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not think that, for our salvation, there is any real difference whether we touch Him by the sensible touch of the hand or not. It was not the hand
. which drew forth the healing virtue that went out of Him, but faith, of which the hand was but the instrument. And we touch still by faith. Neither was it the garment which had power to work miracles, but He who bare it. Faith touched Him by the hand through the hem of His garment, as now faith touches Him under the veils of the holy Sacrament.
Let us realise this great gift of Christ, by divine faith in the order of grace; let us truly conceive the dignity of this holy mystery, its heavenly truth and
Is it not because we do not believe this divine work that we come so languidly and coldly to the holy Sacrament? I am not now speaking of those who come sinfully and in sacrilege; nor of those who are indeed unworthy to come; but of those who, though fearing, are yet worthy according to the measures of our sinful hearts. It may be said that they are least worthy to come who think themselves the most so; and that they are most unworthy who least feel their own unworthiness : such, for instance, as come not “in the press” and with fear, but with boldness and a confident approach, never doubting their own fitness : or such,
again, as are high-minded, self-esteeming, fearless, slothful, easy, shallow, undisturbed in their self-persuading assurance. These communicants come to the altar with little or no perception of the divine reality they are approaching; their lives are lives of sense, and they judge of the holy Sacrament by sense and in the order of sense. They, indeed, ask no questions, having no fears; but awakened and humble hearts mistrust their own fitness, and desire some rule by which to judge themselves. If, then, to approach His sacramental presence now is all one with approaching His visible presence then ; if to touch the hem of His garment was a prophetic type of the touch whereby we receive the virtue which goes out from Him in the mystery of holy communion ; must we not believe that the dispositions of heart with which we should have ventured to approach Him then, are the same as those with which we should approach Him now?
Let us therefore see what they are.
1. The first disposition is a sense of our own infirmities. As a weary and lingering sickness drew this poor woman to Him on earth, so a sense of our life-long sinfulness draws us to Him now that He is in His heavenly kingdom. The first reason, therefore, why we must needs come is the reason some plead for staying away. They ask, How can I dare to come, who am so sinful ? Ought they not rather to ask, How dare I, who am so sinful, stay away? what hope for me but in coming? When I say, a sense of sinfulness, I mean, not a consciousness of indulged or unrepented sins, but a consciousness of sins for which we continually sorrow. Be they what they may, heavy and numberless: though it be an indwelling sinfulness, which spreads through the whole spiritual life, in thoughts, tempers, imaginations ; making us prone to fall, and weak to arise again; though at times we seem darkened, harassed, swayed, and almost turned aside from God; yet if we be truly grieved
l and humbled, even these are no bar to worthy communion. Nay, a fear and a danger of falling even into mortal sin, a sense of the strength of temptation, the treachery of our own hearts, the weakness of our will, need not keep us away. The consciousness of shallow repentance, imperfect sorrow, want of love, languid affections, cold devotion, wandering prayers, sluggishness in the spiritual life, restless activity of the animal and worldly nature,--all this burden of conscious unworthiness might well make us shrink from Him, if it were not the very reason why we must needs draw near. It is but a little trial of faith to believe that Christ loves us, until we have come truly to know our own sinfulness. So long as we do not feel this inward burden, it costs little to say we be
lieve His love. We may believe it as an intellectual truth; but we do not trust in it by the faith of the heart. When a conscious unworthiness of being loved rises up and condemns us, when our inward soul seems to contradict the possibility of His love to us, then to believe that He loves us still is faith. And we often find that people who have been in the habit of coming without fear to the altar while their inward convictions of sin were slight and shallow, as soon as deeper thoughts begin to stir within them, and sharper convictions to pierce their conscience—that is, when indeed they are becoming more fit to communicate than before -begin from that very time to fear and to shrink back from the holy Sacrament. Now it is just at this very point that their faith is put on trial. The grace of the holy Sacrament and the nearness of the presence of Christ has revealed to them a fuller knowledge of themselves. If His light were not in them, they would not see themselves ; they would be unconscious as before. It is by shewing them what they are, that He tries their trust in His love. The more they feel their lost and sinful state, the more they need to hold fast by Him; and He reveals it for this purpose,
that they may draw closer and closer to His presence. Therefore, the first condition to worthy communion is a sense of unworthiness—a trembling, self-accus
ing consciousness of sin, which, while it makes us fear to draw near, makes us still more afraid to stay away. It is our sin which makes us unwo
worthy, and yet our sin is the necessity which forces us to His feet.
2. Another disposition is a conscience clear from sin. When I say, that our sinfulness ought to bring us to the altar, I do not mean wilful sin, even of the lightest kind, Indulged or un repented sin, howsoever small, is a direct contradiction to the spirit of our Lord. We have been speaking of the indwelling sinfulness which was in our nature at the time when He first took us, by baptism, into His mystical body. He opened between Himself and us a living relation, a channel through which His sinlessness might sanctify our sinful hearts; and, such as we are, He still holds us fast, maintaining, on His part, that relation of love unbroken. We know that as sinners we were all separated from God, and yet that by grace we have been united to Him again. We know also that some Christians by their sins separate themselves again from Him, for all sins tend to separation. “ There is no man that liveth and sinneth not;” nevertheless there are some who still abide in union with God. Yet they too sin, but their sins do not separate them from Him; they are not free from sin, but their fellowship with