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confidants of all his griefs; among whom he had passed all the quiet and private moments of his life. He knew that within a few hours he was to be torn from this loved society, by a band of ruffians; and by to-morrow, was to be publicly arraigned as a malefactor. With a heart melting with tenderness, he said to the twelve apostles, as he sat down with them at table, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer. * And then, having gratified himself for the last time in their society, and having instituted that commemoration of his death, which was to continue in the Christian church until the end of ages, he took a solemn and affectionate farewell of his friends, in the words of the text; I say unto you, that I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you
Father's kingdom. As these words were uttered by our Lord, in the prospect of his sufferings; when preparing himself for death, and looking forward to a future meeting with his friends in heaven; let us, under this view, consider the sacrament, which he then instituted, as a preparation for all the sufferings of life, and especially, a preparation for death. It is fit and proper, that such solemn prospects should enter into the service which we are this day to perform. We have no reason to imagine that they will render it a gloomy service. A good and wise man is often disposed to look forward to the termination of life. The number of our days is determined by God; and certainly it will not tend to shorten their number, that we employ ourselves in preparing for death. On the contrary, while our days last, it will tend to make us pass them more comfortably and more wisely. Let us now, then, as if for the last time we were to partake of this sacrament, consider how it may serve to prepare us for the dying hour.
Luke, xxii. 15.
I. It is a high exercise of all those dispositions and affections, in which a good man would wish to die. He would surely wish to leave this world in the spirit of devotion towards God, and of fellowship and charity with all his brethren on earth. Now these are the very sentiments which the sacrament of the Lord's Supper inspires into the heart of every pious communicant. It includes the highest acts of devotion of which human nature is capable. It imports a lively sense of the infinite mercies of Heaven; of the gratitude we owe to that God who, by the death of his Son, hath restored the forfeited happiness and hopes of the human race. It imports the consecration of the soul to God; the entire resignation of ourselves, and all our concerns, into his hands; as to the God whom we serve and love ; the guardian in whom we confide. To thee, o
0 Lord, do I lift up my soul. I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy. I veill come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy; and in thy fear I will worship towards thy holy temple.*
These devout affections towards God are, on this occasion, necessarily accompanied with benevolent dispositions towards men. Our communion is not only with God, but with one another. In this solemn service, the distinction of ranks is abolished. We assemble in common before our great Lord, professing ourselves to be all members of his family and
Psalm xliii. 4. v. 7.
children of the same Father. No feud, nor strife, nor enmity, is permitted to approach the sacred table. All within that hallowed space
breathes peace, and concord, and love. If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.* What can be more becoming men and Christians, than such sentiments of piety to the great Father of the universe; gratitude to the merciful Redeemer of mankind; and charity and forgiveness towards all our brethren? Is not this the temper in which a good man would wish to live; more especially is not this the frame of mind which will give both dignity and peace to his last moments ? How discomposed and embittered will these important moments prove, if, with a mind soured by the remembrance of unforgiven injuries, with a breast rankled by enmity, with a heart alienated from God, and insensible to devotion, one be forced away from life?
CONTEMPLATE the manner in which our blessed Lord died; which the service of this day brings particularly into your view.
view. You behold him, amidst the extremity of pain, calm and collected within himself; possessing his spirit with all the serenity which sublime devotion and exalted benevolence inspire. You hear him, first, lamenting the fate of his unhappy country; next, when he was fastened to the cross, addressing words of consolation to his afflicted parent; and, lastly, sending up prayers
Mattliew, v. 23, 24.
mixed with compassionate apologies for those who were shedding his blood. After all those exercises of charity, you behold him, in an act of devout adoration and trust, resigning his breath : Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. — Can any death be pronounced unhappy, how distressful soever its circumstances may be, which is thus supported and dignified? What could we wish for more in our last moments, than with this peaceful frame of mind, this calm of all the affections, this exaltation of heart towards God, this diffusion of benevolence towards men, to bid adieu to the world?
If, in such a spirit as this, we would all wish to die, let us think that now is the time to prepare for it, by seasonably cultivating this spirit while we live; by imbibing, in particular, from the holy sacrament, those dispositions and affections which we would wish to possess at our latest period. It is altogether vain to imagine, that when the hour of death approaches, we shall be able to form ourselves into the frame of mind which is then most proper and decent. Amidst the struggles of nature, and under the load of sickness or pain, it is not time for unaccustomed exertions to be made, or for new reformations to be begun. Sufficient, and more than sufficient, for that day is the evil thereof. It will be too late to assume then the hero, or the saint, if we have been totally unacquainted with the character before. The sentiments we would display, and the language we would utter, will be alien and strange to us. They will be forced and foreign to the heart. It is only in consequence of habits acquired in former and better days, that a temper of piety and charity can grow up into such strength as to confer peace and magnanimity on the concluding hours of life. Peculiarly favourable to the acquisition of such a temper, are the devotions of this day. In this view, let us perform them; and study to be, at the table of the Lord, what we would wish to be when the summons of death shall come.
II. Tuis Sacrament becomes a preparation for death, by laying a foundation for peace with God. What is important at the close of life, is not only the temper in which we leave the world, but the situation in which we stand with respect to that great. Judge before whom we are about to appear. This view of our situation is apt to escape us during the ordinary course of life. Occupied with the affairs and concerns of this world ; flattered by those illusive colours of innocence, and virtue, in which self-love dresses up our character, apprehensions of guilt create little uneasiness to the multitude of
But, on the approach of death, their ideas change. As the inquisition of the Supreme Judge draws nigh, remembered transgressions crowd upon the mind. Guilt becomes strongly realized to the imagination ; and alarms, before unknown, begin to arise. Hence that anxiety in the prospect of a future invisible world, which is so often seen to attend the bed of death. Hence those various methods which superstition has devised for quieting this anxiety; the trembling mind eagerly grasping every feeble plank on which it can lay hold, and flying for protection to the most unavailing aid. The stoutest spirits have been then known to bend; the proudest hearts to be humbled. They who are now most