Is not the fast I have chosen to break the chains of wickedness, to untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and tear off every yoke?
I. FASTING IS TO BE REALLY RELIGIOUS. It is to "loose the bands of wickedness" - to free one's own soul from the last shackles of lust and selfishness, and to aid in liberating the souls of others. Religious effort is to deal directly with character, and not with the countenance; with the habits of evil, and not the ritual of ceremonies.
II. FASTING IS TO BE DEEPLY HUMAN. It is to care for our brethren in the world.
1. Many are heavily burdened. Care writes its lines on the anxious brow, and often the heart is grey while the hair is yet black.
2. Many are oppressed. Justice is the subject of bribery, and wealth lords it over poverty; moreover, slavery existed then, and has done till recent years, and the war against slavery has come from religious men.
3. Many are under varied yokes. Yokes of intemperance and pernicious habit - of selfishness in its worst forms of cruelty to others.
4. Many are helplessly poor. Not through crime, or faults of their own, such as indolence and inebriety, but through sudden calamities and severe illnesses. We must feed the hungry and cover the naked.
5. Many are neglected by their own. The workhouse has received to its dull shelter those connected with the well-to-do and the well-born; or "relatives" have never been inquired after, sympathized with, or succoured. "And that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh." These words in Isaiah teach us that the ancient Law was not simply legal and ceremonial, and outwardly sacrificial, but social, moral, and religious in the highest degree. Such Law Christ came not to destroy, but to fulfil. - W.M.S.
Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
(J. A. Alexander.)
1. Isaiah and his brother-prophets were holier and heavenlier and richer in the works of love upon an anticipated Christ than we are in a Christ already our crucified Example. These men of God knew no divorce between belief and love, between living perpetually in the presence of a benevolent Lord and imitating His benevolence to their "fellow-creatures. As it is the spirit of truth that has solemnized the union of the principle of faith with the works of charity, so it is, and in all ages has been, the master policy of the spirit of evil to effect their separation.
2. The whole religious providence towards man in every age has been a system operating by the combined influence of faith and love — both directed towards His own perfect essence. In our existing condition, what is faith but love relying on support? What is love but faith forgetting the support in the Supporter? Every progressive step in attaining habits of compassion and kindness upon earth must necessarily be a step towards estimating and loving Him who is the essential Spirit of benevolence. The love of man is the type and shadow of the love of God. The people of God are here engaged with the rudiments and images of those affections which are to be the duty and happiness of their eternity.
(W. Archer Butler.)
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