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From the whole then of what hath been faid, it appears, that Religious Abftinence is a Practice very fit to be cocouraged in the Christian Church. For what if our Saviour hath not bound it upon us as an indispenfible Law? Is it not enough that he hath recommended it to us as expedient in its Season; and that in the Nature and Reason of the Thing it appears to be an loftrument serving to an holy Life! It was upon these Accounts that the Apostles cook it up immediately after his Departure; and that it became a Part of the Discipline of the Church in the pureft Ages (from whence it has been continued ever since) to set apart certain Days and Seasons in the Year, as Times of Fasting; that Christians might not want frequent Calls and Admonitions to retire from the Business and Pleasures of the World, and to give themselves up to Religious Exercises. It is certain that Popery has grafted many Superfitions upon this Practice; but this is got a Reason why the Practice should be laid aside. It was the Wisdom of our Re. formers to distinguish the Good from the Bad ; to pare off those Excrefcences which had grown out by Time, and were the Effects of a sickly and distem. per'd State of Religion; but cautiously to withold their Hands from touching any Thing, the Want of which would diminish from its Perfection and Comeliness. In this View it was, that the Order of Fafting was preserved in our Church. That it is little attended to, is owing, not to the Virtues of the Times, but, to a ge. neral Decay of Religion ; a warmer Sense whereof till it shall please God to raise up among us, there can be little Hopes that Fasting will recover its an. cient Efteem. Nor would I propose the Practice of the ancient Church, in all the Circumstances of it, as a Pattern for all Ages. The Abfinences of the firit Christians were frequeot and severe ; and it muft be faid, that there was great Need of them, when the Church being liable to conftant Persecutions, an uncommon Degree of Fortitude and Mortification to the World was necelary for their support. But if the
Severities of Abstinence are not always necessary, the Thing itself will be always useful and pioper, in a Degree suitable to our Conditions and circunstances. And if so much Regard (at leait) were paid to our Seasons of Abstinence (that of Lont in particular) that you should see Christians referved in their Dives lions, and frequent in their Attendance upon the publick Duties of Religion (which used to be the Way in more reasonable Times) as this would be thewing a decent Respect to publick Authority, so there can be no Doub: but Mankind would be considerably the better for it.
I am next to consider our yearly Festi Of FESTI vals; which were caken up (as our Fafts originally were) from the like Usages among the Jews. To what Purpose, our Laws will best thew which tells us, it was to call Men to the RemeMBRANCE – Of Almighty God's great BENEFITS And in Remembrarie hereof, to rer. der unto Him moft high and hearty Thanks, with Prayers and Supplications for the Relief of all our daily Necefities. It is added, That the Times appointed Specially for these Works, are called HOLY DAYS -for the Nature and Condition of those Holy WOR Ks wherewith God is to be bonoured, and the Congregation to be edified, whereunto“ such . Time's and Days are Janelified and hallowed, that is to Jay, separated from all profane (or common) Ufes, and dedicated and appointed NOT UNTO ANY SAINT OR: CREATURE, but ONLY unto God, and his true Wor. ship. From these Words we may observe, that (in the Intention of our first Reformers) Holy Days are not fer apart in Honour of the SAINTS, considered as Objects of Religious Adoration; but, to the Honour of God, whom we praise and bless for his Mercies, vouchsafed to us by his Saints; whose Lives are sér be. forę us as Ensamples of Virtue and Godlinefs, Andi in this Spirit it is, that all our publick Prayers on uch Occadons, are drawn up, as every one muit have 5; 6 Edw. VI,
observed, who has read over the Commop.Prager
pallo podle (if there were any fach Festivals of fo early a Date) could not import a returning to the Law; por can any good Account be given why the Apostle should have created them as weak and beggarly Things.
The Jewis Rites were, by the Apoftle, çermed weak and beggarly, .confidered as appertaining to that Ca V.ENANT which was aveak and beggarly in Com. parison to chat Covenant of wbich CHRIST was the Mediator. But a Cuftom borrowd from the Jewisla Worthip, and adapted by Chrif into his own Wor. Aip, is no longer to be consider'd as appertaining.co the Oeconomy of Mofes, but as appertaining to the Oeconomy of Christ. Therefore the Observance of Such a Cutom cannot be understood as a returning back to the Law of Moses; for it is observed not as the Law of Mofes, but as the Law of Christ. I lay, as the Law of Chrif. For though Chris directly commanded them not, yet fo long as there is in them a natural Tendency to set forward the Faith and Piaty of the Gospel, and fo long as they are observed notes Jewish, but as useful and profitable Cafoms; they are virtually Chrif's Law, by that general Maxima of the Gofpel (which is also a Maxim of common Sense) that all Things should be done to Edification.
No Objection then can lie against the Observation of Christian Festivals upon the foot of Scripture Autho. sity ; nor yet upon the foot of Reason, confider'd as directing us to Things in themselves aseful and profitable. But if, inftead of attending to shofe good Ef. fects which such Appointments ought in Reason to produce; we will consider only chofe bad ones of which they are many Times made the Occahon, great Prejudices may be raised against them. That our holy Seasons are, by many, turn'd into Seafons of Licentiousness and Excels, is a notorious and a thame ful Truth ; which gives a Handle, which shose who dillike this part of our Establishment, never fail to make the moft of. Bør.let the Objedion seht, where it ought to reft ; not upon the Appointments them. felves, but, upon those who are guilty of fach Aboses.
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