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in the matter of reading the Scriptures, and hearing that word of God which is, and as it is, there described.
But this duty is reduced to practice in the following rules.
Rules for hearing or reading the Word of God. 1. Set apart some portion of thy time, according to the opportunities of thy calling and necessary employment, for the reading of Holy Scriptures; and, if it be possible, every day, read or hear some of it read : you are sure, that book teaches all truth, commands all holiness, and promises all happiness.
2. When it is in your power to choose, accustom yourself to such portions, which are most plain and certain duty, and which contain the story of the life and death of our blessed Saviour. Read the gospels, the Psalms of David ; and especially those portions of Scripture, which, by the wisdom of the church, are appointed to be publicly read upon Sundays and holidays, viz. the epistles and gospels. In the choice of any other portions, you may advise with a spiritual guide, that you may spend your time with most profit.
3. Fail not diligently to attend to the reading of Holy Scriptures, upon those days, wherein it is most publicly and solemnly read in churches : for, at such times, besides the learning our duty, we obtain a blessing along with it: it becoming to us, upon those days, a part of the solemn divine worship.
4. When the word of God is read or preached to you, be sure, you be of a ready heart and mind, free from worldly cares and thoughts, diligent to hear, careful to mark, studious to remember, and desirous to practise all that is commanded, and to live according to it: do not hear for any other end, but to become better in your life, and to be instructed in every good work, and to increase in the love and service of God.
5. Beg of God, by prayer, that he would give you the spirit of obedience and profit, and that he would, by his Spirit, write the word in your heart, and that you describe it in your life. To which purpose serve yourself of some affectionate ejaculations to that purpose, before and after this duty.
Concerning spiritual Books and ordinary Sermons, take
in these Advices also. 6. Let not a prejudice to any man's person hinder thee from receiving good by his doctrine, if it be according to godliness; but (if occasion offer it, or especially if duty present it to thee, that is, if it be preached in that assembly, where thou art bound to be present) accept the word preached as a message from God, and the minister, as his angel in that ministration.
7. Consider and remark the doctrine, that is represented to thee in any discourse; and if the preacher adds accidental advantages, any thing to comply with thy weakness, or to put thy spirit into action or holy resolution, remember it, and make use of it. But if the preacher be a weak person, yet the text is the doctrine, thou art to remember, that contains all thy duty; it is worth thy attendance to hear that spoken often, and renewed upon thy thoughts: and though thou beest a learned man, yet the same thing which thou knowest already, if spoken by another, may be made active by that application. I can better be comforted by my own considerations, if another hand applies them, than if I do it myself; because the word of God does not work as a natural agent, but as a divine instrument : it does not prevail by the force of deduction and artificial discoursings only, but chiefly by way of blessing in the ordinance, and in the ministry of an appointed person. At least, obey the public order, and reverence the constitution, and give good example of humility, charity, and obedience.
8. When Scriptures are read, you are only to inquire, with diligence and modesty, into the meaning of the Spirit : but if homilies or sermons be made upon the words of Scripture, you are to consider, whether all that be spoken be conformable to the Scriptures. For, although you may practise for human reasons, and human arguments, ministered from the preacher's art; yet you must practise nothing but the command of God, nothing but the doctrine of Scripture, that is, the text.
9. Use the advice of some spiritual or other prudent man, for the choice of such spiritual books, which may be of use and benefit for the edification of thy spirit in the ways of
holy living; and esteem that time well accounted; for that is prudently and affectionately employed in hearing or reading good books and pious discourses; ever remembering, that God, by hearing us speak to him in prayer, obliges us to hear him speak to us in his word, by what instrument soever it be conveyed.
Of Fasting. FASTING, if it be considered in itself, without relation to spiritual ends, is a duty, no where enjoined or counselled. But Christianity hath to do with it, as it may be made an instrument of the Spirit, by subduing the lusts of the flesh, or removing any hinderances of religion. And it hath been practised by all ages of the church, and advised in order to three ministries ; 1. To prayer; 2. To mortification of bodily lusts ; 3. To repentance: and it is to be practised according to the following measures.
