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Among errors under the head of prayer may be classed rash imprecations, whereby we invoke God or the devil to destroy any particular person or thing: Rom. xii. 14. “bless and curse not;” an intemperance to which even the pious are occasionally liable; Job iii. 2, 3. “let the day perish wherein I was born-" Jer. xx. 14. “cursed be the day wherein I was born." Undeserved curses, however, are of no force, and therefore not to be dreaded. Gen. xii. 3. “I will curse him that curseth thee." Numb. xxiii. 8. “how shall I curse whom God hath not cursed ?" Prov. xxvi. 2. bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.” Psal. cix. 28.“ let them curse, but bless thou.”

Prayer is assisted by fasting and vows. Matt. ix. 15. “the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.”

A religious fast is that whereby a man abstains, not so much from eating and drinking, as from sin, that he may be enabled to devote himself more closely to prayer, for the obtaining some good, or deprecating some evil. Isai. lviii. 5, 6.“ is it such a fast that I have chosen ? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him ? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day unto Jehovah? is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burthens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” Joel ii. 12, 13. “ turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and mourning; and rend your heart, and not your garments“," Jonah iii. 6-9. “ word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him. ... saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. ... but let them cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.” Zech. vii. 5. it is to be feared he did it in his wrath, as he gave the Israelites a king.' Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, II. 460. -Monarchiam non nisi sero petentibus, idque ægre, concederet

Quid nostra refert qualem sibi regem Israelitæ voluerint, præsertim Deo irato, non solum quod regem vellent ad exemplum gen. tium, et non suæ legis, sed plane quod vellent regem ?' Pro Populo Angli. cano Defensio, Symmons' ed. V. 59. • Petentibus tamen iis dedit regem Deus quamvis iratus.' Ibid. 82.


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fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, did ye at all fast unto me, even unto me?”

Religious fasts are either private or public.

A private fast is one imposed by an individual on himself or his family, for private reasons. 2 Sam. xii. 16. “David besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.” Psal. xxxv. 13. “as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth ; I humbled my soul with fasting.” Neh. i. 4. “it came to pass when I heard these words that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.” Dan. ix. 3. “I set my face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.' 2, 3. “in those days I Daniel was mourning full three weeks ; I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all.” Luke ii. 37. "she served God with fastings and prayers night and day."

1 Cor. vii. 5. “except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer.” To this head belongs the precept, Matt. vi. 16—18. 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: but thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast.”

A public fast is that which is proclaimed by the church or civil power for public reasons. Lev. xvi. 29. “this shall be a statute for ever unto you, that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all—” 1 Sam. vii. 6. “they fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against Jehovah.” xxxi. 13.

they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.” Ezra viii. 21. “then I

proclaimed a fast there at the river Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him." Esther iv. 3, 15, 16. " there was a great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. ... then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer; Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night nor day; I also and my maidens will fast likewise.”


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ix. 31, 32. “to confirm those days of Purim in their time appointed. ... the matters of the fastings and their cry;" to which allusion is made Zech. vii. 5. viii. 19. Joel ii. 15, 16. “blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast.” Acts xiii. 2, 3. “as they ministered to the Lord and fasted—.” xiv, 23. “ when they had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord.”

To fasting were anciently added various inflictions for the mortification of the body, conformably to the customs of those nations. Compare Ezra ix. 3. Jonah iii. 6. and the passages quoted above.

Even outward fasting sometimes averts the anger of God for a season.

1 Kings xxvii. 29. “because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days.”

There is also a fasting which works miracles. Matt. xvii. 21. “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

A vow is a promise respecting some lawful matter, solemnly made to God, sometimes with the sanction of an oath, and by which we testify our readiness and hearty resolution to serve God, or the gratitude with which we shall receive the fulfilment of our prayers.

Gen. xxviii. 20. “ Jacob vowed a vow, Baying—," 1 Sam. i. 11. “she vowed a vow, and said," Psal. cxix. 106. “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgements.” Neh. x. 29. “they entered into a curse and into an oath to walk in God's law."

