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many vile earthly gratifications, and have had more relish for them than for thee! Alas! O Lord, that thy pity, love, power, wisdom, goodness; thy wonderful works, and most bitter sufferings for me, should be, as it were, lost upon me! They were meant to make me free and wise, holy and happy : to make me one spirit with thee; and to lead me to true joys and pleasures,—but my corrupt nature, the flesh, craves and hankers only after worldly and carnal indulgences ;--by yielding to which I am become more and more stupified and dull with respect to true happiness ! Give me, dear Lord, the grace of abstinence, that not only through fasting occasionally, but also, through a careful watchfulness against excess in the use of all innocent things, lest they steal away my heart, I may be cured of my wicked propensity to fulfil the lusts of the flesh; and may seek more simply for true, holy, gratifications.”—Thus the Psalmist humbled his soul with fasting: And thus he was led to feel sin in a more solemn and distinct manner; and hence the Saviour became more precious in his eyes.
Let fasting be used as a mean to wean us from the world. Surely, by checking occasionally the natural appetite for food, the Christian
learn to value the bread of life more distinctly, and be led more feelingly to live above this world's enjoyments. Thus, by abridging himself in the use of them now and then, he may habituate himself to the reflection, that a time will come shortly, when he shall have done with them altogether : and that to have an appetite for the meat which endureth to everlasting life, is that which most concerns him; and that even
these worldly enjoyments are not his by right: For, let it ever be remembered, that these, as well as all good things, in the way of justice, are forfeited by sin; and if you feel even some pain by abstinence, you may be taught to advert, with more sympathy, to the wants of others, and be stirred up with more liberality to relieve those creatures of God, who are entirely as deserving as yourself, but who, in the course of His providence, want the common necessaries of life.
Let fasting be used, as one mean of subduing the flesh to the Spirit.. I say as ONE mean: for, it is neither the only one nor the principal. But it is commanded, and therefore it should be used in the faith of Jesus. Pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness,” these three often go together. The Lord declares, by Ezekiel, they did so in Sodom, which was destroyed by fire and brimstone. If fulness of bread then be apt to feed the flesh, that is, the corrupt nature, occasional abstinence, and a constant course of temperance, may evidently tend to subdue the deeds of the body.
Hence, lastly, the soul becomes more fit for near and sweet communion with Christ by faith. We have seen how Daniel set himself to seek God by fasting; and if we practise this duty with the same spirit, there can be no doubt, but, through the divine blessing, the same effect will be produced. Hence the soul may learn with greater self-command,though not perhaps at first, but gradually this may be attained, -to wait upon God, to bear his will, to tarry his leisure, and to look for true pleasure in Christ only. And, by becoming meek and gentle,
humble and teachable, the spiritual senses are better exercised to hear what the Lord saith; and hence to obey the godly motions of his Spirit in righteousness and true holiness, to his honour and glory. The soul, which, despising, or being comparatively indifferent about the bread that perisheth, hungers and thirsts after righteousness, in hopes of being filled, shall find the Lord Jesus to be “meat indeed and drink indeed.”
Nor is it only with regard to meat and drink, that occasional abstinence and constant temperance should be recommended to Christians. Let us look, each at himself and his constant practice, and let us consider what worldly enjoyments are apt to run away with our hearts; what are the false gods that, for pleasure and comfort, would rival in our esteem the God of Israel? What Isaacs are to be given up, what worldly thing, though in itself lawful, we follow with too much eagerness and ardour? It is certain that, with abundance of real believers, spiritual comforts are at a very low ebb; and this happens, because they are not content with the Holy Ghost for their comforter, though in the TE DEUM we express our faith in him as the “ COMFORTER.
Let Christians consider what has been said, and go to Christ for faith and strength to put it in practice; and they will find the fruit of it in an increase of holiness here and of happiness hereafter. And ye,
who are so far from fasting on any godly account, that to enjoy worldly pleasure is all your aim and
learn that the word of God sets a black mark on those who are “ lovers of pleasures, , more than lovers of God." Do not think that
a short abstinence from diversions during some part of the season of Lent, while your heart loves them as much as ever, and while it is ready to return to the same excess of riot again, will be, in any measure, acceptable to God. You want new hearts; a new taste for pleasure: You do not know what true pleasure is. It consists in communion with God: but if you would obtain it, you must come to God by Christ: and before you can discharge any one duty acceptable to God, you must learn distinctly to practise the great duty of believing on the Son of God. Of this knowledge and of this practice you are absolutely in need, in the first place. Without these you are under the curse. Let the question go round this congregation. Did you ever in the view of your lost state, and of Jesus, as an able and willing Saviour, come to God by him, and stay your souls upon his sacrifice and intercession: In that case you know in whom you have believed; and you may look up with comfort to his Father and your Father, to his God and your God. You will earnestly desire that all carnal affections may die in you, and that all things belonging to the Spirit may live and grow in you; and for this end
you the means of which we have been speaking. But, if you know nothing of conversion to God, or of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are in a perishing state, and the wrath of God abideth on you. “ Turn ye then unto the Lord with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning, that you may obtain mercy, and stand in the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
THE COMMUNION OFFICE OF THE CHURCH
OF ENGLAND CONSIDERED.
i Cor. x. 16, 17.
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the Communion
of the Blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the Communion of the Body of Christ ? For we, being many, are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.
It is hardly necessary to inform you, that the subject of the Apostle is here, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. I have several times explained it to you,
in this place; but, such is its importance and usefulness to the real children of God, that, with his help, I will endeavour to set it before you, once more, in a fresh discourse.
In doing this, the communion-service of the Church of England shall be my guide. I have, some time ago, made reflections on this beautiful service, with a view to convince the ungodly of the hypocrisy of their attendance at the altar. I shall now suppose the Communicant to have renounced his own righteousness, to have come to Christ as his all, with a desire to glorify and enjoy him in this his appointed ordinance. None but such are welcome attendants