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THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT.
O Lord, who for our sakes didst fast forty days and forty nights, give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy Godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen,
CHRISTIANITY, considered in its effects on
the human heart, is a system of duties and comforts which run in parallel lines from beginning to end. It unites in itself the opposites of self-denial and enjoyment; and these are so connected, during the present state of man, that they cannot be separated. Like the links of a chain, they depend on each other, so that, without the practice of self-denial, the felicities of the gospel cannot be experienced ; and, without an experience of the privileges of the gospel, selfdenial cannot be practised. What God hath joined together, let no man therefore attempt to put asunder.
The forty days of Lent (a word which sig. milies spring) were very early observed in the Christian church as we have already remarked, and seem to have originated in the forty days of humiliation which were kept by the Jews previous to their great day of atonement.* And
Ich as we bearly observehich sig.
* Wheatly, p. 202. Oxford Edit.
were fulfiles the Greek will; when the
though there is no positive scriptural prescription either for that Jewish fast or our own, yet the number forty is so signalized in Scripture as to account for the duration assigned to both, and to give an evident propriety to it. On this subject a learned author has made the following conjecture, which, if it be nothing more, seems at least to be ingenious and innocent; but, perhaps, many readers will think that great probability is attached to it.
- Concerning the period of forty days," during which our Lord fasted, “ the words of St. Luke seem to imply that it refers to some other transaction of Scripture, as a counterpart and acccomplishment; and that this precise time of forty days, rather than any other, was proper to the occasion. He says, when the days were ended, or, as the Greek will bear, “when the days were fulfilled ; the word being the same as in that passage of St. Mark, “What shall be the sign or when all these things shall be fulfilled ?” But I lay no great stress upon the word : for, whether the expression of the Evangelist implies it or not, the period of forty days doth certainly connect this transaction with many others in the sacred history; and there is reason to suppose, that the period itself was derived from some very early occasion. After revolving it long in my thoughts, I would propose the following conjecture to those who are skilful in the Scripture, namely, that the first man spent forty days in Paradise, and that in this period he was tempted, fell into sin by eating the forbidden fruit, and forfeited the tree of life with the inheritance of immortality. If this be supposed, the period of forty days will occur naturally in other transactions, and particularly in this of our Saviour's temptation, which is evidently founded on the temptation and fall of the first Adam. The curse brought upon the world by the flood, and occasioned by the sin committed in Paradise, (Gen. v. 29) was forty days in the execution; for so long the rains were descending, and the great deep emptying itself upon the earth's surface, that the sin and its history might be recognized in its punishment. When the Israelites searched the land of Canaan, that second paradise, which was to be the reward of their probation in the wilderness, they had a foretaste of it for forty days, (Numb. xiv. 33, 34); and the people who murmured at the evil report of the faithless spies were condemned to wander forty years in the wilderness, a year for a day : so that this penance symbolizes again with the curse which was consequent on the loss of paradise.
“ Under the ministry of the prophet Jonah, the space of forty days was allowed to the Ninevites, as an interval in which they might have opportunity of averting the Divine judgment by repentance and fasting. Moses spent forty days and forty nights upon the mount, when he received the tables of the law from the hand of God; and the same act was repeated on occasion of the tables which were broken. During his continuance in the mount, he did neither cat bread nor drink wuter; and his fast was observed in a wilderness., Elijah also, when he fled out of Judæa, crossed the river Jordan, and fasted forty days and forty nights in that wilderness wherein mount Horeb stood; where Moses had twice fasted forty days, and where the Israelites were led about in a state of penance for forty years.
“ This general agreement on so many occasions concerning the period of forty days, might probably be derived from the original I have supposed; but however that may be, it could not happen by chance; and therefore it might well be said, when Christ had fasted forty days, that the days were fulfilled, this period, according to the abundant testimony of the Scripture, being more suitable to the occasion than any other. As He suffered and rose again on the third day according to the Scripture, so he fasted forty days according to the same Scripture ; and the example of Moses, independent of every other testimony, would have been thought sufficient to prove this, in the opinion of many good judges both antient and modern."*
Our collect for the first Sunday in Lent was composed at the time of the Reformation. It contains-A preface, recording a remarkable scene of our blessed Saviour's life-A prayer founded thereon-and the end proposed in this act of supplication.
Our collect is addressed to the incarnate Jehovah-to Him who, before His assumption of our nature, “ being in the form of God, and think- ing it not robbery to be equal with God; made “ Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him “ the form of a servant, and was made in the « likeness of man, and being found in fashion as - a man, humbled Himself, and became obedient “ unto death, even the death of the cross.” To Him who is now “highly exalted,” and whom men and angels are required to worship, do we address our prayer. Not discouraged by the consideration of His low estate, though we are called to contemplate Him among the wild beasts in the wilderness, and destitute of the necessaries of
* Williain Jones's Works, vol. 3. p. 172.
- Bing that His humiliation was
-- our sake,” we extol Him for
SA and grace, and implore from -- Buich we stand in need.
**s** fasted forty days and forty
for what reason ? Had He any
y required an atonement or pe-
Al propensities to be subdued ?
snners.” Formed in the womb
for our sake” that He fasted. He in as the substitute of sinners. He Chene might eternally feast on the hidden
in n as holy, harmless. un
.snners." F ::or the power of
in tre from the and for our
as the suhe mm na michi
lew which our church has afforded us Servaring our Lord's fast requires a more IF in discussion. Christ in His long fast of
Is and nights is to be considered—as our to and as our exemplar.
and painful fast was not only prepashe sacrifice which He was afterwards to Ilimself, but, indeed, was itself a part series of meritorious sufferings, which tirssary to the expiation of our guilt and suication of our persons. As the paschal
mis set apart for immolation four days beis death, (Exod. xii. 3.) so the Lamb of God
Julemnly set apart and prepared, as it were, tes baptism and subsequent fast, to become writice for our sins, in the fourth year pred's to his crucifixion. Our Lord Jesus Christ wall to be a propitiation for our sins, so soon as was born, and every act of His life was sig
of His office and of a vicarious nature.