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Saviour himself, strictly observant as he was

even of the forms of religion, had given it the cap countenance of his own example. We find that

his most fervent prayers were often accompanied with fasting, and before his temptation in the wilderness, “ he fasted forty days and forty nights.” So that as far as his silent example goes, the advocates of fasting may, with some reason, claim the sanction of such high authority. But to fast merely because others have done so, and that too on occasions of a peculiar nature, and more particularly by per

sons of an extraordinary character ;-or to 1.

fast without being able to give any satisfactory reason for such abstinence, is a blind submission to example, which is repugnant to com

mon sense as well as to Christianity. For, och

this is not to “serve God in the spirit, and with the understanding,” which is true religion—but to act as if we supposed that God is equally pleased with any outward performance, however unmeaning, which we may choose to do in his name. This has nothing in it acceptable to God, nor profitable to the soul.

This is not godliness, but bodily exercise; and Trul

the Apostle expressly tells us, that “ bodily

exercise profiteth little, but that godliness is 5,8 profitable to all things.” This is to make re

ligion, which is the business of a sound head,

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SERMON XIII.

Matt. vi. 16.

“ WHEN YE FAST, BE NOT AS THE HYPOCRITES.”

Among the many duties practised by men in the name of religion, there is, perhaps, none concerning which a greater difference of opinion prevails than the subject of fasting. For, while some consider it as absolutely necessary to salvation, and think that they increase its merit 'by laying severe restraints even upon the just demands of nature ;-and while some pursue the delusion still farther, and limit themselves to the use not only of certain portions, but even of certain kinds of food, and that too on certain days, and at certain seasons; others, on the contrary, reject all such bodily mortifications as absurd, and as deserving no place whatever in the religious system. Extremes of every kind are dangerous, and end as they begin, in error. The

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one which places fasting so high, and that which discards it altogether, is equally in the wrong, because it is equally in the extreme, and because there is a middle way in which the proper use and improvement of fasting may be found. To point out to us this middle way, and direct our steps in it, seems to be our Saviour's chief object in the words of the text, “ when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites.”

The expression “ when ye fast,” neither commands nor forbids us so to do; nor is our Saviour any more explicit on this head, in any other passage of the gospel. He neither enjoins us to keep particular fasts, nor does he make fasting of any kind a necessary act of religion. It was a piece of well-intended discipline in the Jewish Church, and as our Lord found it, so he left it, only reminding us to observe in this, as in every thing else, that sincerity and truth, without which nothing that we do can be acceptable to God—“ when ye fast, be not as the hypocrites."

Yet this expression, “when ye fast,” though it does not give any positive sanction to such a practice, must be allowed to imply a manifest acquiescence in it. Any more than this, was indeed unnecessary, because fasting, as a duty of religion, had been sufficiently established in the world from the earliest times, and our

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Saviour himself, strictly observant as he was even of the forms of religion, had given it the countenance of his own example. We find that his most fervent prayers were often accompanied with fasting, and before his temptation in the wilderness, “ he fasted forty days and forty nights." So that as far as his silent example goes, the advocates of fasting may, with some reason, claim the sanction of such high authority. But to fast merely because others have done so, and that too on occasions of a peculiar nature, and more particularly by persons of an extraordinary character ;--or to fast without being able to give any satisfactory reason for such abstinence, is a blind submission to example, which is repugnant to common sense as well as to Christianity. For, this is not to “serve God in the spirit, and with the understanding,” which is true religion—but to act as if we supposed that God is equally pleased with any outward performance, however unmeaning, which we may choose to do in his name. This has nothing in it acceptable to God, nor profitable to the soul. This is not godliness, but bodily exercise; and the Apostle expressly tells us, that “ bodily exercise profiteth little, but that godliness is profitable to all things.” This is to make religion, which is the business of a sound head,

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