The Order of the General Fast

By John Knox

In a few places in John Knox's "Order of the General Fast" (1565), he references the economic conditions of the time. Life in Scotland has frequently been hard, and the sixteenth century was as hard as any. Inflation had driven up prices faster than incomes. The hard times were exacerbated by frequent crop failures and famines. John Knox observed widespread poverty, the likes of which he had rarely seen. The top levels of society meanwhile entertained themselves with "riotous banqueting." The disparity between rich and poor wasn't due merely to impersonal economic forces. It was also due to willful oppression of the poor by the rich -- actions for which the poor could never obtain legal redress. Landowners raised rents to the point where long-term tenants could no longer afford to lease land. This was a marked deterioration from previous generations, when tenant farmers could at least expect a tolerable standard of living.

The Ordoure and Doctrine of the General Fast, appointed be the Generall Assemblie of the Kirkes of Scotland. Halden at Edinburgh the 25. day of December 1565.

Joel 2. Therefore also now the Lord sayeth, Turne yow unto me with all your hart, and with Fasting, and with weaping, and with murning.


The present Troubles being somewhat considdered, but greater feared shortly to follow, it wes thought expedient (dearelie beloved in the Lord Jesus) that the whole Faithfull within this Realme shuld together and at one time, prostrat themselves before their God, craving of him pardone and mercy; for the great abuse of his former benefites, and the assistance of his Holy Spirite, by whose mightie operation we may yet so convert to our God, that we provoke him not to take from us the lyght of his Evangel, which he of his mercie hath caused so clearly of laite dayes to shine within this Realme.

But because that suche publicte Supplicationes requyre alwayes Fasting to be joyned therewith, and publict Fastynge craveth a certane time, and certane exercises of godlynes then to be used with greater streatnes then at uther tymes; the whole Assemblie, after deliberation, hath appointed the last Sonday of February, and the first Sonday of Marche nixt following the date of the said Assemblie, [1] to that moste necessare exercise (as tyme now standeth) of publict Fasting. And further, did require the same to be signified be all Ministers to their people the Sonday preceading the said last Sonday of Februarie. [2]

But least that the Papistes shall think that now we begine to authorise and praise that which some tymes we have reproved and dampned in them; or els that the ignorant, who knowe not the commoditie of this moste godlie exercyse, shall contempne the same; we have thoght expedient some what to speak to the one and to the uther. And unto the Papistes, First, we say, that as in puritie of conscience we have refused their whole abhominationes, and, amongest the rest, that their supersticious and Pharisaicall maner of Fasting; so even unto this day do we continew in the same purpose, boldely affirming that their Fasting is no Fasting that ever God approved, but that it is a deceaving of the people, and a meare mocking of God, which moste evidentlie will appeare. If in the Scriptures we searche what is the ryght end of Fasting, what Fasting pleased God, and which it is that his soul abhorreth.

Of Fasting, in the Scriptures we finde two sortes; the one private, the other publicte. The private, is that which man or woman doeth in secrete, and before their God, for such causes as their owen conscience beareth record unto them. As David, during the time that his Sone, which wes begotten in adulterie, wes struken with mortall seicknes, fasted, weapt, and lay upon the ground, because that in the seicknes of the Chylde he did considder Godes displeasure against him self; for the removing whereof he fasted, murned, and prayed unto such tyme as he saw Godes wil fulfilled, by the awaytaking of the Chylde. Privatlie fasted Anna, wyfe to Alcana, [3] even in the verray Solempne Feastes, during the time of hir barrennes; for she weapt and eat nothing, but in the bitternes of hir heart she prayed unto the Lord; nether ceased she from sorow and murning, unto suche tyme as Eli the hie preist concurred with her in prayers, by whose mouth, after that he had hard her petifull complaint, she receaved conforte.

Of this Fasting, speaketh oure Maister, Jesus Christ, in these words, "When ye fast, be not sowr as the Hypocrytes, for they disfigure their faces that they may seme unto men to fast; but thow, when thow fastest, anoynt thy heade and washe thy face, that thow seame not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which seeth in secrete, and will rewarde thee opinly." [4] Of the same no dout speaketh the Apostle, when that he sayeth, "Defraude not one another, except it be with consent for a tyme, that ye may give yourselves to Fasting and prayer." [5]

To this private Fasting, which standeth chiefly in a temperat dyet, and in powring furthe of our secrete thoughtes and necessities before God, can be prescrived no certane rule, certane tyme, nor certane ceremonies; but as the Causes and occasiones why that exercise is used are divers (yea, so divers that seldome it is that many at ones are moved with one cause), so are diet, tyme, together with all uther circumstances, requyred to suche Fasting, put in the libertie of them that use it. To this Fasting we have bene faitlifully and earnestly exhorted by oure Preachers, as oft as the Scriptures, which they entreated, offered unto them occasion. And we dout not but the godlie within this Realme have used the same as necessitie craved, albeit with the Papistes we blew no trumpetes, to appoynt thereto certane dayes.

The uther kynde of Fasting is publict; so called, because that it is openlie avowed, some tymes of a Realme, some tymes of a multitude, some tymes of a cietie, and some tymes of a meaner company, yea, some tymes of particulare persones, and yet publictlie used, and that for the wealth of a multitude. The Causes thereof are also divers; [6] for sometymes the feare of ennimies, some tymes the angrie face of God punishing, some tymes his threatning to distroy, some tymes iniquitie deprehended that ryghtlie before wes not considered, and some tymes the earnest zeale that some beare for preservation of Godes people, for advancing of his glorie, and performing of his worke according to his promes, move men to publicte Fasting, confession of their sinnes, and solempned prayers, for defence against their ennimies, recovering of Godes favoures, removing of his plagues, preservation of his people, and setting fordwarde of that worke, which he hath of his mercie promised to finishe, as in the subsequent probationes evidently shall appeare.

When Messingers came to Josaphat, saying, "There cometh a great multitude against thee, from beyond the sea, out of Aram (that is Syria), etc., [7] Josaphat feared, and set him self to seke the Lord, and proclamed a Faste throughout all Juda. And Juda gathered them selves together, to aske counsall of the Lord; they come even out of all the cieties of Juda to inquyre of the Lord. And Josaphat stoode in the congregation of Juda and Jerusalem, in the hous of the Lord, before the new court; and all Juda stoode before the Lord with their yonge ones, their wyfes and their chyldrene. And Josaphat said, O Lord God of our fathers, are not thow God in heaven, and reignest not thow in all Kingdomes of the heathen? And in thy hand is power and myght, and none is able to withstand thee. [8] Haste not thow, our God, cast out the inhabitantes of this land before thy people Israell, and haste given it to the sead of Abraham, thy freind, for ever? etc. But now the Ammorytes, and Moabytes, and the Mont Seir, ar come to cast us out of thy possession. O Lord our God, shall thow not judge them? In us there is no strength to stand against this great multitude that commeth against us, nether knowe we what to do; but unto thee are our eyes bent, etc." Of this Historie we have the first Cause of publict Fasting, and the solempnitie thereof sufficiently prowen. For the feare of ennimies compelled Josaphat to seik the Lord; he knowing him selfe burdened with the care of the people, exhorted them to do the same. They fra all cieties and quarters repared to Jerusalem, whereupone a statute daye the King and the people, yea, wyves and childrene, presented them selves before the Lord, in his holy Temple, [9] exponed their necessitie, implored his helpe against that enraged multitude, that alwayes wes ennimie to Godes people, and gave open confession of their owen weaknes, leaning onely to the promes and protection of the Omnipotent. Which exemple, we and everie people likewyse assaulted, may and ought to follow in everie poynt. This onely excepted, that we are not bound to convene at any one appoynted place, as they did at Jerusalem. For to no one certane and severall place is that promes made, that then wes made to the Temple at Jerusalem, [10] which wes, that whatsoever men in their extremitie shuld ask of God in it, God shuld grant it from his holie habitation in the heaven. Jesus the Messias, then looked for, whose presence wes sought in the mercie seat, and betuix the Cherubinnes, is now entered within the vale, that is, in the heaven, and there abydeth onely Mediator for us, unto whome, from all the coastes of the earth, we may lift up pure handes, [11] direct our prayers, supplicationes, and complaintes, and be assured that they shalbe receaved, in whatsoever place we convene. And yet, in tyme of suche publict exercyses, we wolde wishe that all men and wemen shuld repare to suche places as their conscience may be best instructed, their Faith moste edified, repentance moste lively sturred up in them, and they by Godes worde may be moste assured that their just peticions shall not be repelled: Which thinges can not be done so lively in secrete and private meditation as that they are in publict Assemblie, where Christ Jesus is trewly preached: And this muche shortlie for the Firste head.

Of the Second, to wit, that the angrie face of God punishing aught to dryve us to publicte fasting, and humiliation of our soules before our God, we have two notable exemples, the one written in Josua; who, hearing and understanding that Israell had turned the back before the Cananites, and the elders of Israel rent their clothes, fell upone their faces before the Arke of the Lord unto the nyght, [12] and caste dust upone their heades, in signe of their humiliation and dejection. The uther is expressed in the booke of the Judges; where Israell, being commanded by God to fight against Benjamin, [13] because that they menteaned wicked men that deserved death, loste the first day twentie two thousand of their armie, and the second day eightene thousand. At the firste lose they were lyghtlie touched, and asked counsall if they shulde renew the battel; but at the second overthrow, the whole people repared unto the hous of the Lord, sat there, weapt before the Lord, and fasted that day unto the night; for then began they to considder Godes angrie face against them.

