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to find pleasure in bad thoughts, thoughts of ill will, or pride, or impurity
It would be very wrong, it would (as it seems to me) be deceitful and wicked in me, as your minister, to deny, that in this case great is your guilt, horrible the punishments that must ensue, without deep, earnest, and continued repentance. But yet for them that do repent, there is surely hope in God's mercy-His unwearied mercy–in that Fountain that has been opened to wash away sin and uncleanness, and in the almighty power and long patience of the Holy Ghost the Sanctifier, striving in sinful hearts.
We were presented to God once, and that pure and clean, after our Baptism. And now when we have sinned, as we all sin, we are permitted to present ourselves before Him with confession and prayers, either at home or here at His own sacred house ; and here, whenever you are but willing to come here, after your confession you hear from God's messenger the comfortable assurance that “ He pardoneth and absolveth all them .that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe His holy Gospel ;” and then we return to prayer, not without a hope that we are presenting ourselves with hearts and consciences in measure, at least, cleansed from the defilements of our sins. And surely in the Gospel for to-day the thoughtful Christian may find the strongest reasons for being very frequent in presenting himself before God here. For who were they to whom the LORD and Saviour of the world was revealed when He first came to the Temple ? Who were the
persons who were of God counted worthy so great a favour? Besides the holy Simeon, one other only is mentioned-Anna the Prophetess; and of her it is expressly said, that she departed not from the Temple, serving God with prayers and fastings night and day. She had lived such a life as this, it appears probable, many years, but now at the last her persevering devotion was rewarded with the sight of Him Who was the desire and the glory of Israel ; and it was in the Temple, too, that Simeon found the Lord's CHRIST, according to God's gracious promise to him.
And somewhat in like manner we come here to present ourselves before the ORD with confession, prayers, and praise ; and thus, if we persevere in constant devout waiting upon God, we may trust we shall, like them, find Christ here, and obtain of Him the gifts of holiness, and in union with Him be presented acceptable and pure before God. For when we come hither to pray for the pardon of our sins, and the cleansing of our whole man from our wretched defilements, we do in a manner, by our very appearance, if we bring our hearts with us, present and plead before the Father the merits of Christ's sacrifice.
Thus the Blessed Virgin, when, as on this day, she came for purification, presented before God not only the two turtle doves required by the law, but that true Lamb, Who was afterwards on the Cross to bear the sins of the whole world.
But with regard to us, it is when we come here to celebrate the Lord's Supper, that we most solemnly set before God the sacrifice of our LORD. When we offer the bread and wine upon God's altar, we make remembrance of Christ offering HIMSELF upon the Cross; and while we pray God to accept these our oblations, we plead the merits of that one great Sacrifice for ourselves and for the whole Church.
And then we do, each time we receive the Lord's Supper, solemnly renew that dedication of ourselves which was first made in our Baptism, presenting ourselves, our souls and bodies, a living sacrifice to Him. For like as Christ offered Himself, soul and body, an entire sacrifice for us on the Cross, so do we, in the service of the Holy Communion, making remembrance hereof by our oblation of bread and wine, offer and present ourselves a whole offering unto God's service.
To come to God's altar without meaning to give up ourselves to obey and love Him, must be hypocritical and wicked. But we would but really so bend our whole hearts to Him, so entirely cast off the world, ourselves, and every thing that may draw us away from Him, as to give up ourselves to God in deed, and not in word only, calling to mind our baptismal profession, then we should be sure to find CHRIST here-to find Him in the fulness of blessing. Then would our prayers be heard, and we should obtain that most blessed and perfect of all purifications, when the sinner, upon true repentance, has his body made clean by Christ's glorious Body, and his soul washed in Christ's most precious Blood.
Let it be, therefore, our endeavour to present ourselves at that Holy Table, each time more and more, as we would present ourselves before His presence on His throne of judgment at the last day.
