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SERMON III.

[Preached at Cirencester, Feb. 26, 1807, being the day

appointed for a General Fast.]

2 CHRONICLES XX. 9. If when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear aud help. THE Romish Church of former times has

justly incurred the censure of the historian, for its perpetual interference in the political concerns of empires. Ambition led its members to use the sacred influence of religion to establish an unjustifiable hierarchy; their misguided zeal prompted them to bestow kingdoms they never saw, and, under N 3

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the specious pretext of advancing Christianity, to encourage cruelty and persecution; witness the mad Crusades of Asia, the fanatical subjugation of America, and the political distractions of Europe, in which they took so active and so unbecoming a part. By such conduct, they seem totally to have lost sight of the example of their heavenly Master, and to have egregiously mistaken the tenets of his gospel : “My kingdom, (says our Sa“ viour,) is not of this world. If my king“ dom were of this world, then would my o servants fight, that I should not be deliver" ed to the Jews.” When the over-heated zeal of Peter urged him to draw the sword in his Master's defence, he was commanded to desist, and reasons the most convincing pointed out to him, to restrain his unnecessary impetuosity: “ Thinkest thou I cannot now “ pray to my father, and he shall presently 6 give me more than twelve legions of An

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“ gels? But how then shall the Scripture be “ fulfilled, that thus it must be?” He submitted, without a murmur, to injustice and arbitrary power; "he was led like a lamb “ to the slaughter, and like a sheep dumb “ before the shearers, so he opened not his “ mouth.” He leaves to his disciples the like injunctions of submission to persecution, and even to death itself: “ Resist not “ evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on the 66 right cheek, turn to him the other also.” 66 And if any man will sue thee at the law, “ and take away thy coat, let him have thy “ cloak also.” “ And whosoever shall compel " thee to go a mile, go with him twain." When he was asked, whether it was lawful to give tribute, he clearly separates his kingdom from that of the world : “ Render unto “ Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's, and “ unto God, the things which are God's.” In the same manner he paid the customary

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6 and to cleanse us from all iniquity.” I shall, therefore, in this discourse, remark, first, on the nature of private and public fasts, on the proper manner of their obseryance; and, secondly, bring forward a few of those examples to which I have alluded. As to the first, “ The ancient Christians were “ very exact in their weekly and annual “ fasts. Their weekly fasts were constantly “ kept on Wednesdays and Fridays, because «s on the one our Lord was betrayed, and on “ the other crucified. Their annual fast " was that of Lent, by way of preparation “ for the feast of our Saviour's Resurrection.* These periodical fasts are too much neglected in the present day, because, if they were observed according to our Saviour's direction, they could not fail to be highly beneficial to all Christians: “When ye fast (says he), be “ not as the hypocrites, of a sad counte.. ; , * Nelson.

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“ nance, for they disfigure their faces, that “ they may appear unto men to fast. Verily " I say unto you, they have their reward. 66 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine “ head, and wash thy face, that thou appear 6 not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father " which is in secret; and thy father which “ seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." How strongly does this oppose itself to a prevalent error of the present day, that religion and chearfulness are incompatible, that dejection and melancholy are the only proper expressions of true devotion. The man who carries into every action of life, the vital prin'ciple of religion, who studies, as far as human frailty will allow him, to observe the " laws of God, to attend to the injunctions of "his conscience, to repent his sins, and to act

with justice and benevolence to mankind, is the only man who has a right to be happy even in this world, to convince his fellow

Christians,

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