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4. The supper has not succeeded to the sacrifice of the day of expiation; but to the feast of the passover: It is from this institution, therefore, if from any in the Old Testament, that we are to derive the manner of celebrating it. But the paísorer was not preceded by a day of fasting, though it was followed by an holy convocation, and a week of unleavened bread. Here, then, is a much stronger reason from analogy, against our sacramental fast, than the day of expiation can furnish for it, And whoever finds the Monday thanksgiving in the “ holy convocation” after the passover, must also find something to “ correspond with the seven days of unleavened bread.”: . 5. As the good faith of argument requires us to admit the legitimate consequences of our principles, let us see whither the plea, that the fast on the day of expiation warrants a fast before the supper, will lead us.
On the same ground you must maintain that the supper should be celebrated but once a year; and this would be equally repugnant to its own nature, and the example of the Apostles, who certainly understood the will of Christ as well as we can pretend to do. .
But now, if one Jewish institution furnish à precedent for imitation, it is hard to tell why another may not; the daily sacrifice for in
stance; seeing it as really typified the atonement of Christ, as the sacrifices of annual expiation did. Thus we should be reduced to a curious dilemma; the argument from one ordinance, limiting us to a yearly communion, while the argument, just as good, from another, would oblige us to communicate twice a day.
This sample of inconsistence and contradiction, is enough to shew how cautiously inferences are to be drawn from institutions under the law, to duties under the gospel. Error here has been one of the most fruitful sources of corruption; and an inlet to all the rabble of the antichristian hierarchy.
There have not been wanting some to allege the four fasts mentioned by Zechariah, which the Jews kept on account of their calamities, as countenancing our sacramental fasts. But the notion is so extravagant, that it would be worse than trifling to spend a moment in refuting it.
Should these refuges fail, there is one left; viz. that religious fasting, before special duties, has ever been deemed by the church of God both suitable and necessary; and that it becomes us to act upon this principle when we are about to join in the communion of “ the body and blood of the Lord.” Here a large
column of texts is displayed, some containing the doctrine, and some, examples of fasting. But after they are collected with so much pains, and propounded with so much zeal, what do they prove? Nothing more than that fasting, on particular occasions, is, a moral duty. This is mere“ beating the air.” Nobody denies it.
The question is not, whether fasting is a divine ordinance; but whether it is a divine ordinance preparative to the holy supper? Nowy it is obvious, that the application of a principle to particular circumstances, cannot be grounded upon texts which speak of it only in general, without any reference to those circunstances. Such is the nature of the passages alluded to. If in this question they prove any thing, they equally prove the necessity of fasting before baptism; before the sabbath; before family worship; or craving a blessing to our meat; as before the sacrament of the supper; because they have no more coupled it with the latter, than with the former. “ These things,” you will say, “ are absurd.” Absurd enough I own. And one would think that the argument which begets them cannot be much better. - :,. • In order, therefore, to work up your quota-. tions into proofs, you must resort to those scriptural examples, in which the principle of fasting is reduced to practice. But the success
here will be little better. It would be no difficult task to shew that none of the instances which the scripture has recorded of social or solitary fasting, lend the least aid to the service into which they are pressed. Who can bear such reasoning as this? David fasted when the prophet Nathan charged upon him the guilt of adultery and murder-Ezra and his company, at their return from captivity-Nehemiah with the Jews, at the restitution of JEHOVAH's worship, and the solemn recognition of his covenant--the Apostles, at the ordination of ministers--therefore we must have a fast. day before the sacrament of the sạpper!! An Apostle cautions against “ wresting the scriptures;” And they are always wrested when they are brought to prove what they will not prove. High indignity is offered to them and to their author, when men are determined to force out of them, at all events, a testimony according to their wishes; and rather than fail, will adjudge them to the tortures of licentious criticism. Be it remembered; they are sworn witnesses for the King Eternal: let their deposition be heard; but if it do not accord with our prejudices, let us beware how we presume to order them to the rack.
It will still, however, be insisted, that scriptural precept, together with the example of the
saints, establish this position, That on the approach of special duty, and in the expectation of special blessings, we are to humble ourselves before God in religious fasting; and that the supper being an occasion on which we perform the one, and look for the other, a preparatory fast is highly necessary. The plea accosts us here in its most imposing form. But notwithstanding, there are weighty reasons for refusing our afsent.
1. The cases are not parallel. All the scriptural instances of public fasting are founded in circumstances out of the ordinary course of providence; and therefore leave precedents for such circumstances only. But the sacrament of the supper, is an ordinary part of divine worship: or if it be, in any respect, otherwise, our own negligence, and not God's word, has made it so.
2. If the scriptural doctrine and examples of fasting oblige us to that exercise, as prepa-. rative to the Lord's table, it is beyond measure astonishing, that this was never thought of till the other day: that it should not be heard of among Christians for near seventeen hundred years; nor then, except in a corner of the church; nor even in that corner, till men were driven to invent a defence of a custom which they had observed, without asking whether it