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yet upon days of public humiliation, which are designed to be spent wholly in devotion, and for the averting God's judgments (if they were imminent), fasting is commanded together with prayer: commanded (I say) by the church to this end; that the spirit might be clearer and more angelical, when it is quitted in some proportions from the loads of flesh.
2. Fasting, when it is in order to prayer, must be a total abstinence from all meat, or else an abatement of the quantity: for the help, which fasting does to prayer, cannot be served by changing flesh into fish, or milk-meats into dry diet; but by turning much into little, or little into none at all, during the time of solemn and extraordinary prayer.
3. Fasting, as it is instrumental to prayer, must be attended with other aids of the like virtue and efficacy; such as are removing for the time all worldly cares and secular businesses: and therefore our blessed Saviour enfolds these parts within the same caution; "take heed, lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and the cares of this world, and that day overtake you unawares.” To which add alms; for, upon the wings of fasting and alms, holy prayer infallibly mounts up to heaven".
4. When fasting is intended to serve the duty of repentance, it is then best chosen, when it is short, sharp, and afflictive; that is, either a total abstinence from all nourishment, according as we shall appoint, or be appointed ; during such a time, as is separate for the solemnity and attendance upon the employment: or, if we shall extend our severity beyond the solemn days, and keep our anger against our sin, as we are to keep our sorrow, that is, always in a readiness, and often to be called upon; then, to refuse a pleasant morsel, to abstain from the bread of our desires, and only to take wholesome and less-pleasing nourishment, vexing our appetite by the refusing a lawful satisfaction, since, in its petulancy and luxury, it preyed upon an unlawful.
5. Fasting, designed for repentance, must be ever joined with an extreme care, that we fast from sin : for there is no greater folly or indecency in the world, than to commit that, for which I am now judging and condemning myself. This is the best fast, and the other may serve to promote the in
Jejunium sine eleemosyna, lampas sine oleo.-St. Aug.
terest of this, by increasing the disaffection to it, and multiplying arguments against it.
6. He that fasts for repentance, must, during that solemnity, abstain from all bodily delights, and the sensuality of all his senses and his appetites : for a man must not, when he mourns in his fast, be merry in his sport: weep at dinner, and laugh all day after; have a silence in his kitchen, and music in his chamber; judge the stomach, and feast the other senses. I deny not, but a man may, in a single instance, punish a particular sin with a proper instrument. If a man have offended in his palate, he may choose to fast only; if he have sinned in softness and in his touch, he may choose to lie hard, or work hard, and use sharp inflictions : but although this discipline be proper and particular, yet because the sorrow is of the whole man, no sense must rejoice, or be with any study or purpose, feasted and entertained softly. This rule is intended to relate to the solemn days, appointed for repentance publickly or privately : besides which, in the whole course of our life, even in the midst of our most festival and freer joys, we may sprinkle some single instances and acts of self-condemning, or punishing; as to refuse a pleasant morsel or å delicious draught with a tacit remembrance of the sin, that now returns to displease my spirit. And, though these actions be single, there is no indecency in them; because a man may abate of his ordinary liberty and bold freedom, with great prudence, so he does it without singularity in himself, or trouble to others; but he may not abate of his solemn sorrow : that may
be caution; but this would be softness, effeminacy, and indecency.
7. When fasting is an act of mortification, that is, is intended to subdue a bodily lust, as the spirit of fornication, or the fondness of strong and impatient appetites, it must not be a sudden, sharp, and violent fast, but a state of fasting, a diet of fasting, a daily lessening our portion of meat and drink, and a choosing such a coarse diet', which may make the least preparation for the lusts of the body. He that fasts three days without food, will weaken other parts, more than the ministers of fornication: and when the meals return as usually, they also will be served, as soon as any. In the mean time, they will be supplied and made active by the ac
e Digiuna assai chi mal mangia,
cidental heat, that comes with such violent fastings: for this is a kind of aërial devil; the prince, that rules in the air, is the devil of fornication; and he will be as tempting with the windiness of a violent fast, as with the flesh of an ordinary meald. But a daily subtraction of the nourishment will introduce a less busy habit of body; and that will prove the more effectual remedy.
8. Fasting alone will not cure this devil, though it helps much towards it: but it must not, therefore, be neglected, but assisted by all the proper instruments of remedy against this unclean spirit: and what it is unable to do alone, in company with other instruments, and God's blessing upon them, it may effect.
9. All fasting, for whatsoever end it be undertaken, must be done without any opinion of the necessity of the thing itself, without censuring others, with all humility, in order to the proper end; and just as a man takes physic; of which no man hath reason to be proud, and no man thinks it necessary, but because he is in sickness, or in danger and disposition to it.
