Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

contempt of all his countrymen. The same friendship is contracted and sealed at the sacramental supper. It is represented by the uniting of the brethren in one room, at one table, in the same act of prayer to one Lord, of eating from one loaf, and drinking from one cup. It seems as if communicants must be one, when they use this symbol of the need and the supply which all have alike, and when they see that their feast is not only a bond of brotherhood on earth, but a type of a glorious feast at which they shall all unite in their Father's house. Never does a communicant drink at the feast without pledging himself anew to befriend and love the brethren.

At the same time that this comprehensive rite represents and promotes brotherly kindness, it also represents the connexion between the pious, their interest in the same Saviour, their destination toward the same heavenly feast ; and it becomes a bond of brotherhood to which all the members of Christ's family are intimately and forever united. Whether the remarkable espressions in the sixth of John were uttered in reference to this sacrament is disputed. If they were, how pertinent and forcible. “I am the bread of life. Except ye eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven : not as your fathers did eat manna and are dead; he that eateth of this bread shall live forever.” These expressions at the time of their utterance were unintelligible to the disciples. Still they may have been uttered in view of the intended sacrament, so that their meaning, after having perplexed the inquisitive intellect, would be unfolded by events. Indeed the disciples did not understand the significancy of the Eucharist itself when first originated. “This is my body." was a dark saying. Christ loved to teach in such a way that the mind, after having revolved in vain on what he said, should be enlightened suddenly after his resurrection. So to us many things are now inexplicable. Still the great scheme of our salvation, promotes the humility and faith and kindness which that scheme requires.

The body and the blood are vividly depicted before our eyes; can we then shut out the instruction, that an immense price was paid for our redemption. We see the body broken piece

* See Jahn's Archæology, Ø 149; also Knapp's Theology, Vol. 2, p. 548.

by piece, the blood poured forth; can we then fail to see what manner of love Christ felt when he despised the shame and pain of crucifixion? Can we help seeing the cost of sin? Can we keep ourselves from the dust at the foot of the cross when we hear the words, “ broken for you,”—“shed for you,” - remission ?" Can we help feeling that our friend died for us, while we were his enemies, and because we were enemies? and does not this truth reflect back new brightness upon his shining grace, and move us instinctively to cry, “the chiefest among ten thousand," "altogether lovely ?" Can we avoid seeing the justice of Jehovah, which did not spare the head of his only begotten son? Can we avoid seeing the hatefulness of all opposition to a character which blends with such rainbow sweetness the most attractive excellencies? Indeed there is not a doctrine of the Gospel, which this rite does not place before our eyes; for it reaches to us the atonement which is the key of the whole scheme. Nor is there a fibre of the pious heart which it does not touch ; for the “bread is the staff" of spiritual life, the

wine maketh glad" and "refresheth” the fainting grace. No wonder that Christ, in view of his favorite ordinance, burst out in his bold and pithy remark; “ Except ye eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, ye have no life in you ; whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; he dwelleth in me and I in him; My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed; as the living father hath sent me, and I live by the father, so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me; this is that bread which came down from heaven; not as your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead; he that eateth of this bread shall live forever.”

No wonder that the Apostles loved the rite so ardently; that the early Christians administered it every day, and several times in the day. No wonder that it has always been dear to the church, and been denominated, for distinction's sake, the sacrament.

Admirable as the ordinance is for its comprehensiveness, it is equally so for its simplicity. No complexness of parts, no tedious routine of observances; the simple act of eating and drinking a little aliment is expressive of all the richness and sweetness of the divine economy. The sight, the toucb, and the taste are employed for a few minutes in perfect stillness, and the magnificent rite is closed. Contrast this with the cumbersome institution of the Passover, the multiplied and con fusing steps in all the Jewish rites, the parade of Catholic and Heathen mummeries. What devotee of a false religion is so practised in its complicated formulary, as to remember half of it; but what observer of the sacramental ordinance can forget

[ocr errors]

the least part of it? It is touching by its simplicity. It exerts thereby a permanent influence. Wherever we move, we can carry in our memories the symbols which show forth the Lord's death ; at every temptation to sin, can hold up distinctly the broken bread and the cup of symbolical blood; and, by the instantaneous view which we obtain of the Gospel scheine, we may be instantaneously humbled when proud, and lifted up when bowed down. Is there not displayed a noticeable wisdom in thus contriving the simplest means for the accomplishment of the most magnificent ends? Is it not wisdom to effect such great results in the kingdom of nature from so simple a law as gravitation ? Must we not admire the same compass of plan by which the whole system of religious truth in all its glory, is made to revolve around our hearts? And yet the

means of thus illuminating the moral world were communicated by their great Author, not in an hour of dignified leisure and outward ease, but in the midst of the most exciting and harrowing scenes. Within four hours he was to be apprehended by the Jewish authorities; within twenty, was to be taken down from the tree a corpse.

