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of grace the fact is still the same—God uses instruments for a work exclusively his own. We speak with reverence when we say the Holy Spirit is the first great Agent–because, though it is Scripture language, inasmuch as God is continually said to work by the Spirit, to give the Spirit, &c., we must never forget that the Holy Spirit himself is God, and therefore, cannot assume the character of a second cause. This first great agent of redeeming grace does sometimes work without the interposition of secondary
He probably so acted upon the minds of them of old, in what we understand by inspiration-immediate and direct communication to the heart. He may so act when his holy influence blows where it listeth, and we hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. But we know that this is not generally the case: the reading of the Scripture, or some other book—the preaching of the Gospel--the arguments and influence of pious friends, some striking act of Providence, religious ordinances, sickness, suffering or misfortune, may almost always be remarked as the means made use of to bring us to the knowledge of salvation, to mature our faith, and make us meet for heaven; though all that is effectual in these things, is from first to last, the work of God, by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
How vain, then, is man, that he should neglect or despise even the least probable means of spi
ritual benefit. The most casual providence, the most inefficient preacher, the most imperfect service, provided the truth of God be exhibited in them, may be made the instrument of bringing divine life into the soul, or cherishing it there. We know not what healthful influences we throw away, when from some motive of earthly profit or convenience, we remove ourselves from the society of God's people, from the pure preaching of the Gospel, the use of ordinances, and opportunities of public worship.
In the communion of the body and blood of Christ we have a means of grace that stands on the highest ground. It is a divine appointment -a positive command; and yet, who has not passed the doors of a church at the moment when the congregation are pouring out, hundreds after hundreds, on the crowded pavement? The old, the sick —they do not look as if they would live to come again: the young, the gaya long and perilous journey is before them: the rich-how hardly shall a rich man enter the kingdom of heaven: the poor--at least the poor have need of consolation! But they are all gone: it is too common a sight to wonder at: the service is ended. No, indeed it is not. The doors have been closed upon a few score suppliants, whose voices echo through the vacant space---some solitary ones here and there in the lately crowded pews, shivering in the sudden depopulation. What are they about? Nothing
extraordinary—it happens every month—they are staying for the Sacrament! Eternal Being, is thine eye intent upon this place, and dost thou see nothing extraordinary in the scene Are these the only ones of all that crowd, for whom thy blood was shed, thy body broken, thy feast provided, and thy welcome given? These all the sinners in danger of forgetting thee, or sufferers that stand in need of comfort, or dying ones exposed to condemnation! It is not yet the time when thou wilt command that they shut to the door, and exclude for ever those that are not ready: it is not thy doing that these hundreds, these christian hundreds turn their backs upon thy table! Suppose for a moment we could come with authority to the churchdoor-human authority-all would listen then —and require that no one should pass out till they had inscribed upon a tablet their reason for not staying to receive the holy communion at this appointed time. How would it read? Of the greater number, the reply would be, “We have no particular reason-we never thought of staying-we never stay the Sacrament.” Without a reason, and without a thought, they neglect a divine command: refuse to partake of an ordinance ordained by Christ himself, and pronounced by their own church necessary to salvation. We might well inquire why they call themselves Christians, and come to worship in this place? They of old who would not eat of the Paschal
Lamb at the appointed times, were to be cut off from the congregation of the people. Another number, a considerable number would put it thus—“We stay three times a-year-we never neglect to stay at Christmas and other particular seasons." This is indeed better, but so small an appetite is scarcely a sign of health: we are not thought to thrive when our food produces satiety
- it is not the hungry guest, nor yet the loving one that seldomest returns to eat and drink with Us. We might ask of these, why at those particular seasons they accept the benefits they now refuse. “We are engaged--we are in haste this morning.” But surely they forget: this is no working-day, they will break other laws presently to be relieved of the wearisome hours that remain. “We are not prepared, we are not fit to stay.” Poor sinners! Jesus has tenderest pity for the tears that should have blotted that sentence while you wrote it—a Saviour's eye has watched your trembling hand while you inscribed that sentence against yourself-He has thought upon the anguish of his soul when he too felt the weight of unforgiven sin-when Satan and the powers of darkness had their hour with him, as they have now with you. It is most likely true!--you are not prepared, you are not fit to stay! But do you indeed know it? Do you feel that you are not his—that you have no faith to feed upon his flesh, or penitence to seek remission from his blood-that you do not
know if he has died for you, or if there is any virtue in his death to save—that you have not examined yourselves whether you repent you of your former sins, stedfastly purposing to lead a new life?—nay, it was not necessary to examine-a thought is sufficient; you know you do not. It is most likely so-and you must go away: we cannot tell you otherwise--for this time you must go away: And may the Spirit write upon your heart the sentence you have given. Jesus is long-suffering and of great goodness—he willeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn to himn and live: this may not, through his mercy, be the last time you will be invited to his table: that door which has been closed behind you, may not be the one which the unready will knock at eternally in vain. But lest you abide contented with the condition in which you know yourselves to be, bear with a word of truth concerning it. It is here, under your own hand, that you are unfit for heaven-unprepared to die-unrepentant, unbelieving, unforgiven -and of course condemned to everlasting death. There is a remedy, but you refuse it-an invitation, but you will not accept ita command, but you will not obey it. “Look unto me and be ye saved." “All things are ready-come unto the marriage: but they made light of it, and went their ways; one to his farm, another to his merchandise.”
The crowd is dispersed, the street is silent,