Fasting in the Christian Church
Fasting In The Christian Church.
In the article FAST SEE FAST we have given an account of Jewish fasting, and also of the notices of fasting in the N.T. 'We confine ourselves in this article to a history of fasting in the Christian Church.
I. Early Church. — Fasting and abstinence have been practiced in the Christian Church from the beginning, SEE ABSTINENCE, as means of self-discipline. Where the ascetic spirit has prevailed, fasting has been used as a means of mortification and penance. SEE ASCETICISM; SEE MORTIFICATION; SEE PENANCE. In the N.T. fasting appears either (1) as a token of sorrow or repentance, or (2) as a means of preparation for and aid in the discharge of spiritual duties (e.g. prayer, etc.). It was free from superstition; and the N.T. nowhere makes fasting, of itself, a means of grace. But the ascetic tendency in the early Church led to reliance on fasting, etc., as not only helps to, but substitutes for, the inward and spiritual life. The theory which placed the origin and seat of sin in the body, SEE SIN, also tended to give value to the practice of fasting. It came at last to be considered as an effectual means of securing forgiveness of sin. The earliest notices of fasting in the Christian writers are in a better vein. "The days of holy consecration, of penitence and prayer, which individual Christians appointed for their own use, were oftentimes also a sort of fast- days. That they might be less disturbed by sense while their minds were intent on holy things, they were accustomed on such days to confine their bodily wants within stricter limits than usual, or else to fast entirely; where we must take into consideration the peculiar nature of that hot climate in ebhich Christianity first began to spread. Whatever they saved by their abstinence on these days was appropriated to the maintenance of the poor brethren" (Neander, Church History, Torrey's, 2:274).
We cite some of the Apostolical Fathers. Hermias (1st century), Shepherd (Simil. 5, chapter 3): "This fasting is very good, provided that the commandments of the Lord be observed. Observe as follows the fasting you intend to keep. First of all, refrain both from speaking and from hearing what is wrong; and cleanse thy heart from all pollution, from all revengeful feelings, and from all covetousness; sand on the day thou fastest content thyself with bread, vegetables, and water, and thank God for these. But reckon up what thy meal on this day would have cost thee, and give the amount to some widow, or orphan, or to the poor. Happy for thee if, with thy children and whole household, thou observest these things." (See also Simil. 5, chapter 1.) The Epistle of Barnabas declares that the Jewish fasts are not true fasts, nor acceptable unto God, and cites Isa 58:4-9, as giving the true fast "which God hath chosen." The Epistle of Polycarp ,(2d century) exhorts Christians "to return to the word handed down from the beginning, watching unto prayer, and perseveringa in fasting" (chapter 7). Justin Martyr (t 165) also cites Isaiah 58 as giving the "true fast," and applies it to practical life. He speaks, how, ever, of fasting being joined with prayer is the administration of baptism (Dial. c. Tryph. ch. 15). Irenaeus (t 200) speaks of the fast before Easter, and says, "Not only is the dispute respecting the day, but also respecting the manner of fasting. For some think they ought to fast only one day, some two, some more days; some compute their days as consisting of forty hours night and day; and this diversity existing among those that observe it is not a matter that has just sprung up in our times, but long ago among those before us, who perhaps, not having ruled with sufficient strictness, established the practice that arose from their simplicity and inexperience. And yet with all, these maintained peace, and we have maintained peace with one another; and the very, difference ie our fasting establishes the unanimity in our faith" (Eusebius, Ch. history, 5:24). Clement of Alexandria (t 220?) notices the fact that many kinds of pagan worship required celibacy and abstinence from ameat and wine in'their priests; that there were rigid ascetics among the Indians, namely, the Sancaneats, and hente argued that usages which may exist also in other religions, and even be combined with superstition, cannot, in themselves considered, be peculiarly Christian. He then adds: "Paul declares that the kingdom of heaven consists not in meat and drink, neither therefore in abstaining from wine and flesh, but in righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. As humility is shown, not by the castigation of the body, but by gentleness of disposition, so also abstinence is a virtue of the soul, consisting not in that which is without, but is that which is within the man. Abstinence has reference not to some one thing alone, not merely to pleasure, but it is abstinence also to despise nmoney, to tame the tongue, and to obtain bv reason the dominion over sin" (Strong. lib. 3). Clement also speaks of weekly fasts as the usage of the Church. It appears to be clear that weekly fasts were observed in the Church before the end of the 2d century, but that they were not enforced as essential means of grace. The Montanists were rigorous to excess with regard to fasting. "Besides the usual fasts, they observed special xerophagiae (aridius victus), as they were called; seasons of two weeks for eating only dry, or, properly, uncooked food, bread, salt, and water. The Church refused to sanction these excesses as a general rule, but alloweed ascetics to carry fasting even to extremnes. A confessor in Lyons, for example, lived on bread and water alone, but forsook that austerity when reminded that he gave offense to other Christians by so despising the gifts of God" (Schaff, Ch. Hist. 1, § 90). Tertullian (t c. 220), in his De Jejuniis, complains of the little attention paid by the Catholic Church to the practice of fasting, thereby showing that liberty of judgment was exercised with regard to it. Origen speaks of Wednesdays and Fridays in the Church at Alexandria as fastdays, on the ground that our Lord was betrayed on a Wednesday and crucified on a Friday (Hom. 10 on Leviticus).