Rules for Christian Fasting. 1. Fasting, in order to prayer, is to be measured by the proportions of the times of prayer; that is, it ought to be a total fast from all things, during the solemnity; unless a probable necessity intervene. Thus the Jews ate nothing upon the sabbath-days, till their great offices were performed; that is, about the sixth hour: and St. Peter used it as an argument, that the apostles in Pentecost were not drunk, because it was but the third hour of the day; of such a day, in which it was not lawful to eat or drink' till the sixth hour: and the Jews were offended at the disciples, for plucking the ears of corn, on the sabbath, early in the morning, because it was before the time, in which, by their customs, they esteemed it lawful to break their fast. In imitation of this custom, and in prosecution of the reason of it, the Christian church hath religiously observed fasting, before the holy communion; and the more devout persons (though without any obligation at all), refused to eat or drink, till they had finished their morning devotions : and further yet upon days of public humiliation, which are designed to be spent wholly in devotion, and for the averting God's judgments (if they were imminent), fasting is commanded together with prayer : commanded (I say) by the church to this end ; that the spirit might be clearer and more angelical, when it is quitted in some proportions from the loads of Alesh.
2. Fasting, when it is in order to prayer, must be a total abstinence from all meat, or else an abatement of the quantity : for the help, which fasting does to prayer, cannot be served by changing flesh into fish, or milk-meats into dry diet; but by turning much into little, or little into none at all, during the time of solemn and extraordinary prayer
3. Fasting, as it is instrumental to prayer, must be attended with other aids of the like virtue and efficacy; such as are removing for the time all worldly cares and secular businesses': and therefore our blessed Saviour enfolds these parts within the same caution ; “ take heed, lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and the cares of this world, and that day overtake you unawares.” To which add alms; for, upon the wings of fasting and alms, holy prayer infallibly mounts up to heaven".
4. When fasting is intended to serve the duty of repentance, it is then best chosen, when it is short, sharp, and affictive; that is, either a total abstinence from all nourishment, according as we shall appoint, or be appointed ; during such a time, as is separate for the solemnity and attendance upon the employment: or, if we shall extend our severity beyond the solemn days, and keep our anger against our sin, as we are to keep our sorrow, that is, always in a readiness, and often to be called upon; then, to refuse a pleasant morsel, to abstain from the bread of our desires, and only to take wholesome and less-pleasing nourishment, vexing our appetite by the refusing a lawful satisfaction, since, in its petulancy and luxury, it preyed upon an unlawful.
5. Fasting, designed for repentance, must be ever joined with an extreme care, that we fast from sin : for there is no greater folly or indecency in the world, than to commit that, for which I am now judging and condemning myself. This is the best fast, and the other may serve to promote the in
Jejunium sine eleemosyna, lampas sine oleo. St. Ang.
terest of this, by increasing the disaffection to it, and multiplying arguments against it.
6. He that fasts for repentance, must, during that'solemnity, abstain from all bodily delights, and the sensuality of all his senses and his appetites : for a man must not, when he mourns in his fast, be merry in his sport: weep at dinner, and laugh all day after; have a silence in his kitchen, and music in his chamber; judge the stomach, and feast the other senses. I deny not, but a man may, in a single instance, punish a particular sin with a proper instrument. If a man have offended in his palate, he may choose to fast only; if he have sinned in softness and in his touch, he may choose to lie hard, or work hard, and use sharp inflictions : but although this discipline be proper and particular, yet because the sorrow is of the whole man, no sense must rejoice, or be with any study or purpose feasted and entertained softly. This rule is intended to relate to the solemn days, appointed for repentance publicly or privately : besides which, in the whole course of our life, even in the midst of our most festival and freer joys, we may sprinkle some single instances and acts of self-condemning, or punishing; as to refuse a pleasant morsel or a delicious draught with a tacit remembrance of the sin, that now returns to displease my spirit. And, though these actions be single, there is no indecency in them; because a man may abate of his ordinary liberty and bold freedom, with great prudence, so he does it without singularity in himself, or trouble to others; but he may not abate of his solemn sorrow : that may be caution ; but this would be softness, effeminacy, and indecency.
7. When fasting is an act of mortification, that is, is intended to subdue a bodily lust, as the spirit of fornication, or the fondness of strong and impatient appetites, it must not be a sudden, sharp, and violent fast, but a state of fasting, a diet of fasting, a daily lessening our portion of meat and drink, and a choosing such a coarse diet', which may make the least preparation for the lusts of the body. He that fasts three days without food, will weaken other parts, more than the ministers of fornication: and when the meals return as usually, they also will be served, as soon as any. In the mean time, they will be supplied and made active by the ac
Digiuna assai chị mal mangia. VOL. IV.