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would probably strike most thoughtful minds, as instances of consideration and reflection in those who framed them.

The clergy, more especially, would appreciate, abstractedly at least, the imitation of the Apostolic practice of Fasting, when any are to be ordained to any holy function in the Church ; and some probably will feel mournfully, that if the Church were now more uniformly to observe those acts of Fasting and Prayer, which were thought needful, before even Paul and Barnabas' were separated for God's work, we should have more reasonable grounds to hope, that many of our Clergy would be filled with the spirit of Barnabas and Paul.

On the other hand, it is naturally to be expected, that one not accustomed to any outward restraint in this matter, would feel indisposed to ordinances so detailed ; that although he could reconcile to himself the one or the other of these observances, which most recommended themselves to his Christian feelings, he would think the whole a burdensome and minute ceremonial, perhaps unbefitting a spiritual worship, and interfering with the liberty wherewith Christ has made him free. This is very natural ; for we are by nature averse to restraint, and the abuse of some maxims of Protestantism, such as the “ right of private judgment,” has made us yet more so : we are reluctant to yield to an unreasoning authority, and to submit our wills, where our reason has not first been convinced ; and the prevailing maxims of the day have strengthened this reluctance; we have been accustomed to do, " every one that which was right in his own eyes,” and are jealous of any authority, except that of the direct injunctions of the Bible: in extolling also the spirituality of our religion, we have, I fear, intended covertly to panegyrise our own, and so, almost wilfully withdraw our sight from those more humbling provisions, which are adapted to us, as being yet in the flesh : in our zeal for the blessed truths of the cross of Christ, and of our sanctification by the Holy Spirit, we have begun insensibly to disparage other truths, which bring us less immediately into intercourse with God, to neglect the means and ordinances, which touch not upon the very centre of our faith.

The practical system of the Church is altogether at variance with that which even pious Christians in these days have permitted themselves to adopt; much which she has recommended or enjoined would now be looked upon as formalism, or outward service: in our just fear of a lifeless formalism, we have forgotten that wherever there is regularity, there must be forms ; that every Christian feeling must have its appropriate vehicle of expression ; that the most exalted act of Christian devotion, that our closest union with our Saviour, is dependent upon certain forms; that the existence of forms does not constitute formalism ; that where the Spirit of Christ is, there the existence of forms serves only to give regularity to the expression, to chasten what there might yet remain of too individual feeling, to consolidate the yet divided members" in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

1 Acts xiii. 2--4. iv. 23.

Yet, as in every case in which the current of prevailing opinions, either in faith or practice, has for some time set in one direction, there have not been wanting indications, that Christians have felt their system incomplete ; that there was something in the tranquil piety of former days, which they would gladly incorporate into the zealous excitement of the present; that although religion is in one sense strictly individual, yet in the means by which it is kept alive it is essentially expansive and social ; that the only error here to be avoided, is a reliance upon forms; that the forms themselves, as soon as they are employed to realize things eternal, and to cherish man's communion with his Saviour, become again spiritual and edifying.

It is accordingly remarkable, in how many cases individuals have of late been led back by their own Christian experience to observances, in some respect similar to those which the Church had before suggested and provided for them. In the more advanced stages of their Christian course, or when, by a period of sickness or distress, God has granted them a respite from the unceasing circle of active duty, they have seen the value of those rites, the scrupulous adherence to which they once regarded as signs of lifelessness. In either case they would willingly own, that the union provided by the Church is not only more ordered, and less liable to exception, than one which individuals could frame ; but also, that, as being more comprehensive, it would more effectually realize their objects.

It is granted, then, that the proportion of the Fast Days enjoined by the Church will, to persons unaccustomed to observe them, appear over-large, and the variety of the occasions for which they are adapted, over-minute and arbitrary. The question, however, occurs, whether we ought to be influenced by such considerations to reject the entire system, or whether, we ought not rather to be moved by the indications of a practical character evinced in some regulations, to make the trial of those, whose benefit we do not at present discern. Now it would seem plain that, in a practical matter, he who from the traces of wisdom or thoughtfulness in one regulation should infer the probable wisdom and reasonableness of others emanating from the same source, would act more wisely than one, who, on account of the apparent unreasonableness and superfluity of some provisions, should proceed to condemn the whole. For in practical matters, the great test of the expediency of any habit, for which we have not direct divine authority, is experience : they only who have tried a line of conduct, or narrowly watched its effects upon others, can speak with certainty as to its result. Of all the lesser courses of action, which tend so power. fully to form our moral habits, it would be impossible probably, for one who had not tried their effect, to predict certainly what that effect would be: or if we could guess the nature of the effect, certainly we should be able to foresee its degree and amount. With the exception of gross and flagrant sins, whose character and wages we know from authority, there is probably no one line of action, with regard to which we might not before hand prove very plausibly to ourselves, that it would not have the effects, to which it is in fact tending, and which we afterwards perceive to have been its natural results. Yet such abstract reasonings about the possibilities or tendencies of things would not be listened to in any other case.