In this last historie there appeareth just cause why the people shulde have rune to the onely refuge of God, because that their first armie of fourtie thousand men wes utterlie distroyed. But what just occasion had Josua so lamentablie to complaine, [14] yea, so boldely as it were to accuse God, that he had deceaved him in that, that against his promeis he had suffered Israell to fall before their ennimies. Was the lose of thrette men (no mo fel that day in the edge of the sword) so great a mater, that he shuld despare of any better successe, that he shulde accuse God that he had brought them over Jordane, and that he shuld feare that the whole army of the Lord shuld be inveroned aboute, and consumed in the rage of their ennimies? Yea, if Israeli had onely looked no further then to the lose of the fourty thousand men, they had bene but feable soldioures, for they had sufficient strength remaning behinde; for what were fourtie thousand, in respect of all the trybes of Israell?

Nay, nay, (deare Brethren) it wes an uther thing then the present lose, that terrified and effrayed their consciences, and made them so effeminatlie (so wold fleshe judge) to complaine, weap, and owle before God; to wit, they saw his angrie face against them; they saw his hand fortifie their ennimies, and to fight against them, whome both he had commanded to fight, and had promised to give them victorie. [15] For everie commandement of God to do any thing against his ennimies hath included within it a secrete promes of his godly assistance; which they fand not in the beginning of their interpryses; and therefore they did considder the fearcenes of his displeasure, and did tremble before his angrie face, whose myghtie hand they fand to fight against them; and that wes the cause of their dolorous complaintes, and fearfull crying before their God. What wes the cause that God delt so framedly [16] with the one, and with the uther? We may perchance somewhat speak, when that we shall entreat of the frutes of Fasting, and of those thinges that may holde back from us the assistance of God, even when we prepare us to put his commandement in execution.

The Thride Cause of publict Fasting, is Godes threatninges pronounced, ether against a multitude, or against a persone in particulare. Of the former the exemple is Ninivie, unto the which Jonas cryed. Yet fourtie dayes, and Ninivie shalbe destroyed: which unpleasing tydinges cumming to the eares of the King, he proclamed a Faste, he humbled his owen soule, yea, even to sackcloth, and sitting in the duste, he straitlie commanded reformation of maners in all estates, yea, and that signes of repentance, of terroures, and feare, shuld appeare, [17] not onely in men and wemen, but also in the brute beastes from whome wes all kynde of nurishement commanded to be withdrowen, to witnes that they feared aswell Godes judgementes to fall upone the creatures that served them in their impietie, as upone them selves that had provoked God to that hote displeasure. Of the utlier the exemple is moste notable (moste notable we say) because that it fell in a wicked man, to wit, in Achab, who by instigation of his wicked wyfe Jesebell, saulde him self to do all iniquitie. And yet, when that he hard the fearefull threatninges of God pronounced by the Prophet Elias [18] against him, against his wyfe and hous, he rent his royall garmentes, put on sackcloth, sleipt therein, fasted, and yead baire-footed. What ensewed the one and the uther of these, we shall after heare.

The Fourt Cause of publict Fasting and murning (for they two muste ever be joyned), is iniquitie deprehended, that before wes not ryghtly considdered. The testimony whereof we have in Esdras, after the reduction of the captivitie, and that the temple and the work of the Lordes hous wes stayed. It wes shawen unto Esdras, that the people of Israell, the Preistes and the Levites, [19] were not seperat from the people of the nations, but that they did according to their abhominations; for they maryed unto them selves, and unto their sonnes, the doughters of the Cananites, the Pherisites, Hithetes, Jebusites, Ammorites, Moabites, and Egiptiens, so that the holy sead wes mixt with profane Idolateris: which thing being understand and more deaply considdered then it wes before, for then Esdras sawe just cause why the worke of the Lord prospered not in their handes. This considdered, we say Esdras taking upone him the sinne and offence of the whole people, rent his clothes, and pulled furth the heares of his head and beard, sat as a man desolate of all conforte till the evening Sacrifice; and then rysing, he bowed his kneis, and streached furth his hande before the Lord, and made a moste semple and humble confession of all the enormities that were committed be the people, aswell before the Captivitie as after their returning; and ceased not his lamentable complaint unto suche tyme as a great multitude of men, wemen, and childrene, moved by his exemple, [20] weapt vehementlie, and promised redres of that present disordour and impietie.

Of the last Cause of publict Fasting, to wit, the zeale that certane persones beare for preservation of Godes people, for advancing of his glorie, and performing of his worke according to his promes: we have exemples in Mardocheus, Daniell, and in the faithfull assembled at Antioche. [21] For when that Mardocheus herd of that cruell sentence, which, by the procurement of Haman, wes pronounced against his Nation; to wit, that upone a day, statute and affixed, shuld the Jewes, in all the provinces of the King Artaxarses, be destroyed, oulde and yong, men and wemen, and that their substance shuld be exponed in pray. [22] This bloody sentence, we say, being herd, Mardocheus rent his clothes, put on Sackcloth, and Ashes past furth in the middest of the cietie, and cryed with a great and bitter crye; and, coming to the Kinges gate, gave knowledge to Ester what crueltie wes decreed against the Nation of the Jewes, willing her to make intercession to the king in the contrare, who, efter certaue excuses, said, [23] "Go and gather all the Jewes that are in Susan, and faste for me, eat not, nor drinke not, thre dayes and thre nyghtes; and I also, and my handmades, shall likewyse faste, and then shall I enter unto the King, although that I shuld perishe."

In this we may clearely se that the zeale that Mardocheus had to preserve the people of God, moved not onely him self to publict fasting, but also Ester, the Quene, her maides, and the whole Jewes that hard of the murther intended, and moved Ester also to hazart her lyfe in going unto the King without his commandement.

Of the uther, to wit, that the earnest desyre that God's servandes have that God will performe his promes, and manteane the worke that he hath begune, exemple we have in Daniell, [24] and in the Actes of the Apostles. For Daniell, understanding the nomber of the yeares forespoken by the Prophet Jeremie, that Jerusalem shuld ly waist, to have bene completit in the first yeare of the reigne of Darius, turned him self unto God, fasted [humbled] him self in sackcloth and ashes, and with unfeaned confession of his owen sinnes, and of the sinnes of the people, he vehementlie prayed, That according to the promises, some tymes made be Moyses, and after rehearsed by the prophet Isay and Jeremie, he wolde suddingly send them deliverance, and that he wolde not delay it for his owen Names sake. [25]

When the Gentiles began to be illuminated, [26] and that Anteochia had so boldely receaved the Evangle of Jesus Christ, that the disciples in it first of all tooke upone them the name of Christianes: The principall men of the same Church, thrusting no dout that the kingdome of Jesus Christ shulde further be enlarged, and that the multitude of the Gentiles shuld be instructed in the ryght way of salvation, fasted and prayed, and, whil that they wer so exercised, charge wes given that Paule and Barnabas shuld be seperated frome the rest, to the worke whereunto God had called them, etc. [27]

Of these former Histories and Scriptures, we may clearely se for what causes publict Fasting and generall supplicationes have bene made in the Churche of God, and ought to be made when that ever the lyke necessities appeare, or occasions are offered. Now let us shortly heare what conforte and frute ensewed the same; for the ennimie, yea, the murtherer of all godly exercise, is desperation; for with what courage can any man with continuance call upone God, if he shall disperatly dout whether God shall accept his prayer or not? How shall he humble him self before his throne, or to what end shall he confesse his offence, if he be not perswaded that there is mercy and good will in God to pardone his sinnes, to accept him in favour, and to grant unto him more then his owen heart, in the middest of his dolour can requyre or ymagine.

Trew it is, that this vennome of disperation is never throughlie purged from our heartes, so long as we cary this mortall carcasse. But yet the constant promises of our God, and the manyfolde documentes of his mercy and help, showen unto men in their greatest extremitie, ought to animat us to follow their exemple, and to hope for the same successe that they have gotten abufe mannes expectation. Josaphat, after his humiliation [28] and prayer, obtened the victorie, with out the lose of any of his soldioures; for the Lord reased Ammon and Moab against the inhabitantes of Mount Seir, who being utterly destroyed, [29] everie one of the ennemies of God's people, lift his sworde against another, till that of that godles multitude, there was not one left alive. Josua and the Israelites after their dejection wer conforted againe. Ninive was preserved, albeit that Jonas had cryed destruction. Yea, Achab, notwithstanding all his ungodlynes, [30] lost not the frute of his humiliation, but wes recompensed with delay of the uttermoste of the plagues, during his lyfetyme. The murning of Esdras wes turned into joy, when that he saw the people willing to obey God, and the worke of the hous of the Lord to go fordwart. The bitter crying of Mardocheus, and the painefull fasting of Ester, were aboundantly rewarded, when not onely wes the people of God preserved, but Haman their mortall ennimie wes hanged upon the same gallous that he had prepared for Mardocheus.

Daniell, after his fasting, confession, and prayer, gat moste notable revelationes and assurance, that his people shuld be delivered, yea, that in all extremities they shuld be preserved, till that the Messias promysed unto them shuld come, and manifestly showe him self. And the godly of Antcochea wer not frustrate of their conforte, when they herd how potently God had wrought amongest the Gentiles, by the ministerie of Barnabas and Paule. So that we may boldely conclude, that as God hath never despised the petitions of such as with unfeaned heartes have soght his comfort in their necessities, so will he not send us away emptie and voyd, if with trew repentance we seak his face.

