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spiritually by the adoption of this specific remedy, it seems well suited to the present, and to the expected condition of man. It is a temptation to which all, in a greater or less degree are exposed, to seek after present and worldly support, with over anxious care, and ungrateful distrust. The excessive exertions of mind and body which, duly, and for a proper object put forth, are man's daily duty, too often rest upon the unhallowed doubt and anxious inquiry of "What shall we eat, and what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed?" and it would be a needless occupation of time to point out any of these numberless ills, of mental error, inconsistency, and temper, which embitter the scenes of social and domestic life, and which have their existence solely from the excessive indulgence of animal appetite and selfish gratifications. The religion of the Gospel, in the mean time, being so spiritual in its precepts, and pointing ever to the final rest of a spiritual inheritance, no means surely could be so well applied to overcome the natural tendency the other way, as those which our church has sanctioned and really enjoined. Self-denial, of some kind or other, is absolutely necessary for us all and whatever means the conscientious Christian finds in the advice of the wise and good, in the practice of holy men of old, in the directions of holy scrip
ture, and in his own experience, which make temptation less strong, and holiness more attainable, he will adopt with cheerfulness, and use with implicit trust in God, to bless him in his spiritual application of an outward or an inward fast.
We have now considered the duty and the manner of outward self-denial, and the whole hath been grounded and directed by the consideration, that all outward means thereof are but for the far higher object of spiritual improvement. The great rule in all outward mortification is, that it be made a mortification to sin itself. Let the covetous man deny himself in his desire after and trust in the unrigh teous mammon: let the angry man mortify the irritability of his temper: let the man of pleasure forego his walk in the broad road which is leading him to destruction: let the proud man remember his dust, his origin, and his end: let the uncharitable man think upon the nothingness of his boasted attainments in other duties, the love of his fellow creatures unfulfilled; and then will be the profitable adoption of outward means, then will be performed very deed the scriptural duties of the Christian fast.
The order of an outward solemnity from the authority of the church, is now returned upon us in its annual observance of many
years. But let us not be tempted to consider this periodical abstinence from some worldly and excessive pleasures, some long cherished selfish gratification, as a mere sponge to wipe off the score of sinful indulgence, and so to relieve the conscience under its reasonings upon the past, and under the intention and hope to resume them again. This is adding sin to sin, and rendering the very medicine which is given to cure, a poison that kills indeed; administering strength to the original disease, and producing more. As far as the end of all fasting goes, the Christian's fast is an habitual fast. Under the sanctifying inAuence, continually to be prayed for and depended upon, we are never to suffer sin to have the dominion over us. We need selfdenial day by day in every thing sinful, or tending towards sin; and we need discreet and periodical self-denials in things not in themselves actually sinful, as a wholesome corrective to the insinuating evil of much present enjoyment, and as a good aid in progressive eagerness after the surer possession of fu ture and spiritual blessedness.
But if this occasional abstinence from plea sure of any kind be used without reference to its end, and it be but the forced and unwilling conformity to outward and general observance, and then, when it is past, the same
round of excess and self-indulgence be run again, and the same habits, temper, and manner of life be again given way to, what doth it profit ? "Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord ?" It is a solemn mockery, and only renders sin and a worldly life more exceeding sinful.
As the safe conclusion to the whole matter, let us ever keep our attention fixed upon the personal ministerial direction herein of our Lord Jesus Christ. His especial directions were levelled against the hypocrisy of the Jewish outward fasts, and all of us He cautions, that when we fast, we "be not as the hypocrites:" and then, that He might at once go to the very root of the evil which renders self-denial of any kind necessary to us all, He adds, "Lay not up for yourselves treasure upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."*
In the purity and perfect efficacy of this doctrine let us learn of Christ. Let us learn of Him in the efficacious rule of His own example, in His future character of Sovereign * Matt. vi. 16, 21.
Judge, in His present office of Priest and Advocate with the Father, in His threatenings, in His love for the salvation of his own redeemed. So learning, let us apply the knowledge of this mighty Saviour to daily life; and then shall we know the wisdom which teaches us all, that the true fast is a habit of obedience to His laws; of systematic resistance to whatever binds too closely to our present short and uncertain duration. Life then becomes, what it is intended to be, a preparation for death; and temporal self-denial the prelude to an eternal enjoyment of a purchased, unmixed, uninterrupted happiness.