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St. Luke, xxiv. 29. "Abide with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is far spent" How beautiful are the facts contained in this narrative ! Its very grandeur depends upon its simplicity and naturalness : and like all simple, yet natural pictures, it grows upon us the more we look at it, and examine, and endeavour to understand it in its various de tails. And this will be the more especially the case in proportion as we realize the fact, that it was not without a purpose that our Lord remained on earth forty days after His Resurrection, and visited and taught His disciples. There was in all this some deep and solemn teaching of mysterious truth : truth applicable to the Church in all ages. As in healing the sick, and working won-
CHRIST S PRESENCE. 167 ders, spiritual teaching was implied or sym bolized, so is it in these His visits to the disciples. Briefly review the circumstances of the nar rative. The death of our Lord was upper most in the thoughts of His disciples. It seemed the blighting of long cherished hopes. All appeared in a measure and degree in vain. They had looked for great things, even the deliverance of Israel; and lo! as the dew be fore the sun, so had these expectations passed away. They knew only that He was dead and buried from Whom they had looked for all. Of His Resurrection they had not heard. No wonder, then, that as they journeyed to Emmaus they should reason upon all the events that had taken place. No wonder that, as the Evangelist records : " They talked together of all these things that had hap pened." One can readily imagine how they talked in sorrow and sadness, and yet in love, deep love, to Him Who had been buried in the sepulchre. They could not perchance understand, as they communed together, how the Thorn-crowned should establish a spiritual
kingdom of which there should be no end: and that He should reign for ever. Strange to them might seem the statement that, uplifted
168 CHRIST S PRESENCE. on the cross, (the mark of shame henceforth to be the Christian s glory,) He should draw all men unto Him; and that by dying He should conquer death. Sad, too, were their hearts within them. Like the rest, they had doubtless entertained hopes of an earthly, and not a heavenly king dom; or, at all events, whatever thoughts they had entertained, now appeared to no purpose. They talked of Him Whom they loved. And the loving heart has not long to seek for that it loves. So here. He of Whom they spake was nigh at hand. He drew near, and walked with them, and even expounded to them the prophecies concerning Himself. As the Evangelist tells us, He said : " Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Oh! favoured two, to hear from His own lips the full detail of what they so imperfectly understood, and failed to realize. The village is reached, and evening is com ing on. The Unknown seems as if He would go farther. This, perhaps, to try whether they would wish Him to tarry, or permit Him
CHRIST S PRESENCE. 169 to leave them. They prayed Him to remain, and He, all love, went in with them, and at length was made known unto them in the breaking of bread. Now, there is in all this a practical lesson for us all. I. How often, in our own experience, does it occur that Jesus seems to have withdrawn for a while from our hearts. We are sad and doubtful. We had trusted that we should have this or that. The fervour of early devo tion seems to have passed. We are cold, per haps, in our prayers, and at Holy Communion.
The service, which once was our daily joy, is now somewhat irksome. Duties, which once were easy, are now carelessly performed. Some care, or business, or pleasure, has interfered. The misty clouds of doubt gather over the soul. We seek the living among the dead. Who has not experienced this in his spiritual course? And how should we act? How but meditate in holy seclusion upon the gracious promises of our Blessed Lord, and pray Him to abide with us? How but by earnest prayer and supplication? We are being tried. Our faith and love are being put to the test. Unrest of love follows hiding of the face of the Beloved; and where unrest is where the heart is sad love, in some
170 CHRIST S PRESENCE. measure and degree, exists. It may be little now; but " if it is born, it grows in secrecy, by growing it will be perfected, once perfected, it will abide. For when it is perfected, it does not decline into old age, and from old age come to death; to this end will it be perfected, that it may abide for ever." Oh! watch it carefully. Christ is near. Let the loving soul but call, and search for Him, and He will hear. He will enter in, and fill it with holy joy. The heart shall burn within. And the answer to " abide with us," will be His own most blessed presence. II. And, most of all, shall the loving soul seek its Lord in the means of grace, and, above all, in the Holy Eucharist. To those gathered together in His Name, a special blessing is promised. " I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go unto the House of our Lord." And why should we rejoice? Is it not be cause it is the dwelling-place of the King of kings and Lord of lords? There He walketh as among the golden candlesticks. There He waiteth to be gracious. In Holy Scripture read, in solemn confession, in absolution, in joyous chant and psalm of thanksgiving, the soul sees its Lord ; and every prayer, and en treaty, carry on the one same strain " Abide with me, Lord." And most fully is this the
CHRIST S PRESENCE. 171 case in the Sacrament of the Altar. No theme is this for sad disputes, and reasoning.
