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which, having juft before mentioned hunger and thirst, that other fort of fafting upon neceffity and want; 'tis plain, he means fuch voluntary fafting, as he thought fit, to enjoin himself the better to difpofe him to pray for that grace and affiftance, which was requifite to enable him to perform his duty, and to bear his fufferings. And as he performed this duty himself, fo doubtless he required the practice of it in all the Churches he planted, as the other Apostles did in theirs; for frequent fafting was an early practice in the chriftian Churches, as the firft ecclefiaftical writers inform us. And though it did by degrees degenerate into fuperftition, and new and ftrange aufterities were added, and many impertinent and burdenfome niceties in the obfervation; and then men began to be proud of their humiliations, to place all holiness, if not all religion, in the performance of fuch mechanical injunctions, and to fancy that they merited at the hands of God thereby: Yet this fuperftition, these vain additions and false notions being purged away from it at the reformation, our Church difcreetly and pioufly continued the ufe of fafting, in fuch manner as our Saviour and the Apoftles left it, and it is ftill as neceffary a duty, and as expedient to the proper ends of it as ever.

II. OUR fecond inquiry therefore is to be, for what ends and ufes in religion, fafting was appointed, and how it may be ferviceable to the encrease of piety and virtue: For what has been fo generally practifed by good men, muft be fuppofed to have a tendency to fome good purpofe; and having always had a place amongst religious duties, it may be taken for granted, that when duly performed, it minifters to fome religious ends. Now thefe are three, (1.) To raife and quicken our devotions; (2.) To humble and punifh our felves for fin; and,

(3.) To bring our fenfual appetites and lufts, under a due fubjection for the future.

(1.) TO raife and quicken our devotions. When the ftomach is loaded, the fumes and vapours arifing thence, are apt to cloud the head, to diffipate the powers of the mind, and clog the affections; especially, with regard to fuch fpiritual exercifes, as prayer and meditation, wherein the mind fhould wholly draw it felf off from this world, and exert it self with the utmoft fervency and vigour towards heaven. Now fafting, as it takes away those impediments, gives greater freedom to contemplation, more vivacity to our apprehenfion of things fpiritual, more fcope to a devout and pious foul to exert it self, by how much the lefs the fenfual appetites are indulged. And therefore, though prayer is a duty every day, and fo cannot always be attended with fafting; and though it is more efpecially and abundantly to be exercifed on the Lord's day, which being a day of fpiritual rejoicing to Chriftians, they ought not then to faft; yet the prudence of good men has ever taught them, when they have had extraordinary occafions for prayer, and have fet apart any of their common days for that exercife, to join fafting with it, that they might with greater application and intenfenels pour out their fouls before God, and keep their hearts more clofely to a religious frame, and keep their heads as clear as poffible, for the important business they are engaged in. This then, is the firft end of fafting.

(2.) THE fecond is, to humble and afflict our felves for fin. When our confciences, awakened by the grace, or ftartled by fome angry providence of God, into a deep fenfe of guilt (either the guilt of all our fins in general, or of any particular very grievous fin, that lies heavy upon us) are led to a godly forrow and repentance, and we are earnestly X 4 defirous

CHAP. XVIII. defirous of making our peace with God through Christ, by an humble confeffion, condemning our felves for what we have done amifs, and cafting our felves upon his infinite mercy for a pardon. I fay, when the cafe is thus with us, what can be a more proper way to express our inward trouble of our minds, or at least more natural to go along with it, than fuch a neglect of our bodies, as fafting, which is the common effect of extraordinary grief, even upon any secular occafion? What can be more decent, than thus to fhew an holy indignation at our felves, for having offended God, or thus to revenge upon our felves the former finful indulgence of our lufts and appetites? How fit is it, that that body, by which we have been fo oft led into fin, fhould have its fhare in the forrow, and fhould fmart under the difcipline of repentance? How reasonable and prudent for us to judge ourfelves, that we should not be judged; to embrace a voluntary punishment, by the feverities of mortification, that we may be comforted hereafter, when thofe whofe fins fat cafy upon them in this world, fhall be tormented? I would not be mistaken here, as if I thought that fafting, or any other mortifications for fin, would atone for it in the fight of God, and merit pardon for it at his hands, for certainly nothing but the blood of Chrift can do that; but I fpeak of them only, as proper teftimonies of the truth and depth of our repentance, of our hatred of fin, and abhorrence of our felves for it; all which together, may recommend us by way of fitnefs and preparation, not by way of merit, to fuch an intereft in the mercies of God through Chrift, as will at laft fave us. And to fuch an ufe has fafting always been applied by good men, in their private humiliations for fin; and by the authority of religious governments, when they have appointed public and folemn fafts, to deplore the fins of the

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nation, to avert the wrath and judgments of God, and to qualify themselves for any fpecial bleffing they have to beg of him. But,

(3.) THERE is yet a farther use of fafting: For it may look not only backward, as expreffive of a deep remorse for fins already paft; but forward alfo, to bring our fenfual appetites and lufts under a due fubjection for the future. When Adam was in his ftate of innocence, the fenfual part of man was under the government of his reason, and that was guided by religion: But the corruption of our nature by his fall, fo overthrew the order of things, that the faculties of the foul, having rebelled against religion, were juftly left themselves to be enflaved by the inferior appetites of the body; and now, as this or the other humour prevails in the blood and animal fpirits, our inclinations violently lead us, and our reafon is not able to controul them, and the fmall ftill voice of religion is not to be heard in fuch a tumult. Hence luft and intemperance are continually prompting men, and too often prevail with them, and the love of ease and pleasure (even in those who are otherwife good men) make them fomewhat liftless to religion, and very much unqualify them to fuffer hardships for a good confcience, if they fhould be called to it. Now fafting goes a great way to rectify all these disorders. By keeping the blood cool, and the fpirits at a moderate pitch, it reduces the body to a governable temper, and gives the powers of reafon opportunity to exert themselves, and whenever reafon can be heard, religion will. By retrenching luxury and excels in eating, and drinking, it ftarves irregular luft, which is cherished by nothing more than thofe indulgences. By frequently ufing men to cross their fenfual defires and appetites, and to put themselves under voluntary hardships, it wears off that tenderness and delicacy that fo ill becomes the manly confti

tution of a Chriftian; inures them to bear much greater difficulties, that may happen to be laid upon them; weans them from the affectation of ease and pleasure; renders that eminent duty of felf-denial familiar to them, and fo mortifies them to the world and its enjoyments, that their minds are more fpiritualized, their relifh of religion and a life to come, is heightened, and whatever croffes, and afflictions, and perfecutions they meet with in their way to heaven, they have little power to move them. For these reasons St. Paul took care by faftings and mortifications * to keep his body under, and bring it under fubjection. And has advifed us alfo of the neceffity of it. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. And thus the primitive Chriftians prepared themselves for perfecution, by beginning it first upon themfelves, in a course of fevere and frequent mortifications. I have now done with the ends of fafting, and fhall proceed to confider,

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III. THE proper measures of this duty. And here I muft obferve in general, that fafting does not only imply the refufing our ordinary fuftenance, and refreshments of eating and drinking, but includes alfo a declining of fecular pleafures and gratifications, of every other fort for the time, fo as to render the mortification uniform, and to humble the vanity of our minds, as well as curb the appetites of the body, and both these in proportion to that kind of fafting, which we perceive to be neceffary for our purpofe: I add this laft claufe, because fafting is of two kinds, the one fevere, but short; the other moderate, but long continued.

Ifai. Iviii. 3.

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*

I Cor. ix. 27. † Rom. viii. 13.

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