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this consideration: "Whilst these sentences are in reading, the deacons, churchwardens, or other fit person appointed for that purpose, shall receive the alms for the poor, and other devotions of the people." Now, here it is plain that there is something besides the ordinary alms-" other devotions ;" and it is plain that this collection of alms is distinct from the actual communion of bread and wine, for we see in the very next direction: "And when there is a communion, the priest shall then place upon the table so much bread and wine as he shall think sufficient:" so that the alms may be collected without the communion, though the communion cannot be without the alms. Again, in another place: "And if any of the bread and wine remain unconsecrated, the curate shall have it to his own use." And again, it is said: "And yearly at Easter every parishioner shall reckon with the parson, vicar, or curate, or his or their deputy or deputies; and pay to them or him all ecclesiastical duties accustomably due, then and at that time to be paid."
Now, all these rubrics inserted throughout the service, and the latter one, from which the custom of Easter offerings to the minister unquestionably depends, convey the same meaning as above stated; that in some degree the offerings of the Eucharistic service, even now, as well as in primitive times, should look to
those who serve at the altar, and to the general promotion of religion throughout the world.
bread and wine upon
We may as well notice here, that the gifts of the people consisted, in primitive times, not of money, but of those fruits of the earth which each man's situation in the world enabled him to offer; more particularly wine, grapes, corn, and bread. Out of this, the priest selected such a portion as he thought necessary for the elements of the sacrament, and the rest was set aside for those charitable purposes above-mentioned. We must attend to this, because there is now a careless and erroneous custom in many of our churches of placing the the Lord's table before the commencement of the service, and by the hands of laymen, the clerk, or the churchwarden-whereas the whole intention and spiritual meaning of the oblation is this: The people make an offering to God, and out of that offering a portion is selected by the minister to be laid upon the altar for the purpose of the sacrament. The priest, therefore, having received it from the people, should lay it upon the altar with his own hands, as sanctifying the gift in the sight both of God and of the congregation. For it should always be remembered, that the bread and wine consecrated for the sacrament, are the offerings or
oblations of the people, and this precisely meets the expression in the prayer which follows; for no sooner are the alms collected,
* Without an oblation, there can be no sacrifice, there can be no prayer or thanksgiving, or any of the parts which constitute the sacrificial nature of the covenant. Not only, therefore, is it necessary that the people should make the offering, but that the priest, and he alone, should present it for them to God. But it is the custom in most churches for the sacred elements to be placed on the altar before the commencement of service, and by this, the beauty and design of the whole ceremony is lost.
In the Greek church, as we read in St. Chrysostom, there was always placed within the rails a side table, where the elements lay until the time of communion; and Nicholls says, upon this: "Though our church has not ordered any particular prayer for this action of the priest (the offering of the gifts), he ought not to neglect the action itself, nor suffer it to be done by any other than himself. And since the rubric has not authorized the setting of a side-table, the priest must be content either himself to go into the vestry to fetch the elements, or he must receive them at the hands of the deacon or clerk, and then place them on the table, for place them there he must, and no one else." And the rubric emphatically directs: "The priest shall then (after the collection of the alms) place upon the table so much bread and wine as he shall think sufficient." Here the time and the person are distinctly appointed. "Therefore, I cannot imagine," continues Nicholls, "how so bold an innovation has obtained, for the bread and wine to be placed on the Lord's table by churchwardens, clerks, sextons, or any beside the person whom the church has obliged to do it." -Nicholls' Commentary. Book of Common Prayer.
Mede speaks in the like manner : "It were much to be wished that this were more solemnly done than is usual, namely not until the time of administration, and by the hand of the
than the minister offers a prayer for the acceptance of the alms, and to the word alms he adds oblations.
Now, the expression alms will refer to the money collected for charitable purposes, while the word oblations will refer precisely to those offerings of bread and wine laid upon the altar, as God's "creatures" offered to himself, from his people, through the hands of his minister ; and which, when consecrated by prayer, are to represent the body and the blood of Jesus Christ.
When the prayer is finished, the minister addresses himself more particularly to the communicants, strongly exhorting them to self-examination, and to serious thought upon the duty which they are now undertaking. For this purpose, he quotes to them a passage from St. Paul, shewing the guilt of those who come to the Lord's table with any levity of behaviour, as to a mere worldly banquet or casual ceremony, and he beseeches them to " judge themselves, that they be not judged of the Lord;" to repent them of their past sins; to have lively faith in that Saviour whose death they are now commemorating. How beautiful, how devotional is the whole of this exhortation! who can listen to it without those feelings of
minister, in the name and in the sight of the whole congregation, standing up, and showing some sign of due and lowly reverence."-Mede's Works, fol. p. 376.
piety and penitence to which it speaks? It puts before us, concisely the great object of the sacrament-namely, communion with the Saviour. It speaks of spiritually eating the flesh of Christ, and drinking his blood; it reminds us that we shall dwell in Christ, and Christ with us: and what heart can listen to such gracious assurances-assurances derived from the word of God, without deep remorse for every deviation from His pleasure, and fresh determination in the amendment of his life? What glorious hopes fill the soul of the aspiring and penitent sinner! How joyful is this harbinger of salvation! He no longer stands alone in the world to baffle the temptations of his natural state. He is joined with Christ in holy fellowship. He is elevated by the holy Spirit strengthening and refreshing his weakness. He stands in mental and spiritual communion with his God and Saviour Jesus Christ.
We now come to the
The feast being ready, the guests solemnly warned, and the steward of the mysteries standing in his place, the voice is heard pronouncing, DRAW NEAR. "Ye that do truly and earnestly repent, draw near," but not only in body, but in faith. A bodily approach will not avail. A mere acceding to the form will not purchase the grace of that sacrament,