« ElőzőTovább »
“ more” he also says to every communicant at his holy table. What then, does God expect from us a perfect and unsinning obedience ? Can mortal man attain the purity of angels ? Happy indeed were such a state ; but it is a happiness not to be attained in this life: perfect holiness, free from any mixture of sin, is a gift reserved for heaven, and the privilege of angels and glorified saints: but whilst we remain upon earth, and have a soul subject to the impressions of matter and the tumults of passion, we must also be subject to sin. St. James says, “In “ many things we offend all;" and we begin our addresses to God with acknowledging ourselves miserable sinners, who have erred and strayed from his ways like lost sheep. When, therefore, you are exhorted to sin no more after receiving the holy Sacrament, the meaning is, not to commit any flagrant and enormous vice; not to continue in the practice of known and habitual sins..
. And these sins may be reduced to three sorts.
ist, There are sing of maliciousness, which suppose in them that commit them an entire freedom of will, and sufficient light to hinder them from falling into them, if they had been willing. The unhappy inan who is drawn into .. .
sin by a sudden impulse of his senses and pagsions : who has neither time nor thought to reflect upon what he is going to do, deserves our tenderest pity : but he who commits sin willingly and deliberately, against the clear light of reason, and the cool remonstrances of his con-, science; who enters into it with design, and continues in it with delight; can neither be a fit object of man's pity here, nor of God's mercy hereafter. Against this kind of sin, therefore, every worthy communicant should guard his heart: it is in every man's power to do so, and dreadful will be the consequences if he does not : for however we may flatter ourselves with vain hopes, if God be true, the wages of such sin is death eternal.
2dly, There are sins of infirmity, into which we are drawn by the weakness of our nature and the violence of our passions, which are but too apt to rise up in arms, and rebel against our own reason.
Now if the subject of these sins should be of dangerous tendency; such as theft, adultery, false witness, perjury, murder, or any other crya ing act of injustice or revenge; a Christian should use every effort to prevent his being overcome by them; not doubting of success :
for though temptation be strong, yet God's grace, if we will seek it, is stronger. If, therefore, we fall, the fault is in ourselves, froin a want of a due use of those helps which are afforded us. For to what purpose serves our reason, our christian knowledge, and all those succours of grace which heaven bestows in pity to man's weakness, if we suffer ourselves to yield to every attack of Satan, and are led captive at his pleasure? However indulgent, therefore, the Saviour of the world may be to the accidental failures of infirmities or passion, he has no where promised forgiveness to those who are a prey to every temptation. If, therefore, we have once fallen in any of the sins I have mentioned, our repentance must closely follow our fall; and we must also stand upon our guard for the future, if we mean to obtain his favour, who commands us to sin no more.
3dly, There are sins of habit, custom, and inclination, which are dangerous, and cannot consist with a devout participation of the holy Sacrament. Of this sort are all those prevailing customs of lying, swearing, thieving, drunkenness, and fornication, which, the scripture tells. us, exclude men from the kingdom of heaven. Amongst this number also we may reckon many things, which, however little regarded by the
world as criminal, yet are fatal to our eternal salvation ; such as an immoderate love of pleasure or riches, an habitual coldness and inattention in prayer, a disregard of the Sabbath, a neglect of the Sacrament, and, in general, an idle and unthinking life, which, though it is not staiued with any flagrant sins, yet discovers no sense of religion, no warmth of piety, no zeal for God's honour, nor is adorned with any of those virtues and graces which constitute the new man, and distinguish the Christian from the Heathen.
These are the sins which every devout communicant, which every true Christian, ought to avoid. And surely it is but a small thing which Christ requires of the sick whom he has made whole; it is but a small return for that spiritual health and pardon which he so freely offers to us, that we should sin no more. And yet, even in this, he does not tie us down to the rigour of the law, but judgeth us by the mercy of the Gospel: He does not declare vengeance against every slip of our frail nature, or exact a holiness without spot, an obedience without imperfec-, tion: No: He only requires that we seriously hearken to his voice, when he speaks to us by his word, by his ministers, and by our own consciences; that we do not yield to every tempta
tion, and fall a prey to every lust; that we do not persevere in habits: of known and wilful guilt; but that we endeavour, as far as our weak nature will admit, tó copy after his bright example, and to direct our paths with sincerity towards the gate of heaven and eternal life. This is all that he requires; and surely less he could not require from those for whom he shed his blood.
And this we in the most solemn manner bind ourselves to perform, every time we approach the altar of God. For the Lord's Supper is not only a religious rite, instituted by Christ in remembrance of his death, but it is likewise a religious obligation on our part, by which we oblige ourselves to serve God; by which we bind ourselves to crucify all worldly desires; and devote ourselves, our souls, and our bodies, to that God who gave them being. Every sacrament, therefore, which we receive, is a renewal of those promises and vows which we made at our baptism : it is a solemn oath, which we swear to God upon the symbols of the body and blood of Christ : it is a good confession, which we witness before men and angels, that we have renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil; that we have eulisted ourselves under the banners of our Re: