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LOOKING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE.
I SOMETIMES dream of summer
eves Spent by a lake's still shore, With no sound but the songs amidst
the leaves, Or the plunge and drip of oar.
And fresh'ning breezes softly
waft The balm of weeds and surf · Or the wholesome sea-scents of the
fisher's craft, With his nets spread o'er the turf.
From the furthermost hill to the wa
ter's brim, All around, and far and near. Here, while I muse beside the
brink, The white-fleec'd lambs and
sheep, Or the gentle-bred kine stray down
to drink, Where the floating lilies peep. But what glad hope my vision
brings, I dare but breathe to few; Oh I love so to dream of these sweet
things! For my dreams come often true.
For glade and wood the bosom
hem of this fair vale and mere,
LENT. The holy and solemn season of Lent has now again set in. The Church has called upon us to leave the busy turmoil and the pleasures of this world, and to retire with our Blessed LORD into the wilderness; that, taught by His example, we may learn how best to withstand the temptations that may assail us, and crucify the whole body of sin. In His steps we must tread, if we would be made like unto Him. It should be our care to seek for moments and hours of religious retirement, that we may in secret pour forth the confessions of our manifold sins, and by earnest supplicating prayer, ask for that grace by which alone we shall be enabled to "fast," and deny ourselves acceptably in the sight of God. It is, however, necessary for us to have a clear insight into the duties which now especially devolve upon us; and as many of our readers would doubtless be glad to know of any little works which they might use with advantage, we would most strongly recommend two short tracts, the one by the Venerable Archdeacon Manning, and the other by the Rev. T. Skinner, M.A. In answer to the question, “How shall I fast ?" the Archdeacon writes as follows:
The rule of fasting prescribed by the Church of England is no light one. By the order of the Church, every Friday, except Christmasday; the Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays of the four Emberweeks; the Vigils, sixteen in number ; the three Rogation-days, and the forty days of Lent, are prescribed as days of fasting or abstinence.
As to the quality and extent of the fasting and abstinence, the Church issues no authoritative instructions. We are, therefore, re.
mitted to the rules of Holy Scripture, the examples and usage of the Church at large, and to the advice and counsel of her spiritual pastors.
The Church forbids no severity of fasting to those who are able to bear it; and refuses no considerate mitigation to those who are unable, from bodily weakness and other causes, to endure a severer discipline.
Holy Scripture and the practice of the Church set before us many and various kinds of fasting; which we may here simply enumerate.
1. A full fast is abstinence from food till sunset.
3. A third kind of fast, for those who cannot endure the severer rule, is a diminution of food in quantity at each meal, without diminishing the number of meals in the day.
4. Where this cannot be borne, there may be a change of quality, by laying aside costly and palatable food, pleasing to the taste rather than needful to health.
5. When this cannot be done, as in the diet of those who are habitually self-denying, and of the poor which is already spare to the verge of necessity,—then the duty of fasting assumes another shape, such as works of devotion, self-examination and confession, prayer, meditation, and the like ; and works of mercy, as instruction of chil. dren and ignorant persons, reconciliation of enemies, admonition of sinners, and almsgiving.
In some one of these five ways all may fast. It is not possible that any one should be altogether dispensed from this manifold duty, by bodily infirmity, or poverty, or necessity of any kind. Though the first four be above our strength, the fifth must take hold of every soul of man that lives, sins, and looks for a judgment to come.
And the aim or purpose of fasting, is thus stated by the same divine :
First, it is obviously an acknowledgment of sin. To fast is to say in act, “ I am not worthy so much as to eat the crumbs under Thy table." It is the contentment of the prodigal with the fare of an hired servant, and a willing forbearance even from the full measure of a servant's fare. There is much reason to fear that they who never forbear as an acknowledgment of unworthiness, never really enjoy God's goodness with a conscious thankfulness.
Fasting is, however, not only an acknowledgment of our unworthiness as sinful and fallen creatures, but also a means of chastising and subduing the affections of our disordered nature. Our prodigal read. ing of Holy Scripture leads many, I fear, to a shallow way of reading it. How few form to themselves any distinct notion of S. Paul's mind, when he said, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” But it is not on these points I would chiefly insist now. They are too evidently and deeply true to need words, at least in such a compass as this. If they must be proved to any one, they must take their place among the first principles of the doctrine of CHRIST in a course of catechetics.
There is, however, one effect of fasting not enough dwelt upon, and yet most blessed and most closely allied to Christian love: I mean, the consciousness and sense, I might say the share, it bestows upon the happy, healthy, and rich, of the wants, weakness, and hardships of the sick and poor. Hunger, like death, is a great leveller ; and fasting is a taste of hunger. Its bodily effects are akin to the languor of toil and sickness. By fasting, the full and the happy enter ankle-deep into the water-floods, through which the poor are always dragging their faint and unsteady way. If only we were obedient to the precepts of the Church, what a power would be conferred upon us of realising what we now talk about with so much busy and statistical composure.
Fasting would awaken sympathy, tenderness, and love. It would unbind the sack's mouth, and pour out alms, pressed down, and running over. Religious charity can never long survive when fasting is forgotten. It is the discipline of fasting that trains and supports the patient, enduring, tender, compassionate, selfforsaking charity of a religious life. Alas, alas ! what a spectacle is a poor-law return ; what a parody on the twenty-fifth chapter of S. Matthew's Gospel is the quarterly list of paupers and pittances nailed against our Church-doors. But into this matter I must go no far. ther. Who can fail to see that, besides the offices of personal humi. liation and self-chastisement, fasting is designed by Divine wisdom to be one of the supports of charity, and thereby one of the intimate bonds of unity to the Body of Christ ?
