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Lancelot Andrews’ Sermons on The Temptation of Christ, continued:

The Second Sermon.

Matt. 4:2  And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungry.

Now come we to the 7th and last circumstance. It may seem strange, that being about to present himself to the world, as Prince, Priest, and Prophet[1], that he would make his progress into the wilderness, and begin with a fast: for this was clean contrary [exact opposite] to the course and fashion of the world[2], which uses when any great matter is in hand, to make a preface[3], or Praeludium [prelude] with some great solemnity.

As when Solomon came first to his crown, he went to the chief city, and gathered a solemn convent [gathering]. (1 Kings 8:1) So, Christ should[4] rather first have gone to Jerusalem the holy city and there should have been some solemn banquet. But Christ from his baptism began his calling[5], and fasted forty days & forty nights. This his fast (by the new writers) is called the entrance into his calling: by the old writers, it is called the entrance into his conflict[6].

The manner of the Church hath always been, that at the first institution, or undertaking of any great and weighty matter, there hath been extraordinary.[7] fasting. So, Moses (Deut. 9. 9.) when he entered into his calling, at the receiving of the Law, fasted forty days.[8] So Elijah (1 King. 19.8.[9]) at the restoring of the same Law did the like. And so, when they went about the re-edifying of the Temple, as appeareth Esdr. 8. 49.[10] So in the New Testament, at the separation of Paul and Barnabas,Acts 13. 3.[11] And (as Jerome reporteth) Saint John would not undertake to write the divine work of his Gospel, until the whole Church (by fasting) had recommended the same unto God.

So likewise at the entrance into a conflict, for the obtaining of some victory, as Jehoshaphat did when he overcame the Amorites, 2 of the Chronicles chapter 20. the 3. verse. So did Esther when she went about the deliverance of the Jews, as in the fourth of Esther the sixteenth verse. And Eusebius reporteth, that when Peter was to enter disputation with Simon Magus, there was fasting of the whole Church generally.

Whether at the entrance into a calling, or to resist the Devil, Saint Peters rule mentioned in his first Chapter and fifth verse, ought to take place, we must use prayer and fasting.[12]

And as at all times we are to use watchfulness and carefulness: so then especially, when we look that the Devil will be most busy; and the rather, for that in some cases, there is no dealing without fasting, as Mark 9.29 there is a kind of devil that will not be cast out, without prayer and fasting.[13]

As for the number of days wherein he fasted, just forty, curiosity may find itself work enough: but it is dangerous to make conclusions, when no certainty appears[14].

Some say, there is a correspondence between these forty days, and the forty days wherein the World was destroyed by the Deluge[15]: but it is better to say, As Moses fasted forty days at the institution of the law, and Elijah forty at the restoration: so Christ here. And because he came but in the shape of a servant, he would not take upon him above his fellow-servants: Contrary to our times, wherein a man is accounted nobody, except he can have a quirk above his fellows[16]. But it is more material, to see how it concerns us. It is a thing rather to be adored by admiration, than to be followed by apish imitation.

This fast here was not the fast of a day, as that of Peter, and of Cornelius, Acts 10. 9, 30. but such as Luke 4. 2. describes, he did eat nothing all that time. Saint John the Baptist (though his life were very strict) did eat locusts and wild honey, Matt. 3. 4. Ours is not properly a fast, but a provocation of meats[17]; and therefore, there can be no proportion between them: but as it is, what is to be thought of it?

Socrates[18] and Irenaeus[19] record, that at the first, the Church did use to celebrate but one day in remembrance of Christ’s Fast; till after, the Montanists (a certain sect of heretics, who thereupon were called Eucratitae) raised it to fourteen days; the zeal of the clergy after increased it to forty, after to fifty, the monks brought it to sixty the friars to seventy; and if the Pope had not there stayed it, they would have brought it to eighty, and so have doubled Christ’s fast.

When the Primitive Church saw the heretics (by this outward show) go about to disgrace the Christians, by this counterfeit shew of holiness; they used it also: but (saith Augustine and Chrysostom) they held it only a positive law, which was in the church to use or take away, & not as any exercise of godliness[20].

Only a doubt rests [remains] now, because of the hardness of men’s hearts, whether it were better left or kept. Some would have abstinence used, and one day kept for the Sabbath, but left to every man’s liberty what time & day, & tied to no certainty: but that were (upon the matter) to have none kept at all.

