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monstrous assemblage of trinkets and trumpery, debauched men's minds from the “ simplicity that is in Christ,” turned his house into a puppet-show, and marked the swift approach of the man of sin. All these things were adopted, and justified, not on the authority of the written word ; but on the pretext of decency, devotion, and especially of tradition. Then indeed, there were fastings in abundance: forty days at once in Lent: four times more at stated seasons, and afterwards twice a week. . · At these times, it is true, the custom was to ? communicate fasting. But still a fast day as preparative to it, was not known. When the communion happened on the Lord's day, (and amidst all the corruption it was yet common every Lord's day) it was celebrated early in the. morning, and the fast was merely an abstinence from meat, till it was over, when they fell to feasting. This is evident, not only because the feasts called agapa, or love-feasts, usually accompanied the communion; but because solemn decrees of council had pronounced fasting on the Lord's day, excepting Easter, an high offence. It was also frequent to communicate on fast days through the week. But fasting in both these cases, arose from a very different cause, than a conviction of its necessity as a preparative for the communion. It originated
in rack and pitiable superstition. On the Wednesday and Friday, both the one and the other were intended to honour the supposed sanctity of the days. And the reason of communicating fasting on the Lord's day was a notion that no meaner food ought to enter the communicant's mouth before the consecrated bread and wine. The great Augustine, speaking of this practice, says, “ thus it hath pleased the Holy Ghost." But with all deference to this worthy father, we would rather have his proofs than his opinions; and must be excused, if, in appeals to unerring truth, we allow the Bible to speak for itself. It is true indeed that some of
the ancients, as well as of the moderns, have · quoted, in support of Augustine's assertion, 1
Cor. xi. 34. The rest will I set in order when I come. From which, say they, “ we are given to understand, that the Apostle then appointed this custom of receiving fasting *.” How they came at the inference is not quite so clear. To tell people that if they were hungry they should eat at home, is rather an odd way of enjoining a fast; and hardly to be discovered without the penetration of the sage who spied a whole book of common prayer in the text, Let all things be done to edifying.
* BINGHAM, vol. i. pe 809. Fol.
I am under no temptation to conceal what. some may suppose inconsistent with the foregoing representation, that among the causes assigned for the observance of Lent, this was one, that persons who communicated but once a year, might, by great fastings and austerities, be purified from their sins, and qualified for the communion on Easter Sunday. Mark-once a year-on Easter Sunday. For that day was an high day, and was signalized, as well as the week preceding, with prodigious parade. I grievously mistake, if any to whom these pages are addressed, will chuse to refer to this as a precedent; and if they should, it will only prove a serpent that will turn and bite them. For,
1. It was not preparation for the Lord's ta, ble, so much as preparation for it at Easter, that occasioned the previous fasting. The homage was paid to the day, not to the ordinance.
2. The reason, as far as it went, embraced two fast-days, viz. Triday and Saturday, and even extended to all the silly penances of Lent.
3. It was alleged only by a few who communicated but once a year, wbich, with the multitude of their rites, they thought a full equiva. lent for the want of frequent communions. But this was the subject of severe and pointed cri
mination, by those who retained something of the spirit of Peter and of Paul. And is it not strange that the very principle which, 1400 years ago, was lamented, by the best men in the church, as a sinful defection, should now be considered as a substantial part of a reformationtestimony?
4. The men least remarkable for their piety, were the most distinguished for these temporary rigours. None so filled with reverence for the sacrament as they: none so fearful of unhallowed approaches. But the truth is, they cast the spirituality of their profession behind their backs for the rest of the year, and Lent was the time of settling their accounts current with the church.
Thus far our researches for solid examples of our sacramental fasts and thanksgivings, have been fruitless. No one, surely, will hunt for them in the ages that follow. Degeneracy succeeded degeneracy: the genius of Christianity was forgotten by the multitudė: Church services swelled into an enormous bulk; but the living spirit was fed, and the mafs of putrescence which remained behind, served only to nurture and bring to his full size, “ the son of perdition.”
Passing by, therefore, the long and dreary reign of darkness and idolatry, we resume our
enquiries at the æra of the reformation. But we shall be as much puzzled to find precedents here, as in the days of the Apostles. The pretensions of the Pope, and the corruptions of popery, were manfully rejected: the worship of God freed from profane incumbrances: the stupid blasphemy of deified bread, and all its mountebank superstition, exploded:every punctilio of the sacramental doctrine and rițes severely discussed: but of a day of preparatory fasting and subsequent thanksgiving no body dreamed. They were unknown to the good Waldenses; to Luther, to Calvin, to Melanchton, to Bucer, to Beza, and all the rest of the worthies who espoused the quarrel of the Lord against the mighty. There is not a yestige of them in those illustrious compounds of evangelical doctrine which were framed when the lamp of reformation began to shine the brightcst; and the churches were eminently favoured with the spirit of judgment, and the spirit of burning. The Helvetic*, GALLICANT, EngLISHT, Scottish ||, BelgicS, STRASBOURGH, AUGSBOURG **, Saxontt, BOHEMICII, Confessions, all treat of the supper, and, almost all of fasting; they were drawn up with
* 1566. + 1559. I 1502. || 1568. $ 1501.
9 1530. ** 1530 tt 1551. 11 1532.