If any wolde aske, In what extremitie we finde our selves now to be that heretofore we have not sene, and what are the occasiones that shuld move us now to humble our selves before our God by Publict Fasting, more then that we did in the beginning, when this Evangile wes now last offered unto us, fur then, by all apperance, we and it in our persones stoode in greater danger, then we do yet? We answer, that the causes are mo then for greif of heart we can expresse. First, because that in the beginning we had not refused God's graces, [31] but contrariwyse with such fervencie we receaved them, that we could beare with no kinde of impietie; but for the suppressing of the same we nether had respect to frende, possession, land, or lyfe, but all we put in hasard that God's treuth myght be advansed, and idolatrie myght be suppressed. And, therefore did our God, by the mouth of his messingers, in all our adversities, assure us that our ennimies shuld not prevale against us, but that they shuld be subdewed under us, that our God shuld be glorified in our semple and upryght dealing. [32] But now, sence that carnall wisdome hath perswaded us to beare with manifest idolatrie, and to suffer this Realme, which God hath once purged, to be polluted againe with that abhomination; yea, alace, since that some of us, that God made sometymes instrumentes to suppresse that impietie, have bene the cheif men to conduct and convoy that Idole throughout all the quarters of this Realme; yea, to the houses of them that sometymes detested the Masse, as the Devill and his service; sence that time, we say, we have found the face of our God angrie against us, his threatninges have bene sharpe in the mouthes of his Messingers; which albeit for the tyme we dispysed and mocked, yet the just experience convicteth us that we were wicked, and that they in threatning us did nothing but the dewtie of God's trew Messingers. [33]

And this is the Second cause that move us to this publict humiliation, rather now then in the beginning; to wit, that then we followed God, and not carnall wisedome, and therefore made he few in nomber fearefull to many, fooles before the world to confound the wyse, and such as before never had experience in armes, made God so bolde and so prosperous in all their interpryses, that the expertest souldioures feared the poore plowmen; yea, our God faught for us by sea and by land, he moved the heartes of strangers to supporte us, and to spend their lives for our releif. But now, alace, we se no signe of his former favour, for wisdome or manhead, strength and freindes, honour and blood, joyned with godlynes, are fallen before our eyes, to let us understand what shall be our destruction, if in time we turne not to our God, before that his wrathe be further kindled. But this is not the end: For esperance (or at least some opinion) had men before that God shulde move the Quenis Majesties heart, to heare the blissed Evangle of Jesus Christ truelie preached, and so consequentlie that she shuld abandone all Idolatrie and fals Religion: But now she hath given answer in plaine wordes, that that Religion in which she hath bene nourished (and that is meare abhomination) she will manteane and defend. And in declaratioun thereof, of laite dayes, there is erected a displayed baner against Jesus Christ. For corrupted Hypocrites, and suche as have bene knowen deceavers of the people, are now authorized to spew out their vennome against Jesus Christ, his eternall trueth, and trew Messingers of the same. That Idole, the Masse, is now againe in divers places erected. And what hereof may ensew, yea, or what we may looke shalbe the end of suche unhappy beginninges, we desyre the godly deaply to considder.

But let it be granted that we had not fallen back from our former fervencie; that we saw not God's angrie face threatning us with more fearefull plagues to follow; that the best parte of our Nobilitie war not exiled this Realme, neither yet that our Soverane were ennimie to our religion, that she beare no greater favour to flattering freres and to corrupted Papistes, then she doeth to our poore Preachers. Supponing, we say, that none of these foresaid causes we had to move us (as that we have them all, and mo, if that we list to recompt them), yet is there one, which if it move us not to humiliation, we showe our selves more then insensible. For now is Sathan so enraged against Jesus Christ, and so odius is the light of his Evangile unto that Romaine Antichrist, [34] that to suppresse it in one province, Realme, or Nation, he thinketh it nothing, unles that in all Europe the godlie, and suche as abhorre the Papisticall impietie, be therewith also utterly distroyed, and so rased from the face of the earth, that no memorie of them shal after remaine.

If any think that suche crueltie cannot fall into the heartes of men, we send them to be resolved of those Fathers of the last Counsall of Trent, who, in one of their Sessions, have thus concluded: [35] "All Lutheriens, Calvinistes, and suche as are of the new Religion, shall utterlie be exterminate. The beginning shalbe in France, by conducting of the Catholik kinge, Philip of Spaine, and by some of the Nobilitie of France; which mater (say they) put to some stay, the whole force of bothe, together with the Pope's army, and force of the Dukes of Savoy and Farrar, [36] shall assault Geneva, and shall not leave it till that they have put it to sack, saving in it no leving creature." And with the same mercie shal so many of France, as have taisted of the new religion be served. [37] Frome thence expedition shalbe made against the Germaines, to reduce them to the obedience of the Apostolick seat. And so shall they procead to other Realmes and Nationes, never ceasing till that all be exterminate that will not make homage to that Romaine Idole. How fearefull a beginning this conclusion and determination had, France will remember mo ages then one: For how many, abufe a hundreth thousand men, wemen, babes, virgines, matrones, and aged fathers, suffered, some by sworde, some by water, some by fyre, and uther tormentes, the verray ennimies themselves are compelled to acknowledge. And albeit that God of his mercie in a parte disappoynted there cruell interpryses, yet let us not thinke that their will is changed, or their malice asswaged. No, let us be assured, that they abyde but oportunitie to finishe the worke, that cruellie against God, against his trueth, and the trew professoures of the same, they have begune. The whisperinges whereof are not secrete, neither yet the tokenes obscure, for the trafique of that dragone, now with the Princes of the earth, [and] his promyses and flattering entysementes, tend to none uther end, but to inflambe them against Jesus Christ, and against the trew professoures of his Evangle. For who can thinke that the Pope, Cardinalles, and horned Bishopes, will offer the greatest portion of their rentes, for susteaning of a warre whereof no commoditie shuld redound (as they suppose) to themselves? If any think that we accuse them without cause, let them heare their owen wordes; for this they wrate neare the end of the same Decree: [38]

"And to the end that the holy Fathers on their parte, appeare not to be negligent or unwilling to give their ayde and supporte unto so holy a warre, or to spaire their owen rentes and money; have added, that the Cardinales [39] shall content themselves of the yearely rent of five or six thousand ducates, and the rychest Bishope of two or three thousand at the moste; and to give franckly the rest of their revenues, to the intertenement of the warre, which is made for the extirpation of the Lutheriens and Calvinistes sect; and for reestablishing of the Romaine Churche, till suche tyme as the mater be conducted to a good and happy end."

If these be not open declarationes in what danger all faithful stand, if they can bring their crueltie to passe, let verray idiots judge. But let us heare their conclusion. "France and Germanie, (say they) being by these meanes so chastised, abased, and conducted to the obedience of the holie Romaine Church, the Fathers dout not but tyme shall provide both counsal and commoditie, that the rest of the Realmes about may be reduced to one flok, [41] and one Apostolick governour and Pastour," &c.

By this conclusion, we thinke that the verray blinde may see what is purposed against the Saintes of God in all Realmes and Nationes, to wit, destruction with crueltie, or else to make them to worship that blasphemous beast, who being an Idole, usurpeth to himselfe the name of universall Pastoure; and being knowen to be the Man of sinne and perdition, will be holden for an Apostolick governour. But some shall say, they are yet fare from the end of their purpose; and therefore we neid not to be so fearefull, nor so sollist. We answer, the danger may be nerar than we beleave, yea, perchance a parte of it hath bene neirar to our neckes, then we have considdered. But how so ever it be, seing that God of his mercie hath brought furth to lyght their cruell and bloody counsall, in which we nead not to dout, but still they continew; it becommeth us not to be negligent or sleuthfull; but we ought to follow the example of Ezechias, the King of Juda, who receaving not onely the dispytefull answere, [42] but also the blasphemus and threatning letter of Sennaherib, first, send unto the Prophet Isayas, and pietifuUy compleaned of the instant troubles, willing him to make intercession unto God for the remanent that were left. Unto whome, albeit that the Prophet answered comfortablie assuring the King, that the ennimie shuld not cume so neir as to shoote darte or arrow within Jerusalem; yet ceased not the godlie King to present him self in the Temple of the Lord; and as a man despared of all worldely conforte, spred abrod the letters that proud Sennaherib had sent unto him, and made unto God his moste fervent prayer, as in the 37 chapter of the Prophet Isayas we may read. [43] The ennimie had turned backe, and God had put a brydle in his nosethirles. And so men myght have thought that the King neded not to have bene so solliste. But the Spirite of God instructed the heart of his servand to seak helpe where it wes onely to be found, and from the handes of God, who only wes able to put finall end to that tyrannie. The exemple (we say) of this approved servand of God, we ought to follow now, when the like distruction is intended against us, yea, not against one Realme only, but against all that professe the Lord Jesus, as before we have heard. Albeit that God of his mercy hath stayed the furie of the Papistes for a tyme, we ought not to think that their malice is changed; nether that such as trewly professe the Lord Jesus, can be in securitie, so long as that Babyloniane hoore hath power to enchant the Princes of the earth. Let us therefore, understanding that she, being dronken with the blood of the Saintes, can never repent of crueltie and murther, use against her the spirituul weapones, [44] to wit, earnest invocation of Gods Name, by the which we finde the proude tyrannes of the earth, in tymes past, to have beene overthrowen.

