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før the Murder of Naboth, and for taking Possession of his Vineyard, rent his Cloaths, and put Sackcloth upon his Flesh, and fasted, and lay in Sackcloth, and went fofily, he abited of his high and supercilious Carriage, and humbled himself before God; and God said to Elijah, Seeft thou how Ahah bumbleth himself before me. Because he humbleth him felf before me, I will not bring the Evil in his Days, 1 Kings 21., 27, 28, 29. The other of the Ninevites, who being threatned with Destruction after Forty Days, fafted and prayed, and repented, and turned from their evil Way, and said, who can tell if God vill turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce Anger ? Jonah 3. And that' Humiliation of theirs saved them from the threatned Destruction. Now they who do not need any extraordinary Humiliation upon their own Account, in this Particular inay upon very good reason come in for a Share upon this Account ; for if we would not be punished for other Mens Sins,' as that often happens in this World, we should lament and bewail Other Mens Sins, the Sins of our Forefathers, the Şins of our Neighbours and Countrymen ; and there is the more reason why good Men and Women should do thus, and confess the Sins of others, as if they were their own, because it is hard to bring those wlio have most need to confess, and
to be affiicted, to a due Sense of what they ought to do. But if all would be persuaded to humble themselves before God, and with one Consent to confess their Sins, and to implore his Mercy, if the Young Man would for some Time take Leave of his Pleasures, and the Tradesman come out of his Shop, if the Women would forget their Ornaments, and the Bridegroom go foreb of bis Chamber, and the Bride out of ber Closet, and with the Priests, the Ministers of the Lord, all as one Perfon present themselves every where before God with fafting, and pray, Spare thy People, O Lord, Ipare us, to save a linful Nation, that owes so much to the Justice of God as we do, for despising both his Judgments and Mercies, such an Appearance of Repentance and Huiniliation has this in it, that it doth some Honour to the Divine Judice, and keeps off the absolute need of its interposing against us for its own Reputationi in the World.
And now we see that the before-mention'd Abuses of Religious Fasting should by no Means deprive us of the Use of so advan. tageous a Thing.
The Sum then is this: Let us do that in Sincerity which others do in Hypocrisy: Let us do that in this Duty of Fasting with true Understanding and Judgment, which others do in Ignorance and Superstition, and do
that with Freedom which others do with Scruple and Vexation.
It cannot be expected that such Rules and Directions should be given about these Things, which will equally serve the Turn of all manner of Persons; for the Needs of Men are different, and the Tempers of Mens Bodies and Minds are different; and therefore these Instructions are of little Use to those that do not understand how to accom-, modate them to themselves by Experience of themselves.
The Scripture speaks of Fafting and Abftinence in the general, fo doth our Church, without prescribing Particulars, and so ought all wise Men to do when they speak to a great many, or with general Directions about it.
This is a Piece of Discipline that is generally needful, but not without Exception; all do not need it equally ; generally it may and ought to be pra&tised, not without Exception of some that cannot do it; and they that find themselves made more unfit by Abstinence for Prayer and Devotion, should not use Abstinence. They who need Relaxation (not to gratify a voluptuous Appe, tite, but to bring themselves into a better Frame for God's Service) may also use it without Scruple , only let us be honest Judges for our selves, and not turn a reaso
nable Latitude of Liberty in Things of this nature, into a Pretence for Wantonness, but remember that, we judge for our felves, in ån Affair that concerns our selves most of all
, and if we are Hypocrites, we shall have the worst of it.
As for the End of these outward Religious Exercises, which consists in a Religious Temper of Mind, and a constant good Conversation, we can never exceed in that. As for the Means, such as Fasting, and observing Times of Prayer, and other Religious Exercises, there is a Latitude, with which all may do equally well, tho' not with equal Length, with equal' Repetition, and with equal Degrees. We are to require you without fail to be just and honest, and chast, to love God with all your Hearts and Souls, and your Neighbours as your selves; these Things must be in all, and abound in all; but for the instrumental Means of Religion, the Means to obtain and inprove these substantial Virtues, we cannot require you to use them, but in that Proportion as they
W Advantage. And yet even amongst the Means of Religion, some are to be enjoined with less Latitude than others; as for Instance; No Man or Woman can pretend any reason against praying at all, tho? one or
other may shew a particular reason against abstaining from his or her usual Food; and there cannot lie so mnany Reserved Cafés against Frequent Praying as there may against Frequent Fasting; which Religious Exercise of Fasting is good, or not, according as it is beneficial and useful, or not, for those good Ends I have mentioned.
And therefore, after all that can be said upon this, ftill every Christian is and must be left to make particular Application of general Rules to himself; and he that does it not with Honesty and Sincerity, disappoints indeed the good Intention of the Person that would direct him, but then he is not to forget
that it is himself that he most of all deceives.
God grant that we may have a Right Judgment in all Things, and that we may perform such like Duties wisely, honestly, and conscientiously, to the Glory of his great Name, to our own Improvement in Virtue, and so to the Furtherance of our own Salvation, for Jesus Christ his Sake: To whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit; be ascribed all Honour, Praise and Glory, now and for ever. Amen.