Moreover 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. Verily, I say unto you, They have their reward.
The lessons which this day have been all speak to us of fasting. The lesson of the Old Testament, 'Turn to Me with fasting.' The lesson of the New, as you have heard, 'When you fast,' &c. All, either as the Epistle, telling us what we should do, 'fast;' or, as the Gospel, taking it for granted that we shall fast, and teaching us how to fast so as we may receive a reward for it at God's hands.
These being the lessons, this the tenor of them, by them there is intimation give us that the matter of these lessons, that a fast is at hand, that this 'when' is 'now.' How in our practice it will fall out I know not, but certainly in the Churches meaning, 'now.' Who would not, we may be sure, look out an Epistle for us beginning with 'Turn to Me' cum jejunio, 'with fasting,' and a Gospel beginning with cum jejunatis, 'When ye fast, &c;' but when she presumeth we mean to fast, to dispose ourselves that way. It were all out of [375/376] season to seek and select Scriptures, what to avoid, how to behave ourselves, in our fasting, if we mean no such matter, if it shall be with us as yesterday and the day before it was, and no otherwise.
This being the Church's intent, this is her time, and this her text, what she commends to us we commend to you, that you would take notice of it, and prepare yourselves for it accordingly; that the Epistle be not sent, and the Gospel brought you, and both in vain.
The Church thus reaching it forth, I took this text, and I took it the rather, if it might be, to stop the mouths of them that malign it, at least to remove from it the slander of an untrue imputation. They preach it, they print it, and no remedy, so they will have it, that the 'locusts' must needs mean us here. Why? The locusts is all belly, and we all for the belly; hostes jejuniorum, 'the professed enemies of fasting and of all abstinence.' That we, the Preachers, entertain you with nothing but with discourse about 'the mystery of godliness,' but never with exhortation to the exercise of it. That you, the hearers, fall sad, and as they hypocrites here in the text look sour, not at the act, but at the very name and mention of fasting, at the reading of a text that tends that way, as it might be of this now.
Sure for fasting, how we practise it every one is to answer for himself; but that we preach it, I take this day you all to witness. Joel shall bear record with his cum jejunio, and now Christ with His cum jejunatis, that we call it. If it come not, it is not our fault, it is for want of calling for. We speak to a thing that hath no ears, but we speak though; liberamus animas nostras, 'we deliver our own souls,' and we deliver our Church from that false slander of theirs.
To follow then whither the Scripture leads us, we are to understand that as the moral Law of God in the chapter before, and as alms and prayers in this chapter, going through the Pharisees' hands had gathered much dross, so had the exercise of fasting likewise. It is the manner of the world, and so it is of the 'prince of the world,' to sophisticate ever the best things with hypocrisy, with superstition, with a thousand devices more. Our Saviour then as He had done to the other of the Law, to alms and prayers, so here now He comes [376/377] to fasting; and comes 'with His fan in His hand' to do to it as He had done to them before; to sever 'the precious from the vile,' the 'corn' in His floor from the 'chaff.' Cum jejunatis is His floor, nolite His fan, hypocrisy the chaff to be blown away.
His purpose is, He would have all stand and continue in force, as the Law itself, so the lawful and laudable practice of alms, prayer and fasting, all three. And it is as if He should say; That you give alms, pray, and fast, I like it well; do so still. Only, take this caveat from Me, 'When ye fast, beware of the sour leaven of hypocrisy in your looks,' and of the love of videamini ab hominnibus 'to be seen of men in your hearts,' and all is well; fast on and spare not. To God it is you fast, and 'God your heavenly Father will see it in secret, and will reward you for it openly.'
The parts arise of their own accord, and at the first view give forth themselves two. 1. For fasting, one. 2. Against hypocrisy, the other. As it were a blast of the trumpet of Sion to the former, a retreat from the latter. Cum jejunatis is set down to be kept; nolite esse sicut is fanned away to be left, 'the leaven of the Pharisees,' which is hypocrisy, is cast out.
In the former we are to do two things, to settle the duty in both words, 1. in jejunatis, first, 'fasting' itself. 2. After in cum, 'the time when.'
In the latter, two things more; 1. the act of separation and casting out the 'old leaven,' first. 2. And then the danger if we do it not. The separation; 'that we be not like hypocrites,' or 'not like sour hypocrites.' Not like them in two things. 1. Not in making it our labour to compose our outside or countenance; 2. not in making it our end, ut videamini, 'to be seen of men.'
But what if we do? Then followeth the punishment; 'you have received your reward.' A gentle punishment, one would think, to receive a reward; but a punishment, and a grievous one, when we shall weigh how silly a thing it is they receive--men's breath; and how great a one they lose by it--God's reward.
Thus stand the parts. Of which, the former I fear will take up this time, cum jejunatis only, and no more.
[377/378] Cum jejunatis. Two questions there be; 1. one about jejunatis, whether we will 'fast' at all; 2. the other about cum, 'when' we will do it. Best get us a fast first, and get us a time after. If the thing, if fasting itself be loose, the time will be to seek, God knows when. The first thing then we are to do, is to possess men's minds with a true conceit touching it. Men seem but faintly persuaded of it, as it were no needful part of a Christian man's duty. 'When ye fast;' yes, 'when we fast,'- what make you of this? This leaves us to ourselves; 'when' is no precept to enjoin in. Take it right; here is cum jejunio in the Epistle, cum jejunatis in the Gospel. The precept is in Joel, 'turn to Me with fasting,' and within a verse after, 'sanctify Me a fast,' that is a precept, I am sure. Here it stands thus; what Joel imposeth, Christ supposeth, implies the thing out of the prophet, and supplies the manner how from Himself.
