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tual. “ We have kept the vineyards of our mother's children, but our own vineyards have we not kept.” The tendency of the age is to activity, and we have caught its spirit; if we be but active about our Master's calling, we deem ourselves secure; we think not, until we are precluded from active exertion," how much activity belongs to some (ages and some) natures, and that this nature is often mistaken for grace'.” Meanwhile an activity which leads us not inwards, has taken place of that tranquil retiring meditation on the things of the unseen world which formed the deep, absorbing, contemplative, piety of our forefathers ; even the conception of the joys of heaven, which very many of us form, is but a glorified transcript of our life here ; we look, when through God's mercy in Christ we shall be delivered from the burthen of the flesh, to be like the “ Ministers of His who do His pleasure ;" but we look not, comparatively at least, to that which our Fathers longed for, to be with Christ, and to see Him as He is. Our age
is in general too busy, too active, for deep and continued self-observation, or for thoughtful communion with our God. It would not be too broad or invidious a statement to say, that for real insight into the recesses of our nature, or for deep aspirations after God, we must for the most part turn to holy men of other days: our own furnish us chiefly with that which they have mainly cherished, a general abhorrence of sin ; they guide us not to trace it out in the lurking corners of your own hearts : they teach us to acknowledge generally the corruption of our nature, the necessity of a Redeemer, and the love we should feel towards Him ; but they lead us not to that individual and detailed knowledge of our own personal sinfulness, whence the real love of our Redeemer can alone flow. A religious repose and a thoughtful contemplation would be a second advantage of complying in this respect with the instructions of our Church?.
| A Fragment, written in illness by the Rev. Richard Cecil.
2 " It is best to accompany our Fasting with the retirements of religion and the enlargements of charity : giving to others what we deny to ourselves.” Bishop Taylor, Works, iii. 102.
“ Fasting, saith Tertullian, is an act of reverence towards God. The end thereof, sometimes elevation of mind; sometimes the purpose thereof clean contrary. The reason why Moses in the mount did so long fast, was mere divine speculation ; the reason why David, humiliation.” Hooker, l. c.
Our Church recognizes the union of these objects both in her Homilies and in the 72nd Canon, which forbids “Ministers of their own authority alone, to appoint or keep any solemn Fasts, either publicly or in private houses ;" thereby implying that the acts of abstinence were acconipanied with devotional exercises.
Braced and strung by retirement into ourselves, and tranquil meditation upon God, we should return to our active duties with so much more efficiency, as we ourselves had become holier, humbler, calmer, more abstracted from self, more habituated to refer all things to God. Were human activity alone engaged on both sides, then might we the rather justify the prevailing notions of the day, that
energy is to be met by counter-energy alone : but now, since "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world," it especially behoves us too look wherein our great strength lies, and to take heed that " the weapons of our warfare be not carnal.” It is tempting to adopt into the service of God the weapons or the mode of warfare, which in the hands of His enemies we see to be efficacious ; but the faithful soldier of Christ must not go forth with weapons which he has not proved; the Christian's armoury, as the Apostle goes on to describe it, is mainly defensive ; and when he has urged his brethren to assume it, he exhorts them to add that whereby alone it becomes effectual-a duty in which again we appear to ourselves to be inactive" praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Fasting, retirement, and prayer, as they severally and unitedly tend to wean us from ourselves and cast us upon God, will tend to promote singleness of purpose, to refine our busy and over-heated restlessness into a calm and subdued confidence in Him, in whose strength we go forth. Nor shall we, until the day of Judgment, know how much of the victory was granted to those, who in man's sight took no share in the conflict; how far the “unseen strength" of Fasting, humiliation, prayer, put forth by those of whom the world took no account, was allowed by God to prevail. The world saw only that the Apostle whom they had imprisoned, escaped their power; they knew not that the prayer of the Church had baffled their design'. In the present conflict throughout the world, in which the pride of human and Satanic strength seems put forth to the utmost, humility and a chastened dependent spirit would seem to have an especial efficacy. On these, as the graces most opposed to the world's main sin, we might look the more cheerfully for God's blessing ; thus shall we at least be saved from augmenting the evil
1 Acts xii. 5.
we would oppose. “Fasting directly advances towards chastity, and by consequence and indirect powers to patience, humility, and indifference. But then it is not the fast of a day that can do this ; it is not an act, but a state of fasting, that operates to mortification."
A third benefit, which might be hoped to result from the more assiduous practice of this duty, would be a more self-denying extensive charity. “ Fasting without mercy, is but an image of famine; Fasting without works of piety, is only an occasion of covetousness ? :" and an Apostolic Father : gives us this excellent instruction, “ A true Fast is not merely to keep under the body, but to give to the widow, or the poor, the amount of that which thou wouldest have expended upon thyself; that so he who receives it may pray to God for thee."
