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IV. The last motive which I shall urge, will be, Our own spiritual and personal welfare.
We have been just considering the kingdom of God with reference to the rest of the world. We must also possess that kingdom in our own hearts. Now when we remember what our hearts are, how how surrounded with every sort of temptation and danger; how frail, uncertain, wandering from this to that; if we remember the extremely perishable state of our natural lives, as well as our spiritual lives; if we remember our bodily infirmities, our mental infirmities, the dangers which assault us from without, the temptations which assault us from within, we shall immediately confess, that in order to direct our course with any probability of safety, we stand in need of higher help than we can furnish of ourselves. And this help is the grace of the Holy Spirit. The blessings of the new covenant cannot be attained by those who neglect its conditions. The blessings of the new covenant peculiarly consist in the various gifts of the Spirit, promoting, co-operating, and comforting. These were blessings unknown to the old covenant. They were the distinct marks of the gospel, and the result and consequence of the teaching of the Saviour. "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will
not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send him unto you." It was not until the gospel came, not until Jesus Christ came into the world, that we were at all acquainted with that help, and comfort, and guidance which the Spirit manifests. And
says bishop Jeremy Taylor, in his usual beautiful manner : "In the gospel the Spirit is given without measure, first poured forth upon our head, Christ Jesus, then descending upon the beard of Aaron, the father of our church, thence falling, like the tears of the balsam of Judea, upon the foot of the plant, upon the lowest of the people. And this is
given to all that ask it, to all that can receive it, and by a solemn ceremony, and conveyed by a sacrament." In the first sacrament indeed it is originally given, when born "of water and of the Spirit," we first enter the ark of Christ's church but we have need of the other sacrament to retain it; we have need of other opportunities to pray for it, if haply through sin we should once have let go the promise of our hope: we have need from time to time to be strengthened and renovated in the weakness of our flesh, to be comforted in our sorrows, to be sanctified in our afflictions. The sacrament of the Eucharist is then the appointed means of obtaining this blessing. It is the condition laid down by God himself, and we have no
right to question the propriety of that condition, but implicitly to submit; we have no right to apply for that blessing in any other way than just that one which he has ordained. If we have temptations to encounter, we may hope that the grace of God will work with us in those temptations. If we have infirmities of body, or sufferings of mind; if our spirits faint under the burden of the cross, we may hope that the Spirit of God will be at hand to sustain and to comfort. If we have sins to repent of; if we look back upon our past existence, and the review, pregnant with countless omissions, if not actual sins, presents to our minds a burden too grievous to be borne, we may here pray and trust that the merits of Christ, the atonement and propitiatory sacrifice which he made, may cleanse us from all sin, may cancel the penal bond under which, by violation of the law, we had inevitably been placed, and renew a right spirit within us, and so cause us to stand justified, accounted righteous for Jesus Christ his sake. Thus by every renewed communion we shall lose the old man and put on the new. Thus virtue upon virtue, strength upon strength, and grace upon grace, being stored up in the soul by an habitual recurrence to the only source of their their provision, namely, the Spirit of God, furnished by means of his own
appointed Eucharist; we shall pass through things temporal, dangerous as they are, and weak as we are, until we finally gain things eternal. By a constant communion with God, we must, of necessity, lessen any chance of communion with Belial. The more we are the servants of God, the less we must be servants of the world; the more we are one with God and Jesus Christ in love and fellowship, the more must our hearts be embued with those Christian graces which are the attributes even of the Deity himself.
It is obvious, that a holy life must be pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. It is obvious, that a due observance of the Eucharist must promote a holy life, for whatever our sins may have been, repentance is a necessary companion of that sacrament; and repentance, renewed from time to time, must in the end produce its fruit. If then, we pass through life in a state of sinful and unholy disregard of God; if we acknowledge a means of help by which we may get rid of that sinfulness, and yet use it not; if the invitation to God's holy table be made to us, year after year, and month after month, and yet so invited, we refuse to go; can we wonder that our heart tastes not of the joys of heaven, that our weakness and wretchedness feels not any support, that in times of temptation we are abandoned to ourselves, and therefore fail; in times of affliction
we feel no comfort, and therefore are cast down beyond the remedy of man.
And above all, with what face shall we appear before the bar of our Almighty Judge at the great and terrible day of the Lord? with what face shall we plead any thing in justification, in excuse, in palliation, for our miserable failure in all obedience to our heavenly Father? with what face shall we say, as we shall perhaps attempt to say: "My imperfect nature caused me to sin; I was willing, yet not able; I had no help in the hour of temptation; I had no succour when the evil one pressed me to disobey; I had no memorial of my duty, when I was urged by my natural passions to forget; I had no assurance when I was cast down by the overwhelming trials of the world?" Had you not? What, none? Was God so merciless as to leave you utterly alone? Worse than Lot, when he fled from the wicked city of Sodom, was there no mountain for you to flee unto? Like Esau, did you seek repentance even with tears, and yet find no place for it? Did David sin against the Lord, and stain his hands with murder and with adultery, and yet find a way, by bitter remorse and penitence, to cause the mighty God to say, "I will put away thy sin, I will remember it no more;" and yet you, under the light of the gospel, under the blessings of grace, with Jesus your Saviour-a Christian-are you yet left without mercy and without help?