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thoughtless about their spiritual concerns, may, perhaps, be in this state before they die.
The dispensation of grace discovered in the gospel, affords the only remedy against those terrours, by the promise of pardon, extended to the penitent, through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the very essence of this sacrament, to exhibit this promised grace to mankind; My body which zeas broken for you; my blood shed for many for the remission of sins. Here shines from above the ray of hope. Divine justice, we are assured, is not inexorable. Divine mercy is accessible to all who believe and repent. The participation of this sacrament, therefore, naturally imparts comfort to the worthy communicant; as it supposes, on his part, a cordial compliance with those terms, on which pardon is offered by the gospel to mankind.
I mean not to say, that the participation of this sacrament, how pious and proper soever our dispositions at that time may be, is, of itself, sufficient to ensure us of comfort at death. It were unwarrantable to flatter Christians with hopes to this extent. No single act of the most fervent devotion can afford assured hopes of peace with Heaven, until these hopes be confirmed by the succeeding tenor of a good life. But what may safely be asserted is, that communicating in a proper manner makes way for such hopes. It is an introduction to that state of reconciliation with God, which will give you peace in death. It is the beginning of a good course, which, if duly pursued, will make
your latter end blessed. It is the entrance of the path of the just; the morning of that light which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. For this holy
Sacrament is a professed renunciation of the vices and corruptions of the world. It is a professed dereliction of former evil habits; a solemn return, on our part, to God and virtue, under the firm trust that God will, through Jesus Christ, show mercy to the frailties of the penitent. If you continue to support the character which you this day assume, the invisible world will no longer present to you a scene of terrours. You will be comforted with the view of goodness and compassion, as predominant in the administration of the universe.
After having finished a virtuous course, you will be able to look up to that God whom you have worshipped, and to say, I know in whom I have trusted. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will. fear no evil; for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff shall comfort me.
III. This Sacrament prepares us for a happy death, by strengthening the connection between Christians and Christ their Saviour. This is a connection which, in various ways, redounds to their benefit; and will be found particularly consolatory at the hour of death. The awful Majesty of Heaven is in danger of overwhelming the mind, in the feeble moment of departing life. The reverence it inspires is mingled with sensations of dread, which might be too strong for us then to bear. When we look up to it, through a Mediator and Intercessor, that Majesty assumes a milder aspect, and appears to invite our approach. Whatever, therefore, forms a connection with this great Mediator, this powerful friend and patron of the human race, must be most desirable to every one, especially to the dying man.
Now, this Sacrament unites us closely with him. It is the oath of our allegiance. It is the act of enlisting ourselves under the banner of this Divine Leader. Of course it strengthens our faith in him, as our guide through life, and our guardian and protector in death. It gives us a title to look up to him, under the confidence of that reciprocal engagement, which fidelity on the one hand is always understood to imply, of protection on the other.
His participation of our nature conveys a degree of encouragement which we could derive from no being altogether celestial, how gracious or benign
In our utmost extremity, we can have recourse to his sympathising aid, who had experience both of the distresses of life, and of the terrours of death. We behold in the text, with what firm tranquillity he looked forward to his approaching sufferings. Sincere attachment to our great Master may be expected to infuse into us some degree of the same happy composition of mind.
It is owing to our losing out of view this perfect model ; to our following the crowd, and adopting the common spirit of the world, that we become mean-spirited and base; servilely attached to life, and afraid to die. Did we, according to our engagements at the Lord's table, keep our eye fixed on our Divine Leader, and study to follow his steps, a portion of his spirit would descend upon us at the hour of death. It would be as the mantle of Elijah, falling on a chosen disciple; and would enable us, as it did Elisha of old, to smite and divide the waters. We believe our Saviour now to rule in the world of spirits. The grave, therefore, bars not his followers from access to him. In the grave, for our sake he once lay down, that he might dispel the gloom which appears to us to cover that formidable mansion. In a short time he rose from it, in order to assure us, that the dark and narrow house was not to confine his followers for ever. By his death, he conquered deaths, and him that had the power of it; and his voice to us is, Because I live, ye shall live also. Hence, as long as we preserve that attachment to him which we this day profess, we are furnished with a variety of considerations proper for supporting us in the prospect of our dissolution. This leads me to observe,
IV. THAT the Sacrament of which we are to partake, prepares us for death, by confirming and enlivening our hope of immortality. In this sacrament, my friends, you act for both worlds. As inhabitants of the earth, you are on this day to look forward, with care, to your future behaviour in it. are not, by any means disengaging yourselves totally from this life and its concerns.
On the contrary, you are forming, and even strengthening, those connections, which virtue requires you to maintain with your friends and fellow creatures around you. --- At the same time, you are not to consider yourselves as citizens of earth only, but also as citizens of Heaven. You are to recognize, on this occasion, your relation to a higher and better country, with which you are connected by the most sacred ties; and from which you derive those comforts and hopes that will both purify your life, and render your death happy. The sacrament of the supper is, in this view, an ascent of the mind above terrestrial things. At the Lord's table we associate ourselves, in some (legree, with
spirits of a more exalted order. We declare that we are tending towards their society; and have fixed our final rest within the veil. This view of the institution, so comfortable to the last period of life, is plainly given us in the words of the text. For it is worthy of particular observation, that as soon as our Lord had instituted this Sacrament, he straightway leads the thoughts of his disciples to a state of future existence. Employing that metaphorical style, which the occasion naturally suggested, he tells them, that though he was not henceforth to drink of the fruit of the vine on earth, yet a day was coming, when he was again to drink it with them; to drink it, in his Father's kingdom. Two distinct ideas are, in these words, presented unto us. One is, the abode into which our Saviour was to remove ; his Father's kingdom. The other, the society which he was there to enjoy; with you in my Father's kingdom. These correspond to the two views under which death is most formidable to men; both of which he intended to banish, by the institution of this Sacrament; first, that death is a transition to a new and unknown world ; and next, that it is a final separation from all the friends whom we have loved on earth.
First; If death terminates our existence here, the abode to which it translates the faithful followers of Christ, is the kingdom of his Father. The institution of this sacrament dispels all the gloomy ideas of annihilation, of non-existence, of total darkness, which our imagination is ready to associate with the grave.
We are here assured that to good men, death is not the close of being, but a change of state; 3 removal, from a distant and obscure province of