Abufe all these Causes foresaid, we have yet one that ought not to be omitted, to wit, the body of this Realme hath long enjoyed quietnes, while that other nations about us have bene seveirly plagued. What thousandes dyed in the East Countreyes, and in England of the pest, Anno 1563, [45] 1564; their own confessions beare record. What crueltie hath bene executed in France; what townes spoyled, and murther committed, somewhat before we have declared, and more we myght, if we had not respect to brevitie and tyme; and what trouble is presently, and long hath bene, betwix Denmarke and Swaden, the posteritie of that countrey will after understand. And in all this tyme, now sex yeares [46] and more hath God spared us; so that the publict estate hath alwayes remaned quyet, except within these few monethes. Ought not the deap consideration of this move us now to stoupe before our God? For have we bene spared because that our rebellion to God is les then is the rebellion of those nations that we have sene punished? If so we think, we are far deceaved.

For in so great light of the Evaugle, we thinke that greater inobedience wes never showen unto God, nor greater ingratitude unto his Messingers, sence the dayes of the Apostles, then of laite yeares hath bene (and yet is) within this Realme. Idolatrie is obstinatly menteaned; huredome and adulterie are but pastyme of the flesh; slaughter and murther is esteamed small sinne, if any man have freind in Court: craftie dealing with the semple, disceat and oppression, is counted gude conques (yea, allace, almoste universally); parcialitie in judgement, is but interpretation of Lawes; yea, delaying of Justice, what mater is that? What reverence is had to God's Messingers, and what respect unto the poore that now so multiplies within this Realme, (that the lyke hath seldome bene sene) thought we will cease, the stones will crye, and condempne us: and yet what superfluitie, what vanitie, what feasting, ryotous banckating hath bene (and yet is) used in Court, countrey, and townes, althought the tounges of men dar not speak, yet we think the purses of some do feal, and in their maner complaine. If these be not sinnes that crave plagues from God, we humblie desyre men to considder what are the sinnes that were layed to the charge of Sodome and Gomorha by the Prophet Ezechiell. [47]

Now, say we, God before our eyes hath punished uthers, and can he spare us, being more cryminall then they were? Nay, he can not. And, therefore, there restes nothing unto us but utter exterminion, if we unfeanedly turne not unto our God, before that his wraithe be further kindled against us. [48] Judgement is begune in his owen Hous; for if within Scotland, amonges men of their estate, there wes to be fund equetie, justice, temperance, compassion upone the poore, and upryght conscience, they did moste clearely shyne in them whome God before cure eyes hath firste dejected. Therefore yet agane we say, that onely repentance can save us from plagues more grevous then they have felt, or that we have sene of many yeares within this Realme.

But now we knowe, that suche as neither lufe God, nor trewly feare his judgemontes (for mo Atheistes [49] we have nor consumate Papistes within this Realme) shall grudge and crye, What new ceremonie is this that now we here of? Wherefore shall we Faste! and who hath power to command us so to do? A feg for their Fasting! we will fill and farse our bellies upone the oulde fassion, etc. Let not the godly be offended at the brocardes and lardons of such godless people; but let us tremble before our God, and considder that suche hath bene the proude contempt of the wicked in all ages before us, as in the Prophetes we may read. For Isay compleaneth, saying, "When the Lord calleth to sackclothe and ashes, there is nothing heard but let us eat and drink, kill the fat, and make banket; let us bring wyne in aboundance, [49] and more, and if we must dye, let us departe in joy; for so they ment, when that they said. Let us eat and drink, the morow we shall dye." But let us consider what answer they receave: "As I live, sayeth the Lord, this your iniquitie shall not be forgiven unto the death. [51] I shall take from yow the myrth of wyne and oyle; [52] your yong men shal fall by the sworde; your aged men shalbe led captives; [53] your delicate dammes shall trote upon their fete over the river (meaning Euphrates); their buttockes shall be naked, and their shame shal not be hid," [54] etc. Jeremie the Prophet preached and cryed even to the King [55] and to the Quene, and commanded them to walke in lowlynes, to do justice, to represse impietie; and so he promised that they shoulde sit still upone their Throne in joy and quyetnes; but if they wolde not, he boldelie pronounced that their carcasses shalbe cast to the heit of the Sone, [56] and to the frost and colde of the night. Ezechiel, in his age, useth the same ordour; and in his owen bodie showeth unto them signes of humiliation, [57] and of the plagues that shuld apprehend them for their Rebellion.

All their admonitions were dispysed, we confesse; but thereto we shulde not looke, but unto that which ensewed suche proude contempt.

If we wolde that our palices shuld be so destroyed, that they shuld remaine desolate, and be dennes to dragones; if we wolde that our land shuld be laide waist, and be a pray to our enemies; [58] and if we wolde that the rest of the plagues threatned by the Prophetes, and which have apprehended the disobedient before us, shuld come upone us in full perfection, then we nede nether to faste nor pray, repent nor turne to God: but and if we desyre ether to finde mercy in this lyfe, or joy and comfort in the lyfe to come, we muste showe our selves unfeanedly sory for the abhominatious that now universally Reigne; [59] we must be lyke Lothe in Sodome, and Noah, in that Catholick defection from God, which wes into the first age; and by their exemples and notable deliverances [60] ought we to be encoraged to showe our selves sory for this present corruption, and to oppone our selves thereto to the uttermoste of our powers, unles that we wolde have portion with the wicked.

Nether ought we to be discoraged because that the contemners, godles people, and mockers of all godlynes, shall prevale us in multitude. Their nomber, deare Brethren, shal not hurt our innocencie, if that we with unfeaned heartes turn unto our God; for the promes of his mercy is not bound unto the multitude, so that he will not heare but where the greatest parte is godly. [61] No, deare Brethrene, wheresoever two or thre be gathered in his name, there is he in the middest of them; [62] and againe, whosoever incalleth the name of the Lord, he shalbe saved, [63] yea, even when in Godes displeasure the whole worlde shalbe plagued. And therefore let us not follow the multitude in evil doing; [64] but let us declyne from the wayes of their vanitie, and by unfeaned humiliation of our selves, let us purches favoure, before that God's vengeance brust out lyke a fire.

The power that we have to proclame this Fasting, is not of man, but of God, who, by the mouth of his Prophet Ezechiell, pronounceth this sentence: [65] "If the watcheman se the sworde, or any other plague comming upone the land, if he blowe not the trumpet, and plainely warne them to turne to God, and if the sword come and take any away, the wicked shal perishe in their iniquitie; but their blood shalbe required from the handes of the watcheman." [66] Now so it is, that God of his mercy hath rased up amonges us mo watchemen then one or two, of whose mouthes we can not deny but we have hard fearefull threatninges of plagues to followe upone this proude contempt of all God's graces.

And therefore we, in the feare of our God, willing to avoyd the uttermoste of the plagues, have with one consent concluded this godly Exercise, to be used amonges us, in signe of our unfeaned humiliation; which albeit the godles shall mock, yet are we assured, that he who ones pronounced this sentence, "The soule that shall not be afflicted that same day, [67] to wit, the day appointed to publict humiliation, shall perishe from amonges his people; yea, everie soule that shall do any worke that day, T shall destroye suche a soule frome the middest of his people." The ceremonie, and the certane statute day, we knowe to be abolished at the comming of Christ Jesus, together with the rest of the figurall ceremonies; but the effect thereof shall abyde so long as there abydeth an trew Church upon the face of the earth, unto the which repentance and remission of sinnes are publictly preached; and therefore, albeit we have no corporall punishment to inflict upone the contemners of that Godly exercise, yet have we the spiritual sword, which ones will stricke sorer then any materiall sword can or may.

The judgementes and justice of our God are immutable; [68] he abydeth the same and one God that drowned the world by water; that consumed Sodome and Gomorha with fyre from heaven; [69] that plagued Pharo, [70] destroyed Jerusalem, and hath executed his fearce judgementes in all ages, yea, and even before our eyes. It is the same God (we say) that this day by his faithfull servandes calleth us to repentance, whose voces if we contempne, we declare our selves Rebellious to our God, mockers of his threatninges, and suche as sometymes in despyte cryed, "We will walk according to the lust of our owen heartes, [71] and let the counsal of the holy one of Israeli cum as it list," etc. And if so we do, then wo, yea, wo and double damnation unto us, for then even as assuredly as God liveth, [72] so assuredly shall the plagues that oure eares have oft heard, be poured furth upone us, even in the eyes of this same perverst generation, with whome we contempne God, and before whome we are nether feared nor eshamed stubburnlye to procead from sinne to contempt. Our hope is better of yow (deare Brethren) that have professed the Lord Jesus with us within this Realme, albeit that this we speake to let yow understand what Rebellion hath bene in flesh before us, and how it hath bene punished, that we may learne to stoupe before our God by unfeaned repentance; and then we shall be assured that, according to the promes made by the mouth of Joel, our God shal leave unto us a benediction, albeit that the vehement fyre of his wraith shall consume the inobedient.

