THE following Discourse was delivered in the regular order of parochial instruction, and without the most remote idea of publication. Circumstances may often awaken an interest in a Sermon in those for whom it was written, which others, who can only judge from the merits of the discourse itself, will very justly wonder at. Such is the case in the present instance: and nothing could have induced the Author to give his Sermon to the press, but the definite understanding, that it is printed only at the request, and for the use of those to whom it was preached.
Welcome! dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is composed of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now:
Give to your Mother, what thou would'st allow,
To every corporation.
It 's true, we cannot reach Christ's fortieth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Saviour's purity;
Yet are bid, be holy even as he.
In both let 's do our best.
THESE words form a part of the message of our Lord, to the Angel or Bishop of the Church at Ephesus. The reason why it is addressed, is obvious from the context, and from the language in which it is-couched. It is evident that the Ephesian Church had neglected the first works of its early zeal and holiness; that although it had borne, and had patience, and for Christ's sake had labored and not fainted, still it had left its "first love." Hence the command "repent and do the first works:" hence also the solemn threat "else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent"
Now, my Brethren, may not the very same thing be said of us, with a startling verity, that is here said of the Ephesian Church? Have not we fallen away from the first works? Have not we degenerated from the pure devotion, the untiring zeal, the generous self-sacrifice, the unwavering faith of those early and blessed times, when men counted the loss of all earthly things as nothing, so that they might win Christ? I do not now speak of our country or her general population: though God knows we might all humble ourselves in sackcloth and lie down in beds of ashes, when we see the frightful moral deterioration, which by the confession [5/6] of all men, not half a century has wrought in our community. I do not now speak of this. I speak of our branch of the Holy Catholic Church: I speak of ourselves as churchmen--as baptized and believing men; and I say that the warning applies most cogently to us; and that we ought to humble ourselves in the very dust, that so the dreadful threat be not executed upon us, in the removal of our candlestick, and the desolation of our vineyard.
To attempt in the compass of one discourse to point out all the ways in which we have departed from the first works, would be to attempt an impossibility; and I therefore propose to day to call your attention to only one point, to the consideration of which this holy season naturally invites us. The neglect of the first works of the Church, in the utter abandonment of the ANCIENT RULE OF FASTING, as enjoined upon us in the Scriptures, and as received in our Church.
And as during all this solemn period we come up before God, to humble ourselves with "fasting and weeping and mourning," and to beseech of Him with tears, and sighs, and broken hearts, not to cast us off, but to accept our repentance and to comfort our souls; so may He grant, that the Comforter may indeed be renewedly imparted in power and fullness: and that repentance may beget holy resolutions: and holy resolutions may bear the fruits of righteousness which shall in faith, avail to our salvation. [Joel II. 12th. Scripture appointed for the Epistle for Ash-Wednesday.]
In laying before you then Brethren, the subject of Fasting, the following arrangement will be adopted.
 I. I shall endeavor to prove that the duty is plain from Scripture.
II. I shall attempt to point out in what it consists.
III, Speak of the way in which it has been received and arranged in that branch of the Church to which we belong; and
IV, Notice some of the benefits that may be expected to accrue to us from its due observance.
In the first place, it is to be proved that the duty is plain from Scripture; and this is a point which is very easily established, both from example and preceptive declaration.
Moses fasted forty days, and the prophet Elijah also, and we are even now commemorating the fast of our divine Lord, of the same continuance. God himself ordained a solemn yearly fast to the Jews. After the defeat of Israel. by the men of Ai, Joshua and all the people remained fasting before the ark for a day. David fasted, and "lay on the earth." Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel fasted, and holy Anna served God with "fasting and prayers." Cornelius was fasting, when the angel announced to him, that his alms and prayers, had "come up for a memorial before God." St. Peter was fasting, when he received the wonderful vision, sent to teach him that the Gentiles were now to be admitted into the Church of God. St. Paul describes himself as "in fasting often," and the Church of Antioch was fasting, when the Holy Ghost said, "separate me Barnabas and Saul." [Exodus xxxiv. 28. 1. Kings, xix. 8. Matt. iv. Leviticus, xxiii. 27, 29. Josh. vii. 16. II. Samuel, xii.16. Ezra, viii. 21. Neh., 1. 14. Daniel ix. 3. St. Luke, ii. 37. Acts, x. 39. Acts x. 10. II. Cor., xi. 27. Acts, xiii. 2.]
 These, Brethren, are a few out of many examples that might be presented to you. But it is not by example only, that the duty is enforced. It is enjoined by declarations that amount to very plain precepts. When the bridegroom is taken away, then the children of the bride chamber are to fast. When we fast we are directed not to do it in an ostentatious, or hypocritical way. "Turn ye with weeping and fasting and mourning," says the prophet Joel. "That ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer" says St. Paul; and the same holy Apostle declares that he approved himself a minister of God, as by other things, so by fasting. [Luke, v. 34, 35. St. Matt. vi. 16. Joel, ii. 12. I. Cor., vii. 5. II. Cor., vi, 5.] Surely brethren, there can be no doubt about a duty, so plainly, expressed as this is; nor is it too much to say, that no duty can be more clearly gathered from Holy Scripture.
This point therefore being determined, the question that naturally arises on it is, In what does the duty consist? And this forms the second topic in our present considerations.
"Fasting then," I use the words of our venerable Homilies, which every clergyman acknowledges to contain a sound body of doctrine, "fasting then, by the decree of those six hundred and thirty Fathers," i. e. of Chalcedon, "grounding their determination in this matter upon the sacred Scriptures, and long continued usage or practise, both of the prophets and other godly persons before the coming of Christ, and also of the Apostles and other devout men in the New Testament, is a witholding of meat, drink, and all natural food from the body, for the determined time of fasting." [An Homily of good works, and first of Fasting.] This is abstinence; but [8/9] the length of the period of abstinence, or as the Homilies express it, "the determined time of fasting," is left to each individual to settle for himself; and it must of course vary under different circumstances. The christians of the ages immediately following the Apostles, when they fasted, abstained from all food until three in the afternoon; and on the more solemn fasts until six in the evening. But a fast of such rigor as this, cannot be observed by one who is unaccustomed to the duty. It is therefore probable that if any of us should undertake a fast of so long continuance as nine or twelve hours, we should find that so far from adding to the fervor of devotion, it would oppress our minds, and cause our thoughts to wander: and the reason is obvious; because probably, we have none of us ever voluntarily and of our own good will, fasted for one half the period. There is, moreover, another thing that is here to be taken into consideration, and that is the difference of climate, between those countries in which the early christians fasted, and our own. [See Herbert's Country Parson, chap. 9. There may be two or three months in our year, when a southern temperature would admit of more rigid abstinence. Though even then the habit of body would remain the same.] In this climate, the same degree of abstinence, which in a southern, might " recruit and refresh the spirit," would only oppress and weary out. If, therefore, any of us with our habits, and in our climate, should begin with the rigid abstinence of the early church, the probability is, that we should utterly fail, and the ends of fasting would not at all be answered. Wisely therefore has the Church left the degree and manner of abstinence, to each one's conscience. So that they who are not able to abstain entirely from their ordinary meals on days of fasting, [9/10] may still diminish the quantity of their food, or deny themselves some accustomed gratifiction. Now all this would be abstinence: and by beginning and conscientiously continuing even the least degree of it, we might probly in time be able to practise it, in greater rigor. The period and manner of abstinence, my Brethren, is therefore as you see, free to the consciences of each one of you. Only let your abstinence be an honest one. Let it not consist in a vain distinction of meats and drinks. Let it not be a luxurious abstinence, in which you refrain from something that you care nothing about: or replace that from which you do refrain, with something that more than fills its place. This is the abuse of fasting which the Church of Rome allows: but it is a fatal error: it renders fasting an utter vanity, and degrades it into a pharisaical and hypocritical service. Let then your abstinence be what you choose; only let it be a piece of absolute self-denial.
