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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 sinš, “ 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.
! 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 recognized, 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'.
| The only case in which the preparatory Fast 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 Wheatley,
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 shall 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, 1.--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 au thority 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