Mr. Cabot's Fast SERMONS, April 18th. 1733:


The Nature of Religious Fasting Opened.

IN Two short DISCOURSES Deliver'd At Thompson in Kellingley, Connecticut Colony. On a Day of publick FASTING and PRAYER. April 18. 1733.

By Marston Cabot, V. D. M.

Jer. XLIV. 10.

They are not humbled even unto [...] Day. —

[...] Dei [...], qui Religionis causa sus [...]pitur et ad Religionis Officia commodius expedianda.

P. Van. Mastricht.

BOSTON: Printed for JOHN ELIOT in Orange Street at the South End of the Town. MDCCXXXIV.

[Page i]


GOD who is the only adequate Object of divine Worship, has been plea [...]'d in his inspired Ora­cles to prescribe the Means of it that are truly acceptable to himself; among which that o [...] a religious Fast is justly to be e [...]t [...]emed none of the least. We have sufficient Light in the Word of God to instruct us in the Nature of the Duty, and the Manner of it's Performance, together with the Time and other Circum­stances which have a necessary Relation to this extraordina­ry Service; and the Exampl [...]s (not a few) on sacred Re­cord, of the great Zeal of God's People exerted in the dis­charge of this Duty, are l [...]st for the Imitation of his Church in all succeeding Generations to the End of Time.

We in this Land are favoured with pious Rulers, who (among other Ways) express their tender Care of us in ap­pointing annual Fasts to be observed with a Spirit of true Devotion.

[Page ii] It was on such a Day as this that the ensuing Discour­ses were delivered by our dear Brother to the People of his own Charge: and are now at the urgent Desire of many of them made public from the Press. The Reverend Author was peculiarly induc'd to this Essay from the melancholly Observation there is had of Christians defectiveness in their attending on Fast Solemnities. The Sermons need no Recom­mendation of ours: We are perswaded they will make their own Way into the World; especially since they are upon an uncommon Subject, and but rarely known to be publish'd, as also that they are so well adapted to instruct and assist Peo­ple in "fasting to God, and in keeping such a Fast as be has chosen".

And now we heartily implore the Blessing of Heaven to accompany these, and all other the faithful Endeavou [...]s of his Servant to promot [...] the best Interest, and advance the Kingdom of Christ; that he may not spend his Strength for [...]ought and in vain.

John Fisk, Eben. Williams.

The Nature of religious Fasting Opened, &c.
Sermon, I.


— Did ye at all Fast unto me, even to me?

THE blessed God did not leave the World to the Guidance of natural Light and Reason, that they might find him purely by his Works of Creation; but bestowed upon them the inestimable Blessing of supernatural Revelation, thereby to bring Mankind to a more distinct and full Knowledge of their Duty. But it is observable, that the Revelation which God was pleas'd to make of his Mind, was gradual and various. He dis­cover'd his Will unto the Fathers at sundry times, before the De­luge by Enoch and Noah: After the Flood by Abraham, Jacob, Moses and all the Prophets; and in divers manners; sometimes by immediate Inspiration; sometimes by a lively Voice; sometimes by Signs and Wonders from Heaven, sometimes by Dreams which are the Images or Resemblances of things presented to the Fancy in Sleep; and frequently by Visions, which (as they stand in Con­tra-distinction to Dreams) are the Representations of things made to the open and waking Eye; for this Reason it is tho't the Pro­phets in old time us'd to be stiled SEERS. In this last sense Al­mighty God revealed much of his Will to the Jewish Nation and People by the Prophet Zechariah: He was a Man authoriz'd, and commissionated by Heaven, to call them to Repentance, and agre­able to the Power he was vested with, and the true notation of his Name which is one mindful of the Lord, he was very observant of what he had received of the Lord to be delivered unto them.

[Page 2] Hence, we find him in the beginning of this Book exhorting the Jews to return to God, assuring them (in his Name and Fear) that If they did so the Lord of Hosts would return to them, but (it seems) they were obstinate in their evil Courses, and refused to return. Now in this Chapter wherein our Text lies we hear the Captives of Babylon maing Inquiry about their annual Fasting, as V [...]r. 1, 2, 3. And it came to pass, in the fourth Year of King Darius, that the Word of the Lord came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in C [...]s [...]; when they had sent unto the House of God, Sherezer and R [...]g [...] [...] [...]en to pray before the Lord, (as the marginal Reading [...] at the Face of the Lord; to seek his Face and Favour. [...] s [...]k unto the Priests which were in the House of the Lord [...] [...]d to the Prophets, saying, Should I weep in the f [...]fth Mo [...] [...] [...]s If as I have done these so many Years. And the [...] [...] [...]s [...]er, ver. 4, 5. Then came the Word of the Lord o [...] [...] s [...]yi [...]g, Speak unto all the People of the land and to t [...] [...] [...]y fasied and m [...]u [...]d in the fifth and seventh Mont [...], [...], [...]ve [...]ty Years; Did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?

