"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." [Matthew 6:16-18]
Of all the means of grace there is scarcely any concerning which men have run into greater extremes, than that of which our Lord speaks in our text this morning, I mean Christian fasting. Some have exalted this type of fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it; as it were retaliating by undervaluing it as much as the others had overvalued it! No doubt the truth lies somewhere in-between. It is not everything, nor yet is it nothing. It is not the end, but it is a precious means to the end; a means which God himself has ordained, and in which therefore, when it is properly used, God will surely give us his blessing.
In order to set this in the clearest light, I shall endeavor to show:
I. First, what is the nature of fasting, and what are the different types and degrees.
II. Secondly, what are the reasons, purposes, and objectives of fasting.
III. Thirdly, how we can answer the most likely objections against fasting.
IV. Fourthly, how we are to fast.