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To this, two things are necessary. The mind must be instructed. When any thing is to be done by us, we must understand it. So in religion. We cannot be religious without learning wbat it is. This knowledge must be gained, just as we gain any knowledge, on our part.
We are aware, that the idea of teaching religion has been booted at and ridiculed. If, however, all that has been ridiculed were false, we should have to give up some of the most precious doctrines of our holy religion. Even at the resurrection, when Paul preached it, "some mocked.” Ridicule is no test of truth. It has always been but a weak opposition, when catecbumens have been addressed with a sneer—"Ay, learning religion !"
It remains true, that part of the preparation necessary to make a good confession consists in being taught. Religion has been regarded in all ages as educational. The Prophets taught. Christ taught. The Apostles' taught. In the early Church, and in all ages, there have been those, part of whose duly it was, not only to preach publicly, but also to catechise. In the early Church there was a distinct order in the Church called Catechists. This has been the order of the Reformation Cburches, long before the sys. tems or sects of those who condemn it, had any existence. It is still the case, as it was when Philip met the Eunuch and instructed him, that none can learn or understand without a teacher.
It may confidently be asserted, and all experience and Scripture will prove it true, that professions will only be stable, when those who make them, do it intelligently-with a full knowledge of the plan of salvation, in its essential features. No one builds a tower, and sitteth not first down to count the cost. No sensible person makes a profession of religion, unless he has some comfortable assurance, that he understands his duty. For this the Church makes beautiful provision. May the excellent ordinance live for. ever! May there never be wanting those, who, like the Eunuch, shall say, “How can I understand, except some one teach me.”
Teaching is, however, only the one side of this preparation. The truth, as taught, must also have affected the conscience and the heart. This knowledge must work experience. The doctrine of repent. ance must not only be understood by the mind, but the power of penitence must affect the heart. The doctrine of faith must become of practical effect; it must work by love, purify the heart, and overcome the world.
Here, then, are two things which are sometimes made extremes. Some insist on a mere knowledge; others on mere feeling or experi. ence. Both are wrong. Religion is neither the one nor the other; but it is the living union of both The truth must be known and felt. The mind must learn, and the heart must feel. “They that know thy name, will put their trust in thee.” • When one comes ihus, with the knowledge of God in his mind and the love of God in his heart, he is ready to enter regularly into the Church, and is prepared to pass through the Church to the Holy Communion. If any one should, then, put the question,
"Wherewith shall I come before the Lord ?” we answer, first, “This is eternal life, that we sbould know Theo, the only true God." « Let the word of God dwell in you richly.” We answer, secondly, “ He is not a Jew that is one outwardly." But “the kingdom of God is within you.” “ The sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite heart.” “I live, yet not I, but Christ, liveth in me.”
The communicant must also have an external character and walk, which correspond with the Gospel. He must be of good report among them that are without.
It sometimes happens, that persons, who are members, and who bave, perhaps, entered the Church in the way we have described, are, nevertheless, deficient in their constant walk. They may seem devoted and regular in their services and duties of religion, and yet live so as to cause others to stumble.
One object in the communion is to exhibit God's glory, and testify for Christ in this public and solemn expression of our love to Him. But this is all lost on the minds of others, when our life con tradicis our profession. Those who see us at the table, also see us in the world. The Apostle enjoins it upon the Church to have such persons excluded. “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or an extortioner : with such an one no not to eat.” (5 Cor. 5: 11.)
Well does the Heidelberg Catechism ask : “ Are they to be ad. mitted to this Supper, who, by confession and life, declare them. selves unbelievers and ungodly ?” The answer is : “No: for by this the covenant of God would be profaned, and His wrath kindled against the whole congregation ; therefore, it is the duty of the Christian Church, according to the appointment of Christ and His Apostles, to exclude such by the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, unti} they shew amendment of life"
We would hardly think it possible, that any one of such charac. ter would attempt to commune. Yet there are such. What the Lord says to those who eat and drink unworthily, does not deter them. They forget what the Apostle says: “ Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." Yet both drunkards and drunkard-makers have polluted the Lord's body and blood with their un boly bands!
To a suitable preparation for the table of the Lord, belong, also, feelings of amity and love towards our fellow-beings.
The law on this subject is distinctly written, and cannot be set aside. « If thou bring the gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”.
This refers not to sinners that are without, for it is impossible to be always at peace with them; and to be reconciled with them, would be to give up our own christian cbaracter. It refers to fellow-christians whom we have injured. « Thy brother.” The ex. pression, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee," is peculiar. It means if you have done anything which was wrong against bim, so that he holds you in account. Sins against them are debts, which they hold against us. If you have thus given cause to thy brother to have aught against thee, go and be reconciled to him.
