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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 death, 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. For you 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 degree, 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; a removal, from a distant and obscure province of
the universe, into the city of God, the chief seat of their Father's kingdom. They have every reason to believe, that the objects which are to meet them there, how new and unknown soever, shall all be propitious and friendly. For into the kingdom of his Father, their Lord has declared that he is entered as their forerunner. I go to my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God. In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also. What reasonings, what speculations, can have power to impart so much peace to the dying man, as a promise so direct and explicit, coming from him, who is truth itself, and cannot lie. If it were not so, I would have told you. The prospect becomes still more cheering and relieving, when we include
THE other circumstances mentioned in the text; the society to be enjoyed in that future state of being. With you I shall drink of the fruit of the vine in my Father's kingdom. In how amiable a light does our Saviour here appear, looking forward to a future reunion with those beloved friends, whom he was now leaving, as to a circumstance which should increase both his own felicity and theirs, when they met again in a happier world! Thus, in a most affectionate manner, cheering their drooping and dejected spirits; and by a similar prospect providing for the comfort of his followers in future generations, when they should be about to leave the world.
The expressions in the text plainly suggest a joyful intercourse among friends, who had been separated
* John, xiv. 2.
by death, and therefore seem to give much confirmation, to what has always been a favourite hope of good men; that friends shall know and recognise each other, and renew their former connections, in a future state of existence. How many pleasing prospects does such an intimation open to the mind! How much does it tend to compensate the vanity of life, and to mitigate the sorrows of death! For it is not to be denied, that one of the most bitter circumstances attending death, is, the final separation from beloved friends. This is apt equally to wring the hearts of the dying, and the surviving; and it is an anguish of that sort, which descends most deeply into the virtuous and worthy breast. When, surrounded with an affectionate family, and weeping friends, a good man is taking his last adieu of all whom he held most dear on earth; when, with a feeble voice, he is giving them his blessing, before he leaves them for ever; when, for the last time, he beholds the countenance; he touches the hand, he hears the voice, of the person nearest his heart; who could bear this bitterness of grief, if no support were to be ministered by religious hope? if there were no voice to whisper to our spirits, that hereafter we, and those whom we love, shall meet again in a more blissful land? What higher view can possibly be given of the benefit redounding from this divine institution, than its affording us consolation in such situations of extreme distress by realising to our souls the belief of an immortal state, in which all the virtuous and worthy shall be re-united in the presence of their common Lord?
THUS I have set before you many considerations, arising from the sacrament of our Lord's Supper,