The Christian Exercise of Fasting

Plainly set forth by testimonies of holy Scriptures,
and also of old and late writers:
Wherein is shewed how religious families privatly,
and the congregations publikely, have humbled themselves
before almightie God, making use of judgements
past, avoyding evils present, and preventing
future calamities, &c.

Together with sundrie abuses of fasting in three generations of
hypocrites: the first in the dayes of the Prophets: the
second in the dayes of Christ: the third in the
dayes of Antichrist.
Hereunto also are added some meditations on the 1. and 2. chapters
of Job, to comfort and instruct all such as be afflicted
with any crosse, either inwardly in minde, or
outwardly in bodie.
By H. HOLLAND Minister and preacher
of Gods word.
Psalm. 141. vers. 5.
Let the righteous smite me (for that is) a benefit, and let him reprove me,
(and it shall be) a pretious oyle, that shall not breake mine head.
Printed by the Widow Orwin for William Young, and are to be
sold at his shop in Canon lane neere the great North-
doore of Paules Church, at the signe of the
white Horse. 1596.


To the right worshipfull and his very Christian good friend, master Robert Chester, Esquier, &c. mercie and peace in Jesus Christ.

THe pure worship & service of God (right worshipfull) hath two dangerous extremes, superstition is the one, impietie is the other. The people of this age seeming wise, to avoide the unsaverie leaven of popish corruption, are fallen asleepe in carnall securitie & prophanenes. If the prince of darknes had not so blinded men, that they can not see the beautie of Gods house, nor reape any comfort by his service, this exercise of fasting should little need any letters of commendation. For the booke of God so commendeth it in the practise of the [Page] Saints, Patriarches, Kings, Prophets, Apostles, and Church stories in the fathers and servaunts of God in all ages: that I can thinke a man but meanely acquainted with Gods worshippe, which doth not otherwhiles exercise himselfe herein. This wil good Bucer testifie with Bucer de regno Christi lib. 1. cap. 12. me in these very words: Cum ieiunia Dominus ipse & Apostoli tantoperè Ecclesiijs commendârunt: de Christi certè spiritu, & regno gloriari non possunt, qui omninò nulla servant ieiunia. That is, Seeing the Lorde himselfe and his Apostles have so commended fasting to the Churches, surely they can not glory of Christes spirite and kingdome which fast not at all. I have endevoured in this treatise to lay open this exercise to the understanding of the simple, in the best maner that I could. I must look for many adversaries, for the greatest part hath ever declined from pietie to superstition and prophanenes. Therefore (right worshipfull) I come unto you for protection of Gods trueth: being the more bolde to aske this favour, [Page] because I am so well assured of your love thereunto, and full resolution to defend the same with al your might during life. Againe, I have nowe for many yeares knowen your Christian love towards me for the truths sake, I desire to testifie my hearts affection towardes you in the best manner that I can. The most blessed spirit of Jesus Christ guide and governe your spirit, keepe and comfort you and all yours Februarie. 12. 1596.

Yours assuredly ever to use in Jesus Christ during life. HENRY HOLLAND.

To the Christian Reader, mercie and peace in Jesus Christ.

I Have endevoured in this treatise (Christian Reader) to lay open this argument of fasting plainly and truely according to the Scriptures. First, the religious abstinence is described: next the branches of the same, the privat and the publike with their speciall notes and differences. Thirdly, I have shewed what causes, and reasons have moved the faithfull, to exercise themselves in the one and in the other. The privat fast is onely commended in the practise of the faithfull of all ages. The publike is both commanded by precept, and commended by practise, and was both ordinary and extraordinary. And first for the ordinarie we have Gods great charge and law written. 1. The 10. Levit 23.27. 16.22. day of the 7. moneth ye shall humble your soules. 2. Ye shall doe no worke at all, vers. 29. and it shall be a feast of Kippurim, a day of reconciliation. 4. throughout their Generall ordinary fast. dwellings, vers. 31. 5 an ordinance Levit. 16.31. for ever. The practise and obedience of this lawe wee have noted. Heb. 9.7. But into the second (Tabernacle) went the high priest alone, once every yeare, &c. that is, this solemne day appoynted. This law of a general ordinary fast for the Jewes, may seeme to binde us, and might no doubt bee profitable for the Christia[n]s under the Gospel, if it were observed. The cause of this fast (sayth one) was that the wrath of God might not break out, or being broken out, that it might bee a meanes to returne it home againe: the same cause remaining, wise men will conclude the effect shall continue. Againe (sayth he) [Page] this exercise being a meanes to humble a man before his God, was there any degree of humiliation, necessary for that people, which is not as needfull for us? Nay, we having received under the Gospell more benefits then they, the abuse of Gods good gifts and graces in us, should drive us to the lowest humiliation that can bee, so it bee lawfull and warrantable Generall extraordinarie fast. Joel. 1. chap. ver. 14. 2. cap. ver. 15. by the word of God. The extraordinary was either signified by prophet, and so commanded of God immediatly as wee see by Joel: or published by Gods Vicegerents, princes and priests, the presidents and governours of Gods people, as shall appeare by sundrie examples of the Scripture in this treatise following.

