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humbled within us; our heart rent, not with remorfe for fin only, but with regret and kindly forrow for it, as an offence to a gracious and merciful God, Joel ii. 12, 13. our face filled with fhame and blushing before him, in the view of our fpiritual nakedness, pollution, and defilement, Ezra ix. 6. and we lothe ourselves, as moft vile in our own eyes, Ezek. xxxvi. 31. Job xl. 4.
3. Free and open confeffion of fin before God, without referve. This is a very material part of the duty incumbent on us in religious fafting; and the due confideration and deep humiliation just now men. tioned, do natively iffue in it; producing, of course, extraordinary confeffion of fin, an exercise most fuitable on fuch an occafion. Hence the Jews fpent one fourth part of the day in confeffing and worshipping, Neh. ix. 3.;. and the angel, who brought the answer to Daniel's fupplications, about the time of the even. ing oblation, found him still praying and confeffing his fin, Dan. ix. 20, 21. For here the finner duly humbled has much ado, acting against himself the part of an accufer, recounting before the Lord his tranfgreffions of the holy law, fo far as he is able to reach them; the part of an advocate, opening up the particulars, in their nature, and aggravating circum. ftances; and the part of a judge, juftifying God in all the evil he has brought upon him, and condemning himself as unworthy of the leaft of all his mercies, and deferving to perifh under eternal wrath.
4. The exercise of repentance in turning from fin unto God, both in heart and life; the native refult of deep humiliation and fincere confeffion: Joel ii. 12. Turn ye even to me-with fafting, and with weeping, and with mourning. In vain will we faft, and pretend to be humbled for our fins, and make confeffion of them, if our love to fin be not turned into hatred; our liking of it into loathing; and our cleaving
cleaving to it, into a longing to be rid of it; with full purpose to refift the motions of it in our heart, and the outbreaking thereof in our life: and if we turn not unto God as our rightful Lord and Master, and return to our duty again. If we are indeed true penitents, we will turn from fin, not only because it is dangerous and deftructive to us; but because it is offenfive to God, difhonours his Son, grieves his Spirit, tranfgreffeth his law, and defaceth his image: and we will caft away all our tranfgreffions, not only as one would caft away a live-coal out of his bofom, for that it burns him; but as one would caft away a lothefome and filthy thing, for that it defiles him.
But withal, it is to be remembered, that the true way to deal with a hard heart, to bring it to this temper, is to believe the gofpel. As ravenous fowls first fly upward, and then come down on their prey: fo mult we firft foar aloft in believing, and then we fhall come down in deep humiliation, fincere and free confeffion, and true repentance: Zech. xii. 10. They Shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and fhall mourn. Therefore the fcripture propofeth the object of faith in the object of grace, as a motive to repentance, that by a believing application thereof the hard heart may be moved and turned, Joel ii. 13. Turn unto the Lord your God, for he is gracious. One may otherwife toil long with it; but all in vain. Without faith it is impoffible to pleafe God, Heb. xi. 6.;. and therefore impoffible to reach true humiliation, right confeffion, and fincere repentance, which are very pleafing to him, Jer. xxxi. 18, 19, 20. The unbelieving finner may be brought to roar under law-horror; but one will never be a kindly mourner but under gospel influences. When guilt ftares one in the face, unbelief locks up the heart, as a keen froft doth the waters: but faith in the Redeemer's blood melts it, to flow in tears of godly forrow Y 2
Hard thoughts of God, which unbelief fuggests to a foul ftung with guilt, alienate the foul more and more from him; they render it like the worm, which when one offers to tread upon it, prefently contracts itself, and puts itself in the best posture of defence that it can but the believing of the proclaimed par don touches the heart of the rebel fo, that he casts down himself at the feet of his Sovereign, willingly yielding himself to his duty.