Vows are general or special.

General vows relate to things which God has commanded , and are either public or private.

A public vow is one which is vowed by the whole church ; and is usually called in Scripture a covenant. Josh. xxiv. 22, 23. "ye are witnesses against yourselves, that you have chosen you Jehovah to serve him ; and they said, We are witnesses.” 2 Chron. xv. 12–14. “they entered into a covenant to seek Jehovah God of their fathers. ... and they sware unto Jehovah." Ezra x. 5. “ he made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel to swear that they should do according to this word.”

A private vow is one which is vowed by an individual ; as for instance the baptismal vow.

Special vows relate to things lawful, but not expressly commanded ; and are undertaken for special reasons. Acts


xviii. 18. “having shorn his head in Cenchrea ; for he had a vow.” xxi. 23. “we have four men which have a vow on them.”

We must be careful, however, not to interdict ourselves or others from those things which God intended for our use, as meat or drink; except in cases where the exercise of our liberty may be a stumbling-block to any of the brethren. Matt. xv. 17, 18. “do not ye yet understand that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught ?" Mark vii. 15, 16. “ there is nothing from without a man that entering into him can defile him, &c. The reason is given v. 19. “because it entereth not into his heart, but into his belly,” &c. Rom. xiv. 14. “I am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself.” v. 17. “for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink—.” 1 Cor. vi. 13. “meats for the belly, and the belly for meats ; but God shall destroy both it and them.” viii. 8. “ meat commendeth us not to God; for neither if we eat, are we the better, neither if we eat not, are we the worse.” Coloss. ii. 20, &c. “ if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why as though living in the world are ye subject to ordinances ? touch not, taste not, handle not; which all are to perish with the using—" 1 Tim. iv. 3, 4. “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth; for every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused.” Heb. xiii. 9. “not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.” Acts x. 13. “rise, Peter, kill and eat.” v. 15. “what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. The same rule applies to marriage : Matt. xix. 11. "all men cannot receive this saying, save them to whom it is given.” 1 Cor. vii. 9. “ but if they cannot contain, let them marry.” v. 26. “ I suppose therefore that this is good for the present distress.” v. 36, 37. “if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely towards his virgin," &c. 1 Tim. iv. 3. “ forbidding to marry;" and to other subjects of a similar nature. 1 Tim. iv. 8. “ bodily exercise profiteth little ; but godliness is profitable unto all things.'

Vows of voluntary poverty are also to be accounted superstitious; Prov. xxx. 8. “ give me neither poverty nor riches ;'

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inasmuch as poverty is enumerated among the greatest evils ; Deut. xxviii. 48.“ in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things.” Acts xx. 35. “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” Eph. iv. 28. “ rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”

No one can make a special vow who is not his own master, and exempt from subjection to any other authority; as a son or a daughter to a parent, a wife to her husband, a male or female servant to their lord. See Num. vi. and xxx. 13. “every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.” Neither can a general or special vow be made by one who has not yet arrived at the full use of his judgement. Considering how generally this rule is received among divines, it is strange that they should so far forget their own doctrine, as to require the special vow of baptism from infants.

Any one, who is in these respects qualified, may bind himself by a special vow; when once made, however, he is not at liberty to recal it, but must fulfil it at all hazards. Deut. xxiii. 20. “when thou shalt vow a vow unto Jehovah thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it ; for Jehovah thy God will surely require it of thee, and it would be sin in thee.” Num. xxx. 2. "if a man vow a vow unto Jehovah .... he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” Eccles. v. 4, 5. “when thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools : pay that which thou hast vowed : better it is that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”

An impious vow, however, is not binding, any more than an unjust oath. Matt. xv. say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free.” Here that which ought to have been applied to the support of the parents, had been vowed as a gift to God, so that either the vow could not be fulfilled, or the support of the parents must be withdrawn. Christ therefore decides that the parents are to be supported, and that the impious vow is of no force. The opposite of a vow is sacrilege ; which consists in the

; non-performance of a vow, or in the appropriation to private


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