Superstition hath ever prevailed in the world, where Gods grace and light was wanting, to corrupt all the pure worship of God, but never so much abused any one exercise of religion as this of fasting. The very Heathens abuse fasting in the worship of their false gods. The priests of Egypt ever abstained from flesh and wine, and thought this a matter of great devotion. The wise men of Persia, their diet was but farina & olus, course bread and hearbes. The wizards of India, when they came to the priesthood of the Sunne, did ever after abstaine from flesh. The priests of Egypt fasted 3. dayes before they sacrificed. So the divell commandeth conjurers to fast three dayes before any magicall practise of conjuration. And to be short, Mahomet extolleth fasting: for the Turkes fasted in the siege of Constantinople, & having wonne the citie, ascribe this great victorie to their fasting. But to passe by these Pagans, and to come unto the Church, for this corruption crept also into it, even from the beginning. In the dayes of the Prophets it was thought a Esay. 58. Zach. 7. & ca. 8. Philo. Joseph. service which might highly commend a man with God. In the dayes of Christ, the Essees and Pharisees did farre exceede the former ages in the abuse of fasting. And to come unto the Gospel, Superstition in time did so gather strength, where light was quenched, that all the pure worship of God was at last quite thrust out of Church doores. The yeare of Christ 220. the Montanists began to be very superstitious Anno. 220. in the abuse of fasting, and to set up wil-worship, as appeares [Page] with Tertullian in a whole treatise of fasting for herein he Tertul. de iunio. doth Montanize daungerously, for following their very words and phrases, he sayth: Fasting is a meanes to purge us from sinne and death, an expiation and satisfaction for sinne and a meanes to reconcile us unto God. After these Anno. 280. August. contrae Faustum. lib. 6. cap. 5. & lib. 30. cap. 5. Anno. 360. the Manichees followed, commanding and teaching men to abstaine from all flesh, egges, wine, &c. Then were spread abroade into many parts of the world the monasticall lawes and rites of fasting, which first began in Egypt, and from thence came into Syria, and by meanes of Eustathius crept into Armenia, afterwards by Basill into Greece, and of Ambrose into Italy. About this time Basill began to exhort Basil & Naziansen did weaken them selves to much with fasting. mightily unto fasting, and yet were no lawes made to binde consciences. But Epiphanius anon after made Bishop of Cyprus, began not onely to exhort, but also to commande lawes, and the times of fasting, &c. as constitutions and traditions apostolicall, cleane contrary to the doctrine, custome and libertie of the old Church, as appeareth with Socrates, lib. 5. cap. 21. Socrates story is to be noted. For there was no Scripture or lawe written by the Apostles (sayth Socrates) concerning fasting. And Chrysostome counts fasting a thing indifferent: Chrysostom homil, 4. ad populum Antioch. his very words are these: Sunt quidam ciborum inter se, &c. Many strive about meates: so let us strive and endevour to take away this custome of swearing (sayth he) and these wicked othes which men rap out so thicke amongst us. This is better then all fasting. The care and time wee spend about abstinence from meates, let us spend in learning and labouring to abstaine from swearing. For it is madnes (sayth he) lightly to regard things forbidden, and to strive about things Ieiunium est ad aphoron. Nos concessis abstinentes, prohibita audemus? indiffere[n]t. We be not forbidden to eate, but we be to sweare, &c. If the holy writers had well considered those words of the Apostle, bodily labour profits Chrysost. homil. in Math. 47. ieiuntum in choro virtutu[m] extremu[m] certe sortitur locum. little, but pietie is profitable unto all things: they would not so lightly have fallen into those high and hyperbolicall commendations of fasting, which afterwards gave such occasion to Antichrist, to abuse this exercise in the Church of God. For when the man of sinne came to sit as generall and universall Bishop in the seate of pestilence, then were [Page] strong lawes made to binde consciences. The Popes schoolemen did preach and write, that fasting was a worke to purchase August complaineth much against the like in his time: Epist. 119. what would he have done if he had seene the ages folowing. and merite grace, pardon of sinnes, reconciliation with God, and a speciall worke to purchase heaven, marveilous effectuall and profitable for the quicke and dead. I speake their owne words, as after shall appeare. Thus then thou seest (Christian reader) what an argument this is which I undertake to commend unto the Church of God. I know it requires more strength and time then I have or can have any. Notwithstanding, I was thus moved and imboldened to publish this small treatise. First, for that I finde but few to have done any thing in this manner in english of this argument. I have written therefore that the ignorant might better know and more practise fasting: trusting that the Lord will in time supply what here is wanting. Next, my desire is to stirre up the faithfull people of God, because of some dangers threatned these times against us, by prayer and fasting to begge a generall pardon of sins, and christian courage for prince and people, and our whole armie to fight the Lords battels. And to stop the mouthes Com. lib. 2. cap. 2. Jer. 38 4. 2. Thes. 2.11. of Machivelists, which are not ashamed to say, that preaching prayer and fasting be meanes to cast downe, discourage, and to make a people faint hearted. And this doe fooles beleeve because they neither beleeve nor love the trueth. But the spirit of God speaketh the contrary, testifying unto us of a. Rhems. T. Acts. 13. cap. annot. Num. 3. b. Luke. cap. 2. Rhe. T. annot. Num. 17. the courage and good successe of Joshua, David, Jehoshaphat, Ezra, Nehemias, after prayer and fasting.

Lastly, I was moved hereunto by the spitefull speeches and writings of our common adversaries, who falsely accusing our profession, cry in the eares of the simple, and publish in their bookes, that wee count fasting but a morall and That fasting is a matter of policie we never held, but that abstine[n]ce from fleshe may be commanded for policies sake we confesse. Christian temperance, a fasting from sinne, &c. And yet a more manifest calumniation: The heretikes count fasting (say they) but a matter of policie.