When sick, men easily listen to the means, however improbable, by which any disease, resembling their own, was removed. Be it a poison, which they are bidden to take, yet if it be proved satisfactorily that, in cases like their own, that poison has been the messenger of health, they would not hesitate. They would listen to no abstract reasonings, that it was improbable that what had been an instrument of death could be their life; they would look to those, whom it had restored to health, and would do the like. The sight of one person, undeniably raised from a state of death to life, would affect men more than any à priori demonstration that the medicine was pernicious or deadly. Much more then, since this medicine has been recommended to us by the great Physician of our souls ; since it has been beneficial, wherever it has not been substituted for all other means of restoring or maintaining our spiritual health. The only question open to us, is,—not whether Fasting be in itself beneficial, this has been determined for us by God Himself', but-whether certain regulations concerning it tend to promote or to diminish its efficacy; and in this case, the testimony of those who have proved their value, is manifestly of primary importance; the pre-conceived opinions of such as have not tried them, are but mere presumptions. When then, in the regulations preserved in our Church, we find instances of thought which imply that the framers of these rules formed them upon their own experience, or again, when in the histories of these holy men, we see that they habitually practised what they inculcated, we have evidence of the value of their advice, which we may not, without peril of injury to our souls, neglect.

It was in part, by some such process as the preceding, that the writer of these pages was led to consider what people have come habitually to regard as the less solemn Fasts of the Church, and now ordinarily pay less regard to; for the first day of Lent, and the annual commemoration of our Saviour's sufferings, are, I suppose, still very commonly observed. As the history of every mind is, under some modifications, the mirror of many others, it may to some be useful to see by what course of reflection or experience an individual was brought to feel the value of the regulations of the Church in this respect. It will perhaps to some seem strange to find placed among

the foremost of these advantages, the Protection thereby afforded protection against one's self; protection against the habits and customs of the world, which sorely let and hinder one in systematically pursuing what one imagines might be beneficial. I speak not, of course, of any known duty ; in that case the opinion or practice or invitations of the world were nothing : but with regard to those indefinite duties or disciplines, which one thinks may be performed as well at one period as at another, and which on that very account are frequently not performed at all, or at best occasionally only, and superficially. No thoughtful Christian will doubt of the propriety and duty of fasting, whatever he may understand by the term. “ The bridegroom is taken away from us, and so we must fast in these days ":" the Apostles were “ in fastings often ':" in fastings, as well as in sufferings for the Gospel, or by pureness, by knowledge, by all the graces which the Holy Ghost imparted, they approved themselves the Ministers of God. Our blessed SAviour has given us instructions how we ought to fast“, and therefore implied that His disciples would fast: He has promised that His Father, in the sight of all the Holy Angels, shall reward the right performance of this exercise : how then should it not be a duty ?

1 See Tract 21.

“ Our Lord and Saviour,” says Hooker, " would not teach the manner of doing, much less propose a reward for doing, that which were not both holy and acceptable in God's sight." And yet, after all the allowances which can be made for that fasting which is known to our FATHER only who seeth in secret, one cannot conceal from one's self that this duty is in these days very inadequately practised. It is, in fact, a truth almost proverbial, that a duty which may be performed at any time, is in great risk of being neglected at all times. The early Christians felt this, and appointed the days of our Blessed Saviour's betrayal and crucifixion, the Wednesday and Friday of each week, to be days of fasting and especial humiliation. Those days, in which especially the bridegroom was taken away, the days, namely, in which He was crucified and lay in the grave, were, besides, early consecrated as Fasts by the widowed Church. Nor was it because they were in perils, which we are spared ; because they were in deaths oft, that they practised or needed this discipline. Quite the reverse. Their whole life was a Fast, a death to this world, a realizing of things invisible. It was when dangers began to mitigate, when Christianity became (as far as the world was concerned) an easy pro

1 Matt. ix. 15. Mark ii. 20. Luke v. 35.

2 2 Cor. xi. 27. These were voluntary Fasts ; St. Paul had just spoken of involuntary privation, in hunger and thirst.' On c. vi. 5. even Calvin says, * St. Paul doth not mean hunger which arose from want, but the voluntary exercise of abstinence.' So Whitby paraphrases v. 4, 5, constantly enduring all sorts of sufferings, and exercising all kinds of self-denial for the Gospel's sake.' 3 Ibid. vi. 5.

4 Matth. vi. 16-18. 5 Eccl. Pol. b. v. $ 72. Bp. Taylor, Rule of Conscience, b. ii. c. 3. rule 0.

See Bingham, Antiq. of the Christian Church, b. xxi. c. 3.

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