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OF THOSE THAT COME WORTHILY.
Jesus had to conquer what he had bought so dear. There was not an entrance but was barred against him, and sin, and death and hell were at the gates! Do we say were there? They are there still! Step by step, one by one, the blessed Lord has had to win his own; his own unwilling, resisting, refusing:-“Behold, I stand at the door and knock." By patient and long-suffering p'ty; by warnings forgotten and promises disbelieved; by his disputed word, by his resisted Spirit, by his despised and persecuted servants; by patient pleadings of unrequited love, and ceaseless prayers before the Father's throne, the Saviour conquers out his scant inheritance, and brings to submission a reluctant people. Oh! think if he does not love them! And does his work end here? When he has bought, and conquered, and entered into possession—when he has fenced it and planted it, and hedged it round, and built a tower in the midst–in the communion of his separated church, in the little company of his regenerate people, does the blessed Redeemer come into his fair garden to see the grapes cluster and the wine-press flowing, and find all fruitfulness and beauty round him?
No. His purchase is a spot of sterile earth; his conquest is an untamed wilderness. It is like those fastnesses of unknown lands which earthly princes sell or give away to whoever can find or conquer them: they must fell the
forest before they can have a dwelling-place, or gather any harvest of their fields. More easy task! for these at least find materials for their work. But Jesus, when he comes into the heart, finds nothing-nothing but what is against him; perverted intellect, and adverse habits, and preoccupied affections: full, full to the very extremity of things inimical. In a pestilent air and an ungracious soil, the Saviour cultivates his precious garden; precious indeed, if valued by its cost; most precious, if by the love he has manifested for it. By his word, too slowly learned; by his Spirit, too often grieved; by judgments provoked and blessings undervalued, and opportunities and ordinances neglected, this never-wearied husbandman plies his loving toil. For a confiding, trusting, and rejoicing people? No! Let the heart of every believer answer for itself, what sort of love does love like this beget? Suspicious, anxious, apprehensive; wanting fresh proofs of love so dearly proved; and when he grants them, doubting, doubting still: doubting, lest he who loved should change his mind, and rid himself of his too costly purchase. Oh, if its worthlessness could do it;-if ill-requiting could have changed it--if he had not from all eternity foreseen that those he died for, would be afraid to trust him, and borne upon his cross this deadliest sio of all; he never need have left his Father's throne, for not a sinner had been saved! We do not know
but I could think, for Jesus was a manthat on that night in which he was betrayed, at that funereal supper-so sad, so sorrowful; I could think it was not the treachery of Judas that was heaviest on him; for Judas was none of his, he was not about to expiate Judas' sin: Peter's denial, and Thomas's unbelief, and the strife, and cowardice, and abandonment of all, were in the Saviour's thoughts, when he took bread, and brake it, and gave it to his disciples. And if the eye of his omniscient Godhead looked at that moment through the extent of time, and saw in every future communion of his saints, how few would justly estimate his love, or come in full assurance of his truth; what fearful, unwilling, unconfiding communicants would come, what unblest, uncomforted, unthankful ones would go away; surely had his love been any thing less than infinite, it would have died before it cost him life! Our subject overbears us; I wished to take some measure of the Saviour's love, I wished to express the little I can think of its immeasurable greatness. But I have failed, I have said less than I know, which yet is all but as a drop to the unbounded ocean. Perhaps it is like the traveller's first vision of the distant Alps, he is only sure he sees them, and that they as much exceed his expectations, as they exceed all other things he sees.
Such a one is He who has made a supper, and
bade many-bade all; for as there is but one name under which salvation is offered to mankind--the name of sinner-he amongst us who cannot claim that title, alone can say he has received no invitation. But because Jesus knows whereof we are made; the mortal darkness of our spiritual sense, our inaptness to perceive the things unseen, and keep in mind what only faith lays hold of, he has clothed in sensible images eternal things, making outward and visible signs a means of intercourse between Himself who is a spirit, and man who is but dust. “To the end that we should always remember the exceeding great love of our Master and only Saviour Jesus Christ, thus dying for us, and the innumerable benefits which by his precious blood-shedding he hath obtained to us; he hath instituted and ordained holy mysteries, as pledges of his love, and for a continual remembrance of his death, to our great and endless comfort.” The terms in which we are bidden to the sacramental ceremony, are the same in which we are invited to the cross of Christ; our title to partake of it is the same as our title to the benefits of his death. The preparation on our part is the same, the fitness the same, the state of mind the same, and the perceptible effects the same, as required of them who come to Christ: and the exclusion, if either we come not, or coming not aright, be finally cast out, will be in either case the same. “ Ye will not come unto me that ye might have
life;"_“not discerning the Lord's body;" — “not having on a wedding garment."
Viewing the Sacrament thus, I cannot contemplate the necessity of a ceremonial preparation for it. The state in which a believer habitually lives is the state in which he is required to appear at the table; and there is no moment of our spiritual course in which we can safely be unfit for the worthy receiving of the bread and wine. I mean safely as to our own perception of our condition in Jesus Christ. Who is safe in the eternal purpose of the Most High, whose name is written where there never shall be found a blot, is God's own secret; the believer reads his name, his new name, written on the fleshly tablets of a regenerated heart; he sees it, as we see the star of night upon the clear smooth waters; no vague uncertain indication of what is reflected from above, though liable to be darkened by intervening clouds, or broken by the perturbation of the waters. We know it will be answered in favor of a preparation, that the state of a Christian is no such definite thing; the greater number of those who come and ought to come to the Lord's table, are of doubtful minds whether they be in Christ or not-whether or not they are living a life of faith, and walking not after the flesh but after the Spirit. This indeed is more true than it ought to be; and it is far from my desire to discountenance self-examination. “ Examine yourselves whether ye be