To answer these accusers. First I say upon mature and deliberat consideration, and for good policie, doe the lawes of this kingdome commende an abstinence from flesh for some dayes in the weeke, &c. For maintenance of navigation: [Page] for breeding and inease of cattell: and that the trade of fishing and fish markets might be continued in our land: as by the very words of the statute may appeare. 5. Eliz. cap. 5. title. certaine politique constitutions, made for maintenance of the navie. Be it further enacted by the authoritie aforesayd, for the beneit and commodities of this Realme, to grow aswel in maintenance of the Navie, as in sparing and increase of flesh, victuall, in this realme, &c. that it shall not bee lawfull for any person or persons within this realme, to eate any flesh upon any dayes now usually observed as fish dayes, upon paine that every person offending herein, shall forfeite 3. pounds for every time he or they shall offend, or els suffer 3. moneths close imprisonment, without baile or mainprise. To this order is yet further added a good caution, as followeth. And because no manner of person shall misjudge of the intent of this statute, limiting orders to eate fish, and to forbeare eating of flesh, but that the same is purposely intended and meant politikely for the increase of Fishermen, and Mariners, & repayring of Port-townes, and navigation, and not for any superstition to bee maintained in the choyce of meates: be it enacted, that whosoever shall, by preaching, teaching, writing, or open speech notifie, that any eating of fish, or forbearing of flesh, mentioned in this statute, is of any necessitie, for the saving of the soules of men, or that it is the service of God, otherwise then as other politike lawes are to be, that then such persons shall be punished as spreaders of false newes are and ought to bee. And this is the Christian policie which our friends, of Rhemes have stumbled upon. This abstinence commaunded by our lawes, is an abstinence for order sake, as the learned Jerome speaketh; which whosoever disliketh is no friend to the common wealth, and may well be accounted a man of weake judgement: for as Augustine speaketh wisely, Ordinis causae, com. in Gal. cap 5. A good rule for things indifferent. Epist. 118. Note the word contrary. Quod neque contra fidem, ne{que} contra bonos mores iniungitur, indifferenter est habendum, & pro eorum inter quos vivitur societate servandum. Looke whatsoever is injoyned by order, that is not contrarie to faith, nor contrarie to good maners, that we must repute as a thing indifferent, and observe the same [Page] for that societie sake wherein we live.

And yet I further answer the Rhemish adversaries that our godly wise governours, Church, and people, doe also truly and in heart imbrace the religious abstinence described and commended of God in his word, & have & doe practise the same when occasions are offered and as need requireth. And this shall well appeare also by a publique fast commanded by our governours, and kept in our Church in Anno 1563. For then, first our most gracious Queene moved with a motherly affection for the mortalitie of her subjects and people, signifieth her good liking of a Christian fast, by her Archbishop Canterburie, Math. Parker. princely and expresse charge, to the Archbishop then being, all which as a worthie president for all posterities I have inserted, as followeth: Most reverend father in God, right trustie, and right welbeloved, we greete you well: Like as Almightie God hath of his meere grace, committed to us next under him, the chiefe government of this realme and the people therein: so hath he of his like goodnes, ordained under us sundry principall ministers, to serve and assist us in this burden. And therefore considering the state of this present time, wherein it hath pleased the most highest, for the amendment of us and our people, to visite certaine places of our realme with more contagious sicknes, then lately hath beene: for remedie and mitigation thereof, wee thinke it both necessarie and our bounden dutie, that universall prayer and fasting be more effectually used in this our realme. And understanding that you have thought and considered upon some good order to be prescribed therein, for the which yee require the application of our authoritie, for the better observation thereof, amongst our people, we doe not onely commend and allow your good zeale therein, but wee also commaund all maner of our ministers ecclesiasticall, civill, and all other our subjects to execute, follow, and obey such godly and wholesome orders, as you being primate of all England, and Metropolitane of this province of Canterburie, upon godly advise and consideration, shall uniformely devise, prescribe, and publish for the universall usage of [Page] prayer, fasting, and other good deeds, during the time of The order of the fast commaunded by the Queene, and published in print by the Archbishop of Canterburie. Anno. 1563. the visitation by sicknes and other troubles: Given under our Signet at our Mannour of Richmond the 1. day of August, the 5. yeare of our raigne. The order then prescribed by this Archbishop, and practised by the people was commended as followeth. It is most evident to them that read the scriptures, that both in the old Church under the lawe, and in the primitive Church under the Gospel, the people of God hath alwaies used generall fasting, both in times of common calamities, as warres, famine, pestilence, &c. and also when any waightie matter, touching the estate of the Church, or the common wealth was begunne or intended. And it cannot bee denied, but that in this our time, wherein many things have been reformed, according to the doctrine and examples of Gods worde, and the primitive Church, this part for fasting and abstinence, being alwaies in the scripture as a necessarie companion joyned to fervent praier, hath been too much neglected. Wherefore for some beginning of redresse herein, it hath beene thought meete to the Queenes majestie, that in this contagious time of sicknes, and other troubles and unquietnes, according to the examples of the godly king Jehosaphat, and the king of Ninivie, with others, a general fast should be joyned with generall prayer throughout her realme, and to bee observed of all her godly subjects in manner and forme following. 1. Chro. 20. Jonas. 3. 1. First, it is ordained that the wednesday of every weeke shall be the day appointed for this generall fast. 2. All persons betweene the age of 16. yeares and 60. (sicke folkes and labourers in harvest, or other great labours only excepted) shall eate but one only co[m]petent and moderate meale upon every wednesday. In which said meale shalbe used very sober and spare diet, without varietie of kinds of meate, dishes, spices, co[n]fectio[n]s, or wines, but only such as may serve for necessitie, comelines and health. 3. Item, in that meale, it shalbe indiffere[n]t to eate flesh or fish, so that their quantitie be small, and no varietie or delicacie be sought. Wherein every man hath to answer to God, if he in such godly exercises either contemne publike order, or [Page] dissemble with God, pretending abstinence, & doing nothing lesse. 4. Item, those that bee of wealth and abilitie, ought that day to abate and diminish the costlines, and varietie of their fare, and increase therewith their liberalitie & almes towards the poore, that the same poore which either indeede lacke foode, or els that which they have is unseasonable and cause of sicknes, may therby be relieved, and charitably succoured, to be maintained in health. 5. Pag. 5. Item, that a Sermon bee had, preached by such as bee authorized, and the preacher to intreate of such matters especially as bee meete for this cause of publike prayer, &c. 6. Last of all, this day being in this manner appointed for a day of generall prayer and fasting, ought to be bestowed by them, which may forbeare from bodily labour, in prayer, studie, reading, or hearing of the Scriptures, or good exhortations, &c. And when any dulnes or wearines shall arise, then to bee occupied in other godly exercises: but no part therof to be spent in plaies, pastimes, or idlenes, much lesse in lewd, wicked, or wanton behaviour.

I have thus purposely set before thine eyes, Christian reader, the religious care of our good Prince and governours, partly to stop the mouthes of adversaries, which perswade men that wee despise fasting: partly to stirre up Gods faithfull people of all degrees, to renue their zeale in Anno 1588. the true profession of the Gospell. And to conclude, we have seene 1593. some yeares past, a comfortable experience of Gods blessing upon the private and publike fastings and prayers of Gods people in the land. Wherefore let us in assurance of faith draw neere unto God, & humbly cast downe our solves againe, in prayer & fasting, to co[n]fute adversaries sla[n]ders, to evert enemies practises, to the glorie of God, protection and deliverance of his Church, confirmation of our owne faith, soules and consciences, by and through Jesus Christ: to whom with the Father, and most holy spirit, three distinct persons, one invisible, everliving and everlasting God, be all praise for ever, Amen.

Thine in the Lord Christ Jesu,
Henry Holland.
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1. The Christian exercise of fasting, according to the Scriptures.

Matth. 6. vers. 16. 17. 18.

16 Moreover, when ye fast, looke not sowre as the hypocrits: for they disfigure their faces, that they might seeme unto men to fast. Verely I say unto you, that they have their reward.

17 But when thou fastest, anoynt thine head, and wash thy face.

18 That thou seeme not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret, will reward thee openly.

OUr blessed Lord and Master Jesus Christ, hath knit together in the first part of this chapter 3. speciall poynts, which cannot well be severed, Almes, Prayer, and Fasting. For by fasting we give wings to our own prayers, & by almes we cause the loynes of the poore, Job. 31. 19. 20. if their hearts can not, to blesse us, to pray with us, and to speake to God for us. The Pharisies abused all these three good exercises in a spirituall pride and ostentation. Therefore our Saviour Christ teacheth us first for almes, how to avoyd the pharisaicall vainglorie, and how to please our heavenly father, [Page 2] vers. 1. 2. 3. 4. Secondly for prayer, how to avoyd the ambition of the Pharisies, and how to please our heavenly father, vers. 5. and 15. Thirdly for fasting, how to renounce their hypocrisie, and how to please the heavenly father, vers. 16. 17. 18.

In these 3. ver. I note two things.1. A dehortatio[n] fro[m] the abuse of fasting: this hath 2. branches, vers. 16.1. The description of an hypocrites fast, by 3. markes.1. They looke sowrely.2. They disfigure their faces.3. They desire to bee seene of men.2. The confirmation of the dehortatio[n], or a testificatio[n] of Christs dislike.1. By Christs usuall oth or asseveration: Verely, I say unto you.2. No reward of GOD, but shame.2. An exhortation to the right use of fasting, vers. 17. 18. containing two poynts.1. A demo[n]stratio[n] of the simplicitie of a true fast, by 2. argume[n]ts.1. Of adiuncts, vers. 17.1. Anointing the head.2. Washing the face.2. A confirmation.1. From the good reward following, vers 18.2. By answering an objection.Ob. It is done in secret, therfore the reward is lost.Ans. God seeth in secret, and will rewarde thee openly.

In these 3. ver. I note two things. 1. A dehortatio[n] fro[m] the abuse of fasting: this hath 2. branches, vers. 16. 1. The description of an hypocrites fast, by 3. markes. 1. They looke sowrely. 2. They disfigure their faces. 3. They desire to bee seene of men. 2. The confirmation of the dehortatio[n], or a testificatio[n] of Christs dislike. 1. By Christs usuall oth or asseveration: Verely, I say unto you. 2. No reward of GOD, but shame. 2. An exhortation to the right use of fasting, vers. 17. 18. containing two poynts. 1. A demo[n]stratio[n] of the simplicitie of a true fast, by 2. argume[n]ts. 1. Of adiuncts, vers. 17. 1. Anointing the head. 2. Washing the face. 2. End, vers. 18. that thou maist appeare to God to fast, & not to men. 2. A confirmation. 1. From the good reward following, vers. 18. 2. By answering an objection. Ob. It is done in secret, therfore the reward is lost. Ans. God seeth in secret, and will rewarde thee openly.

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2. The Sense.

Vers. 16. Moreover, when ye fast. That is, I appoynt ye not to fast Ieiunaba[n]t bis in sabba tho. 2 & 5. die. Epip. contr. haereses. lib. 1. tom. 1. twise in the weeke, as the pharisies and hypocrits doe, Luk. 18.12. but when ye fast, either occasioned for private respects privatly, or having a charge from God and his Church publiquely, Levit. 23. then, &c. but this instruction concernes specially the privat fast. Sowre. The word signifieth one that carrieth an heavy countenance, or an angrie face, cleane co[n]trary to this, is a cheerfull countenance, Genesis 40.7. The Septuagint use this word, whereas the Hebrue is: wherefore looke ye with such evill faces, or so sadly this day? The Syriac translation Tremel. ne sitis Cemarim. hath another worde to bee noted: for that is: Bee not ye Cemarims, or as the blacke Cemarims. It may bee the Syriac translator did use this word, for that these pharisees did not onely looke sowrely, but used also the Cemarims blacke attyre, the more to bee seene of men that they fasted. See 2. King. 23.5. Hos. 10.5. Zeph. 1. vers. 4.

Disfigure, or obscure, or deforme their faces, that is, they make their faces appeare worse than they bee naturally. They cause that their naturall countenance may not appeare.

Anoynt thine head, and wash thy face. That is, bee Vers. 17. cheerefull: for their oyntments were unto them for the same use, as our sweete perfumes and compound waters be unto us. See 2. Sam. 12.20. &c.

Reward openly. That is, heaven and earth shall see thy Vers. 18. reward, men and Angels shall know thee, and thy feare and fasting, if it bee in faith, and as hee hath prescribed in his word, it is accepted of God, & shall be rewarded both in this life, and the life to come: for so is the promise for all true worshippers, 1. Tim. 4.8.

Now concerning this Christian exercise of fasting, and the practise thereof here commended by our Lord and Saviour Christ I thinke it best we proceede to speake in this manner following.

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  1. To consider what a religious fast is, and how it may be described according to the Scriptures.
  2. How a religious fast hath his two branches or specials, the privat and the publique: and here first what a privat fast is, and how it may best be defined.
  3. What motives and reasons have caused the faithfull to practise privat fasting in all ages, and whether we ought not to fast also in the like occasions.
  4. What a publike fast is, and for what causes the same is to be published, and by whom in the Church.
  5. The abuse of fasting by 3. generations of hypocrits.
    1. In the old Church in the daies of the Prophets, the first generation of hypocrits.
    2. In the daies of Christ, a more detestable generation of hypocrits.
    3. In the daies of Antichrist, not only abusing, but wholly corrupting this holy exercise of fasting.

1. To consider what a religious fast is, and how it may be described according to the Scriptures. 2. How a religious fast hath his two branches or specials, the privat and the publique: and here first what a privat fast is, and how it may best be defined. 3. What motives and reasons have caused the faithfull to practise privat fasting in all ages, and whether we ought not to fast also in the like occasions. 4. What a publike fast is, and for what causes the same is to be published, and by whom in the Church. 5. The abuse of fasting by 3. generations of hypocrits. 1. In the old Church in the daies of the Prophets, the first generation of hypocrits. 2. In the daies of Christ, a more detestable generation of hypocrits. 3. In the daies of Antichrist, not only abusing, but wholly corrupting this holy exercise of fasting.

3. The first Question.
What a religious fast is, and how described according to the Scriptures.

OF fasting, I finde there are many kinds very good and commendable all, and needfull to be knowne and practised of men. First, wee have a naturall fast prescribed by the learned Phisition to preserve and to restore Hipocr. Qui integra & constanti aetate sunt, optime ferre possunt ieiunium. health: good to dissolve and consume raw humours, and to expell superfluous excrements out of the bodie. Of this fasting speakes one learned Phisition: Looke what diseases, fasting and emptines cannot helpe, cure them by Fernel. meth. lib 2. cap. 20. quos morbos inedia non sustulit, medicatione curato. Ibid. Salubris est te[m]pestiva abstinentia, & apprime utilis quae per inediu[m] fit curatio. medicine. Againe, Fasting and emptines, observing convenient time and season, is good for health, and that cure which is by it, is very wholesome and profitable for the bodie. [Page 5] Of Aurelianus an Emperour of Rome it is sayd, that being sicke he never sent for a Phisition, but cured himself with abstinence. This is a good and needfull fast: but of this we may not passe our bounds to speake much in this place.

2. There is also a civill fast, which may be used to good purpose, and whereof wee have some examples in the Scriptures. This fast is when men would accomplish or performe any thing with expedition, they abstaine from all meates and drinkes, because their minds are so set on, and intend their present affayres. Such was Sauls fast in the pursute of the Philistines, 1. Sam. 14.24. where in pride of heart, and but rashly, he gave this charge: Cursed be the man that eateth foode till night. And such was the proude fast of the Jewes, cursing, banning, & binding themselves to the divel, if they would not fast til they had killed Paul, Act. 23.12. Certaine of the Jewes made an assemblie, and bound themselves with an oth, saying, that they would neither eate nor drinke till they had killed Paul. That cursed bond was fearefull, yet howsoever Sathan dealt with them that bond was broken. This fast may be used rightly and to good purpose, as for dispatch of matters judiciall by inquests, for the ending of controversies in the common lawes of this land. But this is not the fast wee bee to speake of.

3. A third kind may rightly be called the fast of Christian sobrietie: This the Scripture commendeth and commandeth Gods people to practise all dayes of their life, Rom. 13.13. 1. Cor. 9.25. Tit. 1.7.8. 1. Thes. 5.6. Tit. 2.10.11. Of this speaketh S. Pet. 1. ep. 5.7. Be sober & watch: reason is added, knowing that your adversarie the divell, as a roring lyon, goeth about seeking who[m] he may devoure. Luxurious, and uncleane men, which know not this vertue, Christian sobrietie. are not able to strike one stroke against Sathan in the spirituall battell. Be sober therefore and watch, sayth Peter. Such as glut and farce themselves with meates and [Page 6] drinkes, cannot watch long, but you must watch in bodie and mind: for Sathan is a notable watchman, and a very Job. 1.7. vigilant. B. as master Latymer calles him. Bernard speaking therfore of this fast, willeth us to looke circumspectly to all parts every day: Bernard de quadrag. serm. Let the eye fast, let the eare fast, let the tongue fast, let the hands fast, let the soule it selfe also fast: let the eye fast from curious sights, and all wantonnes: let the itching evill eare fast from fables and evill report: let the tongue fast from slaunder, and murmuring, from unprofitable and vaine words, and rayling speeches: let the hands fast from idle signes, and all workes which are not commanded: let the soule fast from sinne, and doing our owne will. So farre Bernard. Another yet further commending this, sayth: Cyrillus in Levit. Hom. 8.9.10. Ieiuna ab omni peccato, nullum sumas cibum malitiae, nullas capias voluptatis epulas, &c. Wilt thou that I teach thee how to fast? fast from all sinne: eate not the bread of maliciousnesse; feede not on the meates of voluptuousnes; be not heat with the wine of luxuriousnes; fast from evill workes, abstaine from evill wordes: suppresse evill thoughts, touch not the stolne bread of false doctrine; desire not the meates of evill and corrupt philosophie to deceive thee: such a fast pleaseth God. Qui ieiunare non potest, studeat temperantiae, abstineat à delitijs. Chrysost. This is marveilous needfull in these daies to be commended, for that we have so many revellers, gluttons, drunkards, which in few dayes devoure and consume all their substance and patrimonies, seldome or never able to recover to serve God or man in Church or Commonwealth. The Lord Christ warneth us carefully to avoyde the contrarie sinnes, Luk. 21.34. Take heede least at any time your hearts be overcome with surfetting and drunkennes, and with the cares of this life. And against the contrarie sinnes cryeth Ezechiel, in his time, assuring us that fulnes of meates, gluttony & drunkennes were the destruction and bane of Sodom, chap. 16.49. Behold this was the iniquitie of Sodom, pride, fulnes of bread, and abundance of idlenes was in her, and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poore and needie: but they were haughtie, and committed abomination before [Page 7] me: therefore I tooke them away as pleased me. Jerome speaking of these sinnes, sayth: Venter vino aestuans spumat in libidinem: The belly inflamed with wine fometh foorth uncleane lusts. Thus farre of the fast of Christian sobrietie, commended so much of divine and humane writers, and not without cause, for that it is so good for health, for bodie, for soule, for the Common-wealth, and for the poore of the lande, specially in the yeares of scarsitie: for then Christians are bound to bee more moderate, more sober, and sparing in all their diet. But this is not the fast which Christ commendeth in our text, nor that we desire principally to commend in this treatise.

4. A fourth kind, we may call a forced or constrained fast: A constrained fast. which is when poore or rich or both in famine are constrained to fast, because they cannot finde any meate to feede upon. This was often in Israel for the chastiseme[n]t This fast also is needfull, for Epicures will never fast till they be constrained. of Gods people, Joel. 1. and 2. chap. A number have perished in this abstinence in elder ages, and some no doubt among us, because the rich are unmercifull to the poore: and yet for all the penurie of these two yeares past in our land, more have dyed of surfetting and fulnes, then of want and emptines. Of this reade Ezech. 4.9.7. vers. and Joseph. Antiq. 3. lib. cap. 12. This fast pinched the epicures De bello. Jud. lib. 6. cap. 11.14 Boum veterem fimum ad alime[n]tu[m] haberent. of Samaria, when an Asses head was valued at 80. peeces of silver, 2. King. 6.25. And the miserable Jewes which in the siege of Jerusalem fed upo[n] some old oxe dung, De bello, Jud. lib. 6. cap. 16. girdles, shooes, skinnes, old f [...]stie hay, and such like, and a woman upon her owne child. This is De bello. Jud. lib. 7. c. 7. & 8. the reward of the long contempt of Christ and his Gospell, Atheisme, Epicurisme, and the like abominations.

This fast is good for the correctio[n] of sinners: Job. 33. 16. for the Lord openeth the eares of men by their corrections. But this is not the fast we be to speake of.

5. We have a fift kind of fast, mentioned in the Scriptures, which we may call for distinction sake the miraculous fast: The miraculous fast. and of this wee have three speciall examples set [Page 8] downe, not for imitation, but for instruction and confirmation of our faith. The first is of Moses, hee fasted 40. dayes and 40. nights, M. I. Calu. ut legem tanqua[m] è coelo afferret. Com. in Exod. 34.28. to teach that rebellious people that his heavenly prophecies and divine sermons came from God immediatly, Exod. 34.28. The second is of Elias, 1. King. 19.8. he fasted also 40. dayes and nights as a second Moses, to seale unto the Church of God his prophecies, and to convert that idolatrous people unto the true faith of Christ againe. The third example is of Christ, who for the same end and purpose, as they did, fasted so many dayes and nights, to testifie to all the world that his holy Gospell was of like authoritie and came from the same spirite, Matth. 4.2. And here it is to bee noted, that these three, Moses, Elias, and Jesus Christ fasted but once this miraculous fast in all their dayes on earth. Mad therefore are they which for imitation of the[m], prescribe, command and binde consciences to doe the like yearely. But of this abuse hereafter.

6. The sixt kinde of fasting, is that which is most commended by Gods spirite in the practise of the faithfull throughout the whole Scriptures, & this for distinctio[n] sake againe, The religius fast. we may call a religious fast: and this is the onely fast our Lord and Saviour commendeth in our text, and therefore we have endevoured to describe it in this manner following, according to the holie Scriptures.

The true description of a reilgious fast. A religious fast is an abstinence, more then ordinarie, not only from all meates and drinkes, but also from all other things which may cherish the bodie, so farre as nature will give leave, and civill honestie, for one whole day at the least: proceeding from a true faith, and a cheerfull willing minde, principally to testifie our repentance, and to worke in us a greater humiliation, that our prayers may be more effectuall and better prevaile with God, to obtaine such blessings as concerne our owne wants privatly, and the publique state of the Church and people of God. For the poet warneth, brevis esse laboro obscurus fio. I would not be shortlest I should be obscure, for that I only desire [Page 9] to instruct and teach the ignorant the trueth of this doctrine according to the Scriptures.

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4. The Argument, occasion and time of Joels prophecie.

