صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

there be knowledge, it shall vanish away: for we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face, now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known; and now abideth faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.

The same feeling is manifested also in St. John the Divine. In him manifestly the highest and loftiest feeling is of the affection of Love made perfect in Christ upon the throne, and love made perfect in us in this world through Christ. In him that feeling constantly exists that is seen in St. Paul. “My little children,” he says, “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and truth."

And history tells us that this the Apostle, “ beloved of Christ," when in the infirmity of many years, he was, in Ephesus, carried into his church, and could, from feebleness of mind and feebleness of body say no more, he said this, “let us love one another,” and when they asked him to say more, he said, " in Christ this is all.”

This, then, is our practical conclusion. The “ Heart or the Affections," is the highest of all the Spiritual powers. In and through Christ only can it attain that perfection of which in us it is capable, and this is a state higher than Faith, higher than Hope; so that he may have faith who has not “ Love;" he may have faith and moreover hope, and yet not reach to this ;—and that this state, the state of Love, wherein the heart is changed, so that its affections are sanctified and made perfect, this is the highest Christian state that man can reach upon earth,--the state in Christianity that answers to the whole spiritual power of nature and brings it all to perfection.

And when, in some further advance of the Church in Holiness and Sanctification of Heart, it comes to be asked by men of faith and zeal, “how and by what discipline of the Church shall we so cultivate our Hearts, that towards our fellow-men they shall be actuated by complete and perfect Love, according to the capabilities of the nature of each ?”—then may it come to pass, that men shall be enabled to see that in the glorified Humanity of Christ our Lord, there is the perfection of Love, and the Human affections complete and perfect. Thus may they see, that of that Humanity, that Body and Blood, the Holy Spirit can make the faithful participate. They may then discerni, that in our body, our soul, and our spirit, which are his, that His Spirit may eternally abide, as in his temple, as a supply of all deficiencies,-a help against all weaknesses--an indwelling strength and power not of us but in us.

And while by no means they neglect exhortations, prayers, and sermons, yet seeing these things with the eye of faith, they may act practically upon their convictions, and go back to the old universal Christian custom, that the communion should be a stated and systematic part of the worship of every Lord's day.

When this comes to pass, then shall be seen that which was seen of old, that the sanctifying and humanizing effect of Christianity exerts itself mainly upon the individual man, through the secret influence of the Spirit, and very directly and manifestly through the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

And, then, the Communion, instead of being a meeting for incidental and uncustomary purposes, shall be a Society, organized not of man, but of God, having each week its regular and stated meetings, a Society of “Faith” and “Works,” of “Mercy and Love."

The effect of which, upon the individual's heart, shall be, that it will train him gradually and unconsciously, yet most surely, so that his Faith shall mature into Hope, and Hope be succeeded by the full ripeness of Christian Love. And holiness and sanctification of Heart, shall be once more a general attribute belonging to all Christians in the Church, and by its tenderness of feeling and freedom from all ordinary faults of the Heart, distinguishing them from common professors of Christianity.

This would manifestly, from the principles above discussed, in relation to us, be the natural result of such a discipline, habitual, and used not as a thing extraordinary, which there was some peculiar merit and effect in adopting, but, as a matter of course, in the ordinary quiet routine of things.

For we cannot disguise it from ourselves, that in these our days, even the best motives and the best measures are often adopted and advocated by presumptuous and overweening self-will, and the holiest polluted by party, and the noblest and the loftiest lowered by presumption. So that that which carried out quietly, in faith,

by the individual, would have been of great use, being made “his great idea" of which “he is the great advocate," comes to be offensive to all well judging men.

For this reason was it that we said that the Holy Eucharist, used weekly, would have such an effect upon the Christian holiness of the individual man, when it comes to be used as a matter of habitual discipline, and not as a thing extraordinary, which there is some peculiar merit and effect in adopting, but as a matter of course in the ordinary routine of things.

With the exception implied in these words, we believe the effect would be from the principles we have laid down, the training of all Christians onward towards that higher state the apostle calls

Love," instead of its being the attainment of only one or two here and there, as it is at present; and the rest being left as they are in the first and initial state merely of Christianity, the imperfection of a crude and unripened faith.

So should this be for each man baptized into Christ a school, in which Faith would be transformed to Hope, and Hope to Love; and thus his Heart be filled with the fullness of Christ, and his affections have to all men that sweet and saintly character which they only possess who are made “perfect in Love."

