Page images
[ocr errors]

ties, which arise from the belief of such an article. If we commemorate any faint, we should consider the virtues for which he was most distinguished, and by what steps he arrived at so great perfection; and then examine ourselves how far we are wanting in our duty, and earnestly beg God's pardon for our past failings, and his grace to inable us to conform our lives to those admirable examples, which the saints have left for our imitation.

V. As we are thus to express our thankfulness to God for mercies received, and the good examples set before

Inobserving us for our imitation; we are with the same view of the fasts of honouring God, by acts of humiliation and repen- the church. tance, to keep holy those

fast-days set apart by the church, or by civil authority, or by our own appointment, to humble ourselves before God, in punishing our bodies, and afflicting our souls in order to a real repentance: by outward tokens testifying our grief for fins past, and by using them in what as a means to secure us from returning to those fins, manner. for which we express so great a detestation. And this must be done, not only by interrupting and abridging the care of our body, but by carefully inquiring into the state of our souls; charging ourselves with all those transgressions we have committed against God's laws, humbly confessing them with fame and confusion of face, with hearty contrition and forrow for them; praying that God will not suffer his whole difpleasure to arise, and begging him to turn away hisanger from us ; by interceding with him for such spiritual and temporal blessings upon ourselves, and others, as are needful and convenient; by improvingour knowledge in all the particulars of our duty; by relieving the wants and necessities of the poor, that our humiliation and

acceptance with God. And, if the fast be public, we must attend the public place of God's worship, always taking particular care to avoid all vanity, and valuing ourselves upon such performances; and therefore, in our private falts, we must not proclaim thein toothers by any outward shew; that we may not appear unto men to fast. We must not despise or judge our neighbour, who doth not, and it inay behe hath not the same reason to tie himself up to such methods. We must not destroy the

prayers may



[ocr errors]

of Lent.

health of our bodies by too great austerity, left thereby we make them unfit instruments for the improvement of our minds, or the discharge of our worldly employments. Particular care ought to be taken that we grow not thereby morose and sour, peevithand fretful towards others, which severity to ourselves may be apt to incline us to; for that is so far fromexpresing our repentance, that it makes a fresh work for it byincreasing our guilt. And therefore, when thou fasteit, benotas the hypocrites are of a sad countenance, &c. Wherefore,

The church of Christ having in all ages appointed solemn Of the fast

fafts to be observed by her members upon particu

lar occasions, we still retain some of them; amongst which, the fast of Lent deserves our particular regard; concerning which I would have you make these observations : As to the limitation of time for the keeping of this fast, the church had, I suppose, a respect to the particular space of time wherein our Saviour fasted, which was forty days, as what was esteemed a proper penitential season : and as to the intention, end, or design of this fast of Lent, it is set apart as a Wły infti- proper season for mortification, and the exercise of

self-denial; to humble and afflict ourselves for our fins; not by endeavouring to fast continually forty days, but by frequent fastings, as may be learnt from the practice of the church in all ages, and to punish our too often abuses of God's creatures, by abstinence, and by forbearing the lawful enjoyment of them; to form and settle firm purposes of holy obedience; to pray frequently to God both in private and public for pardon, and his holy spirit to put us in mind of that fore trial and temptation, which Christ then endured for our fakes; particularly to perpetuate the memory of our Savour's sufferings; and to make, as it were, a public confession of our belief, that he died for our salvation; and consequently, for fitting ourselves to receive the tokens and pledges of his love with greater joy and gladness.

Forwhich reason, this christian inftitution of Lent ought How to be to be spent in fasting, and in abstinence, according observed.

to the circumstances of our health, and outward condition in the world; and this with a design to deny and punish ourselves, and to express our humiliation before God

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

for past transgressions: the ornament of attire may be laid aside: the frequency of receiving and paying visits may be interrupted : public assemblies for pleasure and diversioni should be avoided: our retirement should be filled with reading pious discourses, and with frequent prayer, and with examining the state of our minds: and the public devotion, and those instructingexhortations from the pulpit, which are lo generally established in many churches in this season, should be constantly attended. Besides, we should be liberal in our alms, and very ready to employ ourselves on all

opportunities of relieving either the temporal or spiritual wants of our neighbour: For the Lord says by the prophet Isaiah, Is not this the fast I have chosen, to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the

oppressed go free, and that we break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out of thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own Alesh ? ch. lviii. ver. 6, 7.