By the 6th century fasting ceased to be a voluntary exercise; for by the second Council of Orleans, A.D. 541, it was decreed that any one neglecting to observe the stated times of abstinence should be treated as an offender against the laws of the Church. In the 8th century it was regarded as meritorious, and the breach of the observance subjected the offender to the penalty of excommunication. In later times, some persons who ate flesh during prescribed seasons of abstinence cere punished with the loss of their teeth. These severities were, however, subsequently relaxed, and pernission was given to use all kinds of food, except flesh, eggs, cheese, and wine. Afterwards flesh only was prohibited, eggs, cheese, and wine being allowed; an indulgence which was censured by the Greek Church, and led to a quarrel between it and the Western. The following fasts generally obtained:
1. Lent, the annual fast of forty days before Easter. At first the duration of this fast was forty hours; in the time of Gregory I it was thirty-six days; but afterwards, either by Gregory I or Gregory II (8th century), in imitation of the fasts of Moses, Elias, and our Savior, it was extended to forty days. SEE LENT; SEE QUADRAGESIMA.
2. Quarterly fasts, which cannot be traced beyond the 5th century, though Bellarmin asserts that they dated from the apostles' time.
3. A fast of three days before the festival of the Ascension, introduced by Mamercus of Vienne (5th century). In some places it was not.celebrated till after Whitsuntide. It was called jejunium rogationum, or jejunium litaniarum, the feast of rogations or litanies (hence rogation-days), on account of certain litanies sung on those days (Bingham, book 21, .c. 2, § 8).
4. Monthly fasts, a day in every month, except July and August, being selected.
5. Fasts before festivals, instead of the ancient vigils, which were abolished in the 5th century.
6. Weekly fasts, on Wednesdays and Fridays, entitled stationes, from the practice of soldiers keeping guard, which was called statio by the Romans.
7. There were also occasional fasts, appointed by ecclesiastical authority, in times of great danger, emergency, or distress (Tertull. De Jejun. c. 13). "The custom of the Church at the end of the 4th century may be collected from the following passage of Epiphanius: 'In the whole Christian Church, the following fast-days throughout the year are regularly observed. On Wednesdays and Fridays we fast until the ninth hour (i.e. three o'clock in the afternoon), except during the interval of fifty days between Easter and Whitsuntide, in which it is usual neither to kneel nor fast at all. Besides this, there is no fasting on the Epiphany or Nativity, if those days should fall on a Wednesday or Friday. But those persons who especially devote themselves to religious exercises (the monks) fast also at other times when they please, except, on Sundays and during the fifty days between Easter and Whitsuntide. It is also the practice of the Church to observe the forty days' fast before the sacred week. But on Sundays there is no fasting, even during the last-mentioned period (compare Doctr. de fide). But even at this late date there was no universal agreement in the practice of the Church in this matter, neither had fasts been established by law. The custom, so far as it existed, had been silently introduced into the Church, and its observance was altogether voluntary. This fasting consisted, at first, in abstinence from food until three o'clock in the afternoon. A custom was afterwards introduced, probably by the Montanists, affecting the kind of food to be taken, which was limited to bread, salt, and water" (Siegel, Alterthumer, 2:77, translated by Coleman, Anoient Christianity, page 445).
