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end. Granting then that it is one means of conversion, it cannot be necessary that this change should be completely wrought in us before we have commemorated our Saviour's death, for that would be to suppose the end obtained before ever we have adopted the means.
Men are not called upon to abstain from the sacrament altogether, till they be sensibly assured, that they are in a state of grace, established in GoD's favour, and emancipated from sin beyond the possibility of a relapse, 'tis enough that they heartily and sincerely resolve against their known and besetting sins; that they be willing and desirous to use all means for becoming better; and if, thus disposed, they approach the Lord's table, I doubt not they will find it the most effectual method for enabling them to renounce their past sins, and improve their future life. It is not men's unworthiness, but their determination to continue in that state, which disqualifies them for attending the sacrament.
"Master," in words acknowledge him, but in deeds deny him. He cannot brook the mock service of impure worshippers, who with their lips approach him, while their hearts are far from him; who claim him as their Sovereign, but would fain be exempt from his dominion. Nay, my brethren, if through a love of sin it be that you forswear the sacrament, even lay aside your whole Christian profession, renounce your baptism, (it is nothing more than your baptismal vows which you are called upon to repeat at the altar-it is no new engagement, but only a renewal of that which you entered into in childhood,) therefore, I say renounce your baptism openly; you do so tacitly when you refuse to renew its obligations at the sacramental table; deny your Saviour and disown his religion, for that is the safest course, whilst you resolve to continue in sin and disobedience. And as absentees from the altar, 'tis but too certain you will remain habitual sinners; since how should you attend to your Saviour's living precepts or example, when you slight his dying exhortation; "Do this in remembrance of me."
If, therefore, by your alleged unworthiness, you mean that you are living in sin, and are resolved to do so, and, as a natural consequence, dare not come to the sacrament, for fear you should further provoke Almighty God, I answer, that herein you show your wariness and prudence; but then I would advise you, for the same reason, and on the same account, to leave off all their duties of religion as well as this. If you would act consistently, you ought to reckon it the safest way never to pray to GoD any more, never to appear again in any of our religious assemblies, nor take any part in the solemnity of divine worship; for, of the two, God hath declared, that he does more abhor, and will more severely punish, the formal hypocrite, than the bold and open contemner of his authority. "The prayer of the wicked man is an abomination to the Lord." He hates the addresses of those who call him "Father" and
Christians do not sufficiently consider that in absenting themselves from the Lord's table, they violate a most positive commandment! If, indeed, the receiving of this sacrament were an indifferent rite or ceremony, that might be performed or omitted at pleasure, and much I fear that some of you have hitherto regarded it as such, why then the danger there is in receiving it unworthily might, in some degree, justify your omission of it. But what if the danger be as great, and the hazard equal, of not receiving it at all, as of receiving it unworthily? Where then is your prudence and safety, when to avoid one danger, you run into another every whit as great; when for fear of displeasing GoD, you disobey a plain command; and, through dread
of his judgment, commit an unjustifiable sin; for I can term it no less to live in the neglect and disregard of this holy ordinance. But, my brethren, I have done. If in the course of what I have said, a more than usual warmth or earnestness be apparent, impute it to the proper cause. Of all the duties which attach to me as your minister and spiritual guide, that which I have endeavoured to acquit myself of today, lies nearest my heart; and, alas! it is in vain to disguise the truth, it is the one in which I have hitherto least succeeded. You come to church each sabbath day (none so regular)—your devotion in the prayers and attention during the sermon are most exemplary, so much so as to have attracted the observation of strangers who have occasionally visited this church, and I bless GOD who has given me these earnests of a not quite unsuccessful ministry. But I remember the words of a pious bishop, and am humbled, nay dispirited. "Shew me,” said he, "the young clergyman who draws most communicants to the altar, and I will tell you whom I esteem the most useful." Apply this criterion to the present audience, and there is perhaps more cause for sorrow than rejoicing.
