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who can discern his own resemblance in any of these characters? Is it a knowledge of the truth, or the power of prejudice, or compliance with custom, which induces you to assume the livery of Christianity? It is the doctrine of a learned divine, and the authority of your fathers; or is it the fruit of serious study, and enlightened persuasion ? Want of illumination ; this is the first article of comparison between the profane priests of Malachi's days, and profane Christians of our own times: you offer pulluted bread upon mine altar ; ye say the table of the Lord is contemptible.
2. The priests of Malachi's days profaned the table of the Lord, in refusing to fulfil the moral engagements which the ceremonial observance imposed, in the symbols of a secret union with deity. While they were professedly uniting themselves to the Holy One of Israel, they entertained sentiments the most criminal, and were chargeable with practices the most irregular and impure. They participated in the table of the Lord, while their hands were defiled with the accursed thing ; and they presumed, by offering to God a part of what they had forcibly or fraudulently taken away from their neighbors, to make him, in some measure, an accomplice in their injustice and rapacity. With this they are reproached in the 12th and 13th verses of the chapter from which our text is taken: ye have polluted my table, in presenting upon it that which is torn or stolen. They were partakers of the table of the Lord, at the very time when they were avowedly living in forbidden wedlock with pagan women. With this they are upbraided in the second chapter of this prophecy, at the eleventh verse: Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is commitled in Israel, and in Jerusalem : for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. They were partakers of the table of the Lord, at the very time when they were practising criminal divorces, and indulging themselves in sentiments the most barbarous and inhuman, toward persons whom the laws of marriage ought to have rendered dear and respectable to them. With this they are reproached in tho 13th verse of the same chapter: This have
ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regarded not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good-will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore ? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. They were partakers of the table of the Lord, while they impiously dared to accuse him, not only of tolerating vice, but of loving and approving it. With this too, they are reproached in the 17th verse of that chapter: Ye have wearied the Lord with your words: yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them ; or, Where is the God of judgment?
Want of virtue : a second point of comparison between the priests who said, the table of the Lord is contemptible, and professors who, to this day, profane the holy ordinance of the supper. Can any among you discern your own likeness under this character? Are you going to avow unto the Lord an inviolable fidelity; or, while you are partaking of his grace, have you a secret reservation disrespectful to his laws? Is it
Is it your determination to put in practice the great, the essential virtues of the Christian life; or do you mean to satisfy yourselves with discharging the petty duties of morality, and with attending to the formal and less important obligations of religion? Are you going to declare war against every thing which opposés the empire of righteousness in your heart, or are you reserving the indulgence of some favoritė passion, some Dalila, some Drusilla ? Are you disposed to prescribe to your progress in grace a fixed point, beyond which it is needless to aim ; or is it your fixed resolution, through grace, to be continually advancing toward perfection ? Are you going to satisfy yourselves with vague designs ; or are your projects to be supported by just measures and sage precautions ?
3. Finally, the priests of Malachi's days profaned the table of the Lord, from their being destitute of a just sense of the inestimable value of the blessings communicated. It seemed to them, as if God put a price too high on the benefits which he profered ; and that, every thing weighed and adjusted, it was better to go without them, than to purchase them at the rate of such sacrifices as the possession of them demanded. This injurious mode of computation is reproved in very concise, but very energetic terms, chap. i. 13. Ye said, What a weariness is it! and in another place, chap. iii. 14. Ye have said it is in vain to serve God : and what profit is it, that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of Hosts ? and at the very beginning of the book of this prophecy: I have loved you, saith the Lord: yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us ? This was offering an insult to deity, if the expression be warrantable, in the tenderest part. He declares to us, that he stands in no need of our worship and of our homage; that, exalted to the height of felicity and glory, he can derive no ad
vantage from our obedience and submission : that his laws are the fruit of love, and that the virtue which he prescribes to us, is the only path that can conduct us to the sovereign good. The priests belied this notion of religion.
Want of feeling: a third article of comparison between the profanation of the table of the Lord, of which those detestable wretches rendered themselves guilty, and the guilt of Christian professors, who profane the holy table of the Lord's Supper. A Christian who partakes of this sacred ordinance, ought to approach it with a heart penetrated by the unspeakable greatness of the blessings there tendered to our acceptance. He ought to view that sacred table as the centre, in which all the benedictions bestowed by the Creator meet. He ought to be making unremitting efforts to measure the Loundless dimensions of the love of God, to implore the aid of the Spirit, that he may be enabled to view it in all its extent, and to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of that love, Eph. in. 13. He ought to be contemplating that chain iii of blessings which are there displayed in intimate and inseparable union : Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the imuge of his Son . ... Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called ; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified, Rom. viii. 29, 30. Under a sense of favors so numerous and so distinguishing, he ought to cry out with the Psalmist : How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God ! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house ; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasure, Psa. xxxvi. 7, 8. He ought to exclaim, with a soul absorbed in the immensity of the divine goodness : My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, Psa. Ixiii. 5. He ought, above all, to be struck with the incomprehensible disproportion there is between what God does for us, and what he requires of us. He ought to make the same estimate of things that St. Paul did: I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, Rom. viii. 18. every thing fairly considered, I reckon that the trouble which the study of his religion demands, the sacrifices exacted of God, the constraint to which I am subjected in immolating to him my sinful passions, in resisting a torrent of corruption, in struggling against the influence of bad example, in straining to rise above flesh and blood, above self-love and nature : every thing fairly considered, I reckun that whatever is demanded of us by God, when we come to his table, is not once to be compared with the favors which he there dispenses, with the grand objects which he there displays, with the pardon which he there pronounces, with the peace of conscience which he there bestuws, with the eternal glory which he there promises. To be destitute of such feelings as these, when we partake of the Lord's supper, is to profane it. Examine yourselves once more by this standard. Want of feeling: this was the third head of comparison between profane Jews, and profane Christian professors : Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; ye say the table of the Lord is contemptible.