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"Qui carnem suam supra modum affligit, civem suum
FOR FRANCIS WESTLEY,
10, Stationers' Court, & Ave Maria Lane.
THE publication of a Treatise on a subject so obsolete as that of Religious Fasting, will appear to many to require, if not an apology, at least an explanation; for it will be very fairly presumed, that the Author must have had some strong reason for venturing to appear before the public as the advocate of a practice, which by many is ridiculed, and by most neglected. I regret, indeed, that I have to contend with preconceived opinions at my very outset ; for I value too highly the opinion of the public, to venture on light grounds to throw myself in opposition to it; yet such is my situation. All that I can do, therefore, is, to state the circumstances which have led to it.
Being desirous of information on the subject of Fasting, I had recourse to such books as I thought most likely to furnish it. I had at hand some professedly complete "Systems of Theology," and "Bodies of Divinity," to which I at once referred; but, to my great surprise, I could not find a single word upon the subject. I next searched into "Collections of Sermons," but with no better
In short, after wading through volume upon volume, and looking into indexes and tables of contents without number, I could only find that the bulk of divinity writers had treated the subject as the priest and Levite did the man who fell among thieves, between Jerusalem and Jericho; - they
passed by on the other side." It struck me, too, that the case was precisely the same with preachers; for though in my time I have heard a great number of sermons delivered from the pulpit, in which almost every point of divinity has been discussed, yet I do not recollect a solitary instance in which the duty of Fasting was explained or enforced.
So general an omission led me to suspect, that it could not be without some powerful reason that writers and preachers so numerous should exclude fasting from the circle of their theological connexions; and I could not but wish that that reason, whatever it might be, had been honestly avowed and published. Determined, if possible, to discover whether or not there were any sufficient reason, I resolved to go to "the law and the testimony," and in the spirit of prayer to search the sacred oracles;-the consequence was, I became convinced that religious fasting was, and still is, an indispensable duty. This conviction led me to look into the manner in which the practice was observed in former ages; then I considered the regard paid to it by modern religious pro