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66 and to be in perfect charity with all men, that so we « may be meet partakers of those holy mysteries."
And because this work of examining ourselves concerning our state and condition, and of exercising repentance towards God, and charity towards men, is incumbent upon us as we are Christians, and can never be put in practice more seasonably, and with greater advantage, than when we are meditating of this sacrament; therefore, besides our habitual preparation by repentance, and the constant endeavours of a holy life, it is a very pious and commendable custom in Christians, before their coming to the facrament, to set apart some particular time for this work of examination. . But how much time every person fhall allot to this purpose, is matter of prudence; and as it need not, so neither indeed can it be precisely determined. Some have greater rear son to spend more time upon this work than others; I mean those whose accounts are heavier, because they have long run upon the score, and neglected themselves : and some also have more leisure and freedom for it, by reason of their easy condition and circumstances in the world, and therefore are obliged to allow a greater portion of time for the exercises of piety and devotion. In general, no man ought to do a work of so great moment and concernment slightly and perfunctorily. And in this, as in all other actions, the end is principally to be regarded. Now, the end of examining ourselves, is, to understand our state and condition, and to reform whatever we find amiss in ourselves. And provided this end be obtained, the circumstances of the means are less confiderable : whether more or less time be allowed to this work, it matters not so much, as to make sure that the work be thoroughly done..
And I do on purpose speak thus cautiously in this matter, because some pious persons do perhaps err on the strieter hand, and are a little superstitious on that side, infomuch that, unless they can gain so much time to set apart for a solemn preparation, they will refrain from the sacrament at that time, though otherwise they be habitually prepared. This I doubt not proceeds from a pious mind. But, as the Apostle says in another case about the facrament, Shall I praise them in this? I praise
them not : for, provided there be no wilful neglect of due preparation, it is much better to come so prepared as we can, nay I think it is our duty so to do, rather than to abstain upon this punctilio. For, when all is done, the best preparation for the facrament is, the general care and endeavour of a good life : and he that is thus prepared, may receive at any time when opportunity is offered, though he had no particular foresight of that opportunity. And I think in that cafe such a one shall do much better to receive than to refrain; because he is habitually prepared for the facrament, though he had no time to make such actual preparation as he desired. And if this were not allowable, how could Ministers communicate with fick persons at all times, or perfuade others to do it many tiines upon very short and sudden warning!
And indeed we cannot imagine that the primitive Christians, who received the facrament so frequently, that, for ought appears to the contrary, they judged it as efsential and necessary a part of their publick worship, as any
other part of it whatsoever, even as their hymns and prayers, and reading and interpreting the word of God; I say, we cannot well conceive how they who celebrated it fo constantly, could allot any more time for a solemn preparation for it, than they did for any other part of divine worship; and, consequently, that the Apostle, when he bids the Corinthians examine themselves, could mean no more, than that, considering the nature and ends of this institution, they should come to it with great reverence; and, reflecting upon their former miscarriages in this matter, should be careful, upon his admonition, to avoid them for the future, and to amend what had been amniss : which to do, requires rather resolution and care, than any long time of preparation.
I speak this, that devout persons may not be intangled in an apprehension of a greater necessity than really there is, of a long and folemn preparation every time they receive the facrament. The great necessity that lies upon men, is to live as becomes Christians, and then they can never be absolutely unprepared. Nay, I think this to be a very good preparation ; and I fee not why men should not be very well satisfied with it, unless they intend to
make the fame use of the facrament that many of the Papists do of confession and absolution; which is, to quit. with God once or twice a-year, that so they may begin. to sin again upon a new score.
But because the examination of ourselves is a thing fo: very useful, and the time which men are wont to fet apart for their preparation for the facrament, is so advantageous an opportunity for the practice of it; therefore I cannot but very much commend those who take this occasion to search and try their ways, and to call themselves to a more solemn account of their actions : because this ought to be done some time, and I know no. fitter time for it than this. And perhaps some would never find time to recollect themselves, and to take the condition of their souls into serious conlideration, were it not upon this folemn occasion.