Perhaps the fifth Month here mentioned may have a Refer­ence and All sion to burning the magnifient City and Temple in Jerusalem in that Month; and the seventh Month, the treache­rous D [...]th of G [...]deli [...] (the famous P [...]tron and Commander of the J [...]ws) by the Hands of Ishma [...]l, as the sacred Story informs us: These days might be cerebrated as anniversary Fasts, in Re­membrance of those sorrowful F [...]c [...]s. But this is not material to my present design. — All the Strength and Force of the Quae­ry which contains our Text (as I conceive) lies in this, whether or no th [...]y did sanctify their Fasts and keep them in a due and solemn Manner; not so much, whether these Fasts were regular, and ought to be observed, but since they did fast, whether they kept such Fasts as they ought to have done, and conscientiously attended the Solemnity of such Seasons; for indeed supposing a Fast [...]o be never so strictly enjoined by the Authority of Heaven, yet if it is not sutably observed, it is so far from being grateful and pleasing to God, that it is very offensive and odious in his Sight: And so the brief Sense of the Words will run in this Strain. — ‘Indeed you might pretend to keep a Fast, but you were not real and sincere in the matter: What you did I esteem at a very low rate; for the Essentials of the Duty were wanting: Ye did not do it in a religious and solemn manner, and therefore ye did not fast at all: Ye did not bring your Hearts to your Work, and therefore to tell you the Truth, the whole amount of all your Services is NOTHING.’

[Page 3] Here's not only a Declaration of their Insincerity and Hypo­crisy in their Fasting, but a most severe Reprimand given them by God himself for their professing to engage in a Business which they were not hearty in, that is to say, for fasting but not unto God. The Question (Did ye at all fast? —) carries as much in it, and by the Repetition (unto me, even to me) is plainly seen what a vast Stress God laid upon it; and therefore for their Non-observance of their Duty they justly merited a Reproof from him.

Now since whatsoever Things were written aforetime, were written for our Instruction and Admonition, who live in the last Ages of the World, the Rebuke in our Text may be of Service to us on this Day; which is consecrated and set apart for religious Fasting and Prayer. Agreably,

In handling these Words I shall observe,

DOCT. That such People as don't fast in a religious and solemn Manner, certainly fall under the Rebuke of Heaven.

PROP. I. There are some People that don't fast in a solemn and re­ligious Manner.

They fast but not unto God. The Jews (it seems) were noto­riously guilty in this Point; and (it may be) there are some Pro­fessors of Christianity that are not entirely clear,

But here I must Enquire —

Enq. When may a People be said to fast, but not in a solemn and religious Manner?

1. When they are only external and superficial in their Fasting.

When they personate the Saints, put on a Vizard as it were only to act a part of Piety. There were some such People in the Days of our Saviour, as we read Matth. 6.16. Moreover, when ye fast, be not as the Hypocrites of a sad Countenance: for they disfigure their Faces, that they may appear unto Men to fast: Verily I say unto you they have their Reward. And long before this, we have a very just and natural description of them by the evangelical Prophet, Isai. 58.5. Is it such a Fast that I have chosen, a Day for a Man to afflict his Soul? (a plain Allusion to Lev. 16.29. And this shall be a Statute for ever unto you, that in the seventh Month in the tenth Day of the Month, ye shall afflict your Souls. —) Is it to bow down his Head as a Bulrush, and to spread Sackcloth, and Ashes und [...]r his Feet; wilt thou call this an acceptable Day to the Lord? q. d. Certainly ye [Page 4]can never have the Face to do it; for you know in your own Con­sciences it is not so. And yet it is to be feared, there are some to be found in our Day, and Age of the World; that seem to wear a demure and unpleasant Countenance; affect a sad, and s [...]ournful Way of Speaking; or an indecent Garb, Gesture &c. Indeed it is true, it is highly unsutable to the Solemnity of Fasting, to see People full of Mirth and Chearfulness, even as at other Times. Hence is that of the Prophet, Isai. 22.12.13. Ard in that D [...] did the Lord God of Hosts, call to Weeping, and to Mourning, and [...] Baldn [...]ss, and t [...] girding with Sackcloth, and behold Joy and Gladness, staying O [...]n, ard kiling S [...]eep, eating Fl [...]sh and dri [...]king Wine. Let [...] eat and wi [...]k [...]or to morrow we shall die. — But to affect a gloomines [...] of Countenance, Speech and Behaviour, is not the least [...] or Argument of the Sincerity o [...] our Fasting; but ra­ther a P [...] t [...] the contrary. Such then as carry the Marks of their Fastings, and Humiliation only in their Face, Tongue, or Gesture, may be said to fast, but not unto God: They fast to them­selves, and with a Design t [...] impose on Man who takes an Esti­mate of them only from what is visible and apparent; but they don't fast unto God, who takes Cognizance of the Heart, and pas­ses a most righteous Judgment on all Persons, and Things what­soever. As it was spoken to the Jews in the verse immediately following our Text, ver. 6. And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did ye not eat to your selves, and drink to your selves? Or be not ye they that do so? You did it to answer your own Purposes, and not with an Intention to serve and honour God. See Hosea 7.16. They return but not to the most high: They are like a deceitful Bow.