II. Roman and Greek Churches. — The Church of Rome prescribes the times and character of fasts by law (Concil. Trident. session 25, De delect. ciborum). "Moreover, the holy council exhorts all pastors, and beseeches them by the most holy coming of our Lord and Savior, that as good soldiers of Jesus Christ they assiduously recommend to all the faithful the observance of all the institutions of the holy Roman Church, the mother and mistress of all churches, and of the decrees of this and other oecumenical councils; and that they use all diligence to promote obedience to all their commands, and especially to those which relate to the mortification of the flesh, as the choice of meats and fasts." The Church commands fasts, and disobedience to her commands is sin. "See Abstract of the Douay Catechism (page 44): 'Slighting or neglecting the precepts of the Church, and living in habits of breaking tee fasts commanded, or of eating meat on Saturdays, or other days of abstinence, without just dispensation, were sins which excluded from the benefits of the jubilee, unless confessed and forsaken in the same manner as drunkenness, swearing, and debauchery' (Instructions and Directions, etc., page 24). But a papal dispensation changes the nature of things; the Spaniard who has paid the pope for a flesh bull may feast even in Lent; while his neighbor, who has neglected or declined to purchase the privilege, cannot eat an egg or drink a spoonful of milk during that period without committing mortal sin" (Cramp, Text-book of Popery, chapter 14). Among the "satisfactory" works of " penance" in the Roman Church, fasting goes along with prayer and almsgiving (Dens, Theologia, 6, De Satisf. 176). The Church distinguishes between days of fasting and of abstinence. On the former but one meal, and that not of flesh, is tasted during twenty-four hours; on the latter, flesh only is abstained from. The following is the distribution of Church fasts as given in bishop Challoner's Garden of the Soul:
1. The forty days of Lent.
2. The Ember Days, being the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the first week in Lent, of Whitsun Week, of the third week in September, and of the third week in Advent.
3. The Wednesdays and Fridays of the four weeks in Advent.
4. The vigils or eves of Whitsuntide, of the feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul, of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of All Saints, and of Christmas Day.
When any fasting day falls upon a Sunday, it is to be observed on the Saturday before. Abstinence Days.
1. The Sundays in Lent.
2. The three Rogation Days, being the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Ascension Day.
3. St. Mark, April 25, unless it falls in Easter Week.
4. The Fridays and Saturdays out of Lent, and the Ember Weeks, or such as happen to be vigils; but should Christmas Day fall upon a Friday or Saturday, it is not of abstinence.
In the Practical Catechism upon the Sundays, Feasts, and Fasts, the reason assigned for observing St. Mark's Day as a day of abstinence is, that his disciples, the first Christians of Alexandria, under his own conduct were eminent for their mortification; moreover, that St. Gregory the Great, the apostle of England, first set it apart in memory of the cessation of a mortality in his time at Rome. All Fridays and Saturdays, except those which fall between December 25 and February 2, are days of Abstinence; but in the United States there is a dispensation of Saturdays for twenty years from 1840. The Fasting days are, every day in Lent except Sunday; the Ember Days; the vigils of Pentecost, Assumption, All Saints, and Christmas.
In the Greek Church fasting is kept with great severity. There are four principal fasts. That of Lent, commencing according to the old style; one, beginning in the week after Whitsuntide, and ending on June 29, so that it varies in length, and is called the Fast of the holy Apostles; one, for a fortnight before the Assumption of the Virgin (August 15), which is observed even to the prohibition of oil, except on the day of the Transfiguration (August 6), on which day both oil and fish may be eaten; and one forty days before Christmas.
III. Protestant Churches. — In these, fasting is not made imperative as a term of membership in the Church, but is generally recommended as a Christian duty, especially under circumstances of national or individual affliction.
