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Serm. 6o. against the Objections of Vigilantius, who endea. ap Ripar. voured to have them abolished. But St. Jerome adver: Vi- declares it unreasonable to impute to the whole gilan.
Body the unhappy Miscarriages of some unworthy Members among them; because the Irregularities of a few could not prejudice Religion in general, fince they were guilty of the fame Crimes in their own Houses and in their Neighbourhood, the Vigils being neither the Caufe nor the Occasion of these Disorders. The Council of Eliberis, held Anno 305, had forbid the Admission of Women, to prevent the ill Consequences of these promiscuous Assemblies; but they were not abolished till after St. Jerome's Time, nor, as some think, till the Beginning of the sixth Century.
Q. Before what Festivals halb the Church appointed these Fasts that are called Vigils ?
A. Before the Nativity of our Lord, the Purification and Annunciation of the blessed Virgin Mary, Easter-day, Ascension-day, Penticost, St. Matthias, St. John Baptist, St. Peter, St. James, St. Bartholomew, St. Matthew, St. Simon and St. Jude, St. Thomas, St. Andrew, and All-Saints. of these Feasts fall upon a Monday, then the Vigil or Fast-day shall be kept upon the Saturday, and not upon the Sunday next before it.
Q. Why have not the rest of the Festivals Vigils annexed to them?
A. Because they chiefly fall between Christmas and Epiphany, or between Easter and Wbit-funday, which were always esteemed such Seasons for Rejoicing, that the Church did not think fit, but very rarely, to intermingle with them any Days of Fasting and Humiliation. And in the Feast of St. Michael and All-Angels, one Reason for the Institution of Vigils ceases; which was to conform us to the Example of the Saints, who through Sufferings and Mortifications entered into the Joy of their Master; but these ministering Spirits were created in the full Possession of Bliss.
And if any
Q. What are those Acts of public Worship which these Vigils were designed to prepare us for?
A. "Joining in those Prayers and Praises which are offered up to God by his Ministers upon such Occasions. Hearing God's boly Word, and those Explanations of it, and Instructions from it, which are commonly called Sermons, made by an Order of Men establifhed, among other Ends, to instruct us in our Duty. Receiving the blessed Sacrament, which is called the Eucharist, because a thankful Acknowledgment of Blessings received: A very fit Employment for all Festivals, as well as the proper Christian Worship for the Lord's Day.
Q. Where are those Acts of public Worship performed?
A. In the Church, the House of God, so called upon the Account of its peculiar Relation to him, being solemnly dedicated and set apart for his public Worship and Service, and upon the Account of God's peculiar Presence, not only by the Administration of his Word and Sacraments, but by reason of the Attendance of his boly Angels to observe our Behaviour and Deportment; it being by the Retinue of these administering Spirits, that the Speciality of God's Presence is described in the Old and New Gen. Teftament. The Dedication of it to sacred Uses xxviii. 16. makes it his Propriety, and the praying to him, praising him, and celebrating the Holy Mysteries, Gal
. iii. with the Attendance of the Holy Angels, are De- Heb. ii. 2. monstrations of his peculiar Presence.
Q. Did the Apostles and Primitive Christians set 1 Cor. xi. apart particular Places for public Worship?
A. It is plain, that even in the Times of the Apostles there were Places set apart for the Performance of Divine Worsbip, and that the Christians did not even then meet promiscuously in any Place ; and though they were concealed from the Jews and Heathens, being either Part of their own
Acts vii. 35.
Dan, vii, 10.
