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and Sorrow used by devout People in Token of Levit . xvi. hearty Repentance. The great Fast on the Day
of Expiation, was called a Day of filialing their Sculs, which consisted not only in Abstinence from Food, but in putting on the Habit and Appear
ance of Mourners, which in those Eastern Councinere vo- tries was Sackcloth, lying upon the Ground, strewing
Ashes on their Heads. And in such Days of afflifting Apolog.
their Souls, they abstained from all sorts of Pleasure. And to these Expressions of Sorrow the Words of St. James plainly allude; and were so literally practised by the primitive Christians of those Countries. For, if any one fell into any notorious Sin after Baptism, they did not think it sufficient that he should repeat his Crime no more, but he was obliged, by a long Course of Mortification, Prayers, Tears, and good Works, to endeavour to wash out the Stain of Guilt.
Q. Are we obliged to use the fame Testimonies of our inward Grief, whereby it was 'expressed in ancient Times?
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 thofe 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 Lofs. A Sinner, faith St. Cyprian, ought to lament the Deaib of bis Soul, at least as much as Ibe Loss of a Friend: And St. Cbryfoitom makes Use of the fame 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 fee rious Christians?
A. Not only by interrupting and abridging the Care of our bodily Sustenance, but by carefully inquiring 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 Faft be public, by, attending the public Places of God's Worship:
Q. What ought we chiefly to beware of in our Ex+ ercises of Fasting?
1. We ought to avoid all Vanity and valuing Mat. vi. ourselves upon such Performances, and therefore 18. in our private Fafts, not to proclaim them to others by any external Affections, that we may not appear tó Men to faft. Not to despise or judge our Neighbour, who does not, and, it may be, has not the fame Reason to tie himself up to such Methods. Not to destroy the Health of our Bodies, and thereby make them unfit Instruments for the Operation 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 Сс 2
that it makes fresh Work for it by increasing our Guilt.
For the divine Favour upon our Fasting.
Days and forty Nights ; give me Grace to use such Abftinence, that my Fleth 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.
l be turned'; be favourable, O Lord, be favourable unto' me, who turn to thee in weeping, fasting, and praying; for thou art a God full of Compassion, Long-suffering, and of great Pity; thou fparest when I deserve Punishment, and in thy Wrath thinkest upon Mercy : Spare me, good Lord, spare me, and let' me' not be brought to Confusion; hear 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 bleiled Son, Jejus Christ our Lord. Amen.
ACKNOWLEDGE, O God, my own Vile
nefs 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 oitended thee; and I will repent as it were in Duft and Ashes. I will mortify those inordinate Appetites, which have so fatally
Profesion of Repen. tance.
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 Enjoyments. Let it not contract too great a Familiarity with the Delights and Satisfactions of Sense, since it was created for more exalted Pleafures, 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
CH A P. I.
The Forty Days of Lent. Q. WHAT do you mean by Lent ?
A. Lent, in the old Saxon, is known to fignify the Spring, and thence it hath been taken in common Language, 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 Ecclefiaftical 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-pascbal 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 Pro
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bability, as anciently kept, as the Feast of the ReHift.iib. furrection. And Irenæus, who lived but ninety Years
from the Death of St. John, and conversed famili. arly 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 Varicty as to the Length of it. And there being no Church to be found anciently, wherein there was not a folemn Fast observed before Eafter, is a sufficient Argument to derive it from the Practice of the first Christians; for otherwise it cannot be conceived how it should so uni. versally prevail in all Countries where Christianity was planted.
Q. Why was the solemn Season of Humiliation limited to Forty Days ?
A. The Church had, I suppose, a Respect to forty days, as what was esteemed a proper Peniten
tial Season, which seems very anciently to have been Gen. vii. appropriated to Humiliation. For, not to reckon
up the forty Days in which God drowned the
World; or the forty years in which the Children Deut. xxv. of Ifrael did Penance in the Wilderness; or the
forty Stripes by which Malefactors were to be corxvi. 25. rected; whoever considers that Mofes did not once 3 Kings
only faft this Number of Days ; that Elias also Jonah iii. fafted in the Wilderness the same Space of Time ; Mat. iv. 2, that the Ninevites had precisely as many Days al-.
lowed for their Repentance; and that our blessed Saviour himself, when he was pleased to fast, observed the same Length of Time ; whoever confiders these Fafts, cannot but think that this Number of Days was used by them all as the common folemn Number belonging to extraordinary Humiliation; and that those were accustomed to afflict themselves forty Days, who would deprecate any great and heavy Judgment.