תמונות בעמוד

that the remains of Christianity, which still subsist in the Greek church, are very much owing to the solemn observation of their feasts and fasts, there is not the least reason we should refuse obedience to such institutions as are owned by the protestant churches abroad, and have had so good an effect in a church otherwise overrun with ignorance under the oppression of infidels.

As for those who profess these principles, they ought to attend to the true consequences of them, which would oblige them to pay such regard to days set apart by the church for holy uses, as to frequent the public assemblies, and to join in all the acts of public worship, and to make them serviceable to those ends for which they were instituted. It is highly probable, from all Sundays in the year being placed at the head of the Festivals, that it was the intention of those that compiled the Liturgy, that they should all be observed after the same manner, not only with prayers and thanksgivings, but with rest from ordinary labour. And this, I think, further appears from the words of the thirteenth canon, wherein all manner of persons within the church of England are enjoined to keep the Lord's day, commonly called Sunday, and other holy days, according to God's holy will and pleasure, and the orders of the church of England prescribed in that behalf; that is, in hearing the word of God read and taught in private and public prayers; in acknowledging their offences to God and amendment of the same; in reconciling themselves charitably to their neighbours, where displeasure hath been; in oftentimes receiving the communion of the body and blood of Christ; in visiting the poor and sick, using all godly and sober conversation. And that the people might not neglect their duty in this particular, every parson, vicar, or curate is obliged to give notice every Sunday, whether there be any holy days, or fasting days the week following; and if he shall wittingly offend,

being once admonished thereof by his ordinary, he is to be censured according to law, until he submit himself to the due performance of it. Yet custom, which in time comes to be a law, or the interpreter of it, hath made this rest from ordinary labour upon all festivals impracticable; so that the best people content themselves only with more solemn devotions on most of the holy days, and think they satisfy their obligations at such times by seriously attending the divine service, and joining in all the acts of public worship, it not being evident that more is expected by our governors.

But thus much we certainly owe, not only to the justice of our principles, but out of respect to those that are not friends to the constitution of the church; for how can we suppose they will he prevailed upon to observe days, when we pay no regard to them ourselves; or if when we distinguish them from other days, it is only by our vanities and follies, by our excess and intemperance, by dedicating them to pleasure and diversion, when piety and devotion, the great end and design of their institution, is so much neglected.

Upon this occasion, I think it a great piece of justice to acknowledge and commend the pious and devout practices of the religious societies, who in this point, as well as in many others, distinguishi themselves by their regular conformity and obedience to the laws of the church ; for they constantly attend the public assemblies upon such holy seasons. And till they can communicate regularly in their own parish churches upon such days, they embrace those opportunities that are provided, there being two churches in London employed for that purpose ;* where they as duly receive the blessed sacrament upon all festivals, as they perform all the other acts of public worship. How they

St. Mary le Bow, and St. Dunstan in the West.

spend the Vigils, in preparing their minds for a due celebration of the ensuing solemnity, is more private, but not less commendable. And the great care they take to suppress the dawnings of enthusiasm, and to discountenance the first appearances of any vicious practices amongst their members, and the methods they impose before delinquents are entirely reconciled, or totally rejected, is such a preparation of the minds of the laity, for the reception of that discipline which is wanted in the church, that if ever we are blessed with what good men wish for, and bad men fear, these religious societies will be very instrumental in introducing it, by that happy regulation which prevails among them. And while they pay that deference they profess to their parochial ministers, and are ready to be governed by their rules and orders to the judgment of the reverend clergy; I cannot apprehend but that they must be very serviceable to the interest of religion, and may contribute very much to revive that true spirit of Christianity, which was so much the glory of the primitive times. And I see no reason why men may not meet and consult together, to improve one another in Christian knowledge, and by mutual advice take measures how best to further their own salvation, as well as promote that of their neighbours; when the same liberty is taken for the improvement of trade, and for carrying on the pleasures and diversions of life. And if at such meetings they shall voluntarily subscribe any certain sums to be disposed of in such charities as shall seem most proper to the majority of their members, I cannot imagine how this can deserve censure, when the liberal contributions of gentlemen to support a horse race or a music meeting, have never been taxed with the least illegality.

And as for those objections which are urged against these societies from some canons of the church; they seem to be founded upon a misunderstanding of the sense of


those canons; the first whereof was designed against the pernicious opinions of the anabaptists, and the latter only against such meetings and consultations as tended to the impeaching or depraving of the doctrine of the church of England; neither of which consequences can justly be charged upon a body of men, who make it a chief qualification in the electing their members that they be such as own and manifest themselves to be of the church of England, and frequent the public holy exercises of the same.

They that are acquainted with ecclesiastical history, know what imperfect sketches we have of many of the blessed Apostles, and that we are left to guess at their indefatigable labours by the happy effects of them: Christianity having by their means been diffused, in the space of about thirty years after our Saviour's death, not only through the greatest part of the Roman empire, but having extended itself as far as Parthia and India. All the sacred remains of that kind are collected with so much learning and judgment by my worthy friend the reverend Dr. Cave, that whatever I have advanced upon their festivals, without quotations, may be found in his lives of the Apostles; from whence I have taken the liberty to borrow what I thought might contribute towards the perfecting my design; the criticisms of their history, which are omitted, are more proper to entertain the curiosity of the learned, than the devotion of well disposed minds.

And indeed what arguments can prevail upon men to engage them to keep a conscience void of offence, that may not be deduced from the frequent meditation of the mysteries of our redemption? What means so proper to perfect our natures, as to set before ourselves the examples of the primitive saints who excelled in the truest wisdom? It is the unhappy method of the world to form Christian heroes upon Pagan models, which should make it no wonder that so few Christian princes distinguish themselves, by what

is properly their glory; but if we design to attain that happiness the blessed saints now enjoy, we must tread in their steps; and to acquire true firmness and resolution of mind we must propound for our imitation the examples and patterns of those holy men gone before us, who in their respective ages, have given remarkable testimonies of their faith in God, and constant adherence to his truth.

Among those crying abominations, which like a torrent have overspread the nation, this age seems to distinguish itself by a great contempt of the clergy, than which, I think, nothing can be a greater evidence of the decayed state of religion among us. This barbarous and unchristian practice, setting all particular reasons aside, can be resolved into nothing so surely, as into that great looseness of principles and corruption of morals, which have too much infected all ranks and orders of men; for though it may pass for a current maxim among some, that priests of all religions are the same; yet I am of the opinion, it will appear a much truer observation by experience, that they of all religions that contemn the priesthood, will be found the same, both as to their principles and practice; sceptical in the one, and dissolute in the other. To remedy, if possible, this great evil, I have endeavoured upon the Ember Fasts, to explain the nature of the several offices in the sacred function, to shew the authority of their commission, the dignity of the priesthood, and those duties the laity owe to their spiritual superiors. If these subjects make any impression upon men's minds, as they will most certainly, if calmly and seriously considered, it will startle the boldest sinner, to find that in contemning this order of men, he affronts his maker; and in despising the ministers of the gospel, he despiseth him that sent them.*

If ever a convocation should think fit to revise the catechism of the church, to whose authority and judgment an

Luke x. 16.

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