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Fasting is an indispensable condition of a good life; but in fasting, as in self-control in general, the question arises, With what shall we begin? How to fast, how often to eat, what to eat, what to avoid eating? And as we can do no work seriously without regarding the necessary order of sequence, so also we cannot fast without knowing where to begin with what to commence self-control in food. Fasting! and even an analysis of how to fast, and where to begin the very notion of it sounds ridiculous and wild to most men. I remember how, with pride at his originality, an evangelical preacher, who was attacking monastic asceticism, once said to me, 'Ours is not a Christianity of fasting and privations, but of beefsteaks'.
The attractive aspects of God's character must not. be made more apparent to such a being as man than His chastening and severer aspects. We must not be invited to approach the Holy of Holies without being made aware, painfully aware, of what Holiness is We must know our own unworthiness ere we are fit to approach or imagine an Infinite Perfection. The most nauseous of false religions is that which affects a fulsome fondness for a Being not to be thought of without awe, or spoken of without reluctance.
For God is at hand, and the Most High rules in the: children of men.... The same light which lets you see sin and transgression, will let you see the covenant of God, which blots out your sin and transgression, which gives victory and dominion over it, and brings into covenant with God. For looking down at sin and corruption and distraction, ye are swallowed up in it; but looking at the light, which discovers them, ye will see over them.
George Fox to Lady Claypole.
References. IX. 14. J. Bolton, Selected Sermons (2nd Series), p. 229. IX. 14, 23. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2850. IX. 17. Ibid. vol. xlviii. No. 2788.
See Miss Rossetti's lines,' By the Waters of Babylon'.
Do you know, when I see a poor devil drunk and brutal, I always feel, quite apart from my æsthetical perceptions, a sort of shame, as if I myself had some hand in it.
No man's thoughts ever fell more into the forms of a kind of litany than Mr. Maurice's.... They were the confessions befitting a kind of litany, poured forth in the name of human nature, the weakness and sinfulness of which he felt most keenly, most painfully, but which he felt at least as much in the character of the representative of a race by the infirmities of which he was overwhelmed, as on his own account.... Whenever you catch that he feels as all the deeper religious natures have always felt a sort of self-reproachful complicity in every sinful tendency of his age, you feel that the litany in which he expresses his shame is not so much morbid self-depreciation as a deep sense of the cruel burden of social infirmity and social sin.
R. H. Hutton.
Thomas Boston of Ettrick, in his Memoirs, mentions the scandal caused by a local minister having been guilty of adultery. 'I well know,' he adds, 'that many a heavy heart it made to me, and remember the place where I was wont heavily to lament it before the Lord in secret prayer.'
Remember the rebuke which I once got from old Mr. Dempster of Denny, after preaching to his people: 'I was highly pleased with your discourse, but in prayer it struck me that you thought God unwilling to give'. Remember Daniel: 'At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth'.
McCheyne to Bonar.
See Keble's lines on 'Thursday Before Easter'.
Reference. IX. 24. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 734.
Not long after Phryne's religious performance at Eleusis came the last days, too, of the national life of the Jews, under the successors of Alexander. The religious conceptions of the Jews of those days are well given by the book of Daniel. How popular and prevalent these conceptions were is proved by their vitality and power some two centuries later at the Christian era, and by the large place which they fill in the New Testament. We are all familiar with them; with their turbid and austere visions of the Ancient of Days on His throne, and the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven to give the kingdom to the saints of the Most High and to bring in everlasting righteousness. Here, then, is the last word of the religion of the Hebrews, when their national life is drawing to an end, when their career has been, for the most part, run; when their religion has had nearly all the development which, within the limits of their national life, belonged to it. This, we say, is its last word: To bring in everlasting righteousness.
See, further, Literature and Dogma, III. ad init.
References. IX. 24. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii. No. 1681. IX. 25. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. ii. p. 440. IX. J. G. Murphy, The Book of Daniel, p. 152.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Daniel 9". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany