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of the Church are required of all of us, it is very common with our younger members to slight them, while they attend on them, on the ground of their being forced upon them. A like excuse is sometimes urged in behalf of an unworthy participation of the Lord's Supper, as if that Communion could not be considered real, or dangerous to the impenitent, which was performed under constraint.
Now, let such an apologist be taken on his own ground. Let it be granted to him, for argument's sake, though in no other way, that this general exaction of religious duties is unwise; let him be allowed the full force of his objections to a system which he has not yet experience to understand. Yet do these outward circumstances change the nature of the case in any practical respect, or relieve him of his responsibility ? Rather, is it not his plain duty to take things as he finds them, since he has not the power of changing them; and, leaving to his superiors what pertains to them, the task of deciding on the system to be pursued, to inquire how he ought to act under it, and to reflect what his guilt will be in the day of account, if week after week he has come into the presence of God with a deliberate profanation in his right hand, or at least with irreverence of manner, and an idle mind?
And, again, as regards the Holy Communion, how do the outward circumstances which bring us thither affect the real purpose of God respecting it? Can we in earthly matters remove what we dislike, by wishing it away?-and shall we liope, by mere unbelief, to remove the Presence of God from His ordinance ? As well may we think of removing thereby the visible emblems of bread and wine, or of withdrawing ourselves altogether from the Omnipresent Eye of God itself. Though Christ is savingly revealed in the Sacrament only to those who receive Him in faith, yet we have the express word of Scripture for saying, that the thoughtless communicant, far from remaining as if he did not receive it, is guilty of the actual Body and Blood of Christ,-guilty of the crime of crucifying Him anew, as not discerning that which lies hid in the rite. This does not apply, of course, to any one who communicates with a doubt merely about his own state-far from it !-nor to those who resolve heartily, yet in the event fail to perform, as is the case with the young ; nor to those even who may happen to sin both before and after the reception of the Sacrament. Where there is earnestness, there is no condemnation ; but it applies fearfully to such as view the Blessed Ordinance as a thing of course, from a notion that they are passive subjects of a regulation which others enforce; and, perhaps, the number of these is not small. Let such persons seriously consider that, were their argument correct, they need not be considered in a state of trial at all, and might escape the future judgment altogether. They would have only to protest (as we may speak) against their creation, and they would no longer have any duties to bind them. But what says the word of God? “That which cometh into your mind, shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.” And then follows the threat, addressed to those who rebel :-“ As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty band, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you ..... And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant."
And these words apply to the whole subject which has engaged us. We may amuse ourselves, for a time, with such excuses for sin as a perverted ingenuity furnishes ; but there is One who is justified in His sayings, and clear when He judgeth. Our worldly philosophy and our well-devised pleadings will profit nothing at a day when the heaven shall depart as a scroll is rolled together, and all who are not clad in the wedding garment of faith and love will be speechless. Surely it is high time for us to wake out of sleep, to chase from us the shadows of the night, and to realize our individuality, and the coming of our Judge. “The night is far spent, the day is at hand,” -“let us be sober, and watch unto prayer.”
WILFULNESS, THE SIN OF SAUL.
Preached December 2, 1832.
1 Sam. xv. 11.
“ It repenteth Me that I have set up Saul to be king; for he is
turned back from following Me, and hath not performed My commandments.”
The three chief religious patterns and divine instruments under the first Covenant, have each his counterpart in the Sacred History, that we may have warning as well as instruction. The distinguishing virtue, moral and political, of Abraham, Moses, and David, was their faith ; by which I mean an implicit reliance in God's command and promise, and a zeal for His honour; a surrender and devotion of themselves, and all they had, to Him. At His word they each relinquished the dearest wish of their hearts, Isaac, Ca. naan, and the Temple; the Temple was not to be built, the land of promise not to be entered, the child of promise not to be retained. All three were tried by the anxieties and discomforts of exile and wandering; all three, and especially Moses and David, were very zealous for the Lord God of Hosts.
The faith of Abraham is illustrated in the lukewarmness of Lot, who, though a true servant of God, and a righteous man, chose for his dwelling-place the fertile country of a guilty people. To Moses, who was faithful in all God's house, is confronted the untrue prophet Balaam, who, gifted from the same Divine Master, and abounding in all knowledge and spiritual discernment, mistook words for works, and fell through love of lucre. The noble self-consuming zeal of David, who was at once ruler of the chosen people, and type of the Messiah, is contrasted with a still more conspicuous and hateful specimen of unbelief, as disclosed to us in the history of Saul. To this history it is proposed now to draw your attention, not indeed with the purpose of surveying it as a whole, but with hope of gaining thence some such indirect illustration, in the way of contrast, of the nature of religious Faith, as it is calculated to supply.
It cannot be denied that the designs of Providence towards Saul and David are, at first sight, of a perplexing nature, as implying distinctions in the moral character of the two individuals, which their history does not clearly warrant. Accordingly, it is usual, with a view of meeting the difficulty, to treat them as mere instruments in the Divine Governance of the Israelites, and to determine their respective virtues and defects, not by a moral, but by a political stand