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reduced to three: his sentiments, his affections, and his .conduct.
1st, In the prospect of observing the Lord's Supper, a man ought to examine himself with respect to his sentiments. Opinion is, in a good degree, the guide of human conduct; and our sentiments have a direct and powerful influence in forming our character. To discover the latter, we must be acquainted with the former.
A great proportion of mankind, even of professed Christians, are so ignorant as to have, properly speaking, no sentiments on religion at all. If we belong to this class, there is no need of our prosecuting the inquiry any farther. We have already seen, that the grossly ignorant person must be an unworthy communicant*. The great body of you, however, who have been admitted into church-fellowship, are, in charity, to be presumed not ignorant. It is to be supposed that religious truth has been a subject of thought with you, and that you have formed something like a fixed system of opinion. Now, what are your sentiments about religion ?--To assist you in your inquiries, I shall class the leading subjects in religion under general heads, and propose a few plain questions in reference to each of them.
What are your opinions respecting God ? believe that there is a God? Have you a realizing, impressive conviction of his existence and presence, his providence and power? Or are you “saying in your heart with the fool, There is no God ?" Do you believe God to be possessed of all the attributes ascribed to him in the Holy Scriptures; infinitely great and powerful, wise and good, holy and just ? Or do you conceeive of him as one altogether like your
• Discourse III.
selves ? Do you believe him to be so “all mercy" as to be unjust? or, Do you consider him as inflexibly just and immaculately holy, as well as infinitely benignant and inconceivably gracious ?
What are your opinions concerning yourselves? Do you not only believe the general doctrine of human guilt and depravity, but do you believe yourselves to be guilty and depraved, and to be as guilty and depraved as the Scriptures represent you to be? Do you believe that “the imagination of the thoughts of your hearts are only evil, and that continually ;" that your “ heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked ;” that your violations of the divine law have been infinitely numerous, dreadfully aggravated, and altogether inexcusable; that you are “by nature children of wrath ;” and that, being “ dead in trespasses and sins," it is both physically impossible for you to make atonement for your sins, and morally impossible for you to restore yourselves to a state of rectitude? Or, though you admit that you have sinned, do you consider your situation as still capable of being remedied by repentance and amendment?
What are your sentiments in reference to the Saviour? Are you thoroughly persuaded that the Saviour Jesus Christ is the great God; that he voluntarily assumed the human nature, and the mediatorial character; that he offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of men ; that he “ever lives to make intercession;" that he is the all-sufficient and the only Saviour? Or do you conceive of Jesus Christ as a mere man, or an incarnate angel, who contributed much, by his doctrine and example, to the promotion of hum man happiness?
What are your sentiments respecting the way of salvation through Christ? Are you persuaded that “eternal life is the gift of God through Christ Jesus,"
not to be purchased by works, but received by faith; that this “ faith is the gift of God," and the work of his Spirit; that the “renewing of the Holy Ghost" forms as essential a part of the Christian salvation as the atonement of the Son of God; that there is no other way of deliverance for man; and that this method is most wise, just, and good? Or do you expect an interest in the blessings of salvation as the reward of some exertion made by yourselves; or conceive it possible to be saved while unrenewed by the Spirit, and the servants of iniquity ?
What are your sentiments with respect to the invisible realities of a future state ? Are you deeply persuaded that there is a heaven and a hell, and that you must be for ever an inhabitant, either of the one or the other ?
What are your opinions with regard to the Lord's Supper? Do you view it as a species of propitiation for your sins, or merely as a testimony of your grateful reliance on the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ? What are your sentiments as to its nature, its obligation, its design
On what are your sentiments on all these various subjects founded? Have you received them merely “ by tradition from your fathers ?" Are they only the prejudices of education? or, have you seen them with your own eyes in the Scriptures of truth, and received them on the ground of the divine testimony, discerned in the exercise of your rational faculties, under the enlightening influence of the Divine Spirit ? And are you ready to “ give every one who asketh you, a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear?” Such is a specimen (our limits admit of nothing more) of the questions, by putting which to himself a man may discover the real state of his sens timents, and their accordance, or discordance, with that system taught in the Holy Scriptures.
2d, In the prospect of observing the Lord's Supper, a man should examine himself as to the state of his affections. The head may be clear, while the heart is cold. The professed creed may be orthodox, while the affections are disordered. In order to know what we are, we must know not merely what we think, but how we feel. In inquiring into the state of our affections, we may follow two different methods: we may either attend to the different affections, such as love and hatred, hope and fear, joy and sorrow; or the different objects of affection, as God, his law, Christ Jesus, sin, the world, ourselves, and our neighbours. Either mode will serve to lead us into a . knowledge of the real state of our affections. We shall adopt the latter. We call, then, on every person who proposes to observe the Lord's Supper, to ata tend seriously to the following questions :
What is the state of your affections towards God? Do you, under the influence of “the carnal mind," cherish sentiments of “enmity against God ?" or do you “love him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind? Is he the object of your supreme esteem and affection? Do you love God for what he is in himself, as well as for what he has done for you in the gifts of providence, and the blessings of grace Do you “sanctify the Lord your God in your heart, and make him your fear and your dread ?" Does your
fear of God arise from alarm of the effects of his vengeance? and is it productive of torment? or does it flow from enlarged views of his venerable excellencies ? and does it sweetly harmonize with the emotions of esteem and love ?
What is the state of your affections with respect to God's law ? Do
you feel displeased at the extent and
spirituality of the divine law; at the purity of the precept, and the severity of the penalty ? or do you account “the law holy, just, and good ?” Do you delight in the law of God after the inward man? Do you heartily approve of these injunctions of the law that most directly oppose the strongest impulses of your corrupt nature ? And is it your desire, not that the law were brought down to your weakness, but that you were conformed to the law's perfection ? Do you “esteem God's commandments, concerning all things, to be right ?"
What is the state of your affections towards the Saviour? Is he the object of your indifference or dislike? Does he .“ grow up before” you in the revelation of the Gospel, “as a root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness ?” and, when you see him, do you perceive “no beauty why ye should desire him?" Or do you regard him as the loveliest of all beings, and the kindest of all benefactors ? Do you love him supremely, not, indeed, as he deserves to be loved, not as you wish to love him, but still far better than the most valuable earthly possession, or the dearest earthly friend? Can you enter into the Apostle's feelings, when he says, “Whom having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory?" Do you feel communion with him to be absolutely necessary to your happiness and do you earnestly desire and humbly hope to be for ever “with him, and to behold the glory which the Father hath given him ?”
What is the state of your affections with respect to sin ? Do you account it the most malignant and detestable of all things? Do you dislike it, merely or chiefly on account of its baneful effects on your con-. science, constitution, character, or fortune; or on ac