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The first is fasting in the strictest propriety of the word; when for a whole day, or much the greatest part of it, we reject all use of meats, and drink, and pleasures, retiring from the world, and confining our selves to religious meditation, and to devout and fervent prayer, with a due attendance on the worship of God in public, if we can have the opportunity. In this strict manner should be kept those general and folemn falts, appointed by authority for national humiliation and repentance; attending at Church both parts of the day, to lament before God our own and the nation's sins, and to implore those public bleflings, which we are called to pray for at that time; spending the relt of the day in the like pious offices at home, and eating nothing (if our constitutions will bear it) till the evening. This sort of fafting also, may in some cases, by a parity of reason, be proper and requisite for private persons, when their consciences being burdened with remorse for some particular and grievous fin, or with a deep sense of all their fins in general, they desire to perform a special act of repentance, and self-revenge, and to make their
peace with God thereupon. Or, when they lie under any great affliction, and would sollicit more earneitly the removal of it; or fear any great impending evil, and would avert it, or are desirous of any blessing from heaven, of very great consequence to them, and would exert their utmost fervour and devotion in praying for it. But if (as in some conftitutions it may so happen) this strict and total fafting may prove an hindrance to their devotion, prudence join'd with piety must direct them what to do ; for after all, fasting is in this case (I mean, when intended as an help to prayer) no more than a ministerial or affifting duty; and if it hinder, instead of helping, is no duty at all.
The second sort of fafting is a course of abstinence continued for several days together, wherein we confinc our appetites not within the bounds of temperance only (for this is always a duty,) but of selfdenial and mortification, to a very sparing use of meats and drink, as to the quantity; and a choice of the plainest, coursejt, and least agreeable forts of them, as to the quality; with a general disregard of pleasure and diverfions the whole time, or at least a very tender and cautious admittance of them, and an industrious care to fit as loose to them as possible. It is not requisite here (as it is in fafting properly so called) to spend all our time in acts of religion and devotion, though it may be fit to inter perse it with more frequent returns of prayer than ordinary, according to our spiritual occasions; but we ought always to accompany this sort of fasting, as well as the other, with a particular disposition to penitence and piety, a strict watchfulness over our appetites and passions; and a constant diligence in observing our own weakness, and a studiousness of all
proper ways and means to get the mastery over them. * Now that such an abstinence as this, so regulated and so attended, may not improperly bear the name of fafting, is plain; both, because in the language of holy Scripture, it is fometimes callid so for so must all those places be understood, that speak of fasting several days together; except in the case of Moses, Elijah, and Christ, who were fupported by special miracle :) And because it really answers some of the great ends of fafting as much, and some others of them more effeétually, than all the strictness that can be on one single day. It may serve to compose the mind to prayer, and to excite devotion in those, who cannot bear a strict and total fast, but would be hindred by it. It tends to humiliation, repentance, and reformation of life, as it tends to mortification. And indeed, this last is
the peculiar use of it. For mortification is not to be the work of now and then a day, but requires long abstinence, and repeated restraints to effect it, as it should be. The Church therefore has set apart the forty days of Lent, as an annual returning season for it; and were this season duly so imploy’d, it would be found by experience, to contribute very much, by the grace and blessing of God, to the reducing our sensual lusts, and bringing our bodily appetites under government, to the
drawing of our affections from this world, the mortifying us to fecular and vain pleasures, and the making us more serious and devout in our religion. Having thus considered the measures of fafting, as applicable and proper to the several ends and uses of it, I shall only add farther on this head, that no certain measures of it can be universally laid down, as obligatory to all: Every person, who is so well disposed, as to practise it in any measure, must be left to regulate the particular manner and frequency of it, as age and strength, and constitution, are able to bear. For tho' we are required to mortify the deeds of the body, our religion does not put such hardships upon us, as may dcitroy the body it felf.
I have said nothing here, except in the paraphrase at the beginning of that ostentation in this duty of fasting, which our Saviour particularly cautions us against. And I think I need not; that crime being altogether the same in its nature, in this, as in the two former articles of alms and prayer; and having spoken of it there, I should but repeat the same again, if I consider it afresh under this head of fasting. The paraphrase therefore shall suffice for that; and I will proceed to the next part of this excellent sermon on the Mount.
CH A P.
Of not laying up treasures upon earth ,
but of laying them up in heaven, and of trust in God's providence.
MATTH. VI. 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26,
127, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33. Lay not up for your selves treasures upon earth,
where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where
thieves break through and steal. But lay up for your selves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your
heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore
thine eye be single, thy whole body Mall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body fall 'be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness?
No man can serve two masters; for either he
will hate the one, and love the other ;' or else'he will hold to the one, and despise the
other. Te cannot serve God and mammón. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for
your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye Mall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on : is not the life more than meat, and
the body than raiment ? Behold the fowls of the air : for they sow
not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns ; yet your heavenly Father feedeth
them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one
cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment ? .Confi
der the lillies of the field, how they grow ;
they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon
in all his glory was not arrayed like one of
these. Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the
field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven ; shall be not much more
clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall
we eat? or what shall we drink? or where
withal mall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek;
for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be
added unto you.