Notwithstanding, the reformed Churches (as that of France) have used their liberty in removing of it, for that they saw an inclination in their people to superstition[21], who would think themselves holier for such fasting; like the Pharisee in Luke 18. 12.[22] The Church wherein we live, uses her liberty in retaining it, and that upon good reasons: for since God has created the fishes of the sea for man[23], and given him an interest in them also, Gen. 9. 2. as well as in the beasts.[24] Since the death of fish was a plague wherewith God plagued Pharaoh[25], and so contrariwise the increase of fish is a blessing: God will have fish to be used, so that he may have praises as well for the sea as for the land. Psalm 104. 25.[26]

If we look into the civil reason, we shall see great cause to observe it. See, Num. 11. 22,[27] the abundance of flesh that was consumed in one month. The maintenance of store then is of great importance, and therefore order must be taken accordingly. Jerusalem had fish days, that Tyre[28] and such like, living upon navigation, might have utterance for their commodities, Neh. 13. 16.[29] (for Tyre was the maritime city, till after Alexander annexed to it another city, and made it dry.)

The Tribe of Zebulon lived by navigation, Gen. 49. 13[30] which is a thing necessary both for wealth, 2 Chron. 9. 20[31] which made Solomon richer than any other king, and also for munition.[32] As Isaiah23. 4[33] that I read therefore had need of maintenance. And therefore, our Church and Commonwealth have taken order accordingly; and the rather, for that our times require it: (for the times that forbad marriage and the abstinence of meats, 1. Tim. 4 3. are past) we rather live in the age of self-love, intemperance, and filthy pleasure, 2. Tim. 3. 4. There is more fear of a pottinger [one who makes soup, or a pot] full of gluttony, than of a spoonful of superstition.[34] This is no fast, but a change of meat.


Christ entered into his public ministry with 40 days of prayer and fasting, which was followed by the Temptation.  What are we to make of this 40 day period? The first question he answers concerns why forty days? He answers by saying this matches Moses 40 days on the mountain with God. Christ is replicating and replacing the work of Moses. The 40 days of fasting are a place where the two events are paralleled.

The second question, which takes up remainder of this section concerns whether we should imitate this fast. He begins by giving a brief history of the church’s response, where one group then another sought to imitate this fast. After a while, the fast was actually longer than Christ’s fast. But since 70 day fast would be humanly impossible, the fast is actually such a limitation on what you eat for a period of time: fish rather than meat.

After a few paragraphs on the ocean and fish, which I must admit I found perplexing as an intrusion into his overall thesis, he concludes that those who insist on the fast with all its rules and limitations more likely to fall into superstition over the use of a fast. The only thing which as really been done is there has been a temporary change in diet, but no gain in holiness or spiritual vigor.

The question about the Lenten fast has been raised again recently by many Protestants. What can Andrews’ discussion here do to help us think about such things? The fast itself is not a matter of necessary holiness. He notes that as far back as Augustine and Chrysostom hold the fast to be a matter of church dictate, a custom effectively, but not a matter of true holiness or sin. To fast or not fast is not the same as committing murder or adultery.

Second, this fast is not an absolute fast but a change in diet.

Third, such a fast is easily tends to superstition. People who insist on such a fast are more concerned with avoiding gluttony than superstition.

[1] Christ is understood to fulfill three separate “offices” or types of work, “Observe, these titles are given to Christ with respect to his three offices of king, priest, and prophet.” Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 19 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1874), 81.

[2] The “world” is a reference to normal course of events, or the general system of common life.

[3] While we use the word “preface” to only refer to an introduction to a book, Andrews is here using the world to reference an introduction in general.

[4] If Christ were following in the same pattern, he would have gone to Jerusalem and made a public announcement of his work. But he did nothing of the sort.

[5] Christ’s baptism marked his entrance into public ministry.

[6] Older commentators referred to the fast and temptation as Christ’s entrance into his conflict. It is more common now, to refer to this time as his entrance into his public ministry, his “calling.”

[7] By Church, he means the people of God. Therefore, Old Testament examples are taken as instances of the “church.”

[8] Deuteronomy 9:9 (ESV) “When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water.” When Moses was on the mountain receiving the tablets, he was there 40 days and fasted during that time.

[9] Elijah challenged the King of Israel over his worship of Baal. Whichever God can make fire come from heaven and burn a sacrifice is the real God. Baal, obviously, was unable to produce fire. God brought fire down and the people turned from Baal.  Elijah went out into the wilderness in depression and wanted to die. Angel ministered to Elijah and he ate. That was Elijah’s meal for 40 days he traveled to “Horeb, the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:8)

[10] The correct reference seems to be 8:50, “And there I vowed a fast unto the young men before our Lord, to desire of him a prosperous journey both for us and them that were with us, for our children, and for the cattle.”

