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healing, which the same Redeemer offers to true believers in the Sacrament.
The vices of the soul are frequently repres sented in scripture under the image of diseases and infirmities, for which Christ has procured a remedy. And indeed diseases they are, of a most dangerous and malignant nature. For bodily disorders only affect our temporal happiness, and, at the worst, only hasten the decay of this our earthly tabernacle, which sooner or later must return to the dust from whence it was taken: but our sins fill us with fear, remorse, and despair, and make us subject to that death eternal, which is the wages of sin.
Now in this sense we are all sick, more or less, and stand in need of a cure: we have all been guilty of such sins as are inconsistent with the profession of the Gospel.
For let me ask even the most righteous ; Have you never offended God against the conviction of your conscience? Have neither the pleasures nor temptations of the world persuaded you to exceed the bounds of virtue? Has the love of gain, or the hope of advantage, never enticed you to fraud, injustice, or perjury? Has envy, hatred, pride, wrath, drunkenness,
iust, or strife, never led you to forsake God, or injure your neighbour ? More than man must he be, who can declare himself free from such stains of iniquity; for whilst we have our treasure in earthly vessels, we cannot reach the spotless purity of angels.
Now the holy Sacrament is a sovereign remedy against all these evils of the soul : it is a sacred laver which cleanseth us from all pollution : it is a refuge and asylum which Christ offers to all repenting sinners.
The first excellence of the holy Sacrament is, that, like the pool of Bethesda, it is an universal remedy. Let none therefore imagine that their sins are too great for its virtues. Contemplate on the cross of Christ : consider that shameful and ignominious death which we there commemorate : remember the infinite value of the Lamb that was slain for us; and then judge if any sin can be too great to be washed away by his blood. It would be injustice to confine the merits of his death to a few offences, which are inseparable from humanity. God would never have required so great a sacrifice for these, as the death of his Son; nor would that death have been of much comfort to man, if it had only reached to some sins and excluded others.
For such is human frailty, that even the best men sometimes fall into heavy sins : miserable therefore must have been our expectations, dark and dreary the path that leads to the grave,
if 'we had any doubts of the universal efficacy and extent of Christ's death. But, thanked be God, we are not left in the dark in this important point:--There is no condemnation to any that are in Christ Jesus, let their sins have been ever so great or many. -“Come unto me all that
travel, and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest,” is the language of our Redeemer: his invitation is general, his pardon is universal.
And as this pardon is universal, so likewise, secoudly, it is a free gift, without any merit of
The paralytic man in the text had done nothing to make him particularly worthy of our Saviour's compassion: yet Christ condescends to restore health and vigour to him. And it is the same with the mercy that is offered to every communicant: it is not due to our sorrow, our repentance, our good works; but it is the free gift of God through Christ. It is indeed true,
, that faith and repentance are required of us as conditions of our being pardoned : for it is by
no means fit that God should shew mercy to those who shew no shame or sorrow for having
offended hiin. Yet the pardon is free, since, let I our contrition be ever so great, there can be no
proportion between our sorrow and the remission of all our sins against a God. God the Father appointed the means to save us, and formed the plan of our redemption, of his own free goodness: God the Son has freely, procured it for us, by suffering in his own person the punishment due to our sins: and God the Holy Ghost applies the benefit of those sufferings to every par
ticular person :-all that we can contribute to it i on our part, is, to have a lively sense of our sins,
and a deep sorrow for having coinmitted them. We must come to this pool of Bethesda with faith and penitence; but it is God alone who can give the healing virtue to its waters. With the profoundest reverence therefore should we always say,
“ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give the praise, for thy loving mercy and for thy truth's sake.”
A third excellence of that pardon which is offered to us in the Sacrament, is, that it is full and compleat, without any delay or defect.
The progress of bodily diseases is generally slow and uncertain : the sick man recovers by
slow degrees, and it is a work of time to renew his former strength and rigour. But in our spiritual healing it is commonly much otherwise. Christ says to us, as he said to the paralytic man, Rise, take up thy bed and walk.” We never approach the table of the Lord with repentant hearts, but we go from it with nobler and stronger dispositions to virtue : our faith is confirmed, our fears allayed, and our hopes are cherished and invigorated. Those, indeed, who have long continued in a habit of sin, are not so easily and so readily cured and strengthened: it will require time to extirpate old habits, and to plant new ones: yet their pardon is at the first as surely obtained, and their salvation as fully sealed, as that of others, if they only cultivate the good seed sown in their hearts, and endeavour to bring forth fruit unto perfection. Let not therefore the remembrance of their former sins too much deject them; let them rather look forwards with confidence and consolation, For the same Redeemer who pardons their past sins, will also provide for their future wants : his strength will assist their weakness; his love will cherish their feeble efforts to goodness; his hand will guide them on from strength to strength; and his arm will support them against the world, the flesh, and the devil.