In compliance with the request of a former Association, here follow some brief remarks concerning fasting. That it is the duty of Christians, on certain occasions, to fast or to abstain from their usual refreshment, at the stated times, cannot with any just reason be once called into question; forasmuch as Christ himself takes it for granted, "when thou fastest," and proceeds to give necessary directions how to act therein. Matthew vi:16. Of the various kinds or diversities of fasts, our concern at present is only about a religious fast, which is either private or public; private, when one alone sets himself by fasting and prayer to seek the Lord, as David did, who fasted, lying all night upon the earth, 2 Samuel xii:16. Daniel, who sought by prayer and fasting, Daniel ix:3. Anna, a prophetess, who served God with fastings and prayers, Luke ii:37. Public fasting, appointed either by the civil power, as Jehosaphat proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah, 2 Chronicles xx:3; also Ezra vii:14; viii:21. The king of Ninevah, Jonah iii:5. Or by mutual agreement of the members of churches; for instance, in that famous Christian church at Antioch, when Barnabas and Saul, by the command of the Holy Ghost, were separated to the work appointed them, Acts xiii:2, 3.
The concomitants, or what should accompany religious fastings, are:
1. unfeigned confession of our sins, Daniel ix:5, with a sense of the evil of them, and turning from them to God; otherwise, it appears so much like hypocrisy and lying to God with our tongues.
Also 2. with prayer, Joel i:14; emphatically expressed by "crying unto the Lord."
3. undissembled humiliation, intimated by outward tokens, as being clothed with sackcloth and laying in ashes, Daniel ix:3; Jonah iii:8. And
4. to avoid all acts of oppression, and to show kindness to the needy. The fast which the Lord has chosen, and which he approves of, is to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, to break every yoke, to deal your bread to the hungry, to relieve the poor, to cover the naked, Isaiah lviii:6, 7. Alas, how far are our fasts from being accompanied with those things which the Lord requires!
The occasions of fasting and prayer are such as:
1. To deprecate lawful judgments felt or feared; as sword, famine, pestilence, or other sore afflictions.
2. To intreat for the revival of religion, the coming and spread of the Mediatorís kingdom, success of the gospel, unity of Christians, and the like desirable blessings.
3. Occasion on
some weighty, important undertakings, as the constitution of churches, ordination of church officers, Acts xiv:23. Preparation for the reception of the Lord's supper, protection from imminent danger, Ezra viii:21.
The length of time to be observed in fasting is not determined; it must be regulated by agreement, prudence, or public order; at least it ought too be so long till public worship is over.
When our continent is filled with tears and blood, ravages and desolation abound, perpetrated by English troops, and, if possible by the more wicked combinations of base traitors among ourselves, as now it is, when religion declines, and iniquity triumphs, it is a time which calls aloud for humiliation before God, fasting and prayer, with a steadfast endeavor for a reformation through our sinful afflicted land.
[From A. D. Gillette, editor, Minutes of Philadelphia Association, 1779, 1851, pp. 167-168; rpt. 2001. ó jrd]
Abel Morgan Index
Minutes of Philadelphia Association
Baptist History Homepage