THE season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts for forty days, in memory of our Lord's long fast in the wilderness ...

We fast by way of penitence, and in order to subdue the flesh. Our Saviour had no need of fasting for either purpose. His fasting was unlike ours, as in its intensity, so in its object. And yet when we begin to fast, His pattern is set before us; and we continue the time of fasting till, in number of days, we have equalled His.

There is a reason for this;—in truth, we must do nothing except with Him in our eye. As He it is, through whom alone we have the power to do any good {2} thing, so unless we do it for Him it is not good. From Him our obedience comes, towards Him it must look. He says, "Without Me ye can do nothing." [John xv. 5.] No work is good without grace and without love.

St. Paul gave up all things "to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness which is of the law, but the righteousness which is from God upon faith." [Phil. iii. 9.] Then only are our righteousnesses acceptable when they are done, not in a legal way, but in Christ through faith. Vain were all the deeds of the Law, because they were not attended by the power of the Spirit. They were the mere attempts of unaided nature to fulfil what it ought indeed, but was not able to fulfil. None but the blind and carnal, or those who were in utter ignorance, could find aught in them to rejoice in. What were all the righteousnesses of the Law, what its deeds, even when more than ordinary, its alms and fastings, its disfiguring of faces and afflicting of souls; what was all this but dust and dross, a pitiful earthly service, a miserable hopeless penance, so far as the grace and the presence of Christ were absent? The Jews might humble themselves, but they did not rise in the spirit, while they fell down in the flesh; they might afflict themselves, but it did not turn to their salvation; they might sorrow, but not as always rejoicing; the outward man might perish, but the inward man was not renewed day by day. They had the burden and heat of the day, and the yoke of the Law, but it did not "work out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." {3} But God hath reserved some better thing for us. This is what it is to be one of Christ's little ones,—to be able to do what the Jews thought they could do, and could not; to have that within us through which we can do all things; to be possessed by His presence as our life, our strength, our merit, our hope, our crown; to become in a wonderful way His members, the instruments, or visible form, or sacramental sign, of the One Invisible Ever-Present Son of God, mystically reiterating in each of us all the acts of His earthly life, His birth, consecration, fasting, temptation, conflicts, victories, sufferings, agony, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension;—He being all in all,—we, with as little power in ourselves, as little excellence or merit, as the water in Baptism, or the bread and wine in Holy Communion; yet strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. These are the thoughts with which we celebrated Christmas and Epiphany, these are the thoughts which must accompany us through Lent.

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