Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33



Causes of Fasting

and Humiliation

[By a Committee of the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland.]

At Foulyett, Nov. 28. 1781.

A Committee of the Reformed Preſbytery, appointed for this purpose, being met, and taking into consideration the state of affairs at present; find iniquity greatly abounding, and the love of many waxing very cold; both which loudly call to mourning, fasting and humiliation before the Lord.—The grossest immoralities, and most pernicious errors prevail, in almost every corner of the land: And the loud cry of these great abominations hath most certainly reached heaven, and seems evidently to draw down the wrath of almighty God upon us, a guilty people.  The Lord is now writing bitter things against this land, in very legible characters, so that he who runs may easily read them.  The bloody sword, long threatned, and now drawn, appears to be approaching fast towards us, to avenge the quarrel of a broken, burnt, buried and despised covenant.  "And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant," Lev. 26.25.  In this very mournful situation, the Presbytery reckon it their incumbent duty, as spiritual watchmen on Zion's walls, to "Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, and call a solemn assembly," in obedience to the royal command of heaven, Joel 2.15.  And they would wish, together with their people, to essay in the Lord's strength the solemn work of fasting and humiliation before the Lord, as a mean to turn away his anger from us, and prevent the pouring out of his wrath and just indignation upon us.  We would wish to hearken unto the voice of God, who is merciful, gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, and still saying unto us, "Turn {2} ye even to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning," Joel 2.12.

This work hath been essayed formerly; and, at this period of time, the causes of fasting are exceeding numerous.  In general, all the holy commands of God are broken and disregarded.  They are trampled under foot, and dreadfully contemned; and so God the supreme Lawgiver is both greatly and openly dishonoured. But more particularly, Idolatry, or giving that respect unto the creatures, which is due to the Creator alone, is very prevalent.  Many "change the truth of God into a lie, worshipping and serving the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever," Rom. 1.25.  Ignorance of God as the alone object of all religious worship is great.  Some, instead of owning and worshipping three divine persons in one Godhead, avow and worship three gods, and so adopt the Pagan-tritheism.  Others are atheistical in their opinions, saying, There is no God.——The second commandment, which forbids the worshipping of God by images, and all superstition, and shews how God ought to be worshipped, is awfully disregarded.  Multitudes now make unto themselves graven images, and falling down before them, they at least worship God by them, which is expressly prohibited in this commandment. And the worshipping of God by images is still more and more countenanced.  The interests of Popery and Prelacy are daily growing, which is matter of great lamentation.——The holy name of God is most dreadfully abused, by profane cursing and swearing.  Swearing profanely by God, and by Jesus, is very common, even in ordinary conversation; yea, profane swearing is come to such a height in our degenerate age, that some have been so bold as to strive with their fellows which of them could swear the greatest oaths!  Most horrid wickedness!  The name of the Lord our God is now greatly taken in vain; although it is expressly said, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God {3} in vain," Exod. 20.7.  Some make no profession of religion at all; totally neglecting and even despising the worship of God both in public and private; while others make a profession only in hypocrisy, and frame their religion to answer worldly schemes and designs; and so take God's name in vain.——The fourth precept of the moral law is also greatly disregarded.  The morality of the holy Sabbath is denied in words by some; and practically by very many of this generation.  The holy Sabbath, emphatically stiled, The Lord's day, is by many made a day of civil business, riot, and recreation. It is a day, alas! by many devoted to pastime, open profanity, pleasure walks, and unnecessary visits.  Sleeping more than ordinary on the Lord's day, speaking our own words, and finding our own pleasures on it, are all very common, even among God's professing people.  Few have a conversation becoming the gospel of Christ, when they are going to, and coming from the places of religious worship: And our time is often very badly spent during the interval of public service.  Holy and edifying discourse on the Lord's day is very rare. God's unparalleled love towards us, the many things he hath done for his church, and the great and glorious work of man's redemption, are very seldom the subject of conversation.  A small part of the holy Sabbath is spent in prayer and other religious exercises; but much of it is spent in vain conversation, and works neither of necessity nor mercy: So the Lord may justly say concerning us, "Ye have despised mine holy things, and profaned my Sabbaths." Ezek. 22.8.   Disobedience to parents is, in some instances, very great. Children do not honour their parents as they ought, nor regard their good advices.  Superiors are not careful to do their duty unto their inferiors, nor their inferiors to them.——Murders are very frequent, yea, the most horrid murders do now greatly abound.  Even one brother imbruing his hands in another's blood. Some desperately strangling or otherwise killing themselves, {4} and others destroying themselves with excessive drinking, &c.  "They break out and blood toucheth blood."——Many now walk in rioting, drunkenness, chambering, and wantonness.  Promiscuous dancings, stage-plays, and night-balls, the nurseries of wickedness, and avenues to uncleanness, are all very common; and persons who ought to be a terror to evil-doers are rather a protection to them, and ring-leaders in the paths of wickedness.  In consequence of this, the land is filled with all manner of uncleanness.  The instances of antenuptial fornication are many; and fornication itself abounds exceedingly in almost every corner of the land.  Perhaps, it never more abounded in any age; and it appears still to be increasing every year.  Whoredom, which is fornication continued in and repeated, greatly prevails: Alas! many now sell themselves to work wickedness; and instances of adultery are not wanting.  The ordinance of marriage is greatly contemned by some; and irregular or run-away marriages, in wanton contempt both of divine and human laws, greatly prevail, together with the sinful practice of concubinage, especially among the great; thus our land is greatly polluted.——Cheating, stealing, and robbing are very frequent: The most open robberies are now committed.  "The thief cometh in, and the troop of robbers spoileth without," Hos. 7.1.——Flattery, lying, dissimulation and backsliding, are very common sins.  Many now speak with flattering lips, and a double heart.  "They have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity," Jer. 9.5.  And many neighbours, walk with slander, and even some professors of religion are chargeable with this guilt.——Discontentment, envy, covetousness, and oppression, are very prevalent.  So that all God's holy commands are trampled under foot, and greatly contemned: And God is thereby exceedingly dishonoured.

