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without doubt increased by the accession of the Fast of the Wednesday, or fourth day of the week ; so that no portion of the week was without some memorial of the Saviour of the Church. There is however another object, which, although not originally contemplated, was in fact attained by this institution, the holier celebration, namely, of our most solemn day, that of our Saviour's death. Most Christians, probably, who have endeavoured to realize to themselves the events of that day, have been painfully disappointed in so doing; instead of
Touching the heart with softer power
For comfort than an angel's mirth, it has been to them an oppressive day: its tremendous truths overwhelmed rather than consoled; it was so unlike all other days, that the mind was confounded by its very greatness : it seemed unnatural to do any thing, which one would do even on any other holy day, and the heart was equally unsatisfied with what it did or did not do. Something of this kind has taken place in very many minds ; and the reason probably was, that the solemnity of that day was too insulated; that (if one may use the expression) it was out of keeping with the religious habits of the rest of the year.
This then the weekly Fast and solemn recollection recommended by the Church are calculated to remedy; as indeed, had they been observed, these feelings would never have found place. In whatever degree its advice is adhered to, Good Friday becomes a day of more chastened, and yet of intenser feeling ; it is connected with a train of the like emotions, affections, and resolves ; insulated no longer, but the holiest only among the holy. “ Neither in moral or religious, more than in physical and civil matters,” says a very acute observer of human nature, “ do people willingly do any thing suddenly or upon the instant; they need a succession of the like actions, whereby a habit may be formed ; the things which they are to love, or to perform, they cannot conceive as insulated and detached ; whatever we are to repeat with satisfaction, must not have become foreign to us!.” The prin
I Goethe aus meinem Leben, tom. iii. p. 179. The author is there lament. ing "the nakedness which, Jeremy Taylor says, the excellent men of our sister Churches complained to be among themselves,” and which our own happily avoided. In the contrast there drawn, it is not a little remarkable to sec, that the doctrine of Apostolical Succession which has of late been by some regarded as cold and unpractical, is put forward as that which gives to the Romish Sacraments a warmth, which the Lutheran Church does not possess. He sums
ciple is of important application in the whole range of our duties; nor could it be too often repeated, in warning, " that what is not practised frequently, can never be performed with delight." We are sensible of the value of habits in moral action, and are not surprised that one who makes only desultory efforts should never succeed in acquiring any habit ; we feel it in some degree in our public worship of God, and think it natural that one who does not diligently avail himself of all his opportunities of attending it, should join in it but coldly and lifelessly ; it is strange to him, and therefore at best a stiff and austere service; and yet, in other matters, we act in defiance of this maxim; we have allowed our Fasts to become rare, and therefore it has come to pass, that so many never fast at all: our holy days have passed for the most part into neglect, and therefore the few that remain excite but little comparative feeling; our daily service is well nigh disused, and therefore our weekly is so much neglected; we have diminished the frequency of our communions, and therefore so many are strangers to the Lord's Table, so many formal partakers. Not so the Apostles, nor the Primitive Church, nor onr own in its Principles, or in its most Apostolic days : they knew human nature better; or, rather, acting from their own experience and self-knowledge, they ordained what was healthful for men of like nature with themselves; what was a duty at any period of the year, must needs be performed throughout; each portion had its Festivals and its Fasts, and the varying circle formed one harmonious whole of Christian humiliation and Christian joy!
up thus: “All these spiritual miracles spring not, like other fruits, from the natural soil; there can they neither be sown, nor planted, nor nurtured. One must obtain them by prayer from another country; and this cannot every one do, nor at all times. Here then we are met by the highest of these symbols derived from an old venerable tradition. We hear that one man can be favoured, blessed, consecrated from above, more than others. Yet, in order that this may appear no mere natural gift, this high favour, united as it is with a weight of duty, must be transmitted from one commissioned individual to another; and the greatest goud wbich man can attain, and yet cannot possess himself of by any exertions or power of bis own, must be preserved and perpetuated upon earth by a spiritual inheritance. Nay, in the consecration of the Priest, every thing is united which is necessary for effectually joining in those other holy ordinances, whereby the mass of Believers is benefited, without their having any.other active share therein, than that of faith and unconditional confidence. And thus the Priest is enrolled in the succession of those who have preceded or shall come after him, and in the circle of those anointed to the same office, tu represent Him from whom all blessings flow; and that the more gloriously, because it is not himself whom we respect, but his office; it is not before his bidding that we bow the knee, but before the benediction which he imparts, and which seems the more sacred, the more immediately derived from Heaven, because the earthly instrument cannot, by any sinfulness or viciousness of his own weaken it, or render it powerless." The author manifestly speaks of the value of the Sacraments with the feelings with which a spectator might be inspired but still as one, in whom great power of observation could supply every thing but the warmth of actual experience.
The Church was in those days consistent; its ministers derived their commission not of man, but of God, who called them inwardly by His Spirit, and outwardly through those to whom, through His Apostles, He had delegated this high office. The admission into Holy Orders was no mere outward consecration or ceremony, but an imparting of God's Spirit to those who were separated to this work, through the prayers of the congregation, and the delegated authority of the Bishop. Christian edification was not left to each man's private judgment, but each was taught by those who had authority and experience, what was good and expedient for his soul's health. We also have been in these days becoming consistent; if we fast, we fast for ourselves ; if we keep a holy day, or select a portion of the weekly service, it is because we of our own minds deem it convenient; we have become in all things the judges of the Church, instead of reverently obeying what has been recommended to us; we judge beforehand what will be useful to us, instead of ascertaining by experience whether the system recommended by elder Christians be not so.