But if we stand upon a precept, we may go higher than Joel; even ad legem, saith Esay, go 'to the Law itself,' and there is one; nay there are more than one. One, for a standing fast every year, enjoined with a severe pain; he that fasted it not was to be cut off from the people of God. One for a voluntary fast, for whatsoever is votive is voluntary of itself, but whoso took it on him by vow was bound to perform it. One for both integrale, 'an entire fast' from all upon the Kipparim day; and another for portionale jejunium, the Nazarites' fast from some and not from other. The Law will be for it; the Law itself was given at a fast to Moses, 'a fast of forty days.'
The Prophets are for it too; under them and by their direction, to the standing fasts in the Law you have five more added. One in Esther, four in Zachary, all enjoined.
It went then as now it does; the common sort, by their good-wills, would neither have holy-days nor fasting days. In Amos they complain of the Sabbath, Qunado transibit? 'When will it be over?' They thought it as long as any two days, that they might be at vendamus merces, opening their shops and 'selling their wars.' In Zachary they shrug at their fasts, What, and must we fast still? Yet more fasting? Have we not fasted enough, and have done it thus and thus long? A sign they would have been rid of their fasting. Willingly [378/379] had the shambles open as well as the shops. But it would not be, they could not obtain it; the prophet held them to it and would not release them.
But this is of the Old Testament. When the New came what then? I had rather you heard St. Augustine than myself; Ego, saith he, animo revolvens, &c. 'I going over in my mind the writings of the Evangelists and Apostles in the New Testament,' video jejunium esse peæceptum, 'see fasting is commanded, there is a precept for fasting.' So fasting is in precept there if we will trust St. Augustine's eyes. And we may. And we may; He that in this place saith, cum jejunatis, 'when ye fast,' saith in another, tum jejunabunt, 'then they shall fast,' and that amounts to a precept, I trow.
Here you see cum jejunatis, a part of the Gospel, a head in Christ's first and most famous sermon, His sermon on the Mount.
So that if there should be a meeting about it, such as happened in the holy Mount at the transfiguration of Christ, of Moses for the Law, Elias for the Prophets, Christ for the Gospel, famous all three for their fasts, and for one kind of fast all, the fast we now begin, all would be for it; at no time to be left, but in all three estates to be retained, to have the force of a precept in all.
But laws and their precepts do often sleep and grow into disuse. How is jejunatis for practice? Hath it been used and when hath it? The fast of Ai under Joshua, at Gibeah under the Judges, at Mizpah under Samuel, at Hebron under David, of Jeremy before the Captivity, of Daniel under it, of Zachary after it; at Jerusalem of the Jews at the preaching of Joel, at Nineveh of the Gentiles at the preaching of Jonas; all these shew 'when,' and that it was no stranger with God's people, so long as the Law and Prophets were in force.
And what was it when the Gospel came in? At Antioch, where 'the disciples were first called Christians,' we find them at their fast; the Prophets of the New Testament there as well as the Prophets of the Old. Our Saviour said to them, 'When He was gone they should fast.' So they did. St. Paul for one did it 'oft.' And for the rest they approved themselves for Christ's ministers, inter alia, by this proof for one, 'by their fasting.' And what themselves did, [379/380] they advised others to do, even to scol£xein, 'make them a vacant time to fast in.' So that where the Church for this day, otherwise than her custom is on other days, have sorted us an Epistle out of the Old Testament and a Gospel out of the New, (both use to be out of the New,) she did it for this end, to show that fasting has the wings of both Cherubim to cover it; both Testaments, Old and New; Joel for the one, Christ for the other. So at all hands to commend it to us.
Sure in the prime of Christianity it cannot be denied it was in high esteem, 'fasting,' in frequent practice, of admirable performance. Which of the Fathers have not homilies yet extant in the praise of it? What story of their lives but reports strange things of them in this kind? That either we must cancel all antiquity, or we must acknowledge the constant use and observation of it in the Church of Christ. That Christ said not here, Cum jejunatis for nothing. They who were under grace went far beyond them under the Law, in their cum and in their jejunatis both.
