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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 public for Pardon, and his holy Spirit. To put us in Mind of that sore Trial and Temptation, which Christ then endured for our Sakes : particularly to perpetuate the Memory of our Saviour's Sufferings, and to make, as it were, a public Confesiion 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 Aflurance that God is reconciled to us through the Death and Passion of Christ Jesus.
Q. Is it the Design of the Church to oblige ber Members to fast the whole forty Days ?
A. I think not, because in the ancient Church this Season was observed with great Variety ; which arose from the various Cuftoms of different Churches, as well as from the Devotion of several Socrates
Hist, Eccle People, who all united in the solemn and religious lib. v.c. Exercises of this Season, though they differed in 12. the Manner of their Fafting. And none but the licentious, who love no Restraint, or those whom Prejudice hath made inconsiderate, can think fit to blame an Institution so well framed to promote Piety and Devotion ; especially when it is enjoined with so much Moderation.
Q. After what Manner did the primitive Chrifti, ans observe their Fasts in Lent?
A. There was Variety in their Manner of Fasting, as well as in the Number of their Days. In the Holy Week, they that were strict would eat nothing but Bread and Water, and Salt, or Nuts and Almonds, or such like Fruits, which was called the dry Diet. In the rest of Lent fome abstained from Flesh and Wine ; and others forbore all Fish likewise as well as Flesh, which was the Custom of the Greeks. Some contented themselves with Eggs and Fruit, others forbore both, and lived upon Bread, Herbs, and Roots; and in this Variety they agreed in one Thing, which was, not to eat till the Evening, and then such Food as was least dclicate.
Q. How did the Primitive Church treat' notorious Offenders in this holy Season?
A. Such Persons as stood convicted of notorious Hi. Eccl. Sins were put to open Penance, and punished in
this World, that their Souls might be saved in the Day of the Lord; and that others, admonished by their Example, might be the more afraid of offending; the whole Church supplicated God in their Behalf; that he would be pleased to grant them Repentance and perfect Remission and Forgiveness of their Sins.
Q. But, since the Life of a Chrislian ought always to be governed by the Rules of our holy Religion, is it not superstitious to set apart any such particular Time as Lent for this Purpose ?
A. It is certain it ought to be the constant Endeavour of a Christian, in all Times and in all Places, to have his Duty in his Eye, and to have always a great Regard to what God requires from him. But, considering the great Corruption of the World, and the Frailty of our Natures, and how often we transgress the Bounds of our Duty, and how backward we are to cross our fleshly
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Appetites, it is very happy we have such a solemn Season stated for Recollection and the Exercise of Repentance ; when the Command of our Superiors, and the Provision of fit Means to assist us, and the Practice of devout Christians in all Ages, call loudly upon us to reform our Lives. For that which is a Duty at all Times when our Follies make it neceffary, cannot be less so when we are required to give outward Proofs and DemonAtrations of it.
Q. How does it become a devout Christian to spend bis Time during the whole Season of Lent?
A. Some Part ought to be spent in Fasting ; more in Abftinence, according to the Circumstances of his Health, and outward Condition in the World; and this with a Design to deny and punish himself, and to express his Humiliation before God for his past Transgressions. The Ornament of Attire may be laid alide, as improper to express the Sense of Mourners, and the Frequency of receiving and paying Visits may be interrupted, as unseasonable when our Minds are oppressed with Sorrow. Public Afsemblies for Pleasure and Di. version should be avoided, as Enemies to that Seriousness we now profess. Our Retirements should be filled with reading pious Discourses, and with frequent Prayer, and with examining the State of our Minds. The Public Devotion should be constantly attended, and those instructing Exhortations from the Pulpit, which are so generally established in many Churches in this Season. We fhould be liberal in our Alms, and very ready to employ ourselves in all Opportunities of relieving cither the temporal or spiritual Wants of our Neighbours. And we should frequently exercise ourselves in the Meditation of divine Subjects, the best Means to make all Discourses from the Press, and the Pulpit, effectual to our Salvation.
Q. What do you mean by Meditation in a religious Sense?
A. Such a serious Application of the Mind to the Confideration of any divine Subject, whether any Mystery of the Gospel Institution, or any Truth and Virtue of the Christian Religion, as may dispose it firmly to believe and embrace it, and ftir up all the Faculties of the Soul to a vigorous Prosecution of it. And it is this Exercise of the Will and Affections, that distinguishes Meditation from what we call Study.
Q. How ought we to prepare ourselves for the Exercise of this Duty?
A. By remembering that we are in the Presence of God, who knoweth all our Thoughts, and searcheth out all our Ways; that we are unworthy, by reason of our Sins, to present ourselves before him; and that we are incapable, without his Assistance, to think any Thing that is good; and therefore adoring his infinite Majesty with profound Reverence, we should humbly beg his Aid and Help, so to enlighten our Understandings, and to influ. ence our Wills, that the present Action may tend to his Glory, and the Good of our own Souls.
Q. How is the Understanding exercised in Meditation ?
A. In setting the Subject of our Meditation in such a Light, as may excite the Will and Affections to pursue and embrace it. If it concerns our Saviour's Life or Death, it considers the Dignity of his Person, upon whose Account the Action was performed; the End for which it was done ; the Place and Circumstances; the Fruits and Effects of it. If the Subject relates to any Virtue of a Christian Life, it considers the Nature of the Duty, and wherein it consists; who are properly the Objects of it; the Obligations there are from Reason and Revelation to practise it; the Temptations that
chiefly chiefly seduce from it, and those particular Instances whereby the Virtues may be exercised; and the great Advantages that accrue to_us, both in this Life and the next, by the diligent Performance of it.
Q. How are the Will and Affections exercised in this Duty ?
A. In chusing and pursuing what by the Understanding is represented as good and advantageous to us ; and in bunning and avoiding what is represented as evil and destructive to our Happiness. In order hereunto, firm Purposes are formed of governing our Lives, with such a Prospect for the Time to come; the Use of the best Means is refolved upon, and we determine when, and upon what Occasions, we will put such a Virtue in Practice, or imitate such an Action; in what Places, and in what Company, we will stand upon our Guard, left we be surprised by such a Vice. From hence we proceed to exercise ourselves in holy Affections; as in Love and Desire of what is good; in Hatred and Deteftation of what is evil; in Sorrow, Shame, and Self-abhorrence for having transgressed in any Particular; in Praise and Thanksgiving, for having been enabled, in any tolerable Measure, to have done our Duty; in Adoration and Imitation, in Faith, in Hope, and Charity, and in Resignation of ourselves to God.
Q. What are the blessed Fruits of boly Meditation ?
A. It has an universal Influence upon the whole Life of a Christian, and is an admirable Instrument to quicken our Progress in all the Graces of God's Holy Spirit. It illuminates our Understandings with the knowledge of our Duty; and stores our Memories with all füch Arguments as are proper to excite us to the Performance of it. The Voice of Conscience is, by this Means, attended to, and