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so this perverting of Holy Seasons shews only the greatest Depravity of Mankind, in turning their Food into Poison; and no Way reflects upon the Prudence and Piety of the Institution. For as they who are intemperately disposed, do upon these Occasions turn Feasting, designed for Hospitality and Charity, into Luxury and Excess; so the same Men treat the Lord's Day with as little Respect, and make the Advantage of Rest and Leisure from their worldly Affairs only an Instrument to promote their Pleasure and Diversions. But I wish Christians would lay this seriously to Heart, and retrieve the Honour of such Holy Seasons by the Exercises of Piety and Charity ; lest our spiritual Governors should be forced to lay these Festivals aside, as it is certain the Ancient Church was to abolish even some Apostolical Rites, viz. the Agapæ and Kiss of Charity, through Men's obstinate Abuse of them.
Q. Whence arose those Festivals in the Primitive Church which were kept in Commemoration of Martyrs ?
A. This Practice seems to be founded upon the Exhortation of St. Paul to the Hebrews, who, to encourage them to Constancy in the Faith, advises them to be mindful of their Bishops, and Governors, who had preached to them the Gospel, and had sealed it with their Blood. Remember them, saith he, Heb. xiii. which have the Rule over you, who have spoken unto 7. you the Word of God; whose Faith follow, considering the End of their Conversation. And it is not without Reason that St. Paul is thought hereby chiefly to hint at the Martyrdom of St. James the Bishop of Jerusalem, who not long before had laid down his Life for the Testimony of Jesus. Hence proceeded the great Reverence People then had for those who suffered for the Profession of Christianity, and laid Easeb. down their Lives for the Confirmation of it: Thus Hist
. Lib. the Church of Smyrna professed they worthily loved* the Martyrs, as the Disciples and Followers of our Lord; and because of their exceeding great Affection
to their King and their Master. Upon this Account they thought it reasonable to do all possible Honour to their Memories, partly that others might be encouraged to the same Patience and Fortitude, and partly that Virtue, even in this World, might not lose its Reward.
Q. How did they use to observe these Festivals ?
A. They were wont once a Year to meet at the Graves of the Martyrs; there solemnly to recite their Sufferings and Triumphs, to praise their Virtues, to bless God for their pious Examples, for their holy Lives, and their happy Deaths. Besides, they celebrated these Days with great Expressions of Love and Charity to the Poor, and mutual Rejoicings with one another, which were very sober and temperate, and such as became the Mudesty and Simplicity of Christians.
Q. Were these annual Solemnities early practised in the Church?
A. It is certain they were very Ancient, though
when they first began is not exactly known. In Act. Mart. the Acts of the Martyrdom of St. Ignatius, we find Ignat.
that those that were Eye-witnesses of his Sufferings, for this Reason published the Day of his Martyrdom, (which, according to learned Men, happened about the year 110,) that the Church of Antioch night meet together at that Time to celebrate the Memory of such a valiant Combatant and Martyr of Christ. After this we read of the Church of Smyrna's giving an Account of St. Polycarp's Martyrdom (which
was A. C. 168,) and of the Place where they had Hist. 1. 4. entombed his Bones, and withal professing that they
would assemble in that Place, and celebrate the Birth-Day of his Martyrdom with Joy and Gladness; both in Memory of what he suffered, and for the Exercise and Preparation of those that might hereafter suffer. Tertullian, who is very careful in recounting the Practices of the Primitive Church, affirms, that Christians were wont to celebrate yearly the Days of the Martyrs' Births, that is, their Suffering's, as a Custom received from the Tradition of
De Cor. c. 3.
their Ancestors. In Constantine’s Time these Days De Vit. were commanded to be observed with great Care c. 23. and Strictness; and it was thought a Piece of Profaneness to be absent from the Meetings of the Christians at such Times. And St. Augustine ser. 258. makes it a Character of a Son of the Church, to de Temp., observe the Festivals of the Charch.
Q. Why did they call the Days of their Death their Birth-Days?
A. Because they looked upon those as the true Days of their Nativity, wherein they were freed from the Pains and Sorrows of a troublesome World, placed out of the Reach of Sin and Temptation, delivered from this Valley of Tears, these Regions of Death and Misery; and born again unto the Joys and Happiness of an endless Life, an Inheritance incorruptible, that fadeth not away.
