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Family Sermon on Acts v. 3, 4
Bugg's Hard Measure ............................................ ib.
Lit. Intel-New Works-Cambridge-Pub.
Relig. Com.-On a recent Sermon
Family Sermon on Ephes. iv. 23
Receipts of Charities .................... ib.
Relig. Com.-The Christian Ministry .......
Rev. of Chalmers's Christian and Civic Eco-
Lit. Intel.-New Works-Mackenzie Manu-
London Society for Jews...................................... ib.
Relig.Intel-Bible Society; Lord Liverpool's
Speech; Prince Galitzin; The Greeks
apt to fall in their preparation for any solemn duty of religion, but especially in their attendance upon the holy communion. The more common one is that of the formalist, who thinks himself duly prepared by means of certain occasional observances, while his affections are far from God, and there exists no scriptural penitence or faith in his soul. The opposite error is that of some religious persons who, perceiving the defectiveness of a mere formal preparation, are too much inclined to neglect those special duties which are necessary for a profitable attendance on any religious ordinance. The error of the formalist has been often and justly exposed: it may be useful on the present occasion to touch upon the opposite mistake, in order that we may guard against suffering the dread of Pharisaism to betray us into a rash or negligent spirit; remembering, in all our attendance upon sacred duties, the inspired caution, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
It will not be necessary to shew that, in order to render us fit recipients, some kind of preparation is required; for this is allowed by all who think seriously on the subject. But what, let us inquire, is the CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 229.
nature of a right preparation? In order to answer this, let us look back to the first time of our approaching the holy communion. How anxious were we then to ascertain two most important points!
reason to believe, upon a general review of our character, that we were among the number of true believers; and also whether our frame of mind at that particular period was such as suited this great solemnity. Here then was an examination generally as to our state before God, and specially into our religious frame at that particular season; and these two points should always be more or less prominent in our minds in our sacramental preparations. The two opposite mistakes just mentioned, arise from separating these inquiries. The formalist endeavours to work up his feelings to a certain pitch of transient devoutness for the occasion; while he neglects to examine into his general character, and has no due sense of the necessity of a complete renovation of soul; a radical transformation in the spirit of his mind; a turning from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God. He comes, therefore, "trusting in his own righteousness:" he is content if he has duly gone through some heartless round of duties, which he has been accustomed to prescribe for himself at such seasons; while to all practical purposes be is habitually living" without God, and without hope in the world:" he has no deeply penitential contrition for
sin; no humble and exclusive faith in the sacrifice of the Redeemer, and no permanent desire to walk in his blessed steps. In short, he attempts to compensate for the want of habitual preparation, by a pharisaic and superstitious dependence upon some special sacramental exercises; much as if a person, who was living daily in gross disloyalty to his king, should hope to be well received in the royal presence, by going through a few external ceremonies, while his general character and conduct remained unchanged. An earthly monarch might indeed be deceived by this occasional mask; but not So He "who searcheth the heart." On the other hand, some religious persons, as before observed, too much neglect special preparation, in their reliance upon their general state before God. Having, as they humbly trust, scriptural reason to conclude that, notwithstanding their many sins, negli gences, and ignorances, they are still sincere in their holy profession are really penitent on account of their transgressions-have a genuine faith in their Saviour and are making it their supreme endeavour, though amidst innumerable impediments, to live to the praise and glory of Him who loved them and gave himself for them, they do not think it necessary, perhaps they even consider it self-righteous and pharisaic, to employ much more than their ordinary course of self-examination previously to any peculiar act of religious solemnity, such as the reception of the holy communion. This temper of mind, though not so common as that of the formalist, is yet so prejudicial, wherever it prevails, to a profitable attendance on the sacrament, that we ought carefully to guard against it. For this purpose, it will be the object of this paper, first, to convince those who may need convincing, that habitual preparation does not supersede the utility of special preparation; and then to
inquire what is the best kind of special preparation where habitual preparation already exists.