2 When they rest in the have Confession of their Sins.

Some People there are when they pretend [...] fast, will freely ac­knowledge themselves to be Sinners, and it may be Sinners before the Lord exceedingly, but it is meer Lip-service, and does not pro­ceed from the Heart. It is not because they have any real Sense of the infinite Malignity of Sin, as it disparages the Excellencies of God; debases and degrades their Natures, as it defiles their own Souls, and terminates in their everlasting Ruin; but such People do it because it is customary to do it; they don't like to be singular, and out of the Mode of the Country, but would join with others in their devout and humble Acknowledgements at such a Time. —

Now such as rest satisfied and contented with this, only with saying 'I am a sinful Creature, I know I am a wicked Person, 'for I was born a Sinner, and in Sin have I lived all my Days. Nay tho' they should confess themselves to have been even the chief of Sinners; yet this is no certain or conclusive Evidence that they sanctify a Fast, or keep it in a sacred and religious [Page 5]Manner; for tho' indeed Confession of Sin is a Duty incumbent on us in a peculiar Manner when we fast, yet it must be a good Con­fession, arising from a true Sight and Discovery of Sin; a deep Shame for it, and the utmost Abhorrence and Detestation of it; all which must be accomp [...]ny with our most vigorous Endeavours to abandon it; and hence in such Places of HOLY WRIT, as we are only commanded to confess our Sins; it must be supposed that we are likewise injoined to forsake them; because it is by this that we shall obtain pardoning Mercy. Read Isai. 55.7. Let the [...]ked forsake his Way, and the unrighteous Man his Thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have Mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. And Prov. 28.13. He that co­vereth his Sins shall not prosper, but he that confesseth and forsaketh shall have Mercy. And what God has thus put together in his WORD, no Man may presume to put asunder.

(3.) When they are contented with a partial Reformation, and that either as to Matter or Manner.

1. When People are satisfied with a partial Reformation as to the Matter.

There are some People that won't only confess their Sins, but will seem to be grieved and troubled for them; and correct what has been amiss; but when they come to reform, they will take care they don't do too much at it; perhaps they will comply with one Part of their Duty, but then they will take the Freedom to cull and chuse among the Commands, to find out which will carry least Repugnance to their Complections and Constitutions, or best fall in with their Interest to observe: They will very gladly hear the Preacher as Herod did John the Baptist, and do many things in Religion, but not all: They will keep Herodias, indulge some secret and pleasing Vice, notwithstanding all that is offered to the contrary. They won't be unjust, covetous, unclean, &c. but they will be intemperate, or if they be not intemperate they will be profane, or if they be not profane, they will be uncharitable, rash, and censorious as to their Neighbour; or if they be not un­charitable, they will be false and deceitful; and thus I could easi­ly run thro' every Duty, and observe the like Inconsistency, and Variation from the GRAND RULE which we all profess to con­duct our selves by.

People's Religion is not uniform and regular. Some are not far from the Kingdom of God, i. e. they have many good things found with them, and (methinks) it is a thousand Pities that they have any bad ones to darken the Lustre and Beauty of their Vir­tues. — That they pull down with one hand, what they build up with the other, and undo what they have done.

[Page 6] Now such People as rest satisfied and contented with rectifying some Miscarriages be [...] not all, can't be said to fast in a religious and sacred Manner; for tho' indeed it is happy for us, if we can obtain the Victory over any one Lust or Passion, yet it is our Duty to labour to mortify every one, and therefore it ought to be our highest Ambition. This was the Spirit and Temper of the Man after God's own Heart. See Psal. 101.3. I will set no wicked thing before mine Eyes: — And Psal. 119.128. — I have every false Way. Not this or that but every one. Below this we should not rest satisfied, for the Apostle's Reasoning will remain eternally good. James 2.10, 11. For whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet of­fend in one point is guilty of all. For be that said, Do not commit adul­tery; said also do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a Transgressor of the Law.

(2.) When People are satisfied with a partial Repentance as to the M [...] of it.

The Jewish Nation and People were extremely formal and ce­remonious in their Worship, but their Heart was wanting; Isai. 29.13. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this People draw near me with their Mouths, and with their Lips do honour me, but have removed their Heart f [...] from me, and their Fear towards me is taught by the Precept of Men. This our blessed Lord observed to the Jews in his Day, Matth. 15.7, 8, 9. Ye Hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This People draw [...]th nigh unto me with their Mouth, and honoureth me with their Lips, but their Heart is far from me. But in vein they do worship me, teaching for doctrine the Commandments of Men. And it is to be feared these Words are awfully verified in Christi­an Professors at this Day. God is near in their Mouth but far from their Reins. Their Heart is not right with God, neither are they sound in his Statutes. They are not unhinged from themselves. It is true what they do is required by God, and per­haps they will comply with a considerable Part of their Duty; but yet it is not from right Principles and for right Ends. They don't repent and turn to God in the Way which he has prescrib'd: They don't repent in a Way of Humility, Faith, and Prayer. They don't turn to God with the whole Heart, and Soul; in Obedience to his Precept; and with a pure Aim, and Intention of advancing his Glory [...] In a Word, SELF is the prevailing Princi­ple in their Breasts.

Now it is for ever the Way and Manner of doing a thing in Religion that stamps a Value on it, and gives it the Denomina­tion of virtuous or vicious; so that without doubt People may re­pent (nay perform every Duty in Christianity) as to the external Part, and yet for Want of doing it in a proper Manner, it is of no Significance or avail. Agreably we find God insisting much [Page 7]on this in the sacred Oracles. Deut. 26.16. This Day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these Statutes, and Judgments: thou shalt therefore keep and do them. How? It follows, with all thine Heart and with all thy Soul. Parallel to this is that Text, Prov. 23.26. My Son give me thine Heart, — and the true Reason we have assigned in 1 Sam. 16.7. — For the Lord seeth not as Man seeth; for Man looketh on the outward Appearance, but the Lord looketh on the Heart. For the Lord searcheth all Hearts, and un­derstandeth all the Imaginations of the Thoughts: If we therefore seek him with our Heart, he will be found of us, but if that be wanting he will cast us off for ever. This is the Life and Soul in every Duty.

Some People there are, that will seem to confess their Sins to Almighty God very freely, (it may be with Tears in their Eyes) They will bitterly lament their Pride, Covetousness, their Uncha­ritableness, their Malice, Envy, &c. and if a Judgment were to be pronounc'd according to present outward Appearance, one would think them to be honest and sincere in these Things; but alas! how soon do we see their Practises run counter to all their Pray­ers, Fasting and Humiliation? This is a Lamentation, and shall be for a Lamentation — especially considering what admirable Helps and Advantages we are all under to lead holy Lives.

4. When their Repentance is only transient and temporary.

Repentance (whatever some may think of it) is not a slight Action; the Work of a Day that is presently over; but it is a very great Work, the Business of a Person's whole Life: The Reason is most plain and obvious to every one's Understanding; because we are contracting new Guilt and Defilement every Day that we live; and therefore there is need of daily Repentance; nevertheless it is to be feared that some People are ready to satisfy themselves with a general Repentance; They are for dispatching the Work at once; their Goodness is of very short Duration and Continuance. Thus we read concerning Ephraim of old, Hosea 6.4. O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah what shall I do unto thee? for your Goodness is as a morning Cloud, and as the early Dew it goeth away. It vanishes almost as soon as it appears.

To day possibly they will be extremely religious, sober, and de­vout, to morrow we shall see them pursuing their former evil Ways: To day perhaps they will not be perswaded to eat any thing or drink any thing save just to supply the Necessities of Na­ture; anon we shall find them drowned in sensual Excesses: To day grave, and mortify'd in their Aspect, and Deportment to a very great Degree; to morrow just the Reverse; full of Levity and Vanity. Briefly, to day Precisians, to morrow Libertines and Latitudinarians.

[Page 8] To speak in plain Language; Such People as these do only fast for a while; that they may return to their Sins with greater Looseness and Extravagance; just like a Course of Water that has been stop'd for some time, it becomes more rapid and violent when the Dam is taken away; so these return with greater Greedi­ness after the Restraint which was laid on them is off. But thus it is happened to them according to the true Proverb; as a Dog returneth to his Vomit, so a Fool returneth to his Folly, (or as the Margin has it, Iterateth, i. e. repeateth his Foolishness) Which the Apostle cites from the wise Man, with some Addition and Enlargement; 2 Pet. 2.22. — The Dog is turned to his own Vomit again; and the Sow that was washed to her wallowing in the Mire. What was spo­ken to the Jewish People, may with great Pertinency be applied to them; Isai. 58.4. Behold, ye fast for Strife and Debate, and to smite with the Fist of Wickedness; Ye shall not fast as ye do this Day, (or as it might perhaps be better rendred, Ye fast not, at this Day: Ye fast not at all) to make your Voice to be beard on high.

Now surely such People as these, that pervert the manifest In­tent and Design of Fasting; and instead of crucifying their Lusts, it eventually serves only to inflame them; such cannot be said to fast in a religious and solemn Manner, no pious and good End is promoted hereby, but on the other hand, their Fasting is prejudi­cial, as it serves to confirm and harden them in Sin, and render them obstinate: It makes their blind Eyes blinder; their hard Hearts harder. Sin revives and gains St [...]ngth; they forget all their Vows, and turn from the holy Commandment; and so their Condition is most desperate. The latter End is worse with them than the beginning.

Consider what I say, and the Lord give us a right Understand­ing in all Things! AMEN.

The End of the First SERMON.

The Nature of religious Fasting Opened, &c.
Sermon, II.


— Did ye at all Fast unto me, even to me?

HAVING in the former part of this Day endeavour'd to show when a People may be said to fast, but not in a religious and solemn Manner, it is very proper and requisite that I pass now to make Enquiry.

Enq. When may a People be said to fast in a reli­gious and solemn Manner?

