BLTC Press Titles

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Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison

The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

Parochial and plain sermons

by John Henry Newman


Yes, even in our penitential exercises, when we could least have hoped to find a pattern in Him, Christ has gone before us to sanctify them to us. He has blessed fasting as a means of grace, in that He has fasted; and fasting is only acceptable when it is done for His sake. Penitence is mere formality, or mere remorse, unless done in love. If we fast, without uniting ourselves in heart to Christ, imitating Him, and praying that He would make our fasting His own, would associate it with His own, and communicate to it the virtue of His own, so that we may be in Him, and He in us; we fast as Jews, not as Christians. Well then, in the Services of this first Sunday, do we place the thought of Him before us, whose grace must be within us, lest in our chastisements we beat the air and humble ourselves

in vain.

Now in many ways the example of Christ may be

made a comfort and encouragement to us at this season of the year.

And, first of all, it will be well to insist on the circumstance, that our Lord did thus retire from the world, as confirming to us the like duty, as far' as we can observe it. This He did specially in the instance before us, before His entering upon His own ministry; but it is not the only instance recorded. Before He chose His Apostles, He observed the same preparation. "It came to pass in those days that He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to Godl" Prayer through the night was a self-chastisement of the same kind as fasting.. On another occasion, after sending away the multitudes, " He went up into a mountain apart to pray *■" and on this occasion also, He seems to have remained there through great part of the night. Again, amid the excitement caused by His miracles, " In the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed *." Considering that our Lord is the pattern of human nature in its perfection, surely we cannot doubt that such instances of strict devotion are intended for our imitation, if we would be perfect. But the duty is placed beyond doubt by finding similar instances in the

1 Luke vi. 12. « Matt. sir. 23. » Mark i. 35.

case of the most eminent of His servants. St. Paul, in the Epistle for this day, mentions among other sufferings, that he and his brethren were "in watchings, in fastings," and in a later chapter, that he was "in fastings often." St. Peter retired to Joppa, to the house of one Simon, a tanner, on the sea-shore, and there fasted and prayed. Moses and Elijah both were supported through miraculous fasts, of the same length as our Lord's. Moses, indeed, at two separate times; as he tells us himself, "Thus I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I did neither eat bread nor drink water'." Elijah, having been fed by an Angel, "went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights2." Daniel, again, "set his face unto the Lord his God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes." Again, at another time, he says, "In those days, I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled3." These are instances of fastings after the similitude of Christ.

Next I observe, that our Saviour's fast was but introductory to His temptation. He went into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, but before He was tempted He fasted. Nor, as is worth notice, was this a mere preparation for the conflict, but it was the cause of the conflict in good measure. Instead of its simply arming Him against temptation, it is plain, that in the first instance, His retirement and abstinence exposed Him to it.

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