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xxiii. 27, 34. For, in the method of grace, none stand so fair for a lifting up, as those who are mos deeply humbled. Ifa. xl. 4. Luke xviii. 14, Jam. iv. 10. Wherefore it is a laudable practice of our church, that congregations keep a congregational faft, before the celebration of the feast of the facrament of the Lord's fupper, among them, in order to their preparation for a solemn approach unto God in that holy ordinance. And for the same reason, fecret fasting by particular persons apart, and private falting by families apart, especially such as have not access to join in the public faft, would be very reasonable on such an occasion. And if those secret and private fålls could more generally obtain, and get place in congregations, fome little time before ibe communion-work did begin; it would be a token for good, and might prove like the noise and shaking among the dry bones, that ushered in the breathing on the sain, and the causing them to stand up upon their feet, Ezek. xxxvii. 7, 10.
These things duly considered, each Christian may be in a cafe to judge for himself, when it is that be is under a providential call to personal fasting and humiliation.
Directions anent personal fasting and humiliation.
Aving seen the divine warrant for personal falt.
ing and humiliation, and considered the nature of a providential call to that extraordinary duty, it remains to offer some advices or directions for the profitable managing of it in practice.
DIRECTION I. When you find that the Lord is calling you to this duty, prudently make choice of a fit time and place for it aforehand, wherein they may have access to go about it without distraction. And carefully dispose of your ordinary affairs before that time, so as you may have no let nor hindrance from that part,
which you can prevent. Works of necessity and mer. : cy, which are lawfully done on the Lord's day, are
much more so in this case, wherein the duty waits not the time, but the time on the duty. Yea, in case something of worldly business, which you could not foresee nor prevent, do fall out in the time of your fast, and cannot be deferred or put off without some notable inconveniency : you may, without fcruple, dispatch it: for the time is not holy. But in that case, labour that, if possible, your work be not thereby marred; and carefully keep up your frame of spirit for the duty you are engaged in. But Chriftian prudence to weigh circumstances, for which you are to look up unto the Lord, is necessary to de. termine herein, according to the general rules of the word, Matth. xii. 3,-7.
As for such as are not masters of their time, which is the case of servants, they cannot lawfully dispose of their time at their own hand, even for this duty: for our God hates robbery for burnt-offerings, Ifa. Ixi. 8. Bet then they may endeavour to procure the ne. cessary time, at the hand of their master; to whom, if they be godly and serious, they may modestly hint their design, pitching on a time with so much dircretion, as that their good may not be evil spoken of. And if any be so unmindful of their Master which is in heaven, as to refuse such a discreet desire; yet let not the party by any means think, that the sacred nature of the thing he has in view, gives him a power to rob his master of so much of his time :
for men can offer nothing to God, with a good con. science, but what is their own; and exercises of devotion are fo far from Nacking the tye of moral duty to onr neighbour, that they are nothing but an outward form of devotion, unacceptable to God, fo får as they do not influence the party. to a careful and religious observance of the duties of mortality, fuch as judgment or justice, mercy, and faith or faithfulDess, Marth. xxiii. 23. Neither yet let him imagine, on the other hand, that he is then no further concerned to look after that extraordinary duty : for no reason can be assigned, why one ought not to be willing to be at as much pains or experice, for procuring to himself- an opportunity of communion with God in that duty, as he will be for an opportunity of attending some worldly business of his own, placing another in his room. But if none of these can effectuate it; then though the day or time of labouring is the master's, yet the night or time of resting is the servant's; let him give unto God what he has, and it shall be accepted through Ghrist, But, excepting the case of a providential necessity obliging one to take the night for this exercise, the day is, generally speaking, the moft proper time for it, beginning the exercise in the morning.
DIRECT. II. Make some preparation for it the night before, turning your thoughts towards the exercise you have in view, considering it, and avoiding every thing that hath a tendency 'to, disfit or indispose for it. Shun carnal mirth, and sensual delights: fup sparing. ly; to eat the more, that one is to faft religiously after, is to mock God, and cheat one's felf. In the intervals of sleep, take heed that your thoughts be not vàin, and much more that they be not vile; but that they be such as tend to fit you for the extraordinary duty in view.
DIRECT. III Rise early in the morning; even sooner than ordi. nary, unless by reason of bodily weakness, that would tend to disfit you for the work: for then you are called, in a special matter to watch. unto prayer, Eph. vi. 28. Sleep is a fleshly comfort, which howbeit it is necessary, yet one is in this case called to be fparing of. Therefore the priests were bid lie all night in fackcloth, Joel i. 13.; and it is recorded of Ahab, that he in his fast lay fo, 1 Kings xxi. 27. A proper means to make one seep sparingly.
DIR E G T. IV. As soon as you awake in the morning, let holy thoughts, with a view to his work, immediately have access into your heart. And beware that carnal or wordly, thoughts get not the start of them; for if you allow that, they will be to your soul like water poured upon firewood, that makes it hard to kindle. Surely, if one is at any time to follow the example of the Psalmist David, Psal. cxxxix. 18. When lawake, I am still with thee, he is to do it at such a time.
DIRECT. V. Let your ordinary duties of praying and reading or the word, be first of all performed: for extraordinary duties are not to justle out the ordinary, but to be fuperadded unto them. And, in such prayers, beg of God grace to enable you for the work before you, according to his promise. Yea, it may be very expedient, that thereafter you go unto God again by prayer, particularly and purposedly for his grace, to enable
you unto the duty now come to the setting
And forasmuch as our corrupt hearts are, upon a'near view of a difficult and laborious holy exercise, very apt to wax faint, and our hands to hang down;
albeit the way of the Lord is declared to be strength to the upright, Prov. X. 29.; do you therefore, by all means, Itudy to exercise faith: and labour to believe stedfastly, that his grace shall be sufficient for you, to the making of his yoke easy, and his burden light unto you, 2 Cor. xii. 9. with Matth. xi. 30. For no man shall ever be able to perform a duty acceptably unto God, without a believing persuasion, in greater or lesser measure, of an allowance made him of grace sufficient for an acceptable performance of it, 2 Cor. iii. 4, 5. Philip. ii. 12, 13. One will otherwise be but a wicked and nothful servant, as our Saviour teacheth, Matth. XXV. 24, 25, 26.
DIRECT. VI. After prayer in faith, for the aid of divine grace, as in the preceding direction, begin the work with a folemn review of your fins, in deep meditation, and serious communing with your own heart there upon : applying yourself to think of them in such manner as you think of your affairs, when consider. ing how to manage them in cases of difficulty. God calls for this at your hand, Hag. i. 5. Thus faith the Lord of hofts, Consider your ways. Lam. iii. 40. La vs search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. It is reommended unto us by the practice of the saints, Pfal. lxxvii. 6. I communed with mine beart, and my spirit made diligent search; and cxix. 59. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. . The nature of a religious fast requires it: for how can the deep humiliation therein to be aimed at, be otherwise obtained ? or what way else can one be fitted to make a confession suitable to such an occasion ? It is obfervable, that in the fast mentioned, Neh. ix. the reading of the law went be. fore the making of the confeffion, verse 3. So the first work was to set the looking glass before their cyes, that therein every one inight see his foul face.