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fulfil his command. For why was the precept given, if it were presumptuous to obey it? Take care lest you be found impugning the wisdom of the great Legislator. The presumption is, refusing to come, and not obeying the precept. Our turning away from the Lord's table does not prove our humility, but our forgetfulness of Christ's request. Is there no reason to fear that it arises not" from a tender conscience, but from a cold, careless, worldly heart ?! Burkitt well observes, that “the reverence which our Saviour expects to this holy institution, is a reverence of obedience.” Some that object to receive on account of unworthiness, do, as it has been remarked, ture at some great solemnities, as Easter, to approach this table, which makes it wonderful how they can reconcile their notion of unworthiness with their practice of receiving at such seasons; or else they must have at those seasons a better opinion of themselves than is consistent with Christian hu
But beware of unbelieving thoughts of your Heavenly Father's love; entertain not hard thoughts of the compassionate Saviour of men. They are highly dishonourable to his character, his word, and his promises, and are very prejudical to yourselves. The Lord's Supper was never designed to be a snare for human frailty. Remember, that you are not coming to Mount Sinai, burning with fire, and covered with blackness, with bounds fixed to keep off the people; but rather to Mount Sion, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things.
Another excuse with many is, I AM TOO MUCH ENGAGED IN BUSINESS TO PREPARE FOR SO SOLEMN A DUTY. “I cannot, says Bishop Patrick,“ believe that any man is so employed, that constantly, when he is to receive the sacrament, he must omit it, or be a greater loser. It is incredible, that this business must bé done just at that time, and that none other will serve.” He then shows the futility of the excuse, by stating, that if a large sum of money were to be given, every time a person came, few would resist this golden reason; they would, in that case, put aside all other business. Such a view may lead us to detect the real state of our mind. Consider if the true meaning of this excuse be not this: “ I am leading a life inconsistent with the discharge of Christian duties ; I am living an unchristian life; and if I die, my soul is lost forever.” The discharge of your religious duties is your first and great business; and you had better let the body perish for want of its proper food, than the soul perish for want of spiritual food. Remember, however much you are occupied, you will one day stand in judgment before Him, who, though so engaged in providing for your salvation, as not to have time to eat bread, yet spent whole nights in prayer, rather than neglect to fulfil all righteousness. Yet after all, the due preparation for the Lord's Supper is often much mistaken. This subject will be afterwards noticed. Those who are really so engrossed in this world's business, as to leave no time for their most solemn duties, should seriously inquire, whether much of that business that hinders them be not needless, or hurtful to their highest interests. But however this may be, no business of this world can justify the continued neglect of manifest religious duties. Seek. first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you.
A third excuse sometimes offered is, I HAVE RECEIVED THE LORD'S SUPPER, AND HAVE FOUND NO BENEFICIAL EFFECTS FROM IT. Perhaps you have mistaken the kind of benefit which you expected, and have looked for sensible and momentary comfort, instead of solid growth in grace. This ordinance has no miraculous power over the animal frame, but supplies the mind with powerful motives and considerations, whereby, through the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to resist the attacks of our spiritual enemies. It is a means of obtaining spiritual strength from God. The Christian can not perhaps fully know in this world, what secret strength may thus have been given to him, and how he may have been kept from the ways of sin, and in the ways of God, by the motives here suggested to his mind. But we may very safely, as to this excuse, put it to every conscience-Can you really say, after you have deliberately prepared yourself for this ordinance, and received it with seriousness, that no resolution against sin has received fresh confirmation, no obligation to obedience has been strengthened? Or at least is it not presumptuous to question the efficacy, or deny the obligation, of attending upon an ordinance of God, merely because you have not yet derived from it all the benefits which you expected ?
Again, it is objected, I AM AFRAID THAT, WEAK AS I AM, I SHALL BREAK MY RESOLUTIONS, AND SO INCUR GREATER
You forget that this ordinance is calculated to strengthen your resolutions. You forget that every temporal blessing you partake of, increases your obligations to serve God. You forget the greater guilt of neglecting a divine institution. But deliberately ask yourself, "Do I mean to give up myself to the unrestrained enjoyment of sin, and the certainty of endless ruin-or do I wish to be the disciple of Christ, and the heir of his glory?" If, indeed, you cared not about eternal life, and could be supposed awfully to choose eternal wrath, this excuse would be less inconsistent. But if you really desire to live with Christ, and to spend a blessed eternity in the mansions above, consider, that the admission of your weakness is the reason why you should constantly go to the Lord's table for new supplies of grace; and if you fall again, as all more or less do, come the oftener to the appointed means of weakening sin, and enlivening faith, hope, love, and every Christian grace.
Some have felt scruples about receiving, because OTHERS WERE AT ENMITY WITH THEM: but this is not founded on any
just interpretation of Scripture. This view would also con demn our Saviour, the twelve apostles, and the whole primitive Church! for none had such bitter enemies as they had at the very time this communion was most frequent.
Others feel the presence of some against whom they have a prejudice, or of whom they have reason to think ill, a sufficient excuse; forgetting the peculiarity of the apostle's expression—HE that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, and not to his fellow communicants; forgetting our Lord knew that Judas would betray him, Peter deny him, and all forsake him, when he celebrated the last Supper with them. Yet we would not by these remarks justify indiscriminate communion. The Holy Scripture, (1 Cor. v. 11–13.) as well as our Church, directs, that all open sinners be excluded.
