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But if, instead of this temporary intermission of the cares of worldly business; if, instead of this prudent abstinence from innocent pleasures, the mind be, as much as at other seasons, absorbed in its attention to the former, and will employ the intervals which may be permitted to it, in attaching itself to, and partaking of, pleasurable amusements with an avidity, as great as at other seasons; what room can be found for a devout contemplation of the inestimable blessings which the death of CHRIST has ensured to us, and for the necessary exercise of that penitential sorrow and humiliation for the. sins, which demanded of him so painful and ignominious a death?
"The Church of England," says the pious author of "A Companion for Festivals and Fasts*, "has made ample provision to exercise the devotion of her members, by calling them every day to meditate on our LORD's sufferings, having collected in her offices most of those portions of scripture that relate to this tragical subject; increasing their humiliation by the consideration of our Saviour's: that with penitent hearts and firm resolutions of dying likewise unto sin, we may
attend our Saviour through the several stages of his bitter Passion."
But although the Church has made this careful provision for the devotion of her members, yet it may be said, (and particularly so by those, whose daily labour will with difficulty enable them to procure a maintenance for themselves and their families) that the necessary attention to the business of their callings absolutely prevents them from joining in that daily service of the week, which seems so expedient for others, whose time is more at their own command. Nor after the labour of the day is over, can they of themselves sit down for private meditation, unless they have some kind instructor at hand to rouse and keep awake their drowsy faculties, by urging on their attention what otherwise they could not ponder in their minds, and impress on their hearts.
On the other hand, those who have the entire disposal of their own time, and have little or no occasion to employ it in the acquirement of wealth, of which Providence has already blessed them with an ample share; and may I not add also those of the middling class of people, some of whose time perhaps is more at their own command than that of others?
such may say, we are fully persuaded of the vast importance of the transactions of this Holy Week, and accordingly set apart some of our time for meditations thereon, both publickly, in conformity to the design of our Church; and privately, because we feel in ourselves that it is our duty so to do: but why should we be debarred of every innocent amusement? why should our evenings be spent in solitary retirement? and why should no publick entertainment be permitted, that we may pass away some of our time in harmless gratification?
In answer to this, I will not argue on the innocence or sinfulness of such gratifications: I will even suppose them to be indifferent: but let it be remembered, that whatever may in some cases be lawful, is not at all times expedient*: and that such amusements are not at this season expedient, will (I apprehend) appear to him, who shall consider the reasonableness of at least a temporary suspension of them. For when we reflect in what manner our LORD and Saviour passed this week, what he underwent for our sakes, the many insults and injuries which he suffered, his bitter agony in the garden
1 Cor. vi. 1.
which was followed by the treachery of one of his chosen disciples, who betrayed him into the hands of his enemies-then by the desertion and flight of the rest, who had declared their resolution not long before, to remain steadfastly with him, even in the utmost extremity of danger and last of all by a positive and peremptory denial of him, thrice repeated, by one who had promised, that he would rather die with, than forsake, him --When we farther consider, that all these heart-rending sorrows were heaped upon him day after day throughout the week, till they were terminated only by his most painful and ignominious death--when we moreover and especially take into the account, that all this was endured for our sakes, we cannot surely think it unreasonable to be required to lay aside, for one week only, those gratifications which at other seasons it may be lawful moderately to enjoy. Agreeable to this were the opinions of the primitive Christians respecting this Great and Holy Week, and of our pious forefathers of later ages, both of whom judged that a most religious attention was due to the interesting and important events which
we now commemorate.
When we read what the writers of an
cient times have said on this subject, with what fervour and zeal they have recommended a strict observance of this Week -compared with theirs, how tame are our admonitions! contrasted with theirs, how lifeless are our exhortations !
The learned Author of "The Antiquities of the Christian Church," says, There was one week which was called the Hebdomas Magna or the Great Week before Easter, which they observed with greater strictness and solemnity above all others." This he then proceeds to describe by quoting the words of St. Chrysostom, which being very remarkable, I shall venture, upon the authority of the same author, to recite to you at full length and your attention to them, I am confident, will not be ill-repaid.
"No one," says this judicious writer, "can better describe it to us than St. Chrysostom, who tells us, "It was called the Great Week, not because it consisted of longer days, or more in number than other weeks, but because at this time great things were wrought for us by our LORD. For in this week the ancient tyranny of the devil was dissolved, death was extinct, the strong man was bound, his goods were spoiled, sin was abolished, the curse was destroyed, paradise was