Precept then or practice it wanted not. Neither did they want a ground. It was then holden, and so may yet for aught that I know, that when we fast the act of more virtues than one. First, an act of that branch of the virtue of temperance that consists, not in the moderate using, but in abstaining wholly. Abstinence is a virtue. Sure I am the primordiale peccatum, the 'primordial sin' was not abstaining. Secondly, an act or fruit of repentance; there is poena in poenitentia, in the very body of the word, something penal in penitence; and of that penal part is fasting; and so an act of justice corrective, reduced to St. Paul's vindicta, or his castigo corpus meum. Thirdly, an act of humiliation, to humble the soul, which is both the first and most usual term for fasting in the Law and Prophets. For sure, keep the body up, you shall but evil, you shall have much ado to bring or keep the soul down to humble it. Fourthly, 'They that are Christ's,' saith the Apostle, 'have and do crucify the flesh with the lusts of it.' Fasting is one of the nails of the cross to which the flesh is fastened, that it rise not, lust not 'against the spirit,' at least fasting we fulfil not the lusts of the flesh. Fifthly; nay. they go farther, and out of Joel's Sanctificate jejunium, and out of Luke 2.37, where the good old widow is [380/381] said to have 'served God,' and the word is latreÚw, 'by fasting and prayer,' not by prayer only, but by fasting and prayer; they have not doubted, but that there is sanctity in it, nor to entitle it an act of the service of God, that we serve God by it. Sixthly, and serve Him with the chief service of all, even sacrifice. For sure they are all of one essay, these three; alms, prayer, and fasting. If the other two, if alms be a sacrifice 'with such sacrifices God is pleased;' if prayer be one --one, and therefore called 'the calves of our lips;' no reason to deny fasting to be one too. If 'a troubled spirit be a sacrifice to God,' why not a troubled body likewise? And it troubles us to fast, that is too plain; since we are 'to offer our bodies as well as our souls, both a sacrifice to God;' as our soul by devotion, so our body by mortification. And these three, to offer to God our 1. soul by prayer, 2. our body by abstinence, 3. our goods by alms-deeds, hath been ever counted the tergemina hostia, 'the triple or threefold Christian holocaust or whole burnt offering.' Seventhly and lastly, the exercise of it by inuring ourselves to this part of true Christian discipline, serves to enable us to have ventrem moratum, 'the mastery of our belly' against need be. The Fathers call it ¥skhsij, and those that used it ¢sk»taj: St. Paul gave it the word first, and saith he took it himself.
Use is much, for if before we need we be not used in some sort at times to abridge ourselves. but still fill and farce our bodies, weeks, months, years together, habituate ourselves in it; what need soever there should be, what occasion though never so pressing, suppose God should call us to 'fast,' as Esay 22.12; say the days should come of the loss of the Bridegroom, we should not be able for our lives to break ourselves of that which all our lives long we have been accustomed unto. But as it is said of Dionysius lying at a siege and forced to keep order, he fell sick because he kept order and surfeited not still, that having been the corrupt custom of his former life. So should we. Or for lack of it grow as impatient as Esau, rather than lose our broth sell our birth-right. Or as they in Numb. 11.5. not part with our 'flesh-pots' to die for it, but sit by them and die by them, and so with them also be buried 'in the graves of lust.'
The want of which inuring, you see what it hath [381/382] brought us to. We are so evil able to do it, as we are scarce able to hear of it. Our Saviour when He speaks of fasting points at this. Having been so long at our 'old wine,' we cannot away nor relish 'new.' We see the experience in our preaching it. Our bottles are so used to the old that they leak with the new, as fast as we pour it in it runs out again. We must provide us new vessels; else all we speak of this theme will be spoken into the air. But I forget myself.
1. To come to the text, Cum jejunatis. 'When ye fast;' to work out of it a little. I say first, this very 'when' shews Christ's liking of it, that there is a time allowed. Else would He allow it no cum, no 'when,' no time at all. For videter ne quando. not a moment for riot, or for any thing, God hath not required. And if for no 'idle word,' for no idle act we may be sure, is there any cum allowed.
2. Again, 'When you fast;' this 'when' is a presupposing at least and qui supponit ponit. For can any man fancy that Christ would presuppose aught that were not required of us by God? to be asked by the Prophet, or rather by God Himself, Quis ista quæsivit de manibus vestris? 'Who ever required of you to do any such thing?'
3. Nay, His manner of the delivery, this breaking into it with a cum autem, 'but when you fast,' as fast you will I make no doubt here, 'but when' is plain positive; nay it is of the nature of a postulatum, takes it as granted, lays it for a ground. This I say, is a precept, and more than a precept, more binding. Ever more forcible is that which is presumed than that which is enjoined. One we are confident will be yielded to straight, needs no in junction. The other, we must use our authority, and well if we so get it.
4. The very things he consorts it with, to wit, alms and prayer, for them and this He marshal in one and the same rank, cares for them all alike, rewards them all alike, and they I trust are in precept; yet they are no otherwise but presupposed even as this is, 'When ye give alms,' 'When ye pray.'
5. Then the pains He takes with it to fan it, to purge the old leaven from it, to rectify and reduce it to the right manner and end. He would never have taken these pains but that He held it worth His pains, but that He would have us use it, [382/383] and use it not seldom. For things seldom to happen the law takes no order for.
The parties to whom He speaks this, they be His disciples. Whereby it will fall out to be, not a duty only, but a Christian duty, because they were Christians, the first Christians of all, to whom this cum jejunatis here is spoken. It is for them too, they are not exempted from it.
Nay, He likes it so well as He goes about to prepare even hypocrites, and to frame them fit for it. A sign it was not their double fast, but their double face, that is their dissembling first, and then their disdain of other, He found fault with.
And to conclude, the double promise He annexeth; first, to answer the complaint, 'Why do we fast and Thou seest it not, punish ourselves, and Thou regardest it not?' that they shall never need to fear, their fasting shall be begged for concealed; though it were never so secret done, though not a man on earth see them, He from Heaven will cast His eye on them and regard them.
And second, as He shall not want an eye to see, so neither shall He a hand to reward them for it, they shall not fast for nothing. 'His Heavenly Father That sees them in secret shall reward them openly,' the upshot of all.
All these, 1. the manner He deliver it in; 2. the parties He delivers it to; 3. the things He matches it with; 4. the honour He doth it; 5, the care He shews of it; 6. that He frames His disciples; 7. that He frames even hypocrites for it; 8, 9. the double promise He assureth upon it;--all these are as so many passings through the furnace. Would He do all this and not hold it a duty required by God, and acceptable to Him? Have we a precept, a practice, and ample promise, and doubt we yet whether we should do it or no? No sure. As long as these words shall stand in St. Matthew, jejunatis must stand and have a cum, a time 'when' allowed for it. And now to that cum, let us come.
