« PreviousContinue »
it his own.
In a word, when we read of these things, we are taught by our Saviour HIMSELF what to think of. “Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you.” We must in some awful and mysterious way be made One with our Blessed Redeemer by eating His Flesh, and drinking His Blood; else that Blood, all-sufficient as it is, will not avail to our salvation. The Flesh and Blood of the Son of Man is as necessary to our spiritual life, as visible meat and drink to our bodily life. And in this sense, especially, He is our Paschal Lamb, in that He is not only sacrificed for us, but we are to keep the Feast by partaking of Him; at the peril, if we do not, of being cut off from God's people, and accounted to have broken His Covenant.
Now, can this awful and blessed Communion with CHRIST, which is indeed eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, can it be had any other way than by partaking of the Blessed Sacrament ? Certainly, I know of nothing in the whole Scripture which gives us any encouragement to think so. “Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood," said our LORD to the Jews of His time, "ye have no life in you.” And few months after, He gave the Blessed Bread and Wine to His Disciples with these very words : “ This is My Body which is given for you : this is My Blood of the New Testament, shed for you and for many.” Is it not as if He had said, “This is that Flesh and Blood of Mine, of which I told you some while since ?” Could they who received it possibly help understanding, that now they were to receive that very Flesh and Blood which had been promised them as the only means of spiritual life?
I do not see how any faithful Christian, seriously considering what is told us of our Lord's will, can reckon himself to be a partaker of His blessed Body and Blood, as long as he refuses this Divine and comfortable Sacrament. And if he have no good reason to account himself a receiver of Christ's Body and Blood, how can he have any comfort or tranquillity of mind, seeing that the words are so express, that without such eating and drinking he can have no life in him? If you really believe the Bible, you must believe this to be exactly true. And believe ing it, can you help wishing, at least, to be a worthy partaker of this holy Sacrament?
If you really wish this, will you not seriously attend to what St. Paul next teaches, of the manner in which Easter is to be kept, and the holy Body and Blood of Christ to be received ? This, I say, he teaches, as he had what went before, by a reference to the Jews' Passover. “Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." The appointed preparation for the Jews on the point of keeping their Passover, was putting away leaven out of their houses. For seven whole days they were to eat only unleavened bread. In the first instance, this was meant to remind them of the haste with which God brought them out of Egypt, when they took their dough before it was leavened. But it had also this other meaning: that in preparing to receive Jesus Christ, sacrificed for the sins of the world, men should labour, and strive, and pray, to cleanse themselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. For that is the old leaven of which the Apostle here makes mention; the corrupt nature and bad habits of men, filling them full of malice and wickedness. This, by the grace of Almighty God, must be in a way to be amended and removed; they must be sincerely endeavouring to obtain a new heart and a right spirit, and then they will be fit to keep the feast of Easter; then God, in His infinite mercy, will account them, however imperfect, worthy to receive the Bread of Life.
I fear that there are not many of us, who are used to go at all deeply into this thought of our own corruption. We all own it readily enough; we say, "of course we are wicked, as other people are:" and then we go on, well satisfied with ourselves, as if we had no great work to do, no pressing danger to avoid. But how would it be, if instead of this old leaven of sin, it were some painful or loathsome distemper—the plague, or the leprosy, or some malignant fever,—of which we found the seeds in our constitution, and knew that, if neglected, it would break out by and by, but if taken in time, might be thoroughly and effectually cured ? Should we then say, Of course we are infected, but so are a great many more; we will not take any trouble to cure ourselves ? No; we should most of us be anxious and busy in seeking out the best remedies. At least, when we began to feel the pain, we should look out for help in earnest, however negli
gent we might have been before. Well indeed is it for those who begin to be uneasy about themselves; who are no longer able to quiet their consciences by the saying that sin is a matter of course, and “ every child of Adam is corrupt.” Well is it for you, when, on reading or hearing of a world gone astray from God, you feel the thought come home to yourself, that “
you are one of that evil world, and what have you done that you
should be delivered from its curse ?" Well is it for you, when your heart is touched, to compare what you read or hear with the particulars of your own thoughts, words, and actions, and to acknowledge and ascertain how frightfully and how far they are all leavened with habitual sin. As soon as you are seriously aware of this—I do not say as soon as you feel it, as soon as you are able to talk about it—but as soon as you are calmly, deeply, thoughtfully, aware of your own great sinfulness and danger, you will naturally strive in earnest to amend ; you will not bear the thought of what you must be in the sight of the God of all purity; you will begin to pray heartily, not only for pardon through the Blood of our REDEEMER, but also for the grace of His Holy Spirit, to obey Him better in time to come. Accord ing to St. Paul's way of speaking in the text, when you have found on examination of your own thoughts, words, and actions, how very few of them, if any, are such as God is likely to approve, when you have found in them all, without exception, the bitter taste of the old leaven, then you will begin by His help to purge it out. But as long as you are contented with a mere general acknowledgment, or with talking bitterly about your sinfulness, and about poor fallen human nature, you will but be just where you are, or worse.