The sum of what I have said is this, that supposing a person to be habitually prepared, by a religious dispoGtion of mind, and the general course of a good life, this more solemn actual preparation is not always necesfary: and it is better when there is an opportunity to receive without it, than not to receive at all. But the greater our actual preparation is, the better : for no man can examine himself too often, and understand the state of his soul too well, and exercise repentance, and renew the resolutions of a good life too frequently. And there is perhaps no fitter opportunity for the doing of all this, than when we approach the Lord's table, there to commemorate his death, and to renew our covenant with him, to live as becomes the gospel.
All the reflexion I shall now make upon this discourse, shall be, from the consideration of what hath been said, earnestly to excite all that profess and call themselves Christians to a due preparation of themselves for this holy facrament, and a frequent participation of it according to the intention of our Lord and Saviour in the institution of it, and the undoubted practice of Christians in the primitive and best times, when men had more devotion, and fewer scruples about their duty.
If we do in good earnest believe that this facrament was instituted by our Lord in remembrance of his dying love, we cannot but have a very high value and elteem
for it upon that account. Methinks so often as we read in the institution of it those words of our dear Lord, Do this in remembrance of me, and consider what he who faid them did for us, this dying charge of our best friend should stick with us, and make a strong impression upon our minds; especially if we add to these, those other words of his, not long before his death, Greater love than this hath no man, that a man lay down his life for his friend. re are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. It is a wonderful love which he hath expressed to us, and worthy to be had in perpetual remembrance. And all that he expects from us, by way of thankful acknowledgment, is to celebrate the remembrance of it by the frequent participation of this blessed facrament. And shall this charge laid upon us by him who laid down his life for us, lay no obligation upon us to the solemn rcmembrance of that unparallelled kindness which is the fountain of so many blessings and benefits to us? It is a Sign we have no great sense of the benefit, when we are so unmindful of our benefactor, as to forget him days without number. The obligation he hath laid upon us is so vastly great, not only beyond all requital, but be. yond all expression, that if he had commanded us fome very grievous thing, we ought, with all the readiness and chearfulness in the world, to have done it : how much more when he hath imposed upon us so easy a com mandment, a thing of no burden, but of immense benefit? when he hath only said to us, Eat, o friends, and drink, o beloved? when he only invites us to his table, to the best and most delicious feast that we can partake of on this side heaven?
If we seriously believe the great blessings which are there exhibited to us, and ready to be conferred upon us, we should be so far from neglecting them, that we should heartily thank God for every opportunity he offers to us of being made partakers of such benefits. When such a price is put into our hands, shall we want hearts to make use of it? Methinks we should long with David, (who saw but a shadow of these blessings), to be satisfied with the good things of God's house, and to draw near his altar; and should cry out with him, O when shall I come and appear before thee! My foul longeth, yea even
fainteth for the courts of the Lord; and my flesh crieth out for the living God. And if we had a just esteem of things, we should account it the greatest infelicity and judgment in the world to be debarred of this privilege, which yet we do deliberately and frequently deprive ourselves of.
We exclaim against the church of Rome with great impatience, and with a very just indignation, for robbing the people of half of this blessed facrament, and taking from them the cup of blessing, the cup of salvation ; and yet we can patiently endure for some months, nay years, to exclude ourselves wholly from it. If no such great benefits and blessings belong to it, why do we complain of them for hindering us of any part of it? but if there do, why do we by our own neglect deprive ourselves of the whole ?
In vain do we bemone the decay of our graces, and our slow progress and improvement in Christianity, whilst we wilfully despise the best means of our growth in goodness. Well do we deserve that God should send leanness into our souls, and make them to consume and pine away in perpetual doubting and trouble, if, when God himself doth spread so bountiful a table for us, and fet before us the bread of life, we will not come and feed upon it with joy and thankfulness.
YOncerning the facrament of the Lord's supper, i one of the two great positive institutions of the
Christian religion, there are two main points of difference between us and the church of Rome. One about the doctrine of transubstantiation; in which they think, but are not certain, that they have the scripture, and the words of our Saviour on their side : the other about the administration of this facrament to the people in both kinds ; in which we are sure that we have the