THe interpreters doe greatly varie concerning the time, when this prophet prophecied, because the Lord sent often upon the Jewes such a famine, as this prophet mentioneth. In the dayes of Joram there was a famine seven yeares together, 2. King. 8.2.3. And againe there was another, whereof Esay speaketh, chap. 5. ve. 13.14. (as some judge) in King Uzzias time. There was a third also for the sinnes of Manasseh in the daies of good K. Josias: of this Jeremie did wryte and prophecie, compare his 14.15. chap. ver. 1. with the 2. King. 23.26. The best for learning and judgement referre this prophecie to that age and time: First because Joel and Jeremie have like wordes and arguments: next for that this prophet is thought to have prophecied about Josias time, after the destruction of the kingdome of Israell: for all prophets which mention not that kingdome, it is like the[m] came after. The principal scope of the prophet is to bring the Jewes to repentance, by laying before them, all the great danger they were in: the great wrath of God kindled against them, which did appeare, not onely in the famine, which now had wasted strangely the whole land, but was like anon after to be yet more seene in bloodie warres, if they humbled not themselves [Page 50] speedily in sackecloth and ashes. Hee warneth them to turne to GOD in trueth of repentance, and to mourne humblie before God for their sinnes, because the Lorde hath now strangly visited and consumed them with a famine, which they must not impute to fortune, motion of planets, aspect of starres, strange constellations, &c. but they must lift up their eyes above all these, and looke upon the high and just judgment of God, who because of their sinnes hath sent first an host of weake wormes to famish and consume them, the palmer worme, the grashopper, the canker worme, the caterpiller: what is the end of all this? vers. 14. Girde your selves and lament O yee priests, &c. sanctifie a fast call a solemne dissemblie. If this famine yet cannot awake you, nor move you (saith the prophet) beholde I will bring upon you a greater plague, the Babilonians and the Chaldeans, Chapter 2. Verse 12. vers. 15. a fierce, a bloodie and cruell nation, they shall devoure you. Wherefore againe I warne you expresse yet your repentance more humbly before God: vers 28. Chapt. 3. See Amos chap 9.23. Mich. 7.8. turne unto God, and let your hearts bee rent, &c. and signifie also your sorrowe for sinne and true humiliation before GOD in a publike fast, and in a solemne assembly, so doing, the Lord shal graunt you plentie of blessings against famine, strength against your enemies, and spirituall comforts in Jesus Christ.

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5. Joel. chap. 2. vers. 12. Therefore also now the Lorde saith, turne you unto mee with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.

THerfore also now: As if the prophet said: Sense. I have now taught you sufficiently the causes of your miserie: first of that great dearth and famin which hath wasted al your store, & greatly weakned the whole land: you have heard that your sinnes were the cause of all that evil, but you would not harken not beleeve. Now I come againe the second time, and I tel you how the Lord hath determined alreadie to bringe upon you a merciles & bloudie people. Wherefore rent your hearts with sorrow for sinnes past, and testifie your unfained repentance by fasting, weeping and mourning.

1 This v. teacheth us: how the holy prophets did carefully Doctrine. watch and observe their times, occasions and other circumstances, when, where and how they might best speake unto a dead hearted people. The wicked will not heare till their corrections come. So did Azariah the prophet watch his time to call upon Asa and all Judah to reforme the church of God in their daies: for when Asa had gotten a wonderfull victorie by Gods free grace & mercie, then Azariah moved by gods spirit, spake these words: 2. Chro. 15. v. 2, 3, 4, 5. The Lord is with you while you be with him: and if you seeke him, he wil be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will forsake you: then hee sheweth them their capitall sinnes? Now for a long season Israell hath beene without the true God, and without priest to teach, and whithout lawe. I. Looke unto it O king and O ye people of Judah, The three speciall pillers of the Church and common-wealth. you have wanted for a long time the maine greate pillers of your common welth, & therefore no marvell though your kingdome were so in daunger of ruine and destruction.


6. To the right vertuous and godly Gentlewoman, Mistris A. St. Concerning the Book of Job.

THE historie of Job is a treasure inestimable, to teach us the doctrine of Gods fatherly care and providence, to prepare us with patience to beare all the afflictions of this present life. 1. Part. The first part of this book hath three chapters, wherein wee bee taught what Job was, how sathan was let loose against him, with what courage and constancie hee bare Cap. 1. the crosse, till Christ left him to see his corruption and frailtie. Cap. 2. The second part is continued from the ende of the third chapter, Cap. 3. to the beginning of the 32. chapter, containing a very notable disputation and conference betweene Job and his friends: 2. Part. where first from the third to the fifteenth chapter, they [Page] 1. Branche from the 3. to the 15. chap. admonish him to repent, and so to prepare himselfe for death, assuring him, because of this strange calamitie, that he must bee, not onely stained and spotted with some light crimes, The error of Jobes friendes Eliphas. Zophar. Bildad. but also fowly infected and poysoned with great and grievous sinnes, and with hypocrisie. Job answereth their severall speeches, tormented in bodie, perplexed & greatly grieved in minde, yet striving mightily to avoyde their unjust accusations against him. 2. Branch. Secondly, they replie sharpely upon his first answers, from the 15. chapter to the 22. and he answereth them againe with greater boldnes and courage then before. 3. Branch. Thirdly, they begin a second reply, and here Eliphas and Bildad only spake, the third man fainted and spake no more, for that Job was invincible persisting in his apologie and defence of his faith and upright conversation. This last branch 3. Part. is continued to the 32. chapter, where begins the third part of this booke: Elihu. and here a fift speaker enters in with great gravitie censuring both parts, Jobs friends for want of judgement in their reproofes, and Job also for his over great boldnes in justifying [Page] himselfe, and appealing to Gods high throne of justice. This speech also is continued from the 32. chap. to the 38. And there begins the fourth part of this booke, wherein the Lord himselfe speaketh. 4. Parte. And whereas Elihu did bend himselfe most against Job, sometimes perverting and wresting his very wordes, and sometimes repeating what hee never spake, verie sparingly & lightly touching his adversaries: the Lorde on the other side, gratiously and fatherly reproveth his servant Job, and sharply rebuketh all the rest, teaching them to know his power, wisdome, providence, and justice by his works, 5. Parte. chapter 38. 39. 40. 41. then followeth the last parte of this booke, chapter 42. wherein is shewed how Job repented: how God received him to grace, and restored him to a better state then he had before.