[11] Acts 13:3 (ESV) “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”

[12] 1 Peter 5:6–9 (ESV)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

[13] “When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:25–29, AV)  Most modern translation understand “and fasting” to be a late addition to the text.

[14] If you wish to know why it was “forty days,” you can certainly find some answers to your speculation. But as a general matter, such speculation is dangerous. You should only take up such questions if there is a good answer to be had.

[15] Noah’s flood: the rain lasted 40 days. Gen. 7:17.

[16] “Quirk” has a negative connotation generally at present. Andrews is using to mean something distinctive. He is better than other people, in some unique way.

[17] A fast where someone avoids a particular food. “Meat” means more than just animal flesh.

[18] An early church historian. Born approximately 379 A.D.

[19] Bishop of Lyon, A.D. 120-202. Best known for his critique of Gnosticism, Against Heresies.

[20] The determination was made that the rule concerning this fast was merely a church custom and practice. The church could determine a longer or shorter fast. The length of the fast was not a matter of sin or holiness.

[21] The idea here is that performing the action functions as a sort of magic: by performance of the action, there is a guaranteed result. Thus, performing the fast will have come automatic effect upon God, and thus upon the one fasting.

[22] “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (Luke 18:9–14, ESV)

[23] The fast here is not an absolute refraining from all food and water, but rather a limitation on one’s diet to exclude meat in favor of fish.

[24] We are allowed to eat animals, including fish.  “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered.” (Genesis 9:2, ESV)

[25] The plague upon the Nile killed the fish. “Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 7:20–21, ESV)

[26] “Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.” (Psalm 104:25, ESV)

[27] “Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?”” (Numbers 11:22, ESV) The context is Moses asking how he could conceivably feed the people of Israel in the wilderness.

[28] One of the longest continually inhabited cities in the world; located in Lebanon.

[29] “Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself!” (Nehemiah 13:16, ESV)

[30] ““Zebulun shall dwell at the shore of the sea; he shall become a haven for ships, and his border shall be at Sidon.” (Genesis 49:13, ESV)

[31] “All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. Silver was not considered as anything in the days of Solomon.” (2 Chronicles 9:20, ESV)

[32] An obsolete use of this word means “right” or “privilege”; thus, some sort of advantage.

[33] This is quite an odd use of this verse, “Be ashamed, O Sidon, for the sea has spoken, the stronghold of the sea, saying: “I have neither labored nor given birth, I have neither reared young men nor brought up young women.” (Isaiah 23:4, ESV)   Calvin, explains this verse, “Thus, Isaiah represents Tyre as bewailing her ancient glory, because she has ceased to be a mother, and because it is of no avail to her that she has brought forth so many children, and founded so many cities; for at an early period Carthage sent regularly every year a present to Tyre, for the purpose of doing homage to her as the mother. In this manner Tyre appeared to hold a higher rank than all other cities, since even Carthage, though a rival of the Roman empire, was in some respect subject to Tyre: but the Lord stripped her of all her ornaments in a moment, so that she bewailed her bereavement, as if she had never brought up any children.” John Calvin, Isaiah, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Is 23:4.

                  A more recent commentator explains, “4 Yam … the Mighty One of the Sea has been handled in many different ways. Typically, it has been translated in some way similar to RSV, “The sea … the stronghold of the sea,” with commentators frequently striking out one or even both phrases as a gloss.25 Some assume Tyre is speaking, while others assume the sea is the speaker. The present interpretation rests upon the recognition that the initial occurrence of yam has no article, suggesting that the term is being used as a proper noun, namely, the Canaanite god of the sea. And although māʿôz does mean “refuge” elsewhere in the OT, the root ʿzz means “to be strong,” and a noun form meaning “mighty one” is entirely possible.26 If this interpretation is correct, then Sidon, who has been dependent upon Tyre,27 is told that his trust is misplaced because Yam, Tyre’s father, is lamenting his loss, declaring that he is now bereft of children. The cry is that of parents, but especially mothers, whose children precede them in death. All the anguish of birth, all the struggle of raising the child, seems to have been in vain.” John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 430–431.

[34] In these sorts of fasts, the concern is merely that one will eat too much; and there is no concern that this over concern on eating or not eating will have a harmful effect on the soul (superstition) than on the body (gluttony). That is, they would rather avoid gluttony than avoid superstition. In doing this, they really are not fasting for their spiritual benefit; they are simply changing their diet.