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in the faith:” “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” Indeed, however sure it is, however firm the believer stands upon the rock of ages, Christian assurance is not of that kind, that needs no renewed examination. It is not a bold and fearless confidence, that having once upon sufficient evidence realised our interest in the death of Christ, and our union with him, has no further occasion to look into our security. There is too much within, and too much without, to shake the believer's faith and cloud his confidence, to admit of such a state. Safe he is, and safe he knows himself to be, for he has built his house upon a rock: but when the waters break beneath, and the tempest blackens above, he casts many an inquiring look upon the firm foundation on which his hopes are stayed. The most assured believer is only sure, because every inquiry brings the same gracious promise back; every fresh examination unfolds new proofs of Jesus' faithfulness and love, every fear that sin awakens, or Satan whispers, is allayed by the renewed witness of the indwelling Spirit. The church as well as the Scriptures requires all who “ do mind to come to the Lord's table to examine themselves,” but in neither is it said to prepare themselves. And I know that those persons whose indeterminate character, or unstable faith, or habitual infirmities of the flesh, keep them in uncertainty as to their acceptance with the Father, and union with the
Son, and vitality in the Spirit, are exactly the persons most likely to delude or to enslave themselves by what is called a preparation;-to mistake for principle a superindnced emotion, and trust their faith to periodical revivals.
Few things can be more adverse to a genuine growth in grace, than such a fitful culture, leaving to prolonged sterility the exhausted soil, and to speedy distaste the questionable fruits. We will even suppose a case, in which a season of preparation might seem the most necessary for the recovery of a right state of mind preparatory to the feast. Let it be, for example, the case of a Christian, whose mind has been so much occupied during the past weeks, that he has not had time to think about the condition of his soul, to realise his faith and penitence, or examine the state of his spiritual affections: and he hesitates in this condition to approach the Lord's table. Now this absorption of feeling in the things of time, has been wilful, or it has been providential. If wilful, nothing can be more injurious, than to suppose it may go on with certain or uncertain intervals of devotional leisure preparatory to the Sacrament. When it has unhappily occurred, it is to be deeply repented and deprecated for all time to come; not compensated by a week of preparation: this were indeed to live without God in the world, three weeks out of four. on the contrary, the pressure of occupation has been unusual and providential, I know no kinder
interposition of divine love for the healing and refreshing of the soul, than this Sacrament itself, no sweeter rest from the enforced labor, no holier, fitter opportunity to retrieve the unwilling declension of spiritual life. When can the hungry soul be so well prepared to feed, as when it has been long obliged to fast? When hasten to the fount with so much zest, as when the scorching sun and thirsty soil have drunk up all the streams? “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy-laden"-weary of earth's toils, and laden with its unwilling cares. Do not wait to appease your hunger, and sate your thirst before you come—the table is spread and the provision free; “ Take, eat,” to the strengthening and refreshing of your souls.
If it be necessary to consider another case, a still more painful case, to contemplate a period in the Christian's life, in which he who has been used to take these elements to his great and endless comfort, has lost the witness of the Spirit within him-lost the evidences of his title to partake of them; a period when he does not repent him of his former sins, believe the promises of God in Jesus Christ, or purpose to walk henceforth in the way of his commandmentsthat soul is in a position of misery and danger in which it cannot pause: there is more to do than to prepare for the Sacrament. The backslider has to make again his calling and election sure; to go again, as at the first, a contrite pro
digal to his father's house. For whatever he may have heretofore enjoyed, however sure he may heretofore have been of his acceptance, he can keep neither the joy nor the assurance, while he lives apart and defiles the temple of the Holy Ghost. “I am no more worthy to be called thy
Again he must assume the publican's part, for the seal of adoption is hidden on his brow. Happy if there be enough of memory left, to stimulate and encourage him to return. If this be the mind of such an one, under a full sense of his defection, self-known, and self-condemned. I do not know why the altar where the pledges of pardon and reconciliation are exhibited, should be an unfit place to throw himself again upon his Father's mercy, and receive again the tokens of forgiveness. But if the backslider be of another mind; if he feel no anguish, no compunction, no determination to leave his wanderings and return to God-we have spoken to this case before-he must not come at all-no preparation can make him fit to come, till grace has broken his heart.
I cannot but think, and it is the bearing of much that I have said, that there is a misapprehension in the minds of many Christians respecting the nature of this rite, injuriously affecting those who come, only less than those whom it unreasonably keeps away. It is not contemplated as a feast of love, a memorial exclusively of mercy. “Ye are not come unto the mount
that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tem
Our Christian communion is not one of those bloody sacrifices of the law, whereby was “remembrance again made of sins every year," neither an offering “of those gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience.” It is not even an exhibition of the wrath of God in the death of the only-begotten Son, to alarm the sinner, and impress upon the conscience the inevitable consequences of unforgiven sin. For if it were, a quite different company should be called together: the careless, the impenitent, the unbelieving, would be the fittest communicants, whose presence is now forbidden. No, if we are called at this gracious time to the remembrance of our sins, it is only to enhance the love that, far as the east is from the west, has put our iniquities from us. If we are made to confess them, it is only as a reckoning kept of debts that another pays, to estimate the sum we owe -of gratitude to the forgiver, not of penalty to the exacter of his dues. Unexpiated and unforgiven sin, justice and judgment and everlasting death, are not brought into sight at all by this exhibition of the death of Christ—else why are none bidden, but they who are pardoned, reconciled, and born anew; of whom the word says, " that they shall not come into judgment;"-of