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THE FEELINGS SUITED TO OUR LAST SACRAMENT.
MATTHEW Xxvi. 29. I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
THE last words of a Man of God, at the close of a religious solemnity, are regarded with peculiar attention. The mind of the speaker is then supposed to be under the strongest impulse of devotion; peculiarly solicitous for the welfare of those with whom he has been associated in the exercises of religion, and with all of whom he is conscious he never shall again meet, and deeply impressed with that final account which will soon be demanded by the Judge of all. The parting warnings, and counsels, and encouragements of such a man, have counteracted the influence of temptations to folly; have kept the mind steadfast in seasons of difficulty; have excited to the most arduous duties, and reconciled the heart to the most painful separations.
Our text presents to us the last words of the Lord Jesus at the observance of the Holy Supper,-words rich in admonition and in comfort,-words which give us the most interesting view of our Saviour's feelings in that trying hour, and which have melted many a heart in pious affection, and inspired many a fearful soul with the most blessed hopes. They
lead us to connect the exercises of religion on earth with the worship of the upper sanctuary, and to view the consolations of the communion-table here as a pledge of the pleasures which flow at the right hand of God. These words sound the knell of death to the feeble and declining saint in a tone solemn, yet soft and sweet. Worldly scenes of splendour and festivity often close with feelings of fretfulness and disgust, and the happiest of them with expectations of meeting again which are seldom realized; but the holy communion is terminated in unabated love and in overflowing consolation.
In discoursing on these words, I shall consider them as an intimation given by our Lord of his death; as a promise of reunion with his disciples in heaven; and as a memento which may be viewed as addressed to some at every celebration of the Holy Supper.
I. Let us consider these words as an intimation of our Lord's speedy departure, and of the termination of all the present intercourse of his disciples with him.
Our blessed Saviour made frequent references to his death during the course of his life. It was an event by which the great ends of his mission were to be accomplished, and to it every step of his humiliation pointed as its destined close. His disciples were very unwilling to admit the idea of it, from the attachment which they felt to their Master, and from the destruction to all their hopes of temporal power and glory which was involved in his death of violence and shame. To reconcile them to an event so necessary, he expatiates on its blessed results, and generally
connects with it consequences of the most happy description both to himself and to them.
He had, in instituting the Lord's Supper, represented the breaking of the bread as an emblem of the torture of his body, and the pouring out of the wine as a figure of the shedding of his blood; and to keep them from flattering themselves with the delusive thought, that this event was at a distance, he intimates to them in the text, that it was so near that he had taken with them his last meal.
The intercourse of our Lord with his disciples had been of the most affectionate kind. Though his meekness and patience were frequently tried by their mistakes and indiscretions, he knew the sincerity of their attachment, and delighted to open their minds to wisdom; and while he received the testimonies of their regard, he felt a pleasure in showing to what he had destined them. But that intercourse was now to close; from the circle of love and peace in which he now sat he was about to be removed into the assembly of the wicked, and to suffer all the ignominy and pain which their unrestrained malice could inflict.
It is most interesting to mark with what mild resignation our Lord contemplates this event. many are there to whom the idea of separation from friends by death is intolerable, and who cannot speak of it but in murmurs as vain as they are impious; but Jesus utters not one syllable of complaint, and felt the most entire acquiescence in the will of God in all its circumstances. What clearly demonstrates the superiority of our Lord's spirit and character in this matter is this,that death is an event to which
we must submit, and from which no reluctance on our part can secure us; but Christ was voluntary in dying. What was dear to him in life he willingly sacrificed; what was painful in death he cheerfully bore.
Our Lord's language intimates the necessity of his dying to his mediatorial glory and to the future happiness of his people. In the first part of the text he lays the foundation on which our hope rests of all the felicity contained in what follows. The rewards which he anticipated from the hand of his Father were to be the result of his becoming obedient to the death, even the death of the cross. It was by the cross that his path to the throne lay. It was from the scene of agony that he was to enter into rest. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame. He would have been happy and glorious for ever as the Son of God, though he had left us to perish; but his exaltation, as the Son of man, depended on his finishing the work which was given him to do; and the felicity of that nature is associated with the salvation of human be ings, and the glory which results from it to his Father.
He had intimated, that his death should procure for his disciples the remission of their sins, and that it was for this purpose that his blood was to be shed; but he states also in the text, that, by its merits, they should attain the highest felicity in heaven. These merits should open to them the fountain of life, and elevate them to a throne of glory. He had told them, that if he went not away, the Comforter would not
come to them; and here he tells them, that this departure was as necessary to their coming to God. Thus alone could the obstacles which were in their way to the kingdom of the Father be removed, and on this basis must their hope of eternal life rest. Now, what could be better adapted to reconcile the minds of the disciples to his death than these considerations? The dying have generally to labour to bring their own minds to a cheerful submission to the event, as well as those of their friends; but it was not his own heart that Jesus had to persuade to acquiescence, but those of the disciples.
. I have only to add, on this part of the subject, that our Lord, in contemplating this as his last participation of the Holy Supper with them, may be viewed as anticipating the close of all that worship which was suited to his state of humiliation and suffering. There will not be such a difference betwixt the holy exercise of the human nature of our Lord in earth and in heaven as betwixt that of his people. Here good men are in a state of imperfection; but in heaven their worship shall attain a purity, an intenseness, and an elevation, of which they can now form no adequate idea; but our Lord's exercise on earth was perfectly holy, and differs from that in heaven in this respect, that in the one it was suited to the character of the man of sorrows; in the other, to that of Him whom God hath set at his own right hand. Here there was much need for patience; there pain and grief are never known. Here his prayers were filled with supplications for his Father's support and consolation; there he rejoices always before him. Here his devo