Obrazy na stronie

Only with regard to the Ember Weeks, it may be permitted to observe, how this institution yet more fully embraces the objects which some good men are endeavouring, by voluntary association, to attain. For the solemn period of the four Ember Weeks is obviously calculated for prayer, not for those only who are to be ordained to any holy function, but for all who shall have been so called, that God "would so replenish them with the truth of His doctrine, and endue them with innocency of life, that they may faithfully serve Him ;" and thus, not only some few indivi. duals, more nearly known to each other, but all the Ministers and all the people of Christ should, with one mind and one mouth, implore a blessing upon the Ministry which He has appointed.

And this also is an especial privilege of the whole system of regular Fasting prescribed by our Church, beyond the voluntary discipline adopted by individuals, that it presents the whole Church unitedly before God, humbling themselves for their past sins, and imploring Him not to give His heritage to reproach. The value of this united humiliation and prayer God only knoweth ; yet since He hath promised to be present where two or three are gathered together in His name, how much more when His Church shall again unite before Him“ in weeping, fasting, and praying ;" how much more shall He spare, though we deserve punishment, and in His wrath think upon mercy. He who spared the Ninevites, how much more may we trust that He will spare us, for whom He has given His well-beloved Son.

“Let us, therefore, dearly beloved, seeing there are many more causes of fasting and mourning in these our days, than hath been of many years heretofore in any one age, endeavour ourselves both inwardly in our hearts, and also outwardly with our bodies, diligently to exercise this godly exercise of fasting, in such sort and manner, as the holy prophets, the apostles, and divers other devout persons for their time used the same. God is now the same God that He was then ; God that loveth righteousness, and that hateth iniquity; God which willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live ; God that hath promised to turn to us, if we refuse not to turn to Him : yea, if we turn our evil works from before His eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well, seek to do right, relieve the oppressed, be a right judge to the fatherless, defend the widow, break our bread to the hungry, bring the poor that wander into our house, clothe the naked, and despise not our brother which is our own flesh: Then shalt thou call, saith the prophet, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here am I : yea, God, which heard Ahab, and the Ninevites, and spared them, will also hear our prayers, and spare us, so that we, after their example, will unfeignedly turn unto Him: yea, He will bless us with His heavenly benedictions, the time that we have to tarry in this world, and, after the race of this mortal life, He will bring us to His heavenly kingdom, where we shall reign in everlasting blessedness with our Saviour CHRIST, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.” Homily on Fasting, part 2.

“LORD, have mercy upon us, and give us grace, that while we live in this miserable world, we may through thy help bring forth this and such other fruits of the Spirit, commended and commanded in thy holy word, to the glory of thy name, and to our comforts, that after the race of this wretched life, we may live everlastingly with thee in thy heavenly kingdom, not for the merits and worthiness of our works, but for thy mercies' sake, and the merits of thy dear Son, Jesus Christ, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all laud, honour, and glory, for ever and ever. Amen." Homily on Fasting, part 1.

VOL. I.-NO. 18,


POSTSCRIPT. In the preceding remarks, the observance of the Fasts enjoined by the Church has been recommended on the ground of the practical wisdom and spiritual experience of the Holy Men, by whose advice they were adopted, rather than on that of the direct authority of the Church. And this has been done, not because the writer doubted of the validity of that authority in this instance, but because it involved a question, which would to many appear distant and abstract; whether, namely, the Church's Laws on this subject were by long disuse virtually abrogated. For I am persuaded that many excellent men, who would shrink from contravening a distinct command of their Church, do in fact neglect these, from some notion that the Church herself has tacitly abandoned them. This notion does indeed appear to me to rest on a wrong supposition.

For, 1st. Since the Church has not annexed any censures to the neglect of this Ordinance, (which may correspond to the penal provisions of a civil law,) the mere silence of the Church, or of her Spiritual Authorities, is no proof of her acquiescence in the breach of her directions.