Wherefore is it the case? While musing thus on a circumstance so much
to be deplored, the thought struck me that some groundless fear or apprehension might be at the bottom of this evil, and I determined, if possible, to obviate it. You have seen then, in the foregoing discourse, that a sense of unworthiness, if accompanied by a hearty repentance and a sincere desire to amend, so far from withholding you, ought to bring you the oftener unto the altar. 'Tis there that our blessed Saviour communicates to his followers all the benefits of his death and passion, insomuch, that by a due and frequent receiving of this holy sacrament, our souls would be strengthened and refreshed by the body and blood of Christ, just as our bodies are by bread and wine. And such the supplies of grace and virtue we should derive from him, as to be enabled not only to avoid the sins and follies of this lower world, but to live in a manner above it, and have our conversation in heaven. Thus conversing with our blessed Lord, as guests at his table here below, we shall be ready at a moment to go meet him, and converse with him in his kingdom above; where there will be no need of sacraments to call him to our remembrance, or remind him of our duties; but we shall see him face to face, and laud while we imitate his perfections for evermore!
London: Published for the Proprietors, by T. GRIFFITHS, Wellington Street, Strand; and Sold by all Booksellers in Town and Country.
Printed by Lowndes and White, Crane Court, Fleet Street.
SERMON BY THE REV. H. MELVILL.
THURSDAY, JUNE 16, 1831.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. H. MELVILL, A. M.
AT ST. JOHN'S CHAPEL, BEDFORD-ROW, FOR the relief of the DISTRESS IN IRELAND, JUNE 13, 1831.
Romans, v. 8.“ But GOD commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
THE manifestations of the Almighty's loving kindness towards this fallen creation are many and various. If I look forth upon a glorious developement of scenery, and mark with how much of the grand and the beautiful the earth is yet mantled, I cannot but feel that God displays his love in the dwelling-place which he hath given to the children of men. If, again, I contemplate the succession of seasons, and observe how the sun-beam and the shower unite in the production of sustenance for the tribes of animated nature, the spirit must be dull, and the heart must be callous, if I recognize not love in the workings of God's providence. And, if I pass on to higher musings, and remember that this creation is a redeemed creation, so that all the splendour with which I behold it adorned are literally reprieved things, things which were forfeited by disobedience and spared to us only through the interferences of the Mediator, then, love becomes stamped on every thing about me with a vividness of impress which could never be presented to a mere philosophical survey.
Thus also, if I think upon man, the creature of mighty capacity, but of
mightier destiny, I am necessarily conscious that infinite love presided originally over his formation, and that, inasmuch as the Omnipotent had within himself all the well-springs of happiness, nothing but his unbounded benevolence could have moved him to throw off sparks of his immortality, and summon the human race into being. And, if I yet further remember that man, whose creation had thus been dictated by love, returned despite and scorn for the richness of benevolence, and starting aside from the pathway of obedience, won to himself an heritage of shame and pollution, I might marvel, if I did not know that with God there is nothing of variableness, at perceiving that love rose superior to outrage, and, in place of forsaking the alien, suggested on his behalf the wondrous scheme of redemption.
We may lay it down as an incontrovertable position, that God hath at all times loved man equally; there being no greater mistake in theology than the imagining that Christ's interference procured Gon's love to the sinner, whereas the reverse is the truth, and God's love to the sin
so have gathered about himself the af-
ner procured Christ's interference. When, therefore, we speak of greater or of lesser manifestations of love, it is most strictly in the manifestation, and not in the thing itself that we imagine degrees, the love which prompted redemption having been in every respect the same love which prompted creation, though the display in the one case be more touching and more overwhelming than that which is put forth in the other. So soon, however, as this truth is distinctly recognized— and any failure in its recognition involves some impeachment of the immutability of GOD-we may safely go on to use degrees of comparison when speaking of the Creator's love towards man. We may ascend, by the steps which I have already indicated, from the platform of this material system to the starry eminences which the redeemed are appointed to tread, and observe, at each successive stage, how the love which is leading us seems to heighten in intenseness.
