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we must all pass, that cleansing of the conscience from evil works to serve the Living God, if we would secure here and hereafter a life unto God through JESUS CHRIST our LORD.
Let us then earnestly implore God's HOLY SPIRIT, that we may have grace given us to run with patience the race that is set before us, that we may not refuse to bear the cross which our SAVIOUR bore, to wait with calmness the hour when God shall be pleased to scatter the clouds of doubt and darkness by the light of His Gospel truth, and to look without fear to that grave whither Christ HIMSELF has gone before, the terrors and darkness of which he has and over which he has achieved the victory. If we be His disciples in aught but in name, we shall not repine under trials of desertion which He bore with a hundredfold intensity for our sake: neither shall we feel that death can have any real terrors for us, since He has overcome death. On the contrary, we shall regard the grave,
which to the natural man brings no idea but that of corruption and despair, as a place hallowed by His Presence: “by His Burial Christ hath, as it were, consecrated and perfumed all our graves, and instead of houses of perdition, hath made them places of rest and sleep,” so that in this view, even the grave of Christ is not without its consolation. This consolation, however, is only found in its connexion with subsequent events, with the resurrection and ascension of Christ to the right hand of God. We cannot claim to share the feelings of grateful admiration with which the disciples received the announcement that the LORD had risen indeed and had appeared to Simon, that God had not suffered His Holy One to see corruption, that the grave could not hold Him in its dark embrace ;
neither can we accompany them from the Mount of Ascension, returning with great joy, and praising and blessing God, unless we have schooled ourselves to the sober enjoyment of these great privileges, by a season of sorrow and humiliation. Christ our passover is slain for us, therefore let us keep the feast, yet with the bitter herbs of penitence and remorse. If we have duly and holily kept the solemn season of Lent; if, mindful of the exhortation of our Church at its commencement, we have made it a season of holy self-denial, of subduing unruly passions, of curbing sinful lusts, of strict examination and earnest prayer; if, during the holy week which we are now concluding, we have fixed our thoughts more eagerly, and have realized more vividly the Passion of our Blessed LORD; if, when His Sufferings were the greatest, if, when His sorrows were the the most touching, if, when His humiliation was the lowest, we have not shrunk from following His own example of self-devotion, but in anguish and bitterness of spirit have still clung to His side, and taken to ourselves the sin and the shame, the rebuke and the burden of His Cross; if we have never hesitated to confess that of those fearful trials which He bore, ours was the guilt, and ours the reproach, because it was our sin for which He died ;—then, as to Mary Magdalen, who remained with Him last and longest, His return was first told, and His Presence first vouchsafed, our reward will be found in a deeper and more spiritual enjoyment of the Feast which to-morrow's dawn will usher in to the Christian world : with hearts purified by the discipline of trial and temptation, with hearts in which by God's Grace we have crucified the old man with the affections and lusts, with hearts buried with Christ in His Death we shall arise to a more joyful remembrance of His Resurrection: with the ear of faith we shall hear His gracious voice, and with the eye of faith we shall behold His gracious Presence, and shall prove how He healeth those that are broken in heart, and comforteth those that are cast down, how He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and blesseth those that are of a humble and contrite spirit. “The bruised reed He will not break," but will appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified.
SERMON XLI. .
REVELATIONS i. 10.
I WAS IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD's DAY.
Such are the words of the last survivor of our Lord's Apostles. The Evangelist St. John, the beloved disciple, when in extreme age he was banished to the Isle of Patmos for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ, thus meditated. He “was in the Spirit on the LORD's Day.” Then came upon him that vision wherein he forecast the future fortunes of the CHURCH of God, and declared the words of Christ to the Angels or Bishops of the Seven Churches.
The day designed was no doubt the very day of the week, Sunday, which we observe in place of the seventh day, or Saturday, the season of the Jewish Sabbath. Yet it is remarkable that the appointment of this as the day of public worship, in place of that seventh day which by God's order was observed among the Jews, is not expressly commanded in any place of Holy Scripture. This was a law given by the Apostles, like attendance on the public worship of the Christian Church, or the rule of infant Baptism, or the committing the power of ordination to Bishops, and the ministration of the Holy Communion to Priests only, -and to such laws St. Paul refers in general when he bids the Christians of Thessalonica to “stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our Epistle.” These rules of Christ's Apostles some Christians neglect, because they do not find them written fully in Scripture; forgetting that they might as well observe the Sabbath with the Jews on Saturday, since they have no other ground than the command of the Apostles for transferring their worship to the Lord's Day.
But when St. John wrote, such things were not disputed; the whole Church was still one, as Christ had ordered it should be, and as it would be still, but for men's sins; and the various changes introduced by the Apostles were universally admitted. For they had changed divers Jewish rites into Christian. Instead of Circumcision they had put Baptism. Instead of a High Priest, Priests, and Levites, they had appointed in every chief city a Bishop, Priests, and Deacons. In every village they had put a Church, instead of the one Temple at Jerusalem. They had the sacrifice of the Holy Communion, instead of those sacrifices of animals, which Israel had continually offered year by year.
This was their remembrance of the Sacrifice of Christ, as the Jewish sacrifices had continually foreshown it. The New Testament had come in, if not in the place of the Old, yet to explain it. And so in like manner was it with the LORD's Day, which had taken the place of the Jewish Sabbath, as a day of rest and public worship.