Open countenance hath been given to Popery, at {5} home and abroad, by the British king and parliament, contrary both to the holy law of God, and the laws of the land.  And the establishing of Popery in Canada, the toleration of it in Granada, and other places; and the repealing of the penal statutes against Papists in England and Ireland, together with the bold effort to extend the repeal to Scotland, are all just causes of mourning, fasting, and humiliation before the Lord.  And the Lord may well say concerning Britain and Ireland, They have "changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about them, for they have refused my judgments, and my statutes, they have not walked in them," Ezek. 5.6.—"For this let the land mourn."

Our solemn covenants, unto which the Lord hath given manifold, and most evident testimonies of his approbation, and the entering into which our noble ancestors could not remember nor mention without great joy and thankfulness to God, are now greatly despised, violently spoken against, and cried down both from pulpit and press.  The moral obligation of these covenants upon us is denied by some; while others are sinfully silent in not shewing that they are morally binding upon the latest posterity; so that the Lord may say of this land, They have dealt treacherously in my covenant.—The glorious work of reformation, which our renowned predecessors attained to by the good hand of God upon them, is now greatly defaced. The most beautiful carved work of the sanctuary is now greatly broken down.  Great and wide breaches are made in Zion's walls; and very few are found endeavouring—"to make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before the Lord for the land, that he should not destroy it," Ezek. 22.30.

Patronage, denuding the Lord's people of their proper right to make choice of their own pastors, is more and more countenanced by the highest ecclesiastical {6} court in the kingdom; and, in consequence of this, the pulpits are often filled with naughty men: Hence doctrines are frequently taught, which greatly tend to the dishonour of God, and the ruin of immortal souls.  The doctrines of Heathen Moralists are too often substituted in the room of pure evangelical preaching: And many in pressing the duties of morality make no reference unto the Lord Jesus Christ as the strength of Israel; and so their exhortations to duty are no better than Pharaoh's tyrannical edicts, demanding the full tale of bricks, but allowing no straw.

Few appear to receive the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, and walk in him.  Unbelief greatly prevails: The glorious gospel of Christ is neglected and despised by many; and the holy Spirit is grieved: His gifts, graces and operations are greatly contemned.—Our unfruitfulness under the means of grace is great, and we appear to be very indifferent whether we bring forth much fruit unto God or not.—We are unthankful unto God for the many blessings we enjoy.  We are bent to backsliding from him who is the chief good.  Though some pretend to cleave unto the Lord; yet few exalt him.  All seek their own things; but very few the things of Jesus Christ.  Our indifferency in the noble cause of Christ, and public concerns of God's glory is too evident.  How few are zealous in contending for the royal prerogatives of Jesus Christ as King of Zion and head of the church, and stand forth as advocates for his precious truths.  Many seem to be ashamed of Christ and his words in this adulterous and sinful generation, although he did not blush to become obedient unto the shameful death of the cross for sinners!—Zion in her low condition is much forgotten by us.  We are but little affected, though the glory is fast departing from Israel.  And when the church is tossed like a ship in the midst of the swelling waves, we appear to have little or no concern whether she be preserved, {7} or sink into the bottom of the devouring deeps.— The godly man now ceaseth, and the faithful fail from among the sons of men.  Some of the choicest flowers of our society, and most worthy members thereof, are now no more in the church militant.  A strong evidence this, that the Lord is about to inflict his righteous judgments upon us; for "the righteous is taken away from the evil to come," Isa. 57.1.

Religion is greatly decayed, and very fast decaying among us: Multitudes now have not so much as the form of godliness; and though some retain part of the form, yet few seem to be acquainted with the exercise, life and power of it.  Prayer in secret and in families is greatly neglected.  Fellowship-meetings, designed for prayer and other religious exercises, are now little esteemed, and not regularly attended.  Some have given up with them altogether, while others appear to be ashamed to frequent them.

Many shameful differences fall out among professed Christians.  True brotherly love is almost gone from amongst us: We are not careful to bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  Many make a mock at sin.  Few mourn sincerely for the falls of others, and the dishonour done to God thereby.  Our insensibility under the alarming dispensations of divine providence is exceeding great, although the "sound of the trumpet, and the alarum of war," and judgment from God, is still waxing louder and louder.

But having found out and specified so many mournful causes of fasting, it is now high time to essay the work; and therefore the Committee appoint the last Thursday of January, being the thirty-first day of the said month, 1782, as a day of fasting, to be carefully observed by themselves, and all the people under the Presbytery's inspection.  And they wish to essay this solemn work, and earnestly exhort all their people to essay it, purely in obedience to the command of heaven, in the Lord's strength, with an humble {8} dependence on the promised assistance of the holy Spirit, and with the eye of faith fixed on our dear Redeemer's atoning blood which cleanseth from all sin.  And let us mourn greatly for our own sins, and the sins of the generation; especially for the great dishonour done to God by these: And cry earnestly unto the Lord our God, that he may pardon our iniquity for Christ's sake, heal our backslidings, and love us freely: And that his anger may be turned away from Jerusalem, his holy mountain:  That he may again return unto us, revive his work among us, and glorify the house of his glory: That whereas Zion hath been forsaken, and hated, so that almost none went through her, the Lord may yet make her an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations, Isa. 60.15.

And let us not forget to give thanks unto the Lord for all his gracious benefits bestowed upon us: Particularly, let us give thanks to him for Christ his unspeakable gift; the gospel and ordinances thereof, and the continuation of these with us; for any degree of assistance given to his servants on any occasions; for the time and space we enjoy to repent of our sins, and turn to the Lord our God; and for the last plentiful harvest, the fruits of which we now enjoy.

And they appoint that all their ministers and probationers read these causes publicly on the Sabbath immediately preceeding the day appointed, with suitable exhortations to the people.