"To him.” This implies that the offence was, on your side, against him. You have injured him. He is right in holding you. Now, he is not to give up, and confess to you, and ask your pardon, and thas reconcile himself to you. But he is to stand where he is, and you are to be reconciled to bim. The Scripture, for instance, does not say that God is to be reconciled to us, but we are to be reconciled to God. Because God is the injured one, and we must come to Him, not He to us. So here. Be reconciled to your brother, whom you have injured. This all you are to do before you bring your gift to the altar.
The Scripture also, elsewhere, inculcates the same. We cannot love God when we hate our brother. We cannot ask forgiveness unless we forgive. We cannot have the favor of God while we injure our brethren, and remain unwilling to confess our fault, make restitution, and ask pardon. So long, also, as this feeling abides in us, we dare not bring our gift to the altar. If we come with such murderous thoughts of anger and hate, God will call to us with a voice, which will at once make us feel our guilt: “Where is thy brother Abel!”
There is another rule which belongs to this matter of reconcili. ation, which is to be remembered by the brother that is injured. Persons, by a natural pride, will cherish personal injuries; and though they see that the one who did it is sorry and grieved, they want more humiliation, and take a wicked satisfaction in refusing to forget and forgive. Let them hear this rule: «Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him ? till seven times ? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven." (Matt. 18: 21, 22.) Again : “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive bim. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him."
If he « trespass against thee. This has reference, of course, to personal injuries. He may commit a crime which affects you, but which is, at the same time, a crime also against society-against the Church or the State-or against both. Over such crimes you have no power. You have no power to forgive for the State or for the Church, or for society, any crime committed against them. The trespasser must atone to the powers against which he has sinned, and it is your duty to hold him, equally with others, to a due penalty to restitution and atonement for the crime. If a man steals your horse, burns your barn, or commits any other crime of the kind, it is a crime not " against thee" only, but also against society, and you have no power in the case; because society, in general, is interested, and, for its own safety, must insist on the penalty. The case is between him and the offended power, and not between him and you. His crime, though it has involved you, does not affect your gift at the altar. It would be fearful, indeed, if a Christian's conscience and the acceptableness of his worship, were in the power of every lawless person !
There is suitable preparation necessary as regards the frame, spirit, and temper of our own minds and hearts.
What must be the frame of our hearts? We fear there is a zeal, in this respect, which is not according to knowledge. We fear some raise the standard too high. Some, we fear, would exclude such as Christ receives. Some, still under the spirit of self-righteous uncharitableness, would exclaim, in horror, at the sight of Christ and his guests: “ This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” Some would require of the guest fuil assurance of faith. They would exclude the soul, feeble and doubting. The trembling soul must first get joy, and the troubled soul must first get grace, before they can come. Some would even, perhaps, insist on perfect sanctification. To this we would say, the holy need no cleansing blood, and the strong need no strengthening bread.
The Scriptures point out to us the kind of guests which are to come. They describe to us their qualifications, and tell us what kind of preparation is necessery to an acceptable approach.
Penitence. Penitence is a godly sorrow for sin—for all our remaining imperfections—for our unfaithfulness—want of loveomissions of duty Here we see our sins, the evil of sin, the cost of sin, as at no other place. In His spirit of self-sacrifice, we see our want of devotion, as we see it no where else. Here, too, are we melted and tender. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit."
Humility. The humble have the promises. They shall be exalted. “He that humbleth himself, shall be exalted." "The meek will He guide in judgment.” “ Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." There is enough to make us humble, if we will only remember it. This is our place-at the feet of Christ. Humility is the essence of piety-pride the worst of spirits. By it angels fell. “He knoweth the proud afar off.” “lle giveth grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under His mighty hand. We have an example in the woman of Canaan. (Mark 7: 24; Matt. 16 : 22.)
Faith. Humility and penitence are the way to faith. “When I am weak, then am I strong." A sense of our own nothingness, turns us over on Christ. Faith recognizes Christ in the Supper as food, drink, strength, and salvation.
Devotion to Christ. “How capst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me?” (Judges 16: 15.) Our energies must be devoted to Him. He must be our Lord and Master. He must be our desire, our joy, our hope, and our all. What are we devoted to ? Pleasure ? Riches ? 'Honor ? Sin? Earth, in any sense ? Christ must be supreme. He must have the first place in
our hearts. Do we thus love Him ? His Church? His people ? His worship and service ? Here while we see His devotion to us into death. Here we must be devoted. Here we must learn devotion.
Hungry and thirsty. Those that are full, or who feel full, need not come bitber. Go ye out into the highway, and bring in the poor, tbe halt, the maimed, the blind. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come to the waters." We can only eat properly when we are hungry; only drink when we feel thirsty. Bungry for gracethirsty for His Spirit. Like the prodigal, tired of the busks of sin, and eayer for better food. This is the preparation which the Mas. ter of the feast approves.