Houses, or within the Compass of them ; yet they were sufficiently known to the Faithful. St. Paul gives Directions for our Behaviour in such Places; Let the Women keep Silence in the Church : and it is evident that he understands this not only of the Company met together, but of the place where they met, by the Distinction he puts between this and other places ; If they will learn any Thing, let them ask their Husbands at Home ; for it is a Shame for Women to speak in the Church. It appears from the same Apoftle, that the Christians at Corinth had a Place set apart only for holy Purposes; for
that Apostle reprehends the Corinthians for taking 1 Cor. xi. their own Supper in an holy Place; Have ye not
Houfes, faith he, to eat and to drink in, or despise ye the House of God ? From whence it follows, that the Place where they assembled was not for common eating and drinking, and therefore not for ordi
nary and private Uses ; nay, the employing it to Quel. 57. such Purposes was profaning it, as is plainly im
plied in the Word despising. And therefore every
private House was different from the Church, their Ben Houses being opposed to sacred Places set apart for Theodo, religious Uses. And in this Sense is this Text unin locum. derstood by many of the Fathers. And this is farther
proved, from that singular Character given to some
above others in the Apostles' Salutations as their Rom. xvi. peculiar. Salute such an one, and the Church in bis
Houfe. Which must be necessarily understood of
some certain Place set apart where Christians were Col. iv. 15. wont to affemble for the Performance of divine ver. 1, 4. Worship. And those faluted must be such as in
their several Cities had dedicated some place within
their Dwellings, most probably their upper Room, Rom. xvi. for Christian Worship. And that this Salutation is 2 Tim not used because their Families were Christians,
appears from other Salutations, where Ariftobulus and Narcissus are faluted with their Houshold.
in Levit, Balil. Mor.
Q. Hoza Q. Horro!ght we to reverence holy Places?
A. By building and erecting such Places where they are wanting, and furnishing them with all imaginable Decency for the Worship of God: By repairing and adorning them, when Time, or the Iniquity of an Age hath made them ruinous: By keeping them from all profane and common Usage, and applying them wholly to the Business of Religion: By offering up our Prayers in them with Fervour and Frequency; by hearing God's Word with Attention and Resolutions of obeying it; and by celebrating the holy Mysteries with Humility and Devotion: By using all such outward Teftimonies of Respect as the Church enjoins, and are established by the Custom of the Age we live in as Marks of Honour and Reverence. This bodily Worship is recommended by Solomon, when he charges us to look to our Feet when we go into the Eccl. v. s. House of God, being an Allusion in particular to Exod. iii. thai Rite of pulling off the Shoes, used by the Jews, Joth.v.15. and other Nations of the East, when they came into sacred Places, and is as binding upon us to look to our Heads by uncovering them, and giving all other external Testimonies which express Reverence and Devotion: And above all, by governing our wbole Behaviour in such Places with a due Regard to those Ends and Purposes for which they were dedicated and set apart : This will correct any Whispering or Talking about worldly Affairs, any negligent or light Carriage: This will suppress any Provocations to Laughter, or any critical and nice Observation of others.
Q. With what Disposition of Mind orght we io peform these Acts of public Worship?
A. With sincere Intentions of glorifying God, and making his Honour and Praise known among Men ; acknowledging hereby our entire Dependance upon his Bounty, both for what we enjoy,
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and what we farther expect. And with hearty Endeavours of performing his blessed Will, and of being that in our Lives and Actions, which we beg to be made in our Prayers, which we are enjoined in his holy Word, and which we solemnly promise in the boly Sacrament.
Q. With what Reverence of our Bodies ought we to perform these Acts of public Worship?
A. Though in our private Devotions we are left, I think, at Liberty to chuse such Postures as may most tend to the fixing of our Minds; yet in public we are obliged to govern our outward Behaviour by such Measures as the Church prefcribes, viz. to kneel, stand, bow, or fit, as the Rubric hath enjoined. Neither do I think it is fit to deviate from some devout Customs, though not commanded, that are established by ancient and general Practice, which in Time come to have the Force of a Law. It is by these Rules that a beautiful Uniformity is created in our Deportment, as well as in our Petitions. All these different Postures ought to be used with such Gravity and Seriousness, as may demonstrate how intent we are when engaged in the Worship of God, and yet without such Affectations and Particularities as are apt to disturb those that are near us, and to give Occasion to others to suspect us, as acting a formal hypocritical Part. If we come to Church before the Service begins, which we should always endeavour to do, after we have performed our private Devotions, we should in Silence recollect ourselves, and dispose our Minds by serious Thoughts to a due Discharge of the ensuing Duties; for the Discourses of News and Business are. very improper upon such Occasions. God's House being not designed for the Scene of Conversation. And it is still much more unbecoming, while we are at our Prayers, nicely to observe all those Rules of