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FASTING.

Covington, GA., April 15, 1859.

We know not how far the custom has been observed among the Old Baptists in the Southern States to observe a day of fasting and prayer, but personally we have never witnessed the custom among our brethren. If it was formerly observed among the Old Baptists, they certainly have left it off, so far as our knowledge is concerned. Our brother says it used to be frequent; if so, there is a departure from a former custom. If it was right and scriptural for the church to appoint a day of fasting and prayer, the neglect of it is a violation of known duty. But if there is no command in the New Testament for it, {and we have never found any such command,} the neglect of it is not a violation of duty. If it was a custom only, unauthorized by the New Testament, a leaving it off is by no means wrong or sinful. There is no merit in the observance of it, nor anything sinful to neglect it. We know not why they have left it off, unless it be that they have found it was a tradition ONLY. Be that as it may, the practice of it is not enjoined upon the church in the sense that many suppose it to be.

In the Eastern States the Governor appoints a day of fasting and prayer, which is observed, generally, by the religious community. They assemble at 11 o’clock, A.M., to do what the Governor recommends. They eat no dinner, and sometimes no breakfast, but partake of a hearty supper. As the Governor has no right in his official duty to appoint any such day for a religious purpose, we have nothing more to say on the subject.

The church has a right to appoint a day to meet for religious purposes as she deems proper and reasonable. But it must be in accordance with the scriptural command, otherwise she violates a scriptural rule. The observance of days, and months, and years, under the New Testament dispensation is not required. To worship God is a spiritual exercise. Unless performed in the Spirit it cannot be acceptable before God.

Fasting, in a literal sense, is to eat little or no food. We could refer to numerous instances of fasting by men that feared God, in the Scriptures, but we forbear. Those instances, however, were under deep exercises of mind, attended with peculiar circumstances. It was rather a custom under the Old Testament dispensation. Many, however, fasted for strife and debate, to smite with the fist of wickedness.

We consider fasting to be a spiritual exercise, expressive of penitential mourning on account of sin, and supplications for mercies. Prayer always attends it with a sense of one’s needy and destitute condition before God. Sometimes, when a poor penitent soul is in deep distress, he will literally abstain from food for a season, by reason of the trouble of his mind. In such a condition he will pray with full purpose of heart. Fasting and prayer, under such circumstances, is scriptural and acceptable to God.

Joseph L. Purington.