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HAT Fast doth the Church this Day
celebrate ? A. The great Vigil of our Saviour's Refurrection, when he lay in the Grave and descended into the State of the Dead; when there was a real Separation of his Soul from his Body, whereby he was properly and truly dead: Which State of his lowest Humiliation the primitive Church always observed with rigorous Fasting, even in that Age when Saturday was otherwise kept as a Festival, and, in respect to the Jewish Converts, honoured with all the solemnities of Religion over all the Eastern Church, as well as in some parts of the Western.
Q. How was Christ buried ? 53. .
A. According to what was predicted concerning the Meffias, our Saviour made bis Grave with the Rich ; for Joseph of Arimathæa, a rich
Man, who was himself a Disciple of the blessed Mat. 27. Jesus, begged the Body from Pilate, and wrapt
it'in a Linen Cloth, and put it in his own new Tomb, which he had hewn out in the Rock; which was shut up with a great Stone, and made secure by the Jews, by sealing the Stone, and setting a Watch. All these Circumstances do not only manifest the Reality of our Saviour's Death, but tend to make his Resurrection more evident.
Q: How did the Ancient Church observe this Vigil ?
A. It was celebrated with more than ordinary Pomp, as Nazianzen relates, with folemn Watch-Naz.Orat. ings, with Multitudes of lighted Torches both 2. in
Pasch. in their Churches and their own private Houses, and with the general Resort and Confluence of all Ranks of Men, both Magistrates and People. At Constantinople, Eusebius tells us, it Euseb.vit.
Const. was observed with most magnificent Illumina
lib.4.c.22; tions, not only within the Churches bue without. All over the City there was set up lighted Tapers, or rather Piliars of Wax, which gloriously turned the Night into Day, which they designed as a Fore-runner of that great Light, even the Sun of Rightecufies, which the next Day arole upon the World.
Q. How were the Christians employed upon this Vigil ?
A. As the Day was a strict Fast, so the Vigil Hieron.in continued at least till Midnight, the Congrega-Coni. Ap. tion not being dismissed till that Time; it beingi. 5. c.15. the Tradition of the Church, that our Saviour 19. rose a little after Midnight. But in the East the Vigil lasted till the Cock-crowing, the Time be- Ib. c. 14. ing spent, say the Apostolical Constitutions, in
:8. reading the Law and the Prophets, in expounding the holy Scriptures, and in baptising the Catecbumens. In the Latin Church the Water
de Div. for the Font is blest on this Day, and reserved for off.c. 3 ;. the use of the Persons to be baptised in the Year following, which Custom is a Shadow of the ancient Usage ; for on Eater-eve were the Catechumens baptised by the Bishop himself, if
prefent ; Easter being one of the chiefest Times appointed by the Church for baptising Adult Converts ; Children and Sick Perlons being baptised at all Times.
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Q. Muft we pass through the Gate of Death before we can aitain that Happiness Christ bath purchased for us?
A. It is appointed for all Men once to die; and though our blessed Saviour hath conquered Death, in depriving it of its Power to hurt those that are his faithful Servants, yet he hath not exempted us from the Laws of Mortality, but hath made Death a necessary Passage to the Attainment of eternal Happiness.
Q. What ought then to be the great Concern of a serious Clorijlian?
A. To fit and prepare himself for a holy and happy Death, in which he ought to use the greater Care and Caution, becaule a Mistake in this Matter is irrecoverable, and never to be retrieved. We can die but once, and eternal Happiness or eternal Misery must be the Consequence of it. And happy is that Man whose Mind is so well fortified, as to be able to meet the King of Terrors, not only without Fear, but with tome Degree of Comfort and Satisfaction.
Q. 1 herein appears the Wisdom of preparing ourselves for a happy D.ath?
A. In that it is securing the mighty and important Biusiness for which we were sent into this World, in respect of which all the other Labor!rs of Life are mere Trifles. For to bestow our chief Care and Pains upon Matters of the greatest Consequence, was always esteemed a main point of Wisdom and Prudence, and a Negle&t of this kind is justly branded with the Character of the utmost Folly. Since therefore Death will certainly translate us to endless Joys, or conlign us to everlasting Torments, nothing can be wiser than to take such Measures as
may iecule the one and prevent the other. This Method will give the truelt Relish to all the Blessings of Life, and prove the best Preservative against the Terrors and Apprehenfions of our great Change; the anxious Fears whereof proceed not so much from Death itself, as from the Confequences of that unchangeable State in which it fixes us.
And though Reason may reconcile us to it as we are Men, yet Religion alone can make it comfortable to us as we are Christians.
Q. What is the best Preparation for Death?
A. Tlie conitant Exercise of Piety and Virtue in the whole Course of our Lives is the only Armour that is Proof against the Attacks of that dreadful Enemy to Nature. And Men strangely delude themselves that depend upon any other Method than that of keeping a Conscience void of Ads 24. Ofence towards God and towards Mén.
16. Q. But since the Practice of Religion consists in feveral Particulars, what is the first Thing necesJury to prepare its fer e happy Death?
A. In order to make Death safe and happy, we must reconcile ourselves to God by a sincere and hearty Repentance. The Sting of Death is Sin, and a Mind loaded with Guilt is not only incapable of the Happiness of the next World, but excluded from it by the solemn Declaration of God, who is Truth itself; so that except we repent, we shall certainly perish. Repentance therefore must be the first Step we should make, if ever we design to die well; which we should immediately apply ourselves to, left Sickness and Death should overtake us, before we have accomplished so necessary a Work; for though a Death-bed may be a proper Season to renew our Repentance, and to trim
our Lamp, yet it is the
most untit Time to begin it; and it then very rarely, if ever, takes Effect.
Q. What is farther necesary to prepare us for e happy Death?
A. To set our House in Order, by a prudent and pious Disposition of our acrldly Concerns. Now that this may be done wisely, requires Time and Consideration, and therefore cannot fo well be dispatched in our last Moments, when our Minds are disordered, our Bodies oppressed with Pain and Sickness, and when we run the Hazard of being imposed upon by those who out Interest officiously attend us; and though we should in fome Measure be free from these Inconveniencies, yet the little Time we fail then have to live, is too precious to be consumed about Trifles. So that, except we make our Wills in the Days of our Health, that Matter may pollibly never be performed, or after such an imperfect Manner, as to convey Strife and Contention to our Pofterity, and at best to give great Trouble and Dilorder to ourselves, when we are leaft able to bear it. It requires Thoughe and Consideration to dispose of our Estates in a Chriftian Manner, to give Children their fitting Portions, to acknowledge the Kindness of our Friends, to reward the Services of our Dependants, and to make Distributions for the Poor and Needs, and all this in fo clear a Manner, that no Ditrerences or Law.Suits may arise among those we have bchind us. To this
pose the Church hath wisely directed the MiThe Run wister, when he attends the fick Person, if he brick in hath not disposed of his Goods, to admonish the Vif- him to make his Will, and to declare bis Debts, tation of what he owes, and what is owing to him, for the