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1. Of The sacrament of the Lord's supper, why it was orduin.
ed; and II. Of the preparation before receiving it, by examination of conscience, repentance, faith, obedience, and making satisfaction. III. Of those duties to be done at the time of receiving, and IV. After receiving; and the benefit of frequent communion. V. Of the honrur due to God's name; and of the sins against it, as blasphemy, swearing, including assertory, promissory, and unluurjul oaths. VI, Of perjury. VII. Of vain ouths, or common swearing, cursing, and the sin of them: and VUI. Oj vows.
I. HAVING thus learned and resolved to believe Ali. the ARTICLES of the christian faith, our next duty is to partake of the Lord's supper, which, as we are taught by the church, • is not only a sign of the love that christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ. The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner: and the means whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the supper, is faith *. And therefore this is justly reckoned one of the most important actions of our holy religion; whereby we repeat and renew the covenant we made with God in our baptism; distinguish ourselves to be the dis. ciples of the blessed Jesus; and are admitted to the highest act of communion with his sacred person. For therein our corrupt nature is purified, by applying the merits of Christ's blood; and our weakness is strengthened, by receiving the influence of his grace, which he has purchased for us by his death.
* See the 28th Article of Rehgion.
But he that lives in the habitual practice of any known sin, without repentance, must not approach the holy table, lest he be found to mock God, and contemn his authority. Nevertheless it may not be inferred, that the danger of unworthily receiving makes it safest to abstain from receiving at all, or at least to receive but seldom; because the danger of neglecting a plain command of our Saviour is more hazardous to our salvation, than performing it without some due qualification to make it worthy. For the clearer understanding of this matter, it may be necessary to take notice, that since it is allowed on all hands, that there can be no just bar to frequency of communion, but the want of preparation, which is only such a bar as men may themselves remove, if they please; it concerns them highly to take off the impediment as soon as possible, and not to trust to vain hopes of alleviating one fault by committing another. The danger of misperforming any religious duty is an argument of fear and caution, but no excuse for neglect: God insists upon the doing it, and the doing it well also. It was no sufficient plea for the slothful servant under the gospel, that he thought his master hard to please, and thereupon neglected his duty: but, on the contrary, the use he ought to have made of that consideration was to have been so much the more diligent in his master's service. Therefore in the case of the holy communion, it is to very little purpose to plead the strictness of self-examination, or preparation, by way of excuse either for a total, or for a frequent, or for a long neglect of it. A man may say, that he comes not to the Lord's table, because he is not prepared; and so far he assigns a good reason: but if he should be further asked why he is not prepared, when he may; then he can only make some trifling excuse, or remain speechless. Therefore, the duty being necessary to be performed, the true consequence we should draw from the danger of performing it unworthily, should be to excite ourselves to care and diligence in preparing ourselves for the due discharge of it; but never to delude ourselves by false reasons to such a neglect as will certainly increase our guilt.
· There lies an obligation upon all christians to receive the holy communion, from the plain and positive command of our Saviour, to do this in remembrance of him. This makes it a necessary and perpetual duty incuinbent upon all christians; and to live in the neglect of a plain law of the author of our religion is nowise consistent with the character we profess of being the disciples of Christ. This worship is peculiar to the christian religion, and thereby, in a particular manner, we proclaim ourselves followers of the blessed Jesus: upon which account the primitive christians (in some places) never held their public assemblies without it; and the faithful, who joined in all the other parts of public worship, never failed in partaking of the communion of the body and blood of Christ*. Yet the church declares, that the wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; yet in nowise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thingt'. Before we can be qualified to participate of this holy sacrament, we must understand the nature and end ot' its institution, or we cannot offer an acceptable service to God. And, therefore,
Remember that the sacrament of the Lord's supper was ordained for a continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby. The Son of God made man, by suffering death upon the cross, made a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; he intercedes for us by virtue of this sacrifice in heaven; so we on earth should commemorate this his sacrifice on the cross, by offering bread and wine, which after consecration become the representatives of his body and blood, which in this sacrament are offered to God the Father that he may be favorable to us, and give us his grace through the merits of the death of Christ. And,
* And the laws of England have injoined, That every Parishioner shall communicate at least three tiines in the Year; of which Easter to be one. - See the Rubrick at the end of the Communion Service.