Yet I would fain hope that there will not long be this variance between our principles and our practice; but that, instead of examining what is the present practice of any portion of our Church, and inquiring how this may be amended, men would first investigate, in the Canons and the Rubrics’, what the real mind of the Church is, and see whether adherence to these would not remove the regretted defect.
One only objection can, I think, be raised by any earnestminded Christian to this weekly Fast, namely, that the means employed, mere self-denial in so slight a matter as one's food, is so petty and trifling a thing, that it were degrading the doctrine of the Cross to make such an observance in any way bear
it. One respects the feelings of such a person and his love for the Cross;
1 “ We are more apt to Calendar Saints' than sinners' days, therefore there is in the Church a care not to iterate the one alone, but to have frequent repetition of the other.” Hooker, I. c.
2 In respect to the ordinance of Fasting, it might contribute to regularity, if Clergymen were to observe the direction of their Church as contained in the Rubric after the Nicene Creed, " to declare unto the people what holy-days or fasting days are in the week following to be observed."
but the objection probably proceeds from inexperience in the habit of Fasting. For let any one consider, from his childhood upwards, by what the greater part of his habits have been formed, and by what they are continued: not by any great acts or great sacrifices, (as far as any thing might be relatively great,) but by a succession of petty actions, whose effect he could not at any time foresee, or thought too minute to leave any trace behind them, and which have in fact, whether for good or for evil, made him what he is. Practice will universally show, that the motive ennobles the action, not that the action dishonours the motive.
“ True it is," says Bishop Taylor', " that religion snatches even at little things; and as it teaches us to observe all the great commandments and significations of duty, so it is not willing to pretermit any thing, which, although by its greatness it cannot of itself be considerable, yet by its smallness it may become a testimony of the greatness of the affection, which would not omit the least minutes of love and duty." He who pronounced a blessing upon the gift of a cup of cold water to a disciple in His name, will also bless any act of sincere self-denial practised in memory of Him. Only let us not mock God, let us deny ourselves in something which is to us really self-denial ; let us, in whatever degree we may be able to bear it without diminishing our own usefulness, put ourselves to some inconvenience, in sorrow and shame for those sins, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life,” which made our Saviour a man of sorrows, and exposed Him to shame, and we shall not afterwards think the practice degrading to Him, or without meaning. The Fast of the early Christians during Lent was an entire abstinence until evening, on the Wednesday and Friday, until three o'clock : unused as we for the most part are to any such discipline, many of us would at the first not be well able to endure it; the difference also of climate might render that degree of abstinence oppressive to us, which in more southern latitudes would recruit only and refresh the spirit?: the weak and sickly again have always been exempt from those more rigid abstinences: they might not beneficially be able to deprive themselves of an early or an entire meal : yet doubtless many of them will have been enabled to trace in themselves the evils of even a necessary softness and indulgence of the body; and the mind which shall have become alive to these, will not be slow in discovering some mode of " keeping under the body, and bringing it into subjection." The early Church, besides its more rigid Fasts, admitted also of the substitution of less palatable and of diminished nourishment; and our own has, in insulated directions accompanying her occasional Fasts, recognized the same principle: in general, she has left the mode of observing her Fasts free to the conscience of each ; only let them consist in real self-denial, and be accompanied by charity, retirement, and prayer.
I Life and Death of the Holy Jesus, Works, t. iii. p. 96. of Fasting.
2 Yet, in what seem to have been standing orders for the Fast' in our Church in the 17th century (at least the orders during the plague in 1636 and 1665, agree to the very letter,) the most rigid of the Fasts of the early Church was prescribed. The direction is, 2. “All persons (children, old, weake, and sicke folkes, or the like excepted) are required to eat upon that day but one competent Meal, and that towards night, after Evening Prayer, observing sobrietie of diet, without superfluitie of riotous fare, respecting necessitie and not voluptuousnesse.” This additional Fast was ordered to “bee held everie week upon the Wednesday."
The early Church acted, as it supposed, upon our Blessed Saviour's own authority, in connecting these acts of bodily abstinence with the memory of His death. The Bridegroom was taken away! Yet if any one should find in himself any abiding repugnance to associate matters, necessarily humiliating, with the doctrine of the Cross, let him not endeavour to force his feelings: the Church wished to lay no yoke upon her members ; let him perform the acts in mere compliance with the advice of the Church, and the experience of elder Christians : when we shall have attained the habit of self-denial and self-humiliation, the doctrine of the Cross will, without effort, connect itself with each such performance.
The other Fasts of the Church require the less to be dwelt upon, either because, as in Lent, her authority is yet in some degree recognised, although it be very imperfectly and capriciously obeyed; or, as in the case of the Ember Weeks, the practice has direct scriptural authority; or in that of the other Festivals, because when we shall again value the privilege of having the blessed examples of Martyrs and Saints set before us, to
Remind us, how our darksome clay May keep the ethereal warmth our new Creator brought, we shall feel also the advantage of ushering in each such day by actions which may impress upon us how they entered into their glory, by taking up their Saviour's cross and following Him!
I The only case in which the preparatory Past is omitted (besides those already alluded to, p. 1.) is the Festival of St. Michael and all Angels, in which this ground for the Fast also ceases. See Wlieatley,