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own spiritual case, this duty of personal fasting and humiliation would not be so rare as it is. Paul, who had much of this kind of exercise, Acts xxiv. 16. was in fastings often, 2 Cor. xi. 27.; kept under his body, and brought it into subjection, 1 Cor. ix. 27.

Now, any or all of all these cases call for this extra. ordinary duty, in three kinds of events, other circumstances agreeing, and pointing thereto in the conduct of providence.

Either, i. When there is any special evil actually lying upon us, the church or our neighbour in whom we have a special concern; whether it be a sinful or 2 penal evil. There are some fins that leave such guilt on the conscience, and such a defilement on the heart and life, as call aloud for fasting and humilia. tion, in order to recovery from the dismal effects thereof, James iv. 8. Cleanse your hands, ye finners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Verfe 9. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep. Accordingly the Israelites gathered to Mispeh, being sensible of the abominable idolatries they had fallen into, fafted that day, and said, We have finned against the Lord, i Sam. vii. 6.

In like manner, when the tokens of God's high displeasure are gone out in afflicting providences, it is time for us to roll ourselves in the dust: and lo, to accommodate our spirit and way to the dispensation, humbling ourselves before him with fasting. Thus Nehemiah found himself called to fasting, upon information received of the continued ruins of Jerusalem, and the affliction that the returned captives were in, Neh. i. 3, 4.; David, and those with him, upon the news of the defeat of Israel, and the death of Saul and Jonathan, 2 Sam. i. 12.: and the people, upon the consideration of the Naughter which the Benjamites had made among them, Judg. XX. 26.

Or, 2. When there is any special stroke threatenkod and impending. Thus the inhabitants of Jerusa

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lem, being in imminent danger from their enemies,
were providentially called to weeping and mourning,
though they heeded it not, Ifa. xxii. 12, 13. But
the Ninivites took such an alarm, and complied with
the call of providence, Jonah iii. 4,-9.
David, when God Atruck his child with fickness,
2 Sam. xii. 15, 16. Yea, and so did even Ahaz,
when he heard Elijah's heavy message against him
and his house, 1 Kings xxi. 27. When the lion
roars, it becomes us to fear : when God's hand is
lifted up, and he appears to be about to strike, it is
high time for us to strip ourselves of our ornaments,
and to lie in fackcloth and ashes.

Or else, 3. When there is some special mercy and favour to be desired of the Lord; as was the return of the Babylonish captivity, for which Daniel kept his faft, Dan. ix. 1, 2, 3. Christians exercised unto godliness, will rarely, if ever, want their particular suits, and special errands unto the throne of grace. The fame God, who makes some mercies, fall into the lap of others, without their being at much pains about them, will give his own children many an errand unto himself for them, ere they obtain them ; because they must have them in the way of the cove. nant; whereas they come to others only in the way of common providence, in which a blasting curse may come along with the mercy.

To set this matter in a yet clearer light, we shall exemplify these general heads, in ones own private case; and that in several instances, to-be accommodate to the case of the church, and of our neighbour, by those who are disposed religiously to observe and consider the dispensations of providence. There is a variety of these particular cases, which, with agreeing circumstances to be discerned by each one for himself, call for personal fasting and humiliation. As, 1. When through a long tract of sinning and careless walking, the case of one's soul is left quite in disorder and confusion: Ifa, xxxii. 11. Tremble, ye women that are at ease: be troubled ye careless ones: firip ye and make ye bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins. Certainly the voice of God unto us such is, Thus faith the Lord, Consider your ways, Hag. i. 5. Want of consideration ruins many. They deal with their souls, as some foolish men do with their estates, running on without consideration, till they have run themselves aground. But those who adventure so to take a time for sinning, have need to take also a set time for mourning: for it is not to be ex. pected, that accounts which have been long running on, can be cleared and adjusted with a glance of one's cye.

