Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God…
(preached on the occasion of a public fast): —
I. THAT THE BEST MEANS TO PROCURE SUCCESS UPON OUR COUNSELS AND ENDEAVOURS IS TO SEEK GOD FOR HIS BLESSING.
1. This results from the first principles on which all religion is built.
(1) That there is a God of infinite power who governs the world and can dispose all things in it to such ends as are agreeable to His will.
(2) That human policy and strength are of no moment when they come in opposition to His providence: "There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord."(3) That He has a particular ears of those who serve Him faithfully.
2. In giving His assistance God does not always act in so palpable a manner as that whereby we see second causes producing their effects. But that it is the most rational and most religious way to begin at Heaven in all His consultations and designs will appear by reflecting —
(1) That it is impossible for a creature to be independent.
(2) That God can no more cease to govern the world than He can cease to be God.
(3) That He cannot govern His creatures if He does not influence them.
(4) That those who depend upon their own policy and strength, without any regard to His will, affront His majesty, reject His government, and justly provoke Him to punish and disappoint them (Proverbs 3:6, 7).
II. THAT SOLEMN FASTING IS A PROPER METHOD TO BE USED IN SUCH ADDRESSES TO GOD. We have but two ways to express our thoughts and the inclinations of our minds, either by words or by such actions as naturally flow from them, and both of these are equally proper and therefore such as become our devotions. For God is the author of decency and order, and His service is then most decent and orderly when it is unaffected and agreeable to nature; and therefore such gestures or actions are proper in His worship which do naturally flow from or by custom are used to accompany such a disposition of mind as we ought to be in when we make our approaches to Him. Thus kneeling becomes us at our prayers, because it is the usual posture of supplicants; singing of hymns is decent in thanksgiving, because songs and music are fit attendants on praise and joy; and fasting is extremely proper for a solemn humiliation before God, for the begging pardon of our sins, and assistance in our difficulties, because it is a natural expression of sorrow, and is productive of humble thoughts in ourselves and devout ones towards God. And therefore we find that it has been the practice not only of the Churches of God, but even of the heathens themselves, to use solemn fasts upon extraordinary applications to Heaven, so that fasting is a part of worship prescribed by nature and by common sense of men. Public fasting should be attended with public demonstrations of seriousness, such as gravity in our discourse and behaviour, a ceasing from the business of our particular callings, abstaining from ornaments, recreations, and places of civil concourse, and spending the day in the public devotions of the Church and in the retirements of our closets. For though It private Christian may fast (as he may pray) without any of this pomp, and discharge the duty in his own breast, yet to make it public there is no other way but an outward solemnity; and a community cannot hold a fast but by such an appearance. In this the minds of men are more apt to be grave and serious when there is no appearance of jollity to divert them, they are drawn off from thoughts of worldly business and fixed on pious meditations, when they see their neighbours thronging to the temple, when there is no commerce in the shops nor hurry in the streets. Such a face of things shows that men are about the more serious business of another world.
(William Hayley, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.