1. Church Of England. — "In the reign of queen Elizabeth there was a royal ordinance for fasting; not, however, so much with a religious view as for the encouragement of the fisheries. The Church has only so far recognized the custom in its ecclesiastical law as to retain the fast-days and prayers, but has prescribed no regulation of diet. Abstinence from food is not, therefore, the duty which it enjoins on its members, but whatever each finds to be best adapted for self-discipline, and most suitable under his circumstances for a repentant spirit. Mention is made of abstinence in the 'Collect for the first Sunday in Lent;' but it is not the abstaining from food, or particular kinds of food, but such abstinence as shall subdue the flesh to the spirit, i.e., the abstaining habitually from excess" (Eden). No legal distinction is drawn between fasting and abstinence; so Wheatley, (On Common Prayer, chapter 5, § 4): "IIn the Church of Rome, fasting and abstinence admit of a distinction, and different days are appointed for each of them. But I do not find that the Church of England makes any difference between them. It is true, in the title of the table of vigils, etc., she mentions 'fasts and days of abstinence' separately; but when she comes to enumerate the particulars, she calls them all ' days of fasting or abstinence,' without distinguishing the one from the other. Nor does she anywhere point out to us what foad is proper for such times or seasons, or seem to place any part of religion in abstaining from any particular kinds of meat. It is true, by a statute still in force, flesh is prohibited on fast-days; but this is declared to be for a political reason, viz. for the increase of cattle, and for the encouragement of fishery and navigation. Not but that the statute allows that abstinence is serviceable to virtue, and helps to subdue the body to the mind; but the distinction of clean and unclean nmeats determined, it says, with the Mosaic law; and therefore it sets forth that days and meats are in themselves all of the same nature and quality as to moral consideration, one not having any inherent holiness above the other.' And for this reason it is that our Church, as I have said, nowhere nakes any difference in the kinds of meat; but, as far as she determines, she seems to recommend an entire abstinence from all manner of food till the time of fasting be over; declaring is her homilies that fasting (by the decree of the six hundred and thirty fathers, assembled at the Council of Chalcedon, which was one of the four first general councils, who grounded their determination upon the sacred Scriptures, and long-continued usage or practice both of the prophets and other godly persons before the coming of Christ; and also of the apostles and other devout men in the New Testament) is a withholding of meat, drink, and all natural food from the body for the determined time of fasting." The fixed days appointed by the Church of England for fasting and abstinence are the folloving: 1. The forty days of Lent. 2. The Ember Days at the four seasons, being the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the first Sunday in Lent, the feast of Pentecost, September 14, and December 13. 3. The three Rogation Days, being the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday before Holy Thursday, or the Ascension of our Lord. 4. All the Fridays is the year except Christmas Day. These days are — mentioned in 2 and 3 Edward VI, c. 19, and in 5 Elizabeth, c. 5; and by 12 Charles II, c. 14, January 30 is ordained to be a day of fasting and repentance for thea "martyrdom" of Charles 1. But an act passed in 1859, the 22 Victoria, repeals all enactments requiring special Church service to be observed on January 30, May 29, November 5, and October 23. Other days of fasting are occasionally appointed by royal proclamation (Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, s.v.).
2. Lutheran Church. — Luther by no means rejected or discountenanced fasting, but discarded the idea that it could be meritorious (Comm. on Aatt. 6:16). The Augsburg Confession (art. 26) repudiates "diversity of meats" and other traditions; but adds, "The charge, however, that we forbid the mortification of our sinful propensities, as Jovian asserts, is groundless. For our writers have always given instruction concerning the cross which it is the duty of Christians to bear. We moreover teach that it is the duty of every man, by fasting and other exercises, to avoid giving any occasion to sin, but not to merit grace hey such works. But this watchfulness over our body is to be observed always, not on particular days only. On this subject Christ says, Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting (Lu 21:34). Again, The devils are snot cast out but by fasting and prayer (Mt 17:21). And Paul says, I keep under may body, and bring it into subjection (1Co 9:27). By which he wishes to intimate that this bodily discipline is not designed to merit grace, but to keep the body in a suitable condition for the several duties of our calling. We do not, therefore, object to fasting itself, but to the fact that it is represented as a necessary duty, and that specific days have, been fixed for its performance."