SUNDAY II. PART II. VI. Fourthly, we are in a more special manner to express our reverence to God by honouring his Holy

God must be WORD; and we honour his holy word by hearing, honoured in reading *, and practising what is therein contained bis word. for our comfort and instruction. This word of God is com. monly called by way of eminence the holy fcriptures, which we are obliged to search, because they contain the The body terms and conditions of our common falvation ; fcripture. without the knowledge and practice of which we can never attain eternal happiness. I say, whatever is necessary for us to know and believe, to hope for and practise, in order to salvation, is fully contained in those holy books. This then is the rule of our faith. Every doctrine that. The rule of is there delivered we must believe: but as for any faith. doctrine that is not there plainly delivered, nor can be clearly deduced from thence; we are not bound to believe that as an article of faith, let it come ever so well recoma


mended: • See the help to reading the Scriptures at the end of this Book.

[ocr errors][merged small]

I would recommend this way of instruction to parents

and masters of families, with respect to their chilA duty on parents and dren and servants. For I do not think that this mafiers,&c. work should lie wholly upon ministers. You must do your part at home, who, always living with your families, have better and more easy opportunities of fixing the principles of religion upon your children and servants. Neither must such as have been so unfortunate as to grow in years without this instruction, imagine they are exempt from it; for, as soon as they are able to see their own danger and discover their own ignorance, they must apply in good earnest to this means of obtaining the first things to be known in the christian religion. Therefore, whoever he be, of what age and condition foever, that finds his own ignorance in the mysteries of his religion and service of God, or in any such degree thereof, as he feels a want of any part of necefsary saving knowledge, let him, as he loves his soul, and would risque it from eternal death, set out for instruction, first, by the means of catechising, and then he shall profit through God's grace by the word preached. For,

Secondly, PREACHING is not only a publication of God's In preach- mercy, favour, blessings, grace, and promises to ing. those who love him and keep his commandments, but it is also a declaration of those threats and punishments recorded in the word of God against the obstinate and evil-doer. Its use is to put us in mind of our duty, and to exhort and aflift us to withstand those lusts and temptations which set us at enmity with God. Consequently, we honour The uje of God by attending to his holy Word, read and fermon. preached to us, with a resolution of mind to perform what we shall be convinced is our duty ; with such Tubmission of our understanding as is due to the oracles of God; and with a particular application of general instructions to the state of ourown minds, that we may growin grace, and in the knowledge of God the Father, and of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Therefore, at hearing the word How to be preached, we should give our attention with great

reverence, and take heed how we hear, left our negligence be interpreted as a contempt of that authority


which speaks to us; and not, as the manner of some is, who at church place their public worship, not in their hearts and knees, but in lolling, gazing, and unfeemly gestures; and employ their ears, the channel by which faith is conveyed into our souls, not to hear their duty, but to find some unreasonable fault with their teacher: For, instead of improving the word of God preached for their instruction, when they return home, their whole discourse turns upon the man, and not his sermon. And such hearers never want subject of complaint against the preacher, that they may in some measure screen their own neglect of duty to God, their neighbour, and themselves. Thus at one time they find fault with his memory, because too short; or with his sentences, because too long : if he be young, they despise his youth, and say that he does but prate: if he is aged, they seldom scruple to term his zeal for their souls, and good instructions, the dictates of one in his dotage, that knows not what he says. Again, if he preaches in a plain style suitable to weak capacities, they call him a lloven, a bad master of languages; if he is sólid, then he preaches flat: but, if he be not plain, then he is too witty : and, if not solid, he is certainly accused of levity, and ridiculing the word of God : if he be unlearned, they justly say he is not worthy of so great a calling; and, if he be endued with the qualifications of a good pastor and teacher, he is immediately proclaimed unfit for lo plain and ignorant a people. In fine, when the sermon must be confessed to be very excellent, then they say he preaches for gain; and, if it be but ordinary, they cry, they can read as good at home. But now

What can be thought to be the end of such men? God may justly give them up to a reprobate mind, and withdraw that grace, which they have abused; and of some then it is no wonder they turn the most serious bearers. things into ridicule, and hear the terrors of the Lord without the least sense of their own guilt. Pray God that this may not be the case of many, who stay from church under a pretence that they cannot benefit under such and such a minister! And let not those, who constantly attend on stated days, to hear God's word preached, and still continue in their ha


The danger

E 3

« PreviousContinue »