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cacy than at other Times; and to be more exact in performing those Devotions that ought to accompany our Fasts. The Church aims at our Advantage in the Rules The prescribes, and is always supposed to make Allowances for particular Cases, which cannot be included in general Rules.
Q. Is this Humiliation, and afflicting our Bodies by Fasting, and giving outward Marks of our inward Grief for sin, agreeable to the Christian Religion ?
A. Though it is certain, that in the Exercise of Repentance the main Thing required is, to return sincerely from our evil Ways, yet it is plain in the Prophets, that this inward Grief was expressed by outward Signs of Fasting, Weeping, and Mourning. And that this was not peculiar to the Genius of the Old Testa
ment, appears by the Directions given by James 4. St. James concerning Repentance: Be cflicted,
and mourn, and weep : Let your Laughter be turned into Mourning, and your Joy into Heariness. Humble yourselves in the Sight of the Lord, and be mell lift you up. Which Words, if examined by the Phrases of the Old Testament, our best Guide in interpreting the New, import outward Expressions of Grief and Sorrow used by de
vout People in token of hearty Repentance. Levit. 16. The great Fast on the Day of Expiation, was 26, 31. called a Day of cflicting their Souls: Which con
lifted not only in Abstinence from Food, but in Sacco & putting on the Habit and Appearance of Mourn. cinere vo-ers; which in those Eastern Countries was Sacklutantes, cloth, lying upon the Ground, frewing Afbes on Apolog.
their Head. And in such Days of offliEting their Souls, they abstained from all Sorts of Pleasure.
And to these Expressions of Sorrow the Words of St. James plainly allude ; and were so literally practised by the primitive Christians of those Countries. For, if any one fell into any notorious Sin after Baptism, they did not think it sufficient that he should repeat his Crime no more, but he was obliged by a long Course of Mortification, Prayers, Tears, and good Works, to endeavour to wash out the Stain and Guilt.
Q. Are we obliged to use the same Testimonies of our inward Grief, whereby it was expressed in ancient Times ?
A. I think not; because the using of Sackcloth and Ashes formerly, when Men humbled themselves before God, was in Conformity to the Custom of Mourners in those Times, who expressed their Sense of Grief after that Manner. But then I think we ought to express the same Thing by other Signs proper to the Custom of Mourners in our Days. By forbearing our usual Meals, by abstaining from all Manner of Pleasure, by neglecting the adorning our Bodies, by retiring froin Company, by laying aside Business, and by bewailing our Loss. A Sinner, faith St. Cyprian, ought to lament the Death of his Soul, at least as much as the Loss of a Friend : And St. ChrySostom makes use of the same Comparison. And surely it will become us to mourn and lament, who have offended God, our best Friend, and whose Favour we have consequently lost, if we are not heartily sorry for having offended him.
Q. How is a Day of Fasting to be observed by serious Christians ?
A. Not only by interrupting and abridging the Care of our bodily Sustenance, but by carefully inquiring into the State of our Souls ;
charging charging ourselves with all those Transgressions we have committed against God's Laws, humbly confefling them with Shame and Confusion of Face, with hearty Contrition and Sorrow for them; deprecating God's Displeasure, and begging him to turn away his Anger from us. By interceding with him for such spiritual and temporal Blessings upon ourselves and others, as are needful and convenient. By improving our Knowledge in all the Particulars of our Duty. By relieving the Wants and Necessities of the Poor, that our Humiliation and Prayers may find Acceptance with God. If the Fast be publick, by attending the publick Places of God's Worship.
Q. What ought we chiefly to beware of in our
Exercises of Fasting? Mat.6.18. A. We ought to avoid all Vanity and valuing
ourselves upon such Performances ; and therefore in our private Fafts, not to proclaim them to others by any external Affections; that we may not appear to Men to fast. Not to despise or judge our Neighbour, who doth not, and, it may be, hath not the same Reason to tie himself up to such Methods. Not to destroy the Health of our Bodies, and thereby make them unfit Instruments for the Operations of our Minds, or the Discharge of our worldly Employments. Particular Care ought to be taken, that we do not grow thereby moroje and four, peevish and fretful towards others, which Severity to ourselves may be apt to incline us to ; for that is so far from expressing our Repentance, that it makes fresh Work for it by increasing our Guilt.
The PRA Y ER S.
Days and forty Nights; give me Grace ing. to use such Abstinence, that my Flesh being subdued to the Spirit, I may ever obey thy godly Motions in Righteousness and true Holiness; to thy Honour and Glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, World without End. Amen.
I be turned; be favourable, O Lord, be divine favourable unto me, who turn to thee in weep, upon our
Favour ing, fasting, and praying; for thou art a God Fasting. full of Compassion, Long-suffering, and of great Pity; thou sparest when I deserve Punishment, and in thy Wrath thinkest upon Mercy : Spare me, good Lord, spare me, and let me not be brought to Confusion; hear me, O Lord, for thy Mercy is great, and after the Multitude of thy Mercies look upon me, through the Merits and Mediation of thy blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen,
reason of my Sins, and am heartily grieved of Rej c.2for the Loss of thy Favour. What Humiliation, tance. O Lord, can sufficiently express the Greatness of such a Loss! But I will weep and mourn, because I have offended thee; and I will repent as it were în Duft and Ashes. I will mortify those
inordinate Appetites, which have so fadly betrayed me; I will contradict all thofe Inclinations which have made me stray from the Ways of thy Commandments. And do thou, O Lord, wean my Soul from the Pleasures of the Body, which so often corrupt it, and render it incapable of relishing spiritual Enjoyments. Let it not contract too great a Familiarity with the Delights and Satisfactions of Sense, since it was created for more exalted Pleasures, and must shortly quit those here below; that so, when I come to leave this World, I may be qualified for the blesfed Conversation of Spirits in thy heavenly Kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
C H A P. I.
The forty Days of Lent.
HAT do you mean by Lent?
A. Lent, in the old Saxon Language, is known to signify the Spring, and thence it hach been taken in common Speech for the SpringFast; or the Time of Humiliation generally observed by Chriitians before Eafter, the great Festival of our Saviour's Resurrection. And -a Man must know little of Ecclefiaftical History, or have but a small Acquaintance with the Primitive Fathers of the Church, who doth not acknowledge the Observation of Lent to be most ancient,
Q. How may we judge of the Antiquity of this Fast?