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follow, because we cannot exactly imitate the Corinthians, that it is impossible for us to incur the guilt of unworthy communicating ? Far from it. Their external conduct is not likely soon to be followed; but the principle which dictated their behaviour is. but too prevalent. The crime seldom wears that unsightly form which it assumed at Corinth; but under a more plausible exterior it exists, it abounds, I fear, in every Christian church.
Let us endeavour, then, to explain in what unworthy communicating consists, fixing our attention ra ther on what is distinctive of the crime in all circumstances, than on the particular forms under which it presents itself, which are liable to considerable varie ty. In whatever age of the church he may live, and however soleme and decorous may be his external des meanour, that man is an unworthy communicant, who engages in this religious service, from improper motives,-ignorant of its nature and design,-destitute of faith in the doctrines which it symbolically teaches, unactuated by those holy tempers which it is intended to exercise and improve,~or with a view to gain unworthy ends. We shall shortly illustrate the different parts of this description.
1st, That man eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, who engages in this service from improper motives. No maxim in morals is more unie versally admitted than this, that “ actions are good or evil, chiefly according to the nature of the motives from which they proceed." Though no excellence of intention can render an action right that is materially wrong, it may, it will, be considered as a palliation of its guilt; and a motive criminally defective, or poa sitively wrong, robs actions, however good in them, selves, of all their moral worth. In cases where man is the immediate object of our conduct, an action may
be very acceptable, while the motive is very unwor. thy; but the cause of this is merely, that as man can judge of principle only by conduct, he presumes that where the outward act is right, the inward principle is not wrong. He is pleased only because he is mistaken. Inform him of the truth, and the action, previously highly esteemed, will be contemned as utterly void of value. In religious services, we have to do with God, who “ seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but God judgeth the heart.” If the heart be not right, in his estimation all is wrong. So long as the source of action continues unpurified, the streams which flow from it, however pellucid in appearance, are in God's judgment polluted.
That many engage in the Lord's supper, whose motives are by no means pure, is a fact too notorious to require a laboured proof. It is to be feared, that the mere force of custom is the most ordinary motive to the observation of this sacred institution. Multitudes have received their religious ritual like their religious creed, “ by tradition from their fathers.” They follow the multitude. They crowd to the table of the Lord, for the same reason that they would have joined in an idolatrous procession, had they been born in the regions of Paganism ; or taken part in the services of the mosque, had their lot been cast among the nations who follow the Arabian impostor.
A regard to Christianity as a political engine,--the religion of the state,-induces another class to attend to this part of its external worship. It is probable that they have never seriously investigated the question respecting its claims to a divine origin; it is not unlikely that they may be sceptical about them ; it is even possible that they may openly deny and ridicule them; yet still they consider it as decent and wise to pay an
easy homage to a religion which has the approving sanction of the civil authorities, and which is of obvious use in maintaining good order among the middle and lower ranks of society.
A third, and perhaps a larger class of men, observe the Lord's supper, because (depraved as the state of religion and morals among us confessedly is, it is, at least among the middle orders, still reckoned discreditable to be openly infidel and irreligious, and a man's Christianity is apt to be doubted, who habitually neglects its ritual institutions.
A vague expectation, and in some cases, though most mistaken conviction, that the pardon of sin is to be procured by an approach to the Lord's table, are not without their influence in increasing the number of communicants. It is really pitiable, that persons call. ing themselves Protestants, should thus substantially cherish one of the most dangerous errors of Popery,the doctrine of the sacrifiee of the mass, which transfers our confidence from the Saviour's atoning death, to our commemoration of it; but the evidence in support of the lamentable fact is too abundant to leave room for doubt.
It were endless to specify all the unworthy motives which
urge mankind to attend to this holy ordinance. Suffice it to remark, that a desire, in itself by no means unamiable, to gratify the wishes of relations and friends, to satisfy the demands of an awakened but unenlightened conscience, or to promote the interests of a party, by thus enlisting themselves in its ranks ;-that these motives, and such as these, have been the actuating principles of countless numbers, in seeking a place at the table of the Lord.
It surely does not need much reasoning to prove, that the person who is not animated by higher motives than these, must be an unworthy communicant. Is a regard. to custom, political constitution, respectability of character, the opinion of friends, the demands of an erring conscience, or the interests of a party ;-is a regard for any of these, or all of them conjoined, a worthy motive to the performance of a religious duty? No. Service proceeding from such principles, the Supreme Being considers not as worship, but as insult. « In vain," says he,“ do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Indeed, we may observe in general, that no motive can be sustained as pure and worthy, except a regard to the divine authority, instituting this ordinance, and requiring us to observe it. It is only in this case that communicating can be considered as a religious service, -a part of divine worship. Of consequence, it is only in this case that it can be acceptable to God.
2d, That man eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, who engages in the Lord's supper while ignorant of its nature and design. Our God expects rational worship from his rational offspring. The radical part of true religion lies in exercises of the understanding and the heart, in which it is impossible to engage without knowledge; and even the external and ritual part of religion is then only acceptable, when it is a reasonable service. That the mere reception of the Lord's supper, without any reference to the intelligence or devotion of the recipient, is accompanied with saving virtue, is justly numbered among the most pernicious as well as absurd dogmas of the Roman church.
The Lord's supper does not act as a charm on those who engage in it. Its manner of operation is substantially the same as the ordinance of preaching the gospel. It is by a representation of truth and its evidence to the mind, in the one case by symbols, in the other: by words, that a salutary impression is made on the
heart. How is it possible, then, that a person should observe this ordinance either acceptably or profitably, who is ignorant of the first principles of Christianity,
-who does not know who Jesus Christ is, what he has done for our salvation, and how we are to obtain an interest in the blessings of his redemption ? He who does not understand the symbols in the Lord's supper, can derive no advantage from it. He cannot, to use the Apostle's language, “discern the Lord's body." Ignorant of the truths emblematically taught, he cannot take up the elements, nor perform the actions, as representations of doctrines most sublime and interesting. To him the consecrated elements are mere bread and wine, and all the venerable solemnia ties of the eucharist unmeaning ceremonies *.
It might reasonably be expected, that, in a country like ours, so long Christian by profession, and possessing unparalleled advantages for religious instruction, (I mean no hyperbole when I use this expression,) there should be few unworthy communicants from igporance. Would to God it were so ! I am deeply persuaded, however, that the reverse is the truth. Owing to the highly criminal neglect of their parents in the precious season of childhood and youth, and their own equally criminal neglect when they arrive at riper years, there are thousands, aye, and tens of
In using such language as is adopted in this sentence, the Au. thor wishes it distinctly understood, that he considers the elements in the Lord's supper as consecrated or set apart, not by what is usually termed the consecration prayer, but by the original institution of Jesus Christ. He thinks it, to say the least, very incautious language which is often used by ministers, on such occasions, “We hereby set apart from a common to a sacred use, so much," &c. All that a Christian minister can do, and all he ought to attempt to do, is to give thanks for the great blessing of redemption through the death of Christ, and for this divinely-appointed repre. sentation of it; and to supplicate the divine blessing on the ordfnance.