« 上一頁繼續 »
this notion, when spread and diffused throughout the thoughts and opinions of the world, it has come at length to be supposed that the religion of a Christian is an affair of the thoughts only. Men fancy, “ I have only to believe, I have only to think myself saved through Christ, and I am safe; thinking is everything, and other things are of little moment comparatively. Whether I attend the sacrament or not does not much matter. It will not do me harm certainly, but it cannot do me much good. I can think the same whether I go to it or not, and thinking is the great thing.'
This is a mistake, my brethren. Thinking rightly is a good beginning, but it is not all. Truth has many sides ; and to find out all truth we must see it upon all sides. To look on one side only is to turn truth itself into a lie. It is truth that we must believe in Christ and think of Him as our Saviour. But it is truth also that we must worship Him as He Himself requires. And how does He require that we should worship Him? Has He not said, “Do this in remembrance of me?" ' Exhibit my death in bread and wine. Worship ine as I am seated on my throne in the symbols which are figures of my sacrifice. Come to my feast and pay me honour there.' Are not these as much the words of Christ as those words in which faith is ex. tolled and magnified ? It is quite true that we must have faith, but it is not less true that we must “keep the feast,” in remembrance of our Saviour's sacrifice.
Again. We must live. We must have our faith increased by supplies sent from Heaven. We must be nourished upon spiritual food. This is absolutely needful. If we have not spiritual food continually given faith must die out, and our souls must perish. But how are our souls to feed ? “He that eateth me,"
says our Lord, “shall live by me;" he that eateth me as I give myself at the holy table, he shall live. It is quite true that man lives by faith, but it is just as true that faith is fed by Christ upon the spiritual food of the divine sacrament.
Is it not plain then, brethren, that he who so thinks of faith as to set it in opposition to the grace of sacraments, does not really know what faith is? Is it possible,- I put it to you, is it possible,to believe that Christ died, is it possible to have this truth before us, clearly, palpably before us, as a living, everlasting fact on which our hearts live, and yet at the same time to say, “I will not remember it? I will turn my back upon that holy table at which it is exhibited in sign and sacrament.' Do you think, my brethren, that such a manifest contradiction as this is possible? No; the faith which can thus behave,-a weak, cold, dead, indifferent faith like this, a faith which is thus divorced from love and obedience,-is not a reality; it is faith in name; it is the shadow of faith; it is faith's ghost; to speak the plain truth, it has in it so little of a true faith that it is not faith at all. II. There is another mistake. Men look
the supper of the Lord as a kind of religious delicacy, and then go on to suppose that those who partake of this rare luxury must be men of higher attainments than those which are ordinarily required in Christians, Men think, “If I become a communicant I must also become particularly good. And therefore seeing that I quite despair of ever rising to this conspicuous emi. nence I must not communicate at all.'
Now, it is quite true that the supper to which God invites us is a grand and sumptuous entertainment. It is "a feast of fat things.” “Oxen and fatlings are
killed," and the host says to his guests, "Eat, О friends; drink, yea drink abundantly, o beloved." There is no lack of good cheer, for the food which men there eat is “angels' food," and the bread is sent from Heaven. It is a King who gives the banquet and it is a banquet fit for kings. “Take, eat, this is my Body," o drink ye all of this, for this is my Blood,” are the words of Him who gives the banquet. The food is His own Body. The wine is His most precious Blood. But splendid as the feast is, there is no narrowness in the terms of invitation. “ Go out into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in hither the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind.” These are the guests. There are no selected favourites in Heaven. Whatever man may be, “God is respecter of persons,” but “in every nation he that doeth righteousness is accepted with Him.” Every man is asked. The banquet hall is vast as eternity, and there is room in it for all that great world which Christ redeemed. There is but one thing which God cares for, and that is that His house should be filled. And with whom suppose ye that He fills it? Does He fill it with spiritual giants, with men supereminenty towering above the common stature, with extraordinary saints ? I ask you, if these are the men who are to fill it, could it ever be filled with such as these at all? No, my brethren; there will be plains and valleys in Heaven, as well as mountains rising to the skies ; and that table is meant for men of all sorts and all sizes,—for ordinary men struggling by faith with all the cares and difficulties of life, as well as for those rare examples of illustrious holiness which God sometimes sends to gladden and illuminate the earth.
The fact is, the feast though a feast is a necessity, The food is bread; that is the name which our Lord gives it,-bread. It is the soul's “ daily bread.” We are the sons of a King, and we fare as kings fare. Their life is spent among abundant luxuries. Delicacies to them are common food. So is it with us; we fare sumptuously every day upon bread which God sends to us from Heaven. Christ our passover is sacrificed for us, and we are nourished upon all the dainties of that high and spiritual feast. But it is bread,—not a luxury or a dainty, but a necessity,– bread.
And as the food is a necessity, so every one is fit to eat of this food who is fit to bear the name of Christian. What does the Catechism teach us that a communicant must do? He must repent of sins past. He must have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ. He must have a thankful remembrance of Christ's death. He must live in charity. In all this. what is there extraordinary? What is there in this which is not binding upon every person who is called after the name of Christ. Repentance; is there a man who will take on him to say, 'I am not called to repentance ? Faith ; is there anyone who thinks that he is free from the duty of believing? Gratitude ; will a single man declare, 'I have no reason to be thankful ? Charity; and are not all men bound to love each other? Well then, to repent, to believe, to be thankful, to love,--the four requisites to communion,—what is there extraordinary in them? Are we bound to them as Christians, whether we communicate or not? Is every Christian bound to repentance, faith, love, gratitude? If he is,-and I should like to know the man who would take upon himself to deny the obligation,—then he who has these things is worthy to communicate, and the act of communion does not entail upon him a new obligation, but only reminds him of those ancient obligations which already as a Christian he has acknowledged and confessed. We are as truly bound to serve God before we have communicated as after we have there renewed our promises. The difference is that we render to Him in that service the homage and the gratitude which is due to Him for His amazing love, and receive in it, if we are fit communicants, the grace which we need to make us holy and the strength by which we are enabled to perform our vows.
These, I believe, are some of the chief mistakes which keep men from occupying the place which God offers them at the rich “ banquet of His Flesh and Blood.” Men think that faith alone will do without the sacrament, or they think that the sacrament is meant for none but those who profess to be eminently righteous, and who may indulge themselves in what I have called the luxuries of grace. I have shown that these opinions are erroneous, and I trust that those who see that they have been mistaken will confess their error and accept the invitation to the feast. I have spoken of mistakes, honest, ignorant mistakes. I have not been answering excuses, whether blunt excuses, like that of him who said coarsely, “I cannot come,” or civil excuses, like those which were offered when it was said, “I pray thee have me excused ;" for I do not think that good can be effected by any answer of mine to reasons such as these. If men are so blind as to think that they can deceive God, or that God will accept excuses about present hindrances to be removed hereafter, or insuperable obstacles which cannot now