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Self-punishment, as a very useful and beneficial Fruit of true Repentance. For bebold, your forrowing after a godly Sort, what Carefulness it wrought in you ; yea, what Zeal; yea, what Revenge". But especially, if we have been seduced into unlawful Pleasures of Sense, or even are in Danger of it only, Fasting is peculiarly medicinal : withdraws the Fewel from irregular Defires; proves to us by Experience, and strengthens by Use, our Ability of bridling our natural Appetities; and fo prevents our undoing ourselves, by trusting vainly to the Plea of human Infirmity, as an Excuse for deliberate Transgression, or supine -Negligence. Exercises of moderate Hardship add a Vigour to the Mind : and were on that Account recommended even by heathen Moralists °, as teaching Contempt of low Gratifications, and of the Wealth that ministers to them ; of the Blandishments of Luxury, and the false Elegance of effeminate Politeness. But far stronger Inducements have we Chriftians to take the most effectual Methods for exalting our Souls above these Things: as we know, to a much higher Degree of Certainty, that the carnal Mind is Enmity against A 2. Cor. vii. 11. . Arr. Epid. 1. 3. C. 12. and c. 14.
Godi that they, who live in Pleasure, are dead whilst they live"; and that by detaching our Affections properly from Things on Earth, we shall attain the Blessedness of Hea
Nor will Fasting contribute only to mortify our Fondness for sensual Indulgences; but also to abate the Impetuosity of vehement Spirits; and that Pride of Heart, which the Prophet Ezekiel, in the Case of Sodom and Jerusalem, connects with Fulness of Bread'. We often find the same Persons, when
pampered into luxuriant Health, overbearing, impatient of Contradiction, outrageous in Anger, who, when voluntary or necessary Abstinence hath reduced them to a calmer State of Mind, are considerate, reasonable, and humane. But particularly it inspires Humanity and Comparfion to the Poor. For it gives us Experience, from Time to Time, of what they are often forced to feel : and not only reminds all Persons, but better enables those of middling Circumstances, by lessening now and then their Expences on themselves, to relieve the Wants of their indigent Brethren: for which Rea
P Rom. viii. 7. • Ezek. xvi. 49.
ai Tim. v. 6.
* Col. iii. 1. &c.
son the Prophet Isaiah supposes it attended by doing every Act of Equity and Mercy, but especially giving of Alms; and introduces God himself saying: Is not this the Fast, that I have chosen ? to loose the Bands of Wickedness, to undo the heavy Burthens, to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every roke? Is it not to deal thy Bread to the hungry; and that thou bring the Poor, that are cast out, to thy House ; when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own Flesh'?
These are some of the spiritual Benefits, for I omit to mention the corporeal ones, though very considerable, which recommend Fasting. And surely they are at least sufficient to keep every Pretender to Seriousness from deriding it, or thinking meanly of such as practise it. Though any one may judge, or find, it ever so useless to himself; yet he cannot well know what it may be to others. And therefore, the Rule of Scripture is in this Sense perfectly just : Let not him, that eateth, despise him, that eateth not u. If he doth, his Contempt may
* If. lviii. 6, 7. Hence Hermas directs, lib. 3.
that the Money saved by Fafting be given to the Poor. u Rom. xiv. 3.
light on Characters of the highest Eminence in Wisdom and Goodness; as it happened in the Case of the Royal Psalmist : The Reproaches of them, that reproached thee, are fallen upon me. I wept, and chastened my Soul with Fasting ; and that was turned to my
But as we ought, by all the Prudence we can, to spare others the Guilt, and ourselves the Uneasiness and Provocation, of such unkind Treatment: so we should be yet more careful not to deserve it in any Degree : and should therefore take diligent Notice, that the Text contains,
II. A Caution against using this. Practice amiss. Our Saviour indeed prohibits expressly no other Abuses, than such as Hypocrites committed : and mentions, of those, only one in particular. But as he certainly meant that, merely for a Specimen of many; and designed,
, that all should be avoided; it will be useful to fet before you others also, most of which are condemned expressly fomewhere in the Word of God: and all implicitly here. Fasting is a Duty, not for its own Sake : * Pf. lxix.
for neither Meat, nor abstaining from Meat; commendetb us to Gody : but for the Sake of its good Effects. Proportionably therefore, as in any Perfon's Cafe it is found, on impartial and full Trial, to fail of those Effects, or to produce bad ones, which outweigh or equal them, it ceases to be a Duty; any farther than the Obligation of setting no hurtful Example, and giving no Offence, may justly demand Regard. And as the Cafes of different Persons differ extremely, it is either wicked Tyranny, or pitiable Unskilfulness, to enjoin, as the Church of Rome doth, all Persons to abstain, so often, and for so long together, from eating Flesh; and all Persons of such an Age, and such a State of Life and Health, to eat only once in a Day, or little more, of what they are suffered to eat. Prefcribing fuch Rules, as these, to the whole World, must bring Hardships and Distresses on Millions of Persons, especially the Poor, from which they can receive no Good, but may fuffer much Harm. It will give them wrong Notions of Religion, as consisting principally in outward Observances; and multiply grieva Ti Cor. viii. 8.