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which, having just before mentioned hunger and
II. Our second inquiry therefore is to be, for what ends and uses in religion, fasting was appointed, and how it may be fcrviceable to the encrease of piety and virtue: For what has been so generally practised by good men, must be supposed to have a tendency to some good purpose; and having always had a place amongst religious duties, it may be taken for granted, that when duly performed, it ministers to fome religious ends. Now these are three, (1.) To raise and quicken our devotions ; (2.) To humble and punish our selyes for sin; and,
(3.) To bring our sensual appetites and lusts, under a due subjection for the future.
(1.) TO raise and quicken our devotions. When the stomach is loaded, the fumes and vapours arising thence, are apt to cloud the head, to diffipate the powers of the mind, and clog the affections; especially, with regard to such spiritual exercises, as prayer and meditation, wherein the mind should wholly draw it self off from this world, and exert it self with the utmost fervency and vigour towards heaven. Now fasting, as it takes away those impediments, gives greater freedom to contemplation, more vivacity to our apprehension of things spiritual, more scope to a devout and pious soul to exert it self, by how much the less the fensual appetites are indulged. -- And therefore, though prayer is a duty every day, and so cannot always be attended with fasting; and though it is more especially and abundantly to be exercised on the Lord's day, which being a day of spiritual rejoicing to Chriftians, they ought not then to fast; yet the prudence of good men has ever taught them, when they have had extraordinary occasions for prayer, and have set apart any of their common days for that exercise, to join fasting with it, that they might with greater application and intenseneis pour out their souls before God, and keep their hearts more closely to a religious frame, and keep their heads as clear as possible, for the important business they are engaged in. This then, is the first end of fasting:
(2.) The second is, to humble and afflict our selves for sin. When our consciences, awakened by the grace, or startled by some angry providence of God, into a deep sense 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
desirous of making our peace with God through Christ, by an humble confession, condemning our selves for what we have done amiss, and casting our felves upon his infinite mercy for a pardon. I say, when the case 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 such a neglect of our bodies, as fasting, which is the common effect of extraordinary grief, even upon any secular occasion? What can be more decent, than thus to shew an holy indige nation at our selves, for having offended God, or thus to revenge upon our selves the former sinful indulgence of our lusts and appetites? How fit is it, that that body, by which we have been so oft led into sm, should have its share in the forrow, and should smart under the discipline of repentance ? How reasonable and prudent for us to judge ourselves, that we should not be judged; to embrace a voluntary punishment, by the severities of mortification, that we may be comforted hereafter, when those whose fins fat caly upon thein in this world, shall be tormented? I would not be mistaken here, as if I thought that fasting, or any other mortifications for fin, would atone for it in the light of God, and merit pardon for it at his hands, for certainly nothing but the blood of Christ can do that; but I speak of them only, as proper testimonies of the truth and depth of our repentance, of our hatred of sin, and abhorrence of our selves for it; all which together, may recommend us by way of fitness and preparation, not by way of merit, to such an interest in the mercies of God through Chrift, as will at last fave us. And to fuch an use has fasting always been applied by good men, in their private humiliations for sin; and by the authority of religious governments, when they have appointed public and folcmn fasts, to deplore the sins of the
nation, to avert the wrath and judgments of God, and to qualify themselves for any special blessing they have to beg of him. But,
(3.) There is yet a farther use of fasting: For it may look not only backward, as expressive of a deep remorse for fins already paft; but forward also, to bring our sensual appetites and lusts under a due subjection for the future. When Adam was in his state of innocence, the sensual 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 soul, having rebelled against religion, were justly left themselves to be enslaved by the inferior appetites of the body; and now, as this or the other humour prevails in the blood and animal spirits, our inclinations violently lead us, and our reason is not able to controul them, and the small still voice of religion is not to be heard in such a tumult. Hence lust and intemperance are continually prompting men, and too often prevail with them; and the love of case and pleasure (even in those who are otherwise good men) make them somewhat liftless to religion, and very much unqualify them to suffer hardships for a good confcience, if they should be called to it. Now fasting goes a great way to rectify all these disorders. By keeping the blood cool, and the spirits at a moderate pitch, it reduces the body to a governable temper, and gives the powers of reason opportunity to exert themselves, and whenever reason can be heard, religion will
. By retrenching luxury and excess in eating, and drinking, it starves irregular luft, which is cherished by nothing more than those indulgences. By frequently using men to cross their sensual desires and appetites, and to put themselves under voluntary hardships, it wears off that tenderness and delicacy that so ill becomes the manly constitution of a Christian; 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 self-denial familiar to them, and so mortifies them to the world and its enjoyments, that their minds are more spiritualized, their relish of religion and a life to come, is heightened, and whatever crosses, 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 subjection. And has advised us also of the necessity of it. + For if ye live after the flesh, ye Mall die;. but if ye through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. And thus the primitive Christians prepared themselves for persecution, by beginning it first upon themselves, in a course of severe and frequent mortifications. I have now done with the ends of fafting, and shall proceed to consider,
III. The proper measures of this duty. And here I must observe in general, that fasting does not only imply the refusing our ordinary sustenance, and refreshments of eating and drinking, but includes also a declining of + secular pleasures and gratifications, of every other fort for the time, so 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 necessary for our purpose:
I add this last clause, because fasting is of two kinds, the one severe, but short; the other moderate, but long continued.
1 Cor. ix. 27.
† Rom. viii. 13.
# Isai. Iviii. 3.