For remember well, that though you may refuse now to come near Christ spiritually present in this Sacrament, in order that you may continue in worldliness, carelessness, or sin,-at the last day there will be no choice; you must stand before Him Whom on earth
have refused. Or again, if any
dishonour Christ by approaching Him here hypocritically, while you do not mean to serve Him,-you may deceive others, you may deceive yourselves here; but at the last it must be known who have really presented themselves to the LORD, as determined to forsake sin, and give themselves up to obey Him from the heart. On that day some shall claim His mercy, on the ground that they have eaten and drunk in His presence, unto whom He shall say, “I know you not whence ye are : depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity." So vain is every confidence, unless we put away from us the sin that we are most inclined to harbour in our hearts, and unless we are resolved to perform those duties for conscience sake to which we are by nature inost disinclined.
There are, we have reason to hope, a blessed few—God grant we may be of the number!—who do heartily present themselves to their God in the offices of religion, especially in the service of the altar, and being thus knit upto Him, strive to abide in Him by keeping His commandments, and bringing forth the fruits of holiness in their common daily life.
For those who so live, who so abide in Him, for His own elect, He is continually pleading on high; their prayers, their endeavours, their imperfect works, their very bodies and souls He presents continually before His FATHER, sprinkled and cleansed with His blood. They know not, it may be, their blessedness; they are full of grief and humiliation for their sins, for the imperfection of their services; but at length they will know they are accepted. When once death is past, they will find themselves safe, brought near to Christ in Paradise, secure that at His great day He will present them blameless before His own glory in exceeding joy.
Fit us, O LORD, for that day! fit us to be presented before Thy judgment seat !
LOWLY-MINDED PERSEVERANCE IN PRAYER.
St. MARK vii. 28, 29.
“ And she answered and said unto Him, Yes, LORD: yet the dogs under the
table eat of the children's crumbs. “ And He said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of
thy daughter." In the Gospel for last Sunday' you heard how our SAVIOUR resisted the devil's assaults upon HIMSELF. To-day the Church teaches us how He delivers others from the power of Satan, even those whom that cruel enemy holds in miserable bondage; how He delivers them at the voice of earnest, humble, and unwearied prayer.
We find this history of the Canaạnitish woman in the Gospels both of St. Matthew and St. Mark.
St. Mark says, upon His coming into the borders of these great heathen cities, Tyre and Sidon, “He entered into an house, and would have no man know that He was there, but He could not be hid ?."
When He had sent out His disciples to preach and heal, HE had said to them, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And, accordingly, though He does HIMSELF now enter within the borders of the heathen cities, yet it was not as manifesting HIMSELF, or going about doing good, but rather in the manner of one retiring for meditation and prayer.
I The First Sunday in Lent, this sermon being preached on the second. 2 Mark vii. 24.
3 Matt. x. 5, 6.
Yet, even here, we find He would not reject humble and persevering prayer, no, not although it came from one of a race which had been once accursed of God. Thus did He even now begin to shew that “HE* is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him."
He had just been teaching the Jews that the distinction between clean and unclean meats was no longer to be regarded,
look to the place in either of the Gospels of St. Matthew or St. Mark; and now He was beginning to prepare them for that other great truth, which they proved so unwilling to receive, that all the Gentiles, even the Canaanites, were to be fellow-heirs with them of God's promises, and that there was to be no difference.
But some one may feel disposed to ask how it was that this woman, who was so earnest in her desire to find relief for her daughter, and had so strong a faith, that from our Saviour she could obtain it, did not come into Judæa or Galilee to seek it ; for those countries were not far from her own. It is most likely that the same lowliness of mind which led her to take it with all submission, when she heard her nation called dogs, made her backward, through fear and shame, to go after our Saviour into His own more favoured country. She ventured not to seek the children's bread, but only begged for the 'crumbs that fell from their table.
In all likelihood, she knew that her race were under a cursefor even from the time when Noah and his sons came out of the ark it was said, “ Cursed be Canaan • !" and, conformably to this, we read in the Book of the Apocrypha called Wisdom, " It was a cursed seed from the beginning.” And this accursed race after that time defiled themselves, not only with the most abominable idolatries, but with all the most horrible and unnatural crimes. There was nothing hateful to God, and to all good men, of which they were not guilty. They burnt their own children in the fire as sacrifices to false gods ; there was no kind of abominable uncleanness with which they did not pollute themselves; and, on that account, God commanded Joshua and the children of Israel,
4 Acts x. 34, 35.
5 Gen. ix. 25.
6 Wisd. xii. 11.