1. When there is a very deep Humiliation and Contrition of Soul for Sin.

Indeed there may be some sort of Shame and Humiliation, even in carnal and unsanctify'd People, wro't by the common Opera­tions of the divine Spirit, whereby they are made sorry, not after a godly but a worldly sort, for they only fear the doleful Effects of God's Vengeance. They are not humbled for Sin as it is a­gainst the great GOD; a Violation of his holy Law, and as it is exceeding sinful in it's very Nature, but only as it is destructive of their Happiness. Now this Sorrow is entirely legal, and in the Language of Divinity, it is called ATTRITION: Thus Ahab, Judas, &c. have been humbled; but where Humiliation is evan­gelical; sincere and acceptable to God, it will be inward, real and very powerful, it will proceed from a strong and sensible Convic­tion of the evil Nature and Demerit of all Sin; and of their base Ingratitude towards God, as well as a most bloody Cruelty to their [Page 10]own precious Souls. Hence when they come to make Reflections on themselves for their Sins, they will be deeply sorrowful there­for; They will not only express their Concern in a few external [...]gns of Grief and Sorrow, by Sights, Tears, or Gro [...]ns; but they will feel their Hearts burdened with Sin, and oppressed with the heavy Load of Guilt lying on them, their Spirits will be wounded. How doleful those Accents? Psal. 38.2 — 6 For thine Arrows stick fast in me: and thy hand pr [...]sseth me sore. There is no Soundness in my Flesh, because of thine Anger: neither is there any Rest in my Bones because of my Sin. For mine Iniquities are ga [...]e over mine Head: as an heaty Burden they are too heavy for me. My Wounds sti [...]k and are corrupt, because of my Foolishness. I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly, I go mourning all the day long.

Thus they will weep sorely; weep with all bitterness of Heart; mourn like a Dove; and chatter as a Swallow as did Hezekiah. Their Sorrow will be a most pungent, afflictive Sorrow; such a Sorrow as hares the Sin so much, that they now prefer Death to the Embraces of Lust. Behold, and see if there be any Sorrow like unto their Sorrow! —

Now such People as are thus sorrowfully affected, and moved with a Sense of Sin, may be said to fast in a sacred Manner. They certainly present Sacrifices well pleasing to Heaven. Psalm 51.16, 17. For thou desirest not Sacrifice, else would I give it: thou de­lightest not in Burnt-Offering. The Sacrifices of God are a broken Spirit: a broken and a contrite Heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. For thus saith the high and lofty one, that inhabiteth Eternity, whose Name is holy, I dwell in the high and holy Place; with him also that is of an humble and contrite Spirit, to revive the Spirit of the humble and the Heart of the contrite ones. To this Man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite Spirit, and that trembleth at my Word.

2. When there is an earnest seeking Reconciliation with an offended Majesty.

And if we are duly humbled for Sin, this will necessarily en­sue; we can't help imploring a speedy Reconciliation with God whom we have offended. Now in order to this, we must review our Conduct; carefully examine into our past Life and Actions; search and try our Ways; ingenuously, and freely acknowledge our Offences; manifest our Hatred of them; judge and condemn our selves before God on the Account of them. We must like­wise renew our Friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ by a true Faith, grounding our entire Hopes of obtaining divine Mercy in the Merits of his most precious Blood and Sacrifice; and to all this we must oblige our selves by the most strict Obligations to [Page 11]depart from Iniquity; to deny ungodliness and every worldly Lust, and to live soberly, righteously and godly; adorning the Doctrine of God our Saviour in all Things for the future. Sure­ly it is meet to be said unto God, as in Job 34 31. — I will not of­fend any more; If I have done Iniquity, I will do no more. What have I to do any more with Idols?

Now such People as earnestly seek a thorough Reconciliation with God in this Way may be said to fist in a religious and so­lemn Manner. Indeed it is true, we ought every day to seek Reconciliation, with God thro' his dear Son (for who can under­stand his Errors?) but it is requisite in a special Manner when we keep a Day to Fast, and pray to the Lord; then to make Reno­vation of our Friendship and Peace which we have violated in a great Variety of [...]nstances. This is very agreable to God, proper and suitable to the Occasion of the Day, and an Evidence of our Heartiness in what we are engaged in.

3. When there is a solemn Renewal of Covenant with God.

We find this practised in ancient times, 2 Kings 23.2, 3. And the King went up into the House of the Lord, and all the Men of Judah, and all the Inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the Priests, and the Prophets, and all the People, both small and great: and he read in their Ears all the Words of the Book of the Covenant which was found in the House of the Lord. And the King stood by a Pillar and made a Cove­nant before the Lord to walk after the Lord, and to keep his Command­ments, and his Testimonies, and his Statutes, with all their Heart, and with all their Soul, to perform the Words of this Covenant that were written in this Book: And all the People STOOD TO THE COVENANT. They said Amen to it; and consented to the Conditions of it. And so we read, 2 Chron. 34.30, 31, 32. And the King went up into the House of the Lord and all the Men of Judah, and the Inhabi­tants of Jerusalem, and the Priests, and the L [...]vites, & the People great and small: And he read in their Ears all the Words of the Book of the Co­venant, that was found in the House of the Lord And the King stood in his Place, and made a Covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his Commandments, and his Testimonies, and his Sta­tutes, with all their Heart, and with all their Soul, to perform the Words the Covenant which were written in this Book. And he caused all that were present in Benjamin and Jerusalem, to stand to it, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, DID ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT OF GOD, the God of their Fathers.