But though abstinence be essential to fasting, it does not in itself constitute the duty: to be acceptable to God it must be accompanied by other things. A wretched fast would that be in which a man should only abstain from food, and should still mingle as freely as ever, in the pleasures,--I mean of course the innocent pleasures,--of the world. Retirement, prayer, and almsgiving, these are the necessary companions of acceptable abstinence. "Fasting without mercy is but an image of famine; fasting without deeds of piety is only an occasion of covetousness." [Chrysologus. Bingham, Lib. xxi c. i. 418.] Says a holy Father, one of the companions of the Apostles, "That day on which thou fastest, thou shalt taste nothing at all, but bread [10/11] and water: and computing the quantity of food which thou art wont to eat upon other days, thou shalt lay aside the expence which it would have made thee, and give it to the Widow, the Fatherless and the Poor." [St. Hermas, Similitude v. Primitive Christianity had few words and many deeds.]
I believe now, Brethren, that I have stated all the things that go to make up a Christian Fast. These are; an honest abstinence, for a period and in a degree which must be regulated by each man's conscience: such retirement from the world as our daily duties will permit us: so much time devoted to prayer and meditation as the same duties will allow us: and such a portion of our worldly goods laid aside for purposes of charity, as we may conscientiously deem proportioned to our ability; and these, Brethren, constitute the fast of the early Church, one of these good "first works," which neglected as it may be, is none the less a duty.
We are now prepared to see in what way our Church has received and arranged this duty. If you will turn to the page of your Prayer Books, which immediately follows the Calendar, you will there see this arrangement plainly stated, in these words:
A TABLE OF FASTS. ASH-WEDNESDAY. GOOD-FRIDAY.
Other Days of Fasting; on which the Church requires such a Measure of Abstinence, as is more especially suited to extraordinary Acts and Exercises of Devotion.
1st, Forty days of Lent.
2d. The Ember-Days at the Four Seasons, being the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after the first Sunday in Lent, the Feast of Pentecost, September 14, and December 13.
3d. The three Rogation Days, being the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Holy Thursday, or the Ascension of our Lord.
4th. All the Fridays in the year except Christmas-Day. [Other days are enjoined by the English Church which ours has omitted of these it is not necessary to speak. Indeed to simplify the subject I have omitted to mention many ancient days and observances not received in our Church. The curious can consult Bingham, Book xxi.]
 Now, I doubt not, that many persons on first reading this table will be struck at what they will conceive to be the great number of days prescribed. This is natural. We are more inclined to observe seasons of joyfulness than those of sorrow. Festival days might be multiplied to any extent, and no one would complain. But days of fasting are not agreeable to our worldly natures, and even a few of them appear to be a very vast number. A few words, Brethren, will suffice to explain to you the reasons why the Church has selected the days she has; and these being attended to, I believe you will own, that they are not too many, nor chosen without the wisest forethought.
Of Ash-Wednesday, or Good Friday, or of the Forty Days of Lent, little need now be said. All understand the reason why they were selected, and all, at least in words will acknowledge their use and excellence. When I say all, I mean all Churchmen. The day on which our Lord begun his cruel temptation: the forty days during which it was continued, in hunger and watchfulness: and the day on which he hung those six long hours of agony upon the cross of shame: where is the loving and faithful heart, that would not gladly commemorate those days, and hunger and suffer, and deny itself, with its adored and suffering Lord? When therefore the Church appointed these days of humiliation, she only consulted the affections of all pious hearts. Nor did she otherwise in appointing the weekly Friday fast. Surely, if because our Lord rose from the grave on the first day of the week, it became the Sabbath instead of the last; the fact that he suffered on the sixth, is reason enough why that too should be remembered. But how can it be remembered except as a day of humiliation? We joy on Sunday because our Lord burst the bonds of death and [12/13] brought to light the immortality of heaven: and why not mourn on Friday, because on that day, our sins bore him down to death, through all those mysterious agonies, that we can never in this life, understand. Of the Rogation and Ember days, as being less understood, it will be necessary to speak somewhat more at large.
