Matthew 6:16-18. When ye fast Our Lord does not enjoin either fasting, alms-deeds, or prayer, all these being duties which were before fully established in the Church of God. Be not as the hypocrites, &c. Do not follow the example of the hypocrites, who, in order to show that they fast, assume a sad countenance; a dejected, austere, and mortified look, such as false devotees affect, who make piety to consist in outward show, rather than in true goodness. For they disfigure their faces Viz., by dust and ashes put upon their heads, as was usual in times of mourning and solemn humiliation. Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward I assure you, persons of this character shall have no other reward but the esteem of those whom they deceive by such appearances. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, &c. Come abroad in thine ordinary dress. The Jews often anointed their heads. That thou appear not, &c. That, desiring the approbation of God, and not the applause of men, thou mayest chiefly be solicitous to appear before God as one that fasts; and God, who is ever with thee, and knows thy most secret thoughts, shall openly bestow on thee the blessings which belong to a true penitent, “whose mortification, contrition, and humility he can discern without the help of looks, or dress, or outward expressions of any kind. But it must be remembered, that our Lord is speaking here of private fasting, to which alone his directions are to be applied; for, when public sins or calamities are to be mourned over, the duty of fasting ought to be performed in the most public manner.”
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