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O careless sinner, consider how matters stand betwixt God and you: are you in any tollerable cafe for the other world, for death and eternity? are not matters gone quite to wreck with your soul? are you not pining away in your iniquity ? is not the ftate and condition of your soul like that of the Pluggard's vineyard that was all grown over with shorns, and nettles covered the face thereof and the ftone-wall thereof was broken down? Prov. xxiv. 31. O set about personal fasting and humiliation. Ordinary pains will not serve to recover the long neglected garden : it must be trenched, digged deep. A little may help the case, that is timely seen to : but all this will be little enough for thine, which hath lain so long neglected.

2. When one is under convictions, entertaining some thoughts to reform. On such an occasion was that fast kept, Neh. ix. 1, 2. and had very good effects, verse 38. Chap. x. I, 28, 29. This method is, in such a case a proper means to bring men to a point in the matter, and to fix their refolutions, o. therwise ready to prove abortive. Some have con victions, which, at times, coming and passing away, like a stitch in one's side, set them now and then 10

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their prayers : but never prevail to bring them to a settled course of reformation of life : their disease is too inveterate, to be so easily carried off. But were they so wise, as to make these convictions a matter of solemn seriousness, setting some time a part on that occasion for personal fasting and humiliation, they might through the divine blessing, turn to a good account for the interest of their souls.

3. When the conscience is defiled with, the guilt of some atrocious fin. Doth national guilt of that kind require national fafting? and doth not personal guilt of the fame kind, require personal fafting? Yea, fure, God calls men, in that case, to be afflicted, and mourn and weep, James iv. 8, 9. Strong diseases require strong remedies; and conscience-wasting guilt, deep humiliation, as in David's case, Pfal. ii. and Peter's, Matth. xxvi. 75. This kind of guilt, deeply wounding and stinging the foul, defiling and wasting the conscience, may be without any scandalous enormities of life, appearing to the view of the world. God is witness to secret sins, even to the sins of the heart and men of tender consciences will be fick at the heart with such fins as are hid from all the world, and will never move on others.

4. When one would fain get over a snare he is often caught in, and have victory over a lust that hath often mastered him. There are not a few who have many good things about them, yet lack one thing: and that one thing is like to part between hea. ven and them; marring all their good things, both by way of evidence and of efficacy, Mark x. 21, They know that it is wrong; they often resolve to amend'; and they would fain get above it: but whenever a new temptation comes, Satan attacking them on the weak side, down go all their resolutions, like a bowing high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant; and they are hard and fast in the snare

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again. O consider, that this kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting, Matth. xvii. 21. Set there. fore some time apart for personal fasting and humiliation, on the account of that very thing, that you may wrestle with God in prayer anent it: and ule this method time after time, until you prevail against it : Else that one thing may ruin you; and you will be condemned for it, not because you could not help it, but because you would not use the means appoint. ed of God for relief in that case.

5. When one is under a dead defertion: in which case the Lord is departed, the wonted influences from heaven are with-held, but, the wound not smarting, by reason of spiritual deadness, the party is not much moved therewith.' This was the case of the spouse, Cant. iii. 1. By night on my bed I fought him whom my foul loveth: I fought him, but I found him not. And, for a recovery from it, she made fome extraordinary efforts in the way of duty, verses 2, 3, 4. The same appears to be the case of many, with whom some time a day it was better than now, God hides his face from them their incomes from heaven are rare and scanty, in comparison of what they have formerly been : they are sighing, and going backward. Though they go the round of ordi. nary religious exercises still; yet it is long since they had a token from the Beloved, access to or commu. nion with God in them. O fast and pray for a recovery; as did Ifrael, when, after they had been long deferted, and very little affected with it, they began at length to lament after the Lord, 1 Sam. vii. 2, 6. It requires much, in the way of ordinary means, for to go to the ground of such a case, wherein by much sothfulness the building hath decayed, and thro idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. Though true grace can never be totally lost ; yet it may be brought to fuch a very low pass, that, as some scholars, for retrieving the loss sustained through

long

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