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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

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 himself- 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 experiment. Let not any person, therefore, who becomes their disciple, be discouraged at the tardiness of his advancement;-for Christians are said to “grow 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

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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.

That

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 meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.

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