Q. How ought we to observe the Festivals of the Church?
A. In such a Manner as may answer the Ends for which they were appointed : That God may be glorified by an humble and grateful Acknowledgment of his Mercies, and that the Salvation of our Souls may be advanced, by firmly believing the Mysteries of our Redemption; and by imitating the Examples of those Patterns of Piety that are set before us.
Q. What manner of keeping these Days answers these Ends?
A. We should constantly attend the Public Worship, and partake of the blessed Sacrament, if it be administered. In private we should enlarge our Devotions, and suffer the Affairs of the World to interrupt us as little as may be. We should particularly express our Rejoicing by Lore and Charity to our poor Neighbours. If we commemorate any Mystery of our Redemption, or Article of our Faith, we ought to confirm our Belief of it, by considering all those Reasons upon wbich it is built; that we may be able to give a good Account
Deut. xvi. 16, 17.
of the Hope that is in us. We should 'from our Hearts offer to God the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving, and resolve to perform all those Duties which result from the Belief of such an Article. If we cominemorate any Saint, we should consider the Virtues for which he was most eminent, and by what Steps he arrived at so great Perfection; and then examine ourselves how far we are defective in our Duty, and earnestly beg God's Pardon for our past Failings, and his Grace to enable us to conform our Lives for the Time to come to those admirable Examples that are set before us.
Q. What Command is there concerning the Manner of observing Festivals under the Law?
A. That they should not appear before the Lord empty. Every Man should give as he is able, &c. Wherein is contained a special Duty, of all, when they came to worship God at these Feasts, viz. to bring a present, a Heave-offering; which was a kind of Tribute of Thankfulness unto God, and withal an Acknowledgment of his Supreme Dominion over all. According to this Rule, at the Feast of the Passover, the Jews brought a Sheaf of the First-fruits of their Harvest unto the Priest, and he was to wave it before the Lord: And, until this was done, they might eat no Corn in the green Ear. And at this
Feast they paid their Firstlings and Tithes of Cattle. Lev. xxiii. At the Feast of Pentecost, when Harvest was ended,
they brought two wave Loaves of their new Corn, at which Time also they paid Tithes of Corn, so much as was threshed; and a Tribute also of a Freewill Offering of their Hand. To this may be referred the Precept of not gathering their Land clean, but that Something should be left for the Poor to glean; which was a secondary Offering to God himself.
At the Feast of Tabernacles they offered First-Fruits xxiv. 21. and Tithes of Wine and Oil, which was the Offer
ing of that Season. And in the Commandment of this Feast, we also find a Precept of not gathering the Grapes and Fruit clean, in Behalf of the Poor.
Q. How far are Christians obliged to any Imitation in this particular?
A. They are certainly bound not to appear before the Lord with empty Hands.' It is not enough to give at other Times, but it is a proper Piece of the Worship to be practised at holy Seasons. For the Actions of Men in holy Assemblies are not like their private Actions at other Times; for all the Actions in Publicare to be accounted as one Action of the whole Body, every Prayer, the Prayer of all as one. Whatsoever Worship God requires of any one alone, the same he requires also of all met together as one, being God of the Body as a Church, as well as of any one Member as a Christian. In reference to Offerings in holy Assemblies, thus St. Paul ordains, thus the Primitive Christians prac 1 Cor. xvi. tised, as is plain from Justin Martyr and Irenæus.a.
Q. How are Festivals profuned?
A. When they are not regarded nor distinguished from common Days; when they are made Instruments of Vice and Vanity; when they are spent in Luxury and Debauchery; when our Joy degene. rates into Sensuality, and we express it by Intemperance and Excess. And it is a very great Aggravation of our Sins at such Times, to abuse the Memory of the greatest Blessings, by making them Occasions of offending God.
Q. What are the Advantages of a serious Observation of Festivals ?
A. It testifies our great regard to the Institutions of the Church, and our Obedience to our spiritual Superiors, to whom we ought to submit, as io those Heb. xii. that watch for our Souls. It Exes in our Thoughts": the great Mysteries of our Redemption. It fills our Hearts with a thankful Sense of God's great Goodness. It raises our Minds above the World, and inures us to a sober Frame and lemper of Soul. It kindles a prudent Zeal and Fervour in perforining the Offices of Religion; and is very apt to produce a Readiness to do or suffer any Thing for the Name of Jesus,