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humbled within us; our heart rent, not with remorse for fin only, but with regret and kindly sorrow for it, as an offence to a gracious and merciful God, Joel ii, 12, 13. our face filled with fhaine and blushing before him, in the view of our fpiritual nakedness, pollution, and defilement, Ezra ix. 6. and we lothe ourselves, as most vile in our own eyes, Ezek. xxxvi. 31. Job xl. 4.
3. Free and open confession of sin before God, without reserve. This is a very material part of the duty incumbent on us in religious fafting; and the due consideration and deep humiliation just now men. tioned, do natively issue in it; producing, of course, extraordinary confession of sin, an exercise most suitable on such an occasion. Hence the Jews spent one fourth part of the day in confeffing and worshipping, Neh. ix. 3.; and the angel, who brought the answer to Daniel's supplications, about the time of the even. ing oblation, found him still praying and confeffing bis fin, Dan. ix. 20, 21. For here the finner duly humbled has much ado, acting against himself the part of an accuser, recounting before the Lord his transgressions of the holy law, so far as he is able to reach them; the part of an advocate, opening up the particulars, in their nature, and aggravating circum. Itances; and the part of a judge, justifying God in all the evil he has brought upon him, and con. demning himself as unworthy of the least of all his mercies, and deserving to perish under eternal wrath.
4. The exercise of repentance in turning from sin unto God, both in heart and life; the native re. sult of deep humiliation and sincere confession : Joel ii. 12. Turn ye even to me-with fafting, and with weeping, and with mourning. In vain will we fast
, and pretend to be humbled for our sins, and make confession of them, if our love to sin be not turned into hatred; our liking of it into loathing; and our
cleaving to it, into a longing to be rid of it; with full purpose to resist the motions of it in our heart, and the outbreaking thereof in our life: and if we turn not unto God as our rightful Lord and Master, and return to our duty again. If we are indeed true penitents, we will turn from fin, not only because it is dangerous and destructive to us; but because it is offensive to God, dishonours his Son, grieves his Spirit, tranfgrefseth his law, and defaceth his image : and we will cast away all our transgressions, not only as one would cast away a live-coal out of his bosom, for that it burns him ; but as one would cast away a lothesome and filthy thing, for that it defiles him.
But withal, it is to be remembered, that the true way to deal with a hard heart, to bring it to this temper, is to believe the gospel. As ravenous fowls first Ay upward, and then come down on their prey: so must we first foar aloft in believing, and then we shall come down in deep humiliation, sincere and free confession, and true repentance: Zech. xii. 10. They Shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and shall mourn. Therefore the scripture proposeth the object of faith in the object of grace, as a motive to repentance, that by a believing application thereof the hard heart may be moved and turned, Joel ii. 13. Turn unto the Lord your God, for he is gracious. One may otherwise toil long with it; but all in vain. Without faith it is impossible to please God, Heb. xi. 6.; and therefore impossible to reach true humiliation, right confession, and sincere repentance, which are very pleasing to him, Jer. xxxi. 18, 19, 20. The unbelieving finner may be brought to roar under law.horror; but one will never be a kindly mourner but under gospel influences. When guilt stares one in the face, unbelief locks up the heart, as a keen frost doth the waters : but faith in the Redeemer's blood melts it, to flow in tears of godly sorrow. Y 2
Hard thoughts of God, which unbelief suggests to a soal ftung with guilt, alienate the soul more and more from him; they render it like the worm, which when one offers to tread upon it, presently contracts itself, and puts itself in the best posture of defence that it can: but the believing of the proclaimed par: don touches the heart of the rebel so, that he cafts down himself at the feet of his Sovereign, willingly yielding himself to his duty. . 5. Solemn covenanting with God, entering into, or renewing covenant with him in express words. As a feast-day is a day to loose the bands of wickedness, so it is a day for coming explicitely into the bond of the holy covenant, Jer. 1. 4. Going and weeping: they shall go, and feek the Lord their God. Ver. 5.Saying, Cóme, and let us join ourselves to the Lord, in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten. Accordingly this was an eminent part of their fall day's work, Neh. ix. 38. It follows of course, on due humiliation, confession, and the exercise of re. pentance, whereby the league with sin is broken. And it lies in a folemn professing before the Lord, that we take hold of his covenant, believing on the name of his Son as the Saviour of the world, and our Saviour, and that in and through him he will be our God, and we shall be his people: and that we are from the heart content, and consent to take him for our Portion, Lord, and Master, and resign ourfelves to him only, wholly and for ever : Heb. viii. 10. This is the covenant, I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. Ifa. xlix. 8. I will give thee for a covenant. Chap. lvi. 6. Every one that taketh hold of my covenant. John i. 12. As ma. ny. as received him,--that believe on his name. Psalm xvi. 2. O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord. Ifa. xliv. 5. One shall say, I am the Lardisa
6. Lastly, Extraordinary prayer, in importunate addresses and peritions unto our covenanted God for that which is the particular occasion of our falt. The confession and the covenanting are, both of them, to be done prayer-wise, as appears from Dan. ix. 4, -15. Neh. ix. 6,--38. But besides, there must be prayers, fupplications, and petitions made for what the person or family hath particularly in view, in their fast: Psalm xxxv. 13. Wben they were sick, my cloathing was fackcloth: 1 humbled my soul with fasting, and my prayer returned into mine own bofom, And, indeed, the great end and design for which such fasts are to be kept, is, that thereby the parties may be the more stirred up unto, and fitted for wrestling with God in prayer, anent the case which they have particularly at heart. So the Ninivites having their threatened overthrow at heart, it was ordered, that man and beast should be covered with fackcloth, and cry mightily unto God, Jonah iii. 8.; that is, that the men should cry in prayer for pity and sparing: and to the end they might be moved to the greater fervency in these their praying cries, it is provided, that they and their beasts too should be covered with sacks cloth; and that their beasts having fodder and wa. ter with-held from them on that occasion, should be made to cry for hunger and thirst, even to cry unto God, namely, interpretatively, as the young ravens ery unto him, Job xxxviii. 41. At which rate, the cries of the beasts, being mixed with the cries of men, would make the folemnity of that extraordinary mourning very great : and the hearts of men being, every now and then during that solemnity, pierced with the cries of the harmless brutes, would be stirred up to a more earnest, fervent, and importunate pleading with God for mercy.
Thus far of personal and family fafting and humitiation, in the general.
CHA P. IL. Of Personal Fasting and Humiliation in
particular. ROM what is said it appears, that a perfonal fast is a religious exercise, wherein a particu
lar person, having set apart some time from his ordinary business in the world, spends it in some fecret place by himself, in acts of devotion tending to his humiliation and reformation, and particularly in prayer, with fasting. Concerning the which we shall consider, (1.) The divine warrant for it; (2.) The call ta it; and, (3.) Offer advice how to ma.
SECT. I. Of the divine Warrant for personal Fasting and Hu.
miliation. "Orasmuch as will-worship is condemned by the
word, and that can never be obedience to God, whereof his revealed will is not the reason and rule; it concerneth all who would perform this duty in faith, so as to have it accepted of him, to know who hath required it at their hands. And to set that mat. ter in a light sufficient to satisfy and bind it upon the conscience, as a duty owing unto God, let these few things following be duly weighed.
1. God requires it in his word; and that both di. rectly and indirectly,
It is directly required, James iv. 9. Be afflicted and mourn and weep. It is plain enough from the context, those things are proposed as agreeing to par. ticular persons in their personal capacity. See verses 8, 10. And what it is that is required of them in these words, could not miss to be as plain to those