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the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing.” And the apostate is said to "cru. cify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” It seems to follow, from these remarks, that the guilt of unworthy communicating, though highly aggravated, is not singular. May God grant that this exhibition of its deformity may make us all cautious how we incur it!
2d, The unworthy communicant exposes himself to severe punishment. He “eats and drinks judgment to himself.” The mode of expression is remarkable. So far as I have observed, it is singular. Its meaning is not, however, in any degree obscure. The words plainly signify, that by thus eating and drinking he exposes himself to condemnation. From this passage some have rashly concluded, that unworthy commu. nicating is uniformly and necessarily connected with everlasting destruction. This is certainly a very un. warranted inference. Great as is the guilt of this crime, and severe as is its punishment, we have no reason to think the former irremissible, nor the latter uni. formly eternal. We know from the apostle John, that “there is but one sin unto death ;” and from our Lord, that that sin is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Whatever this irremissible sin may be, we have no reason to think that it is unworthy communicating. That is obviously a crime directed immediately against Christ; and we know that “all sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; and if a man speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven to him."
But apart from these general considerations, the passage itself contains abundant evidence, that eternal destruction is not the evil which the apostle here de clares to be incurred by unworthy communicating. The word translated “damnation” in our version, is much better rendered in the margin“ judgment." It is thus translated in many other passages of scripture. We shall quote a few of them. “ He that troubleth you shall bear his own judgment, whosoever he be.”_" The time is come when judgment is begun at the house of God.” Even a mere English reader must perceive, that it would have been exceedingly harsh to have rendered the word damnation in these passages.
The nature of the judgments to which unworthy communicating subjects those who are guilty of it, may be learned from that which befel the offending Corinthians : * For this cause,” says the apostle, “many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” In their case, bodily diseases and untimely death were the judgments inflicted.—But were not these merely the forerunners of more dreadful evils, of more lasting pains ? We have no reason to think
On the contrary, a phrase is used to express their death, which is never in the New Testament applied to the death of the wicked. They are said “to fall asleep ;" and so far from being the earnest of everlasting punishment, we are informed that they were intended for this very purpose, that they might escape the condemnation of the wicked.
" When we are judged," says the apostle, "we are chastened, that we should not be condemned with the world.” These observations will not be useless, if in but one instance they serve to dissipate those distressing fears which are apt to arise in weak perhaps, but tender minds, from the very strong phraseology which is employed in our translation of the Scriptures, and which frequently prevent them from receiving that unmingled satisfaction from this ordinance, which it is certainly intended and calculated to communicate.
Let no man, however, conclude, from what has been said, that the punishment to which unworthy
communicating exposes, is but common and trifling. Like every other sin, it is damning in its own nature, and if unrepented of, will doubtless form one of the grounds of that sentence of condemnation which dooms the sinner to unending destruction. Besides, it is not for us to determine how often, or in what instances, this crime in irregenerate men is, even in the present state, punished by mental and bodily diseases.
· Nor is the punishment slight to which the Chrisa tian (for even he may be guilty of some of the forms of this crime) exposes himself, when he eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily. The se verest and most apparently wrathful afflictions with which God visits his people, will ultimately be salutary; but during their continuance, they may all be intolerable. The judgments of God, even when we except the most dreadful of them, are infinitely varied, and may be awfully severe. Say, Christian, is it a small affliction to be deprived of all sensible commu. nion with thy Saviour and thy God,--to be given up to be the sport of the malignant ingenuity of thine infernal foes,—to be allowed to fall into some 'gross sin, which must deeply wound thy conscience, indelibly stain thy character, and totally destroy thy usefulness, -to have thine understanding clouded with perplexity, and thy heart tortured with fear,—to lose, though not thy security (for that cannot be lost) yet the knowledge of thy security of the everlasting inheritance,-to be “ chastened with sore pain upon thy bed,” while no comforting influences are vouchsafed from above,--to be terrified with the prospect of spending an eternityan eternity, too, apparently at hand, in the society of devils and damned spirits, under the hopeless dow' minion of depravity,—to be haunted with the idea that the unrelaxing frown of an offended Judge is fixed on you, instead of the benignant smile
of a reconciled Father,-in fine, to die without comfort and without hope, unable to give a testimony to the power of the religion of Jesus, to support the mind under the pressure of affliction, and in the prospect of death? Say, Christian, are these light evils, or canst thou form an idea of misery more exquisite, without borrowing the notion from the regions of despair
Yet all these judgments may be inflicted on the saint who is guilty of unworthy communicating.
It would be extremely rash to assert, for Scripture warrants no such affirmation, that all these judgments were ever, in any instance, inflicted upon an erring saint.' In dispensing chastisements to his people, God is sovereign and merciful. But let us beware of presuming on his mercy. To all these evils does the un. worthy communicant expose himself; and were they inflicted on him in all their variety and severity, who durst say that the Almighty was either unmerciful or unjust? If the true Christian, when he communicates unworthily, may be thus chastised, Oh how severe must be the punishment of the irregenerate profaner of the body and blood of the Lord !
Before concluding the Discourse, it may be proper to guard you against misimproving these truths-and to urge you to apply them to the practical purposes which they are fitted and intended to answer.
The doctrine of the deep guilt and the great danger of unworthy communicating, is misimproved by two classes of men of very different characters. It is often urged as an excuse for neglecting this ordinance, by men who are in reality careless about Christianity and its institutions; and it is sometimes felt by the sincere, but timid believer, as a real obstacle in the way of his enjoying the privilege and performing the duty of eating bread and drinking wine in remembrance of the Saviour's dying love.
The conduct of the first class of persons is highly criminal and foolish ;- it is to pervert the doctrines of the gospel from their true design, and to extract from them an apology for neglecting its duties. Are such persons serious in their objection? If they are not, let them know, that the will of God, and the salvation of the soul, are much too serious subjects for quibbling about, and that “God is not deceived, and will not be mocked.” In very many cases, the real cause of their not communicating is their insensibility to the obligations of Christianity altogether, or the love of some sin which they are determined not to abandon. The profession of a fear of communicating unworthily, is but the pretext under which they endeavour to cloak from others, and perhaps from themselves, their latent infidelity and supreme love of iniquity. For if they are so much afraid of condemnation,,why are they not careful to avoid every sin ? Unworthy communicating is not the only damning transgression. Every sin exposes to the displeasure of God, and among the rest neglect of the Lord's supper.
Let such persons remember, if they are indeed unprepared for communicating, they are in a state of extreme hazard. They are enemies of God, unfit for every religious exercise, condemned already; and, should they die in their present situation, they must be miserable for ever. To invite such persons, in their present state, to the Lord's table, would be highly improper. But we would beseech them, by the “terrors of the Lord,” and by the compassions of the Redeemer, to "flee for refuge to the hope set before them in the gospel.” Let them “believe in the Lord Jesus, that they may be saved ;" and then let them hasten to the Lord's table, to express their gratitude for his redeeming kindness. But there is another class of persons who are apt