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these latter times, no prevailing causes why it should be less; but, on the contrary, a call most urgent and pressing, for those who seek the favour of God, to deprecate the growing wickedness of baptized souls amongst us, their apathy, and unbelief, and selfwilled adherence to the world, with all the accumulated national and individual corruptions which are ready to overwhelm us,—with more zeal, and fervency, and perseverance, than the most devoted have ever yet been privileged to show.
Thank God, in the letter of the Church's law there is, as yet, no swerving from the fulness of the primitive rule, although, for that discipline which, less demanded in purer and holier times than ours, kept the spirit alive, we have, alas! to look in vain. "For our parts," as Bishop Gunning has well said, " finding the Bridegroom, the Lord Himself, thus referring us to the practice of His known disciples, the children of the bride-chamber, in those days they will fast,' and the Bride herself, whose cause is most concerned in it, declaring to us her practice, and assuring us she had received that practice from those friends of her Bridegroom, and children of His marriage-chamber, the Apostles; that Bride, also being, as we know, the Queen standing at His right hand, the mother of us all; whose authority is above all mothers, (and yet each mother's is from God over her children); we, I say, joining in
obedience with all those who have this Church for their mother, are assured that we obey, and have God or our father, and His Spirit not to leave her in her leading us, without certain conduct into all truth of necessary faith, or bounden practice; that is, certainly to secure her from every of the gates of hell never to prevail against her. We have the Church, our mother, to hear; and as to the point we would hear of We have such a custom, and so have, and had, the Churches of God."" If any man, against all this, list to be contentious, we still have learnt not to let fall our appeal to the Churches of God; as S. Paul hath shown us, by his example,* that, against contradictors, it is best so to do. Let our brethren, therefore, either show some Church or age before their own of yesterday, where this was not the custom of Christian people; or else devise some other sense also of that text of S. Paul, concerning the Church's customs; or let them acknowledge it an Apostolical note of contentious persons (to whom, he elsewhere saith, belong tribulation and wrath,'t) to oppose their interpretations and exceptions against such customs of the Churches of God, as this Paschal fast, or fast of Lent, in remembrance of the taking away of the Bridegroom of the Church, can manifest itself to be."
* 1 Cor. xi. 15, 16.
+ Rom. ii. 8, 9.
Bp. Gunning on the Lent Fast, pp. 19, 20. Oxford.
The disinclination, here in England, to fulfil the Church's law, at the cost of selfish indulgence and worldly pleasure, is, alas, of old standing. We have all of us, both clergy and laity, for many generations, been slow to learn the true practical application of the doctrine of THE CROSS; we have thought to know another JESUS than "Christ crucified." And yet, ever and anon, God has raised up a bold and faithful servant to warn the rest. Just an hundred and fifty years ago, when, in spite of the holy lessons which such men as Beveridge and Wilson were teaching the English Church, she was entering upon the most lifeless page of her history, a country parish priest rose up, and witnessed against "the long neglected times of fasting, and abstinence appointed by the Church." He never told his own name; but he came forward under the protection of two, for ever to be honoured and had in reverence, Nelson,-to whom he dedicated his appeal,-and Hickes, who commended it with a preface of his own. "An attempt of this nature," said Hickes, "to retrieve the observation of fasting-times, is commendable and noble, what success soever it may have; and acceptable, without doubt, to God and good men, because the observation of them, though grown almost into utter disuse, is very serviceable to the great ends of religion, as this author has shown; particularly in fitting us to bear the crosses and persecutions which may arise at any time, or of any
sort. And, let me add, to take away the reproach with which our adversaries justly reproach the generality of us, for living without intervals of religious abstinence and fasting, in constant ease and fulness, and despising the wholesome orders of the Church, in which we expect to be saved."" The reproach of so many years, is, alas! our reproach still. Still, it needs to be taken away. God may bless the same earnest words, now again, to some thoughtless ones alive, as, haply, he did to many, who are dead, and gone to their last account. I know of no copy of the words, but my own; and, as they should not be withheld from others, I give them here, in preference to any I can find.
One thing only must be premised; they were written to a priest of the English Church, who, it is supposed, despised the fasts of the Church, argued against the observance of them, and ridiculed those who kept them. God grant there may be no such priests among us now!
A DISCOURSE BETWEEN TWO CLERGYMEN.
You ask me why I keep Lent and the Fasts of the Church? I answer,
I. I do it as an act of obedience and love to the Church, which not only approves and recommends, but appoints them to be kept; which, to my conscience, has the force and obligation of a command.
And then, I am resolved to believe that "to obey is better than sacrifice; and to hearken, than the fat of rams."* So saith God, by His prophet in the Old Testament; and by His apostle, I am sure His Spirit commands in the New-" Obey them that have the rule over you, for they watch for your souls."+
II. I do it as an act of self-denial and discipline; to learn to deny myself lawful pleasures and enjoyments, that I may keep the safer distance from unlawful ones. No man will be apt to impoverish and oppress his brother, who can be content, sometimes, to hear his own bowels croak for bread, and go without it.
III. I do it as an act of humiliation; to express the sense and apprehension I have of my own vileness, and of my being unworthy to enjoy any good thing from God, or to receive even my daily food at His hands.
IV. I do it as an act of holy revenge upon myself, for any (though the least) excesses and irregularities: "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." For when I refuse the comforts which I might lawfully enjoy, as a revenge upon myself for any comforts which I have not lawfully enjoyed, it is a kind of undoing of what I have done, as far as I can; a going contrary to, as well as a checking myself for, any such irregular action.
V. I do it as an act of penitential accusing, and judging of myself, "that I may not be judged," § I thus smite myself, that my tender Father seeing
* 1 Sam. xv. 22.
1 Cor. ix. 27.
+ Heb. xiii. 17.
§ Cor. xi. 31.