3. Calvin. — The views of Calvin on fasting have been very generally adopted in the Reformed churches: "Therefore let us say something of fasting, because many, for emant of knowing its usefulness, undervalue its necessity, and some reject it as almost superfluous; while, on the other hand, where the use of it is not well understood, it easily degenerates into superstition. Holy and legitimate fasting is directed to three ends, for we practice it either as a restraint on the flesh, to preserve it from licentiousness, or as a preparation for prayers or pious meditations, or as a testimony of our humiliation in the presence of God, when eme are desirous of confessing our guilt before him. The first is not often contemplated in public fasting, because all men have not the saue constitution or health of body; therefore it is rather more applicable to private fasting. The second end is common to both, such preparation for prayer being necessary to the whole Church, as well as to every one of the faithful in particular. The same may be said of the third, for it will sometimes happen that God will afflict a whole nation with war, pestilence, or some other calamity; under such a common scourge, it behooves all the people to make a confession of their guilt. When the hand of the Lord chastises an individual, he ought to make a similar confession, either alone or with his family. It is true that this acknowledgment lies principally in the disposition of the heart; but when the heart is affected as it ought to be, it can scarcely avoid breaking aot into the external expression, and most especially when it promotes the general edification, in order that all, by a public confession of their sin, may unitedly acknowledge the justice of God, and may mutually animate each other by the influence of example. Wherefore fasting, as it is a sign of humiliation, is of more frequent use in public than among individuals in private, though it is common to both, as we have already observed. With regard to the discipline, therefore, of which we are now treating, whenever supplications are to be presented to God on any important occasion, it would be right to enjoin the union of fasting with prayer. Thus, when the faithful at Antioch laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas, the better to recommend their very important ministry to God, they 'fasted,' as well as 'prayed.' So, also, when Paul and Barnabas afterwards 'ordained elders in every church,' they used to 'pray with fasting.' In this kind of fasting their only object was that they might be more lively and unembarrassed in prayer. And we find by experience that after a full meal the mind does not aspire towards God so as to be able to enter on prayer, and to continue in it with seriousness and ardor of affection. So we are to understand what Luke says of Anna, that 'she served God with fastings and prayers.' For he does not place the worship of God in fasting, but signifies that by such means that holy woman habituated herself to a constancy in prayer. Such was the fasting of Nehemiah, when he prayed to God with more than common fervor far the deliverance of his people. For this cause Paul declares it to be expedient for the faithful to practice a temporany abstinence from lawful enjoyments, that they may be more at liberty to 'give themselves to fasting and prayer;' for by connecting fasting with prayer, as an assistance to it, he signifies that fasting is of no importance in itself any further than as it is directed to this end. Besides, from the direction which he gives in that place to husbands and wives, to 'render to' each other 'due benevolence,' it is clear that he is not speaking of daily prayers, but of such as require peculiar earnestness of attention. That there may be no mistake respecting the term, let us define what fasting is; for we do not understand it to denote mere temperance and abstinence in eating and drinking, but something more. The life of the faithful, indeed, ought to be so regulated by frugality and sobriety as to exhibit, as far as possible, the appearance of a perpetual fast. But besides this, there is another temporary fast, when we retrench anything from our customary mode of living, either for a day or for any certain time, and prescribe to ourselves a more than commonly rigid and severe abstinence from food. This restriction consists in three things in time, in quality and in quantity of food. By time I mean that we should perform, while fasting, those exercises on account of which fasts are instituted. As, for example, if any one fast for solemn prayer, he should not break his fast till he has ,attended to it. The quality consists in an entire abstinence from dainties, and content with simpler and humbler fare, that our appetite may niot be stimulated by delicacies. The rule of quantity is that we eat more sparingly and slightly than usual, only for necessity, and not for pleasure. But it is necessary for us, above all things, to be particularly on our guard against the approaches of superstition, which has heretofore been a great source of injury to the Church. For it were far better that fasting should be entirely disused, than that the practice should be diligently observed, and at the same time corrupted with false and pernicious opinions, into which the world is constantly falling, unless it be prevented by the greatest fidelity andipxudence of the pastors. The first caution necessary, and which they should be constantly urging, is that suggested by Joel: 'Rend your heart, and not your garments;' that is, they should admionish the people that God sets no value on fasting unless it be accompanied by a corresponding disposition of heart, a real displeasure against sin, sincere self-abhorrence, true humiliation, and unfeigned grief arising from a fear of God; and that fasting is of no use on any other account than as an additional and subordinate assistance to these things; for nothing is more abominable to God than when men attempt to impose upon him by the presentation of signs and external appearances instead of purity of heart. Therefore he severely reprobates this hypocrisy in the Jews, who imagined they had satisfied God merely by having fasted, while they cherished impious and impure thoughts in their hearts. 'Is it such a fast, saith the Lord, that I have chosen?' The fasting of hypocrites, therefore is not only superfluous and useless fatigue, but the greatest abomination. Allied to this is another evil, which requires the most vigilant caution, lest it be considered as a meritorious act, or a species of divine service. For as it is a thing indifferent in itself, and possesses no other value than it derives from those ends to which it ought tm be directed, it is most pernicious, superstition to confound it with works commanded by God, and necessary in themselves, without reference to any ulterior object. Such was formerly the folly of the Manichoeans in the refutation of whom Augustine most clearly shows that fasting is to be held in no other estimation than on account of those ends which I here mention, and that it receives no approbation from Gad unless it be practiced for their sake. The third error is not so impious indeed, yet is pregnant with danger, to enforce it with extreme rigor as one of the principal duties, and to extol it with extravagant encomiums, so that men imagine themselves to have performed a work of peculiar excellence when they have fasted. In this respect I dare not wholly excuse the ancient fathers from having sown some seeds of superstition, and given occasion to the tyranny which afterwards arose. Their writings contain some sound and judicious sentiments on the subject of fasting, but they also contain extravagant praises, which elevate it to a rank among the principal virtues. And the superstitious observance of Lent had at that time generally prevailed, because the common people considered themselves as performing an eminent act of obedience to God, and the pastors commended it as a holy imitation of Christ; whereas it is plain that Christ fasted; not to set an example to others, but in order that by such an introduction to the preaching ofthe Gospel, he might prove the doctrine not to be a human invention, but a revelation from heaven" (Calvin, Institutes, book 4, chapter 12, § 15-20). The Westminster Confession declares that "solemn fastings" are, "in their times and seasons," to be used in a holy and religious manner (21:5); and the Westminster Catechism makes "religious fasting" one of the duties required in the second comacmandment (quest. 109).