The traitor was now absent on the nefarious business, the Priests were agitated with hopes and fears, his own disciples were overwhelmed with conflicting passions, and very soon were disgracefully to abandon him. In all this whirl of outward excitement he remained calm and unrufileri, he held up the fainting hearts of the eleven, looked forward through the long succession of ages, and then spoke with the intention of being heard by the remotest posterity. Many good men would have been too severely agitated to have pursued a consistent train of thought, still more of remark. We all have felt how difficult it is to converse on any absorbing affliction, even when viewed remotely from ourselves. But he with a composed look at the mystical emblems, pronounced them to be his own flesh and bloodl, and with majestic calmness ordered them to be used by future generations. Was not this the wisdom and the strength and the authority of a superior being ? Was it not the language of a peculiar being ? Let him who denies the vicarions nature of Christ's death account for the fact, that a man, i ho before another sunset was to be hung as a malefactor, should coolly and deliberately command his despised friends not to conceal, but to celebrate his punishment; a capital punishment, approved by the ecclesiastical power, inflicted by the civil; to celebrate it, not by rearing a monument or parading in a procession, but by drinking his blood? Who ever heard of such a thing? What can be the meaning of it?

MINISTERIAL QUALIFICATIONS.

There are many things, peculiar to the age in which we live, demanding an intelligent Christian ministry; some of which we have already considered. It has been said with truth, that the present is an age of Revivals of Religion. Not that past ages have been denied these precious seasons of divine grace; but, that the present stands peculiar, as to the extent and

power

of these blessed and glorious seasons. It cannot be denied, that the present prosperity and future welfare of our churches, depends in a great measure on the views, the character and the conduct of the ministers who are placed over the churches, at such a time as this. The moral and Christian character of multitudes is now to be formed ; the most yielding materials are now thrown into the hands of religious teachers. The mind is open to instruction, the heart susceptive to the slightest impression. Every experienced minister will say, that if he ever needs superior wisdom, sound discretion, extensive acquaintance with revealed truth, and a thorough insight into the windings of the human heart, it is during the season of religious revivals.

As we trace the history of piety and of benevolent effort, we find the character both of experimental and practical religion, determined, almost exclusively, by the character of the Gospel ministry, under whose labors have been enjoyed extensive revivals of religion. We are among those who revere the name of Whitefield ; and would bless God for the labors of love which he expended in our country, and for the bright examples, which many of his worthy coadjutors have left us.

And yet we cannot doubt, but there were serious defects in the system of measures which was adopted in their day, and which in more unskilful hands led to most deplorable results,--some of which results were, disagreement among ministers; new and irregular proceedings; wild and extravagant measures, in some cases, gross enthusiasm and indelicacy, and what was most permanent and pernicious of all, a disregard of correct evangelical sentiment, so that lax theology and the grossest errors, at length widely prevailed. The intellectual energies, the prayers and pious labors of many of the brightest ornaments of the ministry, were unable to check the strong tide of degeneracy. That thorough, systematic education in the ministry, by preserving unity of sentiment and harmony of views VOL. VI.-NO. IX.

42

as to measures in promoting piety, would have guarded in a great measure against these evils, we have not a doubt. The extensive revivals of religion at the commencement of the present century, whose history has been so minutely drawn, by one who was permitted to witness their progress, and from this day to review their results, were attended by no such unhappy fruits. The ministry in connexion with whose labors these revivals were enjoyed, were united in sentiment and harmonious in action, and they were among the most thoroughly educated and intelligent men who have adorned the American church. A sound, rational, consistent piety resulted, and that system of vigorous, benevolent action was commenced, which is now fast filling the world with the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And nothing but the vast power of doing good or evil, which revivals of religion place in human hands, will enable us to defeat those high designs of Christian charity and zeal, which mark our age illustrious in the “ History of Redemption.” It remains for the future historian of the church to record the results on practical piety, of the recent and continued revivals of religion in our land. From the rapid springing up of diversity of sentiment, and want of harmony as to measures best adapted to promote religion, we are not without our fears; while the intelligence of the great body of the clergy, and the settled principles of experimental and practical piety, fortify our hopes that all will be well, and the day of glory be soon ushered upon the world ; the diversity of sentiment and clashing of feeling, operating like the concussions of electric clouds, to purify and brighten its meridian splendor.

During the season of religious revival, there is danger of substituting mere feeling, for correct principle; zeal without knowledge, for correct sentiment; of inventing measures to advance the work, which are not only unnecessary, but unscriptural and injurious to its prosperity. As there is now uncommon activity and vigor of Christian effort, there is danger of forgetting our entire dependance on the special and sovereign agency of the Holy Ghost, and of giving a prominence and power to human instrumentality, which is peculiarly dangerous to souls and dishonorable to God. At this time the errors of Arminianism are most easily and successfully propagated. To these errors all men are more or less exposed. There is a strong tendency in human nature towards them; a peculiar fondness in our unsauctified affections for the aid which they promise, and the false security they impart. It requires no common share of moral and mental qualifications, to secure those who are anxious on the subject of religion, from reliance

« FöregåendeFortsätt »