In Mr. Skinner's pamphlet, which also contains a series of prayers, we have the following statements on the subject :
1. The Fast of Lent is so ancient in the Church, that there is no beginning to be found to it. There never was a time (so far as can be proved) when it was not solemnly observed. The Church of England has imposed it upon all her children, ever since there was a Church in England ; and no branch of the Christian Church exists in the world, where the same command has not been issued.
2. Moses, and Daniel, and David, among the Old Testament worthies, fasted. CHRIST fasted ; His Apostles fasted; all the Saints of old, and all holy men since, have fasted-- First, because it is commanded by God, and, secondly, because it is necessary for man. There never was a holy man, but he had a " to bear, which he bore gladly, and with a willing mind. And there never was a wicked or a lost man, but who was wicked and lost through selfindulgence, and not bearing the “cross,” which it was his duty to bear.
3. In its truest sense, to “ fast is but another word for to "take up the cross." It is not the mere abstinence from food, but selfdenial, self-renunciation, self-sacrifice; not doing our own works, nor saying our own words, nor thinking our own thoughts. Not to fast, therefore, or, in other words, not to take up the cross and deny ourselves, is not to be Christians. " He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, cannot be My disciple."
4. The tools of a carpenter or a mason cannot be made into a house ; but they will plane wood, and hew stone; and well dressed
wood and stone will make a house. But, because tools are not a house, are they not necessary to build a house?
Fasting is not Christianity, but he that "fasts," denies himself, and carries his cross about with him daily, will subdue the flesh to the spirit, and pray more fervently, and see more deeply into spiri. tual things; and obedience, and prayer, and deep faith, will make a Christian. Because fasting is not Christianity, is it therefore not necessary to make a Christian ?
No man can be a Christian at all, without self-subjection, selfdenial, self-renunciation, “fasting,” any more than a house can be built at all, without tools. “ Fasting" is a means. To be a Chris. tian, is the end.
5. All things which are not in themselves ends, must be used not as ends, but as means. To fast so as merely to eat fish instead of flesh, or vegetables instead of animal food, and yet to pray in public and in private not oftener,-meditate not more frequently,-be not oftener alone,-examine the heart not more impartially, -visit in society not less, or visit at all,-bridle not more strictly the tongue, close not closer the eyes and ears, -watch not more vigilantly the temper and passions—this were worse than vain. It is as if, with the tools in their hands, and a house to be built, neither carpenter nor mason had cut a plank, or dressed a stone.
6. Mere change of food is not fasting, unless the change be a cross Lan honest trial to the natural man. Abstinence from food is not fasting, unless it so acts, that the body is kept under to the soul, and ourselves saved from being cast away. That is fasting, which (whatever we eat or drink, or neither eat nor drink) reduces the stronghold of the flesh,-humbles us,--enlarges our hearts in prayer and penitence,---kills our evil propensities, anger, hatred, selfishness ; in a word, that is fasting, which, day by day, makes us more loving, and more pure,-holier men and better Christians.
The following cautions, which are given by Mr. Skinner, should also be carefully borne in mind :
1. There is no class of Christians exempt from the necessity of fasting,—that is, of self-denial. If you are poor, do not imagine that, therefore, you need not renounce yourselves,--that because God has laid upon you a cross, there is none which you can lay upon yourselves. Rich and poor have alike habits and customs which they love, but which are unnecessary, if not sinful; these, it is their duty to offer in sacrifice to God.
2. It is not an act of fasting, but a state of fasting, which will avail. S. Paul always “ kept his body under." Often men fast without effect, because they promise themselves cure too soon, or their application is too gentle. The length of the Lent fast indicates, that it is not one day's self-denial, or one prayer, that will profit, but a continuing season of discipline. Persevere to the end.
3. The Holy Ghost has recorded, that after our Lord's temptation, “ the devil departed for a time,'' to warn us against the security of a deep peace, if so be we have had the success of conquerors. It
will be a sad thought for our souls, if, when Lent is over, and Easter has come, the sorrows and self-denials of the former, shall be undone by the excesses and rejoicings of the latter ! Watch and pray always : —this is our work :- no other is safe.
4. “ Without CHRIST we can do nothing; but through CHRIST strengthening us, we can do all things.” If you fast, fast in CHRIST, else you fast in vain. To fast otherwise than in CHRIST, is a mere fast " unto men,” and verily such fasting has its reward ; but “when ye fast, let it be unto your FATHER Which seeth in secret, and your FATHER Which seeth in secret shall reward you openly.”.
And now to God, by Whose providence the Church is calling us to remember our mortality,—that dust we are, and unto dust we shall return,–I commend your souls. May the thoughts of Christ and His Cross lay all our proud conceits in the dust, and make us feel that we are highly honoured and blessed, if by whatever abstinence, self-denials, and mortifications here, we partake of His eternal glory hereafter.
RANDOM THOUGHTS ON A VISIT TO A RUINED
Winding shore or deepening glen,
Teaches truth to wandering men.