Allowing jejunatis, the thing, we cannot but allow it a time 'when.' For there is a time 'when' for 'everything under the sun.' Only when that 'when' shall be, we shall not so easily agree. We would fain have our fast loose; be [383/384] left to ourselves for the time--this 'when' to be when ourselves please. And when will it be? Indeed the practice of the world would make one think this 'when' to be without a 'then;' a time as they say, in nubibus. A case but put, 'when' that is, when we list, and not else. As if Christ had said, If ever you do, if at any time you feel yourself disposed, then to observe this caution. Otherwise left to our own liberty when that shall be, and whether it shall be or no.
If this should be so, I have hit upon a very happy text. For if this be all, it is no sooner said than done, done every where all this land over. Nay, we may say with the young man in the Gospel, 'All this have we done from our youth up.' For when we fast, we look not sour, we disfigure not our faces, we never seek to be seen of men. I say when we fast, for the truth is we fast not at all; but when we fast all this is kept. That if this should be the meaning, we have done before we begin.
To destroy a text is not so evil as to make a text destroy itself, which by this sense will come to pass. But if this sense be senseless, this gloss as a viper eats out the bowels of the text. We must then resolve this is no case put, it is a ground laid. No hypothetical fast, If you shall, but categorical, 'When you do.' For except it be, all that follows is to no purpose. To what purpose is it to direct what not to do, what to do in our fast, if we never mean to fast? for Christ to set us down instructions how to carry ourselves in that we never mean to go about? Plain dealing were to tell Him we will use His counsel in some other matter; as for fasting we find ourselves no way disposed to it. But by the grace of God we are not so far gone yet, we see His will is we should do it, and take a time to do it we will, and when is that? 'When ye fast'--when fast ye? A time we said there is, if 'for all things under the sun,' then for that.
Let us speak but after the manner of men, go to it but natura tenus, as saith Tertullian, and nature itself will teach us 'when.' Mark when nature will yield to it, when and in what case the natural man will fast, without eye to God or Christ, or religion at all. So shall we be within the Apostle's 'Doth not nature itself teach you?'
[384/385] The time of fear is a time of fasting with the natural man; nec est cibi tempus in periculo, for 'in time of danger men have no mind of meat.' They in the ship with St. Paul when they looked every hour to be cast away, the tempest was such, there was, saith St. Luke, poll_ ¢sita 'no spending of victuals' all that while. Will we naturally fast for fear of the wreck of our ships, and not be afraid as much of the wreck of our souls by sin, and fast for that? Doth not nature teach us this? There is one 'when.'
When the natural man is in any inward grief of heart, it will take away his stomach, he will fast. Says Tertullian, Semper moeroris sequela jejunium, ut lætitiæ accessio sagina, 'fasting followeth mourning, as feasting doth mirth.' The time of mourning is one of Solomon's times; why that is our time of fasting. Fasting and mourning, Joel joins them both. The afflicted soul in his prayer, 'My heart was smitten with heaviness;' how then? 'So that I forget to eat my bread.' Our Saviour Christ shews it best; He was asked, 'Why fast not your disciples?' He answers not, How can they fast? as He should, for that was their question; but how can they mourn while the Bridegroom is with them?' As much to say, as if they could mourn, they would not fail but fast certainly. So we see did Hannah, flebat et non capiebat cibos. So we see did David for the death of Jonathon; and again when his child lay a dying--mourned and fasted for both. Upon sorrow for the death of a friend or a child can we fast then, dictante natura, and can we not do as much for our sins, the death of our souls? Does not nature teach us that? Nor for the death of Christ neither, which our sins were the cause of? There is another, a second 'when.'
Thirdly, anger him thoroughly, the natural will to his fast. Ahab for cursed heart that he could not have his will, Naboth would not let him have his vineyards, to bed he goes and no meat would down with him. Could he out of his pure naturals for cursed heart leave his meat and fast, and cannot we do the like for just indignation at ourselves, for provoking God's anger with the cursed thoughts of our heart, and words of our mouth, and deeds of our whole body? cannot we be got to it? Will not nature teach us this? A third 'when.'
[385/386] Fourthly, the natural man when he is in the fervour of his desire, if it be an earnest desire, he will pursue that he desires so hard as he will forget his meat quite. Not a man so hardy as to 'eat anything till sunset,' saith Saul, when he had his enemies in chase; such was his desire of victory.
What speak we of victory? we see Esau so eager in following his sport that he came at night so faint, and he paid dear for his supper, yet felt it not all day, while he was hot on his game.
Did we hunger and thirst for recovery of God's favour, as did Saul for his victory, or Esau for his sport, we would not think it much to fast as they did. Will not nature teach us this neither? A fourth 'when.' Put the natural man into any of these passions kindly, you shall need proclaim no fast for him, he will do it of himself.
Now, mark these four well; 1. fear, 2. sorrow, 3. anger, 4. desire, and look into 2Cor. 7.11. if they be not there made, as it were, the four elements of repentance, the constitutive cause of it. 1. Fear, the middle point, the centre of it. 2. Sorrow that works it. And if sorry for sin, then of necessity 3. angry with the sinner, that is ourselves, for committing it. It is there called indignation, and no slight one, but proceeding ad vindictam, to be wreaked on ourselves for it. 4. And desire is there too, and zeal joined with it to give it an edge. These four, the proper passions all of repentance, and these four carry every one, as we say his fast on his back. Much more where they all meet, as in true earnest repentance they all should.