Thus it was the good old Way to renew Covenant with God; and this was registred undoubtedly for our Imitation. We must remember that the Word is gone out of our Mouth: We have sworn to be true and faithful to the King of Heaven; and we can­not [Page 12]go back unless we draw back unto Perdition. When we vow a Vow unto God we must not defer to pay it, for he has no Plea­sure in Fools, therefore we ought to pay that which we have vow­ed. Better is it that we should not vow, than that we should vow and not pay. Now in order to a due and regular Discharge of t [...] Part of our Duty, we must be unfeignedly sorry, and grieved for our Perfidiousness and Baseness: Pricked at the Heart because we have so frequently, and shamefully broken Covenant with God. We must bind our selves more strictly to fulfil the vast Bonds and Engagements which we have laid our selves under. We must un­reservedly, and chearfully acquiesce in the Dispose of our selves; and submit to the Terms of the Covenant which we have entred into with God and one another. And how weighty and solemn a Transaction is this?—It seems therefore this is one Way to sanctify a Fast and observe it in an holy Manner.

Agreably (as I am inform'd) some Churches in the Country make it a Practice to have the Church Covenant read and renew­ed in Publick on Fast-Days, that so People may see their manifold Defects; be humbled for them; and led to reform what has been amiss in any of their Conduct and Convers [...]tion; and I can't but think it would be well if this Custom universally obtained in our Churches. Certainly we have sufficient Precedent for it; and it might (by the Blessing of God) be one happy Expedient for pro­moting a glorious REFORMATION. — A Thing long wish'd and pray'd for! — Thus I believed, therefore have I spoken.

4. When actual Repentance and Reformation follow on our Days of F [...]sting and Prayer.

Whether we were sincere and hearty in our Fast Solemnities can be known only by our after-Life and Converse in the World. It is a most infallible Rule, by their Fruits ye shall know them. When People appear to be extraordinary zealous and devour, free [...]o exclaim against all Sin and Immorality, on Fast-Days, and yet run in these very Irregularities a while after against which they so lately cried out; what can any one judge but that their Fasting was only in shew and appearance; therefore if after the Fast-Day is over the good Fruits of it are visible in our Lives and Practices, then we fast to some Purpose. If our Fasting be a means to cre­ate in us a greater Hatred of all Sin, and inspire us with a more ordent Love to God, his Ways, Worship, and Ordinances; If our Fasting inclines and disposes us to be more humble, more patient, more charitable, more holy and heavenly minded; if we are henceforward the more fruitful in Works of Piety and Vertue; it demonstrates to all about us that we fasted in a religious and divine Manner.

[Page 13] In fine,

When we turn from all those Ways of Hypocrisy and Wick­edness in which we have hitherto indulged our selves; and labour to attend all Duty that we have hitherto lived in the Omission of; and such Duties as we have observed, to be more accurate and conscientious in the Discharge of them for the time to come: Such as we have performed well to endeavour to discharge better: Then we keep a Day to the Lord our God; and shall be owned and accepted by him. If we do well shall we not be accepted? Ve­rily, When our Fasting and Devotion is finished, the Work is not done; but indeed so far is it from that, that the most difficult and necessary Part does then begin, which is to see that we regu­late our selves wisely; and that all our Actions be correspondent to our solemn Consecration of our selves unto God, and Pretensions to Piety. This is intirely consonant to the Account of this Matter as it is laid down in the inspired Writings. Isai 58.6, [...]. Is not this the Fast that I have chosen? to loose the Bands of Wickedness, to undo the heavy Burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break eve­ry Yoke. Is it not to deal thy Bread to the Hungry, and that thou bring the Poor that are cast out to thy House? When thou seest the Naked that thou cover him, [...]and that thou hide not thy self from thine own Flesh? And in Verses 9, 10 of this Chapter which contains my Text. Thus speaketh the Lord of Hosts, Execute true Judgment, and shew Mercy and Compassions every Man to his Brother; and oppress not the Widow, nor the Fatherless, nor the Poor, nor the Stranger, and l [...]t none of you imagine Evil against his Brother in your Heart.

And now. What do'n the Lord our God require of us (to prove the Sincerity of our Fasting) but to do justly, to love Mer­cy, and walk humbly with our God. This for the first Propo­sition.

PROP. II. Such People as don't fast in a religious and solemn Man­ner certainly fall under the Rebuke of Heaven.

This will appear by considering the Nature of an hypocritical Fasting.

