« PreviousContinue »
accents of a female voice in prayer. The place seems holy. The mother has gathered around her her orphan children; she has read the sweet promises of God to such, and now she is at the throne of grace telling Jesus their wants.
And then a sainted mother is called away. The dying con. flict has been long and sharp. But it was not for herself—it was for those that God had given her. “Jehovah-jireh.” The Lord will provide: and she finds comfort in the promise. She gives them up.
But the work she drops another must assume. An elder sister must take it up. She has witnessed the burden of the mother's soul, and drank much of the spirit of a mother's love. Her efforts are incessant to be to those thus committed to her all that a mother had been. She would point them in paths of virtue, and lead the way. But now, for a little, she has stolen away.
She is not to be found in the domestic circle. But there is heard a still small voice, like the gentle whisperings of a spirit. It comes from the sister's well-known place of prayer. She has retired with her burden; and is, alone, telling Jesus. And when both parents are no more, and I gather around me the orphan group, it is not simply to tell them of the divine promise-to take them up when father and mother are removed; it is to urge them to go to Jesus, and, in their own simple language, tell him their loss, and humbly invoke his care. In fine, if the parent or the child, the master or the servant, the minister or the people, the ruler or the ruled, the sick and the dying or those in the vigour of life, want wisdom, want comfort, want light, want peace, want joy, want better hearts; are they afflicted, or do they mourn; whatever be their state, whatever their wants, let them go and tell Jesus. “Christ and his saints smile and sigh together.”
A FEW WORDS ON THE LORD'S SUPPER :
ADDRESSED TO THOSE WHO DO NOT ATTEND IT.
“This do in remembrance of me.”_LUKE xxii, 19.
ALTHOUGH these words of St. Luke with which I have headed this paper were spoken by our blessed Saviour with a special reference to eating the bread only, in the sacrament of the Lord's supper, yet as the apostle Paul extends them (1 Cor. xi.) to the whole institution, I wish my readers to consider them here in that lightas pointing to the express design of this ordinance, as a festival in
commemoration of the death of Christ. “This do yè, as oft as ye eat and drink it, in remembrance of me." Each time Christians partook of it, they were to publish to the world their faith in Him whose body and blood were here represented, under the visible tokens of bread and wine, as broken on the cross and shed for their salvation. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, (St. Paul says,) ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.”
While, however, it served this its primary purpose, it was also intended to be an actual means of grace, wherein, to the true believer in Christ, the pardon of his sins should be sealed, faith in his Lord and Master strengthened, love to him confirmed, and resolutions of obedience to his will ratified and made good. This purpose the same apostle speaks of: “ The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ ?" (1 Cor. x. 16.) And yet simple and explicit as the design of the Lord's supper was, 1st, as a continual remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ, as the propitiation for our sins; and 2nd, as a help in our Christian course; it has been misapprehended and mistaken, slighted and despised.
Many (I believe) sincere Christians have been deterred from various causes, arising from error or misconception, from coming to the Lord's table. Objections which seemed insurmountable have been felt by many, holding them back from this refreshing ordinance. Scruples of conscience have debarred others, while some, mistaking the meaning of various expressions used in the Bible with reference to this subject, have been led to the same result.
Now, it is plainly contrary to the intention of our blessed Saviour, that any sincere Christians should be excluded, from whatever cause of this nature it be, from this sacrament. For in St. Matthew it is said, “ He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye ALL of this. And St. Mark adds“And they all drank of it.” St. Luke likewise, speaking of the distribution of the bread, says, “ He gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them;" without exception, to each one of his followers. And if it be true that the Lord's supper is in fact a means of grace; such persons are depriving themselves of a great assistance and blessing, while they continue absent.
It is my purpose, then, in dependance on God's help, to make a few remarks on those conscientious objections by which sincere Christians are prevented from partaking of the Lord's supper. And let my readers remember, that I address myself
to those whose honest purpose of heart is to serve God; the enquiring disposition who, therefore, will rejoice to have the stumbling blocks, which of whose mind is, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" and have hitherto impeded their course, removed
out of the way. My concluding admonitions will be applied to those whose profession is insincére.
The first objection, then, by which, as a sincere Christian, I suppose you are deterred, is the feeling that you incur, by going to the Lord's table, a greater responsibility than you can bear. You reason in this way: “I trust that I am sincere in my profession of attachment to Christ's cause, but I dread lest I should relapse into sin, and fall away. I will not, therefore, partake of this sacrament, lest in case such a calamity should befall me, it increase my condemnation."
But do you indeed dread the anticipation of backsliding? then, surely, you will take every precaution which God's word and your own conscience point out to prevent such a probability. You will not forget the truth of the old adage_"Forewarned, forearmed.” What instruction then does Scripture give you? “ Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil: to withstand in the evil day, and above all, to stand.”. (Eph. vi. 11, 13.) One piece of this divine armour is mentioned below, (verse 16,) as the “shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Now, we have seen that when we come to the Lord's table in sincerity and love to Christ, faith is increased, its buckler made stronger and stouter, and more ample. The way then, my friend, to guard against fear of falling, and weakness in the day of battle, is to use this according to its appointed design-as a means of grace. If the master builder of some noble mansion had observed one part weak and tottering, would he leave it to sustain the violence of the hurricane unaided : Would he not rather summon his labourers together, and prop and steady it forthwith, that when the time of trial came it might stand firm? And surely the weaker and more prone that we feel ourselves to be, the more earnest and untiring should we be in seeking his aid, “who is able,” as St. Jude says, (verse 24,) "to keep us from falling.” But after all, it behoves you to consider which responsibility of these two you will incur; for one or the other you must. Either that which is attached to the partaking of, or the neglecting it. Especially when the former is in complete accordance with the declared will of God, and to which a direct blessing is promised. There are, in fact, only three courses which are open to us, in each of which a responsibility clings round us.