It is sure God planted these passions in our nature to be bestowed chiefly upon their chief objects. And their chief objects are: 1. Of fear, that which is most fearful, the wrath of God. 2. Of anger, that which most certainly procureth it, that is our sin. 3. Of desire, that than which nothing is more desired, God's favour. 4. Of sorrow, that we have most cause to be sorry for, the loss of it. There then to shew them, there to bestow them; which if we did in kind, we need never take thought for a cum to our jejunatis.
For grief of heart, for worldly loss, for bodily fear of drowning, for bitter anger we can do it; why not for the grief of our grievous offences for fear of being drowned in [386/387] perdition eternal? Why not for indignation of our many indignities offered God? Alas, it but shows our affections of sorrow, anger fear, desire, are quick, have life, are very affections indeed in secular matters; but dead and dull, and indeed no affections at all but plain counterfeits in things pertaining to God, or that concern the estate and hazard of our souls.
To take down a peccant humour, as we call it, in our body, whereby we fear impair of our health, we can and do enter into a strict and tedious diet and hold out well. We can forbear this and that as we are bidden, though we love it well, if we be but told it will do us hurt. If for the health of our body we will do that which for our soul's health we will not, I cannot tell what to say to us.
What speak I of health? To win but a prize, at a running or a wrestling, abstinet se ab omnibus, saith the Apostle, 'they will abstain from all things,' and undergo a strict regimen for a long time before, and all is but for a poor silver game. What shall I say then, if we cannot be got to endure so much to obtain the Heavenly prize, which is in part done, as there he saith, by castigo corpus meum? This for the natural man's cum, 'when' he will fast.
Will ye now see the Scriptures' 'when'--when that sets us out our time? They be in a manner the very same; Scriptures and nature vary not, dictate to us the same time both.
Our first 'when.' What time any great danger hangs and hovers over our heads, that is God's time, saith Esay. God Himself doth then call us to fasting. No time then to kill oxen or dress sheep, eat flesh and drink wine, a great pain is there set upon it. God must needs take it ill if, when He bids us fast, we fall to feast. And this 'when' is of greatest example, none so frequent in all the Bible as fasts of this nature. Never came there danger toward them of plague, but David; of famine, but Joel; of war, but Jehoshaphat; of any destruction threatened, but not only good Queen Esther, but wicked Ahab; nay, even the heathen King of Nineveh, to their fasts straight, flying to it as to a forcible means, and so they ever found it, to turn away God's wrath, and so the danger, the matter of their fear. This is a time 'when,' and we then to do it.
[387/388] Now if for the effect we fast, for the cause much more. Of these, of all other our miseries, the cause is within ourselves. Our sin, whereby God's anger is kindled, and these ever follow upon it. When therefore we would proceed against ourselves for sin, 'humble ourselves'--the phrase of the Law; 'chasten ourselves'--of the psalm; 'punish ourselves'--of the prophets; 'take revenge of ourselves'--the Apostle's phrase; tum jejunabunt in die illo, this is a way, then is a time to do it. Fasting is a punishment to the flesh; modicu, panis et pauxillum aquæ, was a part of Micaiah's punishment. By it, as to amerce ourselves, as it were, for abusing our liberty before, and making it an occasion to the flesh, and thereby to prevent His judgment by judging ourselves. Do de me poenas, ut ille parcat, it is Augustine. This so proceeding of ours to take punishment on ourselves, it is illex misericordiæ, saith Tertullian, it allures, inclines God to mercy. When He sees us angry with ourselves in good earnest and do somewhat, His anger ceases: Nam, qui culpa offenditur, poena placatur, Whom the fault offends, the punishment appeases, whether His punishment or ours. But He had rather ours than His, that we should do it than He.
And this to extend to the body also and to the chastening of it. For doth the soul only so in? Doth not the body also? And shall the soul suffer sorrow for sin, and shall the body suffer nothing, and yet it was in the same transgression? If it shall, then a t least poena damni, for poena sensu I am sure we would be more loath to come to. And what poena damni but abstinere a licitis quia illicita concupivit, 'to deny ourselves that we might, for doing that we might not?' There is another cum.
Secondly, as it is a chastisement for sin when it is done, so has it always been held to have in it a medicinable force, a special good remedy to prevent sin, when it is not yet fallen on us or we into it; but grudges us only, as it were, and whereinto we are like to fall, for that we are no leading, even entering into temptation. This also is a time 'when.' And this time we ground upon Christ's time of fasting; His fasting went immediately before His temptation.