Now, this is no other than a most horrible Attempt to impose on God who cannot be deceived, and will by no means be mock­ed. It is no small Disparagement to the glorious Perfections of the divine Nature; especially the Attribute of God's Omniscience. Certainly if we have any just and sutable Apprehensions of the supreme Being, we must needs conclude that if we pretend to fast in a religious Manner, but don't do it, we play the Hypocrite with God; act in disguise, and expose our selves to his severe Displea­sure

[Page 14] This is likewise evident by remembring the sad Providences of God that many times befall such in the pretent Life, as are not sin­cere and hearty in their Fasting. For this Cause, viz. for not du­ly sanctifying a Fast, some it may be are sick and weak, are depri­ved of the greatest Comforts and Endearments of Life, and are ex­ercised with exceeding sharp Trials. Indeed it is true, all things come alike to all, and we know neither Love nor Hatred by all that is before us. Such as are the greatest Sufferers are not always the greatest Sinners, but yet we have good Reason to think God does frequently punish People for their Hypocrisy and Wickedness even in the Life that now is This we know, that God will avenge the Quarrel of his holy Covenant. Great Babyl [...]n has been totally destroyed long ago, tho' in it's Day it was the Glory and Wonder of the Universe. In like Manner, Jerusalem the Place where God fixed his Temple, which was the Joy of the whole Earth, is laid desolate. And this we know, that Fools because of their Trans­gressions and because of their Iniquities are afflicted. Perhaps indeed God sometimes reserves almost all their Punishment to a future State, but tho' there may be some Exceptions as to indivi­duals or particular Persons, yet it is very commonly otherwise, and especially if we consider Persons as combined and formned into So­cieties; and possibly this may be the unhappy Case of a whole Body of People (at least the Generality of them) that they don't fast in a religious and s [...]cred Manner. Now, whenever it is thus they may expect that these terrible Judgments that have been inflict­ed on others will come upon them likewise, the present State being the only State to punish them in, as they are a People. Shall not God visit such a People as are equally guilty with a like Punishment even in this Life? Shall not his Soul be avenged on such a Nation?

To add no more;

The blessed God has been pleased to signify his Resentment of People's hypocritical Managements in his HOLY WORD. Parti­cularly we may turn to that Text, Isai. 1.11, — 15. To what purpose is the Multitude of your Sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of Rams, and the Fat of fed Beasts and I delight not in the Blood of Bull [...]cks, or of He [...]goats. When ye come to appear before n [...], who hath required this at your Hand to tread my Courts? Bring no more vain Oblations, Incense is an Abomination unto me, the New-moons and Sabbaths, the calling of Assemblies I cannot a­way with, it is Iniquity, even your solemn Meeting Your New-moons and your appointed Feasts my Soul bateth: they are a Trouble unto me. I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your Hands, I will [...]de mine Eyes from [...]ou [...]: yea, when ye make many Prayers, I will not bear you: Your Hards are full of Pl [...]. [...]ut I must proceed in improve what has been celivered this Day.

[Page 15]


1. What we have heard serves to s [...]ow to us or when the [...] Rebuke is like to fall.

'Tis on those that fast in Word and Tongue only, not indeed and in Truth; that make great outward Pretences of Sanctity and Holiness, but don't take Care to li [...]e amirerably thereunto; that confess their Sins over and over again, but don't use their best En­deavours to forsake them; or that relinquish some particular Vices that are possibly disagre [...]ble to their natural Humour, and Incli­nation; and opposite to their secular Interest, (and to give the fi­nishing Stroke in their Character) their Goodness is very transi­ent and uncertain.

Now such as these are vertuous (if indeed they may be so de­nominated) to invert the Apostle's Words, nor willingly, but by Constraint, and they shall surely fall under the Wrath and Anger of Almighty God. If they are spared and forborn, we are not to imagine it is because he in the least likes, or approves their Acti­ons, but it is only to fill up the Measure of their Iniquiries and ripen them for the most dismal Punishment. See Lev. 26.21—24. And if ye wale contrary unto me, and will not bearken unto me; I will bring seven times more Plagues upon you according to your Sins, &c. God will set his Face against such a People for Evil. The Wrath of God will burn against them like Fire till they are utterly con­sumed. Thus their Iniquity will finally prove their eternal Ruin.

II. What we have heard serves likewise to show to us who are the happy People that stand fair for t [...]e Lo [...] and approbation of Heaven.

For certainly if God is highly displeased with such as fast, but not in a religious and solemn Manner, then we may conclude he will commend and applaud those that are found in the contrary Practice; such as rent their Hearts in pieces for their Sins, that are filled with the most bitter Remorse and Confusion at the Remem­brance of their past Guilt; that humble themselves before God, and repent in Dust and Ashe [...], whose Fasting sets a keener Edge on their Devotions, turns to the Nourishment of their Souls, and growth in Grace; the Mortification of whose Spirit is joined with that of the Flesh, and (to compleat all) whose Reformation i [...] uniform, universal, and darable. Such as these are not only an Ornament to Religion, and a Joy to all good People, but the Fa­vorites of Heaven, the Delight of God's own Heart: They stand proper Candidates for caelestial Honours and [...]re [...]erment, and ac­cordingly God will reward them with the Joys of Paradise [...] where all Tears shall be w [...]ed from their Eyes: [...] [...]erlasting Joy (as a Crown) shall be fixed on their righteou, Heads. These [Page 16]shall obtain Joy and Gladness, and Sorrow and Sighing, shall flee away; for in God's Presence there is Fulness of Joy, and Pleasures for evermore.

