« ZurückWeiter »
be subdued to the Spirit, and my Mind left free to
piness of a rational Creature, whom to know is heavenly eternal Life; fix my Thoughts, my Hopes, and my Things.
Desires upon Heaven and heavenly Things; let me remember thee upon my Bed, and meditate on thee in the Night-watches. Grant that I may so consider thy Precepts, that I may understand the Measures of my Duty, and govern all
Actions by those Rules thou hast prescribed me; may so as plythy Promises, that I may adore that infinite Good. ness, that hath prepared such glorious Rewards for those that love thee, and never forfeit my Title to them by consenting to any known Iniquity; may so recollect my Infirmities, that I may watch against
For the Meditation of
them; my own Follies, that I may amend them; may so call to Mind thy wonderful Deliverances, both in respect of my Body and of my Soul, that I may be convinced that I am preserved not by my own Strength, but by thy Almighty Power, that thy Name may have the Glory. Make my Heart the Seat of Prayer and Holy Meditation; that my Mind, being inured to spiritual Objects, I may despise and contemn this World, and be prepared in the Disposition of my Soul to pass Eternity in contemplating thy glorious Excellencies, through Jesus Christ our Lord; to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all Honour and Glory, World without End. Amen.
CHAP. II. ASH-WEDNESDAY, OR THE FIRST DAY
OF LENT, Q. WHY doth the Fast of Forty Days, called
Lent, begin on Ash-Wednesday? A. Because the four Days of this Week complete the forty Days, it being never the Custom of the Church to fast on Sundays, whereon we commemorate so great a Blessing as our Saviour's Resurrection, the six Sundays in Lent being deducted, and these four Days being added, make the Number entire.
Q. Why is the first Day of Lent called AshWednesday?
A. From the Custom that prevailed in the ancient Church, for Penitents at this Time to express their Humiliation by lieing in Sackcloth and Ashes; by the Coarseness of Sackcloth they ranked themselves, as it were, among the meanest and lowest Condition of Men; by Ashes, and sometimes Earth cast upon their Heads, they made themselves lower than the lowest of the Creatures of God, and put themselves in Mind of their Mortality, which would reduce them to Dust and Ashes.
Q. What was the Discipline of the Primitive Church at the Beginning of Lent?
A. That such Persons as stood convicted of notorious Crimes, were put to open Penance. For according to the ancient Discipline those who after Baptism fell into any great and notorious Sins, if they were Penitents, were admitted to Penance, and to the Prayers of the Church for their Recon. ciliation with God. But if they were refractory Sinners, or their Crimes of a deep Dye, they were excommunicated, and not admitted to Reconciliation with the Church, but after a long and tedious Course of Penance, after the most Public Testimonies of Sorrow and Repentance, and the greatest
Signs of Humiliation that can be imagined. For De Poenit. Tertullian tells us, They lay in Sackcloth and Ashes;
they disfigured their Bodies with a neglected Uncleanness, and dejected their Minds with Grief; they used no other Food' but what was necessary to keep up Life, and frequently nourished their Prayerswith rigorous Fasting; they groaned, they wept to the Lord their God Day and Night; they fell down at the Feet of the Presbyters, they kneeled to the Friends of God, and begged of all their fellow Christians to pray for them. These Severities they willingly submitted to, as Tokens of their Sorrow, and Evidences of their Reformation, and thought themselves happy upon any Terms to be admitted to the Peace of God and the Church. Q.
How were Penitents re-admitted into the Church? Cypr. . A. When they had finished the Time prescribed, Episto: xvii. for the undergoing these Severities if their Repen
tance upon Examination was found to be real, they were re-admitted into the Church by the imposition of the Hands of the Clergy, the Party to be absolved kneeling before the Bishop, or, in his Absence, before the Presbyter, who, laying his Hand upon his Head, solemnly blessed and absolved him; whereupon he was received with universal Joy, and restored to'a Participation of the Holy Sacrament, and to all other Acts of Church Communion.
Q. What Method has the Church of England taken to supply the Want of ancient Discipline at this Time?
A. Till our spiritual Fathers can be so happy as Mat. xvi. to succeed in discharging those Obligations they ch. xviii. lie under of restoring to the Church that Discipline 17. she has a Right to; being founded upon the express 23. Laws of Christ and his Apostles, sufficiently explain-1 Cor. v. ed to us by the Practice of the Primitive and Apos- Ver. 12, 15. tolical Church, very useful to discover those that 2 Cor. ii. have erred from the Truth and Piety, and abso-ch, xii. 10. lutely necessary to preserve Religion in its greatest xiii. 2. 10. Purity, till, I say, this blessed Time shall come, 1 Tim. vi. which good Men wish for, and bad Men fear, the 3 and 5. Church of England, to supply this Want, sets before her Members the Curses due to all Sin, and puts. them in Mind of God's dreadful Tribunal, where the Impenitent shall be most certainly condemned; thereby endeavouring to bring every Man to judge and condemn himself, that he may truly repent of his past Follies, and carefully avoid those Sins, for the Time to come, which draw upon Men the Judgments of God.
Q. But is not saying Amen to these Sentences of God's Law a cursing of ourselves, and is it not a wicked as well as a foolish Thing?
A. This pious Office hath indeed been so traduced; but I believe it hath not been considered, that God himself commanded this Manner of answering. And though some Circumstances in reciting these Curses among the Jews might be ceremonial, Deut. xi. yet the Main of the Duty, and the End for which 2. it was prescribed, was truly moral, tending to the Honour of God and his Laws, and the promoting. of true Piety. And the saying Amen does not here. signify wishing, but affirming and declaring the Mat. v. 18. Truth of what God hath revealed; and thus Amen is often in the Gospel translated Verily; and Jesus, Luke iv. who is the Truth, is called Amen; so that Amen is Rev. ii. no more than a Declaration, that he wbom God 14.
Mark ii. 28
blesseth is blessed, and he whom God curseth is cursed: and these Curses are like our Saviour's Woes in the Gospel, not Procurers of Evil, but compassionate Predictions of it, in Order to prevent it.
Q. But hath not Christ taken away the Curse of the Law being made a Curse for us?
A. It is true that our Saviour, by Virtue of his Sacrifice, made Satisfaction for Sin, and bore that Curse which belonged to us; and thereby acquitted and cleared all those that believe in him from the Guilt of those Sins, for which there was no Way of Expiation provided by the Law of Moses; that is, of presumptuous Sins, for which there was no Sacrifice, but the Man was to be cut off. But still this Redemption that was purchased for us, was upon the Condition of Repentance; so that impenitent Sinners are still the Objects of God's Wrath; and though Pardon and Forgiveness of Sios were procured for us by the Death of Christ, yet Repentance is necessary to qualify us to receive the Benefit of it. It being certain still, that Sinners, while they remain such, are really accursed; and to convince them of this, and make them own it, it is the truest Blessing the Church can procure for them.
Q. What Use does the Church make of setting the Curses of God's Law before us?
A. To press all Christians to a true and sincere Repentance, from the Consideration of God's dreadful Wrath against all impenitent Sinners; which, as it is severe in itself, and altogether intolerable, so it is just in its Proceedings, and absolutely unavoidable, when it doth come; and when Sinners are awakened by this Consideration from their dreadful Security, they are encouraged to Repentance from God's Readiness to receive true Penitents to Mercy, and from the great Benefits of it, Pardon and Peace in this Life, and eternal Happiness in the next.