She greatly disliked a selfish and narrow spirit, and had always a very generous and Christian concern upon her for the public. She had many melancholy thoughts upon the account of the impiety and profaneness, the immorality and licentiousness of the greatest part of the nation; and of the indifference, formalities and visible declension and apostasies that were found amongst the rest. Many private days, either in her closet or in some unobserved apartment abroad, she devoted to fasting and prayer, either upon the account of the distresses of foreign churches, or the dangers of our own, and ordinarily concluded each with some instance of God’s favour and further hope in his mercy. She would always bless God if authority appointed any public fasts, and look upon them as presages of good for the Church and nation.[1] She bore her part in them with great fervency and zeal, after she had very solemnly prepared for them the day foregoing. The searches she made into her heart and life upon those days were deep and strict and impartial; her confessions were particular and full; her sorrows pungent and afflictive;[2] her resolutions for future conduct were very solemn, but always with a special dependence upon the grace of God to make them effectual. And the success of those fasts is frequently observed in her diary upon proper occasions.

[1] National days of prayer and fasting were often called ‘by authority’ for deliverances, thanksgivings, petitions etc. For example, Edmund Calamy records that in 1692 while England was at war with France, ‘There were, at this time, monthly fasts appointed by authority, and, generally speaking, observed very regularly, to implore the divine blessing in order to the success of our forces.’ Towards the end of that war, Sarah Savage, sister to Matthew Henry, records in her diary for April 28, 1697: ‘A public fast appointed by authority for our whole nation to be humble before God – to pray, and seek his face, if so be that he will be entreated of us – that the issue of this summer’s proceedings may be an honourable, comfortable peace to all Europe…It is comfortable that all the praying people of God in the nation have been our companions in the work of this day. Lord, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place [I Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49].’

[2] Causing continued pain or grief.

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