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multitude of thy mercy; and in thy fear I will worship towards thy holy temple.' [Psalm xliii. 4; v. 7.]
These devout affections towards God are, on this occasion, necessarily accompanied with benevolent dispositions towards Our communion is not only with God, but with one another. In this solemn service, the distinction of ranks is abolished. We assemble in common before our great Lord, professing ourselves to be all members of his family and children of the same father. No feud, nor strife, nor enmity, is permitted to approach the sacred table. All within that hallowed space breathes peace, and concord, and love. If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.' [Matthew v. 23, 24.] What can be more becoming men and Christians, than such sentiments of piety to the great father of the universe; gratitude to the merciful Redeemer of mankind; and charity and forgiveness towards all our brethren? Is not this the temper in which a good man would wish to live; more especially, is not this the frame of mind, which will give both dignity and peace to his last moments? Peculiarly favourable to the acquisition of such a temper, are the devotions of this day. In this view, let us perform them; and study to be, at the table of the Lord, what we would wish to be, when the summons of death shall
II. This sacrament becomes a preparation for death, by laying a foundation for peace with God. What is important at the close of life, is not only the temper in which we leave the world, but the situation in which we stand with respect to that great Judge, before whom we are about to appear. This view of our situation is apt to escape us during the ordinary course of life. Occupied with the affairs and concerns of this world; flattered by those illusive colours of innocence and virtue, in which self-love dresses up our character, apprehensions of guilt create little uneasiness to the multitude of men. But, on the approach of death, remembered transgressions crowd upon the mind; and alarms, before unknown, begin to arise. Hence that anxiety in the prospect of a future invisible world, which is so often seen to attend the bed of death. Hence those various methods which superstition has devised
for quieting this anxiety; the trembling mind eagerly grasping every feeble plank on which it can lay hold, and flying for protection to the most unavailing aid. The stoutest spirits have been then known to bend; the proudest hearts to be humbled. They who are now most thoughtless about their spiritual concerns, may, perhaps, be in this state before they die.
The dispensation of grace, discovered in the gospel, affords the only remedy against those terrors, by the promise of pardon, extended to the penitent, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the very essence of this sacrament, to exhibit this promised grace to mankind; My body which was broken for you; my blood shed for many for the remission of sins. Here shines from above the ray of hope. Divine justice, we are assured, is not inexorable. Divine mercy is accessible to all who believe and repent. The participation of this sacrament, therefore, naturally imparts comfort to the worthy communicant; as it supposes, on his part, a cordial compliance with those terms, on which pardon is offered by the gospel to mankind.
I mean not to say, that the participation of this sacrament, how pious and proper soever our dispositions at that time may be, is, of itself, sufficient to ensure us of comfort at death. No single act of the most fervent devotion can afford assured hopes of peace with heaven, until these hopes be confirmed by the succeeding tenor of a good life. But what may safely be asserted, is, that communicating in a proper manner, makes way for such hopes. For this holy sacrament is a professed dereliction of former evil habits; a solemn return, on our part, to God and virtue, under the firm trust, that God will, through Jesus Christ, show mercy to the frailties of the penitent. If you continue to support the character which you assume at the Lord's table, the invisible world will no longer present to you a scene of terrors. After having finished a virtuous course, you will be able to look up to that God whom you have worshipped, and to say, I know in whom I have trusted. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff shall comfort me.'
