retain his standing, and to diffuse his poisonous doctrines unsuspected.
Mr. Freeman, lay reader in King's Chapel, and minister elect of the Parish, never received orders in the Church; he applied for them to two of our Bishops, and was refused because it appeared upon examination that he was a Unitarian. He was subsequently ordained, it is said, by his own congregation; which proves that at any rate they were not Episcopalians, for Episcopalians universally regard all such ordinations as unlawful and invalid. The original congregation of King's Chapel consisted of royalists, and had been dispersed by the revolution. By the sale of the pews thus vacated, the proprietorship of the chapel became vested in persons who are said to have purchased with the express intention of converting the Chapel into a Unitarian Church, or with the understanding that such a change [17/18] was contemplated. At the same time a few of the old proprietors, who were originally Episcopalians, withdrew, in disgust at these proceedings.
The following letter from my venerable friend, the Rev. Dr. Eaton, to whom I had written for some authentic account of the change in the proprietorship of King's Chapel, will sufficiently corroborate these statements. It must be borne in mind, however, in reading it, that the Mr. Greenwood from whose work the extracts are made, was the assistant of Mr. Freeman and his successor;--of course a Unitarian.
Boston, Jan. 16, 1843,
Rev. and dear Sir:
Your favor of the 9th inst. has been duly received. I know not that I can more acceptably comply with your request, than by sending you the following extracts from Greenwood's History of King's Chapel, published in 1833.
"In March 1770 the British troops evacuated Boston, and Dr. Caner went with them. His assistant, Mr. Troutbeck, left the Church in November. The congregation, consisting mostly of royalists, were dispersed, and the doors of the Chapel were closed." . . . "On the 8th of September, 1782, Dr. Thomas Bullfinch, the senior warden, addressed a letter to Mr. James Freeman, then at Walpole, which was followed by a more formal one, signed by both the wardens, in which he was invited to officiate at the Chapel as reader for six months. On the 18th of October Mr. Freeman entered on his duties in that capacity; and on the 21st of April 1783, at the Easter meeting of the proprietors, he was chosen Pastor of the Church, with a salary of two hundred pounds lawful money."
"In the letter of the wardens to Mr. Freeman, above referred to, it is said, "the proprietors consent to such alterations in the service as are made by the Rev. Dr. Parker, and leave the use of the Athanasian creed at your discretion." These alterations of Dr. Parker were merely such as the altered political state of the country requir-eda....... But much greater alterations than these were afterwards contemplated by Mr. Freeman, whose opinions in the course of a year or two underwent some important changes, and who then found that some parts of the Liturgy were so inconsistent with the faith which he derived from the Scriptures, that he resolved no longer to read such portions, and to propose to his society an amended form of prayer for public use at the Chapel,"
 "Before such a form was offered, however, the proprietors had taken measures to ascertain who properly belonged to the Church as pew-holders.....Twenty-nine- pews were declared, by the report of a committee chosen for the purpose, to be forfeited to the Church, and together with the governor's pew and eight others, making thirty-eight in all, were pat to sale for its benefit. . . . On the 20th of February 1785, the proprietors voted that it was necessary to make some alterations in some parts of the Liturgy, and appointed a committee to report such alterations. This committee consisted of seven gentlemen, in addition to the wardens, who were to consult and communicate with the Rev. Mr. Freeman. On Easter Monday, 28th of March, they reported that some alterations were essentially necessary; and the alterations as reported were read, considered and debated at several adjournments. On the 19th of June the proprietors voted "that the Common Prayer, as it now stands amended, be adopted by this Church, as the form of prayer to be used in future by this Church and congregation. . . . The alterations made in the Liturgy were principally those of Dr. Samuel Clarke, the celebrated English divine, and for the most part were such as involved the omission of the doctrine of the Trinity. The work as amended was immediately put to press, and was used in this church till the year 1811, when other amendments were made."
"Here was a most conspicuous, and as we must regard it, a most happy revolution; an auspicious turning from the dominion of creeds and phrases of man's device, to the easy yoke and authority of simple scripture. This important change is to be attributed mainly to the judicious and learned expositions of Mr. Freeman, who preached a series of doctrinal sermons to his people, and by the aid and influence of the word of God, moved them to respond to his sentiments. The first Episcopal Church in New England became the first Unitarian Church in America; and our venerated senior minister, though not absolutely the first who held or even avowed Unitarian opinions, still on many accounts deserves to be considered as the father of Unitarian Christianity in this country.''
I send you the above extracts, my dear sir, "without note or comment," in hope that they will furnish the information you desire. That your pious labors in extending the knowledge and furthering the prosperity of our beloved Zion may be crowned with abundant success, is the sincere and fervent prayer of, Rev. and dear sir,
Yours truly and affectionately,
REV. J. HUNTINGTON,
 From the extracts in Dr. Eaton's letter, it is sufficiently plain that Mr. Greenwood is quite willing to represent the affair in such a light as to support the statement which is italicised; but it is equally evident from the same extracts that such a statement cannot be supported. For from the admissions contained in the narration quoted above it is clear
1. That when Mr. Freeman was called to be lay Reader of King's Chapel, the congregation had been long dispersed, and the Chapel closed. The congregation therefore who were misled into Socinianism by his influence were certainly a new people, and the presumption immediately arises from the very statement, that they were Congregationalists, of the same class which shortly afterwards in so many Congregational societies became avowedly Unitarian.
2. That Mr. Freeman was "not the first who held or even avowed Unitarian opinions," i. e., in New England; from which it is plain that Unitarianism did not take its rise in King's Chapel.
3. That the use of the Liturgy could not be reconciled with Socinian teaching, and that this cause precipitated Mr. Freeman's public apostacy from the faith. The minister of a Congregational Church could have altered his prayers without giving notice of it, to suit his doctrine; as many in fact did, and remained in an orthodox connection for almost an indefinite time, while engaged in undermining orthodoxy. But for the presence of the Episcopal Church, witnessing by her pure and unequivocal Liturgy to the truth of Christ, the lapse of New England Congregationalism into Unitarianism would probably have included in the end the whole body.
4. That Mr. Freeman and his friends did not venture to try their proposed amendment of the Liturgy, till by the sale of the vacant pews they had secured an accession of strength from abroad.
5. That the alleged apostacy of an Episcopal Church to Unitarianism, was nothing more than a change in the proprietorship of the Church-building!
How there could be an Episcopal church, in the spiritual sense of the words, where there was no communion with any Bishop; where the minister was not episcopally ordained; and finally, where it does not appear that there was so much as one baptized and confirmed member of our communion, is not easy to understand.