But now, least that we shoulde thinke that the observation of the ceremonie is yneugh to please God, we must understand what thinges must be joined with fructful Fasting, and what thinges they are that may make our Fasting odious to our God. And first we have to understand, that Fasting by it selfe considdered, is no suche thing as the Papistes heretofore have ymagined; to wit, that it is a worke meritorious, and a satisfaction for the sinnes before committed. [73] No, all they that faste with that intent, reuounceth the merites of Christ's death and passion, in so farre as they ascrive to Fasting (whiche is but an exercise used by man) that whiche is onely proper to Jesus Christ; which is, that he by offering up himself ones for all, [74] hath made perfit for ever, those that shall be sanctified. We must further understand, that, as the Kingdome of God is nether meat nor drink, so is nether Fasting by it selfe semple considdered, [75] the cause why that Kingdome is granted to the chosen, nether yet eating (moderat we meane,) any cause why the reprobate are frustrat thereof. But unto Fasting there must be somewhat joyned, if that God shall looke upone it at any tyme in his favour. [76] The Prophet Joel is witnes hereof, who in the persone of God, said unto suche as he had seveirly threatned. "Turne unto me in your whole heart, in fasting and murning." [77] In which wordes the Holie Ghoste first requyreth the conversion of the heart unto God, and thereto joyneth fasting and murning, as witnesses of the sorow that we have for our former offences, and feare that we have of his seveir judgementes; the releif whereof we publictly professe we can obteane by no uther meanes, but by God's fre mercie from whome we have before declyned. [78] So that the verray exercise of Fasting, and the murning, and prayer therewith annexed, do solempnedly protest, that by our Fasting, we merite not; for he that still confesseth his offence, and in bitternes of heart cryeth for mercy, doeth not brage of his merites. If the Papistes reply, Yet God looketh to the fasting, and heareth the prayers of suche as ryghtly humble themselves before him, -- we deny not; but thereto we adde, that rightly did never man humble him self before God, that trusted or glorified in the merites of his owen workes; [79] for without Faith it is unpossible to please God, and faith dependeth upone the promes of God's fre mercie through Jesus Christ, and not upone the merites of any workes. The Pharisie, in braging, wes rejected; but the Publican, in denying him self, [80] and calling for mercie, wes justified, not by his workes, which he had not, but by grace and mercy, for the which he sobbed. Daniel fasted, confessed his sinnes, and the sinnes of the people, and thereto he added moste earnest and fervent prayers. But doeth he alledge any of them as a cause why God shuld ather be mercyfuU to him or to the people, nay, we finde no suche thing, but the plaine contrarie, for thus he concludeth: "Now therefore our God, heare the supplication and prayer of thy servand, [81] and showe thy pleasing visage unto thy Sanctuary, that lyeth waiste for the Lordes saik. O my God, give thy care that thow mayest heare; and open thyen eyes, that thow maiste see the waist places of the cietie which beareth thy name: for we alledge not our ryghteousnes in our prayers, that we poure furthe before thee, but thy moste abounding mercy: Lord! heare; Lord! be mercyfull; Lord! take head, and helpe, and delay not, for thine owen self, my God!"

We may plainely se whereupon this excellent servand of God grounded himself to purches God's favour; to wit, upone the Lord, that is, upone the Saviour and Mediator promised, upone the moste aboundant mercie of God, and upone God himselfe; for he understoode what God had promised, aswell by the mouth of Moyses, as by the Prophet Isais, saying: "Beholde that I am, yea, even I am the Lord, and there is no God but I: I kill, and I give lyfe againe: I give the wound, and I shall heale: [82] For my owen Names saike will I do it, sayeth the Eternall." Apone these and the lyke promises, we say, did all the Sainctes of God in all their extremities depend, and did looke to receave comforte, without all respect to their owen workes; they dampned the best of their owen workes, and called them nothing but filthiness before God. [83] And therefore yet, as of before, we boldely affirme, that the Papisticall fasting wes not onlie vaine (for what fasting is it to absteane from fleshe, and to fill the bellie with fishe, wyne, spyce, and uther delicates?) but also it wes odious unto God, [84] and blasphemous to the death of Jesus Christ, for the causes forewritten. And this muche shortly for those thinges that must be joyned with frutefull Fasting.

Now we have to consider what thinges may make our Fasting odious, besydes this proude opinion of merite, whereof we have spoken.

It is no dout but that infidelitie [85] maketh all the workes of the reprobate odious before God, yea, even when that they do the verray workes that God hath commanded, as we may read in Matt. 5. 6. and 7., Isai 1. and 66. etc., and divers uther places. But because that infidelitie lurketh oft in the heart, and can not well be espyed but by the bitter and rotten frutes that spring thereof, the Spirite of God hath painted furthe unto us in plaine wordes, what vices may make us and all our workes odious before our God, so that nether will he heare our prayers, nor regarde our fasting. Salomon sayeth, "He that ditteth [86] his eare from the crye of the poore, his prayer shalbe abhominable before God." [87] And Isai, in the persone of God, sayeth: "Albeit that ye shall stretche out your handes, and multiplie your prayers, yet will I not heare yow; for your handes are full of blood." [88] But most plainely to our purpose speaketh the same Prophet, saying: "The hous of Jacob daylie seaketh me, and they wolde knowe my wayes, as a nation that wrought justice, and that had not left the judgement of their God. [89] They ask me judgementes of justice (that is, they querrell with me), and they desyre that God shall drowe neare. Why have we fasted (say they) and thou beholdest not? We have afflicted our soules, and thow misknowest it." The Prophet answereth in the persone of God, and sayeth, "Beholde in the day of your Faste, ye will seak your will, and require all your dettes: beholde ye faste to strife and debaite, and to smyte with the fist of wickednes: ye shall not Faste as they do to daye, to make your voice be heard above," that is, to oppresse uthers; so that they are compelled to crye unto God. "Is it sudie a faste that I have chosen? That a man shuld afflict his soule for a day, and to bow downe his head as a bulrash, and to ly downe in sackcloth and ashes? Wilt thow call this a Fasting, or an acceptable day unto the Lord? Is not this the Fasting that I have chosen, to louse the bandes of wickednes, [90] to take of the heavie burdinges, and to let the oppressed go fre, and that ye break everie yock? Is it not to deale thy bread unto the hongrie; and that thow bring the poore that wandreth unto thy hous? When thow seest the nacked, that thow cover him; and hyde not thy self from thy owen fleshe. Then shall thy light break furth as the morning, and thy health shall growe spedelie, thy righteousnese shall go before thee, and the glorie of the Lord shall embrase thee," etc. In these most notable sentences, and in suche as follow in the same place, we have to marck what thinges may make our Fasting to be rejected of God; what he craveth of suche as faste frutfullie; and what promes he maketh to such as obey him. This people externallie professed God, they daylie sought his face, by reparing to the Temple, hearing of the Law, and exercising of the sacrifices; yet did God plague them in mo sortes then one, as in the Bookis of the Kinges and Cornickles we may read. In their extremitie they ran (as to them appeared) to the uttermoste refuge, they Fasted, and unfeanedly humbled their bodies, for that the Prophet meaneth, when that he sayeth, that they Fasted till that their neckes were weakned, and made faint as a bullrashe, for verray lacke of corporall foode. They layed of their gorgious garmentes, and put on sackcloth, &c.; and yet wer their troubles nothing releved. And that wes the cause why they querreled with God, and said: "Why have we fasted, and thou hast not sene? &c. And in verray deed, to the natural man it wes strange; for God had promised that he wolde conforte his people whensoever they shuld humble themselves before him, notwithstanding their former iniquitie. [91]

In the externall ceremonies, nor in the corporall exercises, there could no fault be espyed. Why then doeth not God heare them? complaine they? God answereth, that their outwarde profession wes but hypocrisie, their Fasting wes but mocking of God, and their prayers could do nothing but provoke him to further displeasure. Because that albeit they reteaned the Name of God, and albeit that they appeared in his Temple, yet had they forsaken bothe his judgementes, statutes, and holie ordinances. Albeit the bodie stouped, and wes afflicted by fasting, yet remained the heart proude and rebellious against God, [92] for they followed their owen corrupted wayes: they oppressed suche as were subject unto them, their heavie yock lay upone the neckes of suche as could not ridde themselves from their bondage. Amonges them were stryfe, debaite, whisperinges of malice, yea open contention aud manifest violence, which all were evident declarations of proud heartes, and impenitent soulles. And therefore God giveth unto them open defyance, in the tyme when they think that they seak his peace moste earnestly. And hereto ought we this day, that professe the Lord Jesus, and have renounced abhominations of Papistrie within the Realme of Scotland, give diligent head. For it is not the semple knoweledge of the trueth onelie, nor yet the externall profession of the same, that is acceptable before God. [93] Nay, nay, deare Brethrene, he requireth the frutes of repentance, [94] and they are, to declyne from evill, and to do good, as we may read in many places of the Scripture. Think we it a thing agreeable with the nature of the Eternall our God, that he shall receave us in favour, after that we have offended, and we will not for his saike remit the injuries that are done to us? Can we thinke to be at peace with him, when that we stubburnelie will continew in strife amonges our selves? Shal he relieve our greif, bondage, or yock, and we will not relieve the burdinges that unjustly we lay upone our brethrene? Shal he bestowe his undeserved mercie upon us, and we can showe no bowels of mercie to such as we se in miserie before our eyes? Let us not be deceaved, God can not deny himself. Murther, malice, hatrent, crueltie, oppression, stryfe, thift, deceat, injust dealing, covetousnes, avaritiousnes, and unmercifulnes unto the poore, besydes pryde, horedome, adulterie, wantonnes, and the rest of the workes of the flesh, are so odious before God, [95] that whill that any of them reigneth in the heart of man, he and his whole workes are detestable before God. And therefore if we desyre that God's fearfuU judgementes shalbe stayed, let us (that knowe the trueth, and say that we professe the same) unfenedlie returne unto our God. Let us not be inferioures to the king of Ninivie, who commanded everie man to turne from his wicked wayes, and from the iniquitie that wes in his hands. Let us considder what our God craveth of us; but especiallie let Earles, Lordes, Barrons, burgesses, and artificers, considder by what meanes their substances are increassed.

