Page:Tracts for the Times Vol 1.djvu/155

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

7

pline of men, whose conversation was in heaven; they were adopted and enlarged in periods of ease, of temptation, of luxury, of self satisfaction, of growing corruption.

To urge that Fasts were abused by the later Romish Church, is but to assert that they are a means of grace committed to men; that they would subsequently be unduly neglected, was but to be expected by any one, who knows the violent vacillations of human impetuosity. It was then among the instances of calm judgment in our Reformers, that cutting off the abuses which before prevailed, the vain distinctions of meats, the lucrative dispensations, and, above all, the subtle poison of the intrinsic acceptableness of Fasting, and, (which was closely allied to it,) the monstrous doctrine of human merit, they still prescribed Fasting "to discipline the flesh, to free the spirit, and render it more earnest and fervent to prayer, and as a testimony and witness with us before God of our humble submission to His high Majesty, when we confess our sins unto Him, and are inwardly touched with sorrowfulness of heart, bewailing the same in the affliction of our bodies."[1]

They omitted that, which might be a snare to men's consciences, they left it to every man's Christian prudence and experience, how he would fast; but they prescribed the days upon which he should fast, both in order to obtain an unity of feeling and devotion in the members of Christ's body, and to preclude the temptation to the neglect of the duty altogether. Nor is the interference in this matter any thing insulated in our system, or one which good men would object to, had not our unhappy neglect of it now made it seem strange and foreign to our habits. In some things we are accustomed to perform a duty, which is such independently of the authority of the Church, in the way in which the Church has prescribed, and because she has so appointed. We assemble ourselves together on the Lord's day, because God has directed us by His Apostle not to forsake such assemblies; but we assemble ourselves twice upon that day rather than once, not upon any reason of the abstract fitness of so doing, but because the Church has prescribed it. And probably at an earlier period of our lives, perhaps even later, when indisposition or indolence or any prevailing temptation has beset us, there are few amongst us who have not owed

  1. First Part of the Homily on Fasting.