« PreviousContinue »
You are young, you are not poor, and generally speaking you know and have known but little sorrow. You have not in you therefore that conscious weakness which makes us so ready to receive help, so anxious to obtain it. We must try to win your attention by what we say, for there is not in you that which drives you to seek God's counsel and God's comfort, from the feeling that the staff of your own strength is broken. And therefore thinking of all this, we seem even more than others to need the help of God's Spirit of wisdom, that we may be in any degree sufficient for the duty of our calling.
Thus on this very day, we scarcely know in what language most profitably to address you, whether to speak most to those who were with us this morning at Christ's holy table, or to those who were not there; and again if we speak to those who were there, whether we should most speak in the language of encouraging or of warning. Yet, on the whole, I feel it most in my mind to speak in the tone of that solemn prayer which immediately follows the distribution of the bread and wine to all the communicants; to consider ourselves as those who have just been partakers of Christ's communion; to express our thankfulness, and to express also that devotion of ourselves to God, to which thankfulness naturally leads.
The prayer begins in these words, “ O Lord and
heavenly Father, we thy humble servants entirely desire thy Fatherly goodness mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching Thee to grant, that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His blood, we and all thy whole church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His passion.”
We offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving,” so we may say for you, so you may each say for yourselves: “ We offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to thee, O Lord, as for all thy other blessings to us, so for the means of grace which Thou hast this day vouchsafed us, and for disposing us to avail ourselves of it.” For it is a blessing to draw near together to Christ's table, to be able to look around and think that we all are offering our heart's worship, that we are all at that time sincere, desiring to turn from sin, anxious to gain God's pardon and God's strength. It is a blessing to feel that for once at least we have none near but friends; friends I mean to our souls' health; friends who would help rather than hinder us, because they desire themselves to be helped and not hindered. And it is a blessing to draw near to Christ in His appointed way; to be certified by receiving the signs of His body and blood, that as He died for us once, so He liveth for us now and for ever; that He still counts us as Ilis, inasmuch
as He grants us to be partakers of Himself. For setting aside individual wilful unworthiness, and surely the holy communion was meant to be an abiding sign of Christ's love to us, that as we received into our bodies the bread and wine, which are the signs of His body and blood, so He would enter into our spirits by His Spirit, and so become partaker in us, that we might become partakers in Him. And therefore we may well offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God, for having disposed us to come to Christ's holy communion.
And not less should we humbly beseech Him to grant that by the merits and death of His Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His blood, we and all the whole church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His passion. For though the holy communion be a means of grace, and a lively expression of Christ's continued love to us, yet is our salvation not to be found there; it is not the signs of Christ's death which can save us, but His death in very deed upon the cross once for all ; nor can we lay hold of our salvation by receiving the signs of Christ's body and blood with our bodily senses and members, but by receiving the truth and efficacy of His real death into our hearts, not by any outward act, but by faith.
Our work is not done when we have received the holy communion; our justification is not there. Therefore we pray immediately after our thanksgiving; we thank God for the help which He has given us in the holy sacrament, but we pray that that help may help effectually, that it may help us to the true spiritual partaking of our real redemption, to a faith in the merits of Christ's blood, not as shadowed in the wine of the Lord's supper, but as shed from His own body on the cross. For there and there only is the life of the whole world to be obtained, not bodily, nor by any bodily means whatsoever, for the Son of Man is ascended up where He was before, and after the flesh we know Him on earth no more; but to be obtained by another means, which can make the past as present, and the distant as near; by that faith which sees the invisible, and apprehends the spiritual; which in every age and in every land can reach back through eighteen hundred years, and stretch itself over interposing seas and lands, and can take to itself its own portion of the redemption purchased for us all on the cross upon Mount Calvary, and can make Christ's death a real and a present thing, and can believe unto life eternal
And now, and only now, can the church offer her sacrifice; her spiritual sacrifice, the sacrifice of herself. Not in the communion, nor by virtue of the communion, but through the merits and death of Jesus Christ, and through faith in His blood, the
church is purified, is become acceptable to God, and may offer her daily sacrifice. And hear what it is, and O may God the Holy Spirit dwell in our hearts, and giving us a lively faith in Christ our Saviour, dispose and enable us to join each of us in this Christian sacrifice. Hear the words of oblation with which the church offers up herself: “ Here we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and lively sacrifice unto Thee, humbly beseeching Thee that all we who are partakers of this holy communion may be fulfilled with Thy grace and heavenly benediction.”
“ We offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, this is our sacrifice, daily and continually to be offered; our Christian sacrifice, which no other priest but we, each for ourselves, can offer; our spiritual sacrifice-not of brute creatures which know not God, nor of things first slain and laid upon God's altar, when their life is ebbed away,—but a reasonable sacrifice of our reasonable minds, of our fancy, of our imagination, of our judgment, of our reasoning, of all the faculties which God has given us to know truth and to know Him; and a holy sacrifice of a penitent heart washed in Christ's blood, of a believing heart, of a resigned heart, a self-denying, an obedient, and a loving heart : and yet again a lively sacrifice, a sacrifice of powers and feelings and hopes, not dead, nor doomed to