Page images

and impresses it more forcibly upon our minds by its sacraments, leading us by these visible signs, and affecting ceremonies, from the font to the altar, from the altar to the


We may discern, that the celebration of the holy communion, is conducive to our welfare. It is an act of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; it is an act of obedience to his commands ; it is an act of worship offered in the manner prescribed by him ; it is a renewal of our baptismal profession and promise. All these religious acts improve the heart, disposing it to perseverance, and leading it to perfection in righteousness.

This sacrament is a lively representation of the most affecting instance of the love of God to man. It has therefore a peculiar tendency to cherish and confirm our reverential gratitude, our humble confidence in his mercy, our trust in his promises, and our desire to please him.

The Lord's supper was appointed by the divine author of our salvation, for the

communication of his spiritual blessings. It is like the waters of Jordan to the afflicted Syrian ; it is a means of giving health and vigour to a degenerate nature.

God grants his benefits, temporal and spiritual, by the chosen methods of his providence. He hath not given us the necessaries and conveniencies of the present life, without the concurrence of our art and labour. We know, instructed by the experience of ages, that the wheat and the barley will not spring, where it has not been sown ; and that the tree which is not duly planted, and fostered, will die, or not bear the desired fruit. And why? because God in his good pleasure hath so ordained. He might have made the bread corn, and the fruit tree to grow of itself, as he does the grass of the meadow, and the trees of the forest ; he might have provided for all men, as he did for the Israelites, and fed them with the bread of heaven. But he has taught us to raise this sustenance and comfort for ourourselves. He has caused life and the satisfactions of it, to depend upon our prudence and activity. He shews us by the course of nature, the means of preservation ; and were we to neglect them, the certain consequences would be famine and death. His procedure is the same with respect to our salvation, and the blessings of a life to come. He has made known the conditions, he has declared the means, “ whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” And the return of summer and winter, of seed time and harvest, while the earth remaineth, is not more certain, than the everlasting fruit of our labours, in this state of trial. We see indeed the course of this world, we know it by experience; the events of a world to come are objects of faith and expectation. But the revolution of a few years, will shew the reader, and I trust, to his eternal comfort, the reality of what he now believes. - It will convince him, that no mark of reverence to the Almighty, will pass unnoticed, no act of obedience unrewarded, whether it be offered in conformity to the unchangeable rule of moral righteousness, or to any special publication of his will.

Moral virtues and positive institutions stand upon this common ground, that they are declared to be the will of God. This declaration continuing, they can never cease to be the duty of man. They differ in this, that moral virtue is eternal and unchangeable, flowing from the nature and relation of things, and corresponding with the attributes of the Supreme Being.

Positive institutions, ' adapted to particular seasons and situations, have been changed, and they will one day cease. They were given to man in a state of innocence, in one form, after the fall in another, to the Hebrew nation in a third, and in a fourth, to the whole christian world. Moral virtue is an end, being the perfection of a reasonable creature, subservient to the glory of the Creator. Positive institutions are means conducive to that end, as they impress upon the mind, some important truth, and warm the heart with suitable affections. The law given to our first parents, concerning the forbidden fruit, appears to have been designed for moral purposes. It seems adapted to remind them continually of the sovereignty of God over themselves, and over every creature which ministered to their happiness; to shew them the necessity of submitting to his will every faculty and passion of


their nature, the pride of reason, and the ima portunity of the senses, the desire of knowledge, and the call of appetite. In this view, it was a perpetual lesson of moral virtue. The patriarchal sacrifices, the principal part of the Jewish ritual, and the sacraments of the Christian church, are each in their respective seasons, representations of one great event, symbols of religious truths, aids and incentives to moral holiness. They are the shadow, the body is the sacrifice of Christ. They point this way or that way, forward or backward (like the natural shadow), accordingly, as the substance is approaching, or is passed by. The sacrifices of ancient times, accompanied and supported the prophecies which foretold a coming Christ. The sacraments of these latter days attend and confirm the history, which declares that he is come. The

* The word 'sacrament signifies a military oath of fidelity and obedience to his general, which every Roman soldier was obliged to take. In a religious sense, it implies, a covenant or oath of allegiance and obedience to Jesus Christ, "the captain of our salvation.” As the sacrament of baptism is administered to a christian but once in his life, and the sacrament of the Lord's supper is adıninistered repeatedly, it is usual to distin

« PreviousContinue »