Again: I look upon this practice to be a school of Works of Mercy, so great and so efficient, that upon the general practice of the Holy Communion Weekly, I place my hopes for the decision practically of a question which theoretically has been the cause of many disputes, the union of Faith with Works, in the great work of our salvation.

I believe that no sooner would the Church have returned to that practice of “Weekly Communion," as an usual and customary thing, than the feeling in the hearts of those who enjoyed that privilege, would arise to the practical fruits of mercy-the clothing of the poor, the feeding of the hungry, the Christian education of youth, the support of Missions. All these things would be effected by as natural a process as is the produce of the fruit from the flower; not under stimulus, not under excitement by means of eloquent addresses, or as something greatly and meritoriously done, but as the unboasted and usual duty of all Christians.

Let the Weekly Communion come in every Church, then by the very nature of its effects upon the Heart, when it is so established as to be customary and of the usual routine,-by the nature

of man's Heart naturally,—by the nature of that Heart as sanctified, by the nature of Christ our Lord, the God-man, with a Heart human as ours is,—by the nature of his Church as giving to those who have faith, his “Body and his Blood,"—by all these it shall be, that when this takes place, that as of old, the members of his Church come each Lord's day to the Communion of His Body and His Blood, then shall feelings of Faith be poured out in works of Mercy, Almsgiving and Love, and no appeal, no vehement exhortation shall be needful, but the stream of Christian benevolence shall flow from motives purely Christian, fed instrumentally by that ordinance from week to week, which the most raises in our heart the feelings that are Christ-like towards God our Father in heaven, and our brethren here upon earth.

And both these effects the Ancient Church experienced through her Weekly Communion and her Weekly Offertory, which went along with it. For during four hundred years the Communion was weekly in all Churches, and there never was a Communion without an Offertory, nor an Offertory without a Communion; and this with Oblations given according to each one's pleasure, was her sole revenue.

And with these free-will offerings of the people, and the oblations at the altars, so abundant was that spring of systematic and principled liberality, Ancient Christianity supported all her Clergy, all her poor, and all her schools; and never was there a state in which Holiness, and Sanctification, and the perfection of Love was more prevalent. Such, until the fifth century, when Christianity was endowed by the State, and therefore more or less corrupted by it, was the influence of the 6 Weekly Eucharist” upon Christian Faith and Christian Works.

And again: the same cause can produce the same effects, -ripeness of Christian character and fullness of Christian benevolence in us, the first Apostolic Church that is free altogether from the fetters of the State.

I make no apologies for introducing the subject I have examined in the last few pages. Treating as I am upon the Affections, it was necessary to see in what living man the affections reached unto their highest perfection, and this I found in Christ our Lord, and in the fact of his Humanity still possessed by him in heaven.

Hence the humanizing influence of His Religion upon the Hoart. Hence, too, that highest state of the Christian, the state of Love

Hence, too, the influence of the Eucharist upon the Heart, as nutriment of the Christ-like Affections. Hence the effect of the habitual use of this Holy Sacrament in producing to their perfection Faith and Works, hand in hand.

These are questions and resolutions of Morality and Ethics of the highest importance. And these I have thought myself bound to enter upon and examine at length,—for surely the questions, “What is that which most humanizes the Heart of man?” “What discipline in the Church is thereunto most efficient and most useful ?” and “How shall Faith be perfected into Love, and true works of Love and Mercy be done spontaneously?” These are high and lofty questions of Christian Science.

And all spring from the one great fact of “God in our flesh and our blood,” God, our brother, in this flesh forever,—and thus as Man, eternally seated upon the throne of power.

And although in this age, plunged in selfish ambition and the pursuit of pleasure, these things may be thought strange deductions, yet the time shall come when universally it shall be a practice in the Church that all shall come weekly* to the Communion. And then it shall be visible and manifest, as it was of old, that the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, are, by their relation to the nature of man, peculiarly suited and adapted to work upon that portion of our spiritual being that we call the “Heart,” and to ripen Faith into Love, and cause true Works of Mercy and Benevolence to be done in Faith, through Love.

With this we end this Book, and in the next books we shall discuss the affections of the Home or Family, of the Nation and of the Church. The ensuing Book shall be occupied with those of the Family.

* While I am so much in favor of the practice, I must say that the adoption of it, on the part of the Clergy as well as of the laity, needs peculiar caution, lest we sin by haste or by presumption. I would, therefore, recommend the careful perusal of “the Tracts upon the Weekly Eucharist,” by Dr. Muhlenburg, of the Church of the Holy Communion, New York.

« السابقةمتابعة »