« ZurückWeiter »
A. I think not; ; because the using of Sackcloth and Ashes formerly, when Men humbled themselves before God, was in Conformity to the Custom of Mourners in those Times, who expressed their Sense of Grief after that Manner. But then I think we ought to express the same Thing by other Signs proper to the Custom of Mourners in our Days. By forbearing our usual Meals, by abstaining from all Manner of Pleasure, by neglecting the adorning our Bodies, by retiring from Company, by laying aside Business, and, by bewailing our Loss. A Sinner, saith St. Cyprian, ought to lament the Death of his Soul, at least as much as the Loss of a Friend: And St. Chrysostom makes Use of the same Comparison. And surely, it will become us to mourn and lament, who have offended God, our best Friend, whose Favour we have consequently lost, if we are heartily sorry for having offended him.
Q. How is a Day of Fasting to be observed by serious Christians?
A. Not only by interrupting and abridging the Care of our bodily Sustenance, but by carefully enquiring into the State of our Souls; charging ourselves with all those Transgressions we have committed against God's Laws, humbly confessing them with Shame and Confusion of Face, with hearty Contrition and Sorrow for them; deprecating God's Displeasure, and begging him to turn away his Anger from us. By interceding with him for such spiritual and temporal Blessings upon ourselves and others, as are needful and convenient. By improving our Knowledge in all the Particulars of our Duty. By relieving the Wants and Necessities. of the Poor, that our Humiliation and Prayers may find Acceptance with God. If the Fast be Public, by attending the public Places of God's Worship:
Q. What ought we chiefly to beware of in our Exercises of Fasting?
A. We ought to avoid all Vanity and valuing Mat. vi. 18. ourselves upon such Performances : and therefore in our private Fasts, not to proclaim them to others by any external Affectations, that we may not appear to Men to fast. Not to despise or judge our Neighbour, who does not, and, it may be, has not the same Reason to tie himself up to such Methods. Not to destroy the Health of our Bodies, and thereby make them unfit Instruments for the Operations of our Minds, or the Discharge of our worldly Employments. Particular Care ought to be taken, that we do not grow thereby morose and sour, peevish and fretful towards others, which Severity to ourselves may be apt to incline us to; for that it is so far from expressing our Repentance, that it makes fresh Work for it by increasing our Guilt.
I. O LORD, who for our Sakes didst fast forty For Faste Days and forty Nights; give me Grace to use such ing. Abstinence, that my Flesh being subdued to the Spirit, I may ever obey thy godly Motions in Righteousness and true Holiness; to thy Honour and Glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, World without End. Amen,
II. TURN thou me, O good Lord, and so shall I be for the turned; be favourable, O Lord, be favourable unto me, who turn to thee in weeping, fasting, and upon our praying; for thou art a God full of Compassion, Pasting. Long-suffering, and of great Pity; thou sparest when I deserve Punishment, and in thy Wrath thinkestupon Mercy. Spare me, good Lord, spare me, and let me not be brought to Confusion;
me, O Lord, for thy Mercy is great; and after
the Multitude of thy Mercies look upon me, through the Merits and Mediation of thy blessed Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
III. Profession I ACKNOWLEDGE, O God, my own Vileness of Repent
by Reason of my Sins, and am heartily grieved for the Loss of thy Favour. What Humiliation, O Lord, can sufficiently express the Greatness of such a Loss! But I will weep and mourn, because I have offended thee; and I will repent as it were in Dust and Ashes. I will mortify those inordinate Appetites, which have so sadly betrayed me; I will contradict all those Inclinations which have made me stray from the Ways of thy Commandments. And do thou, O Lord, wean my Soul from the Pleasures of the Body, which so often corrupt it, and render it incapable of relishing spiritual Enjoyinents. Let it not contract too great a Familiarity with the Delights and Satisfactions of Sense, since it was created for more exalted Pleasures, and must shortly quit those here below; that so, when I come to leave this World, I may be qualified for the blessed Conversation of Spirits in thy heavenly Kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE FORTY DAYS OF LENT.
Q. WHAT do you mean by Lent?
A. Lent, in the old Saxon Language, is known to signify the Spring, and thence it hath been taken in common Speech, for the Spring Fast ; or the Time of Humiliation generally observed by Christians before Easter, the great Festival of our Saviour's Resurrection. And a Man must know little of Ecclesiastical History, or have but a small
Acquaintance with the Primitive Fathers of the Church, who doth not acknowledge the Observation of Lent to be most ancient.
Q. How may we judge of the Antiquity of this Fast?
A. From the Dispute that was very early in the Church concerning the Observation of Easter, one Point whereof was, concerning the ending of the Ante-paschal Fast, which both Sides determined upon the Day they kept the Festival; which is sufficient to let us know that there was then such a Fast kept by both Sides, and had been, in all Probability, as anciently kept as the Feast of the Euseb. Resurrection. And Irenæus, who lived but ninety.c. 14. Years from the Death of St. John, and conversed familiarly with St. Polycarp, as Polycarp had with St. John and other Apostles, has happened to let us know, though incidentally, that, as it was observed in his Time, so it was in that of his Predecessors, but with great Variety as to the Length of it. And there being no Church to be found anciently, wherein there was not a soleinn Fast observed before Easter, is a sufficient Argument to derive it from the Practice of the first Christians; for otherwise it cannot be conceived how it should so universally prevail in all Countries where Christianity was planted.
Q. Why was the solemn Season of Humiliation limitted to Forty Days?
A. The Church had, I suppose, a Respect to forty Days, as what was esteemed a proper Penitential Season, which seems very anciently to have been appropriated to Humiliation. For, not to reckon up the forty Days in which God drowned the Gen. vii
. 4. World; or the forty years in which the Children Numbs of Israel did Penance in the Wilderness; or the forty Stripes by which Malefactors were to be cor-Deut. xxv. rected; whoever considers that Moses did not once x. 9,18, 25. only fast this Number of Days; that Elias also 1 Kings fasted in the Wilderness the saine Space of Time; Jonah ii. that the Ninevites had precisely as many Days *.
Mat. iv. 2. allowed for their Repentance; and that our blessed
Saviour himself, when he was pleased to Fast, observed the same Length of Time; whoever considers these Facts, cannot but think that this Number of Days was used by them all as the common solemn Number belonging to extraordinary Humiliation ; and that those were accustomed to afflict themselves forty Days, who would deprecate any great and heavy Judgment.
Q. What was the End and Design of the Fast of Lent?
A. That it should be set apart as a proper Season for Mortification, and the Exercise of Self-denial. To humble and afflict ourselves for our Sins, by frequent Fastings; and to punish our too often Abuses of God's Creatures, by Abstinence,' and by forbearing the lawful Enjoyment of them. To form and settle firm Purposes of holy Obedience. To pray frequently to God, both in private and
Din Christ then endured for our Sakes, particularly to perpetuate the Memory of our Saviour's Sufferings, and to make as it were a public Confession of our Belief, that he died for our Salvation. And consequently for fitting ourselves to receive the Tokens and Pledges of his Love with greater Joy and Gladness, because with fuller Assurance that God is reconciled to us through the Death and Passion of Jesus Christ.
7,90) Q. Is it the Design of the Church to oblige her Members to fast the whole Forty Days?
A. I think not; because in the ancient Church
this Season was observed with great Variety; which Socrates. arose from the various Customs of different Churches, Hist. Eccl. as well as from the Devotion of several People, who
all united in the solemn and religious Exercises of this Season, though they differed in the Manner of their Fasting. And none but the licentious, who love no restraint, or those whom Prejudice hath
lib. v. c.