No ways needful for Himself was Christ's fast. None is so Simple as to think the tempter would have prevailed against [388/389] Him, though He had taken His meals, eat and drank the forty days before. It was not for Himself, it was for us, His fast; exemplary to teach us it will be a great advantage, if prepared by this exercise we shall encounter the evil spirit. Specially, if it be some kind of them, if an unclean spirit; for that kind 'is not cast out,' no, nor kept out, but either by jejunatis or not at all. Christ's fasting then before His temptation is to show us, it is good fasting against temptation. At least, this way we shall weaken his forces, 'by keeping down our fleshly lusts,' which, saith, St. Peter, 'fight against the soul,' and lying in our own bosom oft betray us to the fiend. For when all is said that can be, Bernard's saying will be found true, that nutriuntur cum carne et vitia carnis. And if religion did not, experience teacheth us that. Ply the body apace, let it be kept high, how mellow a soil it proves for the sins of the flesh! And that, if by abstinence we crop not the buds of sensuality, they will ripen and seed to the ruin of our souls. So there is use both ways of it. 1. Ise of castigo corpus, for the time past; 2. use if in servitutem redigo, for the time to come. Jejuna quia peccasti, jejuna ut ne pecces; both, saith Chrysostom--one as a punishment with reference to sin already committed, the other as a preservative for noli amplius peccare, that we commit it not again. Two causes more, and two times 'when.'
But hath fasting its use in evil things only, and repelling them? Has it not also in good things, and procuring them? Yes sure, I demand, doth there never happen us that we have some cause more than ordinary, the procuring of God's favour whereto, and the success whereof, with more than ordinary prayer we would commend to God? Why there then is another cum. As when Esther would move the King for the safety of her people, or Nehemias for the new building of the wall of Jerusalem; both found good of this, that when there is use of earnest and hearty prayer, it will be the more earnest and hearty if cum jejunatis do also go with it. We have otherwhile extraordinary occasions in our wordly affairs, and then we make no account of a meal's loss: have we none such in spiritialibus to God-ward? None but vulgar there? Never any but such as we can entertain with our common dull devotion? Need none other, but as if the business 389/390 between God and our soul were the silliest and poorest business we had to go about.
But say we have none; shall we at no time sequester ourselves, and for some small time cwrÁsai, it is St. Peter's word, get us a 'withdrawing place?' scsl£xein, it is St. Paul's, 'make, us a vacant time,' of purpose to entend devout and ghostly meditation throughly? A case which St. Paul presumes at one time or other, every good Christian man and woman will not fail but do. Then hath fasting a time too, and one vacancy to serve for both.
It is a special friend to prayer, to father it, to put a vigour or fervour into it. Therefore, where almost shall you find them but coupled, 'fast and pray,' one following straight in the neck of another? Even here presently before was Christ in a treaty of 'prayer;' and here now immediately after it He falls to speak of 'fasting.' This was not for nothing; but as if He should give thereby a special item, that there is a mutual reciprocal correspondence, nay, an alliance between them to sanctify and support either the other. And namely, a special virtue in fasting, to awake up and quicken our devotion, thereby the better to elevate our minds unto God. We feel this or we feel nothing, that dull is our devotion and our prayers full of yawning, when the brain is thick with vapour and the heart pressed down with the charge of the stomach; and that our devotion and all else is performed, as Tertullian saith. pollentiore mente, and vivaciore corde, 'our wits more fresh. our spirits more about us,' while we are in virgine saliva, yet in 'our fasting spittle;' when fasting and praying are not assunder but we serve God in both. Our morning prayer that is the 'incense,' saith the psalm; our evening is but 'the stretching out of our hands,' in comparison of it, faint and heavy.
These then; the time 1. of fear of the danger sin will draw upon us. 2. Of indignation at our sin the cause of it. 3. Of sorrow for that we have done; 4. Of care that we do so no more; 5. Of taking down the flesh; 6. Of lifting up the spirit; 7. Of averting evil 8. Of procuring good; 9. Of giving ourselves wholly to spiritual exercise. These are all causes 'why;' these are all times 'when;' all of the Scriptures' limiting, all of the Saints' practice there.
[390/391] And indeed all of Christ's own assigning. For venient dies, 'there will come days,' saith Christ. Do those days never come? When come they? Verily when evil days come upon us, we may 'hang up our harps' then, the `marriage feast' is at an end with us, and we then to fast, saith Christ, according to the letter.
But goes He from us only corporally by adversity? Goes He not spiritually also? Yes; and whensoever we fall into any grievous sin, though the piping may continue perhaps, yet the Bridegroom is gone; assure yourself gone He is et tum jejunabunt, 'and then fast we must.' Why? even for very grief that by your wretched folly we have set Him gone. For if when He is taken from us, fast we must; must we not much more, when we ourselves by our lewd carriage have been the cause I say not of His taking, but even of His very chasing and driving away from us?
Thirdly, against temptation, we need to fast; for against His temptation Christ fasted That needed it not.
And last, His close so joining and so oft of these two; 1. fasting and 2. prayer; so together still makes that the time of fervent prayer is a time of Christ's appointing too, and that so intimated even in this very place her.
But all this while we have been speaking of when we are to fast at large, or when upon some occasion; in the mean time, we say nothing of this time now a t hand. This is not upon any occasion, it is a yearly recurrent fast: will this also come within the lists of cum jejunatis? I take it will. For shall our fasting be altogether when we will ourselves? shall it not also be some time when the Church will? May we bind ourselves, and may not she also bind us? Hath she no interest in us, no power over us? The Synagogue of the Jews, we see, had power to prescribe fasts and did; hath the Church of Christ none? Is she in worse case than the Synagogue? No indeed. If Rechab might enjoin his sons, she may hers. She is our mother, she hath the power of a mother over us, and a mother hath power to give laws to her children.And so cum jejunatis is, when you fast by the Church's appointment also, the Church's cum. This is sure; 'No man hath God to his Father, that hath not the Church for his mother,' and that once and twice in the Proverbs order is [391/392] taken, as 'to keep the precepts of our Father, so not to set light by the law of our mother.' Ira Patris and dolor matris, are together in one verse; 'he that grieves her, angers Him.' And he cannot but grieve her that little sets by her wholesome orders. The Apostles we see--St. Paul by name, though he had been in ' the third Heaven,' yet he deferred to talem consuetudinem, the 'Church's custom,' and rests in it. We must learn to do the like, and not set light by them as our manner is.