We may neglect our duty altogether; and who does not know that a responsibility of a leaden weight hangs upon the soul here! We may perform it; but recklessly, and on sinful motives. And here the responsibility drags with its heavy load on the soul again. Or, with God's blessing, we may perform it on right motives and in a right spirit. And here too the responsibility is met, but it unloads its precious freight of spiritual blessings on the heart of each waiting believer. Which course then will you bind yourselves to? On which resposibility will you stake your present and future welfare? Surely the path of duty alone has the exhortation recorded on it: “ This is the way, walk ye in it.”.
A second ground of objection which some of you feels is the
strong expressions which are used in Scripture with regard to the condemnation of those who receive "unworthily.” I will comment on one expression which has been viewed in this strong light: “ He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damna. tion to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.” (1 Cor. xi. 29.) “The sentence of eternal damnation,” you say, “is here plainly denounced against the unworthy receiver, and the punishment is so awful that I dare not run the risk of being exposed to it, by receive ing it at all.” Supposing, however, that the damnation here spoken of is eternal separation from God in another world. Consider, my friend, on whom it is said to fall—on those who eat and drink unworthily, not discerning the Lord's body. Who are they whom the apostle means by this expression? for until we have arrived at some certainty respecting it, we cannot see whether you are included among the number. The Lord's supper was at this time greatly abused by the Corinthian Christians.
« When ye come together into one place,” St. Paul says, “this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” (Verses 20—22.) It was to those, then, you see, who were exhibiting this profanity, who made the Lord's table a scene of riot and excess, of rivalry and strife, that the apostle addressed his warning of the guilt they incurred. And would not you heartily and at once acquiesce in the justice of his sentence? Now, our habits of life preclude such terrible scenes—thanks be to God—from being witnessed in our churches. And therefore this damnation, if it is applicable to any now, must belong to those who come in a similar spirit and with a similar deliberate disregard of the holy character of the ordinance. They who come in profanity and carelessness, who never so much as intend to lead a new and godly life, who still follow a course of known and habitual sin, whether secret or open, such are, undoubtedly, "guilty of the body and blood of Christ.” But is there one sincere Christian, in whose heart the flame of divine grace burns ever so faintly, who would not hold such a spirit in the utmost abhorrence? Is there one whose desire would not be-though he felt encompassed about with many infirmities--in approaching this table, to give himself up to the service of his Master, and “live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Even then, if damnation here represents eternal perdition, it cannot apply to the case of any humble and contrite believer.
But there is good reason to believe that this term, which ought properly to be translated judgment, as it is in the margin, or condemnation, as it is in the last verse of the chapter, includes only temporal punishments, which God in his mercy sends upon the sinner in this life, as a correction and chastisement, that he may repent, and be eventually saved. St. Paul says as much in the next verse : “ For this cause.” For what cause? Because ye are guilty of this profaneness. “ Many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." These temporal judgments have been executed on some of the members of your church, to bring all your sins to remembrance; and if you would view them in this light, if you would thus judge yourselves, you would not be judged of the Lord.
While, then, the comparative lightness of the punishment gives no greater liberty to the wilful, the careless, the disobedient sinner to come to the Lord's table, it places God's design in it in a clear point of view, and must remove every scruple which a misapprehension of the meaning of the expression has hitherto caused to the sincere Christian.
A third reason which presents itself in the form of an objection to some of you, and keeps you away, is the expressed feeling that
you are not good enough yet, but hope to come when you are better prepared.
I am sorry to say, my friends, that this reasoning is often brought forward by insincere and wicked persons, who love their sins too well to part with them, and who, like Balaam, hope that barren desires will get them to heaven.
But I suppose that it is in this case sincerely offered. What, however, do you mean by not being good enough at present? Do you mean that you are not worthy to come now, but hope to be so at some future time? To gather a stock of goodness, which, when it has accumulated sufficiently, will render your offering acceptable ? Surely, if this be so, you have not yet learnt that your own goodness can never merit God's favour ; for St. Luke tells us that after we have done all those things which are commanded us, say, We are unprofitable servants.” (Luke xvii. 10.) And St. Paul says, “ Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves ; but our sufficiency is of God.” (2 Cor. iii. 5.) And if not to think, much less to do any thing good of ourselves. Surely you have not yet learnt that it is not your worthiness, but for the merits alone and the worthiness of Christ that God accepts you.
But if you are still looking only to the righteousness of Christ as the ground of your acceptance before God, and yet you wish to become more devoted, more single-minded, more faithful, ere you come, be assured that you do not well to delay. For in what way do you hope to grow in grace? St. James gives you the true an
God “giveth more grace.” But how may it be obtained ? or does he give it to us without any application for it, or diligence on our parts ? Hear him again. “ Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”
It is, then, by waiting on God in this and other ordinances that you can alone hope to grow in grace. You must draw from the well of God's grace, if you would taste the refreshing streams of mercy which are hidden there. The well, indeed, is deep; but Faith must be the hand which you stretch out, grasping the vessel you let down. Love must be the cord with which you draw it up,