« PoprzedniaDalej »
CHAPTER XXIV. OF HOLYDAYS, FASTS, AND CHOICE OF MEATS. Although religion be not tied unto time, yet can it not be planted and exercised without a dne dividing and allotting-out of time. Every Church, therefore, does choose unto itself a certain time for public prayers, and for the preaching of the Gospel, and for the celebration of the sacraments; and it is not lawful for any one to overthrow this appointment of the Church at his own pleasure. For except some due time and leisure were allotted to the outward exercise of religion, without doubt men would be quite drawn from it by their own affairs.
In regard hereof, we see that in the ancient churches there were not only certain set hours in the week appointed for meetings, but that also the Lord's Day itself, ever since the apostles' time, was consecrated to religious exercises and to a holy rest; which also is now very well observed by our churches, for the worship of God and the increase of charity. Yet herein we give no place unto the Jewish observation of the day, or to any superstitions. For we do not account one day to be holier than another, nor think that mere rest is of itself acceptable to God. Besides, we do celebrate and keep the Lord's Day, and not the Jewish Sabbath, and that with a free observation.
Moreorer, if the churches do religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord's Nativity, Circumcision, Passion, Resurrection, and of his Ascension into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, according to Christian liberty, we do very well approve of it. But as for festival days, ordained for men or saints departed, we can not allow of them. For, indeed, festival days must be referred to the first table of the law, and belong peculiarly unto God. To conclude, those festival days which are appointed for saints, and abrogated by us, have in them many gross things, nnprofitable and not to be tolerated. In the mean time, we confess that the remembrance of saints, in due time and place, may be to good use and profit commended unto the people in sermons, and the holy examples of holy men set before their eyes to be imitated by all.
Now, the more sharply the Church of Christ does condemn surfeiting, drunkenness, and all kinds of lusts and intemperance, so much the more earnestly does it commend unto us Christian fasting. For fasting is nothing else than the abstinence and temperance of the godly, and a watching and chastising of our flesh, taken up for present necessity, whereby we are humbled before God, and withdraw from the flesh those things with which it is cherished, to the end that it may the more willingly and easily obey the Spirit. Wherefore they do not fast at all that have no regard for those things, but imagine that they fast if they stuff their bellies once a day, and for a set or prescribed time do abstain from certain meats, thinking that by this very work wrought they please God and acquire merit. Fasting is a help of the prayers of the saints and all virtues; but the fasts wherein the Jews fasted from meat, and not from wickedness, pleased God nothing at all, as we may see in the books of the Prophets.
Now, fasting is either public or private. In olden times they celebrated public fasts in troublesome times and in the afflictions of the Church ; wherein they abstained altogether from meat till the evening, and bestowed all that time in holy prayers, the worship of God, and repentance. These differed little from mournings and lamentations; and of these there is often mention made in the Prophets, and especially in the 2d chapter of Joel. Such a fast should be kept at this day, when the Church is in distress. Private fasts are used by every one of us, according as every one feels the spirit weakened in him; for so he withdraws that which might cherish and strengthen the flesh.
All fasts ought to proceed from a free and willing spirit, and such a one as is truly humbled, and not framed to win applause and the liking of men, much less to the end that a man might merit righteousness by them. But let every one fast to this end, that he may deprive the flesh of that which would cherish it, and that he may the more zealously serve God.
The fast of Lent has testimony of antiquity, but none out of the apostles' writings; and therefore ought not, nor can not, be imposed on the faithful. It is certain that in old time there were divers manners and uses of this fast; whereupon Irenæus, a most ancient writer, says, “Some think that this fast should be observed one day only, others two days, but others more, and some forty days. This diversity in keeping this fast began not in our times, but long before us; by those, as I suppose, who, not simply holding that which was delivered them from the beginning, fell shortly after into another custom, either through negligence or ignorance. Moreover, Socrates, the historian, says, 'Because no ancient record is found concerning this matter, I think the apostles left this to every man's own judgment, that every one might work that which is good, without fear or constraint.'
Now, as concerning the choice of meats, we suppose that, in fasting, all things should be denied to the flesh whereby the flesh is made more lusty, wherein it does most immoderately delight, and whereby it is most of all pampered, whether they be fish, spices, dainties, or excellent wines. Otherwise we know that all the creatures of God were made for the use and service of men. All things which God made are good (Gen. i. 31), and are to be used in the fear of God, and with due moderation, without putting any difference between them. For the apostle says, “To the pure all things are pure' (Tit. i. 15), and also, “Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience' sake' (1 Cor. x. 25). The same apostle calls the doctrine of those who teach to abstain from meats the doctrine of demons;' for that God created meats to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving' (1 Tim. iv. 1, 3, 4). The same apostle, in the Epistle to the Colossians, reproves those who, by an overmuch abstinence, will get anto themselves an opinion of holiness (Col. ii. 20-23). Therefore we do altogether mislike the Tatians and the Encratites, and all the disciples of Eustathius (of Sebaste), against whom the Gangrian Synod was asseinbled.
