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There are many Books already written upon this subject ; and it is not my meaning, to persuade you to lay aside such as you have been accustomed to, if they be suited to your condition and circumstances. My only design is, to provide proper instructions and assistances for those who have none ; that those who are religiously disposed, may see the obligations they are under to come to the Lord's Table, and the manner in which they are to prepare themselves for it; and that others who have really no inclination to come, may not be able to plead the want of proper assistances, as a reason and excuse for their keeping away.
I have endeavoured to make it plain, short, and comprehensive, in order to make it of more general use : which seems not to have been regarded enough, in the greatest parts of the books that have been written upon this subject. For some taking it for granted, that the nature and design of this institution are 'sufficiently understood by most christians, have judged it unnecessary to spend time in explaining it : And others have begun at the preparations for receiving it: forgetting the slowness of christians in coming to the Lord's Table, and the scruples, pretences, and excuses, by which they endeavour to justify that neglect. Others again, having set forth the necessity of examining our Tives in order to it, do omit, for brevity's sake, the particular heads of duty to be examined upon, though that, in truth, seems to be the most necessary part of our preparation, and not to be pera formed aright (especially by persons engaged in the cares of the world) without some assis. tances of that kind.
On the other hand, several of the books upon this subject are very large, and framed only for the use of persons who are at liberty to be long and often in their closets. Such are, the weekly preparations before, and the weekly exercises after the Holy Sacrament: which are very useful to devout christians who have much leisure, but they have accidentally an ill effect upon thos who have little, as they lead them to think, that unless they can go through the courses directed in such books, their preparations will be at best imperfect ; and their condition not allowing them time for that they wholly lay aside the thoughts of receiving it all.
I speak not this with the least intention to lessen the credit and value of such books, which have done great service to religion in their several ways.
But when I set myself to draw up proper instructions and assistances for my parish in general, I foresaw they would be very imperfect, except I took it for granted that some persons were wholly strangers to the nature, meaning, and design of this institution, and that many more, notwithstanding their knowledge of these things, were shamefully slow and negligent in this part of their duty ; being either kept from the Lord's Table by groundless fears and scruples, or satisfying their consciences with excuses and pretences altogether as groundless.
Upon these accounts, it was necessary to begin with the institution of the Holy Sacrament; and that being clearly and particularly explained, to proceed to the obligations upon christians to come frequently to it ; and then, to re
move out of the way whatever scruples or
either hinder men from complying with these obligations, or be made a cloak to hide the shame and scandal of neglecting them. These are the heads treated of in the first part : and as many as do not want to be instructed in them, will consider that others do, who are equally under my care ; and blessing God for their own knowledge and religious dispositions, will heartily wish and pray, that their brethren, as well as themselves, may be delivered from ignorance, error and luke-warmness. Having endeavoured in the
first part to give all who are of age to be instructed, a sufficient knowledge of the institution of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, with their obligations to receive it; my business, in the second part, is. to assist them in their preparations, by laying down a plain method of proceeding in it ; together with the rules of examination, and such prayers and meditations as I conceive to be proper under each head, before, at, and after their receiving. All which I have contrived in the shortest manner that I could, to make it suitable to the circumstances of such persons as are obliged to a daily attendance upon their respective callings, which happens to be the condition of the greatest part of those, whom the providence of God hath committed to my
As to others, who have more time and leisure, and who may think this method of prca paration too short; it is no part of
intention to confine them to it, and they may easily furnish themselves with others that are much laza ger.
But whatever your condition be, I must beseech all in general who have hitherto lived in the neglect of this holy ordinance, to lay to heart their manifold obligations to partake of it; and if at first the preparation shall seem tedious and difficult, they must remember, that nothing has made it so but their own neglect; and let them be assured, that when they have in earnest begun the work, they will find it every time more easy and delightful.
For my own part, I shall think my labour happily bestowed, if this by the blessing of God, shall prove the means of adding to the number of our communicants; which is the surest testimony of the increase of piety and religion, and will be an exceeding great com
Your very affectionate
Brother and Pastor,