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For God will save Sion, and build the Cities of Judah.The Posterity also of his Servants shall inherit it ; and they, that love bis Name, shall dwell therein 2. Their Children shall continue, and their Seed be established before bima.

z Pr. Ixix. 36, 37.

a Pf. cii. 28.

SERMON

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TH

Moreover, when ye fast, be not as the Hya

pocrites. HE Practice of Fasting from a Principle

of Religion has been thought of by different Persons in so very different a Manner; some placing it amongst the highest Duties, whilst others account it mere Superstition: and a great Part of those, who observe it the most rigidly, are so little improved by it in true Goodness: that, I hope, discoursing on this Subject may be useful in general, as well as particularly seasonable at present, to direct your Judgement and Behaviour in Relation to it. And therefore, I have chosen to treat of it from Words of the greatest Authority ; those of our blessed Saviour: which contain, Vol. V.

U

I. A

I. A Suppofition, that religious Fasting

would be used amongst his Fol

lowers: When ye fast. II. A Caution against using it amiss :

Be not as the Hypocrites. I. A Suppofition, that religious Fasting would be used amongst his Followers : which indeed he must suppose of Course, unless he forbad it; because the Custom had very long been, and was then, universal in the World. Not only the People of the great City and Empire of Nineveh, as we read in Scripture, but the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, almost all Nations, of whose Religion we have any particular Accounts, appear to have been led, either by Nature or antient Tradition, to abftain from their Food, on certain Occasions, as an Exercise of Piety. The Jewish Law could not be the Original of an Observance, that had spread so wide : especially, as that Law appoints but one single Day in the whole Year to be kept as a public Fast, and gives no Orders for private Fasting at all. Yet we find, from the early Times of their Commonwealth downwards, many other public Fafts observed by them, as Exigencies required : we find the Prophets approving and enjoining

them,

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them, and directing how they are to be so-
lemnized : we find the most exemplary in
Goodness amongst them taking this Way of
humbling themselves before God in Secret, not
only on personal and domestic, but national
Accounts, and graciously accepted in so do-
ing.

The same Usage continued to our Saviour's
Days. For we read in St. Luke', of Annd
the Prophetess; that she served God with Fast-
ings and Prayers Night and Day. Indeed by
this Time, over and above several yearly Fasts,
appointed by Authority b, the stricter Sort ob-
ferved two every Week voluntarily'; And not
only the Pharisees, but John's Disciples also;
fafted often . Nor doth our blessed Lord con-
demn any part of these Things : but, leaving
the Frequency of Fasting to public and pri-
vate Prudence; regulates only the Manner of
it ; and, by fo doing, plainly treats it as a
Practice, intended for perpetual Use. It is
true, he doth not, in so many Words, 2012-
mand his Disciples to fast: he only faith, When
ye faft. But so he had said just before, when
thou . döst thine Alms, when thou prayejt f.

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37 ¿Matth. ix. 14.

a Luke ii.

376

$ Zach. viii. 19.

e Verse 2 U 2

Luke xviii. 12.
f Verre 6.

Yet

Yet these are certainly Duties of Christianity. And had he not designed, that Fasting should be considered in some Degree as a Duty also; he would never have promised a Reward to the right Performance of it, as he doth in the next Verse, but one, after the Text. And besides, he not only fasted himself, in a Manner quite beyond our Imitation, but declared, that though then his Disciples did not fast, yet

after he was taken from them, they should : which they verified accordingly. Cornelius indeed was not yet a Christian, when he fasted to the ninth Hour h : but that was amongst the Means of his becoming one.

We read in the following Chapters of the Axts, that Congregations, under the Guidance of Prophets and Apostles, fafted on more Occasions than one i. St. Paul enjoins private Persons to give themselves at Times to Fasting and Prayer k. The whole Christian Church, from the Beginning, hath both esteemed and practised it not a little : and to this Day both the Ecclesiastical and Civil Powers continue to prescribe it.

If then we have any Regard to the Example and Experience of good Persons, to

+ Acts x. 30.

& Matth. ix, 15. 1 Cor. vii. 5.

Acts xiii. 2, 3. xiv. 23.

k

the

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