1. It is an express and often-repeated law of God by Moses, and no where repealed by Christ, that no worshipper shall presume to appear before Him with empty hands. Sincere Christians must have them full, at the receiving of the holy Communion, with four distinct sorts of Sacrifices:--1. the Sacramental and commemorative Sacrifice of Christ; 2. the real and actual Sacrifice of themselves; 3. the free-will offering of their goods; 4. the peace-offering of their praises.
2. The first, as representing the Sacrifice offered on the cross, is the ground of the three others, especially of the second, which must no more be separated from it, than parts are from the whole, or the body from its head. These two are so close coupled together, that St. Austin [Aug. apud Fulg. de Bapt. AEthiop. c. ult.] more than once, by the body of Christ in the holy Communion, understands Christ's mystical body, which is the Church. And St. Cyprian [St. Cypr. lib. ii. Ep. 3. In the Leipsic Edition of 1838, the passage alluded to is Ep. 63, xiii. Quando autem in calice vino aqua miscetur, Christo Populus adunatur, et eredentium plebs, ei, in quem credidit, copulatur et conjungitur.] says expressly, that Christ and his people are contained and united together in the holy cup, (that being represented by the wine, this represented by the water); so that Christ is not there without his people, nor the people without their Saviour.
3. The third and fourth, which are the Sacrifices of our goods and of our praises, are appendages following after the second, that is, the Sacrifice of our own selves, by as natural a consequence as the fruits and leaves follow the tree, and as what we have, or what we can, must needs come after what we are. All the world knows how that blemished and lame Sacrifices were abominable under the Law; and certainly bodies without heads, souls without their faculties, and persons without their proper duties, are not better under the Gospel. Such mutilated Sacrifices cannot suit with that of Christ, which was perfectly whole and entire. Therefore, as when we once offer ourselves to God, our souls and bodies become attending Sacrifices on the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ; so must, by the same equity, all our goods and services, by way of secondary oblations, attend the Sacrifice of our persons. And as the lamb, in the daily Sacrifice, was never offered without its meat oblation, nor this meat oblation without its incense, its wine, its oil; so the eternal Son and Lamb of God, who was pleased to offer Himself for me, must neither be offered without me, nor, whensoever I offer up myself, both by Him and with Him, must I appear as a dry and unsavoury meat offering without juice, without sweet smell, without all the holy dispositions of readiness and joy to obey and please my God in all good works, whereof the incense, the wine, and the oil were, under the Law, sacred emblems. In a word, whensoever we offer ourselves, we offer, by the self-same act, all that we have,--all that we can; and so, consequently, we do engage for all, that it shall be dedicated to the glory of God, and that it shall be surrendered into his hands, employed to such uses, upon such occasions and times, as he will be pleased to appoint.
4. Hear, then, my son, (as says the wise man,) look to thy feet when thou enterest into the house of God, lest thou offer the Sacrifice of fools.--(Eccles. v. 1.) It is the Sacrifice as well as the part of a fool to offer the person without the goods that attend it, as it were the bones without the sinews and the flesh that cover them. It is the same act of an impious wretch, to mangle and to mutilate either the holy Sacrifice which Jesus hath made to his Father, or the holy Sacrament which he hath ordained to his Church, or that holy oblation which, after his Sacrifice, and at his Sacrament, he is pleased to require of us. And after we have presented it, it is an act, not only of great impiety, but of as great a sacrilege as was that of Ananias, to withdraw, without leave, any part of that whole which we have devoted to God's service.