Two speciall questions are handled in this booke: the first is concerning the justice of God: Whether it standeth with his justice, that the wicked prosper, and the godly bee afflicted in this present life. The second is, whether we may wel judge [Page] of the faith, religio[n] & professio[n] of men, by their prosperitie & adversitie in this present life. These questions have bred occasion of great disputation, and griefe unto the faithfull of all ages, Psal. 23. Jere. 15. Hab. 1.13. and caused infidels to blaspheme, Mal. 2.17. and 3.15. These doubts are notably resolved and answered in this story: for the first, that wee must not searche into the strange judgements of God, but know as Job teacheth us, chapter 24.1. that all times appoynted for prosperitie and adversitie, for good and evill, are hid with the Lord, Cap. 39. 36. 37 and wee must as Job dooth, put our hand on our mouth, and adore his majestie in all his works and judgements, being well assured that his will is and must be ever unto us the only rule of justice, & that his hand & will governeth al the accidents, changes and chances of this present life. For the 2. the Lord teacheth us also, never to judge of the end, nor of the life past of the faithful, by their present miseries: for it fareth with us in our spiritual co[m]bates with the flesh and the devill, as it doth with wrastlers in the world: for among them we [Page] shall see often, some one neere cast downe, and yet in the ende gives his adversarie the foyle. So is it in the spirituall battaile, Gods children may seeme cast downe, when desperat speeches passe from them, as we see in David. Psalm. and Jerem. 15.20. and Qui escente ad tempus in ipso deitate, & sensibus carnis, in horendo illo judicio quod tum subibat, penitus occupatis, in illam petitionem eripuit. Christ himselfe crieth bitterly in the agonies of death, and yet in the end they tread downe sathan under feete. Rom. 16.20. Wherefore we must take heede how we censure these (as the manner of some is) for albeit sathan & the flesh rage and storme for a time, yet God giveth his children in death it selfe, strength to triumph over them by Jesus Christ, albeit this is not so comfortablie manifested at all times to our eyes in this present world.

Secondly, we have here in Job a singular president and direction for the governement of life: so farre surpassing all other instructions, as the practise of a most divine and religious man of God, can excell the morall precepts of the best learned men on earth. Chap. 1. and 29.

Thirdly, the Apostle Saint James doth [Page] highly commended Jobs patience, chapter 5. And surely whosoever shall well consider his condition and place, his pietie and religion, and so take a view of his most strange calamities, hee shall see a man of invincible courage and constancie, and such a president for patience as could never be seene, I suppose on earth, excepting only in the sonne of God Jesus Christ. Arguments to demonstrate this briefely are these. 1. Peter. 2. 19. 20. First, Saint Peter saith, Jf when yee doe well, and suffer wrong, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable to God. What praise is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults you sugger it patiently? If Job had been an evill man, or of that common sort of indifferent men, his patience had been commendable in such intolerable afflictions: but beeing a man most rare for all piety and sinceritie, an unspotted servant of the Lord, one that gave himselfe no rest in any suspition of sinne, chapter 3. 26. his patience and courage must bee the more admirable, in such extreame calamities. Secondly, Job was exceeding rich, chapter 1. 2. 3. and chapter 29. last verse, it were much if a poore man should so endure the heavie hand of God upon him, for poore men are more acquainted [Page] with the miseries of this life then the rich, or if being an upstart from beggerie to some highe pitche of dignitie he could bee content to bee debased & brought to his lowe ebbe again. But a man flowing in wealth, in great honour and estimation in the worlde continually, all his life time full of prosperity, to bee thus cast downe, all on a sodaine: there must bee in such a one, more then mans strength to holde him up, and to keepe him from desperation.

Job stands with courage till they weaken his faith. If we desire to know what wrought this courage, constancie, and patience in Job, the Apostle answereth, 2. Cor 3.5. We are not sufficient of our selves to thinke any thing: and againe, I am able to doe all thinges through the helpe of Christ, which strengtheneth mee, Phillip. 4.13. There do conspire against Job as in a league; sathan, flesh, friendes, wife, and all torment him, yet his courage was invincible, till Christ left him a little to see his owne frailtie Chap. 3. and corruptions, then seemeth he as quite broken for a time, as a man forlorne and forsaken of God.


Anno. 1593. The last great plague I was greatly comforted with this booke of God, and for that I judged then, as yet I doe, that the evill Angels, sent from God, have a speciall hand and working in the pestilence, as in sundry other incurable Co[n]sider these places. Psal. 78. 49. 50. psal. 104 4. Luke. 13. 16. Math. 17. 15. Mar. 5. 25. diseases, and evils of this life, warres, famine, &c. For this cause then, desiring to comfort others with the same comforts, wherewith God comforted me, I collected 2. Cor. 1. 4. these observations and meditations following. And now trusting that the Lord will give them some blessing for the use and comfort of his people, I have thought it good to annexe them on this manner, as not impertinent, to the former treatise of fasting. The first part of this booke, I have commended to a right Worshipfull Gentleman, who loves the trueth, and the protection of the trueth. These two parts I recommend to you (good Mistris St.) nothing doubting of your favourable acceptation. I can no way requite your christian love. The most mercifull father so fill you with spirituall comfort, as I desire to bee comforted in my most neede, and worke in your heart the true sense [Page] and feeling of his sweete mercies by the holy Ghost, and open the eyes of your minde, yet more and more by faith to beholde the unsearchable riches of his sonne Jesus Christ: Amen. Praye for mee, the Lorde Christ blesse and keepe you and all yours.

Yours ever to use in the Lord Christ,
Henry Holland.
This is a selection from the original text


benefit, comfort, drunkenness, exercise, fasting, gluttony, health, preacher, spirit, war, wealth

Source text

Title: The Christian Exercise of Fasting

Author: Henry Holland

Publisher: Widow Orwin

Publication date: 1596

Edition: 2nd Edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: STC (2nd ed.) / 13586 Physical description: [16], 230, [2] p. Copy from: Harvard University Library Reel position: STC / 1177:03

Digital edition

Original author(s): Henry Holland

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, 1-12, 32-34, 65-70


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

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Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: Britain > non-fiction prose > religion: sermons

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