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hearts which are broken down with misery and distress'.
And if the prayers and humiliations of a nation be thus available for public deliverance, can the silent and secret offerings of private supplication be without effect? Our Lord himself acknowledged both the duty, and the manner of such addresses. "Moreover when ye fast be not as the hypocrites," &c.-" but thou when thou fastest anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret?." It is true our Lord spake to Jews, to whom fasting was an injunction of the law; but it was ostentatious fasting, as a religious ceremony, which he deprecated. This was decidedly condemned both under the law and under the Gospel. Our Lord's act of fasting, indeed, was of a nature wholly miraculous; but attended with moral consequences. By the address in his Sermon on the Mount, it is clear that his disciples fasted; although
1 The observation of the national Fast-day  in consequence of the sweeping ravages of the malignant cholera in this island, is a sufficient proof of public piety, and a happy expression of deep religious duty. The flocking of extraordinary multitudes of people to the parish Churches on that day, and the pious observance of other days set apart for the purposes of prayer and thanksgiving on similar occasions, by private authority, come upon us as a ray of light shining in a dark place, and a happy omen that God has not forsaken his people.
2 Matt. vi. 16,
they were then joined to a Divine master, and professed a spiritual religion.
I will not say that a disregard of fasting incurs a moral offence; but he who obeys the injunction in the same unobtrusive manner that our Saviour intimates, will by no means lose his reward. In considering this subject, something might be said on a distinction of food: but, as the Apostle observes," meat commendeth us not to God, for neither if we eat are we the better, or if we eat not, are we the worse 1." Fasting is a moral abstinence, which is only beneficial when accompanied by such attitudes of mind, as render the duties of the whole man acceptable to the Almighty. A man may exercise himself in such acts of godliness, even in the midst of society: a man may also be an anchorite by trade, another St. Anthony in the wilderness, or with St. John the Baptist live on locusts and wild honey, and yet not have one spark of true religious fasting in his whole composition. Our Church has undoubtedly retained fasting as a mark of religious obedience; and if accompanied by all the attributes of true piety, there is no sound member of our truly excellent and eminent Protestant Church, that would feel himself the worse for his obedience. When we consider abstinence from food, as a remembrancer of abstinence from sin, of mortification of habitual indulgences, of putting off the vanities of the
1 1 Cor. viii. 8.
world, and putting on the robe of salvation, then surely the means will recommend the end; and, at the conclusion of every holy season, we shall find ourselves better men than we were before. But in estimating this question, there are two extremes to be carefully avoided. Because we may be allowed the innocent use of God's creatures, we must always reject an undue, or unworthy possession of them. We must not be attached to sinful and base enjoyment on one side; nor, on the other side, endeavour to palliate our faults by relying on the externals of religion. In the one case, the degeneracy of our nature is predominant; in the other, whatever value there may be in necessary means, we must never mistake the means for the end. That mind indeed must be destitute of every ground of sound belief, who can mistake things temporal for things eternal.
But private habits are often founded with good effect on the public profession of religion; they have a settlement, which, though occasionally eccentric and out of nature to the individual, are attended with happy consequences. We are not all cast in the same mould in our tempers and dispositions. Every thinking man will best calculate his own feelings and propensities; and be best able to turn them to his peculiar advantage. Connecting this with our present subject, we have often read of persons adopting habits of austerity after great excitement of mind, occasioned by preservation from shipwreck, or escaping from
some great personal calamity. We have known them devote the anniversary of the day to deep seclusion, attended by fasting and prayer1." Such personal feeling is to be respected where it cannot be imitated. The recurrence of the memory of the loss of friends on the anniversary day of death, is not alien to the feeling of a pious mind, but it is not to be indulged as the ground of worldly grief. The dead in the Lord are subjects of a supreme victory. There is no room for gloominess and sorrow to that heart, which is leaping with the resplendent prospect of the morning of the resurrection.
Why then may we not abstract ourselves in the holy season of Lent, as an anniversary of the suffering and death of him, who was the world's best benefactor? Unless we cast ourselves on the atonement then accomplished for our sins, fasting, abstinence, seclusion, sack-cloth and ashes, will be all in vain. We may pray without being heard, fast without spiritual food, mortify our bodies without profit or satisfaction, of any kind. Austerity, truly, is not required; it is no Christian grace, but obedience, through our all sufficient Saviour, is indispensable. "The great fast,"
1 Perhaps it may be said, that instances of this nature have a tendency to superstition. It may be replied, that it would be turning superstition to a good purpose to promote private acts of piety and devotion, when personal feeling becomes the parent of personal reformation. We keep birth-days with rejoicing; and if we add piety and prayer in our retired moments, surely the celebration of the day will be estimated still higher, and rank as a red-letter day in the history of our religious duties.
said a father of the Church, "is to abstain from sin;" and if we can find any auxiliaries to assist, not to perfect, our devotions, let no man despise them; for, what one man may thoughtlessly condemn, may be to another the source of heavenly comfort and unqualified consolation.
IV.—Abstinence; or Temperance in body and mind.
THE Church of England does not seem to make any difference between fasting and abstinence; and yet it is most consistent with language and moral distinction, that the latter should be connected with temperance, rather than with the severe discipline of fasting. Fasting may be considered as a peremptory corrective of luxurious living and uncontrouled passions, taken in the highest sense, which requires an immediate and unhesitating curb. But to refrain from the indulgence of excess in the midst of a life of fear and trembling, requires a milder process, a system more agreeable to the calm and exquisite graces of the pure Christian faith. There is nothing good in man, but what arises from the clear and unsullied stream of religion. The grace of God indeed operates in differ ent measures, and according to the end to be produced. The strong barrier of sin must be thrown down by an omnipotent arm; but the insidious encroachments of vice, which work their way in secrecy and silence, must be met by a different resistance.