The Rogation Days, are the three days immediately preceeding Holy Thursday or Ascension Day, and their object is, "not only to prepare our minds to celebrate our Saviour's Ascension after a devout manner; but also, by fervent prayer and humiliation, to appease God's wrath, and deprecate his displeasure, that so he might avert those judgements which the sins of the nation deserved; that he might be pleased to bless the fruits with which the earth is at this time covered, and not pour upon us those scourges of his wrath, pestilence and war, which ordinarily begin in this season.." [Wheatley, Chap. v. Section xx. § 2. It is curious to observe how those who would ridicule the observation of the Rogation Days in the Spring season, do nevertheless in point of fact admit their innate propriety. The reasons always alledged in the proclamations of the New England Governors, for the Spring fast of the Puritans, bear a wonderful similarity to those that induced the Church to appoint her Rogation Fast. They appoint their day every year: the Church has settled her days, once for all.]
We come now to the Ember Days. The practise of prayer and fasting previous to ordination, is considered to rest on the sure ground of apostolical authority: and in order to secure the due observance of what the Apostles appear to have deemed so necessary, the Church has appointed four set and regular times of ordination, during the year. [Acts i, 24, 25.vi. s. xi v. 23. The fasting of the Church of Antioch, (Acts, xiii. 3.) was before sending Paul and Barnabus on a special Mission: but a fortiori, they would fast and pray before an ordination.]
These are the second Sunday in Lent, Trinity Sunday, and two Sundays more, one in September and one in [13/14] December. Now the Ember Days, are the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, of the weeks immediately preceding these Sundays; and the reason of their appointment is, that all through the Church, the faithful may fast and pray for a blessing on those who are so soon to be ordained, and also on those who have been admitted to the holy functions, and are exercising their ministry in the Church. Surely, this wise arrangement for united prayer all through the Church, this wise provision for an Apostolical Institution, is not a thing to be lightly estimated. Indeed, if the laity would more conscientiously observe these clays, and come up to God's house to pray and fast, as the Church did in the Apostles' times, it does not admit a doubt, that the clergy would have more of the spirit of Apostles, and so better and brighter days would dawn upon the Church.
Such, Brethren, is the wise, the beautiful, the holy arrangement of our Days of fasting. But as the wisest and the best of things, are not secure from captious cavillings, so has not this one been. I know, however, of only two serious objections, that have been ever brought against it: and indeed these are most usually joined, in the trite charge, that it is formal and popish, or to comprise all in one word, that it is popish. Now, Brethren, we need not be frightened at a word; therefore before we abandon the Church's plan, let us stop and ask, How is it popish?
Is it in the way, in which fasting is enjoined? This cannot be; for I have already shown you that it is left to each man's conscience, how and in what degree his abstinence shall be practiced. Here therefore is the most entire liberty instead of the bondage of popery.
 Is it in the appointment of peculiar days? If so, the charge may extend farther than they who make it, fancy. Once in a year as we all know, the Governors of the New England States appoint a set and peculiar day, on which they desire all the citizens to assemble themselves in their several places of worship, to humble themselves with fasting and prayer before God. Now, nobody thinks this is popish, nor would they if three or four days, were appointed in the year. By what transmutation then does it happen, that when the Church of God appoints some set and peculiar days, then it becomes popish? The number is immaterial. If one set and peculiar day may be appointed, then two may; and if two, then any number.
Again: it is no unusual thing in the denominations around us, to hear of days being appointed on which they all meet, to offer up throughout all New England, or perhaps through all the United States, united prayers for their clergy and students in theology. Now there is no popery here. But when the Church appoints certain days, on which her children throughout the world, shall unitedly fast and pray for their clergy, as Christians did while the Apostles were alive, and calls them Ember Days, then it instantly becomes a piece of popery: by what process of reasoning, I have never been able to discover.
