« PreviousContinue »
and for this ordinance in commemoration of their purchase ; and a prayer for the divine blessing on the service. He then proceeds to what is called “ the service of the table.” A short appropriate address is made to those at the table—the elements are put into their hands, the minister meanwhile repeating the words of institution; and after a short pause, till the act of communicating is finished, a few suitable ex. hortations are addressed to them before they leave the table. As, in most cases, the seats around the communion table are incapable of accommodating all the members of the church at one time, there is generally a number of table services, the intervals being filled up with singing.
This part of the work, with the exception of the first table service, is usually performed by the ministers who are assisting the Pastor of the congregation in the administration of the Lord's supper. It may not be improper to notice a practice which was once almost universal in Scotland, but which is, from a variety of causes, now so generally abandoned, as that it is likely soon to be mere subject of history. In consequence of neighbouring congregations being vacant, by their ministers assisting each other in the dispensation of the Lord's supper, great crowds used to assemble at the place where this ordinance was observed ; and it was found necessary, as the church could contain but a small portion of them, to have a succession of sermons preached without doors, while the peculiar services of the day were going on within. In the evening it was customary to deliver the concluding sermon to the whole congregation, in the open air. That abuses were occasionally committed on such occasions, cannot be doubted ; yet still it is scarcely possible not to look back' with regret, to the impressive spectacle which, twenty years ago, was not uncommon in Scotland, of an assembly of some thou. sands, on a fine summer Sabbath evening, on a mountain-side, listening with deep attention, and apparent devotion, to the glad tidings of great joy, delivered with solemn interest and tender affection. Multitudes have been obliged to say on such occasions, and the recollection has been sweet to their dying hour, “Surely the Lord is in this place. How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
THE REDEEMING LOVE OF GOD.
CHRISTIANS ! the love of God to sinful men, is an overwhelming subject. It has a height and a depth, a length and a breadth, which bid defiance to the computing powers of created intelligences. It exceeds de scription; it "passeth knowledge."
Of all the numberless blessed effeets of this love, the most wonderful is that which we are met this day gratefully to acknowledge, and religiously to commemorate: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life. He spared not his Son, but delivered him up for us all.” All the other gifts of God, glorious as they are, lose all their lustre when contrasted with this gift, of value unspeakable, inconceivable.
Who the Son of God is, no created being can fully comprehend. On his vesture and thigh is a name written, the full import of which is known only to his Father and to himself; for, “as no man knoweth the Father but the Son, so no man knoweth the Son but the Father.” To estimate his excellence exceeds our powers, exceeds the powers of the highest created being. Infinite intelligence can alone comprehend infinite perfection. Fix your attention, Christians, on the scriptural account of his glories, not that you may form an adequate estimate of his worth, but that you may be penetrated with the conviction that it is altogether inestimable.
His goings forth have been of old from everlasting. He was “in the beginning" Before the expanse of the heaven was stretched forth, or the sun had learned to know his place,-ere there was a day to rule, or a world to enlighten,--the Son of God existed, enfolded in the bosom of his Father, the partner of his honours, the equal sharer of his felicities. He is the “brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person.” By the exertion of his mighty power were the materials of all worlds called into existence ; by his matchless skill were they arranged into that harmonious and beautiful system which we now behold; and by the continued exercise of the
perfections are they upheld in being, and made to answer the
purposes for which they were formed : “ were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him ; and he is before all things, and by him all things subsist.” It was he who inspired with wisdom the angelic hosts, and communicated understanding to the human soul. All the angels of God worship him, and heaven and earth are full of his glory.
By him The Son of God is not more glorious in himself, than he is dear to his Father : “ The Father loveth the Son." Christ Jesus receives that appellation in a sense peculiar to himself. He is God's only begotten and well-beloved Son. All that is implied in these appellations cannot be comprehended by mortals, but most assuredly they convey the ideas of intimate relation, and boundless complacency. God regards his saints and angels with compassion and kindness; but he loves his Son as he loves himself. He knows all the innumerable excellencies of his nature, in all their infia. nite extent; and up to the full measure of his knowledge, if the expression may be admitted, does he love him,
Who could have expected, that a person so glorious in himself, and so dear to God, should ever have been exposed to inconvenience or to sorrow ? Surely it would have been natural to have expected, that the whole universe of creatures should have been allowed to sink in endless perdition, rather than the tranquillity of the Son of God should have been for a moment ruffled, or his happiness in the slightest degree impaira. ed?' Yet this glorious personage was not spared, when the salvation of a lost world required the sacri. fice. When his interposition became necessary he was not with-held, and when he did interpose he was not spared. He was neither excused from suffering, nor spared when he suffered. He was delivered up,—but to whom to what? To enemies most formidable and numerousoto agonies most intense and deadly. The more we think of the sufferings of the Son of God, the more we are confounded and astonished. It is an object too big for comprehension—too awful for steady contemplation. He was delivered up to debasement and poverty, to pain and death, to the power of devils to the wrath of God.
And for whom was all this degradation submitted to, and all this suffering endured ? Was it for creatures, unhappy indeed, yet worthy and innocent ? No; it was for rebels against the divine authority violaters of the divine law-haters of the divine purity ;-Christians, it was for you. “Christ died for us ;" He was “delivered up for us all.”
What can you render to the Lord for this, the greatest of his benefits? Take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.
"In that night in which our Lord was betrayed he took bread, and when he had blessed, he brake it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, Take, eat: This is my body which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of me. In like manner also after supper he took the cup, and when he had blessed, he gave it to the disciples, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood, shed for remission of sins unto many : Drink ye all of it. And as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death until he come.”
Communicants ! “ The lines have fallen to you in pleasant places; yea, ye have a goodly heritage.” God has so loved you, as to give you his Son; and, in giving him to you, he has in effect given you all you need for time and for eternity. There is no resisting the apostle's conclusion :
“ He who spared not his Son, but delivered him up for us all, how will he not with him also freely give you all things?" Yes, Christians, "all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, all is yours, ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's.” Whatever is really good for you, of a temporal kind, shall not be withheld. If it is necessary to your happiness,