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6 thor of it: that his malicious subtlety may not 66 be suffered to draw us into wickedness, nor “ his malicious power be allowed to hurt us “ here, or to triumph in our damnation and “misery hereafter. All this we beg, moft graci“ous Lord, as acknowledging that thine is the “ kingdom ; thou only haft right to the ado6 ration and service of all thy creatures ; thine " is the power, thou over-ruleft all things both « in heaven and earth, and canít do abundantly 16 above whatever we can ask or think ; and “ thine is the glory, the praise of all good things
we have enjoy'd already, or do now enjoy : “ The glory of thy grace in our redemption, and as in the conduct of thy faithful servants hither“ to by thy word and spirit, is exceeding, great ; “ the glory of thy providence is magnified in all “ events from the beginning of time, and may " the glory of both be given thee in the most “ thankful' praises and hallelujahs to all eternity. 6 Amen.
MATTH. vi. 16, 17, 18.
crites, of a sad countenance : for they dis-
have their reward. But thoù, when thou fasteth, anoint thine
head, and wash thy face : That thou appear not unto men to fast, but
unto thy Father which is in secret : and thy Father which seeth in secret, fhall reward thee openly.
HE last of the three great religious du
tiess in the performance of which our
Lord cautions us against oftentation, or
cations, ye pretend to improve devotion, or dif“ cipline your selves to virtue, beware that these “ excellent purposes be not corrupted by a mixture
“ of vain-glory, which will turn the whole into a " scene of grois hypocrisy. Shew not your felves “ abroad, at such a time, with any affected gloomi- . “ ness or dejection in your looks, or any formal “ fingularities in your air, or gate, or dress, to “ draw the neighbourhood into an opinion of your “ extraordinary fanctity, and severe and mortified “ lives. For if ye thus affect the praise of men, " those empty praises are all the reward ye are u like to meet with. God fees through, and de“ spises, and abhors these little arts of ostentation, “ however men may be deceived by them, and will u condemn you at the last as hypocrites. Let your
fafting therefore be, as it ought to be, a pure S and simple act of religion ; and as such, make it
as private in the performance as ye can; appear
outwardly as at other times, with the fame cafi“ ness and freedom in your mein and countenance, “ the fame decency and neatness in your dress; that
men may not be able to distinguish when ye fast, " and when ye do not.
do not. 'Tis enough, that God u observes you: Humble
your felves in secret be“ fore him only, and he will publickly reward you “ for it, before men and angels, at the great day “ of recompence.
Now voluntary fasting, tho' not directly commanded in this place, yet from what our Saviour here says about it, may be supposed to be a christian duty. I thall therefore consider,
I. The duty of fasting in general, as a duty l'e
quired under the christian dispensation. II. The ends and usefulness of faiting. III. The proper measures of this duty.
I. Let us consider the duty of fafting, as a christian duty. It may be said, that however our Lord was pleased to excuse his Disciples from faft
CHAP. XVIII. ing, whilst he was with them upon earth, yet he assures those of * John the Baptist, and that in the hearing of his own Disciples, that there should come a time when they should fast, and that not only for want of necessary supplies to satisfy their hunger and thirst, which was their case very often; and which some interpreters would have to be the meaning of our Saviour's answer there, but by voluntary and religious fafting, which certainly is the more proper sense of the words: For doubtless the question was proposed concerning such fasting as the disciples of John and the Pharisees observed, either voluntarily of themselves, or by direction and institution of their several sects ; but they knew very well, that the Disciples of Christ did not observe fafts, so that if he thought fit to answer their question appositely, when he said, that they should fast, he must mean, religious fafting, and so, no doubt, his Disciples understood him: For after his ascension into heaven, when the Apostles to whom he had committed the care and government of the Church, began to enter upon that holy ministry, they thought
themselves obliged to observe this duty of fafting, as soon as there was a proper occasion for it. It does not appear to be required of them by any express command, nor was there any need for it, the Jews being well accustomed to fasting upon all proper occasions. Thus David fafted, when he besought the Lord for the child that was born to him, by the wife of Uriah. And St. Luke relates of Annah, a devout woman, that notwithstanding her very great age, she departed not from the temple, but ferved God with fastings and prayers night and day: And many other instances might be given, by which it would appcar, that the Jews were easily disposed to this duty; it being a common notion amongst them, that in the time of affliction and suffering, or for the obtaining of some great blessing, they ought to humble themselves, and to pray, which was very properly accompany'd with fasting. Nor was it the notion of the Jews only, but of all the Eastern nations. How readily did the King of Ņineveh appoint a fast, upon the threatning of Yonah, although a stranger Prophet, and a Mchenger from a God whom they did not worship; and how solemn, how strict, how universal was that fast? If it be objected, that this was probably done by the Prophet's direction, and in obedience to him only, for that fasting being an hardship upon human nature, seems not to have been the dictate of mere natural religion: Let us enquire into the practice of other nations, such as India and China, in the remotest
* Matth ix. 14, 15.
parts of the East, who could have no communication with the Jews, nor have any thing of divine revelation to guide them; and we shall find, that their philosophers and fects of devout persons, not only taught them many useful maxims of government, and rules of lifc: but exercised, and do still practice such instances of mortification, and particularly fasting, as might appear incredible, if they were not attested by eye-witnesses of good authority; and by this it is evident, that however these austerities seem a violence upon nature, yet they have been practised, as the dictates of natural religion, and not by imitation only of the Jewisla discipline. Religious fasting being therefore a practice of all nations, and in all ages, as well before, as in our Saviour's time; no wonder, that he should adopt it into his religion, as a duty to be observed by all his followers. And accordingly, St. Paul says of himself, in his second epistle to the Corinthians, that he was * in fastings often. By 2 Cor. xi. 27.