It may perhaps seem strange to some that the present age should be thought wanting in self-denying charity. And yet let men but consider with themselves not what they give only, but what they retain ; let them inquire a little further, not only what wants are relieved, but what remediable misery remains unabated; or let them but observe generally the glaring contrasts of extremest luxury and softness, and pinching want and penury; between their own ceiled houses, and the houses of God which lie waste; or let them only trace out one single item in the mass of human wretchedness, disease, insanity, religious ignorance, and picture to themselves what a Christian people might do, what the primitive Christians would have done, to relieve it, -and then turn to what is done, to what themselves do, and say whether means to promote self-denying charity can well be spared.
A further important object of the stated and frequent recurrence of the prescribed Fasts of our Church, is the public recognition of the reality of things spiritual. Here also very many have felt, (and it is a feeling whose strength is daily increasing,) that some public protest is needed against the modes of acting, tolerated (would one must not say, reigning !) in our nominally Christian land : that the Church, or the body of believers, ought to have some recognized modes of distinguishing themselves from those, who manifest by
i Bp. Taylor, Works, iii. 97.
Chrysologus Serm. 8. de Jejun. ap. Bingham. b. xxi. c. 1. § 18. 3 Hermas Pastor, l. iii. c. 3. p. 105. ed. Coteler. Fasting without almsgiving, says Augustine, is a lamp without oil.
their deeds, that although " amongst us, they are not of us ;” and who, on the principles of our Church, ought to have gone out or to have been removed from us. It has been with a right view of what the ideal of the Christian Church should be, its holiness, and its purity, although not, I must think, with a just conception of the nature of the Church, that men jealous for the honour of their God and their Redeemer, have in some measure formed Churches within the Church. The plan has, I think, been defective, sacred and praiseworthy as was the object contemplated. It is true, that the mere union in the celebration of the weekly festival of our Lord's Resurrection does not, as things now are, furnish a sufficient condemnation of the maxims and offences of the World ; that the Church and the World are too much amalgamated ; that while the light of the Church has in part penetrated the gross darkness of the World, there is yet danger, lest that light itself should be obscured. Yet the remedy for this, under God's blessing, is not to be sought in rescuing or concentrating some scattered rays of that Church, while the Church herself is abandoned to the World. Her own Ordinances afford the means of her restoration. Not to speak of those ulterior and fearful powers committed to her, (and which other Communions exercise,) of ejecting from her bosom "the wicked person," the observance of her own other institutions would virtually eject them. Not indeed at once, (as indeed God Himself has thought fit to allow even His own Blessed Spirit but gradually to leaven our corrupted mass,) not at once, (for at present, long continuance in opposed habits would prevent many from receiving the Ordinances of the Church,) but yet, one should trust, steadily and increasingly; the mists which now encircle the Church, would · disperse, and its glorious elevation on Zion's hill would more effectually be seen. Those, whom the easy Service of the Lord's Day repels not, who would fain serve God on the seventh day, and Mammon on the remaining six, would by these severer or more continuous services, be brought to some test of what spirit they were; more frequent Communions, more constant Worship, more regular Fasting, would show men, whether they belonged to the Church or to the World : and if the Church, like Him, who is its Head, and because joined to that Head, becomes a stone of stumbling, if some shall more openly fall back unto perdition, still it
will have performed its office ; many, one may be sure, (for our assurance rests on God's Word,) would also be awakened from their lethargy of death ; and if it be to some a of death," it will, by God's mercy, be to many more a savour of life, unto life." Yet the result of any system, sanctioned by God's Word, belongs to us. Were the consequences of more Apostolic practice a great apparent defection and desolation, we dare not hesitate. “It must be made manifest that they are not all of us." Meanwhile a beacon will be held out by those, who would wish to see their path : the Church would, in example, as well as in her theory and directions, hold up a higher standard of performance : she, in theory the most perfect, would no longer be in proportion the least influential”; the plea, that every show of religion, which the world tolerates not, is the mere excess and badge of a party, could no longer be held : those who shrink from what might seem a voluntary or ostentatious forwardness, would no longer be deterred from uniting in observances, which, if authorized, they would love : and there might again be no separation but between those who serve God, and those who serve Him not. The world has seen that its own principles are leading to its own destruction : it acknowledges that its increased laxity has fearfully increased its corruption ; offences, which even it abhors, are multiplied ; vices, which disturb even its peace, stalk more openly; yet while it reaps
the bitter fruits of its own ways, it dares not strike the root.
The Fasts, appointed by our Church, appear eminently calculated, not in truth as a panacea of all evil, but as one decided protest against the "corruption which is in the world by lust," as one testimony to the conviction of men of the reality of things eternal.
“ fast for strife and to smite with the fist of wickedness," as they may also “for pretence make long prayers :" yet men will not, in general, submit to inconvenience and privation,except for a real and substantial object: the world has easier paths for its followers; he, who suffers hardship for an unseen reward, at least gives evidence to the world of the sincerity and rootedness of his own conviction; he attests that he is a pilgrim journeying to a better country, and however men may for a while neglect his testimony, yet if it be consistent and persevering, it cannot be silenced.
1 See Knox 'on the Situation and Prospects of the Established Church.' Remains, v. i. p. 51.