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Not only was no heathen allowed to be present at this great solemnity, but even Christians themselves, unless they 26 adorned the doctrine of God their Sa“ viour," by the purity of their lives and conversation, were not admitted to taste of the heavenly banquet! And let it be observed, that, while the denial of this holy sacrament was judged the 'greatest temporal punishment, which the Church had power to inflict, even on the most notorious sinner; so highly, may we not add so properly, were its benefits appreciated, that no other was found necessary.
The contrast between modern neglect and those times of primitive discipline, is too painful to dwell upon : it is our lot to live in times, when, partly it may be allowed from wanton and unjust exertion of ecclesiastical power,
in an age of darkness and usurpation; but more from that overweening spirit of independence, which grew out of successful opposition to it; the censures of the Church have lost all
n Titus ii. 10.
o See Note LXXVIII. Appendix.
their efficacy and so far has this holy sacrament sunk in estimation, that many who call themselves Christians, and profess to be in unity with the Church, Wilfully abstain from the Lord's tablet and thus cut - themselves off from one of the greatest of their spiritual privileges. De
Some, doubtless, fall into this grievous error through mistaken, though reverent views of the eucharist itself, or ofithe proper preparation for receiving h it: but many, very many, especially among those whose superior education and attainments would lead us to expect better things from them, are found to neglect this most important benefit of their Christian calling, for no other reason, than that they have never seriously thought of its nature or its value. If however that Church which was founded by the Apostles, which grew up under their especial superintendance, and enjoyed the advantage of their example, may be considered as a model, by which we are to: 9,fi build
ourselves on dorits
P See Note LXXIX. Appendix.
9 Jude 20.
our most holy faith ;?. then we must " continue stedfast in the Apostles' doc«trine and fellowship, in breaking of " bread, and in prayers.”
But if not; if Christianity has changed its character, and some new lights have sprung up in these latter days, which shew that the precepts of the Gospel are no longer obligatory ; that the practice of Christ's immediate disciples is no rule for our conduct; and that his most solemn institutions may be safely neglected, or despised, by those who call themselves members of his body, and heirs of his kingdom; then may unity of prayers: or sacraments, of doctrine or of discipline, be alike disregarded as antiquated, and obsolete observances, in which ,, we have neither interest nor concern. Such opinions, iso utterly irreconcileable with every idea of Christian association and duty inculcated by the Scriptures, require no refutation : to state them plainly, is to shew their deformity and their dạnger. But between them and conformity to the practice stated in the text, there can be
ņo alternative. If men may not worship God according to the dictates of their own vain imaginations, where shall they look for direction, but to his revealed word ? or what purer example can they propose to themselves, than that of the Church which the Apostles in person ruled ? In the Scriptures they will find evidence sufficiently strong to satisfy all who will impartially weigh it, that the Church has la power, inherent in herself, to make the necessary provisions for the decent and ora derly celebration of her public service; and that, independent of all such regulations, which, as they may be varied according to the circumstances and situation of each particular branch of it, are binding only upon the members of that branch; there are divine offices, even the two sacraments, appointed by Christ himself, and therefore of perpetual and universal obligation.
No society of Christians can set these aside, without forfeiting its title to be esteemed a part of the body of Christ ; no Christian can neglect them, without vir
tually cutting himself off from the communion of saints, and hazarding his eternal salvation. If from the state of public confusion and disorder, of individual peril and uncertainty, consequent upon such an unauthorized deviation from the rule of Scripture, and the practice of the first disciples, as recorded by the Evangelist for our instruction, we turn to the consideration of that unity of devotion, recommended by the text, and enforced by the discipline of our own Church; how fair, how lovely is the prospect!
If any spectacle can give us an idea of heavenly occupations and delights in this our mortal state, it must be that of a Christian congregation, prostrate before the footstool of the same God; and joining with one heart and one soul in the same fervent and devout expressions of faith, of hope, of gratitude, of reverence, of obedience.
When then the mind is carried on from a single congregation thus employed to the idea, that the whole national Church is at the same time engaged in hallowing the