« PreviousContinue »
as the representatives of the people, assisted at the oblations of the temple; not departing thence, till the service was over: for these fasts usually lasted till after three in the afternoon, as did their public assemblies. Their annual fast was that of Lent, by way of preparation for the feast of our Saviour's resurrection : but this was variously observed, according to different times and places.
Q. What was the manner of fasting among the primitive Christians?
A. They observed their fasts with great strictness. All, in general, on such days, abstained from drinking wine and eating flesh; the greatest part fed, only on herbs or pulse, with a little bread. They confined themselves to cheap and ordinary diet, without sauces or relishing delicacies. Some used dry diet, as nuts, almonds, and such like fruits; others fed only upon bread and water.
Q. But does not St. Paul' place the abstaining from meats among the doctrines of seducing spirits ?
A. It cannot be supposed that by abstaining from meats. St. Paul should mean the duty of fasting; because that was. observed by devout men, and acceptable to God, both under the Old and New Testament. Our Saviour himself bath given directions concerning the performance of it in his admirable sermon upon the mount; and the Apostle Paul himself practised it upon several occasions. Therefore, it is most probable he means to condemn the opinions of some ancient heretics who departed from the faith, and who, as they excluded those from salvation who engaged in matrie mony, so they held the eating of the flesh of any living creatures unlawful; a doctrine more probably borrowed from Pythagoras and his followers, being defended with such a. variety of learning by, Porphyry. But they who are in structed in their Christian liberty, and know the truth, are fully satisfied that God has permittedP, the use of such his creatures for our nourishment and sustenance, provided we receive them always with temperance and thanksgiving ; and that the Gospel has taken away the difference between things clean and unclean.9
Q. How is a day of fasting to be observed by serious. Christians ?
k Cyr. Hiercatech. 4...
1 1 Tim. iv. 1, 3. m Matt. vi. 16, 17, 18. a 1 Cor. ix. 27; 2 Cor. xi. 27; vi, 5; 1 Tim. iv. 1. o De Abst, ab usu Anim.
P Gon. ix. 3; Acts ü, 26, 27, 33 9 Rom. xiv, 14; Acts X 15..
A. Not only by interrupting and abridging the care of our bodily sustenance, but by carefully inquiring into the state of our souls; charging ourselves with all those transgres. sions which we have committed against God's laws, humbly confessing them with shame and confusion of face, with hearty contrition and sorrow for them; deprecating God's displeasure, and begging him to turn away his anger from us: by interceding with him for such spiritual and temporal blessings upon ourselves and others, as are needful and convenient; by improving our knowledge in all the particulars of our duty; by relieving the wants and necessities of the poor, that our humiliation and prayers may find
acceptance with God; and, if the fast be public, by attending the public places of God's worship.
THE LORD'S DAY. e.
What part of our time hath God appropriated to his immediate service?
A. God hath appropriated to his immediate service one day in seven, which he hath commanded to be kept holy:
Q. What day was originally set apart for this purpose ?
A. The seventh was originally set apart for this purposest For God having in six days made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, he rested the seventh day, and hallowed it.
Q. What mean you by God's resting from his works?
A. This resting of God being spoken after the manner of men, implies not any weariness in him, for the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth- not, neither is weary;" but that the creation of all things was finished, and the world entirely made. This hallowed rest on the seventh day was considered as the symbol of the rest of the just from all their labours; when all grief, sorrow, and sighing shall flee away, and God shall be all in all.
Q. Why was the seventh day, called Saturday, commanded to be observed by the Jews ?
A. By sanctifying the seventh day, after they had laboured six days, the Jews avowed themselves worshippers of that God only, who created the heaven and the earth, and having spent six days in that great work, rested the seventh day; and who therefore commanded this suitable contribution of their time, as a badge that their religious service was appropriated to him alone. By sanctifying that seventh day, they also professed themselves the servants of Jehovah, as, in a peculiar sense, their God and Redeemer, who redeemed them out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bond.. age. For upon the morning watch of that very day which they kept for their Sabbath, he overwhelmed Pharaoh, and all his host, in the Red Sea, and saved Israel out of the hand of the Egyptians.