Yet once more: it is no unusual thing to hear of pious persons in different denominations, setting apart some day in each month or week for fasting and prayer. I have observed that in some cases the day selected was Monday. But why is it popish in the Church to select Friday, and so connect the humiliation of her children with the [15/16] solemn recollections that attach to the day of our Lord's crucifixion. [It may be said, I know, that the Romanists fast on Friday, and therefore it is popish. It may be said too that they keep the first day of the week as Sunday, and yet that is not considered popish. And if to this it is replied that the observance of this day begun before Rome became papal, I would answer, so did the observance of the Friday Fast.]
I have not entered upon these observations, my Brethren, at this time, because I imagine that any of this congregation are likely to be frightened from their allegiance to the Church, by a charge which is too old and has been too often answered, to produce much effect, even when as at the present time it is renewedly urged and with great eagerness. But, though there be no danger, it may yet be our duty to give our reasons for our faith: and it does become at times the peculiar duty of a clergyman of the Church, to deny charges that he feels to be unfounded, under circumstances of peculiar solemnity. Such a period I concieve is the present. It is now a long time, since appearances have warranted the conclusion, that throughout this State, a systematic attempt has been and is in operation to impress it on the minds of the community, that the Protestant Episcopal Church, is Papistical: and that some of the clergy of that Church are peculiarly so. [It is painful to think, that in relation to this last charge, there has been some wounding in the house of friends.] This charge has not been confined to the subject we are now considering. It has extended to every thing: Surplice and Prayer Book,--Reading Desk and Altar,--Organ and Chancel all are popish; and I am sometimes suprised that modern wisdom has not discovered it to be popish, to worship God at all, or to pray to him in any way.
But, Brethren, as one of those set over you in the Lord, as one of those who watch for your souls as [16/17] having an account to render, as one of those to whom your interests are dearer than their own, as a Minister of Christ's Church, with all my high responsibilities before me, I do here, in the presence of God and his angels, for the Church and for us, I do deny the charge! and I say that the Church of England, whether in the mother country or in this, so far from being popish, is the bulwark of the true Faith against the Church of Rome. I have not 'infrequently, read the history of those periods, when we reformed ourselves from papal corruption; and while I find in it the names of Bishops and Priests of our Church, who suffered death at the stake, ,rather than submit to the unholy claims of the papacy, I have yet to learn, that the denominations here in New England, who now point at us as popish, can refer to the names of any of their clergy, who have witnessed unto blood against the errors of apostate Rome. [Without a word or two of explanation, this statement may seem strange. I do not refer to the Scottish Presbyterians or the Reformed of the Continent of Europe,-but to the English Dissenters of any name, to whom alone the denominations in New England can trace their ecclesiastical descent. The Church of England had borne the brunt of the contest with Cantu and been peaceably settled under Elizabeth far a number of years, when Dissent came into existence. The first Dissenters were the Romanists; who in 1570, departed from the Church and set up a communion of their own. It was in a great measure owing to the intrigues of the Jesuits, who fomented the discontents of the Puritans, and in more than one instance assumed the garb of puritan ministers, that the next separation took place, when in 1572, the first Presbytery was set up in England, The Brownists followed, who in 1582, separated both from the Church and the Presbyterians. These last separatists are considered as the founders of the Independents or Congregationalists: although Congregationalism did not assume a definite form until about 1616, when the first connexion of that denomination was set up by one Jacobs. Now the Congregationalists are the earliest of the English Dissenters who are represented in New England: and yet their ecclesiastical organization dates only to a period fifty years posterior to the close of the contest with Rome. Of course they can claim no share in it: and still less can the later separations, as that of the Baptists in 1640, or of the Wesleyan or Socinians at still later periods. From a loose way of using words, we are accustomed to speak of the prevailing denomination of New England, as