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the depravity of mankind, in turning to their injury what was designed for their benefit; and no way impeaches the prudence or piety of the institution of festivals. They who are intemperately disposed do, indeed, upon these occasions, turn feasting, designed for hospitality and charity, into luxury and excess : so the same men treat the Lord's day with as little respect, and make the advantage of rest and leisure from their worldly affairs only an instrument to promote their pleasure and diversions. It should be the earnest endeavour of Christians to retrieve the honour of these Holy Seasons, by the exercises of piety and charity.
Q. Did not the primitive Church observe festivals in commemoration of the apostles and other eminent saints ?
A. The primitive Christians were wont once a year to meet at the graves of the martyrs, there solemnly to recite their sufferings and triumphs, to praise their virtues, and to bless God for their pious examples, for their holy lives and their happy deaths. They also celebrated these days with great expressions of love and charity to the poor, and of temperate and sober rejoicing.
Q. In what manner ought we to observe the festivals of the Church?
A. We should constantly attend the public worship, and partake of the blessed sacrament, if it be administered.
In private we should enlarge our devotions, and suffer the affairs of the world to interrupt us as little as possible. We should particularly express our rejoicing by love and charity to our poor neighbours. If we commemorate any mystery of our redemption, or article of our faith, we ought to confirm our belief of it, by considering all those reasons upon which it is built; that we may be able give a good account of the hope that is in us: and we should, from our hearts, offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and resolve to perform all those duties which result from the belief of the particular mystery or doctrine which the festival of the day presents to our faith and gratitude. If we commemorate any saint, we should consider the virtues for which he was most eminent, and by what steps he arrived at so great perfection : and then we should examine ourselves how
are defective in our duty, earnestly supplicating God's pardon for our past failings, and his grace to enable us to conform our lives to those admirable examples that are set before us.
Q. What are the advantages of a serious observation of festivals ?
A. A serious observation of the festivals of the Church, testifies our great regard to the institutions of the Church, and our obedience to our spiritual superiors, to whom we ought to submit, as to those that watch for our souls. It fixes in our thoughts the great mysteries of our redemption ; it fills our hearts with a thankful sense of God's great goodness; it raises our minds above the world, and inures us to a sober frame and temper of soul; it kindles a prudent zeal and fervour in performing the offices of religion; and tends to produce a readiness to do or suffer any thing for the name of Jesus.
Q. What do you mean by fasts?
A. Fasts are days set apart by the Church, or by civil authority, or by our own appointment, in which, by abstinence, humiliation, and repentance, we are to testify our grief for our past sins, and strengthen our resolutions of holy obedience.
Q. Whence arises the obligation of a Christian to fast?
A. Nature seems to suggest fasting as a proper expression of sorrow and grief, and as a fit method to dispose our minds towards the consideration of serious things. It appears from the scriptures,' that devout persons have always practised fasting, both as a part of their devotion, and as a powerful aid to it; and all nations from ancient times have used fasting as a part of repentance, and as a mean to turn away
Q. Was fasting practised in the primitive Church ?
A. The ancient Christians were very exact both in their weekly and annual fasts. Their weekly fasts were kept on Wednesdays and Fridays; because on the one our Lord was betrayed, and on the other crucified. These fasts were called their stations, from the military word of keeping their guard, as Tertullion observes; though others think more immediately from the Jewish phrase, and the custom of those devout men, who, either out of their own devotion, or as the representatives of the people, assisted at the oblations of the temple; not departing thence till the service was over : for these fasts usually lasted till after three in the afternoon, as did their public assembles. Their annual fast was that of Lent, by way of preparation for the feast of our Saviour's resurrection : but this was variously observed, according to different times and places.
h Heb. xiii 17.
i Psalm lxix. 10. Dan. ix. 3. Luke i 37. si. 27. 1 Cor. ix. 27.
j Tertul. de Jejun, c. 2.
Acts x. 30. Acts xiii. 2. 2 Cor. vi. 5, k Cyr. Hiercatech. 4.
Q. What was the manner of fasting among the primitive Christians ?
A. They observed their fasts with great strictness. All, in general, on such days, abstained from drinking wine and eating flesh; the greatest part fed only on herbs or pulse, with a little bread. They confined themselves to cheap and ordinary diet, without sauces or relishing delicacies. Some used dry diet, as nuts, almonds, and such like fruits ; others fed only upon bread and water.
Q. But does not St. Paul' place the abstaining from meats among the doctrines of seducing spirits ?
A. It cannot be supposed that by abstaining from meals St. Paul should mean the duty of fasting ; because that was observed by devout men, and acceptable to God, both under the Old and New Testament. Our Saviour himself hath given directions concerning the performance of it in his admirable sermon upon the mount;” and the Apostle Paul himself practised it upon several occasions." Therefore, it is most probable he means to condemn the opinions of some ancient heretics who departed from the faith, and who, as they excluded those from salvation who engaged in matrimony, so they held the eating of the flesh of any living creatures unlawful; a doctrine more probably borrowed from Pythagoras and his followers, being defended with such a variety of learning by Porphyry. But they who are instructed in their Christian liberty, and know the truth, are fully satisfied that God has permitted" the use of such hís creatures for our nourishment and sustenance, provided we receive them always with temperance and thanksgiving; and that the Gospel has taken away the difference between things clean and unclean.?
Q. How is a day of fasting to be observed by serious 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 which 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; and, if the fast be public, by attending the public places of God's worship
11 Tim. iv. 1, 3. n 1 Cor. ix. 27. 2 Cor. xi. 27. vi. 5. 1 Tim. iv. 1. o De Abst. ab usu Anim.
p Gen. ix. 3. 9
Rom. xiv 14. Acts x. 15.
m Matt. vi. 16, 17, 18 Act: 'i. 26, 27, 33.
THE LORD'S DAY.
Q. WHAT part of our time hath God appropriated to his immediate service ?
A. God hath appropriated to his immediate service one day ir. seven, which he hath commanded to be kept holy.
Q. What day was originally set apart for this purpose ?
Å. The seventh was originally set apart for this purpose For God having in six days made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, he rested the seventh day, and hallowed it.
Q. What mean you by God's resting from his works ?
A. This resting of God being spoken after the manner of men, implies not any weariness in him, for the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary;' but that the creation of all things was finished, and the world entirely made. This hallowed rest on the seventh day was considered as the symbol of the rest of the just from all their labours; when all grief, sorrow, and sighing shall flee away, and God shall be all in all.
Q. Why was the seventh day, called Saturday, commanded to be observed by the Jews ?
A. By sanctifying the seventh day, after they had laboured six days, the Jews avowed themselves worshippers of that God only, who created the heaven and the earth, and having spent six days in that great work, rested the seventh day; and who therefore commanded this suitable contribution of their time, as a badge that their religious service was appropriated to him alone. By sanctifying that seventh day, they also professed themselves the servants of Jehovah, as, in a peculiar sense, their God and Redeemer, who redeemed them out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage. For
morning watch of that very day which they kept for their Sabbath, he overwhelmed Pharaoh, and all his host, in the Red Sea, and saved Israel out of the hand of the Egyptians.
Q. How far, and in what manner, doth the observation bind Christians ?
A. The Christian, as well as the Jew, after six days
r Gen. ii. 3.
a Is. xl. 2
t Deut. y. 15.