This I may say for this cum, it is no custom lately taken up, no law of the Church our mother that now is. She is grown old, and her senses fail her; she errs, or at least is said to err, at every body's pleasure. It is a custom this of the Church's while it was a Christo recens, 'yet fresh and warm from Christ;' the Church which was the Mother of the Apostles themselves at all times kept, everywhere observed, there and ever since. Some to shift it, frame to themselves a fear of I wot not what superstition, where no fear is. Before any superstition was stirring, any Popery hatched, it was, this fast was. Lex abstinendi in Quadragesima semper fuit in Ecclesia, saith the oracle of antiquity, Theophilus Alexandrinus. Lent was ever in the Church. Nos unam Quadragesimam secundum traditionem Apostolurum, 'we have but one Lent,' the Montanists had three, 'but that one was delivered us by the Apostles,' saith St. Hierome. Why should I weary you with reckoning them up? What one more ancient writer than other is there, but you shall find it in him expressly, even up to Ignatius, who lived with the Apostles themselves. Apostolic then it is, and for such St. Hierome avows it; and when that is said, enough is said for it I think. Yet it is good you know it, the fast so delivered, and by the Church ever and every where so kept, the Council of Gangra hath laid an anathema on them who keep it not, avoid it how they can keep it not.
And sure in general, that this power should remain in the Church to prescribe us set times was most behoveful. Every man, so we would have it, to be left to himself for prayer, fasting, Sacrament, nay for religion too now and all? For God's sake, let it not be so, let us not be left altogether to ourselves, no, not in prayer! Private prayer doth well; but let us be ordered to come to Church, and do it there, [392/393] Pharisees, Publicans, Peter and John, and all; let us have our days appointed and our hours set for it. If all were left to us, God knows I durst not promise what should become of prayer itself. The like I say for the Sacrament; let us have a cum when to come to that too: and so for fasting; fast privately in God's name, but, hear, hear you, let not the Church trust to that. Nor she hath not held it wisdom so to do; but as in both them, prayer and the Sacrament, so in this holds us to our order of days and times established. Them if we keep, so it is: otherwise, were it not for the Church's times, I doubt there would be taken scarce any time at all. Now yet somewhat is done; but leave us once at liberty, liberty hath lost us some already, and will lose us the rest if it be not looked to in time.
The rest are matters of discipline rather than doctrine: 1. the number of forty; 2. season of the year; 3. the manner of abstinence. Somewhat may be said to content us; but remember it came from the Apostles, that is it that binds us, that is it that sets it fast.
That which hath been said is for some set time at large, for a cum; but why this cum at this time now? Why forty days? Why before Easter? Why this fast? It is of all hands confessed, that ordained it was as a part of the discipline of repentance; and much was done in it about public penitents. Yet not for them only; but even with them out of the bowels of a mother the Church herself would become a penitent, and have all her children do the like. Herself become one; for the whole body of the Church has her faults beside the private offences of every particular member, for which there was a several set sacrifice in the Law. For us to become penitents likewise; for who knows whether we be not as faulty in private as they, the open penitents in public? as great sinners as they, though not known for such?
So the cause is general that she with them, and we with her and with them and for them, for them and for ourselves, in whole and in part, all in one, uniformly might perform a solemn annual repentance to God.
As to the number of days; God saith in the Revelation, Dei ei tempus ad poenitendum; 'He gave a time for to repent in.' What time was that He gave? The time that God gave was forty days in the famous repentance of Nineveh; happy [393/394] for the issue, recommended by Christ's own mouth and propounded to us as a pattern. Other set time save this she found not; she took the same then, she could not tell how or when to take a better than that of God's own giving. The rather, that Moses, Elias and Christ Himself, had hit upon the same number in their fast. It is not nothing that it containeth, though it be but an imperfect expressing of the pattern of so worthy authors, of Christ's specially. Ignatius hath said it before me, I dare say it after him.
For the season; the Prophet hath said it, if we know not when to lay our fast, our 'returning to God,' lay it with the stork and the swallow, take their time, do it cum hirundinibus rather than fail.
But besides that the Church has laid it most conveniently to end with the feast of Christ's rising, and so to go immediately before it; that against that time, as the Fathers in the first great Council of Nice wish it, all being restored, and all prepared by it, we may of all hands celebrate that high day and bring to 'God a pure offering'--the very words of the Council. Then to end with that high feast, that the saying of Zachary may be fulfilled, that our fast shall be to us 'turned into high feasts;' as the highest and greatest of our religion, for which cause this fast is called jejunium Paschale, with reference to it; for Easter and Lent stand upon one base, both stand and fall together.
As to the manner of abstinence. It is sure the fast in kind, was in these three, 1. Panem non comedit, 2. potum non bibit, 3. ad vesperam; 'neither eat nor drink at all till night.' But non omnes capiunt sermonem hunc,`all are not capable of this saying;' yet he who can, let him. But for them who cannot, the Church, as a tender indulgent Mother unto all that she may win somewhat, is content to remit of the vigour of this, turns here on all sides to lay no more on us than we can endure, if she can find ought in Scriptures to relieve us, And that doth she three ways.
