Page images

xxiii. 27, 34. For, in the method of grace, none ftand fo fair for a lifting up, as thofe who are most deeply humbled. Ifa. xl. 4. Luke xviii. 14, Jam. iv. 10. Wherefore it is a laudable practice of our church, that congregations keep a congregational faft, be fore the celebration of the feaft of the facrament of the Lord's fupper, among them, in order to their preparation for a folemn approach unto God in that holy ordinance. And for the fame reafon, fecret fafting by particular perfons apart, and private faft ing by families apart, efpecially fuch as have not ac cefs to join in the public faft, would be very feafonable on fuch an occafion. And if thofe fecret and private fafls could more generally obtain, and get place in congregations, fome little time before the communion-work did begin; it would be a token for good, and might prove like the noife and fhaking among the dry bones, that ufhered in the breathing on the flain, and the caufing them to ftand up upon their feet, Fzek. xxxvii. 7, 10.

Thefe things duly confidered, each Chriftian may be in a cafe to judge for himfelf, when it is that he is under a providential call to perfonal fafling and humiliation.


Directions anent perfonal fafting and humiliation.


Aving feen the divine warrant for perfonal faft ing and humiliation, and confidered the nature of a providential call to that extraordinary duty, it remains to offer fome advices or directions for the profitable managing of it in practice.



When you find that the Lord is calling you to this duty, prudently make choice of a fit time and place for it aforehand, wherein they may have accefs to go about it without diftraction. And carefully difpose of your ordinary affairs before that time, fo as you may have no let nor hindrance from that part, which you can prevent. Works of neceffity and mercy, which are lawfully done on the Lord's day, are. much more fo in this cafe, wherein the duty waits not the time, but the time on the duty. Yea, in cafe something of worldly business, which you could not foresee nor prevent, do fall out in the time of your faft, and cannot be deferred or put off without fome notable inconveniency: you may, without fcruple, dispatch it: for the time is not holy. But in that cafe, labour that, if poffible, your work be not thereby marred; and carefully keep up your frame of spirit for the duty you are engaged in. But Chriftian prudence to weigh circumstances, for which you are to look up unto the Lord, is neceffary to determine herein, according to the general rules of the word, Matth. xii. 3,—7.

As for fuch as are not masters of their time, which is the cafe of fervants, they cannot lawfully difpofe of their time at their own hand, even for this duty: for our God hates robbery for burnt-offerings, Ifa. Ixi. 8. Bet then they may endeavour to procure the neceffary time, at the hand of their master; to whom, if they be godly and ferrous, they may modeftly hint their defign; pitching on a time with fo much difcretion, as that their good may not be evil spoken of. And if any be fo unmindful of their Master which is in heaven, as to refufe fuch a difcreet defire; yet let not the party by any means think, that the facred nature of the thing he has in view, gives him a power to rob his master of fo much of his time:

for men can offer nothing to God, with a good con fcience, but what is their own; and exercifes of devotion are fo far from flacking the tye of moral duty to our neighbour, that they are nothing but an outward form of devotion, unacceptable to God, fo far as they do not influence the party to a careful and religious obfervance of the duties of mortality, fuch as judgment, or juftice, mercy, and faith or faithfulnefs, Matth. xxiii. 23. Neither yet let him imagine, on the other hand, that he is then no further concerned to look after that extraordinary duty for no reafon can be affigned, why one ought not to be willing to be at as much pains or expence, for procuring to himself an opportunity of communion with God in that duty, as he will be for an opportunity of attending fome worldly business of his own, placing another in his room. But if none of thefe can effectuate it; then though the day or time of labouring is the mafter's, yet the night or time of refting is the fervant's; let him give unto God what he has, and it fhall be accepted through Chrift. But, excepting the cafe of a providential neceffity oblig. ing one to take the night for this exercife, the day is, generally speaking, the moft proper time for it, beginning the exercife in the morning.



Make fome preparation for it the night before, turning your thoughts towards the exercife you have in view, confidering it, and avoiding every thing that hath a tendency to, disfit or indifpofe for it. Shun carnal mirth, and fenfual delights: fup fparing. ly; to eat the more, that one is to faft religiously after, is to mock God, and cheat one's felf. In the intervals of fleep, take heed that your thoughts be not vain, and much more that they be not vile; but that they be fuch as tend to fit you for the extraordinary duty in view.



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



Rife early in the morning; even fooner than ordinary, unless by reafon of bodily weaknefs, that would tend to disfit you for the work: for then you are called, in a fpecial matter to watch unto prayer, Eph. vi. 28. Sleep is a fleshly comfort, which howbeit it is neceffary, yet one is in this cafe called to be fparing of. Therefore the priests were bid lie all night in fackcloth, Joel i. 13.; and it is recorded of Ahab, that he in his faft lay fo, 1 Kings xxi. 27. A proper means to make one fleep sparingly.


As foon as you awake in the morning, let holy thoughts, with a view to his work, immediately have accefs into your heart. And beware that carnel or wordly, thoughts get not the ftart of them; for if you allow that, they will be to your foul like water poured upon firewood, that makes it hard to kindle. Surely, if one is at any time to follow the example of the Pfalmift David, Pfal. cxxxix. 18. When I awake, I am still with thee, he is to do it at fuch a time,



Let your ordinary duties of praying and reading of the word, be first of all performed: for extraordinary duties are not to juftle out the ordinary, but to be fuperadded unto them. And, in fuch prayers, beg of God grace to enable you for the work before you, according to his promife. Yea, it may be very expedient, that thereafter you go unto God again by prayer, particularly and purpofedly for his grace, to enable you unto the duty now come to the setting And forafmuch as our corrupt hearts are, upon a near view of a difficult and laborious holy exercise, very apt to wax faint, and our hands to hang down;


albeit the way of the Lord is declared to be strength. to the upright, Prov. x. 29.; do you therefore, by all means, ftudy to exercife faith: and labour to believe stedfastly, that his grace fhall be fufficient for you, to the making of his yoke eafy, and his burden light unto you, 2 Cor. xii. 9. with Matth. xi. 30. For no man shall ever be able to perform a duty acceptably unto God, without a believing perfuafion, in greater or leffer measure, of an allowance made him of grace fufficient for an acceptable performance of it, 2 Cor. iii. 4, 5. Philip. ii. 12, 13. One will otherwise be but a wicked and flothful fervant, as our Saviour teacheth, Matth. xxv. 24, 25, 26.




After prayer in faith, for the aid of divine grace, as in the preceding direction, begin the work with a folemn review of your fins, in deep meditation, and ferious communing with your own heart thereupon applying yourself to think of them in fuch manner as you think of your affairs, when confidering how to manage them in cafes of difficulty. God calls for this at your hand, Hag. i. 5. Thus faith the Lord of hofts, Confider your ways. Lam. iii. 40. Let us fearch and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. It is reommended unto us by the practice of the faints, Pfal. lxxvii. 6. I communed with mine beart, and my fpirit made diligent fearch; and cxix. 59. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy teftimonies. The nature of a religious faft requires it: for how can the deep humiliation therein to be aimed at, be otherwife obtained? or what way elfe can one be fitted to make a confeffion fuitable to fuch an occafion? It is obfervable, that in the fast mentioned, Neh. ix. the reading of the law went be. fore the making of the confeffion, verfe 3. So the first work was to fet the looking glafs before their cyes, that therein every one might fee his foul face. And

« PreviousContinue »