It is not yneugh to justifie us before God, that Civile Lawes cannot accuse us. [96] Nay, Brethrene, the eyes of our God pearseth deaper then mannes law can streache. The law of man cannot convict the Earle, the Lord, the Barrone, or Gentilman, for oppressing of the poore labourers of the ground; for his defence is ready, I may do with my owen as best pleaseth me. The Merchand is just yneugh in his owen conceat, if before men he can not be convict of thift and deceat. The Artificer and Craftisman thinketh himselfe fre before God, albeit that he nether worke sufficient stuffe, nor yet sell for reasonable price: The worlde is evil (sayeth he), and how can men live if they do not as uther do? And thus doeth every man leane upon the iniquitie of an other, and thinketh himself sufficientlie excused when that he meitteth craft with craft, and repulseth back violence ether with deceat or els with open injurie. Let us be assured, deare brethren, that these be the sinnes which heretofore have provoked God, not onlie to plague, but also to destroy, and utterlie overthrowe stronge realmes and flourishing commonwealthes. [97]

Now, seing that the justice and judgementes of our God abyde for ever, and that he hath solempnedlie pronounced, that everie realme, nation, or cietie that sinneth, as did Juda and Jerusalem, [98] shall be likewise punished. Let that fearefuU destruction that came upone them, into the whiche, after honger and pest, the sworde devoured without discretion the ryche and poore, [99] the noble, and those that were of basse degre; [100] the yong and olde, the priests and prophetes, yea, the matrones and virgines, eschaped not the day of that sharp visitation. Let their punishment (we say) provoke us to repentance; and so no dout we shall finde favour in the sight of our God, albeit that he hath begune to shew unto us evident signes of his displeasure justlie conceaved against us. [101] But (as God forbide) if we mocke his Messingers, and despyse his wordes, till that there be no remeadie, as they did, then can we (whome God hath rased up to instruct and forewarne yow) do nothing but take witnesse of heaven and earth, yea, and of your owen conscience, that we have faithfullie instructed yow in the right way of God, aswell concerning his trew worshipping as in doing of your dewties one to another; and also that we have forewarned yow of the plagues to come, firste by our tounges, and now by our pen, for a perpetuall memoriall to the posteritie that shall follow, who shall glorifie God ether for your conversion, or els for your just condemnation and seveire punishmentes, if ye continew inobedient.

To prescrive to everie man his dewtie in particulare, we can not, because we knowe not whereintill everie man, and everie estate particularlie oftendeth; but we must remit every estate, and everie man in his vocation, to the examination of his owen conscience; and that according as God commandeth in his hole Law, and as Christ Jesus requireth, that suche as shall possesse the kingdoine with him shall do: which is, "Whatsoever (sayeth he) that ye wolde men shulde do unto yow, do ye the like unto them." [102] By this reule, whiche the author of all equitie, justice, and policie hath established, send we the Earles, Lordes, Barrons, and gentilmen to trye their owen consciences, whether that they wolde be content that they shuld be entreated (if God had made them husbandmen and laubowrers of the ground), as they have entreated, and presentlie doeth entreate, suche as sometymes had a moderate and resonable life under their predecessours; whether, we say, that they wolde be content that their steadinges and malinges should be raised from male to ferme, from one ferme to two, and so going upward, till that for povertie the ancient laubourers are compelled to leave the ground in the handes of the lord. If with this entreatment they wolde be content, we appeale [to] their owen conscience; and if they thinke that they wolde not, then, in God's Name we require them to begin to reforme themselves, and to remember that it is not we, but that it is Christ Jesus that so craveth of them. And unto the same reule we send Judges, Lawers, Merchandes, Artificers, and finallie, even the verray labourers of the ground themselves, that everie one in his vocation may trye how justlie, uprightlie, and mercyfullie he dealeth with his Nighboure: And if he finde his conscience accused by the former sentence of our Master, let him call for grace, that he may not onelie repent for the by past, but also amend in tymes to cume; and so shall their Fasting and Prayers be acceptable unto God.

If men think that we require the thing that is unpossible, for what were this els but to reforme the face of the whole earth? which never wes, nor yet shalbe, till that the righteous King and Judge appeare for the restauration of all thinges: We answer, that we speak not to hie j godless multitude, nether yet to such as are mockers of God's judgementes, whose portion is in this life, [103] and for whome the fyre of hell (which now they mock) is assuredlie prepared. But we speak to such as have professed the Lord Jesus with us, who have communicated with his blessed Sacramentes, have renounced idolatrie, and have avowed themselves to be new creatures in Jesus Christ, in whome they are ingrafted as livelie branches, apt to bring furth good frute. [104] Now, why it shuld be thought unpossible that these men (of what vocation that ever they be) shulde begin to expresse in their lives, that which in worde they have publictlie professed, we se no good reasone, unles that we wolde say that it is unpossible that God shall now work in men of this age, as we read that he hath wrought in men before us; and that were blasphemie.

Seing that the hand of our God is no more shortned towardes us then it hath bene towardes those that have past before us. [105] At God's semple commandement, Abraham left his father's hous and native countrie. [106] Moyses preferred the condition of the people of Israell, even in their greatest affliction, to the ryches and glorie of Pharos Courte. [107] David, upon the unction of Samuell, did pacientlie abide the persecution of Saul many yeares. [108] Zacheus, at an dennar with Christ Jesus, wes not onelie content to restore whatsoever he had before defrauded, but also to give the half of all his substance to the sustentation of the poore. [109] And the faithfull, in the dayes of the Apostles, solde their possessions and ministrat unto the indigent. [110] None of these excellent workes crave we of the faithfull in our age, but onely those without the which the spirite of sanctification cannot be knowen to be in man; to wit, that everie man speak the trueth with his brother; [111] that none oppresse nor defraude another in any busynes; [112] that the bowels of mercy may appeare amongs suche as God hath called to his knoweledge; and finally, that we altogether that professe the Lord Jesus, and do abhorre idolatrye, abhorre also all kynde of impietie, studying to abound in all good workes, and to shyne as lyghtes in the middest of this wicked generation: [113] which, if we do not, we declare, no dout, that Christ Jesus dwelleth not within us, but that we ar they that heare and knowe the will of our Lord, but do not the same. And unto what curse and malidiction suche persones are subject, the parable of the fegge-tre, which wes threatned to be cut downe if it brought not furth frute; the curse given to it, upon the which Christ Jesus, being hongrie, fand no frute, and his last sentence against the reprobate, do sufficiently witnes. [114] In the which we have to observe, that the reprobate are adjudged to the fyre that never shalbe quenched, not onely because they committed iniquitie, but also because they were not found frutefuU in good workes. Let everie man, therefore, that will avoyde plagues temporall and perpetuall, unfeanedlie studie to accomplishe in worke that which in worde and outwarde profession he doeth avowe; and upone suche, no dout, shal the blessing of God rest, when the manifest contempners and cloked hypocrites shal be rased from the face of the earth, and shalbe cast unto uttermoste darkenes, where there shalbe weaping and gnasheing of teith without end, whiche shalbe the rewarde of all their wicked workes.

Mo thinges we wolde have written, suche as the notes upone the disconfiture of Joshua at Hay, and of the Israelites fighting against Benjamin, together with the foolishe opinion of the Papistes, who think themselves oblished to fast fourtie dayes (whiche they call their Lent), because that Christ Jesus fasted fourtie dayes immediatlie after his Baptisme: but these we are compelled for this present to pretermit, be reason that the tyme appoynted to this present exercise of Fasting approcheth so nye. If God of his mercy shall please to continew the light of his Evangle amonges us, this argument will be enlarged and set furth with greater circumstances from tyme to tyme.

Now to the Ordour, Exercise, and Abstinence that is to be kept in this publict Fasting: First, it is to be observed, that the two dayes before expressed, to wit, the last Sonday of Februarie instant, and the first Sonday of March [115] immediatly thereafter following, ar not appoynted for any religion of tyme, [116] nether yet that those precised dayes shalbe observed everie yeare following; but because that shortly thereafter, are the Estates of this Realme appoynted to convene in Parliament, Therefore the whole Assemblie thoght those dayes for the present necessitie most meit; leaving in the libertie of the Churche what tyme they will appoynt to that exercise in all tymes to cum.

The Sondayes [117] are appoynted not of superstition, nether yet to bring in any schysme within the Church, but because that upone the Sonday the people (especiallie that dwell a landwart) may best attend upone Prayer, and the rest of the Exercises that ought to be joyned with publict Fasting.

The Abstinence is commanded to be from Setterday at eight houres at nyght, till Sonday after the exercise at after noone, that is, after five houres; and then onely bread and drinck to be used, and that with great sobrietie, [118] that the body craving necessary food, the soule may be provoked earnestly to crave of God that which it moste neadeth; that is, mercie for our former unthanckfulnes, and the assistance of his Holy Spirite in tymes to cum.

Men that will observe this exercise, may not any of the two dayes use any kynde of gammes, but exercise themselves after the publict Assemblies in previe meditation with their God. [119]

Gorgious apparrel [120] wolde be absteaned fra during the whole tyme of our humiliation, which is, from the one Sonday in the morning, till the nixt Sonday at nyght; albeit that the straitnes of abstinence is to be kept, but the two dayes onely.

