Page images
PDF
EPUB

they are. These things avail nothing with God; by whom prayers are not measured, but weighed. And what makes the weight in them, is the faith, fervency, and humility, therein; so that one of those groanings mentioned, Rom. viii. 26. will down weigh a whole day's prayers, in 'which these things are wanting. Do you labour to get near God in prayer, and press forward to obtain that.

DIRECT. 'X. As you have ability and opportunity, let works of charity and mercy be joined with your fast; doing them, whether in time of it, or before it, or after it: Ifa. Iviii. 6. Is not this the fast that I have chosen? - verfe 7.--to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out, to thy house? when thou feeft the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?? Let the poor be gainers by your faft; for it is the pro. mife of God, that he that watereth, shall be watered also himself, Prov. xi. 25. : and one's finding mercy with God, natively issues in a merciful disposition to wards one's fellow-creatures, Matth. xviii. 33. Eph.

iv. 32

DIRE C T. XI. Before you give over your work, you will do well to consider seriously, that you are now the Lord's and no inore your own: and forasmuch as your covenanting with God, fuppofeth that you are resolved to reform, and to walk more clofely with God; lay down resolutions, in the strength of your covenanted God, to watch. And by all means forget not to consider, what are thofe things whereby, in a special manner, your fpiritual condition hath formerly been worted; and by what means it may be kept right: and fincerely refolve to eschew the one, and pursue the other; that so what gaps have been

in

[graphic]

in your conversation, may be filled up, whereby it will appear, that by your fast you have been set for. ward in your Christian course. And withal review your failures in all the parts of the exercise you have now been employed in.

DIRECT. XII. You may conclude the work with prayer, wherein you may humbly confess your failures in the management of this duty, and apply anew to the blood of sprinkling for purging them away; avouch your covenant-interest in God and his in you ; and lay the causes of your fast again before him, and folemnly leave them on him. The laying over a matter on the Lord believingly, in prayer, gives great ease to a burdened heart: it turns a fast sometimes into a spiritual feast. When Hannah had done so with her case, she went away and did eat, and her countenance' was no more fad, 1 Sam. i. 18. And lay over yourself upon him, for the grace of the covenant, to subdue your corruptions, bear you up a. gainst temptations, and carry on your resolutions ; that you may go out into the world again, in the faith of his grace fufficient for you in all exigencies.

DIRECT. XIII. When the work is over, take heed to your spirit. And,

I. Beware of spiritual pride. Do not value your. self upon the account of the work done, as they did who said, Wherefore have we fasted, and thou feeft not? Ifa. Iviii. 3. The opinion of the merit of good works, is what the heart of man easily goes off into, by its natural bias : and there is so much of the old man in the best, that they are apt to think highly of their religious performances and services. Wherefore be on your guard, particularly on that fide ; and consider the perfection required by the

holy

holy law, and keep in view your own mismanage. ments, so as when you mall have done all those things, you may be obliged to say, We are unprofitable fer. vants, Luke xvii, 10.

2. Beware of carnal security. Saints sometimes fall asleep, quickly after a full meal of spiritual en. joyment; as it fared with the spouse, Cant. v. 1. 2. And Satan watching the advantage, rallies his scato tered forces, and with his wounded men burns the city. So it comes to pass, that, according to Solomon's observer Prov. xii. 27. The Nothful rosteth not that which he took in hunting : what was gathered with much pains, is lost thro' un watchfulness, ere he gets the use of it.

3. Lastly, Beware of forgetting the causes of your fast; but in your ordinary addresses to God, remember them; and wait on for an answer : Pfal. v. 3. I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. Prayers may be accepted, and yet not presently answered. In which case, it is necessary that with patience we wait for a return from heaven, mean while using the appointed means for obtaining the end. The neglecting hereof may provoke the Lord to continue the symptoms of his anger, or stroke of his hand, which otherwise might sooner be remov. ed: and to leave one perplexed and imbarrassed, in matters wherein light is needed.

But in your waiting for light, whatever the Sovereign Lord may do, do not you look for impressions, far less for voices, nor extraordinary revelations any manner of way, to discover your duty in particular cases, 2 Pet. i. 18, 19. But, having laid yourself fairly open to the divine determination, and made humble and earnest supplication unto God for light in your particular case, believe that you shall be guided, taught, and directed by him, according to his promise, Psal. xxv. 9. Prov. iii. 6. And then, in dependance on the Lord, weigh the matter and cire

cumftantiate

[ocr errors]

eumstantiate cafe in the balance of sanctified reason, according to the general directions of the word, fuch as Philip. iv. 8. Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are juft, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report ; if there be any virtue, and if their be any praise, think on these things, And carefully observe the conduct and motions of providence, with reference to it, still comparing them with the word. And you will find that he will guide you with his eye, according to the promise, Pfal. xxxii. 8. And with respect thereto, you may put up that petition unto him, in faith, Pfal. lxxxvi. 17. Shew me a token for good.

Thus far of personal fasting and humiliation.

W

CH A P. III. Of Family Fasting and Humiliation in

particular. Herein the substance of this duty, which is

the fame in all religious fafts whatsoever,

doth consilt, is already declared. And there being many things common to family fasts, with perfonal ones, of which we have treated at large; it remains only to add here some few things pecukar to family-fasting. And,

First, As to the divine warrant for it, one may be fatisfied upon these grounds.

1. Forasmuch as every Christian family ought to be a church Rom. xvi. 5. to receive all ordinances appointed of God, and competent to them in their family capacity, and that religious fasting is an ordinance of divine appointment, in the nature whereof there is nothing to hinder its being performed by a family in their family capacity: it is evident, that

family fafting and humiliation is a part of family worship; namely, an extraordinary part thereof, to be occasionally performed. Accordingly, it is promised, as an effect of the pouring out of the spirit, Zech. xii. 12. The land shall mourn, every family apart. We have also a plain instance of it, in Either's family, on the occasion of the mischievous decree against the Jews, procured by Haman, Esth. iv. 16. I also and my maidens will falt likewise. And the fafting of the Jews, on the same occasion, in every province wbitherfoever that decree came, mentioned ver. 3. seems to have been mostly, if not altogether, of the fame kind, to wit, family-fasting; not only, in respect of their circumstances in those provinces where they were difperfed, Chap. iii. 8. but also, that the thanksgiving for their deliverance was appointed to be kept throughout every family, Chap. ix. 28.

2. The ground upon which the duty of fasting and humiliation is bound upon public worshipping focieties, and upon particular persons, takes place also in the case of families. If national, congregational, and personal fins to be mourned over, judgments to be deprecated, and mercies to be fought, do found a call to a nation, congregation, or perfon, respectively, to humble themselves with fast. ing; can there be any reason assigned, why the fame should not hold in like manner, in the case of families? Surely, as there are times wherein it goes ill with a land, or witka a particular congregation or person : so there are times wherein it goes evil with one's houfe, i Chron. vii

. 23. in respect of special family sins or strokes; and in which there are special family-mercies needed. And families are obliged to the using of the fame appointed means for getting rid of the one, and obtaining the other ; as other worshipping societies, and particular persons, are, in their respective cases. And where the concern of members of a family is common, although it be

not

« PreviousContinue »