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own fpiritual cafe, this duty of perfonal fafting and humiliation would not be fo rare as it is. Paul, who had much of this kind of exercise, Acts xxiv. 16. was in faftings often, 2 Cor. xi. 27.; kept under his body, and brought it into fubjection, 1 Cor. ix. 27.
Now, any or all of all thefe cafes call for this extraordinary duty, in three kinds of events, other circumftances agreeing, and pointing thereto in the conduct of providence.
Either, I. When there is any fpecial evil actually lying upon us, the church or our neighbour in whom we have a fpecial concern; whether it be a finful or a penal evil. There are fome fins that leave fuch guilt on the confcience, and fuch a defilement on the heart and life, as call aloud for fafting and humiliation, in order to recovery from the difmal effects thereof, James iv. 8. Cleanfe your hands, ye finners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Verfe 9. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep. Accordingly the Ifraelites gathered to Mifpeh, being fenfible of the abominable idolatries they had fallen into, fafted that day, and faid, We have finned against the Lord, 1 Sam. vii. 6.
In like manner, when the tokens of God's high difpleasure are gone out in afflicting providences, it is time for us to roll ourfelves in the duft: and fo, to accommodate our fpirit and way to the difpenfation, humbling ourselves before him with fafting. Thus Nehemiah found himself called to fafting, upon information received of the continued ruins of Jerufalem, and the affliction that the returned captives were in, Neh. i. 3, 4 David, and thofe with him, upon the news of the defeat of Ifrael, and the death of Saul and Jonathan, 2 Sam. i. 12.: and the people, upon the confideration of the flaughter which the Benjamites had made among them, Judg. xx. 26.
Or, 2. When there is any fpecial ftroke threatened and impending. Thus the inhabitants of Jerufa
lem, being in imminent danger from their enemies,
Or elfe, 3. When there is fome special mercy and favour to be defired of the Lord; as was the return of the Babylonish captivity, for which Daniel kept his faft, Dan. ix. 1, 2, 3. Christians exercised unto godliness, will rarely, if ever, want their particular fuits, and special errands unto the throne of grace. The fame God, who makes fome mercies fall into the lap of others, without their being at much pains about them, will give his own children many an errand unto himself for them, ere they obtain them because they must have them in the way of the covenant; whereas they come to others only in the way of common providence, in which a blafting curfe may come along with the mercy.
To fet this matter in a yet clearer light, we shall exemplify these general heads, in ones own private cafe; and that in feveral instances, to-be accommodate to the cafe of the church, and of our neighbour, by those who are difpofed religiously to obferve and confider the difpenfations of providence. There is a variety of these particular cafes, which, with agreeing circumftances to be difcerned by each one for himself, call for perfonal fafting and humiliation.
1. When through a long tract of finning and care
lefs walking, the cafe of one's foul is left quite in diforder and confufion: Ifa. xxxii. 11. Tremble, ye women that are at ease: be troubled ye careless ones: ftrip ye and make ye bare, and gird fackcloth upon your loins. Certainly the voice of God unto us fuch is, Thus faith the Lord, Confider your ways, Hag. i. 5. Want of confideration ruins many. They deal with their fouls, as fome foolish men do with their eftates, running on without confideration, till they have run themselves aground. But those who adventure so to take a time for finning, have need to take alfo a fet time for mourning: for it is not to be expected, that accounts which have been long running on, can be cleared and adjusted with a glance of one's eye. O careless finner, confider how matters ftand betwixt God and you: are you in any tollerable cafe for the other world, for death and eternity? are not matters gone quite to wreck with your foul? are you not pining away in your iniquity? is not the ftate and condition of your foul like that of the fluggard's vineyard that was all grown over with thorns, and nettles covered the face thereof and the ftone-wall thereof was broken down? Prov. xxiv. 31. O fet about perfonal fafting and humiliation. Ördinary pains will not ferve to recover the long neglected garden: it must be trenched, digged deep. A little may help the cafe, that is timely feen to: but all this will be little enough for thine, which hath lain fo long neglected.
2. When one is under convictions, entertaining fome thoughts to reform. On fuch an occafion was that faft kept, Neh. ix. 1, 2. and had very good ef fects, verfe 38. Chap. x. 1, 28, 29. This method is, in fuch a cafe a proper means to bring men to a point in the matter, and to fix their refolutions, otherwife ready to prove abortive. Some have con2 victions, which, at times, coming and paffing away, like a ftitch in one's fide, fet them now and then to
their prayers: but never prevail to bring them to a fettled courfe of reformation of life: their disease is too inveterate, to be fo easily carried off. But were they fo wife, as to make these convictions a matter of folemn ferioufnefs, fetting fome time a part on that Occafion for perfonal fafting and humiliation, they might through the divine bleffing, turn to a good account for the intereft of their fouls.
3. When the confcience is defiled with, the guilt of some atrocious fin. Doth national guilt of that kind require national fafting? and doth not perfonal guilt of the fame kind, require perfonal fafting? Yea, fure, God calls men, in that cafe, to be afflicted, and mourn and weep, James iv. 8, 9. Strong dif cafes require strong remedies; and confcience-walting guilt, deep humiliation, as in David's cafe, Pfal. ii. and Peter's, Matth. xxvi. 75. This kind of guilt, deeply wounding and stinging the foul, defiling and wafting the confcience, may be without any scandalous enormities of life, appearing to the view of the world. God is witness to fecret fins, even to the fins of the heart and men of tender confciences will be fick at the heart with fuch fins as are hid from all the world, and will never move oothers.
4. When one would fain get over a fnare he is often caught in, and have victory over a luft that hath often mastered him. There are not a few who have many good things about them, yet lack one thing: and that one thing is like to part between heaven and them; marring all their good things, both by way of evidence and of efficacy, Mark x. 21. They know that it is wrong; they often refolve to amend; and they would fain get above it: but whenever a new temptation comes, Satan attacking them on the weak fide, down go all their refolutions, like a bowing high wall, whofe breaking cometh fuddenly at an inftant; and they are hard and faft in the fnare
again. O confider, that this kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fafting, Matth. xvii. 21. Set therefore fome time apart for perfonal fafting and humiliation, on the account of that very thing, that you may wrestle with God in prayer anent it: and ufe this method time after time, until you prevail against it: Elfe that one thing may ruin you; and you will be condemned for it, not because you could not help it, but because you would not use the means appointed of God for relief in that cafe.
5. When one is under a dead desertion: in which cafe the Lord is departed, the wonted influences from heaven are with-held, but, the wound not fmarting, by reafon of fpiritual deadnefs, the party is not much moved therewith. This was the cafe of the fpoufe, Cant. iii. 1. By night on my bed I fought him whom my foul loveth: I fought him, but I found him not. And, for a recovery from it, he made. fome extraordinary efforts in the way of duty, verfes 2, 3, 4. The fame appears to be the cafe of many, with whom fome time a day it was better than now, God hides his face from them: their incomes from heaven are rare and fcanty, in comparison of what they have formerly been: they are fighing, and going backward. Though they go the round of ordinary religious exercifes ftill; yet it is long fince they had a token from the Beloved, accefs to or commu nion with God in them. O faft and pray for a recovery; as did Ifrael, when, after they had been long deferted, and very little affected with it, they began at length to lament after the Lord, 1 Sam. vii. 2, 6. It requires much, in the way of ordinary means, for to go to the ground of fuch a cafe, wherein by much flothfulness the building hath decayed, and thro' idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. Though true grace can never be totally loft; yet it may be brought to fuch a very low pafs, that, as fome fcholars, for retrieving the lofs fuftained through