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The greatest sinner may apply with confidence, trusting to Christ's gracious declaration, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." To this day no instance can be adduced of a single individual who applied in vain to an ascended Lord for the blessing. No, all who, like the publican, have cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner," with him have gone away justified.
4. We may learn the character of worthy communicants. They are such as have already seen Christ, and had a prior acquaintance. As Bethany was not the first place where Christ and his disciples met, when he lifted up his hands and blessed them; neither should communicants, strictly speaking, begin their acquaintance with Christ at the supper. Christ should see them under the fig-tree, before they come to the sacrament of the supper to receive the seal of the covenant. Like the disciples, too, they should be such as have been blessed before. These blessings every person should possess before sitting down at the Lord's table: his sins should be blotted out, and he should have change of raiment: stript of the rags of his own righteousness, he should have on the wedding garment: his nature should be changed; the reigning enmity of his heart broken, and love implanted. The invitation is addressed to friends. Possessed of these blessings, like the disciples, they should come expressly seeking greater degrees and new intimations of the blessing.
6. In fine, we may see the happy privilege of every gospel hearer. You are come to the place where Christ dispenses his blessings. It is his express pro
mise, Exod. xx. 24, "In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee." If you have not come for the blessing, your end is wrong; and if you go away without it, the blame must be your own. He is as willing to bless now, as at Bethany. The gospel itself is a great outward blessing, and the very design of it is to propose, offer, and communicate the great blessings of the covenant of grace; and we are called to ordinances to seek these blessings, and to take actual possession. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come: and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Christ and you are not yet parted. If you now refuse him, he may be parted from you to-day, and strive with you no more. If you die without the blessing, there will be an awful and eternal separation between Christ and you, when he will pronounce that dreadful sentence, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." But if you are wise, and receive the blessing, Christ and you will meet, an happy meeting; "nor time nor death shall ever part you more."
As for you who are his people, if you suitably improve your privileges this day, you will leave this place making the following comfortable reflection: He led us out as far as this precious ordinance, and lifted up his hands and blessed us, and we worshipped him, and returned to our houses with great joy!
1 CORINTHIANS XVI. 22.
If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maran-atha.
LIGHT and darkness will as soon agree as real religion with contempt of, or enmity to, Christ. With infinite propriety is he denominated the believer's all. Many pretend to much religion, and speak of their eternal salvation, either with great hope, or affected certainty, and make a great figure in the church, who are altogether ignorant of Christ's person, unacquainted with the importance and value of his death, ashamed of his cross, make light of his gospel, and neglect his great salvation. These must be in a fatal mistake; for all who have not a superlative love to Christ are accursed.
In every period the doctrine of grace will meet with opposition, whithersoever it is sent; and the strongest endeavours will be used to seduce the church: but the Lord has always raised up instruments to counteract error, defend the truth, and establish his people; and his care of Zion will be unceasing. Corinth was pestered with seducers. These, with the utmost assiduity, laboured to prevent the success of the gospel. They employed all their art both to pervert the faith of those who had already believed, and prevent others from receiving the
doctrines of salvation. Against these Paul warned the Corinthian church with plainness and fidelity. Though none of Christ's enemies can justly be excluded from the curse denounced in the text, yet Paul seems to have had these false teachers, and their votaries, very particularly in his eye, when he said, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maran-atha."
When a church or any of her members err greatly, and reproof is necessary, it should be tendered with love, and much mildness. Although there were many corruptions in the church of Corinth, Paul was so far from indulging his own spirit, that none of his epistles are concluded with more love. But the greatest tenderness to the weakest church member, overtaken in an error, must never prevent faithfulness to the great Head. Such as are open enemies to the Redeemer must be warned of their danger with the utmost plainness, for his honour, their own safety, and the benefit of others. With whatever meekness Paul treated church members under their failures, he sharply reproved the enemies of the Redeemer, and said, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maran-atha." It is not unworthy of notice, that the curse denounced against such as love not the Lord Jesus, is placed in a very conspicuous part of the epistle, and written by the apostle with his own hand.
Though such as love not Christ are warned in the most pointed manner, they often continue at ease, speak peace to themselves, and put the evil day far away; and, because sentence is not speedily executed
against their evil works, their hearts are fully set in them to do evil. Because they neither see nor feel divine wrath, they will not believe; and think all is well, especially if they make a profession of religion. But, though there should be no visible tokens of God's anger seen about them, there is a secret unseen curse hanging over their heads, which, if inflicted, will prove as efficacious to drown them in perdition as if a millstone was hanged about a man's neck, and he, in this manner, cast into the sea. The curse is contained in our text, "If any man love not Christ, let him be Anathema."
What will be further necessary for explaining these words will gradually occur, as we open up their import in general; the particular nature of the curse denounced against such as love not Christ; and show that it is most reasonable.
I. It was proposed to open up the import of the words at large; and among other things the following seem to be implied.
1. The high esteem which God and the saints have of Christ. There is no way of evidencing a greater esteem of any person, than when we cannot suffer another to touch him with impunity. It is certainly an undoubted proof of the greatest regard to another, when we consider every thing which is prejudicial to him as equally so to ourselves. The words in our text may, with propriety, be considered as spoken by God, and a full proof of his love to Christ: Paul consents so cordially, that they also may be viewed as