III. This sacrament prepares us for a happy death, by strengthening the connexion between christians, and Christ their Saviour. This is a connexion which, in various ways,
redounds to their benefit; and will be found particularly consolatory at the hour of death. The awful Majesty of Heaven is in danger of overwhelming the mind, in the feeble moment of departing life. When we look up to it, through a Mediator and Intercessor, that Majesty assumes a milder aspect, and appears to invite our approach. Whatever, therefore, forms a connexion with this great Mediator, this powerful friend and patron of the human race, must be most desirable to every one, especially to the dying man. Now, this sacrament unites us closely with him. It is the oath of our allegiance. It is the act of enlisting ourselves under the banner of this Divine Leader. Of course it strengthens our faith in him, as our guide through life, and our guardian and protector in death. It gives us a title to look up to him, under the confidence of that reciprocal engagement, which fidelity on the one hand is always understood to imply, of protection on the other. His participation of our nature conveys a degree of encouragement, which we could derive from no being altogether celestial, how gracious or benign soever. In our utmost extremity, we can have recourse to his sympathizing aid, who had experience both of the distresses of life, and the terrors of death. We behold in the text, with what firm tranquillity he looked forward to his approaching sufferings. Sincere attachment to our great Master, may be expected to infuse into us some degree of the same happy composition of mind. Did we, according to our engagements at the Lord's table, keep our eye fixed on our Divine Leader, and study to follow his steps, a portion of his spirit would descend upon us at the hour of death. It would be as the mantle of Elijah, falling on a chosen disciple; and would enable us, as it did Elisha of old, to smite and divide the waters.-We believe our Saviour now to rule in the world of spirits. The grave, therefore, bars not his followers from access to him. In the grave, for our sake he once lay down, that he might dispel the gloom which appears to us to cover that formidable mansion. In a short time he rose from it, in order to assure us, that the dark and narrow house was not to confine his followers for ever. By his death, he conquered death, and him that had the power of it; and his voice to us is, 'Because I live, ye shall live also.' Hence, as long as we preserve that attachment to him, which in this sacrament we profess, we are furnished with a variety of con
siderations, proper for supporting us in the prospect of our dissolution. This leads me to observe,
IV. That the Sacrament prepares us for death, by confirming and enlivening our hope of immortality. In this sacrament, my friends, you act for both worlds. As inhabitants of the earth, you look forward with care, to your future behaviour in it: you are forming, and even strengthening, those connexions, which virtue requires you to maintain with your friends and fellow-creatures around you.-At the same time, you are not to consider yourselves as citizens of earth only, but also as citizens of Heaven. The sacrament of the supper is an ascent of the mind above terrestrial things. At the Lord's table we associate ourselves, in some degree, with spirits of a more exalted order. We declare, that we are tending towards their society; and have fixed our final rest within the veil. This view of the institution, so comfortable to the last period of life, is plainly given us in the words of the text. For it is worthy of particular observation, that as soon as our Lord had instituted this sacrament, he straightway leads the thoughts of his disciples to a state of future existence. Employing that metaphorical style, which the occasion naturally suggested, he tells them, that though he was not henceforth to drink of the fruit of the vine on earth, yet a day was coming, when he was again to drink it with them; to drink it, in his Father's kingdom. Two distinct ideas are, in these words, presented unto us. One is, the abode into which our Saviour was to remove; his Father's kingdom.' The other, the society which he was there to enjoy with you in my Father's kingdom.' These correspond to the two views, under which death is most formidable to men; both of which he intended to banish by the institution of this sacrament; first, that death is a transition to a new and unknown world; and next, that it is a final separation from all the friends whom we have loved on earth.
First; if death terminates our existence here, the abode to which it translates the faithful followers of Christ, is the kingdom of his Father. The institution of this sacrament dispels all the gloomy ideas of annihilation, of non-existence, of total darkness, which our imagination is ready to associate with the grave. We are here assured that, to good men, death is not the close of being, but a change of state. They have every reason to believe, that the objects which are to meet them there,
how new and unknown soever, shall all be propitious and friendly. For into the kingdom of his Father, their Lord has declared, that he is entered as their forerunner. I go to my Father, and your Father: to my God, and your God. In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.' What reasonings, what speculations, can have power to impart so much peace to the dying man, as a promise so direct and explicit, coming from him, who is truth itself, and cannot lie. If it were not so, I would have told you.' [John xiv. 2.] The prospect becomes still more cheerful and relieving, when we include The other circumstance mentioned in the text; the society to be enjoyed in that future state of being. With you I shall drink of the fruit of the vine in my Father's kingdom.' In how amiable a light does our Saviour here appear, looking forward to a future re-union with those beloved friends, whom he was now leaving, as to a circumstance which should increase both his own felicity and theirs, when they met again in a happier world! Thus, in a most affectionate manner, cheering their drooping and dejected spirits; and, by a similar prospect, providing for the comfort of his followers in future generations, when they should be about to leave the world.
The expressions in the text plainly suggest a joyful intercourse among friends, who had been separated by death, and therefore seem to give much confirmation, to what has always been a favourite hope of good men; that friends shall know and recognise each other, and renew their former connexions, in a future state of existence. How many pleasing prospects does such an intimation open to the mind! How much does it tend to compensate the vanity of life, and to mitigate the sorrows of death! For it is not to be denied, that one of the most bitter circumstances attending death, is, the final separation from beloved friends. This is apt equally to wring the hearts of the dying, and the surviving; and it is an anguish of that sort, which descends most deeply into the virtuous and worthy breast. When, surrounded with an affectionate family, and weeping friends, a good man is taking his last adieu of all whom he held most dear on earth; when, with a feeble voice, he is giving them his blessing, before he leaves them for ever; when, for the last time, he beholds the countenance, he touches