In endeavouring, in the first place, to shew that habitual preparation does not supersede the utility of special preparation, I would address my argument not to those who live in the neglect of the sacrament; nor to such as approach it in a formal and self-righteous spirit; but to those who are among the number of faithful worshippers, and are in the habit of obeying the dying command of their Redeemer, from right principles, and with a view to the comforting and refreshing of their souls. Such persons may be justly said to be habitually in a state of preparation; and being endued with the essential prerequisites, may venture to approach those holy mysteries," whenever an opportunity occurs; even though prevented by lawful causes from devoting so much time and attention as they could wish to special preparation. Thus, for instance, if summoned to join in this act of devout communion with a dying friend; or invited unexpectedly on entering the sacred temple, by finding the sacramental elements prepared for the solemnity; the true Christian will generally feel it his privilege to comply with his Saviour's injunction. He will not refuse the gracious invitation of his Divine Master, from a superstitious notion that a certain prescribed form of special preparation is absolutely requisite, under all circumstances, to a right reception; or from a self-righteous idea that he could in any way have rendered himself really worthy of celebrating those sacred rites. He is persuaded that his claim can be nothing of a meritorious kind; that if he is not habitually in a fit state to receive the holy communion he is not in a fit state either to live or die; and that the qualification which God demands is not a confidence of our worthiness, but a penitent sense of our transgressions, a selfrenouncing faith in the Redeemer,
and an earnest desire and resolution, by his grace, and the assistance of his Holy Spirit, to dedicate the remainder of our lives to his praise and glory. This habitual preparation he feels to be the primary object of his inquiry; and in order to answer that inquiry aright, every true Christian must be living constantly, and not at peculiar seasons only, in habits of self-examination and earnest prayer. He must thus acquire a general acquaintance with his own character, and learn to ascertain his state in the sight of God; and if his heart testify, and God, who is greater than his heart, testify, that he is grounded on a right foundation, he has a scrip. tural title to partake at all times of the privileges which belong to the disciple of Jesus Christ.
Such is his general qualification; but this does not supersede special acts on special occasions. Before solemn ordinances, there should be a solemn self-devotion. It is true that we have no fitness for any religious service, till God is pleased to cleanse our hearts by his Holy Spirit, and to make us "new creatures in Christ Jesus;" and equally true, that our real fitness, as before observed, has respect rather to our habitual state, than to our momentary frame; but still there are many and great advantages to be derived from endeavouring to prepare our minds in a peculiar manner when we are about to engage in any important act of religious duty. In public worship, in our private devotions, in our fami ly prayers, in our deeds of mercy and charity, we should usually find far greater benefit to our souls, if we came to them with more consideration; and especially if we could regularly devote a space of time, however short, to prepare our minds for entering on them with devout affections, and undisturbed attention. Many eminent Christians have so strongly felt the trath of this remark, that they would not venture to implore the
blessing of God upon the ordinary refreshments for the sustenance of the body, without first earnestly endeavouring to compose their minds in order that their prayer might be offered up in faith, and without distraction. How much more then does solemn preparation become that most affecting of all Christian ordinances, in which, in an especial mattner, we approach the Divine Presence and receive the sacred pledges of the dying love of our Redeemer!
In endeavouring to shew that, even to the established Christian, special preparation is of great importance, it is not irrelevant to remark the danger of "eating and drinking unworthily." This sin, it is true, applies, in its full extent, only to the careless and unbelieving; but there may be an approach to it even in the true Christian, when he comes to the sacred table in an indifferent and thoughtless frame. It is only when we truly "discern the Lord's body," viewing him as " evidently set forth crucified among us," and with “a penitent heart and lively faith," receive that holy sacrament, that our preparation is of a right kind; and when that is the case, far from receiving unworthily, “ we eat and drink to our souls' health," we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us, we are one with Christ, and Christ with us."
But not only may be urged, as a motive for special preparation, the fear of partaking unworthily, but also the positive benefits which will arise to the mind from this devout process. Every opportunity for self-examination is worthy of being embraced; and surely in an especial manner a season of such peculiar solemnity, in which every circumstance seems to invite us to a more than common self-investigation. Each recurrence of sacramental occasions may be profitably viewed as an opportunity expressly afforded us in the course of the Divine Providence for examining