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prepared ? Why do so many abstain from communicating, even at the periods which themselves approve, if they happen to be prevented from keeping the fast-day? The plain interpretation of it is, “ Had I kept the fast, I had been well qualified: but now I am altogether unfit.” But why not communicate without it? “ The service is peculiarly holy: great preparation is very necessary, and very difficult.” And what is the obvious inference? We must work the harder. Ah, is there no legality in all this? Yes, verily. And so powerful is it in many, that not all their love to Jesus Christ; not all their zeal for his name; not all the allurements of his grace; not all the majesty of his authority, will preserve them from the deliberate violation of his command, lest they should transgress—the tradition of the elders!
8. Our sacramental fasts and thanksgivings involve us perpetually in self-contradiction.
We speak, with great confidence, of lifting up a banner for truth; of not believing every spirit, but trying the spirits whether they are of God: We reject, in à mass, the corruptions of Popery, and of her ape, Prelacy. We renounce the religious observance of Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, &c. and the festivals in honour of a troop of saints and saintesses, as superstitious and inconsistent with gospel-worship, how graceful soever to the antichristian calendar. The reason of their being laid aside by the Westminster Assembly, and of their being disowned by ourselves, is their want of divine authority. “ Festival-days, vulgarly called holy-days, HAVING NO WARRANT IN THE WORD or God, are not to be continued.” The reason is sound and irresistible; but the mortification is, that with this profession in our mouths, we gravely declare by our practice, and especially by justifying it, that sacramental fast and thanksgiving days, which have no warrant in the word of God, are to be continued.
Talk no more, then, to a Papist or an Episcopalian, of his uncommanded holy-days. He will reply that you have no objection to holydays, provided they be of your own appointing. Question him not about the fast on Good Friday, before Easter Sunday. He will question you in his tirn, about your Thursday or Friday fast before, what he would call, sacrament-sunday. Ask not for his warrant from the bible. He will retort, by asking for yours. He will produce quite as many, and quite as good proofs for Lent, as you can for your fastdays; and infinitely more examples. On the ground of decency, he will keep up with you:
on the ground of devotion, outstrip you: and on the ground of antiquity, leave you out of sight. Here then, you are reduced to a dilemma. You must either allow his days, or give up your own. They stand and fall together. It is superlative inconsistency to inveigh against the one, and defend the other *. In vain do you quirk and shuffle: the absurdity is . glaring. You are fastened down, nor can you disentangle yourself by all the arts of controversial chicanery. If, therefore, we venture to attack corruptions of divine worship among others, a skilful adversary will combat us with our own weapons, and turn the edge of our teslimony against our own bowels. We shall be incessantly rebuffed by the stinging, but merited taunt: “ Physician! heal thyself. Hypocrite! first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eyet." In such hu
* « The comparison,” you will say, “ does not hold. The evil of those holy-days lies in attaching notions of sanctity to set times, other than God has appointed in his word.” Truc. And you insist on our keeping holy, days of fasting and thanksgiving, other than those which he calls for in his providence. The difference is merely circumstantial; the principle, in both cases, the same. You have only to vary its application a little, and you may create as many holy-days as you think fit.,
f Mat. vii. 5.
miliating circumstances, it is a poor subterfuge to exelaim against the defections and incorrigibleness of the times; and to console ourselves as being reproached for Christ. This is not witnessing for truth; but putting a cheat upon ourselves. The religion of Christ is not answerable for our folly; nor hath his reproach any affinity with reproach for inconsistency. The alternative, Christian brethren, is decisive: we must either act up to our profession, or sit down self-condemned, and silently bear our shame.
If we would have a good conscience, and an unblushing face; if we would present an invulnerable front to every foe, let us dare to acknowledge and to rectify what is amiss in ourselves. Let us not shrink from the scriptural test. If any thing which custom has taught us to value as fine gold, should prove to be dross——to the drofs with it! Let us have the Christian magnanimity to say, Penish THE TRADITIONS OF MEN! THE COMMANDMENTS of GOD BE HONOURED! Then may we expect his blessing; and we shall no longer injure his truth, nor expose our profession to ridicule*.
** Should it be demanded, how a week-day service of any Rind preparatory to the supper is more defensible than public fasts and thanksgivings, or more consistent with the foregoing
reasonings ? I answer, Preaching the word, unlike those exer. cises, is an ordinary part of God's worship; and, if it do not displace any other duty, can never be unseusonable. But should any assert a previous week-day sermon to be essential, either to the right administration of the supper, or the right preparation for it-should it be considered as obligatory, by divine authority, on the conscience should it jostle other duties out of their places should it be a pillar of will-worship-should it lead to erroneous notions of the sacraments, breeding a false reverence for the one, and sinful slight of the other.Could it be proved to have all or any of these effects, the author would be the first to condemn and reject it.