« PreviousContinue »
making a profession of religion; and, consequently, for not communing at the sacramental table. Let me exhort them to remember, that this inability is no other than the common, natural disinclination of the human heart to do its duty; the very sin, with which they are charged in the Scriptures. Let me exhort them to believe, and to feel, that God will not accept this sinful character, as an excuse for the omission of this, or any other duty.
At the same time, they are bound to remember also, that this situation will, in no degree, justify them in making an insincere profession. This would be only substituting one sin for another: a sin, which in my view is of a still grosser nature. That, which they are required to do, is not to cease from sin, in one form, by perpetrating it, in another; but faithfully to perform their duty. They are bound to make a profession of religion; to make it with the piety of the Gospel ; and thus to become Evangelical communicants at the table of Christ.
It has been supposed, that, because the Jewish circumcised children universally partook of the Passover, therefore baptized children ought now universally to partake of the Lord's Supper. To this position, I answer, that St. Paul, as was observed in a fornier discourse, has directly forbidden believers to hold religious communion with unbelievers; and by unavoidable consequence, has forbidden unbelievers to commune at the Table of Christ. Un believing parents also, he has declared, cannot offer their children in baptism; and that, notwithstanding themselves have been baplized. Plainly, then, they cannot, for the same reason, offer themselves to God in the covenant of grace; nor appear as qualified Communicants at the table of Christ. Unto the wicked, now as well as anciently, that is, to all unbelievers, God saith, What hast thou to do, that thou shouldest take my covenant into thy mouth?
As the moral character of man is, at the best, imperfectly known by himself; and as evangelical assurance is no part of the character of a new convert; it is an indispensable qualification for communion in the Church of Christ, particularly at the sacramental table, that the candidate possess a rational, and preponderaling persuasion of his own sincere piety.
In all cases, where certainty is unattainable, no rule exists for our direction, but the commanding probability*. The command. ing probability ought, therefore, to controul in this case; be. cause certainty is evidently beyond our reach. The soundness of this rule of our duty may be also illustrated in the following manner. We are absolutely required to offer ourselves up to God in the covenant of grace.
We therefore know certainly, that this is our duty.
In the case suppos. ed, we do not know, that we shall make an insincere profession; but are furnished, by this ralional persuasion of our piety, with a commanding probability, that our profession will be sincere, and acceptable to God. We know, that we shall commit sin, if we neglect to make this profession; but we do not know, that we shall sin in making it. On the contrary, we are furnished with a commanding probability, that, if we make a profession of religion in this case, we shall not sin, but perform a service acceptable to God. To do this, in the case supposed, becomes then, if I mistake not, our unquestionable duty.
The Apostles, I think, certainly acted, in accordance with this doctrine. They address the members of the Churches, founded by them, as saints. But when they come to exhibit their character with reference to this subject, they plainly exhibit, that this saintship was imperfectly known, either to themselves, or to those, in whom it was supposed to reside. A few passages will make this position sufficiently clear. Examine yourselves, says St. Paul to the Corinthians, whether ye be in the faith. This direction could not, I think, have been given to persons, who were supposed, by him who gave it, to know themselves to be Christians. Of course, when they were admitted into the Church of Christ, they were not admitted, because they knew themselves to be Christians, but because they had a fair hope, or a preponderating, rational, persuasion, that this was their character. But St. Paul received these Christians into the Church upon a plan, which was accordant with their duty. Of course, it is accordant with our duty to become members of the Church, whenever such a persuasion becomes the standing
* See on this subject the Sermon on the Truth of God. Vol. V.
view of our own minds. Of the same nature, is the direction immediately following this; Prove your ownsoldes.
The same is also implied in the succeeding question, Know ye not your ownselves, how that Jesus Christ is formed in you, except ye be reprobates : adoxsus, unapproved.
of the same nature is the direction given to this Church, 1 Cor. xi. 28. But let a man examine himself; and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. This direction is plainly given to professing Christians, to enable them to determine whether they are worthy communicants at the table of Christ. But no such examination would be necessary for those, to whom the Apostle wrote, if, at their admission into the Church, they knew themselves to be saints; for every saint is, essentially, a worthy communicant.
By a rational, preponderating, persuasion, I intend such an one, as is the result of repeated, thorough, solemn, self-examination, aided by a faithful resort to books, which exhibit the genuine evidences of piety, and by the advice of wise and good men, particularly ministers of the Gospel. He who does not, in a case of this magnitude, seek for all these, is regardless of his own well-being.
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.
THE LORD'S SUPPER.
DISPOSITION WITH WHICH IT IS TO BE ATTENDED ;
AND MOTIVES TO THE ATTENDANCE.
MARK xiv. 22–25.
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread and blessed, and brake its
and gade to them, and said, take, eat, this is my body. And he took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them; and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olides.
In the preceding discourse, I proposed to consider,
1. The Nature, and,
The three first of these heads were considered in that discourse. I shall now proceed
IV. To consider the Disposition with which, this ordinance is to be altended.
By this, I mean that State of mind, with which a person, generally qualified in the manner, described under the preceding head, should celebrate this ordinance.
This Disposition is directly indicated by the injunction, This do in remembrance of me. It will not be supposed, that Christ directed us merely to remember him on this occasion; or to remember him with indifference; or distrust; or opposition ; or disrespect. The very idea, both of enjoining, and of voluntarily engaging in, a commemoration, supposes, that there is something great, or good, in that which is commemorated. Whenever a person is formally and solemnly made an object of commemoration, it is of course implied, that the commemoration is an intentional honour to his character, and that those, who thus honour him, regard him with sincere affection and respect.
Such being plainly, and pre-eminently, the nature of this religious rite, we become deeply interested to inquire, What are especially the constituents of that Disposition, which we ought to ecperience, while celebrating this ordinance in remembrance of our Saviour ?
To this inquiry, I answer,
1. We are lo remember Christ in this ordinance with Admiration.
Every thing, pertaining to the character of this Glorious Person, is fitted to awaken this emotion of the mind. Beside the incomprehensible mysteries of his original character ; his Incar. nation, his Life, his Death, his Love for mankind, his propitia. tory sacrifice of Himself, bis Resurrection, his Exaltation, and his Intercession, are all marvellous beyond measure; and are investigated by angels with astonishment and rapture. Hence his Character is declared by the Prophet Isaiah, and summed up by himself, when he appeared to Manoah and his Wife, in that remarkable name Wonderful. This singular character, containing in itself, a combination of all that is great and good, is presented to us in the most affecting manner at the sacramental table; and demands of us the highest exercise of religious admiration. This exercise of the Christian Spirit is formed by the union of wonder,