Others receive only at particular Festivals, not considering, as Chrysostom remarks, that “what makes it reasonable to communicate, is not merely a festival, or the time of a more solemn assembly, but a pure conscience, and a life free from
“Some Christians,” it has been observed, “inquire whether they should continue to approach the table of their Saviour, when their consciences are burdened with the guilt of any particular sin. To this the answer is obvious, because one end of receiving the body and blood of Christ is, to obtain the very blessings of pardon, and peace of conscience, which the objection supposes to be the most wanted. If indeed, unhappily, we have committed some aggravated offence against God, and the ordinary period of our partaking of the Eucharist be near, it may be expedient to abstain for that season from the Lord's Supper; but this abstinence must be with the express intention of more humbly confessing our sins before God,” that we may with sincere penitence and faith hereafter receive.
It may appear wonderful, even allowing the general darkness and corruption of the human heart, that there should be such a prevailing tendency in professing Christians to negligence, in a case where there are so many strong and tender motives for obedience. Some of the fears, possibly, may have originated from the once generally diffused Papal doctrine of transubstantiation, and from a general misconception of the apostle's reproof of the Corinthians, for their irregularities. This part of the subject will be considered hereafter.
Perhaps, however, at the root of all these excuses, there is an unsuspected, secret unwillingness of heart. Men have often a feeling of this kind. It would disturb their quiet, make them uneasy in their mind, and hinder them from enjoying the pleasure that they are wont to take in their sins. Let every one who neglects the Lord's Supper, examine this point well!
From the whole, we may conclude that there is nothing to discourage the PENITENT BELIEVER from a constant and inva
riable attendance at this table. The duty is manifest, and the advantage great and evident.
And on the other hand, those LIVING IN the love and practice of sin, may here see the grievous state to which their conduct reduced them. You are afraid of going to the Lord's table, lest you should eat and drink damnation ; but have you no reason to be afraid of the consequences of disobeying a plain command by staying away? Your sins reduce you to a sad dilemma of danger. Nothing can deliver you from it but speedy repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no safety to any living soul, but in fleeing to him who is able to save! Let me then earnestly and affectionately entreat every such reader, to examine their own hearts, to ascertain without delay their true state before God, heartily to repent of their sins, and seek the salvation of the Gospel. Then, when you have experienced a real change of heart
, when you are born again of God's Spirit, and have a good hope through grace, you will come and receive the Lord's Supper, not only without danger and reluctance, but with the greatest comfort and advantage.
We will conclude this chapter in the animating words of Bishop Patrick.
“Let no man therefore plead this, or that, in excuse for his not coming to the Lord's table; but resolve hereafter carefully to perform so necessary a duty. Let the sinner quit his state of sin and death, and so come and eat of the bread of life. Let the ignorant come into the school of Christ, and proceed till they come to the highest form, to the upper room, where this feast is celebrated. Let those that are at enmity with their neighbours also come; let them only first go, and be reconciled to their brethren, and so let them offer their gift. Let those that have a multitude of worldly employments come; only let them leave them, as Abraham did his asses, at the bottom of the mount, and so let them ascend to heaven in their thoughts, and converse with God. Let the weak come, that they may grow in strength; and let the strong come, that they may not grow weak. Let them who have fears come, that their hearts may be settled by the acts of a more lively faith; and let them come who have hope, that they may rise to greater degrees of a humble confidence. Let those who have leisure accept of this invitation, because they have no excuse; and let those who have but little leisure entertain it also, that they may the more sanctify their business and their employments. Let the sad and sorrowsul approach, that their hearts may be filled with the joys of the Lord; and let those that rejoice in the Lord always approach, that their joy may be full."
A Prayer that God would prepare the Heart for the due re
ceiving of the Holy Sacrament, and assist us in the Ex amination of our lives.
Most gracious and merciful God, who worketh in me both to will and to do, of thy good pleasure ; I bless thy holy name for the sincere desire thou hast put into my heart, of coming to thy holy table, and the opportunities which thou art pleased to vouchsafe me of renewing my covenant with thee. In an humble sense of my own weakness and insufficiency, to do any thing that is good of myself, I implore the assistance of thy Holy Spirit, in my honest endeavours to become a worthy partaker of the body and blood of Christ. Raise my mind from the cares and business of this world, to a serious consideration of heavenly things; and be pleased to stir up in me pious thoughts and devout affections, that the meditations of my heart, being such as become this heavenly feast, may be well pleasing and aceptable in thy sight. Possess me with such a sense of the gli ious Majesty before whom I am to appear, and of the great concern of my soul in the work I am going about, as may prepare me to approach thy table with reverence and circumspection. Help me, I beseech thee, so to lay to heart the sufferings of my Saviour, and thy tender love in the redemption of mankind, that I may steadfastly resolve from henceforth to serve and obey thee, and to continue his for ever, who hath redeemed and bought me with the price of his own blood. And, finally, do thou, who triest the hearts and reins, and knowest my down-sitting and my up-rising, graciously assist and direct me in the examination of my life. Try me, o God, and seek the ground of my heart; prove me, and examine my thoughts, and bring to my remembrance all my most hidden and secret sins; that having set my transgressions in order before me, and humbled my soul under a due sense of my vileness, I may be capable of receiving the gracious seal of thy pardon and favour in the blood of thy Son and my only Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Other Prayers, suitable to the Lord's Supper, from Bishop Wilson.
Blessed be God for ever, for this instance of his love to fallen mankind, in committing the miserable case of his unhappy creatures to no less a person than his own son! We are not worthy of all the mercies which thou hast showed thy servants. Grant, O God, that this wonderful love may not be lost upon me : but that, knowing my sad condition by nature, I may he truly convinced of the necessity and blessing of a Redeemer; and that I may, with a heart full of gratitude, join with thy church in giving our devoutest thanks to thee, and in keeping up the remembrance of what thy blessed Son has done and suffered for us ; to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour, praise, and thanksgiving, for ever and ever. Amen.
( Jesus, who hast loved us, and washed us from our sins, and purchased us by thy own blood--and didst ordain this sacrament in order to secure us io thyself, by a grais