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themselves before God with Fasting and Prayer : Frequently to admire and adore the infinite Wisdom and Goodness of God in the Mysteries of our Redemption: Thankfully to acknowledge those Advantages we have received from the Labours of the Apostles, who by miraculous Gifts and Graces, were fitted to convert the World. But as to the certain Seasons, when these Duties are publicly to be performed, and as to the Way and Manner of discharging them, that must be left to the Determinations of our lawful Governors; for what we are obliged to perform at some Times, cannot be less a Duty when lawful Authority enjoins a certain Time for the performing it. And if we consider that the Foreign Conf. Pob. Churches have preserved in their Communion several August. p. Festivals, and that the Remains of Christianity, which c. 24. still subsist in the Greek Church, are very much State of owing to the solemn Observation of their Feasts and Church, Fasts, there is not the least Reason we should refuse Obedience to such Institutions as are owned by the Protestant Churches abroad, and have had so good an Effect in a Church otherwise over-run with Ignorance under the Oppression of Infidels.
As for those who profess these Principles, they ought to attend to the true Consequences of them, which would oblige them to pay such Regard to Days set apart by the Church for Holy Uses, as to
frequent the Public Assemblies, and to join in all the Acts of Public Worship, and to make them serviceable to those Ends for which they were instituted. It is highly probable, from All Sunday's in the Year being placed at the Head of the Festivals, that it was the Intention of those that compiled the Liturgy, that they should all be observed after the same Manner, not only with Prayers and Thanksgivings, but with Rest from ordinary Labour. And this, I think, farther appears from the Words Can. xiii. of the Thirteenth Canon, wherein all Manner of
Persons within the Church of England are enjoined to keep the Lord's Day, commonly called Sunday, and other Holy-Days, according to God's holy Will and Pleasure, and the Orders of the Church of England, prescribed in that Behalf; that is, in hearing the Word of God read and taught, in private and public Prayers; in acknowledging their Offences to God and Amendment of the same; in reconciling themselves charitably to their Neighbours, where Displeasure hath been; in oftentimes receiving the Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, in visiting the Poor and sick, using all godly and sober Conversation. And that the People might not neglect their Duty in this Can. Ixiv. Particular, every Parson, Vicar, or Curate, is obliged to give Notice every Sunday, whether there be any Holy-Days, or Fasting-Days the Week
following; and if he shall wittingly offend, being once admonished thereof by his Ordinary, he is to be censured according to Law, until he submit himself to the due Performance of it. Yet Custom, which in Time comes to be a Law, or the Interpreter of it, hath made this Rest from ordinary Labour upon all Festivals impracticable; so that the best People content themselves only with more solemn Devotions on most of the Holy-Days, and think they satisfy their Obligations at such Times by seriously attending the Divine Service, and joining in all the Acts of Public Worship, it not being evident that more is expected by our Governors.
But thus much we certainly owe, not only to the Justice of our Principles, but out of Respect to those that are not Friends to the Constitution of the Church; for how can we suppose they will be prevailed upon to observe Days, when we pay no Regard to them ourselves; or if when we distinguish them from other Days, it is only by our Vanities and Follies, by our Excess and Intemperance, by dedicating them to Pleasure and Diversion, when Piety and Devotion, the great End and Design of their Institution, is so much neglected?
Upon this Occasion, I think it a great Piece of Justice to acknowledge and commend the Pious and Devout Practices of the Religious Societies, who in
Dunstan in the West.
this Point, as well as in many others, distinguish themselves by their regular Conformity and Obedience to the Laws of the Church; for they constantly attend the public Assemblies upon such holy Seasons. And till they can communicate regularly in their own Parish Churches upon such Days, they embrace those Opportunities that are provided, there being two Churches in London employed for that Purpose; where they as duly receive the Blessed Sacrament upon all Festivals, as they perform all the other Acts of Public Worship. How they spend the Vigils, in preparing their Minds for a due Celebration of the ensuing Solemnity, is more private, but not less commendable. And the great Care they take to suppress the Dawnings of Enthusiasm, and to discountenance the first Appearances of any vicious Practices amongst their Members; and the Methods they impose before Delinquents are entirely reconciled, or totally rejected, is such a Preparation of the Minds of the Laity, for the Reception of that Discipline which is wanted in the Church, that if ever we are blessed with what good Men wish for, and bad Men fear, these Religious Societies will be very instrumental in introducing it, by that happy Regulation which prevails amongst them. View of And while they pay that Deference they profess to Societies, their Parochial Ministers, and are ready to be Ord. 3. verned by their Rules and Orders to the Judgment of
the Reverend Clergy: I cannot apprehend but that they must be very serviceable to the Interest of Re
ligion, and may contribute very much to revive that true Spirit of Christianity, which was so much the Glory of the Primitive Timės. And I see no Reason why Men may not meet and consult together, to improve one another in Christian Knowledge, and by mutual Advice take Measures how best to further their own Salvation, as well as promote that of their Neighbours; when the same Liberty is taken for the Improvement of Trade, and for carrying on the Pleasures and Diversions of Life. And if at such Meetings they shall voluntarily subscribe any certain Sums to be disposed of in such Charities as shall seem most proper to the Majority of their Members, I cannot imagine how this can deserve Censure, when the liberal contributions of Gentlemen to support a Horse-Race, or a Music-Meeting, have never been taxed with the least Illegality.
And as for those Objections which are urged against these Societies from some Canons of the Church; Can. 12. they seem to be founded upon a Misunderstanding of lxx. the Sense of those Canons; the first whereof was designed against the pernicious Opinions of the Anabaptists, and the latter only against such Meetings and Consultations as tended to the impeaching or depraving of the Doctrine of the Church of England, or of the Book of Common Prayer, or any Part of the Government or Discipline now established in the Church of England; neither of which