Presbyterians: this is not so. They were in the beginning and are now Congregationalists or Independents: between whom and the Presbyterians there was so little sympathy, that Cromwell was obliged to drive the Presbyterian members out of Parliament, before he could accomplish his designs by the help of the Independents. These are facts and distinctions that should be carefully borne in mind: and it is believed that they fully warrant the observations which occasioned this note.] I say not this in [17/18] a spirit of boasting. God forbid: but I do say, and I say it fearlessly, that they whose only contests with popery have been from the pulpit or with the pen, cannot with any show of reason accuse a church of popery, which numbers among its Bishops those who have been martyrs to the tyranny of Rome, and in the writings of whose great divines, are found the strongest weapons alike of offence and defence, in the papal contest. [Even Calamy admits this: and only intimates that there may be reasons given why the Dissenters have left the controversy in the hands of Divines of the Established Church. The fact he was obliged to concede See Calamy's Abridg. vol. I. p, 373.] These are facts, Brethren, that speak for themselves: and I here dismiss the subject. I have not sought to press it upon you; but I have long deemed it a duty publicly to speak of it from the pulpit: and if I have spoken boldly, it is because I have spoken the truth.
To return now to the more immediate subject of our meditations. The days of Fasting, the defence of which from the aspersions cast upon them, led me into the obsertions just made,--are, you will observe, put by the Church upon very high ground. The word used is requires; not recommends, or advises, but requires. I leave it, therefore, to yourselves, my Brethren, and to your own consciences, to determine whether the requirements of the Church, should not, so far as practicable, be complied with. When such language as this is used, it implies a more than ordinary degree of certainty as to the duty enjoined; and I cannot but think, that every reflecting mind will conclude, that a duty so enjoined, is not to be lightly passed by; lest to neglect of duty shall be superadded a contempt for true authority. Observe, however, Brethren, for it is not an unimportant point,[18/19] that the observance of these days has not been enjoined on you by the clergy, but by the Church in her collective capacity. When our Church adopted this rule, the laity were as much represented as the clergy in the General Convention; and sanctioned it as deliberately as they did. When, therefore, we urge the subject upon you, it is not as something in which we have no share: the rule binds us as much as you; we cannot expunge it without your consent any more than you call without ours: the action of our representatives, while it stands unrepealed, binds us both. [It is not intended in these remarks to undervalue or keep out of sight the obligation of our rule arising from its Catholicity, winch is after all the ultimate ground on which it rests. All that any church does in the way of legislation is. (to use the words of Alexander Knox,) of such municipal rank, that the rights of the Church embolic, are self evidently saved." See Knox's Letters to Jebb. No 79.]
Having now examined the third topic proposed for our consideration, let me in the last place briefly point out to you, some of the benefits that may be expected to accrue to us, from the fulfilment of the duty.
And here it may be distinctly stated, that the Romish idea of the intrinsic merit of Fasting, is entirely and unqualifiedly denied. There is no intrinsic merit in any good works: for they are only wrought in the power of the Holy Ghost, and they are only made acceptable to God, by the faith in which they are wrought. This notion of merit in Fasting, is therefore utterly unfounded. We can as little claim it, as a sick patient can claim merit for taking one of the remedies, which is designed to restore him to health. This is popery, essentially so; and this the Church plainly denies.
Still though there is no merit, there are benefits in Fasting; and in laying them before you, I state them as they are to be gathered from the same venerable [19/20] work to which I have before referred, the Homilies of our Reformers. [First part of the Sermon of Fasting.]
"There be three ends to which if our fast be directed, it is then a work profitable to us and accepted of God.
The first is to chastise the flesh, that it be not too wandering, but tamed and brought in subjection to the spirit. This respect had St. Paul in his fast, when he said I chastise my body and bring it into subjection, lest by any means it cometh to pass, that when I have preached to others, I myself be found a cast away.
The second is, that the spirit may be more earnest and fervent to prayer.