5. It behoves not Israel alone to go forth out of Egypt, with all their children, and cattle, and goods, to offer them unto the Lord, that he may take either all, or such a part as he will be pleased to choose (Exod. x. 25, 26). All the Gentiles were likewise to go and give themselves up to God's service, with their gold, their silver, their dromedaries, and their chariots laden with their chiefest substance; the Egyptians, with all their wealth; Tyre and Sidon with their merchandise (Isaiah, xxiii. 18; and lx. 6, 7, 9); the wise men, with their frankincense, their myrrh, and their gold; and so, every sinner at his conversion to God was to consecrate all to Jesus Christ, and to the service of his Church. From that very moment that, by any real act of conversion, of faith, of repentance, or of vow, we have given up ourselves to Christ, who hath likewise given Himself for us: as by virtue of this mutual communion, all that He possesses becomes ours, namely, his grace, his immortality, his glory; and so He bestows it upon us, according to the times and degrees which He sees best for our salvation; by the same consequence, all, whatsoever we have, doth become his, so that He may take it after, in what proportion and season soever He shall see best for his glory. The two asses which He sent for by his disciples, that He might ride on them to Jerusalem, and the chamber which He commanded to be ready, that He might eat the passover in it, were not so absolutely his, as are our lives, our goods, &c. whatsoever the Lord hath need of them. (Matt. xxi. 2, 3.; Luke, xxii. 11.) Those things were his only by the right of propriety, which, as to a sovereign Lord and God, is naturally reserved upon any thing which He creates or saves; but these are his besides, because we, with ourselves, have given them. When He calls for the former, to deny them were injustice; but to deny these latter were a visible sacrilege: all that we are, what we can do, and what we can give, even to the least vessel in our houses, being involved and made holy in this one consecration. In that day shall there be upon the very bridles of the horses, Holiness unto the Lord; and every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy unto the Lord. (Zechariah xiv. 20, 21.)
6. This consecration, whereby the worshipper offers and resigns up all himself and all his concernments to God, if it be well done, and duly performed, is, first, as for our souls and bodies, a Christian apotheosis, if I may use this word, which both makes them capable of the Sacrifice and Grace of Christ, and raises and prefers them to the very nature, that is the condition of holiness and immortality of God. Secondly, as to the consecrated things, it is a miraculous privilege, which in the end infinitely multiplies every thing which is thus parted with; it blesses the use of it, although it be but presented, as long as we can enjoy it, and finally exchanges it, when we can enjoy it no more, for such advantageous returns, as may be conceived to be, not such as when water was turned into wine, or dirt into gold, but such as if we conceive a glass of water turned into streams of everlasting comforts; the dust of Israel into so many stars of heaven; small cottages of clay into royal palaces; and vain declining shadows into real and eternal possessions; Thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, &c. (Matt. xxv. 21.) But if the law of these consecrations be not well performed; if Levi come to serve Ashtaroth, after he hath dedicated himself to God; and if the offerings of the people be employed to profane uses, after they have touched God's altar, then there are as many and as heavy curses to be looked for, as on the other side, upon a better use, there are many and great blessings to be expected. So that upon all considerations, both of prudence and of duty, first, we must give up all to God; next, after we have given, we must fly all, not only as two most odious sins, but also as two most terrible mischiefs, the sacrilege, in withdrawing at any time when God demands it, what hath been thus consecrated to Him; and the profaneness, in misspending, upon superfluous or worse uses, what of it He is pleased to allow to our proper necessities, and other lawful conveniences.
7. Now though Christ our blessed Saviour, by that everlasting and ever same Sacrifice of Himself, offer Himself virtually upon all occasions, and we, on our side, also offer ourselves and what is ours with Him, several other ways besides that of the holy communion; as, at our conversion and first act of faith in Him, Christ (says St. Austin) [Aug. Evang. Quaest. lib. ii. quaest. 33. Tunc enim cuique occiditur cum credit occisum.] is sacrificed for the salvation of every sinner at the very moment he repents, and believes him to have been sacrificed; and at our baptism, for every one offers the Sacrifice of the passion of the Lord, at that time that he is consecrated by the faith of this passion, and baptized a Christian, saith the same father; [August. Expos. Inchoat. ad Rom. De sacrificio--de quo loquebatur tunc Apostolus, id est, holocausto dominicae passionis quod eo tempore offert quisque pro peccatis suis quo ejusdem passionis fide dedicatur, et Christianorum fidelium baptizatus nomine imbuitur.] and the baptism of Christ is the blood of Christ, saith another. [Chrysost. Hom. 16. Hebr.] Nevertheless, because Christ offers Himself for us at the holy Communion in a more solemn and public sacramental way, (thence it comes, that the memorial of the Sacrifice of Christ thereby celebrated, takes commonly the name of the Sacrifice itself, as St. Austin [Aug. de Civ. cap. v. Id. Ep. xxiii. ad Bonif. de Consecr. Disc. 2. hoc est.] explains it often), we are then obliged, in a more special manner, to renew all our Sacrifices, all the vows of our baptism, all the first fruits of our conversion, and all the particular promises which, it may be, we have made, either at our repenting of some sin, or at our deliverance from some imminent danger, or at the recovery out of some grievous sickness, or at the receiving some other signal mercy, whether for ourselves or for our friends. I will go into thy house with burnt offerings I will pay thee my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble. (Psalm lxvi. 13, 14.) Then and there, at the altar of God, must we both discharge all the vows which, for some hindrance or other, we had not yet the convenience to fulfil; and set afresh from Communion to Communion, as they did the show loaves from Sabbath to Sabbath, all those other performances which, by their nature and our duty, can never be fulfilled but with the very end of our days.
