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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 fcattered abroad, chap. i. 1. And this is the very language of the Old Teftament in that cafe, the fame manner of expression in which their prophets called them to it; Lev. xxiii. 27. On the tenth day of this feventh month, there shall be a day of atonement, and ye shall afflict your fouls to wit, with fafting, Ifa. lviii. 5. Is it fuch a faft as I have chofen? a day for a man to afflict his foul? Or, more agreeable to the original, Shall a faft I will chufe, a day of mens afflicting their foul be like this? Joel ii. 12. Turn ye even to me-with fafting, and with weeping and with mourning. And the mourning required in thefe 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 fafting and humiliation.
It is alfo required indirectly in the word, which fuppofeth it to be a duty the faints will practise; inafmuch as divine directions are given anent it. Now it is inconfiftent with the holinefs of God, to give directions for regulating of will-worship, which he doth fimply condemn, Matth. xv. 9. Col. ii. 23. Jer. vii. 31. But our Saviour gives directions about perfonal fafting: Matth. vi. 16. When ye faft, be not as the hypocrites, of a fad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to faft. Verily I fay unto you, they have their reward. Ver. 17. But thou when thou fafteft, anoint thine head, and wash thy face: ver. 18. That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in fecret: and thy Father which feeth in fecret, fhall reward thee openly. And it is evident, that thefe directions do concern fecret and perfonal fasting: for, befides that the text speaks exprefly of that which is done. Y A
in fecret, and therefore is to be kept fecret, contrary to the practice of the hypocritical Pharifees, who made it their business to propale their fecret devotions, the outward figns of fafting are commended in the cafe of public fafts, Exod. xxxiii. 4. Jonah iii. 8. Joel ii. 15, 19, 17. In like manner the Apoftle Paul gives a direction about this duty, 1 Cor. vii. 5. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with confent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fafting and prayer; where the confent mentioned as neceffary, determines the fafting to be perfonal; forafinuch as, in the cafe of public fafts, that matter is predetermined by a fuperior authority; and in the cafe of family fafts, it follows of course on the ap pointment of fuch a fast.
2. It is promised that the faints fhall perform this duty: Zech. xii. 10. I will pour upon the houfe of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerufalem, the fpirit of grace and of fupplication. Ver. 12. And the land fball mourn, 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 other duties of holy obedience are. Accordingly our Lord promifed it, in the cafe of his difciples in particular, Matth. ix. 15. The days will come when the bridegroom fhall be taken from them, and then shall they faft to wit, perfonally: for it was not the neglect of the public faft appointed and ftated in the law, Lev. xxiii. 27,32. that they were taxed for; but the neglect of personal fasting, used by the difciples of John, upon the occafion of their master, the friend of the bridegroom, his being taken from them; and alfo by the Pharifees, out of their fuperftitious and vain-glorious difpofition, Matth. ix. 14. with Luke xviii. 12.
3. It is recommended unto us by the practice of the faints mentioned in fcripture. It was, as we have already feen, practifed by David, a man according to God's
God's 's own heart, 2 Sam. xii. 16. Pfal. xxxv. 13.; by Daniel, a man greatly beloved, Dán. ix. 3. and x. 2, 3.; and by the devout centurion, Acts x. 30. It was a frequent exercife of Paul the laborious apostle of the Gentiles, 2 Cor. xi. 27. Thefe all had the feal of God's good pleafure with their work fet 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. Laftly, That occafional religious fafting and hu miliation is a duty required in the word of God, and to be performed by focieties in public capacity, will not, I prefume, be queftioned. Now, upon that ground, the duty of perfonal fafting and humiliation may be thus evinced.
ft, There is nothing in the nature of religious fafting and humiliation, that of itself is public, or neceffarily requiring a plurality of perfons to join therein. The preaching of the word, and celebration of the facrament, do, in their own nature, require fociety; and therefore are not to be used by a fingle perfon alone in his clofet. But it is not fo in this cafe. One may keep a faft alone, as well as he may pray, read the fcriptures, and fing pfalms alone. Now, what ever ordinance God hath appointed, and hath not tied to focieties or affemblies, nor to any certain fet of men, they are the duty of every 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 cafe of particular perfons, namely, that extraordinary duties, are called for on extraordinary emergents and occafions. If then a church or congregation is called to fafting and humiliation, on fuch occafions in their cafe; is not a particular perfon called to the fame, on fuch occafions in his cafe? If abounding fin or judgment threatened
ened or inflicted on a land, require folemn public fasting and humiliation; do not the fame things, in the cafe of a particular person, call for personal fasting and humiliation? Surely every one ought to keep his own vineyard, with the fame diligence the public vineyard is to be kept: if one does not fo, it will be bitterness in the end, Cant. i. 6.
3dly, Extraordinary duties to be performed by a whole nation, church or congregation, cannot be foon overtaken; because all great bodies are flow intheir motions: and fometimes the season may be over, 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 perfons, difcerning the call of providence, do in such cases? Must they fit ftill, and not answer the call as they may, because they cannot answer it as they would? Should they not rather keep perfonal and family fasts, for these causes, for which others either cannot or will not keep public fafts; as in the cafe of God's pleading with the land of Egypt, He that feared the word of the Lord, amongst the fervants of Pharaoh, made his fervants and his cattle flee into the houses, Exod. ix. 20. When the Jews are difperfed, fome of them in one country fome in another, how fhall the land mourn? Must they wait until they be gathered together? no: but the land fhall mourn, families apart, and particular perfons apart: even as when our neighbour's houfe 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 flames.
And thus much fhall fuffice to have spoken of the divine warrant for this extraordinary duty.
Of a providential Call to perfonal Fafting and Humili
HE cafe of the church, the case of a neighbour, and one's own private cafe, may, each of them feparately, and much more all of them conjunctly, found a providential call to personal fafting and humiliation. The prophet Daniel kept a perfonal 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 fhould reckon her intereft theirs : and as fecret perfonal fafting for public causes, argues a truly public fpirit; fo it is highly commendable, and being rightly managed, is very acceptable in the fight 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. Confidered 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 fecret fafting on his account is a good evidence, is more than all whole burnt offerings and facrifices, 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 bofom, according to the Pfalmift's experience, Pfalm 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 furely, if profeffors of religion were more exercised about their