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A Christmas sermon

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Unread 12.24.18, 12:44 PM
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A Christmas sermon

12.23.18 10:01 PM

Merry Christmas from all of us at Personal Liberty and Personal Liberty Media Group. Following is a Christmas Day sermon delivered by*Aaron Bancroft.

Bancroft was a Revolutionary War veteran of the battles at both Lexington and Bunker Hill, an American clergyman and George Washington biographer. He graduated from Harvard in 1778 and was a missionary in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia for three years. Bancroft served as pastor of the Congregational Church in Worcester, Massachusetts (1785-1839). He delivered this sermon in 1818:
The human mind is prone to pass from one extreme to its opposite. This observation may be illustrated from the history of the Christian community. The Roman Catholic Church carried ceremonial observances in religious worship to extreme abuse. They canonized numerous saints, and appointed so many days to be religiously observed in honor of their memory, as greatly to interfere with the important business of society. Like the Pharisees of old, the rulers of this church, in its corrupt age, made religion essentially to consist in the superstitious observance of external forms; and public worship with them degenerated into a splendid but lifeless ceremonial service.

But when the English Church threw off the yoke of Popery, their rulers, in the opinion of many discerning and pious men, retained too many of the forms of the ecclesiastical establishment from which they separated. The ceremonies which they did preserve, were certainly enforced by measures which in their operation infringed the rights of private judgment, and violated the humane spirit of their religion.

Our ancestors, who fled from this imposition on conscience, associated with their disaffection to the dominating temper and the abusive practices of that hierarchy, a dislike to nearly all the circumstances common to its public services. Every instrument of music was excluded from houses of religious worship; and a form of ecclesiastical government and religious service was excluded from houses of religious worship; and a form of ecclesiastical government and religious service was adopted, the best suited, perhaps, to the infant state of the colony, but not fitted for a great and independent nation in the state of improved society.

Christmas was pre-eminently distinguished among the holy days of the Romish and the English church; and the general opposition of our forefathers to their superstitions and abuses was extended to this festival. They through several succeeding generations not only refused to join in the religious offices of the season, but they also scrupulously abstained on this anniversary from those articles of the table, which usually composed a part of a Christmas dinner.

We, their favored descendants, fondly cherish the highest veneration for their memories; we dwell with delight on their live of civil and religious liberty, on their piety and patriotism; our hearts are warmed by grateful recollections as often as we review the invaluable institutions which they have transmitted to us; and at the same time we rejoice that we are liberated from the prejudices which their situation rendered unavoidable Not feeling the pressure of that iron hand which bore heavily on them, we can calmly separate accidental circumstances from essential principles. With higher means of instruction, we can consistently drop the weak and indifferent appendages of their system, while we sacredly adhere to its sound and vital parts.

In respect to ceremonial observances, a more liberal spirit now prevails through our country. In many of our religious societies organs have been in introduced in church music; and in most of them other instruments are now used without giving offence. While, in the progress of society, all other institutions have their appropriate ornaments, many think, that if social worship be left without decoration, it will be destitute of those external attraction, which to a large portion of mankind are beneficial, if not necessary. And they imagine that embellishment may be introduced without corrupting the spirituality, or lessening the moral influence of public worship.

Situated as we are, may we not, without unreasonable bias, determine the degree of estimation in which Christmas services ought to be holden by a Christian community? The New Testament has not appointed anniversary services in commemoration of the birth of our Savior. If we celebrate this event, we should consider it as a privilege with which we are indulged, not as a duty divinely enjoined. This celebration is not by divine authority appointed; it is not by divine authority forbidden. Its expediency should be determined by its probable effects. We publicly commemorate the anniversary of our national independence; we publicly honor the memories of the benefactors of our country. Is it not then proper, that we should celebrate the advent of Emanuel into our world? Is any other event great in comparison with this? Has any other being appeared among men to whom we are under obligations of gratitude, when compared with him?

Should any object to the time of this celebration, on the plea, that we have not conclusive proof respecting the particular day on which our Savior was born, our answer is, the objection on the point before us has no force. Christ the Savior was born into our world; whether we celebrate his appearance on the precise day of his birth, or on some other, to a religious purpose is a circumstance of no importance. The Christian community in general entertain the same opinion respecting the time; if the event be publicly noticed, it is convenient, and therefore desirable, that there should be uniformity in the day of celebration.

The useful purposes contemplated by the religious observances of the season are these: to direct our serious attention to the great salvation, which Jesus Christ descended from heaven to publish to a sinful world; to excite in us suitable returns of gratitude for the inestimable privileges we possess as his disciples; to animate us to sustain with firmness and consistency the Christian profession; to inspire us with diligence in the cultivation of the Christian graces and virtues; and to insure our perseverance in the path towards Christian perfection.

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