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least defensible; for the devil, like a skilful general, will attack us where we lie most exposed, hoping, by gaining that post, to make the town quickly surrender at his dis cretion. For which reason, in surveying the state of our minds, we should have an eye to those places that will least bear an assault; those appetites or passions that most frequently occasion our fall from God's grace. Again, we should consider the several aggravations of our follies: whether committed against the light of our minds; with the free consent of our wills, and in despite of the checks of our own conscience: whether they have been often repeated; whether transient acts or habitual disorders. And we ought to observe all those previous steps that have made us transgress, which have been fatal to the corrupting of our innocence, and the occasions of betraying our virtue.
This makes us thoroughly acquainted with ourselves and our own corruption; a knowledge which is of the greatest consequence. By this we are driven to repentance, as the only cure for that guilt which oppresses our souls, and for which we lie at the mercy of God's vengeance: we are disposed to humility; and gain a lively sense of God's power and our frequent errors and miscarriages: we keep our accounts clear and even; and it is an admirable means to advance us toward christian perfection, by making us careful to avoid those faults for the future, which we have discovered in our former lives and conversations, not only through fear of punishment, but because we have offended so good and gracious a God. And
This duty should be accompanied with confession of sins to God, which is the judgment a man passes upon himself, either of approbation or of condemnation, whenever he deliberately weighs his own actions: or it is the sentence which his reason suggests that God, the judge of all the earth, will pass upon him. Yet it is not harely a repetition of the faults we are guilty of to almighty God; but it is such an acknowledgment of our faults, as is accompanied with shame for them, with hatred to them and with resolutions to amend them. So that confession of sins doth plainly include, First, contrition, which is a holy
grief, excited by a lively sense, not only of the punishment due to guilt, but likewise of the infinite goodness of God, against which we have offended, accompanied with a detestation of our sin, and of ourselves for the sake of it. Secondly, that this sense, and this sorrow, and this indignation, do put us upon applying ourselves to God, and there with shame and confusion laying open our miserable condition before him, and humbly and heartily begging his mercy and favour through the merits and intercession of our Lord Jesus. And this is that which is confession in the precise strict sense of the word. Thirdly, that at the same time, we enter into stedfast and serious purposes to amend what has been amiss in us, and to live more carefully, more obediently to the laws of God for the future. In such cases, where we have been preserved from guilt, we must give glory to God, and thankfully acknowledge that grace, which hath restrained us from sin. For, as no man is qualified for the mercy of God that doth not devoutly confess his sins; so, it we do consider what is imported in contession, we shall be convinced that it is a thing, which in the very nature of it must needs, above all other things we can do, recommend us to God; for, by approaching to God with a hearty sense of our sins, and confessing them before him with truly contrite and penitent hearts, we make the best reparation we are capable of for the affronts and injuries which by our sins we have committed against his divine majesty. And the more particular our confession is, the better it is, and the more acceptable it will be; because this particular confession is an argument and an expression of the sincerity of our repentance, and shows that we have searched and examined our hearts to the bottom, and that we harbour no concealed affection to any particular sin whatever, but that we are willing to destroy every enemy that speaks opposition to God and his laws. And fourthly, when our sins have been not only against God, but against our neighbour, we must make him satisfaction*: we must restore whatever we have unjustly taken from him by fraud or force; we must vindicate his reputation, if we have ble
See Sund, xi, Sect, iii.
mished it by calumny and evilspeaking; we must endeavour his recovery, by making him sensible of such sins and dangerous errors as we have drawn him into, that he may be put into a way of pardon before the throne of divine justice. So we must from our hearts forgive those that have injured us, if we expect that God should forgive us our fanlıs; restirg in a sure confidence that God's grace will be so effectually conveyed in our souls by this sacrament, as to seal God's pardon of all our sins for Christ's sake, provided we perform our part in forsaking them, and obeying his commandments for the future.
