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Divine Spirit, let us seek his regenerating, transforming, sanctifying power, and may a merciful God vouchsafe to answer !
-Shall we then for ever live
At this poor dying rate ?
And Thine to us so great!
With all thy quick’ning powers;
And that shall kindle ours.”
I believe I am addressing many hundreds, some of you Catholics, but most of you Protestants, who feel that you need that change of heart of which the blessed Saviour spoke to Nicodemus, and without which no man shall see the Lord. Oh, suffer me to plead with you
this evening in my Master's stead, and to say in his own language. “ Ye must be born again.” I ask you
not your Church, your age, your rank in society; I ask you not whether you are educated or illiterate, I ask you
not whether you are baptized or unbaptized, but I ask you: “ Have you a sinful heart ? Are
you living in rebellion against your God? Are you breaking the Divine Laws ?” Is it so ? Then, on the authority of Christ I say, unless you be born from above you cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Would you be born again? Repent ye and believe the Gospel, for to as many as receive Him, to them giveth He power to become the sons of God. Would you have your hearts cleansed, would you be justified and sanctified ? Come to that precious blood of your Redeemer which cleanseth from all sin,
for ye are washed, and sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. “ Ye must be born again.” Oye spiritual prodigals! Your offended Father is waiting to receive you; long have you wandered away from his home; long have you disregarded his government; but lo! he appears, and from the distance where he now stands he cries, “Come now and let us reason together though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” “ Stands," did I y? No! he moves, he walks toward you; walk you towards him, and he will accept you and be a Father unto you,
shall be his sons and daughters; and then, with wonder and with joy, you shall exclaim together, “ Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God."
THE CHRISTIAN SACRAMENTS.
If you survey the two great religious systems which the Divine Being has established amongst men, you will find between them some points of correspondence and many points of contrast. Judaism and Christianity have each their attesting miracles ; each has its law, its priesthood, its offering of sacrifice, its way of access to the Divine Presence, its method of pardon, its sacraments and ritual of worship; and not only is there a general correspondence between these several parts of the two systems, but an intimate relation also—that which exists between a type and its anti-type.
Very striking are the points of contrast between these two systems. Whether you contemplate its establishment or its operation, you see that each stands out in bold distinctness from the other. How different the first appearance of Jehovah to Moses, and the
appearance of the same glorious Being in the stable of Bethlehem; how different the giving of the law in the midst of the clouds and darkness, the lightnings and thunderings, the earthquake and trumpets and voices of Sinai, to the publication of the Christian law and doctrine in the sermon on the Mount; how different the imposing ritual of the temple worship, with its altars and sacrifices, with its mitred pontiff, and sacrificing
priests, and attendant Levites, with its clouds of incense, and its ceremonial ablutions and sprinklings of water and of blood,—to the simple forms of worship which the apostles and early Christians practised in the upper rooms of Jerusalem, and in the private dwellings of Judean villages, and in the highways and groves of the Holy Land; with no other dome but that of Heaven's canopy, and no other priest but an unseen though spiritually present Jesus, and no other sacrifices but those of a broken and contrite spirit, and no other incense but that of ardent prayer to God. I am sure you have been often struck with the rigid simplicity of the apostolic ritual, as compared with the gorgeousness of the Levitical, which, glorious as it was, may be said to have had no glory by reason of the excelling glory of Christianity. The glory of the Christian system is not derived from its dazzling paraphernalia of gold and gems, or from its imposing ceremonial, but from its essential spirituality and its chaste simplicity. There is less of art in Christianity, and more of nature, less of matter and more of life. Between the Jewish and Christian dispensations there is just the difference which exists between a gorgeous temple with its fluted columns, its rich capitals, its jutting architraves, its elaborated entablature, its bold cornices, its noble portico, its magnificent vestibule, its outer court, its inner sanctuary, its robed priests, its bedecked altars, its imposing ritual, its awe-struck worshippers and a simple grove, nature's unartificial temple, with its mossy pavement, and its trees' rising like columns, their overhanging foliage forming a canopy that admits while it
subdues the light of heaven, and its simple minded worshippers, sometimes prostrate, at other times daring to lift their eyes toward heaven, sometimes offering a prayer for mercy, at others sending up a note of praise, and at others again bending, like the cherubim, over the divine law; exclaiming, “the Lord is in this place and we knew it not. How dreadful is this place, this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven."
Who that has studied the history of the Christian Church does not know, that from a very early period in her history, there was manifested a proneness to wander away from the simplicity of the apostolic age ? As the church became numerous, wealthy, and influential, the upper room, the highway, the grove were abandoned; the rigid plainness of the first Christians was thought unsuitable to this altered position of the circumstances of the church. Large and expensive structures were erected, robes of office introduced, mitres were employed to adorn the heads of the successors of plain fishermen, and sceptres of authority were put into their hands; rivers and brooks were no longer the scenes of Christian baptism, these were replaced by fonts of sculptured marble; the breaking of bread and drinking of wine in commemoration of the blessed Saviour's death and passion, gradually assumed the distinction of a sacrifice, which was offered by bedizened priests in more than the pomp and splendours of the Jewish day of atonement; the ministers of the church no longer content with the designation elder and bishop, became priests and archbishops and pon