2. It would be admitted in any other case, that the mere multitude of those who broke any law did not alone abrogate that law; that the intrinsic sanctity of the law cannot depend upon the obedience which men may yield to it ; that the laxity or remissness of men, at one period, cannot annihilate the authority by which that remissness was to be controlled. The disobedience of others, be they many or few, nay, though they should be even the majority, can have no force in absolving us from the law by which we are in common bound. It is true that observances, which the Church has at one time on her own authority ordained, she may at another abrogate ; yet, until she do this, it is to be presumed that she wishes them to be retained in force. And it, has already happened, that ordinances have for a time fallen into disuse, which yet were never allowed to be abrogated, and which afterwards have been very beneficially revived. It is within the memory of man, that the yearly Commemoration of our Blessed Saviour's death was in country congregations very generally omitted. This solemn day is now, I trust, almost universally observed ; nor is there any apparent reason, why this other ordi

nance of the Church, whereby we humble ourselves for the sins which caused that Death, should not, if men once came seriously to consider it, be promptly, and with very wholesome results, restored. I doubt not that if the question were formally proposed to the Spiritual Authorities of our Church, whether they would think it advisable that our stated Fasts should be abolished, they would earnestly deprecate it. Their silence therefore on this subject is rather to be ascribed to the supposed hopelessness of attempting to bend our modern manners to Ancient Discipline, than to any disparagement of the institutions themselves. Our institutions in many cases sleep, but are not dead ; nay, one has reason to hope that, although the many neglect them, a faithful few have ever been found, who have experienced and could testify the value of those which the world seems most entirely to neglect.

One might refer, in proof, to the practice of a daughter Church, the Episcopal Church of the United States. Sprung from our Church and supplied by her with Ministers, until the State was separated from us, they carried with them her principles, as they had been modified by the habits and feelings and practice of the period which had elapsed since her Reformation. She may be regarded then as representing the then state of opinions amongst us. Yet formerly re-considering the subject of the Church's Fasts, they omitted only the Vigils ; while they retained the weekly Friday Fast, those of Lent, the Ember and Rogation days, as days "on which the Church requires such a measure of abstinence, as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of Devotion."

Yet, although these grounds of Church authority appear to myself perfectly valid, and I doubt not that many others will feel their weight, as soon as they shall reflect upon them, the other argument, drawn from the practical wisdom and experience of the enactors of these regulations, seems to lie nearer to men's consciences. The argument lies in a narrow compass. Regular and stated Fasts formed a part of the Discipline by which, during almost the whole period since the Christian Church has been founded, all her real sons, in every climate, nation, and language, have subdued the flesh to the spirit, and brought both body and mind into a willing obedience to the Law of God. They thought

' Book of Common Prayer, Philadelphia.

this Discipline necessary as an expression and instrument of repentance, as a memorial of their SavIOUR, to “ refrain their souls and keep them low," to teach them to “ trust in the LORD,” and seek communion with Him. To this system our own Church during all her happier times adhered. The value of this remedy for sin has come to us attested by the experience, and sealed by the blood, of Martyrs; who having learnt thus to endure hardships, like good soldiers of Christ, at last resisted to the blood, striving against sin. Shall we, untried, pronounce that to be needless for ourselves, which the Glorious Company of the Apostles, the Goodly Fellowship of Prophets, the noble army of Martyrs, the Holy Church throughout the world, found needful?

I can hardly anticipate other than one answer. Only let not any one be deterred by the irksomeness, or perplexities, or harassing doubts, which every one must find in resuming a neglected portion of duty. It were scarcely a discipline, if its practice brought with it an immediate reward ; and we have besides to pay the penalty of our sloth and diseased habits. “ Patiently to lack what flesh and blood doth desire, and by virtue to forbear what by nature we covet, this no man attaineth unto, but with labour and long practice'.” And if it be that blessed instrument of holiness, which they who have tried it assure us, it will not be without some struggle with our spiritual enemy, that we shall recover the ground which we have lost. Only let us persevere, not elated with the first petty victories over ourselves, which may be perhaps conceded to us in order to produce over-confidence and carelessness; nor dejected by the obstacles which a luxurious and scoffing age may oppose ; nor by the yet greater difficulties from within, in acquiring any uniform or consistent habit. Men, aided by God, have done the like; and for us also, His grace will be sufficient.

1 Hooker, l. c. OXFORD,

E. B. P. The Feast of St. Thomas.

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