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ccpting their fasts. "Wherefore have wc fasted, say they, and thou seest not ?—Behold in the day of your fast you find pleasure, saith the Lord." If we cannot wholly abstain from food, we may, at least, abstain from pleasant food; and then we shall not seek his face in vain.
5. But let us take care to afflict our Souls, as well as our bodies. Let every season, cither of public or private fasting, be a season of exercising all those holy affections, which arc implied in a broken and contrite heart. Let it be a season of devout mourning, of godly sorrow for sin; such a sorrow as that of the Corinthians, concerning which the Apostle saith, "I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance. Fur yc were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow,"—n xxra ©«>v "Kvnn,—the sorrow which is according to God, which is a precious gift of his Spirit, lifting the soul to God from whom it flows,—" worketh repentance to salvation, not to be repented of." Yea, and let our sorrowing after a godly sort work in us the same inward and outward repentance; the same entire change of heart, renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness; and the same change of life, till we arc holy as He is holy, iu all manner of conversation. Let it work in us the same earefulness to be found in him, without spot and blameless; the same clearing of ourselves, by our lives rather than words, by our abstaining from all appearance of evil; the same indignation, vehement abhorrence of every sin; the same fear of > our own deceitful hearts; the same desire to be in all things conformed to the holy and acceptable will of God; the same zeal for whatever may be a means of his glory, and of our growth in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and the same revenge against Satan and alibis works, against all filthi
ness of flesh and spirit. (2 Cor. vii. 9, &c.)
6. And with Fasting let us always join fervent Prayer, pouring out our whole souls before God, confessing our sins with all their aggravfitions, humbling ourselves under his mighty hand, laying open before him all our wants, all our guiltiness and helplessness. This is a season for enlarging our prayers, both in behalf of ourselves and of our brethren. Let us now bewail the sins of our people; and cry aloud for the city of our God, that the Lord may build up Zion, and cause his face to shine on her desolations. Thus, we may observe, the men of God, in ancient times, always joined prayer and fasting together; thus the Apostle*, hi all the instances cited above; and thus our Lord joins them in the discourse before us.
7- It remains only, in order to our observing such a fust as is acceptable to the Lord, that we add Alms thereto; works of mercy, after our power, both to the bodies and souls of men: "With such sacrifices [also] God is well pleased." Thus the Angel dec-laic's to Cornelius, fasting and praying in his house, "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God." (Acts x. 4.) And this God himself expressly and largely declares: "Is not this the fast that 1 have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thon bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou sccst the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer: thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here 1 am.—If [when thou fastest] thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the alllicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day. And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a soring ol water, whose waters fail not." (Isa. lviii. (5, &c.)
UPON OUR LORDS SERMON ON THE
"Isay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where tnoth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
"But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
"The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
"But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" Matt. vi. 19—23.
1. From those which arc commonly termed religious actious, and. which arc real branches of true religion, where they spring from a pure and holy intention, and are performed in a manner suitable thereto,—our Lord proceeds to the actions of commou life, and shows that the same purity of intention is as indispensably required in our ordinary business, as in giving alms, or fasting, or prayer.
And without question, the same purity of intention, "which makes our alms and devotions acceptable, must also make our labour or employment, a proper offering to God. If a man pursues his business, that he may raise himself to a state of figure and riches in the world, he is no longer serving God in his employment, and has no more title to a reward from God, than be who gives alms that he may be seen, or prays that he may be heard, of men. For vain and earthly designs are no more allowable in our employments, than in our alms and devotions. They are not only evil when they mix with our good works," with our religious actions, "but they have the same evil nature when they enter into the common business of our employments. If it were allowable to pursue them in our worldly employments, it would he allowable to pursue them in our devotions. But as our alms and devotions are not an acceptable service, but when they proceed from a pure intention, so our common employment cannot be reckoned a service to him, but when it is performed with the same piety of heart."
2. This our blessed Lord declares in the liveliest manner, in those strong and comprehensive words which he explains, enforces, and enlarges upon, throughout this whole chapter: "The light of the body is the eye: If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." The eye is the intention: what the eye is to the body, the intention is to the soul. As the one guides all the motions of the body, so does the other those of the soul. This eye of the soul is then said to be single, when it looks at one thing only; when we have no other design, but to "know God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent,"—to know him with suitable affections, loving him as he hath loved us; to please God in all things; to serve God (as we love him) with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength; and to enjoy God in all, and above all things, in time and in eternity.
3. "If thine eye be [thus] single," thus fixed on God, " thy whole body shall be full of light." "Thy whole body : "—all that is guided by the intention, as the body is by the eye :. all thou art; all thou dost; thy desires, tempers, affections; thy thoughts, words, and actions. The whole of these "shall be full of light;" full of true Divine Knowledge. This is the first thing we may here understand by light. "In his light thou shalt see light." "lie who of old commanded light to shine out of darkness, shall shine in thy heart:" He shall enlighten the eyes of thy understanding with the knowledge of the glory of God. His Spirit shall reveal unto thee the deep things of God. The inspiration of the Holy One shall give thee understanding, and cause thee to know wisdom secretly. Yea, the anointing which thou receivest of him "shall abide iu thee, and teach thee of all things."
How does experience confirm this! Even after God hath opened the eyes of our understanding, if we seek or desire any thing else than God, how soon is our foolish heart darkened! Then clouds again rest upon our souls. Doubts and fears again overwhelm us. We are tossed to and fro, and know not what to do, or which is the path wherein we should go. But when we desire and seek nothing but God, clouds and doubts vanish away. We "who were sometimes darkness, are now light in the Lord." The night now shineth as the day; and we find "the path of the upright is light." God showeth us the path wherein we should go, and makcth plain the way before our face.
4. The second thing which wc may here understand by light, is Holiness. While thou seekest God in all things, thou shalt find Him in all,—the fountain of all holiness continually filling thee with his own likeness, with justice, mercy, and truth. While thou lookest unto Jesus and Him alone, thou shalt be filled with the mind that was in him. Thy soul shall be renewed day by day, after the image of him that created it. If the eye of thy mind be not removed from him, if thou endurest "seeing him that is invisible," and seeking nothing else in heaven or earth, then as thou beholdest the glory of the Lord, thou shalt be transformed "into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord."
And it is also matter of daily experience, that "by grace we are [thus] saved through faith." It is by faith that the eye of the mind is opened, to see the light of the glorious love of God: and as long as' it is steadily fixed thereon, on God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, we are more and more filled with the love of God and man; with meekness, gentleness, longsuffering; with all the fruits of holiness which are through Christ Jesus, to the glory of God the Father.
5. This light, which fills him who has a single eye, implies, thirdly, Happiness, as well as holiness. Surely " light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is to see the sun:" But how much more, to see the Sun of Righteousness, continually shining upon the soul! And if there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any peace that passcth all understandingj" if any rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, they all belong to him whose eye is single. Thus is his "whole body full of light." He walketh in the light as God is in the light, rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and in eveiy thing giving thanks, enjoying whatever is the will of God concerning him in Christ Jesus.