And if such an instance should occur, then it would live for ever in the annals of history, and poetry would pour forth its most harmonious numbers on its celebration, and the canvass would glow, and the marble breathe, with the giant achievement of heroism. Yet, without detracting from the greatness of the love which would thus be exhibited, let it only be put, side by side, with the love of GoD in redemption, and it shall seem instantly insignificant, just because those very circumstances, which produced the act in the one case, are all wanting in the other. He who would even dare to die for a good man, is nerved to the sacrifice by the goodness of the being whom he thus saves from destruction; and had not this goodness been incontrovertibly demonstrated, so that a whole kingdom, it may be, would suffer by his loss; or had it not at the least at
Thus, even when our thoughts are concentrated on the scheme and work of redemption, certain points of view there will be under which love shines out pre-eminently conspicuous, and certain considerations may be suggest-tached, by vast benefits, him who
stands as the substitute to him whose days are in peril, the case could never have existence, of one man dying voluntarily in the stead of another.
ed, which will greatly enlarge our apprehensions of that which we already know to be nothing short of infinite. In our text, for example, the Apostle speaks of God's commending his love towards us, setting it off, as it were, to the greatest possible advantage, and causing it to appear under an aspect more than commonly calculated to win our admiration. He had just been stating that, "peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die." The case, though of necessity rare, was not altogether insupposable; and even amid a race of apostate and selfish beings, a man might so have endeared himself to others by his disin-miny, and death, and all for the sake terestedness and philanthropy, he might of the rebellious and the profligate;
But GoD commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The points of inducement, if I may so speak, are all taken away; goodness there is none, excellence there is none, on the part of those who are lying under condemnation. And is it not a surprising demonstration of love, and may it not be well said that "GOD commendeth his love," when humiliation is undergone, and toil, and igno
and when the very heavens are bowed down, and Deity enters into the alienated nature, and wrestles in it against Satan, and presents it in sacrifice, while all the while the beings over whom his compassions are yearning, laugh his mercies to scorn, and spurn him from their dwellings?
I think, brethren, there can be no fitter introduction to the appeal, which I would this night make, on behalf of a suffering and degraded population, than a brief meditation on GOD's thus commending his love towards us. I would desire that the whole drift of my discourse should bear upon that false persuasion which is abroad amongst us, namely, that by their law. lessness and their profligacy, the Irish peasantry have rendered themselves unworthy of succour, and that we should deal fairly with them, and justly with them, if we left them to writhe under the bitter chastisement which their own conduct may have partially drawn down. Before we apply such a principle to others, let us at the least remember, that had it been applied to ourselves, an instant arrest must have been put on all God's purposes of loving kindness towards our race; and that if unworthiness could have sufficed to bind up the sympathies of infinite benevolence, then the spot in the creation over which the cloud would have been the thickest, and the hurricane the fiercest, must just have been the globe which we inhabit; and that if beings who deserved to perish, had been left to perish, men would have arisen in their successive generations only to curse the day of their birth, and then to sink down, with a sullen or a wild despair, into the prison-house of perdition. I shall, in the conclusion of my discourse, strive to press this argument more powerfully upon you; for the present it suffices to throw out the suggestion, in order that the bearings of our text, on
the main object of this our assembling, may at once be readily discerned,
We propose, then, to examine briefly into the truth, that the circumstance of our having been sinners when Christ died for us, commendeth, or pre-eminently displayeth the love of God to
wards us. With this view I shall address you under two heads of discourse, showing you, in the FIRST place, how Christ's sufferings were aggravated by the sinfulness of those amongst whom he suffered; and remarking, in the SECOND place, how completely these sufferings were irrespective of all claim on the part of those for whom they were endured. It will be easy to gather from both considerations that commendation of GOD's love of which we are in search, whilst from this commendation will naturally flow motives to that benevolence which I desire, under GoD, now to rouse into action.
AND FIRST, WITH REGARD TO THAT AGGRAVATION OF SUFFERING WHICH WAS PRODUCED BY THE SINFULNESS OF THOSE AMONGST WHOM IT WAS EN
DURED. There appears to me to be an emphasis belonging to the word "yet" in our text, which it behoves us not wholly to overlook. Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. I cannot but think that there is a reference to that multitude which had been justified by a prospective faith, living before the Incarnation, and looking forwards to that event as involving the salvation of their souls. It could not be said of those who had previously passed through death into glory, that they were sinners at the period when Christ Jesus died. The atonement had been in their case, as it were, anticipated; and by virtue of the covenant into which the second person in the Trinity had entered, binding himself, in the fulness of times, to be made flesh, and to dwell upon the earth, their transgressions had been as ac