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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
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 St. Mary Churches in London employed for that Purpose; and Saint where they as duly receive the Blessed Sacrament the West. 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 go
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 Times. 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 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
Consequences can justly be charged upon a Body of
manifest themselves to be of the Church of England,
I have, for the Sake of those who not only own the
They that are acquainted with Ecclesiastical
without Quotations, may be found in his Lives of the Apostles; from whence I have taken the Liberty to borrow what I thought might contribute towards the perfecting my Design; the Criticisms of their History, which are omitted, are more proper to entertain the Curiosity of the Learned, than the Devotion of well-disciplined Minds.
And indeed what Arguments can prevail upon Men to engage them to keep a Conscience void of Offence, that may not be deduced from the frequent Meditation of the Mysteries of our Redemption? What Means so proper to perfect our Natures, as to set before ourselves the Examples of the Primitive Saints who excelled in the truest Wisdom? It is the unhappy Method of the World to form Christian Heroes upon Pagan Models, which should make it no wonder that so fex Christian Princes distinguish themselves by what is properly their Glory; but if we design to attain that Happiness the blessed Saints now enjoy, we must tread in their Steps ; and to acquire true Firmness and Resolution of Mind, we must propound for our Imitation the Examples and Patterns of those holy Men gone before us, who in their respective Ages, have given remarkable Testimonies of their Faith in God, and constant Adherence to his Truth.
Among those crying Abominations, which like