How Fast-days were meant
to be observed in the Church of Scotland may be gathered from the
following sentences in the Westminster Assembly's Directory for Public
"A religious fast
requires total abstinence, not only from all food, but also from all
worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts, and from all bodily delights
(although at other times lawful), rich apparel, ornaments, and such
like, during the fast, and much more from whatever is in the nature or
use scandalous and offensive, as gaudish attire, lascivious habits and
gestures, and other vanities of either sex."
"Before the public
meeting, each family and person apart are privately to use all religious
care to prepare their hearts to such a solemn work, and to be early at
"Before the close of the
public duties, the minister is, in his own name and the people's names,
to engage his and their hearts to be the Lord's, with professed purpose
and resolution to reform whatever is amiss in them, and more
particularly such sins as they have been more remarkably guilty of."
How scandalously at
variance with these directions Fast-day services have in recent years
become in large cities, and even in rural parishes traversed by
railways, the following paragraph, which appeared in the newspapers
about two years ago, will show :—
Glasgow — The Fast-day
and its Effects.— Following the Glasgow Fast, yesterday was
exceptionally busy at the City Police Court, there being no less than
319 cases, as compared with 248 on the same day last year. There were 90
cases of drunkenness, being an increase of 36.
On the other hand, that
it may be seen how Fasts were appointed and held by good and godly
people long ago, I subjoin here from Brodie's Diary an account of what
is termed a day of humiliation and atonement. The occasion of the
solemnity was a raid committed in the North by Glencairn's soldiery in
"1654, January 20th.—Glencairn
burnt the corns and houses of Leathin. O Lord, sanctify and help us to
understand and be humbled under this hand of thine. 24th. This day I
went to Leathin and determined to give a stack of oats and straw to his
poor people because of his freedom and their safety, both in duty of
love and obedience and in sign of thankfulness, for his safety was from
Thee. We appointed a day of search, and a day of humiliation and
atonement" (the word is italicised in the printed copy of the Diary)
"and of supplication, on the 30th and 31st of January. . . January 31st,
1654, was the solemn humiliation at Leathin for the causes and reasons
contained in the paper which is in my Latron.
"After Leathin and
Francis did, with some measure of tenderness, confess and bewail their
particular guilt of covetousness, passion, pride, unrighteous dealing,
worldly mindedness, youthful lusts of un-cleanness, and promise-breaking
to God of many duties which they had bound themselves unto, we were all
affected with the work of God on their spirits, and besought the Lord on
their behalf that He would not let the wound close till it were
thoroughly healed. After some measure of assistance and countenance on
the day, Mr. Joseph preached on John xxii. 20, 21, etc., Mr. John on
Joel ii. We closed the exercise with a solemn engagement of ourselves to
God, and did come under a new, firm, inviolable covenant with God, that
we should be His and He should be ours. We gave up and surrendered our
soul; body, estates, lands, rents, houses, families, wives, children,
servants, wit, parts, endowments, friends, wealth, and all that we had
or ever should have or attain unto in this world, to be the Lord's for
ever, that He might call for, make use, and dispose of it and mark it as
his own. We besought the Lord to accept the free-will offering of our
lips and of our hearts, and not to permit us to depart from Him.
"Mr. John acknowledged
his predominant sins of worldliness, passion, pride, and unfaithfulness
in his calling, and entered his soul bound to endeavour to mortify these
sins, and every sin, and to labour for more fidelity in his ministerial
calling than ever, but, renouncing himself, desired to believe in the
grace of God through Christ for this effect.
"Mr. Joseph acknowledged
and bewailed the same sins, unconscionableness in his calling, and doing
duty for some outward respect of credit or honesty, and not from pure
love to God in Christ, and now desired to give up himself to the Lord.
"Old Leathin renewed his
acknowledgments, and prayed the Lord for a willing, honest heart, to
make good what was in his heart.
"Young Leathin professed
his willingness to consecrate him and his to God, and that as long as he
had a house or family it should be the Lord's. He alone should be
worshipped in it; he should have no God but him.
"Old Francis renewed his
confession, with tears, confessing the Lord to be just in casting him
out of his family and making it desolate, for he had polluted his body
with unclean lusts, &c, &c, and therefore the Lord was just in burning
up his house and substance.
"Young Francis desired to
consent and to subscribe his name to the Lord for ever, and sought their
prayers that were present that he might never fall back.
"Joseph, David and Mr.
James each confessed his shortcomings, and prayed for strength.
"Janet expressed meikle
distrust of herself, but desired to come under a new bond for the Lord.
"The Lady Leathin dared
promise little of herself, but professed that of all there she was most
bound, both to take with guilt and the cause of his anger above any
others, although they had taken it on themselves : and now that none had
so great cause to engage their hearts to the Lord as she had, therefore
in the faith of the Lord Jesus and his might, she did and would give up
herself to the Lord, and all hers.
"John Brodie, Woodhead,
acknowledged much guilt, and great need of this day's work. He was lying
under some bonds to God already, and this should add to the former
"John of Main engaged for
an humble and unfeigned endeavour, as to honour God in his own spirit so
to be an instrument to God-ward for his wife, children and family, that
they also and he might be the Lord's.
"Mr. Robert Donaldson
desired of God to discover if there were any iniquity in his way or in
his heart, for which he was spared while others were smitten.
"Katherine, his wife,
burst forth in the complaint of her woful, sad, deserted case, but if he
would accept, there was not anything in all the earth which should so
content and satisfy her as that the Lord would condescend to that
bargain to become her God, and to take her and accept of her as his for
ever. It was replied the bargain was sure enough, if she were willing
for her part.
"Jean Symington, albeit a
stranger among us, yet desired to be upholden by his grace.
"John Brodie, my boy,
professed an unfeigned desire to know the Lord more, and to cleave to
him more, and to be for him and to his glory all his days.
"John Tweedie absent at
"All of us for ourselves,
and for our little ones, and for our wives that have them, and families
and interests, do stand before the Lord this day, making supplication
and confession on their and our behalfs, and do take burden on us,
according to our several stations and callings as aforesaid, that the
Lord shall be our God, and we shall be his people, on the bare condition
of his new covenant, that he will give us another heart and write his
law within us.
"On the 1st of February
this was written, and letters of exhortation to every one of them for
putting them in remembrance.
"My soul this morning
desired for its own part to rejoice before the Lord in trembling, and to
consent unto this new oblation and covenant, and besought his majesty
for a blessing on it, and on all their souls who had consented to or
were concerned in it."