Page:Tracts for the Times Vol 1.djvu/164

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its corruption; offences, which even it abhors, are multiplied; vices, which disturb even its peace, stalk more openly; yet while it reaps the bitter fruits of its own ways, it dares not strike the root.

The Fasts, appointed by our Church, appear eminently calculated, not in truth as a panacea of all evil, but as one decided protest against the "corruption which is in the world by lust,: as one testimony to the conviction of men of the reality of things eternal.

Men may "fast for strife and to smite with the fist of wickedness," as they may also "for pretence make long prayers;" yet will not men, in general, submit to inconvenience and privation, except for a real and substantial object; the world has easier paths for its followers: he, who suffers hardship for an unseen reward, at least gives evidence to the world of the sincerity and rootedness of his own conviction; he attests that he is a pilgrim journeying to a better country, and however men may for a while neglect his testimony, it cannot be silenced.

Such are some of the advantages, which a recurrence to the system of our Church in respect of Fasting might, in dependance upon God's blessing, tend to realize: a more uniform, namely, and regular observance of an injunction of our Blessed Saviour; a deeper humiliation, and a more chastened spirit in carrying on His will; a more thorough insight into ourselves, and a closer communion with our God; a more resolute and consistent practice of self-denying charity; a more lively realizing of things spiritual; a warning to the world of God's truth and its own peril. I have spoken with reference to prevailing habits and general character only, partly because they are these habits which the regulations of a Church must mainly contemplate;[1] in part also, because, in whatever degree, they will probably form a portion of our own. The evil or defective character of any period is not formed by, nor will it exist in, those only who are evil; it encompasses us, is within us; we also contribute in our degree to foster and promote it; nay, it is from us probably that it receives its main countenance and support. Our own standard is insensibly lowered by the evil, with which we are environed. A self-indulgent age is not a favourable atmosphere for the growth

  1. "We must observe all that care in public Fasts, which we do in private; knowing that our private ends are included in the public, as our persons are in the communion of saints, and our hopes in the common inheritance of sons." bishop Taylor, Works, iv. 103.