Now among the particulars in thought, word, and action, which most betray the old fatal leaven, St. Paul mentions here malice and wickedness ; which word "wickedness" in this place seems to mean properly 'fraud and cunning.' What if you try yourself, seriously and fairly, with respect to these two?
First as to malice. It is the commonest thing in the world to hear people say, they do not bear malice, they owe no man any ill will. seems to be the first thing that comes into their minds, when any thing happens to remind them of their last account. And they comfort themselves, I fear, a little sooner
than they ought, with the notion of their being free from malice.
For consider under what circumstances such professions are commonly made. Something or other has happened to alarm a person, and make him rather more serious than usual ; some sickness or other affliction is on him, and God's minister, or some good friend, warns him of what is to come hereafter. At such a time, whatever uncharitable dispositions he may have, are little likely to be present to his mind; then, if ever, he will feel softened; and if he think at all of those whom he has ever disliked, will seem to himself as if he thoroughly forgave them. But this is but feeling, and may be but fancy. When the man recovers from the sickness, when the sorrow passes away, then comes the real practical trial; then it is known by deeds, not words only, whether the malice be gone or no. That is the kind of proof you must look to, and not be satisfied with your feeling at the moment as if you had no uncharitable thought.
Malice, that is, ill nature, envy,grudging, is, as St. Paul here hints, like leaven : it is a subtle thing, mingling itself with many parts of men's conduct, where they little suspect it themselves. For example: you hear a neighbour praised for something on which you are apt to value yourself. Ask your own conscience fairly: do you feel no sort of pang, no jealousy or envy, at this ? Is it not too plain, that we are most of us inclined to repine at our neighbour's getting things which we think we might as well have had ourselves ? Now, whatever you may judge of it, this is the leaven of malice, and must be purged out; must be seriously repented of, and prayed against, if you would come worthily to the holy Table.
So in respect of that other kind of wickedness of which the great Apostle warns us,-fraud, falsehood, cunning, insincerity. It is what people generally can least endure to be charged with: to call a man a liar is the bitterest of all affronts : and those who would confess many faults will search far and wide, and invent all sorts of excuses, rather than plead guilty to this. And many seem to think, that if they affirm no direct falsehood, they are sufficiently purged from this sin; but surely they judge too hastily: there is a leaven of cunning as well as of malice, which is apt to mingle with all our conduct, and poison and infect it, and make it unworthy of God, to a degree far beyond what we can imagine, till we have really watched and tried ourselves. We get into mean, pitiful habits, of setting traps for our own praise; of contriving to take the best of every thing for ourselves; of getting off in all business with less than our share of expense, or trouble, or ill will. This is the leaven of selfish cunning, so worked into the daily behaviour of most men, that they are not themselves at all aware of it: they never, of course, dream of repenting of it.
By these two examples of malice and of cunning, we see how vain it is for people to talk and think highly of their own innocence, in any part of their conduct whatever. They could not do so, if they had any thing like a right understanding either of the Bible or of their own hearts and lives. The more diligently they compare the Word of God with their own daily conduct, the more faults they are sure to find. When, therefore, in examining yourself before the Holy Communion, you find your conscience, as you think, clear on this or that point, the safest way, perhaps, is to follow the example of St. Paul, who in such a case says of himself, “I know nothing against myself, but He that judgeth me is the Lord: therefore I judge not mine own self.” The safest way is, to be quite sure, that if we were better men than we are,-more humble and watchful, more experienced in true self-denial, we should perceive many faults in ourselves where now all seems to us right; and being sure of this, to humble ourselves accordingly, and cry with David earnestly and sincerely, “O cleanse Thou me from my secret faults !”
On the other hand, how many and how grievous soever the transgressions and bad tendencies we find in our past conduct, it ought not to discourage nor keep us from the Holy Communion, provided we have sincerely entered on the task of purging out that evil leaven. The bread which we are required to have in our houses, in order to partake of the Paschal Lamb worthily, is the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The sincere endeavour to please our Saviour in future He will accept, so great is His mercy, instead of unsinning obedience in times past. Let this then be the great object of your prayers to God's Almighty Spirit, that He would, for Jesus Christ's sake, make you true and sincere in serving Him. Pray to Him to make you sincere in your prayers, and watch withal, that your actions do not give the