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for neither Meat, nor abftaining from Meat, commendeth us to Gody: but for the Sake of its good Effects. Proportionably therefore, as in any Perfon's Cafe it is found, on impartial and full Trial, to fail of those Effects, or to produce bad ones, which outweigh or equal them, it ceases to be a Duty; any farther than the Obligation of fetting no hurtful Example, and giving no Offence, may justly demand Regard. And as the Cafes of different Perfons differ extremely, it is either wicked Tyranny, or pitiable Unfkilfulness, to enjoin, as the Church of Rome doth, all Perfons to abstain, so often, and for fo long together, from eating Flesh; and all Persons of fuch an Age, and fuch a State of Life and Health, to eat only once in a Day, or little more, of what they are fuffered to eat. Prefcribing fuch Rules, as thefe, to the whole World, must bring Hardships and Diftreffes on Millions of Perfons, efpecially the Poor, from which they can receive no Good, but may fuffer much Harm. It will give them wrong Notions of Religion, as confisting principally in outward Obfervances; and multiply griev

1 Cor. viii. 8.

ously

.

oufly the Temptations to Sin, by adding imaginary Duties, that will often be more difficult than the real ones. They allow indeed fome occafional Exceptions from thefe general Rules and yet, even did they alfo allow Perfons to judge for themselves, when their Circumstances came within thofe Exceptions, it would still be a Source of endless Doubts and Scruples to timorous Minds. But befides the Uncertainty, whether they may in Conscience defire to be excepted, they are subjected to the Will and Pleasure of others, whether that Defire fhall be granted; and to a large Expence for it, if it be: And these and other Difpenfations are one Fund of Wealth to the Clergy and Court of Rome, which they have ufed to the vileft Purposes. No Part of all this is founded on Scripture: nor even on the Practice of the primitive Church; which for fome Ages laid no Neceffity on any one of Fafting at fuch particular annual Seafons ; much lefs of Fafting for many Days and Weeks together; and when they did fast, made no Diftinction between. the Ufe of Flesh and Fish; but left every one the Liberty, which Chrift and his Apostles had left them as indeed our own Church hath

hath done too. For though it hath mentioned certain Times of Abftinence, which it might have been unfafe not to mention at the Time of the Reformation: yet this, being backed by no new Injunction, amounts only to recommending them, fo far as each Perfon fhall find no real Objection against them. And certainly moft, if not all Perfons, would find, on the contrary, much Benefit from leffening even their lawful Indulgences of Senfe at proper Seasons, and the present Season in particular. But in order to our judging rightly, in what Degree this will be expedient for us, divers Things ought to be confidered. Not many indeed of our Church, in the present Age, run at all into exceffive Austerities very far from it, God knows. But if any do, they ought to be warned: and though none did here, the Chriftian Doctrine ought to be vindicated from the Imputation of leading to fuch Extremes any where.

Some obferve conftantly a Diet fufficiently low; fome few perhaps, too low. Now for thefe, who live in a State of daily Fafting, to fuperadd other Fafts, especially frequent and rigid ones, may be prejudicial, not only to their Healths, of which they are bound to be

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be careful, but to their moral Difpofitions, and
their very Understandings.
It may render
them less, instead of more capable of serious
Reflection and religious Exercises: it may un-
fit them to go through their proper Bufinefs
in common Life: it may incline them strong-
ly to Moroseness of Temper. And though
the Ill-humour, into which People wilfully
work themselves upon fafting Days, is to be
ascribed to themselves only: yet so much of
it, as Abftinence really brings upon them
against their Wills, is to be ascribed to that ;
and is no fmall Evil. But farther yet: low-
fpirited and fcrupulous Perfons may, for Want
of supporting their Strength of Body, on which
the Firmness of the Mind in Part depends,
by a fufficient Quantity of Food, increase their
Fears and Perplexities most surprisingly: till
at Length there will fcarce remain a fingle
Action, that they can do or abstain from with
a quiet Conscience. And, at the fame Time,
on the other Hand, Perfons of warm and en-
thufiaftic Imaginations are heated by long and
strict Fasts beyond any Thing: till they feel
Impulfes, hear Voices, fee Visions; forget
the World to which they belong, and live in
a new one of their own Creation. Now ac-
VOL. V.
X

cording

cording to the Degree, in which there is Danfuch Inconveniences, we ought ger of any either to avoid intirely what causes them, or obferve a due Moderation in it: else our Abftinence may easily do us much more Hurt, than Service.

And another important Rule is, never to make Vows, or even Refolutions that we will fast so often, with such or fuch Rigour, for any particular Time to come, especially to any distant Time. For it feldom or never happens, that fuch Things are of real Advantage. And they bave fo frequently been Snares and Distresses, that all Perfons ought to be warned against them and they, who are most prone to them, ought to be most afraid of them.

:

But fuppofing we are, by Nature, ever so well qualified to receive Benefit from the Practice of this Duty: yet none will follow, unlefs we guard against Mistakes.

Fafting confifts in abstaining, wholly or in Part, from our ordinary Food. Abftaining wholly the former Part of the Day is undoubtedly the natural, and should be the general Method of doing this. But they, in whofe Cafe good Reasons forbid it, may, by properly reftraining themselves in the latter

Part,

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