« AnteriorContinuar »
unto whom they were originally directed : to wit, that it is fasting and humiliation that was intended by them. For this epistle was written to those who were Jews by nation, the twelve tribes scattered abroad, chap. i. 1.
And this is the very language of the Old Testament in that cafe, the same manner of expression in which their prophets called them to it; Lev. xxiii. 27. On the tenth day of this seventh month, there Mall be a day of atonement, and ye shall afflict your souls: to wit, with fasting, Ifa. Iviii. 5. Is it such a fast as I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? Or, more agreeable to the original, Shall a fast I will chufe, a day of mens afflicting their soul be like this ? Joel ii. 12. Turn ye even to me-with fafting, and with weeping and with mourning. And the mourning required in these texts differs from the weeping, as the habit and gestures of mourners differ from their tears, Gen. xxxvii. 34. Ecclef. iii. 4. directly pointing unto the duty of fasting and humiliation.
It is also required indirectly in the word, which supposeth it to be a duty the saints will practise; inasmuch as divine directions are given anent it. Now it is inconsistent with the holiness of God, to give directions for regulating of will-worship, which he doth simply condemn, Matth. xv. 9. Col. ii. 23. Jer. vii. 31. But our Saviour gives directions about personal fasting: Matth. vi. 16. When ye fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a fad countenance : for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. Ver. 17. But thou when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face : ver. 18. That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret : and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. And it is evident, that these directions do concern secret and personal fasting : for, besides that the text speaks expresy of that which is done,
in secret, and therefore is to be kept secret, contrary to the practice of the hypocritical Pharisees, who made it their business 10 propale their secret de. votions, the outward signs of fasting are commend ed in the case of public fasts, Exod. xxxiii. 4. Jonah iii. 8. Joel i. 15, 19, 17. In like manner the ApoAtle Paul gives a direction about this duty, 1 Cor. vii. 5. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; where the consent mentioned as necessary, determines the fasting to be personal; forasinuch as, in the case of public fasts, that matter is predetermined by a superior authority; and in the case of family fasts, it follows of course on the ap: pointment of such a faft.
2. It is promised that the faints shall perform this duty: Zech. xii. 10. I will pour upon the house of Da. vid, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication. Ver. 12. And the land sball maurn, every family apart,--and their wives apart. Thus, in virtue of the grace of the covenant, this duty is made the matter of a promise, even as o. ther duties of holy obedience are. Accordingly our Lord promised it, in the case of his disciples in par. ticular, Matth. ix. 15. The days will comé when the bridegroom Mall be taken from them, and then shall they fast: to wit, personally : for it was not the neglect of the public fast appointed and ftated in the law, Lev. xxiii. 27,32. that they were taxed for; but the neglect of personal fafting, used by the disci ples of John, upon the occasion of their master, the friend of the bridegroom, his being taken from them; and also by the Pharisees, out of their superstitious and vain-glorious disposition, Matth. ix. 14. with Luke xviii. 12.
3. It is recommended unto us by the practice of the saints mentioned in fcripture. It was, as we have already seen, practised by David, a man according to
God's own heart, 2 Sam. xii. 16. Psal. xxxv. 13.; by Daniel, a man greatly beloved, Dan. ix. 3. and x. 2, 3. ; and by the devout centurion, Acts x. 30. It was à frequent exercise of Paul the laborious apostle of the Gentiles, 2 Cor. xi. 27. These all had the seal of God's good pleafure with their work set upon it, in the communion with God allowed them therein. And it is our duty to go forth by the footsteps of the flock, following their approved example.
4. Lastly, That occasional religious fafting and humiliation is a duty required in the word of God, and to be performed by societies in public capacity, will not, I presume, be questioned. Now, upon that ground, the duty of personal fasting and humiliation may be thus evinced.
ift, There is nothing in the nature of religious fasting and humiliation, that of itself is public, or necessarily requiring a plurality of persons to join therein. The preaching of the word, and celebra. tion of the facrament, do, in their own nature, require society; and therefore are not to be used by a Tingle person alone in his closet. But it is not so in this case. One máy keep a fast alone, as well as he may pray, read the scriptures, and sing psalms alone. Now, what ever ordinance God hath appointed, and hath not tied to societies or assemblies, nor to any certain set of men, they are the duty of evcry one in particular, who is capable to perform them.
2dly, The ground upon which the duty of fasting and humiliation is bound on focieties, in a public capacity, takes place in the case of particular persons, namely, that extraordinary duties, are called for on extraordinary emergents and occasions. If then a church or congregation is called to fasting and humiliation, on such occasions in their cafe; is not a particular person called to the same, on such occasions in his case ? If abounding sin or judgment threat ened or inflicted on a land, require folemn public fasting and humiliation; do not the same things, in the case of a particular person, call for personal fasting and humiliation? Surely every one ought to keep his own vineyard, with the same diligence the public vineyard is to be kept: if one does not so, it will be bitterness in the end, Cant. i. 6.
3dly, Extraordinary duties to be performed by e whole nation, church or congregation, cannot be foon overtaken; because all great bodies are now intheir motions: and sometimes the season may be o. ver, ere they can move thereto in a public capacity: yea, and oft times God is calling aloud, by his providence, for national and congregational fasting and humiliation, when the call is not heeded by them, on whom it is incumbent to appoint them. Now, what should particular persons, discerning the call of providence, do in such cafes ? Must they fit still, and not answer the call as they may, because they cannot answer it as they would? Should they not rather keep personal and family fasts, for these causes, for which others either cannot or will not keep public fasts; as in the case of God's pleading with the land of Egypt, He that feared the word of the Lord, amongst the servants of Pharaoh, made his fervants and his cattle flee into the houses, Exod. ix. 20. When the Jews are dispersed, some of them in one country some in another, how shall the land mourn? Must they wait until they be gathered together? no: but the land shall mourn, families apart, and particular persons apart: even as when our neighbour's house is on fire, we do not tarry until the whole town or neighbourhood be gathered; but immediately fall to work ourselves, to do what lies in our power for quenching the Aames.
And thus much shall suffice to have spoken of the divine warrant for this extraordinary duty.
Of a providential Call to perfonal Fasting and Humili
HE case of the church, the case of a neighbour,
and one's own private cafe, may, each of them separately, and much more all of them conjunctly, found a providential call to personal fasting and hu. miliation. The prophet Daniel kept a personal faft on the church's account, Dan. ix. 2, 3. David, on his neighbour's account, Pfal. xxxv. 13. and on his own, 2. Sam. xii. 16.
Zion's children should reckon her interest theirs : and as secret personal fasting for public causes, ar. gues a truly public spirit; so it is highly commend. able, and being rightly managed, is very acceptable in the sight of God, Dan. ix. 20. 21.
The communion of faints is an article of our creed, and a thing most beneficial in the practice thereof. Considered only in these two parts of it, namely, a communion of burdens, Gal. vi. 2. and a communion of prayers, James v. 16, it is one of the best cordials the travellers towards Zion have by the way. For one to love his neighbour as himself, whereof secret fafting on his account is a good evidence, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices, Mark xii. 33. And whether it do good to his neighbour, or not, it will not fail, if rightly managed, to return with a plentiful reward into his own bosom, according to the Pfalmist's experience, Psalm XXXV, 13.
Howbeit it is hardly to be expected, that one will be brought to the practice of this duty on the account of others, till once he has been engaged therein upon his own account. But surely, if professors of religion were more exercised about their