We do not binde the conscience of persones that be unable to beare the extremitie of the Abstinence; and yet do we exhort them to use their libertie (if any they tak) in secret, least that others ather follow their evill exemple, or els judge them to be despysers of so necessarie an exercyse. [121]

The tyme that shalbe spent aswell before none as after, must be left to the wisdome of the discrete Ministers, who best can judge both what the auditore may beare, and what themselves are able to sustene. But because that this exercise is extraordinary, the tyme thereof wolde be somewhat longer then it is used to be in the acustomed Assemblies. And yet we wolde not have it so tedious that it shulde be noysome to the people. And therefore we think that three houres and less, before noune, and two houres at after noune, shalbe sufficient for the whole exercyse publict: [122] The rest to be spent in previe meditation by everie familie aparte.

The Sonday preceading the last Sonday of February, as before is said, [123] shall everie Minister give advertisement to his flocke of such thinges as are to be done the nixt Sonday following, and of the causes of the same, with suche exhortation as God shall put into their mouthes, to make the people to embrase the just commandement of the Churche with more glaide myndes.

In Townes we think expedient that the exercise of the doctrine begine upone the Setterday [124] at after noone, immediatly preceading the first Sonday of Abstinence, that the people may be the better prepared religiously to use the observations of the nixt day: But in Landwart we think good that the doctrine begine the Sonday before. The argument of the Sermon and exhortation to be taken from some proper place of the Prophetes [125] -- as of Joel the first, where he sayeth: "Sanctifie a faste, appoynt the assemble," [126] &c. Or of Jonas the thride, where Jonas cryed, "And yet fourtie dayes, and Ninive shalbe distroyed," [127] &c. Or of Jeremie the sevint where that he sayeth, "Heare the worde of the Lord, all Juda, and ye that enter in by these gates," &c. Or of the threttene of Lucas, upone the declaration of them that shewe to our Master the crueltie of Pylate, and upone his answer. [128] Or upone any uther proper place within the Scripture that entreteth of repentance, of publict humiliation, of the causes, and of the frutes of the same.

This ended, as it were for preparation, the beginning shalbe upon Sonday, from the Law of God, because that all that oftendeth God's Majestic proceadeth from the transgression thereof; and therefore, after a shorte prayer, that God will please to make his Holy word to fructific amonges us, this Confession shalbe made.


It is of thy mercy, O Lord, and not of our merites, that it hath pleased thee to showe thy self unto the worlde ever from the beginning, and unto us now in this last and moste corrupt age: yea, Lord, we further confesse, that nether Law nor Evangle can profite us to salvation, except that thow, of thy meare grace, work into use abufe all power that is in this oure nature. For albeit thow teache, we shall remaine ignorant; albeit thow threaten, we shal contempne; [129] and albeit thow promes mercy and grace, yet shall we despaire and remaine in infidelitie; [130] onles that thow creat in us new heartes, write thy Law into the same, [131] and scale in us remission of our sinnes, and that sense and feeling of thy Fatherlie mercy, by the power of thy holie Spirite. To the originall world thou spakest by Noha: [132] To Pharao and his people by thy servand Moyses: [133] To all Israell by the fearefull trumpet of thy Law:[134] To the Cietie of Jerusalem by thy owen Wisdome, our Lord Jesus Christ: [135] And to the multitude, aswel of Jewes as Gentiles, by the preaching of thy holy Apostles. [136] But who gave obedience? Who trembled, and constantlie feared thy hote displeasure? Who did rightly acknowledge the time of their visitation? And who did embrase and kepe to the end thy fatherly promises? Onely they, O Lord, to whome thy Spirite wes the inwarde teacher, whose heartes thow opened, [137] and from whome thow removed rebellion and infidelitie: the rest were externally called, but obeyed not: they heard aswel mercy offered as threatninges pronounsed, but nether with the one nor with the uther were they affectually moved. We acknowledge, O Lord, that the same corruption lurcketh in us, that budded furth in them, to their distruction and just condenmation. And therefore we moste humbly beseak thee, O Father of mercies, for Christ Jesus thy Sones sake, that as thow hast caused the lyght of thy worde clearely to shyne amongs us, and as thow hast plainely instructed us, by the external ministerie, in the ryght way of salvation: So it will please thee inwardly to move our dulle heartes, and by the power of thy Holy Spirite, that thow will write and scale into them that holy fear and reverence which thow cravest of thy chosen childrene, and that faithfull obedience to thy holie will, together with the fealing and sense, that our sinnes are fully purged, and frely remitted, by that only one Sacrifice, whiche onely by it self is acceptable unto thee, to wit, the obedience, death, and mediation of thy onely Sone our soverane Lord, onely Pastor, Mediator, and Hie Preast, our Lord Jesus Christ. To whome with thee, and with the holy Ghoste, be all honour and glore, worlde without end. [Amen.]

This Confession ended, the Minister or Reader shall distinctlie read the 27. and 28. of Deuteronomie: which ended, the Minister shall wishe everie man to descend secretly into him self, to examine his owen conscience, whereinto he findeth him selfe giltie before God. The Minister himself, with the people, shall prostrate themselves, and remaine in private meditation a reasonable space, as the quarter of an houre, or more. Thereafter shal the Minister exhorte the people to confesse with him their sinnes and offences, as followeth:--

Just and ryghteous art thow, O Lord God, Father everlasting; holy is thy Law, and moste just are thy judgementes, yea, even when thow doest punishe in greatest severitie; we do confesse, as the trueth is, that we have transgressed thy whole law, and have offended thy godly Majestie, in breaking and violating everie precept of the same; and so moste justly may thow poure furth upone us all plagues that are threatned, and that we finde powred furth upon the disobedient at any tyme from the beginning.

And so muche the rather, O Lord, because that so long we have bene called by thy Holie word to unfeaned repentance and newnes of lyfe, and yet have we still remaned in our former rebellion: and therefore, if thow wilt enter in judgement with us, we can nether eschape confusion in this lyfe, nor just condempnation in the lyfe to cum. But Lord, thy mercy is without measure, and the treuth of thy promises abydeth for ever. Unworthy are we that thow shuldest looke upon us: but, Lord, thow hast promised that thow wilt show mercy to the moste grievous offenders, whensoever that they repent. And further, thow, by the mouth of thy deare Sone our Lord Jesus Christ, hast promised that thow wilt give thy Holy Spirite to suche as humblie cal unto thee. In boldnes of the whiche promes, we moste humbly beseak thee, O Father of mercies, that it wold please thy godly Majestie to work in our stubburne heartes an unfeaned dolour for our former offences, with some sense and fealing of thy grace and mercy, together with an earnest desyre of justice and righteousnes, in the which we are bound continually to walk. But because that nether we nor our prayers can stand before thee, be reason of that imperfectione which still remaineth in this oure corrupted nature, we fle to the obedience and perfite justice of Jesus Christ, our onely Mediator, in whome, and by whome, we call not onely for remission of our sinnes, and for assistance of thy Holy Spirite, but also for all things that thy godly wisdome knoweth to be expedient for us, and for thy Church universall. Praying as he hath taught us, saying: Our Father that art, &c.


First, he shal expone the dignitie and equitie of Gods Law. [138] Secondly, the plagues and punishmentes that ensew the contempt thereof, together with the blessinges promised to the obedient observers of it. Thridly, he sall teache Christ Jesus to be the end and perfection of the Law, who hath perfitely accomplished that whiche wes impossible to the Law to do. [139] And so shall he exhorte everie man to unfeaned repentance, to steadfast faith in Christ Jesus, and to showe frutes of the same.

The Sermone ended, the commone prayer shalbe used, that is conteaned in the Psalme booke, the 46. page thereof, beginning thus: "God Almyghtie and heavenly Father," &c. [140] Which ended, the 51. Psalme shalbe soung whole; and so with the benediction, the assemblie is to be demitted for that exercise.

At after noune.

Efter invocation of God's name, publictly by the Minister, and secretly by every man [141] for a reasonable space: The Minister may take the argument of his Sermone from the beginning of 119. Psalme, where the deligent reader shall observe the properties and conditions of suche as in whose heartes God writeth his Law. Or if that be thought over hard, then may ye take the text of Johne, "God is lyght, and into him there is no darcknes: if we say we have fellowwshipe with him," &c. [142] The prayer is referred unto the Minister. The 6. Psalme shalbe soung.

The benediction and exhortation, to call to mynde wherefore that exercise is used, being ended, the publict Exercise shalbe put to end for that day.

Albeit, that to Landwart the people cannot well convene everie day betwix the two Sondayes, yet in Broughes and Townes we think they ought to convene an houre before none, and an houre and more at after none. The houre before none to be the houre accustomed to the commone prayers; the houre at after noone to be at 3 houres or after.

The Exercise of the whole Weke.

The beginning ever to be with Confession of our sinnes, and imploring of God's graces. Then certane Psalmcs, and certane Histories to be distinctly red, exhortation to be conceaved thereupon, and prayers lykewise, as God shall instruct and inspyre the Minister or Reader.

Mononday before none.

Psalm, 2. 3. and 10.

Historie, 2. of the Judges.

After none.

Psalm, the 12. 13. and 17.

Historie, the 6. of the Judges.

Teusday before none.

Psalm, the 25. and 28.

Historie, the 7. of the Judges.

After none.

Psalm, the 36. and 40.

Historie, the 4. of the Judges.

Wednesday before none.

Psalm, the 14. and 55.

Historie, the 19. of the Judges.

After none.

Psalm, the 44. and 56.

Historie, the 20 of the Judges.

Thurisday before none.

Psalm, the 49. and 57.

Histurie, Esther the 3. and 4.

After none.

Psalm, the 37.

Historie, Esther the 5. 6. and 7.

Fryday before none.

