Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

whose stripes we are healed, and upon whom our chastisements have been laid.*

Now, if you look to the form of service by which the Eucharist is celebrated, will you find there any intimation that perfection is demanded on the part of the communicant? We have minutely examined this service already,† and we must have seen that the whole tenor of the ritual is on the supposition of the most abject frailty, the daily liability to fall from righteousness, the necessity of renewed strength, to be sought at the hands of God, just because of continual weakness on the part of man.

* We are indeed told to "be perfect, even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect," Matt. v. 48: and St. Peter tells us: "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation. Because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy," 1 Peter i. 15, 16. And it is unquestionably the duty of every Christian to strive to attain this perfection—to strive to possess this holiness. As we struggle onwards through the difficulties of life, we may be nearer and nearer, but we shall never approach it quite. We may set down such and such points of excellence, as constituting perfection, but when we have attained those points, there are others beyond them which we never saw before; and the better we are, in comparison with other men, the worse we shall feel ourselves to be; even as the more we know, the more ignorant we find ourselves; for knowledge only teaches us how little we really know, and moral virtue only shews us (when directed by the gospel of Jesus Christ) how sinful we are. If we say that we are perfect, we say that we have no sin; but, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

[ocr errors]

† See chap. v.

[ocr errors]

In one of the prayers used in the service of the Eucharist, we find the following expressions: "We do not presume to come to this thy table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness." Again: "We "We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table." Again, in another of the prayers: Although we be unworthy, through our our manifold sins, to offer unto thee any sacrifice." Yet, notwithstanding all this confession and acknowledgment of imperfection-when the sacred elements have been received-we kneel down before God, and say, "We most heartily thank thee for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us who have duly received these holy mysteries." So that being unworthy to receive them, is not incompatible with receiving them duly.

If

we should wait till we are worthy to receive them, we should never receive them at all. If we should think ourselves, or call ourselves worthy to receive them, that instant we should, in fact, be unworthy-because then, pride, selfsatisfaction, and a host of sins, which exclude the doctrines of the sacrament, would take possession of our hearts, and Jesus Christ would be forgotten.

II. The second objection to which we may allude, arises from a misinterpretation of certain texts of scripture.

The timid, though sincere Christian, desi

rous to please, yet afraid to offend, finds the word of God apparently arrayed against him. In the first place, he finds in the exhortation which is read by the minister, when warning is given of the celebration of the Eucharist on the Sunday or holiday preceding, the following assertion: "Lest, after the taking of that holy sacrament the devil enter into you, as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of soul and body." Now, the passage here referred to must be either Luke xxii. 3, or John xiii. 26. In the former of these passages, though Satan is described as entering into Judas, yet it is evidently antecedent altogether to the passover, and, therefore, to the institution of the Eucharist: in the latter, where St. John asks our Lord who it is that should betray him, it is certainly said: "He it is to whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it; and when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, and after the sop, Satan entered into him." But here also the giving of the sop was in the commencement of the passover, and preceding the institution of the Lord's Supper; and therefore can involve in no way the conclusion, that Satan entered into the heart of Judas, because he had received the sacrament of the Eucharist at the hands of our Lord, being a sinner. Whether

[ocr errors]

Judas did partake, with the eleven other apostles, of the bread and wine, is a very great question. There is nothing to shew that he did: on the contrary, we may very well suppose that after the delivery of the sop, he went out for the purpose of betraying Jesus to the chief priests, and was not present at the institution at all. But even if he were, what then? Satan had evidently entered into him previously, as mentioned by St. Luke. The intention to betray his divine Master had for some time existed in his breast; and, therefore, he must have received the bread and wine (if he did receive it) with the intention already formed, with malice, treachery, and avarice rankling in his heart, thus adding hypocrisy and fraud to the other vices of his character. The partaking of the sop, or the eating and drinking of the bread and wine, were not the causes of Satan entering into him. Satan was there already; and therefore, referring to the passages above-quoted in the exhortation, it is quite a mistaken view of the question to fear lest any power over our souls should be permitted to Satan ; far the contrary; if Satan be in our souls already, if we are of the world, full of carnal lusts and evil affections, how can we hope to expel them, unless by the grace of God? and how shall we obtain the grace of God, unless we use the means? and one of the means is the Eucharist. Rather

ought we to consider the other exhortation, which tells us plainly, upon the authority of God's word: "Take ye good heed, lest ye, withdrawing yourselves from this holy supper, provoke God's indignation against you."

But there is another passage of scripture, still more a stumbling block than the one just discussed. It is the well known place

"He

in the first epistle to the Corinthians: "Whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." Which very words he finds incorporated in our liturgy, and made a part of the warning which is pronounced by the minister at the time of communion. The words are: "So is the danger great if we receive the same unworthily. For then we are guilty of the body and blood of Christ, our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation; not considering the Lord's body, we provoke him to plague us with divers diseases and sundry kinds of death.” This, indeed, it must be confessed, is, in the highest degree, a serious admonition. It effectually excludes all levity, all purposed slight, all hypocrisy in our attendance at the altar, but I am sure that the words do not apply any further.

« AnteriorContinua »