1. Non panem, 'no manner meat,' none at all; nay, not no manner meat at all--too hard that. What say you to non talem, not altogether none, but not such or such meat? Non panem desiderabilem, 'no dainty alluring meats,' and namely, no flesh. Now we do alter the quality yet. [394/395] Daniel's fast we termed it on which the Church did ground her xhrofaga, and ours may ground her eating of fish, say what we will, a less pleasing diet and less desired by us.
2. Again, Non comedit, 'Not eat at all, not altogether any?' That were too strict. What say you to Non tantum? To some, but 'not so much?' Before altered the quality, here abates of the quantity. Not in that quantity, not so much, not so oft as at other times. To cut off one meal, if both you cannot; They call it Toby's fast, Quando derelinquebatur prandium, he left his dinner. Dinner or supper all is one, so one be left; nec ventrum cibi oneres duplicato, it is St. Hierome, 'and we do not double ballast our bellies.' And these two we call portionale jejunium; takes not away all, takes some and leaves none; leaves us an honest portion, leaves us a meal, some kind and some measure only abridged.
3. Not usque ad vesperam, not 'till night forbear;' too long that. What say you to (as before not so oft, so here) not so soon as at other times? Put off the time of our repast; make our molestus cliens break his hours a little; if not ad vesperam, as near vesperam as we may. Cornelius' fast they call it; he was 'fasting at the ninth hour,' that is our three at afternoon; --till then. Peter's fast they find, and that is the lowest, he was 'fasting till past the sixth hour;'--till then. Thus indulgent she is; for these are not without example in Scripture we see, nor unknown in antiquity. But for antiquity, then they pressed forward as much as they could, and we draw backward all that ever we can. These then or as many, or as much of these as we can, so to make some manner show, some countenance towards it; that if not keep pace with the ancient Church, yet not to give them over clean, not to fall behind them so far, till we lose sight of them quite, and so fall to abandon cum jejunatis altogether. And thus much for this cum, this very time, and the manner of jejunatis, our fasting in it.
And now we have found us a time for our fast, God send us to get a fast for our time, a jejunatis for cum! For this cum is no come. Here then is the place and time to answer Christ's 'When ye fast;' to ask When fast we? Everyone to enter into his own heart and convent himself about the taking of these times, how oft we have taken them. How oft? [395/396] I would it were come to that. I fear it must be whether we have taken them all or no? Whether any of them? And if this question should be put us, I report me to our consciences, a many of us, whether it would not oppose us to tell when this 'when' last was.
But if as I doubt we have not taken them, then I ask, why have we not? Have we no sins to be censured? Are we in no fear of wrath to come? Our case sure is fearful, if we fear not.
Are our souls so very humble, our bodies so in subjection we need it not? I marvel it should be so; it should be needful for St. Paul, his body should need chastening, ours none. What is the Bridegroom always with us? He with us, and we with Him always? Do we never part? Doth that time never come? Never, all our life long? Yes, yes; we want no times, nor we want no causes, we want wills. Whereof sure we should do well to bethink ourselves better, lest we be out of the Gospel quite. Christ cannot say to us, 'When you fast.' if we fast not at all. Somewhat would be done sure, if it were but to make Christ speak to some purpose; somewhat, or all that hath been said and all that shall be, is to no purpose. No use of it, of a caution how to do that, we have no meaning ever once to do at all.
I should now come to the cautions, and if God will so I will, but at some other time. But as our times are inclined to leave sensuality to our own, which we would fain have called Christian liberty, we had need to bend and to spend our whole exhortation, not so much against hypocrisy, as for fasting, to keep life in it. As our age falls out, that is not so necessary. Time was when fasting was in credit; and when a thing is in request, then is counterfeiting to be feared, then take heed of hypocrisy. But now when little is attributed to the true, then should I think there needs little fear of the false. So that it were not altogether without reason, as the world goes, not to stand on the latter so much but even let it go, and so men would fast, let their countenances be as pleased them, let them look as sour as they list.
Should I say so, I might well enough for any fear fasting will now be made matter of vain-glory. But that were to extend my commission; I dare not, but leave it as Christ hath [396/397] left it, and say with the Apostle, Quof accepi a Domino, 'What I have received of the Lord,' that, and no other thing; and as I have received it of the Lord, so and no otherwise deliver I it unto you; and persuade, exhort, entreat, and even beseech you to do it, but not as hypocrites: and back again, not as hypocrites to do it; not so, yet in any wise to do it, to fulfil, to make good Christ's cum jejunatis.
Jejunatis, you know what tense it is. In the present tense He has put if, for at the present time He requireth it. It is not cum jejunabitis, or cum jejunatiri estis, when you shall fast, but when you do. He speaks as if He would have us fall in hand with it presently, and makes no future fast of it. The cum is already come, and we to do it now it is come; to make answer to Christ's 'When you fast,' with now we fast, now we are at it this day, commonly called caput jejunii, `the head of it;' to which head I trust we shall allow a body, and so make a fast of it.
And even so then let us do. And He who says it will see it, and seeing it will see it will not go 'without a reward' at His hands; see, that any hunger or thirst for Him and upon His word suffered will be satisfied at His heavenly table, at the great Easter Day, the day of the last Resurrection, where there will be no fasting any more, but a feast with all joy and jubilee for ever.