The real Lent is the putting forth of a mans hand to quiet his own passions and to push them aside, that the higher voices may speak to him and the higher touches fall upon him. It is the making of an emptiness about the soul, that the higher fullness may fill it. Perhaps some day the lower needs may themselves become, and dignify themselves by becoming, the meek interpreters and ministers of those very powers which they once shut out from the soul. There will be no fasting days, no Lent, in heaven. Not because we shall have no bodies there, but because our bodies there will be open to God, the helps and not the hindrances of spiritual communication to our souls.
For no law of spiritual life is more certain or more imperative than this law of mortification. There cannot be such a thing as the perseverance in Christian life of an unmortified Christian who has come to years of discretion. Obedience, we repeat, is religion; and mortification is the essential condition of obedience, for it is the condition of its actual expression and of the recovery of that spiritual freedom without which that expression is impossible for sinful men.
Our Saviours fast, like every act of His life, bears the character of an example, and instructs us that this particular exercise of religion, while it exposes to temptations of its own, is yet in itself a great preliminary safeguard against sina source of facility for vanquishing all temptation. That there are demoniacal possessions which no means without this can reach effectually, is the express assertion of our Saviour on another occasion: and His example here, no less than His precept to His chosen followers there, instructs us forcibly that, while Christianity is the most mild and liberal of institutions, its founder, no preacher in the desert like Elias, or His forerunner the Baptist, but one who came eating and drinking, as His censors remarked, neither fearfully flying nor morosely disdaining the ordinary converse and habits of mankind,it yet requires the highest prudence and assistances of grace proportional, to maintain this intercourse with the world either with safety to ourselves or benefit to others; and these assistances are to be found where our Lord and Saviour Himself sought themin occasional retirements, in meditation, prayer, and fasting.