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CHA P. II.
Ath-TWednesday, or the fitt Day of
HY doth the Fast of forty Days, called
Lent, begin on Alh-Wednesday ? A. Because the four Days of this Week complete the forty Days, it being never the Custom of the Church to fast on Sundays, whereon we commemorate so great a Blelling as our Saviour's Resurrection; the fix Sundays in Lent being deducted, and these four Days being added, inal the Number entire.
Q. Why is the first Day of Lent called AshWednelday?
A. From the Custom that prevailed in the ancient Church, for Penitents at this Time to express their Humiliation by lying in Sackcloth and Ashes: by the Coarseness of Sackcloth they ranked themselves, as it were, among Men of the meanest and lowest Condition ; by Ashes, and sometimes Earth caft upon their Heads, they made themselves lower than the lowest of the Creatures of God, and put themselves in mind of their Mortality, which would reduce them to Dust and Alhes.
Q. Wbat was the Discipline of the Primitive Church ai the Beginning of Lent?
A. That such Perions as stood convicted of notorious Crimes were put to open Penance. For according to the ancient Discipline, those who after Baptism fell into any great and notorious Sins, if they were Penitents, were ad
mitted to Penance, and to the Prayers of the Church for their Reconciliation with God. But if they were refractory Sinners, or their Crimes of a deep Dye, they were excommunicated, and not admitted to Reconciliation with the Church, but alter a long and tedious Course of Penance, after the most publick Testimonies of Sorrow and Repentance, and the greatest Signs
of Humiliation that can be imagined. For I'erDe Pænit tullian tells us, They lay in Sackcloth and Apes,
i bey disfigured their bodies with a neglected Uncleanness, and diječied their Minds wiih Grief; they used no other Food but what was neccilary to keep up Life, and frequently nourijbed their Prayers with rigorous Feliing; ihey gro:ned, they wept to the Lord their God Day and Night; they fell down at the Feet of the Presbyters, they kneeled to the Friends of God, and begged of all their Fellow Christians to pray for i hem. These Severities they willingly submitted to, as Tokens of their Sorrow, and Evidences of their Relormation, and thought themselves happy upon any. Terms to be admitted to the Peace of God, and the Church.
Q. How were Penitents re-admitted into the
Church? Cypr. E
A. When they had finished the Time prescripiit.17: bed for the undergoing these Severities, if their 18. Edit. Oxon.
Repentance upon Examination was found to be real, they were re-admitted into the Church by the Imposition of the Hands of the Clergy, the Party to be absolved knecling before the Bishopa or in his Absence, before the Presiryter, who laying his Hand upon his Head, folemnly blessed and absolved him; whereupon he was received with universal Joy, and restored to a Participa
tion of the holy Sacrament, and to all other Acts of Church Communion.
Q. What Method hath the Church of England teken to supply the Want of ancient Discipline at this Time ?
A. Till our Spiritual Fathers can be so happy Mat. 16. as to succeed in discharging those Obligations 19. they lye under of restoring to the Church that ch.18.17. Discipline she hath a Right to; being founded John 20. upon the express Laws of Christ and his Apo-i Cor. 5. Kles, fufficiently explained to us by the Prac- 3, 4, 5. rice of the Primitive and Apoftolical Church, ver.12,13.
2Cor.2.6. very useful to recover those that have erred
chj2.10, from the Truth and Piety, and absolutely ne-13. 2. 10. cessary to preserve Religion in its greatest Pu- Tit. 3. 9, rity ; till, I say, this blessed Time Mall i Tim. 6.
come, which good Men wilh for, and bad Men fear,
3, and 5. the Church of England, to supply this Want, fets before her Members the Curses due to all Sin, and puts them in Mind of God's dreadful Tribunal, where the Impenitent shall be most certainly condemned; thereby endeavouring to bring every Man to judge and condemn himfelf, that he may truly repent of his past Follies, and carefully avoid thole Sins, for the Time to come, which draw upon Men the Judgments of God.
Q. But is not saying Amen to those Sentences of God's Law, a Cursing of ourselves, and is it not a wicked as well as a foolish Thing?
A. This pious Office hath indeed been so traduced; but I believe it hath not been considered, that God himself commanded this manner of answering. And tho' some Circumstances in reciting thefe Curses among the Jews might be ceremonial, yet the main of the Duty, and the End
Deut. II. 29.
for ch. 27.
for which it was prescribed, was truly moral, tending to the Honour of God and his Laws, and the promoting of true Piety. And the laying Amen does not here signify withing, but affirming and declaring the Truth of what God hach revealed; and thus Amen is often in the Gospel
Translation Vcrily; and Jesus, who is the Truth, Mat v.18.is called Amen; so that Amen is no more than a Mark ii. Declaration, that he whom God blefleth is blessed, Luke iv. and he whom God curseth is cursed: And these 24. Curses are like our Saviour's Woes in the Gospel, Rev, iii. not Procurers of Evil, but compassionate Pre
dictions of it, in order to prevent it.
Q. But bath not Christ taken away the Curse of the Law, being made a Curse for us ?
A. It is true that our Saviour, by Virtue of his Sacrifice, made Satisfaction for Sin, and bore that Curse which belonged to us; and thereby acquitted and cleared all those that believe in him from the Guilt of those Sins, for which there was no Way of Expiation provided by the Law of Moses; that is, of presumptuous Sins, for which there was no Sacrifice, but the Man was to be cut off. But still this Redemption that was purchased for us, was upon the Condition of Repentance; so that impenitent Sinners are still the Objects of God's Wrath ; and tho' Pardon and Forgiveness of Sins was procured for us by the Death of Christ, yet Repentance is necessary to qualify us to receive the Benefit of it. It being certain still, that Sinners, while they remain such, are really accursed; and to convince them of this, and make them own it, is the truest Blessing the Church can procure for them.
Q. What Use does the Church make of setting the Curses of God's Law before us?.
4. To press all Christians to a true and sincere Repentance from the Confideration of God's dreadful Wrath against all impenitent Sinners; which as is it severe in itself, and altogether intolerable, so is it just in its Proceedings, and abfolutely unavoidable, when it doth come ; and when Sinners are awakened by this Confideration from their dreadful Security, they are encouraged to Repentance from God's Readiness to receive true Penitents to Mercy, and from the great Benefits of it, Pardon and Peace in this Life, and eternal Happiness in the next.
Q. Since Repentance is so earnestly pressed upon us at this Time, pray wherein does it confift?
A. Repentance consists in such a Change of Mind, as produces the like Change in our Lives and Conversations ; so that to repent of our Sins, is to be convinced that we have done amiss; whence follows hearty Sorrow for our past Follies, and a firm and effectual Purpose and Resolution of Mind to forsake them for the Time to come. And this Change is so great in our Desires and Resolutions, that the Scripture calls it a new Nature, the Sincerity and Reality whereof
appears in Actions suitable to such new Principles.
Q. What Confiderations are proper to excite in us Sorrow for our Sins ?
A. Who can forbear grieving, when he confiders that he is fallen under the heavy Displeasure of Almighty God, whose infinite Patience he hath abuled that he is exposed to all those Miseries that are implied in an eternal Separation from the Fountain of all Happiness; that he hath foolishly neglected the most important Concern of his Life, and done what in him lies to make himself everlastingly miserable; that he