The third is that our fast, be a testimony and witness with us before God, of our humble submission to His high majesty, when we confess and acknowledge our sins unto Him, and are inwardly touched with sorrowfulness of heart, bewailing the same in the affliction of our bodies."'
Such are the words of our excellent though neglected Homilies: and they directly point out to us the ends and benefits of Fasting; and all these may be summed up in one word, Protection.
Protection against ourselves in chastising our carnal wills, and learning such timely self-denial, as may enable us to bring the carnal of our natures into subjection to the law of Christ.
Protection against the world and the Devil, by increasing the fervency of our devotions; for neither Satan nor the snares of earth can entrap the heart that constantly and fervently communes with God.
Protection against the effects of sin: by humbling us before God, in sorrow and affliction ere our hearts are [20/21] hardened, so that our repentance may be proved by our self-denial, and by our timely grief his anger be averted.
Such are the benefits of Fasting; and who will say that they are not great and worthy?
And now, my beloved Brethren, in view of the truths that have been laid before you, suffer I beseech you, a word of exhortation.
I need not speak of the neglect of the Church's Rule of Fasting: our own consciences, will tell every one of us, that we have neglected it. But why should we not resolve here and now, to begin a stricter observation? We need not take up in its rigor the rule of the early Church: it is not likely that we could carry it out if we did. But in the name of our crucified Saviour let us do something. Let not this Lenten season go by, without having seen some self-denial on our part.
I do not ask any man to observe the Church's Days of Fasting in such a way as to interfere with the duties of the station in which God has placed him; for mercy is preferred to sacrifice. But there is a difference between this and not observing them at all. They who on such days cannot come to Church, can think of what the day is set apart for, amid their avocations: and the ejaculated prayer, and good resolution, uttered in the honest and diligent discharge of their needful business, will sanctify the day to them.
All again may not be able to practice any great degree of abstinence: but there are other modes of self-denial, that such may use; and one mode in particular should be strongly urged, because it is a mode which every one can practice.
Is it not decent, to put it on the very lowest ground,--is it not decent, during this period, when our Lord [21/22] was suffering agonies that transcend our imaginations, to give up some time to thinking of them? To withdraw from the enjoyments of social life, and the innocent pleasures of our existence, and devote to retirement and prayer and alms-giving, the time that in ordinary periods we give, and not wrongly give to them? Now, Brethren, there is not one soul within this house of God, there is not one soul through all the Church of Christ, who may not do this: and of those who will not, it can only be said, that they care more for their own fleeting enjoyments, than they do for the blood and sufferings of their Redeemer.
Would to God, I could urge the subject upon you as it deserves! That I could persuade you to adopt the Rule and to practice the Duty! With what holy peace, and tranquil piety of other days, unlike the heat and hurry of that we are now witnessing about us, would your Lenten season then be passed. With what subdued and chastened hearts would you go back to the allowed enjoyments of life after it was over. With what earnest prayers for a blessing on your clergymen, would you keep the Ember Days. With what solemn thoughts would Friday find you, remembering the crucifixion of your Saviour; and as a proof of your love for him, who for you denied himself and laid down his life, denying yourselves too: remembering that not the amount but the spirit, is that which he regards.
Brethren, it is my hearts desire and prayer to God, that we may all have grace given us to "repent and do this first good work." Then as we have fasted and mourned together here; as we have denied ourselves, and taken up our cross together: so together shall we sit down at the marriage banquet of the Lamb. Our fast shall give place to an eternal festival. Our tears [22/23] shall all be changed to smiles. Our sorrow shall be turned to joy. Our words of deep humiliation and contrition, shall be exchanged for the song of the Redeemed. Our sackcloth shall be replaced by robes that have been washed in the blood of the Lamb: and whereas we have here cried, "Spare us Good Lord," give us not over to the power of Satan and eternal death,--our words shall then be, "Salvation unto our GOD, and to the LAMB!"