« AnteriorContinua »
We confess to God our unworthiness to approach his altar, we ask of him to give us countenance in the holy fellowship just exercised, and we use the words of St. Paul: "presenting our bodies a living sacrifice," even as Christ did-" a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service;" so that we may not go from the altar as though we had never been, but may be "steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in every good word and work" for the remainder of our lives, and more especially in that good work of remembering our Saviour, of renewing from time to time the covenant of the cross, thus made and established between the creature and the Creator. Then comes the hymn,
GLORIA IN EXCELSIS.
"Glory be to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men "-following the practice of our Lord himself, as every one will remember. "When they had sung
an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives."* No voice can be silent in this glorifying of the Lord. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all united in the praise, but principally we sing The Son-"The only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, Lamb of God, Son of the Father," because it is his peculiar sacrifice in which we have just partaken. It is his peculiar love which we now commemorate. "We praise
* Matt. xxvi. 30.
thee, we bless thee, we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee for thy great glory." What heart will not respond to these stirring words? Angels and archangels may sing in heaven, but we have here a more glorious theme for exultation, in being the redeemed of the Lord. They may sing: Glory, and honour, and power, be unto the Lamb;" but we can sing: "Salvation belongeth to our God and unto the Lamb." Their robes may be white," the righteousness of saints"-but ours are washed in the blood of the Redeemer. They are made whiter than snow, a sure salvation, a glorious inheritance.
This hymn concluded, and the voices of the people once more silent; their consciences unburdened their souls free-their hearts light and joyful their pardon sealed the minister turning to them for the last time, pronounces
the solemn benediction of peace. Upon this, the congregation is dismissed from the house of God, and the service closes.
Thus has been shortly detailed the form of that holy ordinance which our church (I cannot repeat it too often) considers necessary to salvation. We see the simplicity, the beauty, the holiness of the forms with which it is observed. We have gone through the various portions of the service-we have shown that there is no disguise, nothing mystical, nothing hard to be
understood, nothing set, as it were, to catch the unwary, to frighten the imaginations of the timid, or to load the consciences of the simple with any onerous burden too heavy to be borne, but a plain, unvarnished, simple memorial of Him who was himself the pattern of all simplicity and plainness. Here, in this service, is every thing the heart of man can desire. Do ye require moral obligations and purity of heart? you have it in the commandments, and in the collect for purity, in the prayer where we desire to offer our souls and our bodies a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice. Do ye require works of charity and Christian fellowship? you have it in the scripture sentences, and in the collection of alms for the aged and the poor. Do ye require faith to be set forth? you have it in the creed, specially enumerating each part of the Christian faith. Do ye require repentance? you have its expression in one of the most beautiful forms of confession that can possibly denote the burden of human guilt. Do ye require words of comfort, as willing that God should be represented in his character of mercy? you have it in the absolution, pronounced on the authority of Jesus himself; you have it also in the sentences which set forth Christ the propitiation and the atonement for the sins of the whole world. Do ye require devotion, and exultation, and glory? you have it in the thanksgiving, the Eucharistic hymn, and afterwards
the great doxology at the conclusion. Do ye require your Saviour to be put personally and conspicuously before you, the price of your redemption, and the justification of your souls? you have it in a manner so solemn, yet so simple, so lively, yet so plain, in the emblematic elements of broken bread and poured out wine, consecrated by his own words of benediction, "This is my body," and, "This is my blood," that, if your minds are but intent, if your hearts are but in earnest, your Saviour will stand almost visibly before you.
Here, then, you have all that religion can give. The world can have no part or parcel with you. here. Ye have overcome the world. Vice and sensuality can leave no stain upon your soul here; ye have washed them out in the blood of the Lamb. Pride, and riches, and ambition, cannot hold you captive here-ye are all made equal-equal in sin, equal in fellowship as partakers of human nature, and inheritors of God's kingdom. There is nothing heard, nothing seen, nothing done in this holy feast of love and charity, but that which is purifying, exalting, and stimulating to such high degrees of glory and virtue, as are otherwise beyond the reach of human attainment. If there are any means of grace, here they are; any hope of salvation, here it is; any personal communion between God and his creatures, here it is. We know no one but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. We