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fessions : these researches presented me with a variety of such information as I deemed useful, and I resolved forthwith, in the absence of other writers, to bring the subject before the public, not presuming to hope that I could rouse the public attention to this neglected duty, but humbly trusting that I might induce some of the many distinguished divines of this country to employ more able pens upon it. Should such be the case, I shall very gladly withdraw my pages from the world, with the satisfaction of not having laboured in vain.
Lost it should be supposed that I am the advocate of monkish and needless austerity, I beg to assure the reader that such is by no means the case. I conceive that the innocent and cheerful enjoyment of God's good creatures is as much a duty, as an occasional abstinence from them can be. To expose the folly of an unnecessary severity in depriving ourselves of those comforts of life which ought to be received and used with thanksgiving, I have, in the Notes, occasionally mentioned the, rigid practices of the hermits and ascetics of former times, that they might serve as cantions to those who are inclined to run to extremes, and go beyond the warrant of the Scriptures. For the same purpose, I have introduced a notice of the ridiculous sect of the Flagellants, a subject which, without taking the reason of it into the account,
would appear irrelevant, and beside the design of the Treatise.
After all that I have written on the subject of Fasting, I am not willing that the practices of the reader should depend on the opinion he may form of the following pages, because I am aware that a good subject may be unskilfully handled. I beg, therefore, most earnestly to request, that however defective he may find my discussion of the subject to be, he would nevertheless diligently enquire into the real obligation of the service here recommended, and follow his convictions accordingly; and especially would I advise, that such as are in doubt, as to the importance of the practice, would make the experiment for themselves; and I make no question but the religious observance of this duty will be so fraught with blessedness to the soul, as strongly to plead for frequent attention to it; the direct tendency of which will be a happy assimilation to the likeness of the “ excellent of the earth” of former and purer ages, in whom was God's delight.
The substitution of human wisdom for that which is from above, bas been the prolific source of unnumbered errors in the church. To this cause may be traced all the heresies and schisms, the envy, hatred, and uncharitableness, which, from the earliest periods, have alienated man from man, and defaced the loveliness of the fairest part of God's creation. It is this that has inflamed the unhallowed passions of the bad man, and wrung the heart of the good man with sorrow.
All its dire consequences cannot be estimated; but the world has long felt them in powerful operation, and still labours under their influence.
Acknowledging the principle, that like produces like, it must be evident that a single instance of departure from the revealed will of God must be fraught with incalculable mischief, and that one error may become the progenitor of issue, as numerous as hateful. An appeal to the most authentic records of information will convince us, that the principle above referred to is grounded on an accurate knowledge of facts; for it may be
asserted, without fear of successful contradiction, that one error has never been long alone; it has, like the unclean spirit mentioned by our Lord, taken to itself seven others more wicked than itself, and these again have drawn together still more, whose united energies have been employed to enthral the human mind, and bewilder it in inextricable mazes. Nor is it to be wondered at, that the Divine Being should permit strong delusions to deceive such as superciliously reject the counsel of God, and cleave to the crude and half formed imaginations of their own hearts. The wonder is, that the restraining influence of grace is not entirely withdrawn from them, and that their spirits are not left to all that madness of infatuation which is the legitimate offspring of error: so that, in the emphatic language of Scripture, they might “ sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” (Hos. viii. 7.)
Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” is a question which, with Saul of Tarsus, (Acts ix. 6.) we should frequently propose, lest like him, in the former part of his life, we make havoc of the church. Born, as
we are, in a state of utter ignorance, we do well to seek the acquisition of knowledge, and in pursuance of the advice of the wisest of mere men, “ with all our getting, to get understanding ;" for, as he observes, “how much better is it to get wisdom than gold? and understanding rather to be chosen than silver ?” (Prov. iv. 7.--xvi. 16.) From the men and the things of the world, it is possible for us to derive much and varied information, and such too as will prove of important service to us in negociating the concerns of this life ; but it must not be forgotten, that it is in the things of this life only, that the world can instruct us. The man who would be informed on subjects spiritual and divine, must go to another teacher. He who would learn in pros
perity to be humble, and in adversity to be submissive; in the midst of disquietudes to be placid, and though lulled by the music of peace, to be watchful ; — he who would learn to display the meekness of the lamb though surrounded by wolves, and the harmlessness of the dove though in a generation of vipers; to exhibit sterling integrity though in a dissolute world, and meek-eyed pity though treated contemptuously ;-he who would learn in life to have his affections set on things above, and at death to remove to the “ house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens;" must go to the author of wisdom, the all-wise God, and say, What I see not, teach thou me!” (Job xxxiv. 32.)
Dependent as we are upon a divine instructor, it is highly gratifying to observe how willingly the Lord communicates knowledge. In the time of primitive rectitude and bliss, ere the garden of paradise exchanged its glowing beauties for the sterile barrenness of the desert, man drank at fountains of wisdom which have ever since been inaccessible; but, no sooner had the first transgression of the divine law dried up the springs of knowledge, and obscured the mind of our first parent with the mistiness of error and ignorance, than the benevolent author of his existence, making mercy to triumph over judgment, condescended to veil his own glory, and, in personal converse with him, to convey to his distressed soul, instruction of the most important kind: witness that cheering promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. (Gen. iii. 15.) Nor was God less attentive to the posterity of Adam; for he spake to our fathers by the prophets, through whom, during a long succession of ages, he explained his will, and commanded its fulfilment : and that there might be wanting no proof of his