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the blessing; we shall not be disappointed of our hope. It was the blind man's faith which led him to apply to the Lord Jesus Christ for healing. Let us manifest the same confidence in the almighty power of our exalted Redeemer. And as when this poor man had received the benefit, he followed his Benefactor with loud thanks and praise for His goodness : so let us, if the eyes of our understanding have been enlightened by almighty power and grace, be truly followers of the Lord Jesus, and glorify and praise Him for His goodness and mercy

vouchsafed to us. Let us manifest our gratitude not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to His service, and walking before Him in holiness and righteousness all our days. May we thus be enabled, as those who have been called out of darkness into His marvellous light," to show forth His praise and His salvation from day to day; that our light may so shine before men, that they may be led to glorify our Father which is in heaven.43

42 1 Peter ii. 9.

43 Matthew y. 16.

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7

SERMON XVIII.

FOR

ASH-WEDNESDAY.

THE TRUE FASTING: AND THE EARTHLY AND

HEAVENLY TREASURES.

Matthew vi. 21.

FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE WILL

YOUR HEART BE ALSO.

In the Gospel for this day, two subjects are particularly brought to our notice ; those of fasting, and covetousness. This portion of Scripture is a part of what is commonly called our Saviour's Sermon on the mount: in which, after having described the character that ought to be sustained by His disciples before the world, He made various observations on the extent of the moral law ; showing that it reaches to the thoughts and intents of the heart, and does not regard outward actions only, to which the Pharisees were disposed to limit its demands.

The chapter from which the text is taken,

T

contains directions respecting alms-giving and prayer. It prescribes the manner in which prayer is to be offered up to God, and words suitable for the purpose; from which we learn that He is to be regarded as the Father of all those who call upon

Him through Jesus Christ our Mediator and Advocate; and that as such He is to be reverenced and obeyed, and to be supplicated for all things that we daily need, both for souls and bodies; and that His power and glory are to be acknowledged. Our blessed Lord having given these instructions respecting prayer, proceeds to the subject of fasting. The Jews had imposed upon themselves a number of fasts, in addition to those which had been appointed by Divine authority. In the law of Moses an annual fast was commanded to be observed on the day of atonement, when the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies within the vail of the temple, to make an atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year. But many other times of fasting were appointed by the traditions of the elders. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not choose to abrogate these appointments of human authority. But as He saw that they were grievously abused, He thought fit to give directions, by means of which they might be observed without detriment, and even with advantage.

44 Leviticus xvi. 34.

He said to His disciples, 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. The fasting which God had enjoined upon the Israelites once a year was to be observed by afflicting their souls," or humbling themselves before God, confessing their sins, and acknowledging their unworthiness to partake of the bread which perisheth ; and by abstaining from food, as an acknowledgment that every thing they enjoyed was the gift of Divine bounty.

But this solemn observance had been perverted to an occasion of pride. Something meritorious and praiseworthy was attached to abstinence from food. Strictness in fasting, by total abstinence, or by lengthening its duration, was regarded as a mark of superior sanctity. Thus while the body was starved, the mind was filled with self-righteousness and pride. Instead of deep humiliation, and selfabasement before God being promoted by the fasting, He was conceived of as a Being who was gratified with inflicting misery upon His creatures. And instead of the penitent sinner being led to cultivate a sense of his unworthiness of the temporal blessings with which he was favoured by a kind and gracious Benefactor; and from thence to express gratitude for the

45 Leviticus xvi. 29, 31.

Divine goodness, and especially for the provision made of that meat which endureth to everlasting life46 for the sustenance of the soul; he was taught to regard the Almighty as One who delighted in austerity and moroseness, and who took pleasure in anger and vengeance.

Our Saviour calls the persons who thus misrepresented the Father of mercies, the hypocrites. They probably deceived themselves as well as others. They imagined that a temporary abstinence from food, would compensate for indulgence in sin. They put on a sad countenance, a gloomy appearance. They disfigured their faces with a dismal look, that they might appear unto men to fast; and so might obtain the applause of their fellow-creatures, as being conscientious observers of the injunctions of the law, or of the traditions of the elders. Their hypocrisy answered the end proposed by it. Our Saviour adds, Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. Their sanctimonious appearance was noticed and commended by all around them. The common people thought them to be very religious persons. Their show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body,47 was considered to be a proof of their godliness ; though in reality there was no religion in it whatever. This kind of voluntary privation

46 John vi. 27.

47 Colossians ii, 23.

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