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IN A LETTER FROM MR. WILLIAM SMITH, OF NORWALK, CONNECTICUT, TO ELDER ELIAS LEE, OF BALLSTON, STATE OF NEW-YORK. NOW PUBLISHED WITH A REPLY BY MR. LEE.
BALLSTON—PRINTED BY W. CHILD FOR ELDER ELIAS LEE.—A FEW RODS NORTH OF THE COURT-HOUSE. 1800.
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A Letter from Connecticut to Elder Elias Lee, Anabaptist Teacher in the Vicinity of Ballston, State of New-York.5
A Letter to Mr. William Smith, of Norwalk, Connecticut, being a reply to a Letter addressed by him to Elder Elias Lee, of Ballston, State of New-York, upon the subject of Christmas.
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Norwalk, November 16th, 1799. SIR,
A CONTROVERSYbetween you and Mr. Rogers the Episcopal Minister of Ballston, having lately fallen into my hands, wherein you are pleased to treat the Episcopalians of these States in a very ungentlemanly manner. I shall at present only advert to your assertions, that no man can ascertain the precise day of the Nativity of our Lord, and of consequence that Episcopalians are superstitious and absurd in their observance of the 25th of December, as the anniversary of Christmas. Hereafter, I shall do myself the pleasure of addressing you on the other observances and doctrines sacred to Episcopalians, with which you have taken, in my judgment, very unwarrantable freedoms.
To a man so conversant with the sacred Scripture, and so replenished with the plenitude of the Holy Spirit, as you profess to be, the circumstance of St. Luke's beginning his Gospel with a chronological account of an event immediately connected with our Saviour's Incarnation, and a virtual repetition of the same thing by the Holy Angel as the time of the Annunciation, can hardly be supposed matters of indifference: And yet it is evident that you have either overlooked or mistaken the meaning of both; for you say it is a matter of indifference whether the day can be ascertained or not: The which I deny, and think it a matter of great consequence to Christianity that the day of our Lord's Nativity should be chronologically ascertained. I will therefore, present you, and the candid public, a calculation of the precise day of the Nativity founded upon two data, viz. the Old and New Testament.
I. Chron. ch. 24, v. 7 to v. 20,—we find the twenty-four Courses of the Jewish Priests established by David, who was "a Prophet and a man after God's own heart," and knew perfectly what he was about when he made this establishment. Of these 24 Courses, the 8th at the institution, fell by lot to Abijah or Abias, to which course Zacharias the Father of the Baptist belonged. One course attended upon the Service of the Temple, eight days, from sabbath to sabbath. The ministry of each course began at the morning service of the first, and ended at the morning service of the next sabbath; the High Priest entering into the Temple with the course which succeeded, blessed and dismissed the course, which had fulfilled their ministrations, the Priests of which then departed to their own city. And both these facts are authenticated both by Josephus, and the Jewish Liturgy. The Jewish historian (book 6) says, "The High Priest went into the Temple with the other Priests, not every day, but only every sabbath day, the calends of every month, and the anniversary Feasts." And in the Jewish Liturgy we read, "On the Sabbath the High Priest added one benediction upon that course, which then went out of their ministration."
Therefore, as the ministry of one course is 7 complete days, and the number of courses 24:—the complete cycle or period of time, wherein the 24 courses return to the same day and hour