Psalm, the 59. 61. and 64.

Historie, the 36 of Isai.

After none.

Psalm, the 69.

Historie, the 36. of Isai.

Setterday before none.

Psalm, the 68. and 70.

Historie, the 37. of Isai.

After none.

Psalm, the 74. and 77.

Historie, the 9. and 10. of Esd.

Sonday the last day of this publict exercise, for this tyme, before none shalbe used in all thinges as the former Sonday, except that the 26. of Leviticus may be red for the 28. of Deuteronomie and for the prayer shalbe used that which is to be found in the Psalme book, the 165 page, beginning, "Eternall and everlasting," &c. [143]

Sonday at after none. -- Psalm 78. Historie, the 9. of Daniel.

The exhortation and prayers ended, for the conclusion shalbe distinctly read the 80. Psal., and so with exhortation to every man to considder to what end the whole Exercise tendeth, with benediction the assemblie shalbe demitted. [144]

The Exhortations and Prayers of every severall Exercise, we have remitted to be gathered by the discrete Ministers; for tyme preassed us so, that we coulde not frame them in suche ordour as wes convenient, nether yet thought we it so expedient to pen prayers unto men, as to teache them with what heart and affection, and for what causes we shulde pray in this great calamitie, appearing shortlie to overwhelme this whole Realm, unles God of his great mercy abufe mannes expectation finde the remeady. Before whome it is that we have (and presently do) prostrate our selves, for obteaning of those thinges, without whiche the lyght of his Evaugle cannot long continew with us. And therefore, yet ones againe, we exhorte, and by the power committed unto us by God, charge all that professe the Lord Jesus, and the sinceritie of his Evangle, within this Realme, that even as they love the quyetnes of their commonwealth, the continuance of Christ Jesus his holy Evangle within the same, and their owen salvation, together with the salvation of their posteritie, that unfeanedly they prostrate themselves before the Throne of God's Majestie, and in bitternes of heart pray with us:

Aryse, O Lord, and let thyne ennimmies be confounded. Let them fle from thy presence that hate thy godly name. Let the grones of thy afflicted enter in before thee; and preserve thow by thy owen power, suche as be appoynted to death. Let not thy ennimies thus triumph to the end: but let them understand that against thee they fight. Preserve the wyne [145] which thy ryght hand hath planted. Oppone thy power to the power of that Romaine Antichrist, and let the glorie of thyne annoynted Jesus Christ our Lord shyne before all nations. So be it. Hasten, Lord, and tary not. [146]


[1] In the edition 1574, the time appointed for the Fast, was "The second Sonday of May, and the third nixt following."

[2] "The Sunday immediatelie before the said second Sunday of May." (Edit. 1574.)

[3] In edit. 1574, "wyfe to Eleana." -- 1 Sam. 1.

[4] Math. 6.

[5] 1 Cor. 7.

[6] Causes that ought to move men to publict Fasting.

[7] 2 Paral. i. 20.

[8] The prayer of Josaphat.

[9] The ceremonie of publicte Fasting.

[10] The promeis made to the temple of Jerusalem is now to be soght in Christe Jesus. Hebr. 7.

[11] In edit. 1574, "to lyft up oure handes;" 1 Timo. 2.

[12] Josua, 7.

[13] Judj. 20.

[14] Let his complaint be noted.

[15] Everie commandement of God to do any thing hes the secrete promes of his assistance.

[16] In edit. 1574, "dealt sa fremmedlie."

[17] What shall becume of the hardnes of our heartes in these dayes. -- (Marginal notes.)

[18] 1 Reg. 11.

[19] 1 Esdr. 9.

[20] O! that Scotland wolde follow this obedience.

[21] Ester. 4; Daniel 9; Actes 13.

[22] So intend the Papistes this day. -- (Marginal notes.)

[23] Ester. 4.

[24] Daniel 9.

[25] Deut. 30; Jerem. 31.

[26] Actes 11.

[27] Act 13.

[28] The frutes of trew Fasting, and unfeaned invocation of God.

[29] Let so thy ennimies perishe, O Lord.

[30] Unfeaned humiliation temporally profiteth the verray reprobat. -- (Marginal notes.)

[31] Causes that now move us to faste, that moved us not befor.

[32] Let the faithful call to mynde.

[33] God grant that men may yet consider. -- (Marginal notes.)

[34] The suppressing of Christes holy Evangle wes decried [decreed] in the last Counsall of Trent.

[35] The Counsall of Trent.

[36] In later edits., Ferrare, or Ferrara.

[37] The mercie of the Fathers of Trent.

[38] The wordes of the Counsall of Trent.

[39] These are the successoures of the Apostles.

[40] No man nedeth dout of the liberalitie of those Fathers, so that Christ Jesus may be crucified, and his Evangle exiled.

[41] Let Scotland advert. -- (Marginal notes.)

[42] Isa. 36 and 37.

[43] Isay. 37.

[44] What weapons we shall use against the crueltie of the Papistes. -- (Marginal note.)

[45] Only Anno 1564 in edit. 1574.

[46] So in edit. 1574.

[47] Ezech. 10.

[48] O that we shuld heare before God plagues more. -- (Marginal note.)

[49] That is men without God. -- (Marginal note.)

[50] Isay 56.

[51] Isay 22.

[52] Isay 5, 6, 9.

[53] Isay 20.

[54] Jerem. 13.

[55] Jerem. 13.

[56] Jer. 16 & 17.

[57] Ezec. 21.

[58] Levit. 26.

[59] If we will not perishe with the worlde, we must be unlike unto it.

[60] Gen. 6 & 19.

[61] The promes of Gods mercy and deliverance is not bounde to the multitude.

[62] Math. 18.

[63] Joel. 2.

[64] Exod. 23.

[65] Ezech. 33.

[66] The power that the Church hath to command publict Fasting.

[67] Levit. 28. -- (Marginal notes.)

[68] Malach. 3.

[69] Gen. 7; Gen. 19.

[70] Exod. 8, 9, 10, & 14.

[71] Isay 22; Jere. 2, 5, 6.

[72] Let Scotland yet be forewairned.

[73] The opinion of Papistical Fasting. (Marginal notes.)

[74] Heb. 9. 10.

[75] Rom. 14.

[76] Fasting by itself is but a dead and unprotitable ceremonie.

[77] Joel. 2.

[78] Let tbe Papistes considder.

[79] Trew humiliation dependeth upone mercy, and not upone workes. -- (Marginal notes.)

[80] Luc. 18.

[81] Daniel 9.

[82] Deut. 32.

[83] Esay. 64.

[84] The Papisticall Fasting vaine and blasphemus.

[85] Infidelitie maketh all the workes of the reprobate odious before God. -- (Marginal notes.)

[86] In edit. 1596, " closes;" in edit. 1611, and others, "stoppis."

[87] Pro. 21.

[88] Isay 1.

[89] Isay 58.

[90] O that Scotland shuld understand and follow. -- (Marginal note.)

[91] Deut. 3; 2 Reg. 8.

[92] Let everie man examine his owen conscience.

[93] Psal. 34.

[94] 1 Pet. 3.

[95] The workes that may make oure Fasting odious.

[96] Christiane justice craveth more than Civile Lawes. -- (Marginal notes.)

[97] Consulte with the 22d Chapter of the Prophet Ezechiell.

[98] Jere. 7.

[99] 2 Paral. 26

[100] 2 Reg. 25.

[101] Paral. 36.

[102] Matth. 7.

[103] Matth. 25.

[104] Ioan. 15.

[105] Isay 30.

[106] Gene. 12.

[107] Exod. 2.

[108] 1 Samu. 16.

[109] Luc. 19.

[110] Act. 2.

[111] Ephe. 4.

[112] 1 Thes. 4.

[113] Coloss. 3.

[114] Matth. 21 & 25. Everie tre that bringeth not furth good frute, shalbe cutte down and cast in the fyre. -- (Marginal note.)

[115] In the edit. 1574, changed to "the second and thrid Sonday of Maij instant."

[116] The reason of the tyme.

[117] The reason of the Sondayes.

[118] The Abstinence.

[119] No gammes may be used upone the dayes of Abstinence.

[120] Gorgious apparel is to be left. -- (Marginal notes.)

[121] The seicke and weake are not bound to this exercyse.

[122] What houres before none and what after none.

[123] In edit. 1574, "the Sonday preceding the secund Sonday of Maij."

[124] In townes the doctrine shall begine upone the Setterday.

[125] Places proper for the first Sermon of Fasting. -- (Marginal notes.)

[126] Joel. 1.

[127] Jonas 3.

[128] Luc. 13.

[129] Heb. 8.

[130] Psal. 51.

[131] Jere. 31.

[132] Gene. 6.

[133] Exod. 2. 3. 4.

[134] Exod. 20.

[135] Mat. 20. and Joan 12.

[136] Acts 3. 4. 14 and 16.

[137] Joan. 6.

[138] The heades of the first Sermone.

[139] Rom. 3.

[140] See it supra, p. 304.

[141] In later editions, "every man and woman."

[142] 1 Joan 1.

[143] See it supra, p. 296.

[144] In later editions, "dimitted."

[145] Wyne, vine.

[146] The original edition of 1566, contains the following letter, addressed to the Ministers of Scotland, in reference to their hardships in obtaining payment of their stipends; and also Knox's address "To the Faithful Reader," both of which are omitted in the subsequent editions of "The Order of the General Fast." This Order continued to be observed in all the Fasts appointed by the General Assembly: the special Causes being sometimes expressed in the proclamation.

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