S. Luke xiv.16.
"A certain man made a great supper."
INTRODUCTION. -- When the fulness of time was come, God the Eternal Father said: "In burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin, I have no pleasure." Then said the Son, "Lo, I come." He came that He might take away the valueless sacrifice, and establish the one full and perfect propitiation for the sins of the world. And indeed it was time. All creation was groaning and travailing in pain, and waiting for redemption, then said He -- "Lo, I come." The souls of the faithful were in Hades, prophets, patriarchs, and kings, desirous to see His Day, prisoners of Hope, desirous to be released by His Blood of the Covenant, -- then said He -- "Lo, I come."
Men wandered in darkness, desiring light, the whole head was sick, and the whole heart faint, and in their error, darkly, and in their sickness, faintly, they sought the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him; then said He -- "Lo, I come."
They knew not the way of God how they might walk, and they needed a guide; then said He -- "Lo, I come."
They were sunk in sin, and found that the old bloody sacrifices and burnt offerings could not take away guilt, they needed a more perfect sacrifice; then said He -- "Lo, I come." They knew not what the nature of God was, and they formed to themselves gods, in the likeness of men. How should they know without a teacher? Then said He -- "Lo, I come."
Nor is this all. At this day, still His answer is, promptly, when He is needed -- "Lo, I come."
Does any father desire his dear little one to be taken into the arms of Christ and blessed, still His answer is -- "Lo, I come."
Does any man need direction, guidance, help in the way of life? He says, "Lo, I come; I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
Does any desire sustaining food by the way? He says -- "Lo, I come, and the Bread I give is My flesh, which I give for the life of the world."
Is any burdened with the weight of sin, and desires pardon and reconciliation, He says -- "Lo, I come, though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as wool."
Is any in sorrow, and heart sore? He says, "Lo, I come to bind up the broken-hearted."
Is any dying? -- He is still ready with His answer, "Lo, I come, when thou goest through the waters I am with thee."
You see how striking is the readiness of Our Blessed Lord. Now look at to-day's Gospel, and see how this is met by man. Christ is represented as having made a great supper, the Holy Eucharist, and to that he invites all Christians, and He sends forth His messengers to bid them come, then they all with one consent begin to make excuse. The messengers go to the man who has bought oxen, and invite him to the supper of his lord, and his answer is, "I pray thee, have me excused." They go to a man who has bought a farm, and his answer is, "I pray thee, have me excused." They go to a man who has married a wife, and his answer is, "I cannot come."
"Lo, I come!" says Christ. "I cannot come," says man. "Lo, I come to man," says Christ. "I cannot come to Christ," says man.
I. It was the rule among the early Christians to communicate every Lord's Day. The rule of the Church, as laid down in the service-books, then ordered that all those who were open and scandalous livers, all those who had committed some deadly sin, and had not been reconciled to God, should leave church before the Consecration, after the reading of the Gospel. Now suppose some good old bishop of that day were to rise from the dead, and come into this church, what would he see? -- Directly the sermon is over, -- a rush of almost all in the church, men, women, and children, running out of the door, and only three or four, or at most a dozen, remaining to partake of the Lord's Body. That is what he would see. Now, what would he say? -- He would lift up his hands in horror, and say, "What is this? All these notorious sinners! All these open profligates! All these burdened with mortal sin, cutting them off from the grace of God! Take me back to my grave, I do not want to see any more of such horrible days."
But if I happened to be present, I would say to him. "You are jumping to conclusions too rashly. Times are altered. It is not the criminals and profligates who go out of church before the Consecration of the Blessed Sacrament, and are unworthy to eat of the Lord's Body, it is those who cannot make up their minds to do exactly what the Lord commanded; it is those who are half-hearted, who wish to serve God, but do not want to serve Him very much." Then, I doubt not, the old bishop would turn upon me with a wrathful face, and say, "Let me go back to my grave! This is worse! A thousand times worse! The whole Christian world has grown cold of heart, and dead of faith, if all with one consent begin to make excuse, and say, 'I cannot come.' I had rather they were either hot or cold, but because they are neither hot nor cold -- away! I cannot bear to look at their faces! Let me go back to my grave."
III. I know what is passing in your minds as well as if you had got glass skulls. And this is what I see that not a few of you are thinking. "Ha! there is the Parson at it again! always hammering away at Communion. Can he not leave us alone? Let him talk to us of other matters; let him preach to us some real stinging gospel truth, and make us wince. Anything but this eternal preaching about coming to Communion." Now I will tell you why I preach about this, and hammer, hammer, at it. Because it is good stinging gospel truth, and the grumbling that is going on is because your consciences really are wincing at what I say.
Listen: -- other folks talked like you in olden times. When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, God in mercy sent them Bread from Heaven, the manna, to feed them on their way through the wilderness. What said the people in return for the blessing? Were they very grateful? Were they very eager to gather up the Angels' food? By no means, they sat grumbling in their tents and said, "Our soul is dried away; there is nothing beside this manna before our eyes." Put into modern language that is, "Our souls have dried up for want of preaching of free justification, and no good at all in keeping the law; we don't want any of your Sacramental teaching, no Communion for us, we can do very well without that, our soul abhorreth this light food, as for this Holy Communion, there is nothing but that preached to us, year in, year out."
Well! If this Sacramental teaching be not God's own blessed Gospel, there is no meaning in words. Listen to this! I never said anything so strong, and this is what Christ Himself spake: -- "I am the Bread of Life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. I am the living bread which came down from heaven, if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I give for the life of the world." "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed."
Now -- mark you. When Jesus said this, many of His disciples said, "This is a hard saying" -- and, from that time they went back, and walked no more with Him. It is so still, it will be so always. Just as many of the old Israelites loathed the manna and said, "Our souls are dried away; there is nothing but this manna before our eyes," so there always will be faithless disciples who when they hear the invitation to partake of the Body of Christ, the true Manna, will say, "This is a hard saying," and will thenceforth no more walk with Him.