« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
While, however, we studiously avoid, in respect of this business, every thing that savours of superstition, bigotry, and intolerance, let us not fly off into the opposite extreme of sinking it below its appropriate degree in the scale of religious duties. As the event to which it relates was, both in itself and in its consequences, of the highest importance in the gospel economy, in the same proportion must it be calculated to make and leave upon the heart impressions peculiarly serious and weighty, highly favourable to Christian virtue, and of powerful efficacy to preserve the mind, in young persons especially, from the power of temptation. And although I do not take it for granted, that Pliny, when proconsul of Bithynia, was perfectly acquainted with the religious opinions and customs of the Christians, yet from the tenor of his rescript to the emperor Trajan, it seems to have been generally understood, and with substantial correctness, that in their meetings for worship they bound themselves by an oath, not to commit any wickedness, to be faithful to their trusts and promises, &c.; and hence, perhaps, the term sacrament, (signifying an oath) which, although not in the New Testament applied to the Lord's Supper, may not improperly express the obligation which the receiver lays himself under to a correspondent life and conversation-at least it must be acknowledged that an opposite conduct, in him, could not but be universally considered as particularly inconsistent and odious. And while, on the one hand, no person of good understanding will so far deceive himself as to imagine, that by declining to attend, he will be at liberty to indulge in any practice which would otherwise be unlawful, let not, on the other, any humble and se
rious mind distress itself with the apprehension that sins committed after attendance are beyond the reach of forgiveness. The ordinance is indeed a powerful preservative from moral guilt, but it contains no charm to render is impeccable; and for any other than presumptuous and wilful offences we need not despair of pardon from him who knoweth our frame and remembereth that we are dust. Even these may be blotted out upon repentance, as we find in the case of the Corinthian offender. As little need it be apprehended, that the act cannot be performed acceptably, or must involve the guilt of unworthy receiving, if a certain time be not spent in particular preparation. Doubtless such an exercise is good, and may have beneficial effects—but the injunction of it as necessary, and the compilation of forms of devotion for that particular purpose, appear to me to have been productive of these bad consequences—that when a person, otherwise disposed to attend, has been prevented by unavoidable engagements from performing what has thus been laid down as indispensable, he has, rather than profane the ordinance by approaching it unprepared, thought it safer to absent himself entirely, which by degrees has grown into a habit; while in others, a strict attention to these preparatory forms, once, or perhaps twice in the year, has been substituted for that habitually regular, serious and devout frame of mind, which can at all times accommodate itself to the acceptable and profitable discharge of any religious duty; and which would shudder at the idea of atoning for the neglect of moral obligations at one time, by a scrupulous performance of any ritual institution, however solemn, at another. Upon the whole---it is our sincere desire and endea
vour to understand what were the purposes our Saviour had in view in this institution, and to fulfil them-to acknowledge his authority as head over all things unto his church, and to submit to il to show to the world that we are not ashamed of a crurified master, but look upon his death, however ignominious, as opening the way for him, and consequently for us, to glory, honour and immortality, and therefore worthy of being commemorated as an event of the utmost magnitude and importance. Equally solicitous are we to avoid what we are sure could not be the design of the author and finisher of our faith, in this plain and intelligible artion, this simple and easy injunction. Calling to mind the circumstances attending the original institution, we do not think we could add to its solemnity or impressiveness by any unusual posture of reverence, or costliness of decoration; and the lessons of love, which were then delivered, forbid the admission of any sentiments inconsistent with humility, gratitude and benevolence. We are not aware that any peculiar efficacy could be imparted to the bread and wine by any form of consecration, whether pronounced by any assistant, or by a person formally inducted by ordination into the clerical order. There is no warrant for this; for although Matthew and Mark, according to our common translation, use the term “ blessed,” the rendering ought to be, as in other places,'“ gave thanks,” which Christ could do to no other being than God the Father. To this precedent we are careful strictly to adhere. The true consecration, consequent hereupon, is that which every receiver must make to himself by suitable reflections, dispositions, and resolutions. Without these, the oblation, with what
ever pomp of words or forms introduced, would be vain. May I be permitted to add, that this service particularly and expressly accords with the sentiments we hold as to the unity and spirituality of God, and the humanity of Christ. Strong indeed must be that prejudice which cannot perceive in it an indelible line of distinction, between a body liable to wounds, bloodshed and death, and that onlyliving and ever-enduring Spirit wbom the beaven of heavens cannot contain, dwelling in light which none can approach, whom no man hath seen or can see. Great must be the difficulty to a reflecting mind, in persuading itself, that these two can be so inse parably united as to constitute one person, in which, to accomplish the sacrifice supposed to be made by the death of Christ, the priest, the victim, and the God, must be identically the same! Surely this persuasion cometh not of him that calleth us; but while it prevails, the preaching of Christ crucified will be to Jews a stumbling-block, and to deists and unbelievers foolishness. Let us however hope that when this darkness is dispelled, and the true light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ breaks forth in its native lustre, it will be to all, the foundation of saving faith-the power of God and the wisdom of God.
COMFORT UNDER THE LOSS OF CHILDREN.
JOB, xv. 11.
Are the consolations of God small with thee?
This was a question put to Job by one of his friends who remonstrated with him on the complaints he made, in the bitterness of his spirit, when the hand of God had touched him, and when in the most mov. ing terms he implored their pity. At the beginning of his troubles one affliction followed so quickly upon another, that he could not but perceive in them an immediate divine interposition. Habitually pious and devout, his thoughts took the direction which those of every good man in similar circumstances will take-he fell down upon the ground and worshipped, saying, “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away-blessed be the name of the Lord.” After this however we find him using language of a very different kind, and giving such vent to his grief, as if he thought himself hardly dealt with, and considered himself as made the mark against which Omnipotence had resolved to aim its weapons, merely to ex