Apostolic abstinence

And here a connexion may be traced between the truth I have been insisting on, and our Lord’s words, when asked why His disciples did not fast. He said, that they could not fast while the Bridegroom was with them; but that when He was taken from them, then they would fast. The one thing, which is all in all to us, is to live in Christ’s presence; to hear His voice, to see His countenance. His first disciples had Him in bodily presence among them; and He spoke to them, warned them, was a pattern to them, and guided them with His eye. But when He withdrew Himself from the world of sense, how should they see Him still? When their fleshly eyes and ears saw Him no more, when He had ascended whither flesh and blood cannot enter, and the barrier of the flesh was interposed between Him and them, how should they any longer see and hear Him?

“Lord, whither goest Thou?” they said; and He answered to Peter, “Whither I go thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow Me afterwards.” They were to follow Him through the veil, and to break the barrier of the flesh after His pattern. They must, as far as they could, weaken and attenuate what stood between them and Him; they must anticipate that world where flesh and blood are not; they must discern truths which flesh and blood could not reveal; they must live a life, not of sense, but of spirit; they must practise those mortifications which former religions had enjoined, which the Pharisees and John’s disciples observed, with better fruit, for a higher end, in a more heavenly way, in order to see Him who is invisible.

By fasting, Moses saw God’s glory; by fasting, Elijah heard the “still small voice;” by fasting, Christ’s disciples were to express their mourning over the Crucified and Dead, over the Bridegroom taken away: but that mourning would bring Him back, that mourning would be turned to joy; in that mourning they would see Him, they would hear of Him, again; they would see Him, as they mourned and wept. And while they mourned, so long would they see Him and rejoice—for “blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted;” they are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;” hungering and thirsting after and unto righteousness,—fasting in body, that their soul may hunger and thirst after its true good; fasting in body, that they may be satisfied in spirit; in a “barren and dry land, where no water is,” (Ps. 63:2.) that they may look for Him in holiness, and behold His power and glory.

“My heart is smitten down, and withered like grass (says the Psalmist), so that I forget to eat my bread. For the voice of my groaning, my bones will scarce cleave to my flesh. I am become like a pelican in the wilderness, and like an owl that is in the desert. I have watched, and am even as a sparrow that sitteth alone upon the house-top.” “All day long have I been punished, and chastened every morning.” And what was the consequence? “Nevertheless, I am alway by Thee: for Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and after that receive me with glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee? My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” (Ps. 102:4-7; 73:13, 22-25.)