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On the previous Sabbath, an invitation has been given, at the command of Jesus Christ himself, to the whole congregation. He has told them that he "
purposed, through God's assistance, to administer to all such as should be religiously and devoutly disposed, the most comfortable sacrament of the body and blood of Christ.” He has bid them all in God's name; and has told them that “he, for his
art, will be ready.” He may also, in the course of his personal address from the pulpit, have laid before them the obligation under which they labour, the great comfort and blessing which God sends with it, the value of the ordinance, the absolute necessity of its continued and repeated participation. have urged, admonished, warned, denounced, exhorted, persuaded — and yet, after all, after God's will has been rehearsed in their hearing, after the creed containing the sacred mysteries of Christ incarnate, crucified, and risen, has been delivered from God's altar, and the congregation, with their voices and their amen, have borne outward testimony of their faithnay, with the very table before them covered with the holy vessels of the church, which shew them of the feast shortly to take place, the font at which they were pledged to God as children, the altar, at which by their confirmation they ratified the pledge in their own persons, the glory of God surrounding the place with hal
lowed separation-all this before their minds, and before their senses, they yet steal away from the church, their prayers unfinished, their minds worldly and carnal, their vows and pledges broken, with no blessing from their minister, with no fellowship with their brethren, with no remembrance of their Saviour. Would that this were not a true picture! Would that we could see our congregations, whole and unbroken, thronging the altar steps with anxious aspirations. Then might we boast of a church flourishing and vigorous; of a church at unity in herself, a church which loved their Saviour in deed as well as in profession.
The sermon being concluded, and those few who do remain, being ready, the minister returns to the altar for the actual communion. And first, certain sentences from scripture are read, which constitute
enjoining the duty of charity and alms-giving. *
* The duty of alms-giving is of course acknowledged by every Christian, and the origin of the exercise of this duty at the time of communion, is no doubt from St. Paul : “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him.” 1 Cor. xvi. 2. In the 2nd chapter we have already seen passages from Justin Martyr and from Cyprian, who testify to the observance of the duty in their time; and it has so continued through all ages. See also the
Having expressed in the creed the principles of our Christian faith, we now exhort one another to shew forth that faith in actual works, because “ faith, without works, is dead, being alone.” At the first commencement of the Christian church, a community of goods was an essential doctrine. We read in the 4th chapter of the Acts, “Neither was there any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet, and distribution was made unto every man, according as he had need."* It is very probable that this collection of property was made during the celebration of the Lord's Supper; a time when their hearts, knowing no inequality in point of spiritual communion, would know no inequality in point of worldly wealth. In after times, when the church was more enlarged, and the principle of community of goods ceased to be entertained, we still find the collection of alms retaining its place in the celebration of the Eucharist; and because, in the persecuted and uncertain state of the Christians, the clergy and ministers
following sentences, in addition to those quoted in the Book of Common Prayer: Gen. iv. 3; Exod. xxv. 2; Deut. vi. 10; 1 Chron. xxix. 14. 17; Neh. x. 32; Psalm xcvi. 7, 8; Mark xii. 41; Acts xxiv. 17.
* Acts iv. 34.
of the word were in general without means of subsistence, save from the donations of charity, the alms so collected were used principally for their maintenance. Even in our own church we may see this principle maintained from many of the sentences inserted in the offertory. “ Who goeth a warfare at any time of his own cost? Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock ?" 1 Cor. ix. “ If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great matter if we shall reap your worldly things.” 1 Cor. ix. “Let him that is taught in the word, minister unto him that teacheth in all good things.” Gal. vi. “Even so hath the Lord also ordained, that they who preach the gospel, should live of the gospel.” 1 Cor. ix.
The circumstances of our present church are certainly of a different character from the time when the primitive teachers of Christianity, in the midst of persecution and personal danger, depended for daily subsistence on the contributions of their flocks,—but not so different but that it might be advantageous to restore, in some degree, the reading of those sentences, and the appropriation of the gifts to such purposes as those sentences would seem to imply. If no such possibility had been contemplated, why should our reformers, at the time the liturgy was constructed, have thought fit to retain them? Why should there be one word remaining in our beautiful forms of church service rendered ineffective by disuse? The rubric says: “ After the divine service ended, the money given at the offertory shall be disposed of to such pious and charitable uses as the minister and churchwardens shall think fit.”
It does not, then, appear that this money is to be given without exception to the lowest class of the poor in a direct manner, but it may be for any pious use which indirectly affects them; such as the maintenance of schools or hospitals; and it would be exceedingly desirable if we could in any way restore even the original intention of the offertory, and set apart some portion of it for the maintenance of poor ministers, for the sending missionaries to foreign countries, for the provision even of more clergy in our own country, for the aged widows or orphan children of poor curates, and many other such uses as would strictly come under the term of the rubric, pious uses, as well as charitable. In that case we could restore the reading of those sentences; and it would surely be a delightful consideration, both for the communicants and for the ministering clergy to remember that these gifts would then, as partly set apart with Zacchæus for the poor, so partly would be set apart as the “milk of the flock,” for them who "feed the flock.” There are many expressions throughout the service that decidedly bear out