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Such are some of the advantages, which a recurrence to the system of our Church in respect of Fasting might, in dependence upon God's blessing, tend to realize: a more uniform, namely, and regular observance of an injunction of our Blessed SAVIOUR; a deeper humiliation, and a more chastened spirit in carrying on His will; a more thorough insight into ourselves, and a closer communion with our God; a more resolute and consistent practice of self-denying charity; a more lively realizing of things spiritual; a warning to the world of God's truth and its own peril. I have spoken with reference to prevailing habits and general character only, partly because they are these habits which the regulations of a Church must mainly contemplate"; in part also, because, in whatever degree, they will probably form a portion of our own. The evil or defective character of any period is not formed by, nor will it exist in those only who are evil; it encompasses us, is within us : we also contribute in our degree to foster and promote it ; nay, it is from us probably that it receives its main countenance and support. Our own standard is insensibly lowered by the evil with which we are environed. A self-indulgent age is not a favourable atmosphere for the growth of self-denial ; nor an age of busy and self-dependent activity for that of a calm and abiding practical recognition, that every thing is in God's hands; nor a period absorbed in the things of sense for thoughtful meditation on things eternal. The predominant evils will indeed appear in the Christian in a subdued form; yet whether the temptation be to an unconscious compliance with them, or unwittingly to oppose evil with evil, the danger lies nearer here than in any other part of duty. And if the salt in
any wise lose its savour, wherewith shall the self-corrupting world be preserved ? wherewith the salt itself be salted ?
The benefits above named are such as depend on the increased degree of Fasting, exercised in compliance with the directions of the Church, independently of the consideration of the days or seasons selected for that purpose. The results to be anticipated from a more general adherence to these rules appear, however, to be heightened by that selection. The general objects of the
1 " We must observe all that care in public Pasts, which we do in private ; knowing that our private ends are included in the public, as our persons are in the communion of saints, and our hopes in the common inheritance of sons." Bishop Taylor, Works, iv. 103.
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Church were, 1. to impress upon the mind and life the memory of her Saviour's sufferings ; 2. to prepare the mind for different solemn occasions, which recur in her yearly service. The first, or the Friday Fast, as above stated, was universally adopted in the early Church, and in all probability was coeval with the Apostles; it was continued uninterruptedly, alike in the Eastern and the Western Church, and preserved in our own, through the respect which she bore to primitive antiquity, and the experience of the elder Church. It was perhaps at the first adopted, as the natural expression of sorrow for the loss of their Lord and for His bitter sufferings. With this would soon connect itself, almost to the exclusion of the former, sorrow for the sins, which caused those sufferings. “We do not fast',” says Chrysostom, "for the Passion or the Cross, but for our sins ;-the Passion is not the occasion of fasting or mourning, but of joy and exultation. We mourn not for that, God forbid, but for our sins, and therefore we fast." As then the Lord's day was the weekly festival of their Saviour's resurrection, a weekly memorial of our rising again, in Him and through Him, to a new and real life ; so was the Friday's Fast a weekly memorial of the death to sin, which all Christians had in their Saviour died, and which, if they would live with Him, they must continually die. Thus each revolving week was a sort of representation of that great week, in which man's redemption was completed : the Church never lost sight of her Saviour's sufferings ; each week was hallowed by a return of the" Good Friday ?." One need scarcely insist upon the tendency of such a system, deeply to impress on men's hearts the doctrine of the Atonement, by thus incorporating it into their ordinary lives, and making them by their actions confess this truth. In the early Church its efficacy was
Ap. Bingham, B. xxi. c. 1. § 14. Chrysostom is there speaking of the Lent Fast, but the application is the same.
2 " Forasmuch as Christ hath foresignified that when Himself should be taken from them, His absence would soon make them apt to fast, it seemed that even as the first festival Day appointed to be kept of the Church was the day of our Lord's return from the dead, so the first sorrowful and mournful day was that wbich we now observe, in memory of His departure out of this world. It came afterwards to be an order, that even as the day of Christ's resurrection, so the other two, in memory of His death and burial, were weekly. The Churches which did not observe the Saturday's fast, had another instead thereof, for that when they judged it meet to have weekly a day of humiliation, besides that whereon our Saviour suffered death, it seemed best to make their choice of that day especially, whereon the Jews are thought to have first contrived their treason, together with Judas, against Christ.” Hooker, I. c.
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 see, 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 our 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 fronı 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 an. other; and the greatest good which man can attain, and yet cannot possess himself of by any exertions or power of his 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, to 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 upon 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, l. 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.”