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world, and his own nature; you have done the same; and over and above, have trodden under foot the Son of God, have counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing, and have done despight unto the Spirit of Grace. Of how much sorer punishment therefore shall you be thought worthy, against whom both the works and the word of God bear witness, and cry aloud for vengeance? The bountiful intentions of God the Creator only have failed in the heathen; they, together with the infinitely gracious purposes of God the Redeemer, have been disappointed in you; hitherto disappointed, I mean; for if you will even yet open your eyes to the light, and turn your footsteps into the paths of God, you will find that the prayer of Christ for you on the cross was heard, and that the mercy of God endureth for ever.'
We are all ready enough to cry out upon the cowardice of all our Saviour's apostles, and the treachery of one; upon the malice of his accusers, the iniquity of his judge, the cruelty of his executioners; but do not consider, that, in all this, we condemn ourselves. What danger dare we face, what man of power, what faction, have we the boldness to oppose, for Christ and his religion? How small must be that sum of money, or that worldly interest, that cannot bribe us to betray the cause of Christ and his church, the cause of truth and virtue, which was dearer to him than his life? And how little of Judas's remorse do we feel for it, when it is done? How artfully is his divinity undermined among us, and all his miracles charged with imposture, by some; while the rest of us stand by as unconcerned, as we could do, had we never called ourselves by his name? How carelessly do we sit in judgment on the merits of his cause; and after a mere cold acquittal, with little or no notice taken of the infinite good he hath done among us, give him up to the outrage of his enemies? How do we mock him with our hypocritical professions? How buffet him with our bitter disputes ? How spit in his face, how mangle his flesh, how deluge his blood, how crucify, how murder him, with our crimes ! How we act over again the dreadful tragedy of this day! How the light sickens ! How darkness spreads itself over the whole earth!
O return, return, thou eternal light, into our understanding. O return, return, thou life, thou warmth of the soul, into our hearts. Shew us our vileness ; revive our piety; with thee let us die to this world, with thee let us arise to a new life, and to thee, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, shall be ascribed all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now and for evermore. Amen.
THE NECESSITY AND EFFICACY OF SPIRITUAL
ST. JOHN, VI. 50. This is the bread which cometh down from Heaven, that a man may eat
thereof, and not die. It is agreed upon by the generality of those who have considered the matter with the greatest attention, that no creature of God can subsist a single moment without the aid of his supporting hand. The sun shines, and the rain descends as he directs. The plants grow, and animals live upon the supply of that nourishment which he affords them. The eyes of all, therefore, wait upon him, and he giveth them their meat in due season. He openeth his hand, and filleth all things living with plenteousness. He giveth fodder to the cattle, and feedeth the young ravens that call upon him.' Nothing is independent but himself.
If creatures, void of reason, do in some sense even ' pray for their daily bread,' why shall not we much rather do it, who are, by adoption, the children of the great provider; and who know our absolute dependence on him?
As our nature is made up of a soul and a body, so we stand in daily need of a distinct kind of food for each. Continual supplies of both are necessary to the spiritual and temporal life of every Christian, and their effects and circumstances are alike.
In speaking, therefore, of the spiritual food, which I intend for the subject of this discourse, I shall take frequent
occasion to explain the nature, and press the necessity of it, from the exact resemblance it bears to that of the body, a resemblance authorized by Christ and his holy spirit, and consequently affording, not only the most lively illustrations, but arguments also sufficient for our conviction.
Now we are to observe here at the entrance, that in taking this food of the soul, which we do more especially in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, we at once endeavour to nourish in ourselves the principle of eternal life, and to offer up on the altar of our great benefactor, an act or proof of gratitude, required and accepted by him for the highest instance of mercy, which he could give or we receive.
As to the first of these heads, wherein the spiritual interest and life of our souls, rather than our gratitude, is concerned; we are to take notice, that piety and virtue, the health and life of the soul can no more be maintained without the grace of God, which is their proper food, than the health and life of the body, without ordinary meat and drink.
We are farther to take notice, that continual supplies are as necessary in the one case as in the other. God might, it is true, in either case, have made once feeding sufficient for ever; but then we should have forgot our dependence on him. To prevent this, he hath put us on daily supplies, hath so bounded both the heart and stomach of a man, that the hope of supporting the spiritual life within us for ever, by once only receiving the grace of God, would be as vain as the hope of living here for twenty years in health and strength on one meal.
Our outward health and life depend on continual recruits of nourishment, thrown into the stomach, there digested, and thence sent off into the various parts of the body. Not less necessary to our inward health and life are perpetual supplies of pious meditations, devout approaches to God, and vigorous resolutions, duly matured in the heart, and thence dispensed in plenty through all the powers, passions, and affections of the man. The soul lives on thought as the body does on meat and drink; but to live for ever it must be nourished with good thoughts, which nothing but the divine grace can either suggest or bring to perfection. The word of God, and our own experience, leave
us no room to doubt of this truth. We are, therefore, never to forget our feeder, lest we should prove ourselves more brutishly foolish than the dog or ox. It is easy for you to judge what must become of that soul which prefers the body to itself, which, like other animals, is careful to seek for bodily food, but thinks of nothing higher. Can this be the property of him who goes erect, and lifts his face towards the heavens? Of him who is indued with reason, whose soul is intended for immortality ?
By the death of Christ we are redeemed, and in his last supper the benefits of that death are conveyed to us under the notion of spiritual food, for he bids us ' eat his body and drink his blood', not corporally, for the food is not intended for our bodies, but spiritually, inasmuch as his flesh is meat indeed,' and his blood drink indeed,' for the soul.
Our heinous offences, whereby the anger of God is justly kindled against us, have made a propitiation necessary. The dependence and infirmity of our nature have made the aids of God's Holy Spirit as necessary. In the blessed sacrament we plead the great atonement, and at the same time receive continual reinforcements of those aids. Both are admirably represented in this ordinance. The breaking and pouring out of the elements convey to us a lively notion of our Saviour’s body mangled, and his blood shed on the cross; nor do they, as common meat and drink, less aptly figure to ns that heavenly food of God's grace, whereby our souls are nourished to eternal life.
Nor do they only represent; they also convey the food, and apply the merit of his sacrifice, directly to the soul of every worthy receiver, that is, of every truly penitent and believing receiver. But as a body, whose appetite is palled, and digestion lost, can neither receive pleasure nor nourishment from the best sort of food ; so a soul whose faith is dead, and whose religious warmths are extinguished, can receive no satisfaction, no recruit of strength from the sacramental repast. The death of Christ cannot atone for unrepented sins, nor can his grace feed a soul that can find no favour in it. On the contrary, as the most wholesome food turns to corruption in a vitiated stomach and a distempered body, so the bread of eternal life becomes poison to a stubborn and unbroken heart, and is the cause why 'many are weak and sickly, and many sleep.'
Some, therefore, absent themselves from the table of the Lord, as if the damnation' threatened by St. Paul to the unworthy receiver, were more to be feared than the sentence of death eternal, pronounced on him who does not receive, by our Lord, in these words, . Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that eateth not the flesh of the Son of Man, and drinketh not his blood, hath no life in him.'
All the ill effects of unworthily receiving this sacrament are suffered, and the sins too committed, by not receiving. He who does not receive, makes himself, for the time, a stranger to all those necessary meditations, self-examinations, devotions, watchings, which call down the grace of God, and give it growth in the heart of a Christian. Besides, not receiving is a more direct transgression of Christ's commandment, than receiving unworthily, and shews, at least, an equal indifference for his budy and blood. The neglecter of this most holy ordinance cuts himself off from the catholic church, and all its privileges, particularly from the communion of saints and the means of grace, while he lets himself loose to every temptation, and every criminal liberty, with which the watchful enemy can buffet an unguarded heart. He proclaims peace with his sins, and war with God. This is that death of the soul spoken of by our Saviour, which differs not, but in name, from the damnation, mentioned by the apostle. Why are the words of St. Paul more minded, in this case, than those of Christ ? Do they not signify the same thing? Are they not equally terrible ? Or is there any other way to avoid the precipice on either hand, but by going constantly to the Lord's table with a truly penitent and believing heart?
No, but then this requires some pains by way of preparation ; whereas staying away is only an easy neglect. Going is giving up all our sins, perhaps the greater part of our interests and pleasures ; but by absenting ourselves we can wanton in these, pursue those, and avoid the painful mortification of repentance, and of changing both our nature and our habits.
There are many, however, who, though they firmly believe in the absolute necessity of this spiritual fo d, yet