III. What we have heard should put us upon the most impartial Ex­amination of our selves this Day.

Self-Examination is a Duty always incumbent on us, but especi­ally on Fast-Days. This is a Season wherein it is most beautiful. Let us all therefore retire within our own Bosoms, and soberly ask our selves, ‘What have we been doing these many Years that God has spared us in the World? We have had a space for Re­pentance and many solemn Warnings against our evil Courses, and loud Calls to a thorough Repentance and Amendment of our Lives, but may it not be said concerning us, I gave them a space to repent, and they repented not: They are not humbled even unto this Day! We have 'tis true fasted many a time, and pre­tended to humble our Souls before God but to what good Effect? Can we say that we are more circumspect and unblameable in our Conduct as to God and Man? Do we reap any spiritual and saving Benefit by all our Fasting and Prayers? Can we find that our Souls grow the more healthy and prosperous? In all this time have we fasted unto God, even unto God?’ Certainly such Queries as these put to our Consciences and a comfortable Reso­lution of them are of the greatest Importance in the whole World.

IV. What we have heard should therefore prevail with us to fast in a sared and religious Manner.

The Words of the inspired Apostle deserves a special Remark on this Occasion, Rom. 14 6. He that regardeth the Day, regardeth it to the Lord; and be that regardeth not the Day to the Lord, he doth not regard it. — If we don't answer the Design of our Fasting to what Purpose is it to fast? Verily, It is a meer piece of Mockery, hardens us in our vicious Courtes; gives Satan (our avowed Ad­versary) a mighty Advantage against us, and is distastful both to God and Man.

What Arguments shall I use to urge and perswade us to a due Sanctification of a Fast? Two only I shall mention at this time.—

I. God is exceeding desirous of it.

He waits upon us that he may see us a humble, holy and re­formed People; a peculiar People zealous of all good Works. His Bounty (in the various Expressions of it) is designed to lead us to unfeig [...]ed Repentance. God earnestly beseeches and wishes our Reformation, his Bowels yern towards us, and he is extremely loth [Page 17]to abandon us to our own foolish Choice, i. e. to final Destruction. How pathetic that Language? Jer. 13.27.—Wilt thou not be made clean? When shall it once be? Agreable hereto is that in Hosea 11 8, 9. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Adma [...]? and set thee as Zebo [...]m? Mine Heart is turned within me, my Repentings are kindled together. I will not exe [...]ute the Fierceness of mine Anger, I will not return to destroy Ep [...]aim; for I am God, and not Man, the holy One in the midst of thee, and I will not enter into the City. Most woundrous Words these! The Almighty seems to be at a stand (as it were) how to manage.

And now shan't we all strive to gratify God, who is continually doing Good to us, especially when we do hereby so very much con­sult our own greatest Interest, and Felicity. Certainly if we have the least Spark of Gratitude or Ingenuity in our Breasts, or any true Love to our selves, we shall present our Souls and Bodies to him.

2. Our own Circumstances at the present Day require this at our Hands.

The Face of Affairs looks black and dismal whithersoever we cast our Eyes, whither on Nations, Kingdoms, Cities, Towns, par­ticular Societies, or Churches. How melancholly to take a sur­vey? — What Feuds, Animosities, Dissentions, &c are almost every where? — Surely not a little of our GLORY is departed from us! And none can tell what Changes are in the right hand of the most High. Truly the Prospect is most dull and cloudy! If we turn our Tho' [...]s on our selves and remember our Miscarri­ages, we have reason to fear our Prosperity won't continue a great while, but that Thunder, and Earthquake, and great Noise with Storm and Tempest, and the Flame of devouring Fire do await us, that Drought and Sickness, and the doleful Alarms of War are not far off. — Happy they who are prepared to meet God in the Way of his terrible Judgments! — Now all these Cala­mities (which we feel or [...]r) are procured by our Wickedness, and hence we can rationally expect to have them removed or pre­vented, and the Marks of divine Favour vouchsafed us unless we speedily and heartily turn to the Lord our God. Shan't we all therefore learn Wisdom, at least for this time, and readily fall in with that most gracious Invitation? Hosea 6.1. Come and let us re­turn unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smit­t [...]n, and he will bind us up. Of the same Tenor is that in Chap. 10.12. S [...]w to your selves in Righteousness, reap in Mercy: break [...] your fallow Gro [...]d: for it is time to se [...]k the Lord, till be come and rain down Righteousness upon you. O let it not be said concerning any one Soul of us, as concerning those in Vers 11, 12. of the Chap­ter before as. But they refus [...]d to [...], and [...] away the Shoul­der, [Page 18]and stopped their Ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their Hearts as an Adamant-Stone, lest they should hear the L [...], and the W [...]ds which the Lord of Hosts, hath sent in his Spirit by the former Prophets, therefore came a great Wrath from the Lord of Hosts.

And now to close all —

O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel our Fathers, keep these Things for ever, in the Imagination of the Hearts of thy People, and prepare their Hearts unto thee! AMEN.


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