Q. How far, and in what manner, doth the observation bind Christians ?
4. The Christian, as well as the Jew, after six days
spent in his own works, is to sanctify the seventh day, that he may profess himself thereby a 'servant to God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Büt, in the designation of the day, the Christian differs from the Jew. The Christian chooseth for his day of rest the first day of the week, that he may thereby profess himself a servant of that God, who, on-the morning of that day, vanquished Satan, and redeemed us from our spiritual thraldom, by raising Jesus Christ our Lord from the dead, conferring on us a title, not to an earthly Canaan, but to an inheritance incorruptible in the heavens.
Q. What authority have we for the change of this day : from the seventh to the first day of the week ? .
A. The authority and practice of the holy Apostles,u the first planters of Christianity. It appears from the Scriptures, that the first day of the week was their stated and solemn time of meeting for public worship. On this day the Apos. tles were assembled, when the Holy Ghost came down so visibly upon them to qualify them for the conversion of the world. On this day we find St. Paul preaching at Troas, when the disciples came together to break bread," whereby is understood the celebration of the sacrament, or their feasts of charity, which were always accompanied with the Eucha. rist. And the directions the same Apostle gives to the Co. rinthians, concerning their contributions for the relief of their poor suffering brethren, seem plainly to regard their religious assemblies on the first day of the week.
Q. How was this day observed in the primitive Church?
A. The primitive Christians, both in city and country, had their public meetings on Sundays.y. In these assemblies the writings of the Apostles and Prophets were read to the people, and the doctrines of Christianity were further pressed upon them by the exhortations of the clergy; solemn prayers were offered up to God, and hymns sung in honour of our Saviour; the blessed sacrament was administered to those who were present, and the consecrated elements sent to those who were absent; and collections were also made for the relief of the sick and the poor.
Q. Why is the first day of the week called the Lord's day ?z
A. The first day of the week is called the Lord's day, not only because it is immediately dedicated to the service of :
u Acts xx. 7; 1 Cor. xvi. 2.
v Acts ii. 1.
x i Cor. xvi. 2.
God; but because on that day our Lord Jesus Christ rose
from the dead, and rested from the work of our redemption, which he then completed by his resurrection.
Q. Though the most proper name of this day of public worship is the Lord's day, did the primitive Christians scruple to call it Sunday?
A. Justin Martyrb and Tertulliano both call it Sunday, because it happened upon that day of the week which, by the heathens, was dedicated to the sun; and, therefore, as being best known to them, the fathers commonly made use of this name in their apologies to the heathen governors. And this day seldom passes under any other name in the Imperial edicts of the first. Christian emperors. It may, indeed, with great propriety, retain this name; because it is dedicated to the honour of that Saviour, who is, by the prophet, called the Sun of Righteousness, that was to arise with healing in his wings.d
Q. Is it proper to designate the Lord's day by the name of the Sabbath ?
A. The Lord's day may, in one sense, be called the Sabbath, because we rest on that day from the works of our ordinary callings, and all other worldly employments, and dedicate it to the immediate worship of God, whose service is perfect freedom. But by Scripture, and all the primitive ecclesiastical writers, the term Sabbath is constantly appropriated to Saturday, the day of the Jewish Sabbath, and only within late ages has been used to signify the Lord's day. The charge of Judaism upon those who use this term in a Christian sense, may appear too severe; yet, upon many accounts, it is expedient not to distinguish the day of the Christian worship by the name of the Sabbath, that term being properly applied only to the day of the Jewish worship.
Q. How ought Christians to observe this day?
A. It is not enough that we rest on Sunday from the works of our calling, and abstain from worldly affairs and recreations: our time must be employed in all such religious exercises as tend to the glory of God, and the salvation of our souls. We must regularly frequent the worship of God in the public assemblies, join in the prayers of the Church, hear his holy word, receive the blessed sacrament when administered, and contribute to the relief of the poor, if there be any collection for their support. In private, we
a Rev. i. 10.
b Just. Mar. Apol. 2.