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as well be pleaded against the necessity of half the duties of Christianity.
Upon the whole matter it appears, that fasting is a constant universal duty, and that it is liable to no other exceptions, than such as are common to several other great duties of religion. It is no
fixed degree of sorrow, that is the common repentance of all men; it is no particular sum of money, that is the common charity of all men; it is no fixed form, or length, or hour, of prayer, that is the common devotion of all men: yet all these are constant and universal duties.
In like manner, though fasting may be subject to all the same variations, yet it is a constant and universal duty.
Justus is a grave sober man, he is very angry at those people who neglect or ridicule fasting; he thinks they know nothing of religion.
Thus far Justus is very right, and knowing thus much, one would wonder that he is so inconsistent with himself; for presently after this, Justus will tell you, that he never fasts but upon Good Friday, and the thirtieth of January.
If Justus had lived before the murder of King Charles, he had had but one fast in the year, yet, in all likelihood, he would have then stood up for the doctrine of fasting.
If a man was to be angry at those who neglect or despise the service of the church, as people that know nothing of religion, and then tell you that he himself never goes thither but on Good Friday and the thirtieth of January, you would say, that he knew nothing of the nature of church service.
Now Justus shows the same ignorance of the nature of fasting. For if prayer and repentance, and the service of the church, were not common acts of devotion, and right and necessary ways of worshipping God, they would not be necessary upon Good Friday, or any other particular day.
In like manner, unless fasting was a common and necessary part of religion, something that was always a proper means of applying to God, it would neither be necessary nor acceptable on those particular days.
For it is not the day that makes the duty to be necessary, but the day happens to be a proper occasion of exercising a necessary duty. Some great calamity happens to you; you
do very well to make it an occasion of exercising great devotion, but if you stay till some other calamity happens before you pray again, or think that prayer is only proper in times of calamity, you know nothing of devotion.
It is the same thing in fasting; some great occasion m y justly call you to it; but if you forbear fasting till such great occasions happen again, or think that fasting is only proper for such public occasions, you know nothing of the nature of fasting.
If Justus was to say that he never repents but on those public days, he might as easily defend himself, as when he says, he only fasts, on those times.
For is there any benefit in fasting on those particular days? Does it add any thing to your piety and devotion? Does it make your repentance and sorrow for sin more real and affecting ? Does it calm and abate your passions, lessen the power of your body, and put you in a better state of devotion, than when you take your usual meals? If it has not something of this effect, where is the use of it at such times when you would have your devotions the best performed? And if it has this effect, how comes it, that you will have but one or two. such days in the year? Why will you not thus affect your soul, thus assist your devotions, thus discipline your body, thus allay your passions, thus. raise your heart, thus humble yourself, till the day comes on which King Charles was murdered? Is not this like staying till then before you repent,
Our blessed Sariour saith, But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but
Matt. vi. 17. unto thy Father, which is in secret, and thy Father, which is in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Here our Saviour's advice relates wholly to private fasting, to which other people are to be strangers ; to such a fasting as is a secret service to God, who will therefore highly reward it. Yet Justus tells you, that he fasts only twice in the year, and that on public days. Now what is this to be called? Is it weakness, or perverseness ? If
you was to ask me, whether frequent private prayer be a necessary duty, I should think it sufficient to read to you the following passage: But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Nothing need be added to this authority; the necessity and advantage of private prayer is here so expressly taught, that there is no room left to doubt about it.
Justus readily acknowledges all this; how comes it then Justus, that you know nothing of the necesa sity and advantage of private fasting? How comes it that the same authority, and the same words, do not teach you as much in one place as in another? Has not our Saviour expressed himself exactly in the same manner, and given the same advice, and proposed the reward to private fasting, as to private prayer ?
Farther; When the disciples of our Lord could not cast the evil spirit out of a man that was a lunatic, he not only tells them, that it was through want of faith, but also gives them a very important instruction in these words ;
Matt. xvii. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by
21. prayer and fasting,
Now does this look as if fasting was an occasional thing, only for a day or two in the year? Is it ranked with prayer, as having the same common nature, as being equally prevailing with God? And is not this sufficient to teach us, that we must think of fasting, as we think of prayer; that it is a proper way of devotion, a right method of applying to God? And if that prayer is most prevailing, and enters farthest into heaven, which is attended with fasting, it is proof enough surely, that fasting is to be a common ordinary part of our devotion.
Is it sufficient and powerful enough to cast out devils, and cure lunatics; and shall we neglect it, when we pray against the evil tempers and passions which possess our hearts? Shall we not pray to God in the most powerful prevailing manner that we can?
If we were to fast without praying, would not this be a way of worship of our own invention ? And if we pray, and neglect fasting, is it not equally choosing a worship of our own? For he that has taught us the use and advantage of prayer, has, in the same words, taught us the same things of fasting, and has also joined them together, as having the same power with God.
If, therefore, Justus will take his religion from Scripture, he must own, that fasting is of the nature of prayer, that it has the same authority from Christ, and that he who only fasts on a public day or two in a year, no more observes the whole duty of Christian fasting than he who only attends some public yearly days of prayer, can be said to fulfil the whole duty of Christian devotion.
To proceed: We may also observe, that the reason of self-denial and abstinence is constant and perpetual, because we are perpetually united to a body that is more or less fit to join with our souls in acts of holiness, according to the state that it is in.
As therefore it is always necessary to take care what thoughts and inclinations we indulge in our minds, so it is equally necessary, that we be constantly careful how we alter the state of our bodies, or indulge them in such gratifications, as may make them less fit for the purposes of an holy life.
For since there are states of the body which favour holiness, and these states depend much upon our manner of living, it is absolutely necessary that we avoid every degree of indulgence, every kind of irregularity and idleness, or other course of life, that may make our bodies less active, less pure, and less conformable to the duties of religion.
And this is to be done, as I said before, not only as a reasonable and advisable thing, but as of the utmost necessity, it being as essential to holiness, to purify our bodies, and practise a strict temperance, as it is necessary to practise a strict charity.
Now Christian temperance is no more that which may pass for temperance in the sight of men, than Christian charity is that which is visible to the world,
A worldly man may think himself sufficiently temperate, when he only abstains froin such escesses, as may make him fitter to enjoy a healthful sensuality.
But Christian temperance is of quite another nature, and for other ends, it is to put the body into a state of purity and submission, and give the soul a divine and heavenly taste.
It is therefore to be observed, that Christian temperance is never enough practised, but when it puts the body in the fittest state for devotion, and other acts of holiness: when our bodies have all that good done to them, have all that purification, and right tempers, which abstinence and self-denial can give them, then do we practise Christian temperance. There is no other rule than this to go by; for