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that it is “God who,” by his holy word, and by his holy Spirit, “worketh in us,” both “to will and to do of his good pleasure.” In his works of grace, indeed, as in his works of nature, he acts in strict conformity with him. self-few are the instances of sudden and miraculous interposition on either side. The child has its gradations towards the perfect man;—the seed, its seasons, from bud to stalk, and stem, and branch, 'till, at length, it overshadows with its expanded boughs the subject earth. And the seed of the word in the child of God, has equally to await the period of its maturity. It is experiment which is here the test of truth; and the Scriptures court ex- ! periment. Let not any person, therefore
, who becomes their disciple, be discouraged at the tardiness of his advancement;—for Christians are said to 66
in grace.” But one ungenerous passion mitigated, an emotion of wrath, of envy, or of pride, restrained—an unkind temper softened, under the joint influence of God's word, and of God's Spirit, are symptoms that the work of the Lord is begun within, and the joyful earnest of better things than these. Let us then receive with equal thankfulness their kind reproofs as their gracious encouragement. It is through patience of God's holy word—through submission to its
discipline, however strict ;-through a chearful reception of its doctrines, however mortifying ;—through a grateful acquiescence in its restraints, however severe, that we become prepared to receive “comfort from it. We must bleed, in short, under this “sword of the spirit,” and suffer it to search and expose to us the wounds that sin has made upon us, before we can enjoy its consolations, or be made partakers of its promises. And then shall the most trying and arduous duties be no longer accounted grievous, nor impracticable. We shall “love” our “enemies, do good to them that hate, and pray for those that despitefully use us and persecute us.”
peace which the world giveth not,” and “ which the world taketh not away,” shall be our portion; and thus dying unto sin, and self, and made “ alive unto God," we shall be enabled to “go on” our “way rejoicing,” ascribing the entire glory of all we are, and all we hope to be, to him who has given such ample means of becoming moet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
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
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 à 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