10. All fasts, ordained by lawful authority, are to be observed in order to the same purposes, to which they are enjoined ; and to be accompanied with actions of the same nature, just as it is in private fasts: for there is no other difference, but that, in public, our superiors choose for us, what, in private, we do for ourselves.
11. Fasts, ordained by lawful authority, are not to be neglected; because alone they cannot do the thing, in order to which they were enjoined. It may be, one day of humiliation will not obtain the blessing, or alone kill the lust: yet it must not be despised, if it can do any thing towards it. An act of fasting is an act of self-denial; and, though it do not produce the habit, yet it is a good act.
12. When the principal end, why a fast is publickly prescribed, is obtained by some other instrument, in a particular person; as if the spirit of fornication be cured by the rite of marriage, or by a gift of chastity; yet that person, so eased, is not freed from the fasts of the church by that alone, if those fasts can prudently serve any other end of religion, as * Chi digiuna, et altro ben non fa,
Sparagna il pane, et al inferno va. See chap. ii. sect. ii, 2.
that of prayer, or repentance, or mortification of some other appetite : for, when it is instrumental to any end of the Spirit, it is freed from superstition; and then we must have some other reason to quit us from the obligation, or that alone will not do it.
13. When the fast, publickly commanded by reason of some indisposition, in the particular person, cannot operate to the end of the commandment; yet the avoiding offence, and the complying with public order, is reason enough to make the obedience to be necessary. For he, that is otherwise disobliged, as when the reason of the law ceases as to his particular, yet remains still obliged, if he cannot do otherwise, without scandal: but this is an obligation of charity, not of justice.
14. All fasting is to be used with prudence and charity : for there is no end, to which fasting serves, but may be obtained by other instruments: and, therefore, it must, at no hand, be made an instrument of scruple; or become an enemy to our health ; or be imposed upon persons, that are sick or aged, or to whom it is, in any sense, uncharitable, such as are wearied travellers; or to whom, in the whole kind of it, it is useless, such as are women with child, poor people, and little children. But, in these cases, the church hath made provision, and inserted caution into her laws; and they are to be reduced to practice, according to custom, and the sentence of prudent persons, with great latitude, and without niceness and curiosity: having this in our first care, that we secure our virtue ; and, next, that we secure our health, that we may the better exercise the labours of virtue ; lest, out of too much austerity, we bring ourselves to that condition, that it be necessary to be indulgent to softness, ease, and extreme tenderness.
15. Let not intemperance be the prologue or the epilogue to your fast; lest the fast be so far from taking off any thing of the sin, that it be an occasion to increase it: and, therefore, when the fast is done, be careful, that no supervening act of gluttony or excessive drinking unhallow the religion of the past day; but eat temperately, according to the
e S. Basil. Monast. Constit. eap. 5. Cassian. col. 21, cap. 22. Ne per causam necessitatis eò impingamus, ut voluptatibus serviamus.
proportion of other meals, lest gluttony keep either of the gates to abstinence'.
The Benefits of Fasting. He that undertakes to enumerate the benefits of fasting. may, in the next page, also reckon all the benefits of physic: for fasting is not to be commended as a duty, but as an instrument; and, in that sense, no man can reprove it, or undervalue it, but he that knows neither spiritual arts, nor spiritual necessities. But, by the doctors of the church, it is called the nourishment of prayer, the restraint of lust, the wings of the soul, the diet of angels, the instrument of humility and self-denial, the purification of the spirit: and the paleness and meagreness of visage, which is consequent to the daily fast of great mortifiers, is, by St. Basil, said to be the mark in the forehead, which the angel observed, when he signed the saints in the forehead to escape the wrath of God. “ The soul that is greatly vexed, which goeth stooping and feeble, and the eyes that fail, and the hungry soul, shall give thee praise and righteousness, O Lord”s.
SECTION VI. Of keeping Festivals, and Days holy to the Lord: particularly,
the Lord's Day. True natural religion, that, which was common to all nations and ages, did principally rely upon four great propositions : 1. That there is one God; 2. That God is nothing of those things, which we see ; 3. That God takes care of all things below, and governs all the world; 4. That he is the great Creator of all things, without himself: and, according to these, were framed the four first precepts of the decalogue. In the first, the unity of the Godhead is expressly affirmed : in the second, his invisibility and immateriality: in the third, is affirmed God's government and providence, by avenging them, that swear falsely by his name; by which also his omniscience is declared : In the fourth commandment, he proclaims himself the Maker of heaven and earth :
1 'Αμυνόμενοι την ημέραν.-Nas.
& Baruch, is, v. 18.