To this Holy Table we come
oftentimes, Christian friends: Not so often as many of our fellow-Christians
do; yet as years pass on, our Communion seasons mount up, and grow many : so
many, that we cannot remember distinctly, most of us, each day on which we
made this good profession, and how it was with our souls upon that day. We
come to the Holy Table in all moods of mind: in all states of bodily health:
in all outward circumstances of joy or sorrow. We have our sunshiny
Communion Sundays and our overcast ones; with their inward sunshine and
shade. Perhaps we are wrong in asking for a uniform experience of even our
unchanging Saviour's grace, in this world where unchanged truths do yet
change their aspects to us as we ourselves change. The returning
anniversaries of the most touching and memorable events in our family
histories are not the same: each has its own shade of character; and we
cannot make them alike, do what we may. Is it not so, in some measure, with
our Communion seasons? We think of our Saviour's love and grace; and these
are unchanged: Would that we could always feel them as we ought! And perhaps
we are wrong in looking, even in their contemplation on a day like this, for
a glow of feeling which grows less common when we begin to grow old. We are
but laying up disappointment for ourselves, doing so.
If our remembering our Lord at His Table, and our feeding upon Him by faith,
were a mechanical work under the control of our will, then we might make
sure, every time we did it, that it should be done equally well, and to
equal profit. But whenever work comes to be mental, and yet more when it
comes to be spiritual, it becomes difficult, and it becomes uncertain. And
the simplest reliance on God's grace, and the most earnest prayer for God's
Spirit, will never make it any other, while wre remain the beings we are.
The glow of devotion; the rapture which lifts up the soul as into the air of
Paradise, and makes it walk as with angels through the Land Beulah: these
must come spontaneous, or they will not come at all. Yet though feeling be
not at our command, purpose is: calm purpose here to show forth our
Redeemer's death, and to declare ourselves His faithful soldiers and
servants to our life's end: calm purpose that bv God's grace, promised and
never-failing, we shall deny ungodliness and worldly lusts; and live
soberly, righteously, am. godly in this present world: calm purpose that
here by faith we shall, if God enable us, devoutly feed upon our Lord’s
broken body and shed blood: humbly and thankfully receiving whatever portion
of the children's bread it may please Him to give us, even though it should
taste less sweet and refreshing than we have known it do.
And looking at Christ's faithful ones, devoutly sitting at His Table of
Communion, what minister does not feel, with advancing experience, as though
they were best left mainly to their own meditation: each one for himself
recalling his own history: thinking of Christ’s goodness to himself: calling
to remembrance his own burdens and cares, and casting all upon the strong
arm of Almighty God: thinking of work to be done, and asking that this
spiritual food may strengthen to do it: praying with all prayer for a heart
filled with the Holy Spirit: like the Psalmist of old, if the heart be cast
down and weak, remembering God from the land of Jordan, and of the
Hermonites, from the hill Mizar: Not from the everlasting hills, from whence
cometh our help, though to them too we shall lift up our eyes; but from the
hill Mizar, the ‘little hill;’ the season in our own experience wherein we
found our Saviour so merciful and true: when we were in great perplexity
which way to go, and He wonderfully inclined us, we know not how, to that
way which now we can see was right: when we were burdened with the sense of
sin, and were enabled truly to cling to the Cross: when we were pressed down
beneath a special weight of care, and were enabled to cast all our care on
Him: when we were weak and sorrowful, and asked for light and strength, and
so doing were well assured that our hearts were suddenly strengthened and
cheered by the blessed communications of His Blessed and Holy Spirit.
Looking back on times like these, we will now remember our Saviour, and all
He has done for us.
On that ever-memorable night, etc.
We have taken the cup of salvation, and called upon the name of the Lord. We
have paid our vows unto the Lord, now in the presence of all His people.
And having thus paid our vows, our purpose is, in what remains of this life,
that by God's grace we fulfil them. By God’s grace.
Surely we often fall into error, thinking of how dependent we are on God’s
grace, and of how it is to strengthen us. No doubt, we can do nothing in any
strength of our own; and by God's grace we can do all things we are called
to do, in fulfilling duty and resisting temptation. But we sometimes have a
feeling as if when we have prayed to have our heart filled with the Holy
Spirit, we have just to sit still and somehow we shall grow better, without
any effort of our own. This is not what we may commonly expect. What we may
expect is, that if we earnestly pray for God's grace, and then exert
ourselves to the utmost, we shall be able, we do not know how, to do what
otherwise we could not have done. Now, this sounds mystical. We cannot
explain the how and why of it. But there are many things of which we are
quite sure, although we cannot explain how they come to be. No one can
explain how, from one grain of wheat that decays in the ground, months
afterwards you may reap thirty, sixty, a hundred. Na one has the least
approach to a clear idea of how that comes to be: yet we know it does come
to be. So with the help we get from God's grace and spirit. It comes: that
is certain. It somehow reinforces our feeble strength: its impulses somehow
weave in with the operations of our own minds. The meaning is this: You have
a work to do : you try to do it: you find that you cannot do it. Then you
pray for God's grace: you try now to do your work: somehow you feel
stronger; and you do it,—do what before you could not do. So with
temptation. There is a sin, you know what, which doth easily beset you:
hasty speech, unkind thought, or some other : Many times the temptation
came, and you yielded to it: you faintly resisted, but yielded in the end.
But on some happy day, as you set yourself with all your strength to resist
the evil impulse, you sought God's grace: and you were aware that either the
impulse that day was weaker or you were stronger; for you easily put it by.
Thus God's grace helps us. It will not help the sluggard. But diligently do
what you are called to do, seeking God's grace; and the strength will come:
come in due degree. Yea, as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
We go away, Christian friends, from this holy place where we have vowed to
the Lord, looking for His grace to help us to fulfil our vows. But remember,
no one cair keep your vows for you, except yourself. God's grace will not
keep your vows for you: it will enable you to keep them, if you diligently
try with all your strength to keep them for yourselves. And, by His Spirit
enabling us, surely we are minded, and firmly purposed, so to do.
Go in peace from the Table of the Lord: and may the God of Peace Himself
give you peace always by all means.
Then is sung a further portion of Psalm CIII. to the same tune.
3 All thine iniquities who doth
most graciously forgive:
Who thy diseases all and pains
doth heal, and thee relieve.
4 Who doth redeem thy life, that thou
to death may'st not go down;
Who thee with loving-kindness
doth and tender mercies crown.