† See the 291h Article of Religion.
II. As we ought not, and must not neglect coming to this holy sacrament, so nobody must dare to approach that holy table without a due preparation; carefully weighing what is necessary to be done, before, at, and after receiving the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ. And, first,
Let a man examine his life and conversation by the rule of God's word. For a life governed by the precepts of the gospel is the best preparation for this sacrament; because he that believes the christian religion, and makes it his constant business to perform what our Saviour hath enjoined, has all that substantial preparation, which qualifies christians to partake of this ordinance, and ought therefore to receive when any opportunities present: for this holy sacrament does not so much oblige us to new duties, as it enables us to make good those obligations, which we in our baptism have promised and vowed to perform. Let a man therefore examine himself ever so much, fast ever so strictly, and pray ever so fervently, if his life has not been pious to ward God, just toward his neighbour', and sober in reference to himself;" without effectual resolutions, all those duties, in which he employs himself before he receives, will never be able to make him a fit guest at God's table: they are indeed good preparative helps, when they repair those breaches sin has made in our souls; but, without steady purposes of amendment, they are of' no value in the sight of God, and will not be able to qualify us for a worthy participation of the body and blood of Christ. If our lives prepare not the way for our offerings, we approach the holy altar in vain. We should hereby be deterred from receiving only out of custom, or in order to qualify ourselves for some temporal or worldly employment; but pious christians, who are sincerely wearied and grieved with the burden of their sins, ought not to be discouraged in their duty; because here they will find their proper remedy; here they will meet with that strength and assistance, which is so necessary to enable them to lead that holy life, which they purpose for the time to come, beginning it with a strict examination of the state of their own souls. Concerning which take these directions:
Recollect your baptismal vow *, and endeavour to rivet in your soul a just sense of those mercies promised on God's part, and the particular duties to which you in common with all christians are obliged thereby: for our chief business at the Lord's table is to renew our baptismal covenant with God. Then inquire by your conscience, the candle of the Lord, how you have broken that covenant made in your baptism, either by thought, word, or deed. We transgress by our thoughts, when we are contriving and compassing any forbidden thing: but irregular thoughts +, which spring up in our minds, and are but little in our power, they are neither sins nor matter of punishment, any further than they are causes and principles of a sinful choice and resolution ; because as we assent or dissent to those motions that are in our minds, so will our thoughts be virtuous or sinful. But it is not enough to know what is sin: for we must also understand the true state and condition of our souls. Without self-reflection, a man may have every vice under the sun, without knowing he has any; provided he has it not in a high degree. For one, that perishes for want of knowing his duty, there are numbers, who are lost for ever, for want of seriously considering it and laying it to heart. Our repentance must be full and complete, and extend to all those particulars wherein we have transgressed the laws of God; and till we discover all our follies and infirmities, we cannot amend, or so much as watch against them I
Our repentance by this means may in some measure keep pace with our errors and failings, when this examination is frequently repeated before the Lord's supper; and thus wc may prevent the insupportable weight of the sins of a whole life falling upon us all at once, when we may neither have understanding nor leisure to recollect ourselves, much less to exercise any fit and proper acts of repentance toward Gou or man. And, in this examination, let us consider the sins that most easily beset our weakest part, by nature or custom
• See the baptismal vow, Sunday ii, Sect. vii. + See Sunday xüi, Sect. i. concerning the Gorernment of our thoughts..
For whicla purpose vou will be greatly assisted by the heads of self eramind. tion, contained in ihe New Il’eek's Preparalion. See page 485 of this book.