CHAPTER XXV.—OF CATECHISING, OF COMFORTING AND VISITING THE SICK.
The Lord enjoined his ancient people to take great care and diligence in instructing the youth well, even from their infancy; and, moreover, commanded expressly in his Law that they should teach them, and declare the mystery of the sacrament unto them. Now, forasmuch as is evident by the writings of the evangelists and apostles, that God has no less care of the youth of his new people (seeing he says, “Suffer little children to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven' (Matt. xix. 14), therefore the pastors do very wisely who do diligently and betimes catechise their youth, laying the first grounds of faith, and faithfully teaching the rudiments of our religion, by expounding the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the doctrine of the sacraments, with other like principles and chief heads of our religion. And here let the Church perform her faithfulness and diligence in bringing the children to be catechised, as being desirous and glad to have her children well instructed.
Seeing that men do never lie open to more grievous temptations than when they are exercised with infirmities, or else are sick and brought low by diseases, it behooves the pastors of the churches to be never more vigilant and careful for the safety of the flock than in such diseases and infirmities. Therefore let them visit the sick betimes, and let them be quickly sent for by the sick, if the matter shall 80 require; let them comfort and confirm them in the true faith; finally, let them strengthen them against the dangerous suggestions of Satan. In like manner, let them pray with the sick person at home in his house; and, if need be, let them make prayers for the sick in the public meeting; and let them be careful that they have a happy passage out of this life. As for Popish visiting with the extreme unction, we have said before that we do not like it, because it has many absurd things in it, and such as are not approved by the canonical Scriptures.
CHAPTER XXVI. -OF THE BURIAL OF THE FAITHFUL, AND OF THE CARE
WHICH IS TO BE HAD FOR SUCH AS ARE DEAD; OF PURGATORY, AND
THE APPEARING OF SPIRITS.
The Scripture directs that the bodies of the faithful, as being temples of the Holy Spirit, which we truly believe shall rise again at the last day, should be honorably, without any superstition, committed to the earth; and, besides, that we should make honorable mention of those who died in the Lord, and perform all duties of love to those they leave behind, as their widows and fatherless children. Other care for the dead we do not enjoin. Therefore, we do greatly mislike the Cynics, who neglected the bodies of the dead, or did carelessly and disdainfully cast them into the earth, never speaking so much as a good word of the deceased, nor any whit regarding those whom they left behind them.
Again, we disapprove of those who are too much and preposterously officious to the dead; who, like the heathen, do greatly lament and bewail their dead (although we do not censure that moderate mourning which the apostle does allow [1 Thess. iv. 13], since it is unnatural not to be touched with sorrow); and who do sacrifice for the dead, and mumble certain prayers, not without their penny for their pains; thinking by these prayers to deliver their friends from torments, wherein, being wrapped by death, they suppose they may be rid of them again by such lamentable songs.
For we believe that the faithful, after bodily death, do go directly unto Christ, and, therefore, do not stand in need of helps or prayers for the dead, or any other such duty of them that are alive. In like manner, we believe that the unbelievers are cast headlong into hell, from whence there is no return opened to the wicked by any offices of those who live.
But as touching that which some teach concerning the fire of purgatory, it is directly contrary to the Christian faith (I believe in the forgiveness of sins, and the life everlasting '), and to the absolute purgation of sins made by Christ, and to these sayings of Christ our Lord: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life' (John v. 24). Again, 'He that is washed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean’ (John xiii. 10).
Now, that which is recorded of the spirits or souls of the dead sometimes appearing to them that are alive, and craving certain duties of them whereby they may be set free: we count those apparitions among the delusions, crafts, and deceits of the Devil, who, as he can transform himself into an angel of light, so he labors tooth and nail either to overthrow the true faith, or else to call it into doubt. The Lord, in the Old Testament, forbade us to inquire the truth of the dead, and to have any thing to do with spirits (Deut. xviii. 10, 11). And to the glutton, being bound in torments, as the truth of the Gospel does declare, is denied any return to his brethren on earth; the oracle of God pronouncing and saying, “They have Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded, if one arose from the dead' (Luke xvi. 29, 31).
CHAPTER XXVII.-OF RITES, CEREMONIES, AND THINGS INDIFFERENT.
Unto the ancient people were given in old time certain ceremonies, as a kind of schooling to those who were kept under the law, as under