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prayer made actual,—devotion made progressive. As it is assuredly suggested by the Holy Spirit, it will also be blest by the Holy Spirit. It is part of the imitation of Christ, part of the obedience of Christ, part of that Christian death in life, which for Christ's sake will turn out hereafter to be life in death.
Do I seem again to exalt unduly the worth and merit of our fasts, to encourage the pharisaical temper which shall thank God that he is not as other men are, that he fasts twice in the week, that he gives tithes of all that he possesses ? Far be it from the lips of a Christian to utter, from the heart of a Christian to conceive, a thought so subversive of all truth, so utterly at variance with the Gospel. Let us never be weary of repeating that our only hope is in Jesus Christ, our only strength in the power of His blessed Spirit! He who really fasts cannot possibly so feel of his fasting. How can real humility be proud of humiliation? How can real self-distrust imagine itself strong?
The man who in real simplicity of mind desires to please God, will turn to God's Word for his law, and to God's Church for his interpretation of it. In the one he will find command and direction for prayer, command and direction for fasting; from the other he will receive continual and most valuble assistance and support in performing both. He will pray therefore, and he will fast, humbly, devoutly, secretly. He will not strive to be wise
beyond what is written. He will feel that though he fasts and prays, yet he worships, yea the more he worships in spirit and in truth. He loves his secret times of devotion, his hidden modes of communion with his Maker. He loves to dedicate to God the small and otherwise trifling sacrifice of meat and drink, of pleasure, comfort, and
He loves the public times of prayer or humiliation, for he loves to feel himself walking in childlike obedience, in the path of the Church, his mother in the faith. And is his faith less pure, his worship less spiritual, his trust less entire, his performances more legal, while he thus strives to purify his heart, and walk humbly with his God? No! Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, in whose strength alone he hopes to offer acceptable service, his mind is daily disciplined and subdued, his faith refined and strengthened, his love inflamed, his temper rendered soft and heavenly. He loves to practise his Christian exercises all his life : he never thinks he has outlived the need of prayer and fasting
And if his discipline ends with his life, it ends to be succeeded by his bliss. He passes hence with his meek and holy mind, already greatly purified by the Comforter on earth, and he goes to such enjoyments as God only knoweth; he enters into the joy of his Lord.
How strangely are the thoughts of triumph and humiliation blended in the consideration of every
part of Christian doctrine! There is strength in weakness; joy in sorrow ; hope in fear; exultation in humility. The weakness, the sorrow, the fear, the humility are ours; the joy, the hope, the exultation are Christ's.
Let us not be ashamed, my brethren, nor afraid, to do these things in earnest—in secret, in trust, and in humility ; and let us not doubt, but earnestly believe, that God will reward us openly.
Let us not fear to be followers of our holy Church, as she also is a follower of Christ, and sanctify our fasts. Let us listen to the words of the prophet, which she addresses to us at this season, assured that the same God still watches over us, still is present in his Spirit to bless our weak but humble efforts in his service.
“ Turn ye even unto me, saith the Lord, with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. And rend your hearts and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God : for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. Who knoweth if He will return, and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him, even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God ?”
· This Sermon was preached in Lent.
St. MATTHEW xxi. 4, 5.
4. “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the prophet, saying,
5. “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”
TOWARDS the close of our Lord's life on earth, the narratives of the Evangelists become very complete and particular. While in the former parts of His ministry, they content themselves with recording scattered incidents and discourses : insomuch that it has been doubted whether the circumstances so recorded took place in one year, or in three, the words and deeds of the last week of their Lord's earthly life are most studiously and minutely preserved.
And this, whether we consider the affectionate anxiety with which they would look back upon these days, after their Lord was removed from them, or whether we think of the deeply solemn nature of all that then passed, both in event and discourse, or of the more grave and solemn manner of the blessed Redeemer Himself, as the “far-seen hour" of His agony drew on, is a particularity which cannot excite the least surprise. Deeply indeed must every word and lesson have sunk into the minds of that “ little flock,” who were so soon to find themselves left alone (yet not alone, for their Lord was still with them in the presence of the other Comforter) to spread His name among all nations.
On comparing the narratives of the Evangelists, it appears that our blessed Lord returned from the “city called Ephraim," where He had retired after the raising of Lazarus from the dead, six days before the Passover, and passed the last Sabbath day at Bethany with Lazarus and his sisters. There they made Him a supper; and Lazarus was one of those that sat at the table with Him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. “ Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence and given to the
? Then said Jesus, Let her alone : ' against the day of my burying hath she kept this."
Thus even on the Saturday evening, the last scene of His life began, in this anticipation of His burial.
On the following or Sunday morning a large number of people, who had heard that Jesus was