« PreviousContinue »
withheld from your reach. It may be, that an impression which otherwise might have been soon worn out may be thus fixed for ever; it may be, that the spiritual food thus offered at the very hour of need may be indeed the bread of life. I call then, not upon the hard and utterly careless, but upon those, whoever and how many soever they are, who have at any rate received the good seed; who have sometimes thought of their souls; who have if it be no more than felt one honest wish that they had a share in Christ's redemption. Let that one wish be encouraged; and let him who has felt it resolve to come to the supper of Christ, that he may feel it again and for ever. And I earnestly call upon all those who hear me, into whose hearts such thoughts have entered, to come without regard to any such consideration as the place which they happen to hold in school. Entirely separate as the communion here is from all school regulations, and earnestly as we endeavour to abstain from any mere human and personal influence to persuade you to come, I have the more right to entreat you in your turn not to let such an idle reason as that of being in a lower part of the school, prevent you from
getting for your souls the help which they need. Nay, I would even say, what the church fully authorizes me in saying, let not your not having been confirmed restrain you; above all, take care that you do not make it an hypocritical excuse for putting off a little longer the duty of serious thought and self-examination. The church says, that no one shall come to the communion until he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed. And, now in these days, when the opportunities of confirmation occur so seldom, and when, in the case of those who go early abroad, years may pass before they can receive it, we cannot be justified in wilfully depriving ourselves of a great means of grace, on such a reason as this. But we see many, far too many, who have been confirmed, and who have no such excuse to plead, still turning away, time after time, from the communion that is offered to them. I would not, and do not, reckon all these among the hard and utterly careless; that, indeed, were not less unreasonable, than it would be shocking to be obliged so to reckon them: but I do tell them that they are tempting God to make them hard and careless; that they are playing with their own destruction; and that it is no light
thing whether good thoughts are habitually neglected or stifled, or whether they be entertained and carefully improved. It is no light thing, that the impressions which you may sometimes receive in this place should vanish almost as soon as you go out of its doors. You may not be hard now,-none of you, I trust, are so; but you will assuredly soon become so, if you go on neglecting the means of becoming otherwise. Of all deadly errors, I know of none so widely mischievous as that notion that we can repent at any time; that it is always in our own power to be good. Undoubtedly we can always, with God's blessing, repent if we will; but it is that very will to repent which we are surely destroying by a continual perseverance in unholiness. The appetite for good is as surely destroyed by long-continued habits of evil, as the appetite for our wholesome bodily food by a long continuance of bodily excesses.
Once more then I entreat all those who have had any serious thoughts and wishes to be good, to resolve to seize the means of grace now offered. Pray, that as Christ invites you to partake in the outward signs of his redemption, so you may be made one with him in heart and in spirit, and may
be partakers of his redemption in deed. Remember that "as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we do show the Lord's death till he come." It brings to our minds the night just before Christ was betrayed, when he was assembled with his disciples, and holding to them that language of counsel and of comfort which has been recorded by St. John from the thirteenth to the seventeenth chapters of his gospel, for our everlasting benefit. While we read those words, we feel as if, had we been with Christ's first disciples at that last supper, we could have resigned our whole souls without reserve into the care of our gracious Saviour. "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”—every affection, every desire, every hope and thought of our nature, let them be wholly thine, and purified by thy blessed Spirit. We feel as if indeed we could lay down our lives for his sake; we feel that we do then believe. But, my brethren, it is no vain superstition, it is no extravagant fancy, but the very simple truth, that if we, with contrite and humble hearts, do meet together at that holy table, there indeed is Christ in the midst of us; there is his Spirit shedding down upon us the peace that passeth all under
standing, and enkindling within us a strength of holy resolutions, and an entireness of resignation to the will of God, such as we might have felt at that last supper, when our Lord was yet amongst us in the body. Not manifest indeed to the world, not manifest to any who approach his table with careless hearts; Judas sat with him, and saw him with his bodily eyes, and ate of the bread and drank of the cup; but Christ's Spirit was not manifest to him; and it is the Spirit alone that quickeneth. Even so, his bodily presence would profit us nothing: his Spirit is as truly with his faithful disciples now, when they eat and drink the bread and the wine in remembrance of him, as it was with his eleven faithful disciples, whom he then pronounced to be clean. Not clean indeed from all imperfection, not saved from all future sin and error, nor must we expect to be so; but strengthened to become better than they had been not provided with an entire security against evil, but gifted with a more willing heart, and a firmer faith, to strive against it.