Page images

act of communion; and he would further allow, that self-examination, though sometimes performed in a less degree, would not subject us to the dreadful imputation of offering an affront to the body and blood of Christ. There is indeed one, and there is but one sense of the word, in which I should contend for examination, as, not merely salutary, but obligatory upon communicants. I will deliver my opinion in the words of a celebrated lexicographer: “Let him examine himself, not as to what he has done or left undone in time past, but as to his present intention in that which he is about to do as a communicant at the Lord's Supper."* If we explore, as he says, and examine ourselves as to the manner in which, and the purpose for which, we celebrate the Lord's Supper, such an examination I would seriously advise-such examination you would easily make; and having made it, you will derive from it the most beneficial effects.

Suppose that in the ordinary course of life, any of you have been more or less addicted to intemperance, to lewdness, to lying, to profaneness, to injustice, to cruelty, and to that vice-that odious vice, which so often besets us, so secretly beguiles us, so fatally depraves us, I mean the vice of envy; my brethren, conscience in some degree will be awakened when we take in our hands the sacramental cup. At the moment, we shall remember more distinctly and we shall feel more intensely any

Δοκιμαζέτω δε άνθρωπος εαυτόν quidlibet examinet et ex. ploret se, quo consilio et animo ad cænam sacram accedat. See Schleus, in voce.

your minds

of those sins, than we, in all probability, remembered and felt them the day before. We shall be conscious of some wish at least, that they had never been committed. We shall involuntarily and irresistibly, begin to form some resolution not to commit them again. Surely, I may appeal to the experience of all who hear me, for the accuracy of this statement; and therefore I would exhort all of you to distinguish the Lord's Supper from a common meal, that

may be disposed towards the importance of amendment, towards the hope of mercytowards such unfeigned and fervent supplication, that your amendment may be progressive and preparatory for the final completion of your hope to obtain such mercy.

To conclude–The substance of the lesson, which I am now endeavouring to inculcate, will be found in the reasonable principles, in the perspicuous statements, in the hallowed phraseology of the sacramental service itself. Hear then the excellent words of our Church :

“Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways, draw near with faith, and take this holy sacrament to your comfort ; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, meekly kneeling on your knees.”

These conditions are clear to every one of you and practicable by every one of you. He that sincerely and devoutly endeavours to comply with

those conditions will not receive the Sacrament unworthily, though he should not have examined himself with the rigour which has been indiscriminately recommended by inconsiderate teachers, and which, hy too many hearers, has been thought a qualification so very necessary, that the want of it would make your faith in Christ, your thankfulness to God, and your charity to mankind at the Lord's table wholly unavailing; or as many

of you may have imagined, as deeply dangerous to your final salvation. On the contrary, with the qualifications just now recommended, you may look for all the benefits of Christ's passion. You will find yourselves confirmed and strengthened in all goodness; you may hope to be pardoned from all your sins. Knowing that you have been lovingly called and bidden by God himself, and that it is your duty to receive the communion in remembrance of Christ's death as he has himself commanded, you may kneel at the altar, and retire to your homes with the well-founded expectation that this act by which you thankfully acknowledge the exceeding great love of your Master and only Saviour Jesus Christ, thus dying for you, will be most efficacious in giving to your souls the most valuable comforts here, and in bringing you hereafter to everlasting life.




MATTHEW x. 34.

Think not I am come to send peace on earth : I came not to


but a sword.

Do these words breathe the spirit of Mahomet, or of Christ ? Were they uttered by a cunning and audacious impostor, who, in order to gratify his ambition, and to satiate his cruelty, trampled upon every law of justice? Or shall we ascribe them, in the most invidious sense, to a teacher who firmly rejected every proffered honour, and whose distinguishing characteristic was, that he went about doing good?

In the solution of this seeming difficulty, I shall first explain at large what probably is not, and what really is, the import of the words themselves; secondly, I shall obviate some speculative objections, which may arise in the minds of those by whom my interpretation is admitted; thirdly, I shall consider how far the declaration of Christ has been accomplished, in the tumultuous divisions of the Christian world; and, lastly, I shall examine into the more secret and efficacious causes of those divisions. But my present discourse will be confined to the two first heads proposed for our consideration.

Now if our blessed Lord could for a moment be supposed, by any virtuous man, to have spoken the words of my text in the very offensive signification which some profligate persons have asssigned to them, it must at the same time be confessed that he, in the whole course of his life, acted, and professed to act, in direct contradiction to them. Ought we not then to hesitate, at least, before we ascribe deliberate cruelty to a teacher, whose readiness to instruct the ignorant, to relieve the distressed, and to comfort the afflicted, is marked in the strongest and most amiable features ? Surely a candid man would be apt to imagine that such extraordinary language was called up by some extraordinary occasion; and that it possibly contained the declaration of some providential appointment on the part of God, whose will it was the professed business of Christ to unfold. To evade, however, the force of the argument, which is founded on the known benevolence of Christ, we may have recourse to a new supposition, and say, that Christ, having employed gentleness and meekness in the first introduction of his religion, was resolved to propagate it by the very opposite measures. The resolution itself is most improbable, and the means employed to give it effect are utterly irreconcileable to common sense. For, if it was indeed the settled pur

« PreviousContinue »