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miliation, Fasting and Prayer, that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and through the merits of our blessed Saviour, obtain pardon and forgiveness: That it may please Him, to inspire our rulers with incorruptible integrity, and to direct and prosper their councils: To inspire all our citizens with a fervent and disinterested love of their country, and to preserve and strengthen their union: To turn the hearts of the disaffected, or to frustrate their devices: To regard with divine compassion our friends in captivity, affliction and distress, to comfort and relieve them under their sufferings, and to change their mourning into grateful songs of triumph: That it may please him to bless our Ally, and to render the connection formed between these United States and his kingdoms a mutual and lasting benefit to both nations: To animate our officers and forces by sea and land with invincible fortitude, and to guard and protect them in the day of battle, and to crown our joint endeavours for terminating the calamities of war with victory and success: That the blessings of Peace and Liberty may be established on an honourable and permanent basis, and transmitted inviolate to the latest posterity: That it may please Him to prosper our husbandry and commerce, and to bless us with health and plenty: That it may please Him to bless all schools and seminaries of learning, and to grant that truth, justice and benevolence, and pure and undefiled religion may universally prevail.
Frequent have been the days of humiliation, and the fasts which our Rulers, in their Piety, have recommended during a few past years. And once at least every year hath, (if not oftener) beheld the inhabitants of these states, (in consequence of such recommendation) assembled, and prostrated, before the Lord, in Prayer and Fasting; and now at length, through the impatience of our tempers, the deceitfulness of our hearts, and the weakness of our faith, we are ready, perhaps, to take up the complaint of the Jews, and in the language of despair, instead of the voice of Godly sorrow and repentance, to argue the matter with our great Creator, and to question his goodness and justice in the words of my text
"Wherefore have we fasted and Thou seest not? "Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and Thou "takest no knowledge?"
These are awful questions, and which He only to whom they are addressed, can answer; for "known unto Him, (and unto Him only) are all His works and ways from the beginning of the world." And therefore, since, by his holy prophet, he has vouchsafed an answer to these and such like questions, to the desponding Jews, in circumstances not unlike to our own; we cannot better employ our time, on this solemn occasion, than by considering—
First-The answer given by the prophet to these questions of the Jews, and the reasons of the Almighty for the frequent rejecting of their fasts;—
Secondly-How far our fasts may be chargeable with the like defects in the sight of a just and allseeing God? And how, through His grace, our Pray
ers and Fastings, our Praises and Thanksgivings, may be rendered more acceptable to Him?
Although we have the Gospel in our hand, as the fulness of Divine Light and Knowledge, to which no addition can be made in our mortal state; yet we are to adore that Providence which has given us the Old Testament also; wherein is contained an account of the dealings of the Almighty, in ancient times, with his own chosen people; and from whence lessons are to be derived, that with profit may be applied to the instruction of mankind in all succeeding ages.
The chapter from which my text is taken, and which I read to you as the first lesson for this day's solemnity, is every way suitable to the purpose of our meditations. It is itself a fast-day Sermon, or the great heads of what the prophet, by the inspiration of the Almighty delivered to the Jews, upon one of their great days of humiliation. For upon these solemn days the prophets of the Lord were particularly commanded to deliver public exhortations and addresses, sparing neither High nor Low, Prince nor People, but boldly warning them of their iniquities, and calling aloud to repentance by every argument of terror and of love.
Thus the prophet Jeremiah, although shut up in prison, for having given offence to the king and great men, by the freedom and truth of his exhortations, (a calamity which often befel him during his ministry) yet when a solemn Fast was to be observed, on the loss of the city; we find that he would not neglect, at any peril, to do his duty and deliver
the will of the Lord even to the King and the People, who persecuted him.
He therefore commands Baruch to take a Roll of a book, and write from his mouth all the words of the Lord that he had spoken against Israel and against Judah and continues he, since "I am shut up and "cannot go into the house of the Lord; therefore go "Thou and read in the Roll, which Thou hast written "from my mouth, the words of the Lord, in the "ears of the people, in the Lord's house upon the Fasting-Day; and also thou shalt read them in the "ears of all Judah that come out of their cities. It may be they will present their supplication before "the Lord, and return every one from his evil way— "for great is the fury that the Lord hath pronounced "against this people”—
So that the great intention of these Fast-Exhortations, was, if possible, to stir up the people, and lead them, by prayer and supplication and turning from their evil ways, to escape the impending judgments of Almighty Justice. And these exhortations and Sermons appear accordingly to have been delivered to the people at their first entrance into the house of the Lord, to excite them more devoutly to Prayer and Praise; and was not deferred, as the custom now is, to be delivered after offering up our Prayers and Praises.
For this purpose these ancient prophets and preachers had their stand in a place where they could be alike heard by Princes and People, as they assembled for the Temple-Service; and often too, they
stood in the streets and at the gates of the city to be heard by those, who entered from distant places.
Thus "the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah saying-Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and proclaim there this word-to all that enter in at "these gates to worship the Lord*." And againf "proclaim these words in the streets of Jerusalem." And‡ "Hear these words, ye Kings and all ye Inha"bitants of Judah and Jerusalem, that enter in by "these gates."
But, return we now to the remarkable Fast-Sermon of the prophet Isaiah, in the chapter from which we have taken our text; and let us consider as well the calamitous situation of the Jews at the time of the Fast, which is probably here described, as the reasons of God's rejecting their Prayers and Supplications; and, as we proceed, let us not be blindly partial to our own Situation and Sins, but make a due improvement of the experience and examples recorded for our instruction.
The situation of the Jews, after they had been first spoiled by the Assyrians, and afterwards by the Babylonians, as set forth in the forty-second chapter of this prophecy, claims our first attention. And truly melancholy and miserable it was.
"This people, (saith the prophet) is robbed and spoiled. They are all of them snared in holes, and "hid in prison-houses; They are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, re"6 store. Who Who among you will give ear to this?
Jer. chap. vii, 2.
† Chap. xi. 6.
Chap. xvii. 20.