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long abfence from the fchool, must begin anew again; fo fome Chriftians, in order to their recovery, must be carried through the feveral fteps of converfion again, as we may learn from our Saviour's words to Peter, with relation to his fall, Luke xxii. 32. I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted, ftrengthen thy brethren.
6. When one is under a felt and fmarting defertion, Ifa. xlix. 14. Zion faid, The Lord hath forfaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. This is a morehopeful cafe than the former: howbeit it goes to the quick, Prov. xviii. 14. The fpirit of a man will fuftain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? There are many bitter ingredients in it, which make it a forrowful cafe, exquifitely painful to the foul, like that of a woman forfaken, and grieved in fpirit, even a wife of youth, Ifa. liv. 6. To one thus deferted, wrath appears in the face of God, and impreffed on every difpenfation, Pfalm 1xxxviii. 7, 8. To his fenfe and feeling, his prayer is fhut out, Lam. iii. 8.; and flashes of hell come into his foul, Pfalm lxxxviii. 15, 16. Under the preffure hereof, fome very grave and folid perfons have not been able to contain themselves, Job xxx. 28. Í went mourning without the fun: I stood up, and I cried in the congregation. This fmarting defertion, in greater or leffer measure, has often been the fear. ful outgoing from the dead desertion, as it was in the experience of the fpoufe, Cant. v. 3,-7. And it is a loud call to perfonal fafting and humiliation, Matth. ix. 15. When the bridegroom shall be taken from them, then shall they faft.
7. When one is preffed with fome outward afflic tion, whether in his body, relations, name, fubftance, or otherwife. In fuch a cafe, Job rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, Job. i. 20.; and David's
knees were weak through fafting, Pfalm cix. 24. A time of affliction is a fpecial feafon for fasting and prayer. The Lord often lays affliction on his people, on purpose to awaken them to their duty, and as it were to neceffitate them to it: even as Abfalom who, having in vain sent once and again for Joab, obliged him at length to come unto him, by causing fet his corn-field on fire. This is the way to get affliction fanctified, and in due time removed, James iv. 10. Humble yourselves in the fight of the Lord, and he fhall lift you up. We ought therefore to take heed, that we be not of those who cry not wher he bindeth them; but that in this case we do as Benhadad's fervants, who, upon a fignal defeat of his army, put fackcloth on their loins, and ropes on their heads, and went out, as humble fupplicants, to the king of Ifrael, who had fmote them, 1 Kings xx. 31.
8. When, by the aspect of providence, one is threatened with fome fuch affliction. It is an ungracious hardness, not to be affected when the Lord is lifting up his hand against us. He was a man of an excellent fpirit, who faid, My fleb trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments, Pfal. cxix. 120. Though he was an hero that feared the face of no man, he laid afide that bravery of fpirit when he had to do with his God. Wherefore, when the Lord was threatening the removal of a child of his by death, tho' the continuing of that child in life would have been a lafting memorial of his reproach, yet the impreffion of the Lord's anger on that threatening difpenfation, moved him to betake himself to perfonal fafting and humiliation before the Lord, for the life of that child, 2 Sam. xii. 16, 22.
9. When one would have light and direction in fome particular matter of fpecial weight. It is much to be lamented, that men profeffing the belief of a divine providence in human affairs, fhould, in confidence of their own wisdom, take the weight of
their matters on themselves, without acknowledging God in them; aiming only to please themselves E therein, and not their God; as if their fancy, conveniency, or advantage, and not their confcience, I were concerned in their determinations and refolves. Hence it is, that wife men are often left to fignal blunders in conduct, and feel marks of God's indignation justly impreffed on their rash determinations. Thus Joshua and the princes of Ifrael, in the matter of the league with the Gibeonites, finding no need of the exercise of their faith, but of their wit, vainly imagining they could fee well enough with their own eyes, took of their victuals, and asked not counfel at the mouth of the Lord, and were egregiously overreached by them, as they faw afterward, when it 3 was too late, Josh. ix. 14, 22.