Far from those who draw nigh to the Holy Table, be all strifes, and doubts, and fear. One thing only does the loving heart seek even Jesus Christ Himself; one thing only does it care to know, and that is, that there He is, Who giveth II is people to eat the Hea venly Bread that came down from Heaven; that there He is Who gave Himself to be Himself the Bread of Life; and so again the prayer is, " Abide with Me, leave Me not, neither forsake Me." III. And besides all this, we should look for the presence of our Lord in the reverses and sorrows of this life, and in sickness too. In all these the Unseen is ever present; in all these He journeys with us; and, as He does, it not unfrequently happens that our hearts burn within us, as we receive the whispers of divine consolation. Himself a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief from the birth in the manger, till on the Cross He exclaimed, " It is finished," He knows how to succour those who are passing through the fiery ordeal of affliction, mental and bodily. Fear only to lose Him, and fearing, pray Him ever to abide. u Abide with me," be thy prayer, and thou shalt find Him nigh; for He who longs for
172 CHRIST S PRESENCE. God with his whole heart, already hath Him Whom he loves; for none could love God, unless he possessed Him, whom He loves. Call upon Him in the day of trouble, and He will not turn aside from thee, though to prove thy faith, He may appear as if He would go further. The healer will come unto thee, and thy sorrow shall be turned into joy ; thy tears shall all be wiped away, and thou shalt cling to Him, be supported by Him, Whom to know is life eternal. And when the evening of life has really come when the aching head, and the feeble limb, and the failing eye, tell thee that thou art on the threshold of eternity ; when thou feelest that ere long thou wilt have done with all of earth ; what, then, will cheer thee in thy dying hour, and glad thee as thou journeyest through the dark valley of the shadow of death? Riches, honours, and distinctions, long coveted and hardly won what will these avail ? They will not afford thee one moment of joy then they cannot soothe a single pang. What then is the stay? what the hope of the
faithful soul? Is it not Christ Himself the hope of glory? Happy soul, which in that moment, having tasted the fruits of salvation, is allowed time to see His glory, as the onlybegotten of the Father. Happy soul, which
CHRIST S PRESENCE. 173 in all humility and faith looking to Him, can say, " Heal me, I pray, oh ! Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; glorify me, and I shall be glori ous." Happy soul, which realizing His pre sence, can say, u I know that my Redeemer liveth." For those, who dwell in Christ, and in whom He dwelleth, the sting of death has been removed. Christ abideth with them, and is about to take them to abide with Him for ever. Yes ! thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, ere Easter-tide is passed away, pray we Him more earnestly than heretofore we have, that He will abide with us abide with our hope, our trust, our joy, our light; abide with us on change, in the market, in the world, in our lonely chamber; that mid all we may be preserved safe from the evils that are in the world. And, as we think of all the bliss and joy that flow from the realization of Christ s presence, let us, especially when long absti nence may provoke to the contrary, exercise ourselves in what Thomas a Kempis has so well said, " Who, then, is he that celebrates the Passover in Spirit? He who passes over from vice to virtues; who rises from his old life and evil custom to a state of new devotion.
174 CHRIST S PRESENCE. Who that worthily honours the Passover? He who spurns secular honours, and seeks the glory of Christ in all his actions. Who sacri fices the Kid on the evening of the Passover? He who truly repents of his sins, and for the rest abstains from sin Who eats the roasted Lamb with bitter herbs ? He who sorrowfully thinks of Christ suffering on the Cross, and living innocently, chastens himself. Who is the true Hebrew that passes through the Red Sea ? He who passes on from carnal sense to sweetness of the Spirit, and forgetting those things which are behind, reaches forward to
those things which are before. Who is the true child of Abraham ? He who advances from servile fear, to the liberty of the sons of God. Who is the true disciple of Jesus Christ ? He who perfectly renounces all earthly things, and relinquishes his own will. Who is worthy to sit at the Table of Christ ? He who voluntarily humbles himself for the love of Christ Who is fit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven ? He who despises the kingdom of the world, and all secular parade; he is the friend of God, the citizen of Heaven, and Lord of the world. Who is meet to contemplate the Face of Christ, and to penetrate the secret of HeaVen? He who is clean in heart, fervent in prayer,
CHRIST S PRESENCE. 175 and wholly given up to his internal life. Who is beloved and accepted of God? He who is abject in his own ways, and thinks lightly of evervthing which passes away. Amen.
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