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From the whole then of wbat bath been faid, it appears, that Religious Abftinence is a Practice very fit to be encouraged in the Chriftian Church. For what if our Saviour hath not bound it upon us as an indispenfible Law? Is it not enough that he hath secommended 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 took it up immediately after his Departure; and that it became a Part of the Discipline of the Church in the pures Ages (from whence it has been continued ever since) to set apart certain Days and Seasons in the Year, as Times of Fafting; 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 Superftitions upon this Practice; but this is not 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 Excrescences which had grown out by Time, and were the Effects of a sickly and distemper'd State of Religion; but cautioadly 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 Fafting will recover its an. cient Efteem. Nor would I propose the Practice of the ancient Church, in all the Circumstances of it, as & Pattern for all ages. The Abftinences of the first Christians were frequent and severe; and it must 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 necesary for their support. But if the
Severities of Abftinence are not always necessary, the Thing itself will be always useful and p'oper, in a Degree suitable to our Conditions and Circu.nitances. And if so much Regard (at least) were paid to our Seasons of Abstinence (that of Lont in particular) that you Mould see Christians referved in their Diver 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 the wing a decent Respect to publick Authority, so there can be no Doubo but Mankind would be considerably the better for it.
I am next to consider our yearly Festi Of FESTI wals; which were taken up (as our Fasts 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 Remembrarce hereof, to rer. der unto Him most high and hearty Thanks, with Prayers and Supplications for the Relief of all our daily Necilities. It is added, That the Times appointed Specially for these Works, are called HOLY DAYS - for the Nature and Condition: of those Holy WORKS wherewith God is to be honour.
ed, and the Congregation to be edified, whereunto' such . Time's and Days are Janelified and hallowed, that is to
say, separated from all profane (or .common) Ules, and dedicated and appointed NOT UNTO ANY SAINT OR: CREATURE, but ONLY unto God, and his true Wor. fipFrom 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 asObjects 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 set be.. fore 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 mutt have observed, who has read over the Common-Prager Book with an ordinary Care. Some Chriftians object against this, because it is not commanded. To which I answer, That a divine Precept was in no wise necessary. For in appointing Felivals, the Church only provides us with Opportunities for the Exercise of Publick Worship; with tbis Circumstance of Diftiac. tion peculiar to those Days, that our Prayers are then directed to be offered up under the special Remembrance of such Mercies, or in View of such Examples as, if confider'd, will quicken our Piety, and help to make us the better Chriftians. And what is there in this that Men should condemn, or which God will not approve? You will fay, perhaps, that St. Paul blames the Galatians for observing Days, and Montbs, and Times, and Years. So he does : But pray mind how this Charge is introduced. Now after ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn yi again to the weak and beggarly Elements, whereunto je defore again to be ins Bondage? The observing these Days, and Montbs, and Times, and Years, you fee, was con dered by the Apostle as turning again to that State of Bondage from which the Gospel had set them free; i. ei as å turping again to Judaifm; as appears by comparing ver. 3 and s. of this Chapter; where, 10 be under the Elements of the World, (which he here calls weak and beggarly) and to be under the Law, are used as Expreßions importing one and the same Thing. Therefose the Festivals, by the Observance of which they must be understood as returning to the Law could not be Chriftian Festivals, but were Jewil Festivals. To observe a Jewish Festival out of Conscience to ebar Festival, was to declare the Law of Moses Aill in Force; and mixing Judaison with the Religion of sbe Gospel. This was what some Teachers pressed upon the Christians of those Times, but wbich the Apolle condemns as an Encroachment upon their Liberty in Chrifl. But surely the observing Days fet opart in Memory of Chrif, or in Memory of an A Gal. iv, 29
5; 6. Edw. VI, 1. 3
pofle (if there were any fuch Festivals of fo early a Date) could not import a returning to the Law; nor can any good Account be given why the Apofile Jould have created them as weak and beggarly Things. The Jewi Rites were, by the Apostle, ter med queak and beggarly,.confidered as appertaining to that Co V.EN ANT which was weak and beggarly in Com. parison to chat Covenant of wbich CH R I:S T was the Mediator. But a Cuftom borrowd from the Jeruisa Worship, and adapted by Chrif into his own Wor.
thip, is no longer to be consider'd as appertaining.co the Occonomy of Mofes, but as appertaining to the Oeconomy of Christ. Therefore the Observance of Such a Cukom cannot be understood as a returning back to the Law of Mofes ; for it is observed not as the Law of Mofes, but as the Law of Chriß. I lay, as the Law of Chrif. For though Chrif directly commanded them not, yet so long as there is in them a natural Trendency to set forward the Faith and Piety of the Gospel, and fo long as they are observed notes Aegvil, but as useful and profitable Cafoms; they are virtually Chrif's Law, by that general Maxim of the Gospel (which is also a Maxim of common Sense) that all Things should be done to Edification,
No Obje&tion then can lie against the Observation of Christian Festivals upon the Foot of Scripture Autho. sity; nor yet upon the Foot of Reason, conlider'd as directing us to Things in themselves afeful and profitable. But if, inftead of attending to those good EF. fects which such Appointments ought in Reason to produce; we will congder only those bad ones of which they are many Times made the Occalion, great Prejudices may be raised against them. Thai que holy Seasons are, by many, turo'd into Seasons of Licentiousness and Excels, is a potorious and a thame ful Truth ; which gives a Handle, which shose who dislike this part of our Establishment, never fail ito make the most of. Bør let the Obje&ion sett, where it ought to seft; not upon the Appointments them. selves, bur, upon those who are guilty of such Abufes,
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