We have a divine command and promife, extending to our temporal, as well as to our spiritual con. cerns; and very fuitable to the neceffary dependance we have on God in all things, as creatures on their Creator, Prov. iii. 5. Lean not unto thine own underftanding. Verse 6. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. We ought therefore, in all our matters, to eye him as our director; and fteer our whole course, as he directs by his word and providence. Since he hath faid, I will teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye, Pfalm xxxii. 8. it is unquestionably our duty to fet the Lord always before us, Pfalm xvi. 8.; to regulate our acting, and ceafing from action, by the divine direction; even as the Ifraelites in the wilderness removed and refted, juft as the pillar of cloud and fire removed or refted before them, Num. ix. 15,-23.
Sometimes indeed an affair may be in fuch a fituation, as allows not an opportunity of making an addrefs unto God, for light in it, by folemn prayer but we are never fo circumftanced, but we have acZ 2
cefs to lift up our eyes to the holy oracle, in a devour ejaculation; as Nehemiah did in fuch a fituation, Neh. ii. 4, 5. And there is a promife relative to that cafe, which has been often verified, in the comfortable experience of the faints taking that me thod to obtain the divine direction, Prov. iv. 12. When thou runneft, thou shalt not ftumble. But Chriftians fhould accuftom themfelves to lay their f matters before the Lord, in folemn prayer, for light and direction therein, as far as circumstances do per mit. So did Abraham's pious fervant, with the af fair his mafter had committed to him, Gen. xxiv. 12, 13, 14. And accordingly he had a pleasurable experience of the accomplishment of the promife relative to that cafe; Prov. iv. 12. When thou goeft, thy fteps fhall not be ftraitened. And where they are to be determined in a matter of fpecial weight, fuch as the change of their lot, the choice of an employ. ment, fome momentuous undertaking, or any the like occurrences in life whereof ferious Chriftians will find not a few, allowing them time and oppor tunity to deliberate on them: that is a special occa fion for extraordinary prayer with fafting, for light from the Lord the Father of lights, to difcover what is their duty therein, and what he is calling them to in the matter. So the captives returning from Ba bylon with Ezra, kept a faft at the river Ahava, to feek of God a right way, Ezra. viii. 21.
10. When duty being cleared in a matter of fpecial weight, it comes to the fetting to; in which event one needs the prefence of God with him therein, the divine bleffing upon it, and fuccefs in it. Thus Efther being to go in unto the king, to make requeft for her people, there was a folemn fafting, on that occafion, ufed by her and the Jews in Shufhan, Efth. iv. 8, 16. And Barnabas and Saul being call ed of God unto fpecial work, were not fent away to it, but after fafting and prayer, Acts xiii. 2, 3.
We need not only light from the Lord to discover unto us our duty in particular cafes; but that being obtained, we need alfo his prefence to go along with us in the thing, that we may be enabled rightly to make our way, which he bids us go. Therefore faid Mofes, Exod. xxxiii. 15. If thy prefence go not with me, carry us not up hence. Sin hath defiled every thing to us: and however promifing any worldly ftate, condition, or thing whatfoever, may appear in our eyes; yet if we have not the prefence of God, in it, and his bleffing upon it, to purify it unto us, we will be mired in it, and find a fnare and a trap, if not a curfe, therein to us.
11. When one, haying fome unordinary dificulty to encounter, is in hazard of being infhared either into fin or danger. On fuch an occafion was the forementioned faft at Shufhan kept; Efter jeoparding her life, in going in unto the king in the inner-court, not called by him, Efth. iv, 11, 16. The ship has need to be well balafted, that fails while the wind blows high: and in a difficult and inínaring time, there is need of fafting and prayer for Heaven's fafe-conduct through it. Mens trufting to themselves in fuch a cafe, cannot mifs of betraying them into fnares.
12. lastly, When one hath in view fome special folemn approach unto God; in which case a special preparation is requifite. Thus Jacob called his family to fuch preparation, in the exercise of repentance, in order to their appearing before the Lord at Bethel, Gen. xxxv. 2, 3. The Ifraelites were called to the fame, in order to the awful folemnity of the giving of the law on mount Sinai, Exod. xix. 10, II, 15. And it is obfervable, that, whereas the feaft of tabernacles was the most joyful of all the feafts the Jews had throughout the year, a folemn faft was appointed by God to be obferved always before it, four free days only intervening, Lev. Z 3