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of great importance. How much time a man should spend in this exercise, was left to the private judgment of each individual; nor did a person expose his character at all, if he thought it sufficient for him to observe only the rules of strict temperance. Of any solemn public fasts, except only on the anniversary day of the crucifixion of Christ, there is no mention in the most ancient times. Gradually, however, days of fasting were introduced; first by custom, and afterwards by legal sanction. Whether any thing of this nature occurred in the first century, and what days were devoted to fasting, we have not the means of deciding."

It is true that Christ himself fasted forty days and nights, but this is more than human nature can sustain. He gave no command for any one else to attempt it, though it is true that in all ages, many have attempted to imitate Christ in this respect. (a) The disciples of John interrogated Jesus, respecting the non-observance of fasts by his own disciples. "Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, [fast,] as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast." Matt. ix. 14, 15. His reply cannot be construed in favor of the custom. He alludes to a coming time of sorrow, when nature would withdraw the appetite, and then fasting would occur as the natural result of sorrow. This kind of fast

(a) Dositheus, a Samaritan, fasted so rigorously as to occasion his death.

He ought, however, to be ranked among the insane.

ing, the New Testament may commend, but it does not authorise any other.

This is

"Defraud not ye one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency." . 1 Cor. vii. 5. alluded to, as supporting and authorizing fasting. It can hardly be so considered if we receive the above quotation from the common translation. But late investigations show that the word fasting is an interpolation. (b) Indeed, there is much in the New Testament to show that all ordinances were done away. St. Paul says, (Col. ii.) that Christ has effaced the obligation we were under as respects ordinances; and that we shall not be judged "in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day." Tertullian, who flourished in the second century, observes— "the Christian's God has not prescribed any fast, nor forbid him any aliment: that which he has forbidden him are actions that are bad; that which he has commanded, are actions that are good." (De Jejune adv. Psych.) St. Basil also observes-"the true Christian fast consists in abstaining from vice-to fast from disputes, malignity and injustice."

This kind of fast is of perpetual obligation upon the Christian; but I see no ground, in any of the teachings or practices of Christ, for abstaining from food, unless the appetite is impaired. When Christ had fasted forty days, it is said that he became an hungered, and did eat; plainly implying that during the period of fasting, he had not been an hungered. Indeed fasting, as a Christian duty, is hardly reconcilable with the care which Christ

(b) See Griesbach.

had for the bodies of men, as evidenced by his numerous miracles wrought for its welfare, and even a miracle to feed the multitude.

But though Christ did not authorize fasting from food, yet his religion is one of strict temperance. While it imposes no observances that may not be kept, alike in every place, and by all mankind, it gives liberty to enjoy the gifts of God; at the same time discountenancing austerities and penances, and too great sensual indulgence.

Seeing, therefore, that there is not from Christ any injunction upon us to keep this ordinance, let us inquire into the propriety of it as regarding health.

I have no doubt that many persons eat daily, more food than is for their health; and this is probably more the case with the people of the United States, than with those of any other country, for no other country furnishes so abundant a supply of nutriment for all its inhabitants. I therefore admit that an occasional fast among such a people may be useful, by giving the over-tasked stomach a time of repose. But no general rule can or ought to be given for the observance of a whole community. Occasional fasting may be beneficial in some cases, and in others, not injurious, but to many persons it may prove very injurious. While in hot climates, abstemiousness and occasional fasts are conducive to health, in cold climates they are dangerous. The inhabitants of cold countries must have frequent supplies of stimuulating, nutritious food, in order to enjoy good health and to possess all the powers of the system in full vigor. Warm climates will permit people to live wholly on vegetables-but cold will not. Thus the Reformers in the north of Germany were the first to rebel against severe

fasts; and the emperor Maximillian, in 1519, begged Pope Leo X. to divide Lent into three parts, so that the Germans might be induced or enabled to keep it. Perhaps in times of barbarianism, and among a violent and ferocious people, fasting was essential to keep the passions of the people subdued, and the people themselves in subjection.

The priests of olden time were also legislators; and no doubt they were well aware of the effect of low diet. and fasting, in rendering men more humble and obedient. Other means to effect the same object were also resorted to. Thus at one time it was ordered by the Superiors of the monasteries, that the monks should be bled six times in a year, in order as it was stated "to repress their vicious tendencies." Certain it is that it had the effect to make them submissive and obsequious, and the faithful were no longer scandalized by the very robust and healthy appearance of these devout persons. From a full consideration of the subject, it appears to me that days of fasting, or abstaining from food, had better be discontinued. We have seen that they have not the support of sacred authority; and surely no one will insist that Christians are obligated to religiously keep such days, when neither Christ or his apostles have enjoined it.

Though, as I have said, occasional fasting, or abstaining from one meal, may not be injurious to some people, yet to many it is so, especially to the young, who do not endure fasting so well as the aged. Generally some injury arises from interrupting accustomed habits, such as omitting one full meal, especially to laboring men. Under great mental or moral excitement, life may be sustained for a long time without nourishment, and even

without sleep, and exposed to cold; as is evident from the histories of the austerities of Catharine de Cordue, and other devotees. Women, however, endure fasting better than men. In long days, to take no food through the day, would injure most people; and would be fatal, of course, in countries where the sun does not set for months, if the Mahometan fast, from sunrise to sunset, should be observed. An annual fast ordered by Government is truly ridiculous. That the civil power should thus interfere in religious duties, and order what is never but partially complied with, can have no other than an injurious effect. The day appointed for fasting, is usually a day of revelry; (c) and thus the moral and religious sense of a community is injured, by the people becoming accustomed to disregard the advice of Government, and the recommendations of their religious teach


Habitual temperance would be far better than occasional or special fasting, and in my opinion more conformable to Christ's teaching. The simple and proper rule for fasting, appears to me to be-to fast when nature, by sorrow or sickness, destroys the appetite. (d)

(c) On the day appointed for the last annual fast, in this State, I had occasion to go into three adjoining towns, in all of which, I saw crowds amusing themselves by ball playing, and other diversions.

(d) I have noticed within a few years, that fasting has been greatly urged by the clergy in this country, as a religious duty, especially by what are called the" new measure clergy." The Rev. W. C. Walton, in his Tract on Special Efforts to promote the work of God, says-" it is a remark founded on experience, that Fasting often contributes much to the efficacy of Prayer," and urges more attention to it. He, however, gives no details of his experience in this respect.


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