If we do not strive after this temper of mind, it is impossible we should be fit guests at the Lord's table; for this was the end of his death, which will deliver none from the punishment due to sin, who do not make use of that grace he has purchased to overcome the power and dominion thereof. How dare we pretend to commemorate our Saviour's sufferings, if we do not renounce and detest what was the cause thereof? or, how can we expect to be received by our Lord, if we do not declare war against his enemies nor in the least prosecute. those sinful lusts and affections, which tormented and nailed him to the cross? It becomes us to lay aside all resentment against those that have injured us, when we go to commemorate that infinite love, which took pity of us, when we were enemies to him. Such love should work into us a conformity, and make us desirous to be reconciled to those that have offended us; to be at peace with all the world, as we desire to be beloved and forgiven, and to be at peace with our Redeemer. Can we scruple to forgive others, who are undone Ourselves, unless we are forgiven? Is it not in vain to ask pardon, when we find no inclination in our hearts to grant it to our neighbours! Or, can we forbear giving what we are able to the poor, when we go to commemorate so much bounty and liberality exercised toward us? It is our duty to do good to all men, because they are God's creatures, but necessitous christians must partake of our beneficence, because they are members of the same body, and are particular objects of the mercy and tenderness of our blessed Redeemer, who has made it one of the marks of the sincerity of our love to God; for whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels from him, How dwelleth the love of God in him? Which sincerity of our love to God can never be so well attested, as when we are calling to mind the divine love displaying itself to us in the bleeding wounds of our saviour Christ.
Prayer ought to have its due proportion in our preparatory exercises for this holy sacrament; because it helps us to that temper of mind which makes us welcome guests at God's table, and fills our thoughts with such spiritual oljects, as are proper to entertain them at such opportunities. Our thoughts of business and affairs must as much as possible be laid aside, when we solemnly approach God's presence; and oir thoughts should be applied entirely to such spiritual subjects, as the christian sacrifice naturally brings into our minds. Prayer, in its own nature, takes off our thoughts from the things of the world, and all sensible entertainmtit, and raises them to God, and those things that concern our eternal life. Prayer masters our evil habits by a lively sense of our duty, and fortifies us against temptation by the strength it communicates to our souls. Whercfore when we design to approach the holy table, we shouid prepare the way by devotion, and by attending the prayers of the church in public. And
Whoever presumes to come to the holy table of the Lord without this wedding garment, must expect to be cast into outer darkness, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth. For, though God bears with such a sinner for a while, his damnation is sure, if not prevented by a timely repentance: if he will continue either wilfully to neglect this bis bounden duty, or the means to receive it worthily, his punishment will be intolerable: For who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings? Therefore the church exhorts us to repent of our sins, cr else not to come to that holy table; lest, after the taking of that holy sacrament, the devil enter into us as he entered into Judas, and fill us full of all iniquities, and bring us to destruction both of body and soul. And because it is requisite that no man
should come to the holy communion, but with a full trust in God's mercy, and with a quiet conscience; therefore, if there be any person who by this means cannot quiet his own conscience herein, but requirethi further comfort or counsel; then let him go to some discreet and learned minister of God's word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of. God's holy word he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience, and avoiding of all scruple
Thus, btfulness * consciene
Thus, having laid down what is necessary to qualify a christian to receive the Lord's supper, I cannot better sum up our duty in these particulars than in that short exhortation of the church: “Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; draw near with faith, and take this boly sacrament to your comfort, and make your humble confession to almighty God 4. And this brings me to the next part of our duty, how we ought to behave at the time we approach the Lord's table to receive this holy sacrament, and also after we have received the same.
III. Having duly reflected on our own unworthiness, and meditated upon the sufferings of Christ, his infinite love to mankind therein, his propitiation for sins, and our obligation to thankfulness, arising thence, we should receive the holy sacrament with great reverence and devotion; with particular attention of mind, accompanying him that administers throughout the whole office; which is admirably framed and composed to express all those pious dispositions and devout affections, which well-prepared minds ought to exercise upon such occasions; as our repentance in the confession and absolution; our charity in relieving our poor brethren; in praying for all conditions of men, and in forgiving those that have offended us; our humility in acknowledging our unworthiness; our resolutions of better obedi
* Se the first Exhorlation in the Communion Service. + See the Commundon Service immediately before the Confessions