In Scotland there is generally a yearly fast appointed by the kirk-session of the Established Church of the parish, or by concurrence of kirk-sessions in towns, but generally by use and wont fixed as to their date. The fast-day is always some day of the weeke preceding the Communion Sunday, or Sunday set apart in the Presbyterian churches for the Lord's Supper. It is usually appointed as a day for 'fasting, hunliliation, and prayer.' Business is generally suspended, shops shut as on a Sunday, and churches opened for public worship. By an act of Parliament passed not many years since, factories are prohibited from carrying on work on the parish fast-day; but, in consequence of the ecclesiastical divisions in Scotland, it has become more common than it once was for agricultural and other kinds of work to be carried on" (Chambers, Encyclopaedia, s.v.).
America. — The New England Puritans rejected the ancient ecclesiastical fast-days. The Pilgrim fathers observed "seasons of fasting and prayer" before sailing from Europe, and after their arrival in America. They admitted the night and duty of the civil rulers to set apart days for fasting and prayer. This right has been recognized, and the duty observed, in most states of the American Union. During the Civil War (1861-5) the President of the United States appointed days of national fasting, which were generally observed by all the churches. The Methodist Episcopal Church enjoins "fasting, or abstinence," upon the people in the "General Rules" (Discipline, part 1, chapter 1, § 3); advises weekly fasts to the clergy (2, chapter 2, § 3); and directs that "a fast be held in every society on the Friday preceding every quarterly meeting'" (part 2, chapter 2, § 17). The Presbyterian Church adopts the doctrine of the Westminster Confession on fasting (seeabove); makes "public solemn fasting" one of the ordinances established by Christ in the Church (Form of Government, chapter 7); ordains a fast-day in the congregation before an ordination (chapter 15), and declares that while "there is no day under the Gospel commanded to be kept holy except the Lord's day, which is the Christian Sabbath, nevertheless, to observe days of fasting and thanksgiving, as the extraordinary dispensations of divine Providence may direct, we judge both scriptural and rational. Fasts and thanksgivings may be observed by individual Christians or families in private; by particular congregations; by a number of congregations contiguous to each other; by the congregations under the care of a presbytery or of a synod; or by all the congregations of our Church. It must be left to the judgment and discretion of every Christian and family to determine when it is proper to observe a private fast or thanksgiving, and to the church-sessions to determine for particular congregations, and to the presbyteries or synods to determine for larger districts. When it is deemed expedient that a fast or thanksgiving should be general, the call for them must be judged of by the Synod or General Assembly. And if at any time the civil power should think it proper to appoint a fast or thanksgiving, it is the duty of the ministers and people of our communion, as we live under a Christian government, to pay all due respect to the same" (Directory for Worship, chapter 14).
Besides the writers heretofore quoted, consult Tillotson, Sermons (sermon 39); Bingham, Orig. Eccl. book 21, chapter 1-3; Coleman, Ancient Christianity, page 552 sq.; Bishop Morris, in Meth. Quart. Review, 1849, 205 sq.; Augusti, Denkwurdigkeiten, 10:311 sq.; Suicer, Thesaurus, s.v. νηστεία; Ducange, Glossarium, s.v. Jejunium; Ferraris, Promta Bibliotheca, 4:867 sq. (ed. Migne); Wesley, Sermons, 1:245.