5. Solemn covenanting with God, entering into, or renewing covenant with him in exprefs words. As a feast-day is a day to loose the bands of wickedness, fo it is a day for coming explicitely into the bond of the holy covenant, Jer. 1. 4. Going and weeping ; they fhall go, and feek the Lord their God. Ver. 5Saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord, in a perpetual covenant that fhall not be forgotten. Accordingly this was an eminent part of their fallday's work, Neh. ix. 38. It follows of courfe, on due humiliation, confeffion, and the exercife of repentance, whereby the league with fin is broken. And it lies in a folemn profeffing before the Lord, that we take hold of his covenant, believing on the name of his Son as the Saviour of the world, and our Saviour, and that in and through him he will be our God, and we shall be his people and that we are from the heart content, and consent to take him for our Portion, Lord, and Mafter, and refign our. felyes to him only, wholly and for ever: Heb. viii. 10. This is the covenant,—I will be to them a God, and they fhall be to me a people. Ifa. xlix. 8. I will give thee for a covenant. Chap. lvi. 6. Every one that taketh hold of my covenant. John i. 12. As many as received him,—that believe on his name. Pfalm xvi. 2. O my foul, thou haft faid unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord. Ifa. xliv. 5. One shall fay, I am the
6. Laftly, Extraordinary prayer, in importunate addreffes and petitions unto our covenanted God for that which is the particular occafion of our faft. The confeffion and the covenanting are, both of them, to be done prayer-wife, as appears from Dan. ix. 4, -15. Neh. ix. 6,-38. But befides, there must be prayers, fupplications, and petitions made for what the perfon or family hath particularly in view, in their faft: Pfalm xxxv. 13. When they were fick, my cloathing was fackcloth: I humbled my foul with fafting, and my prayer returned into mine own bofom: And, indeed, the great end and defign for which fuch fafts are to be kept, is, that thereby the parties may be the more stirred up unto, and fitted for wrestling with God in prayer, anent the cafe which they have particularly at heart. So the Ninivites having their threatened overthrow at heart, it was ordered, that man and beast should be covered with fackcloth, and ery mightily unto God, Jonah iii. 8.; that is, that the men fhould cry in prayer for pity and sparing: and to the end they might be moved to the greater fervency in these their praying cries, it is provided, that they and their beafts too fhould be covered with fackcloth; and that their beasts having fodder and water with-held from them on that occafion, fhould be made to cry for hunger and thirst, even to cry unto God, namely, interpretatively, as the young ravens ery unto him, Job xxxviii. 41. At which rate, the eries of the beafts, being mixed with the cries of men, would make the folemnity of that extraordinary mourning very great: and the hearts of men being, every now and then during that folemnity, pierced with the cries of the harmlefs brutes, would be ftirred up to a more earnest, fervent, and importunate pleading with God for mercy.
Thus far of perfonal and family fafting and humifiation, in the general.
CHA P. IL
Of Perfonal Fafting and Humiliation in particular.
ROM what is faid it appears, that a personal faft is a religious exercife, wherein a particular perfon, having fet apart fome time from his ordinary business in the world, fpends it in fome fecret place by himself, in acts of devotion tending to his humiliation and reformation, and particularly in prayer, with fafting. Concerning the which we fhall confider, (1.) The divine warrant for it; (2.) The call to it; and, (3.) Offer advice how to manage it.
Of the divine Warrant for perfonal Fafting and Humiliation.
Orafmuch as will-worship is condemned by the word, and that can never be obedience to God, whereof his revealed will is not the reafon and rule; it concerneth all who would perform this duty in faith, fo as to have it accepted of him, to know who hath required it at their hands. And to set that matter in a light fufficient to fatisfy and bind it upon the confcience, as a duty owing unto God, let thefe few things following be duly weighed.
1. God requires it in his word; and that both directly and indirectly.
It is directly required, James iv. 9. Be afflicted and mourn and weep. It is plain enough from the context, thofe things are propofed as agreeing to particular perfons in their perfonal capacity. See verses 8, 10. And what it is that is required of them in thefe words, could not mifs to be as plain to thofe