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a national judgment, is for every particular man to inquire into and to amend his own personal, particular sins. ver. 8.
6thly, Upon a serious humiliation for, and forsaking of our sins, there is sufficient argument in God's mercy to hope for a removal of the severest judgment. ver. 9.
I chiefly intend the discussing the five observations; but I shall speak something to them all.
1st Obs. Concerning the first : That the consideration of a judgment, &c. Extraordinary cases call for extraordinary services. Every judgment overspreading a nation is an extraordinary judgment; and fasting bears some proportion to it, as being an extraordinary duty. When God shall shake his sword over a nation, and the inhabitants take no notice of it; when he shall begin to take hold of judgment, and the people not take hold of his mercy in prayer and repentance; these are sad symptoms of a decaying, if not perishing state. When the son sees his father about to whip him, and has already laid hold of the rod, will he not fall down upon his knees, and ask him pardon ? Now we ought to humble ourselves under a judgment upon several accounts.
1st, Because in every judgment God calls for humiliation; they are the alarums of the Almighty, by which he terrifies and awakens sleepy souls. We read of the voice of God's rod, Micah vi. 9, and the rod of God in every judgment speaks this ; either that we should begin or renew our repentance. For a people to hear the dreadful voice of a displeased God in a judgment, and yet not to be wrought upon to proceed to a speedy humiliation ; it is like Samuel's hearing the Lord speaking to him when he
was a child, in the midst of his sleep; the voice comes, and awakes him, he hears it, yet takes little notice of it, but presently returns to sleep again. If we can so pass over the voice of God in a judgment, as presently to return to our former sleep and security, it is an act of high contempt and disobedience.
The proudest, of the heathens, and the greatest contemners of a Deity, yet would be amazed, and endeavour to hide themselves when they heard it thunder. Could the voice of the cloud make them shrink and tremble, and shall not the voice of a na-> tional judgment make us mourn and repent? God calls for mourning and lamentation, his voice is plain and loud, and woe be to us if we do not hear it.
2dly, We ought to humble ourselves under every judgment, because it deserves our humiliation : though this be an unpleasing duty to the flesh, yet it is abundantly countervailed by the greatness of the trouble it does remove. Not only Christianity, but nature bids us mourn under an affliction. To what do we reserve our sorrows, if we do not spend them upon this occasion ? Lament. iii. 48, Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water, for the destruction of the daughter of my people. The prophet found no such time for weeping as the time of public calamity. Then did Hezekiah mourn and humble himself, when there was a devouring army of the Assyrians approaching. If the securing of your health, your lives, your temporal, your spiritual estates, does not merit the deepest of our humiliations, our strongest wrestlings with God in fasting and prayer, then keep these duties for something that may better deserve them.
2d Obs. That the affliction of the body is a good preparative to the humiliation of the soul : thus we see in the second of Joel, where there was a solemn fast proclaimed, and directions given for the keeping of it, it is said, in the sixteenth verse, Let the bridegroom go out of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Bodily and sensual enjoyments must be laid aside; and that which is prescribed to us for the right celebration of the sabbath, that a man should not find his own pleasure, in Isaiah lviii. 3, is upon the same account requisite to a due performance of this duty. Sensual delights are not consistent with spiritual services.
Now the reasons that the affliction of the body is so good a preparative to the humiliation of the soul, are,
1st, Because the operations of the soul do much follow the disposition and temper of the body. There is a near connection and a sympathy between these two. There can scarce be grief and pleasure in one, but the other partakes. Pleasure ! it melts the soul through the body, as lightning does the sword through the scabbard. Can the body be pampered, and the soul not grow wanton? Can the carnal objects of sense be received, without leaving a tincture upon the mind? When the body is filled and feasted, the soul is not in so fit a posture to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Herod, after his feast, is fit to behead, but not to hear John Baptist.
2dly, The afflicting of the body, it curbs the flesh, and makes it serviceable to the spirit. The flesh is unruly, and repugnant to the yoke of a spiritual ser
vice; it has a natural averseness to them, and as long as it is indulged, the opposition is so much the stronger : wherefore, if we would keep our hearts. close to so heavenly a duty, we must sequester them from the incentives of carnal objects. I keep under my body, says St. Paul.
In all these engagements the spirit must keep under the body, or the body will be above the spirit. The body is and ought to be the soul's instrument in the execution of all duties; but if it be not rightly fixed and disposed, it may recoil upon the soul, and hurt it: as a hatchet, if not rightly ordered, may fly off, and mischief him that uses it. O let us therefore lay aside all fleshpleasing vanities; let us abandon those delights that encumber the soul, that clip its wings, and hinder its aspiring to heaven. It will be part of our happiness and perfection hereafter to have spiritual bodies ; let us endeavour to make them so now: Canst thou not watch with me an hour ? says Christ: canst not thou fast with me a day? It is our duty to deny ourselves in these outward refreshments, so far as it may quicken and enable us to a more nimble performance of so severe a duty. Let us follow the example of the Ninevites in the text; Let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let our brutish part, our body, as well as our manly part, our soul, be brought under the spiritual yoke of humiliation. But it may be here said,
(Objection.) Is not this contrary to what our Saviour prescribes in the gospel, who in express terms forbids us this afflicting of the body, in our fastings; Matt. vi. 16, 17, 18, When ye fast, be not as hypocrites, of a sad countenance, &c. Now, how can
thís scripture consist with the truth of this doctrine, that the affliction of the body tends to advance the devotion and humiliation of the soul ?
In answer to this, we may observe;
1st, That Christ does not absolutely forbid them to be of a sad countenance, but with this qualification ; Be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance. There is a difference between a religious and an affected sadness; between a due composure, and a dissembling of the countenance: one is spiritual duty, the other is spiritual pride; one adorns, the other destroys humiliation. And those that do in this manner, and for this end, disfigure their faces, that they may appear to fast, they make themselves more deformed in the eyes of God than in the eyes of men.
2dly, Christ does not forbid such a sadness of countenance as was the natural effect of an inward sorrow. For as it is said, Mine eye affecteth mine heart, Lament. ii. 51, so the heart will affect the eye; spiritual sorrow will break out into the countenance. But the Pharisees had a peculiar way among themselves, of making and deforming their faces, in their days of fasting; in which they placed the chief part of the duty, (as the papists do in whipping themselves;) and it was against this abuse that Christ cautioned his disciples. For when he bids them, on the contrary, anoint their head, and wash their feet, it was not meant of ornament, but of a decent dressing of themselves, according to the custom of those places. So that he does not here oppose jollity and looseness to a due and serious sadness, so as to command that in the room of this; but he does oppose a prudent decency to an absurd