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Sermons & Study Guides

Directory For The Publick Worship Of God Pt. 14 - Concerning Publick Solemn Fasting.

James Dodson

Directory For The Publick Worship Of God

Concerning Publick Solemn Fasting.

Question 1.—When some great and notable judgments are either inflicted or imminent, or notoriously deserved; as also when some special blessing is to be sought and obtained, is public solemn fasting a duty expected by God from a nation or people? Answer.—Yes. Luke 5:34.  When our Saviour excuses his apostles for not fasting, he does not say that fasting was abrogated, but reserves it for calamitous times, and conjoins it  with  mourning.    Religious  fasting  is  an  appointment  of  God  to  humble  a  people  and loose the power of sin over their lives, Isa. 58:5, 6. Question 2.—Does a religious fast require total abstinence, not only from all food, but also from worldly labour, discourses and thoughts and from all bodily delights? Answer.—Yes.  Jon.  3:5,  7;  Lev.  16:29,  31.    The  Jews  were  required  by  the  law  to abstain from prosecuting their secular employments when engaged in the fast connected with  the  annual  day  of  atonement,  Lev.  23:27,  31.    At  a  subsequent  period,  when  they transgressed this law, they fell under the sharp reproofs of God, Isa. 58:3.  Fasting, being a means to humble the soul, Ps. 35:13, all subordinate affairs of life ought to be made to yield to this service lest the offender meet with that same reproof given to the Jews. Question  3.—May those who, by reason of bodily weakness, are not able to hold out till the fast is ended partake, though sparingly, to support nature which is ready to faint? Answer.—Yes. Hos. 6:6.  The degree of abstinence from meat and drink, when people fast, ought not to be equally bound upon all.  Fasting is not a part of worship, but a mean to dispose us for extraordinary worshiping; and therefore should be used only so far as it may  be  an  help  to  that  end.    Total  abstinence  might  as much  indispose  some  weakly persons  for  duty,  as  it  would  assist  others  of  stronger  constitution.    Nonetheless,  even those who must partake ought to do so sparingly, abstaining in part, altering the quantity or quality of them, or both, that they might be afflicted, Lev. 23:29; even as did Daniel in his mourning, Dan. 10:3. Question 4.—Should each family and person apart to use all religious care to prepare their hearts before the public meeting? Answer.—Yes. Zech. 12:14; 2 Cor. 11:27.  It is the duty of all God’s people to prepare themselves for their participation in the religious duties of the assembly, Ps. 26:6. Question  5.—Should so large a portion of the day as conveniently may be, be spent in public reading and preaching of the word, with singing of psalms, fit to quicken affections suitable to such a duty? Answer.—Yes.  Neh.  9:1-3.    Fasting,  not  being  an  end  in  itself,  ought  to  free  God’s people to engage in those public acts of worship which most conduce to the humbling of their souls. Question 6.—Should the fast day be spent especially in prayer? Answer.—Yes.  Acts  13:3;  14:23.    Fasting  and  prayer  were  joined  in  the  acts  of government in the apostolic church.  They are joined in the admonitions of both Christ and the apostle, Matt. 17:21; 1 Cor. 7:5. Question 7.—In what should this prayer consist? Answer.—1.)  Giving  glory  to  the  great  majesty  of  God,  Neh.  9:6;  Dan.  9:3,  4.    2.) Acknowledging  of  God’s  great  and  tender  mercies,  Neh.  9:26;  Dan.  9:9.    3.)  Humbly
confessing of our sins, Neh. 9:1-3; Dan. 9:5-8.  4.) Justifying God’s righteous judgments, Neh. 9:29, 30; Dan. 9:10-14.  5.) Humbly and earnestly imploring God for His mercy and grace,  Dan.  9:16,  17.    6.)  Applying  by  faith  the  promises  and  goodness  of  God  for pardoning,  helping  and  delivering  His  people,  Dan.  9:18,  19.    7.)  Applying  by  faith  the promises  and  goodness  of  God  for  obtaining  the  blessings  needed  and  expected,  Neh. 9:32.    8.)  Giving  up  of  ourselves  wholly  and forever  unto  the  Lord,  Neh.  9:36-38;  2  Cor. 8:5. Question 8.—Ought ministers, who are the mouths of the people unto God, so speak from their hearts, upon serious and thorough premeditation of them, that both themselves and the people are much affected, and even melted, especially with sorrow for their sins? Answer.—Yes.  Jer.  13:15-17.    It  is  the  duty  of  the  minister  of God  to  seek  to communicate not only the truth of the Gospel, but the spirit of a godly heart, 1 Thess. 2:8; 2 Cor. 6:11-13; Rom. 1:11, 12. Question 9.—Should the fast day be a day of deep humiliation and afflicting of the soul? Answer.—Yes.  Ps.  35:13;  Isa.  58:5.    God  has  appointed  fasting  as a  mean  to  bring men to a humble state acknowledging their soul sins and seek the restoration of his favor. Question  10.—Should special choice be made of such Scriptures to be read and such texts to be preached as may best work the hearts of the hearers to the special business of the day, and most dispose them to humiliation and repentance? Answer.—Yes.  Eccl.  12:9-11.    The  minister  has  a  special  concern  to  make  the application of God’s word to the hearts of his hearers that they might be disposed to the duties of the day, 2 Tim. 4:2; Ps. 90:12. Question  11.—Should the minister, before the close of the public duties, engage himself and the people to be the Lord’s, with professed purpose and resolution to reform what is amiss, and to draw near unto God? Answer.—Yes. Neh. 9:38.  It is foretold expressly of the New Testament times that the penitent people of God would engage to be the Lord’s and profess to amend their former ways  drawing  near  to  God,  Jer.  50:4,  5.    This  we  find  the  Corinthians  doing  in  the apostolic church, 2 Cor. 8:5. Question 12.—Should the minister admonish the people that the work of the day does not end with the public duties of it, but that they are to improve the remainder of the day, and of  their  whole  life,  in  reinforcing  in  private  all  those  godly  affections  and  resolutions professed in public? Answer.—Yes.  Joel  2:12.    Religious  fasting  has  for  its  end  the  subduing  of  the  body that  the  soul  might  be  turned  to  God.    The  glory  due to  God  in  this  duty,  includes  an acknowledgement  of  his  patience,  submission  to  his  sovereignty,  and  confidence  in  his favor,  as  our  God,  who  is pacified notwithstanding  all  that  we  have done.   We  must  fast unto him, Zech. 7:5, 6. Question  13.—May congregations, at other times than those enjoined by authority, keep days of fasting, as divine providence shall administer unto them special occasion? Answer.—Yes.  1  Cor.  5:2;  2  Cor.  7:7.    Particular  sins  ought  to  be  mourned  over particularly in the congregations wherein they appear. Question  14.—May  families  do  the  same,  provided  that  it  be  not  on  days  wherein  the congregation to which they belong is to meet for a fast, or other public duties of worship? Answer.—Yes.  Zech.  12:12-14.    Families  ought  to  fast,  when  providence  dictates, provided  their  private  familial  fasts  do  not  interfere  with  those  that  are  enjoined  by authority.