8. So shall the new Israel tread in the pious steps of the old, who ever, from time to time, reiterated, either in Mispah or in Gilgal, &c. that covenant which the Lord hath made with him in Sinai. It is true, the Lord did not then again repeat the thunder that once made the mountains tremble, as in our churches He doth not reiterate that very passion that made the powers of heaven mourn and shake. Nevertheless, as Joshua, Asa, Josias, Jehoiadah, and other such holy men, could from their Master assure the people, that the covenant which they did renew, for example, in Shechem, (Jos. xxiv. 25; 2 Chr. xv. 12, and xxiii. 16), was not less powerful, either to bless the observers, or to destroy the offenders thereof, than it was when Moses and the holy angels published it, at the first, upon Sinai; so now the ministers of our Lord Jesus Christ, having in their hands the Sacraments of the Gospel, (true seals and tables of the new Law,) may both produce and give them out as evidences that the Sacrifice of their Master is not less able to save men's souls, when it is offered to men, and sacramentally offered again to God, at the holy Communion, than when it was newly offered upon the cross. And this is the reason wherefore all faithful Christians ought then, as effectually, to reinforce all their oblations, their vows, their contritions, and their protestations; Men and brethren, what shall we do? And, God forbid that I should ever glory but in the cross of my Saviour; as the Israelites did by protesting upon the like occasions; We will obey the Lord our God; and, the Lord is the God, the Lord is the God. (1 Kings xviii. 39): both Israelites and Christians seconding their protestation of obedience, and their prostrations of body, and resignations of their minds, with secondary sacrifices; those, of bulls and rams; these, of alms and pious works.
9. By this it is easy to see that our holy eucharistical Communions are much correspondent to those feasts that did call the people of Israel together, first, to appear and prostrate themselves before the Lord, with Sacrifices for their sin; and then to lay upon the altar that other kind of Sacrifices which they used to call peace offerings, [ Peace offerings, eirhnika eucaristika] and which were ordained to express both their thankfulness to God, and their charity to men. And in this friendly concurrence both of mysteries and of holy duties that attend them, all respects duly observed, Moses may still, with the same power, command both new and old Israel, Thou shalt keep the feast unto the Lord thy God, with a tribute of a free-will offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the Lord thy God, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee:--And thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. And ye shall not appear before the Lord empty. Every man shall give according to the blessing of the Lord thy God, which he hath given thee. (Deut. xvi. 10, 11. 16.)
10. The first Christians ever took it, and constantly practised it, so. For, whensoever they met at their devotions, whereof the holy Communion was the most ordinary and the most essential part, they did make the use of all their goods to be common among themselves; and the distribution of this blessed Sacrament was so constantly attended by the distribution of their offerings, that it is somewhat hard to discern which of the two the apostolical history intends to signify by the breaking of bread, so often mentioned in the Acts. Some pious and learned men have thought that this largeness and frequency of offering, which, in the primitive times, was all the stock they had for pious uses, made that article which immediately follows that of the Church, that is, the Communion, or communication of the saints. But, however, though this were not the article of faith there meant, yet it was an act of piety, so frequent and so essential in those days, that St. Luke would place it amongst those other sacred functions that comprehend the whole duty and service of the Church. They continued steadfastly in the doctrine of the Apostles, and in the Communion, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer. (Acts ii. 46.) Thus were the primitive Christians literally and punctually such as holy David had prophesied they should be, a people that would come and offer themselves, with their free-will offerings, to Christ, in the day of his power, and of that glorious effusion of graces, that, like to a celestial dew, would appear wonderful by a thick and sudden producing of subjects and soldiers ready armed for his service.--(Psalm cx.)
11. For this purpose it was, that the bishops had in their churches, two tables. One of them was esw tou qusiasthriou kai peripetasmatoV, i.e. within that space where the ministers did officiate at the altar, and where were curtains purposely shut, to keep non-communicants from the sight of, and access to, the holy mysteries. The other was where the people could freely come to offer their gifts, part whereof afterwards was brought by the deacons to the communion table. Hither were brought the free-will offerings of the people, bread, wine, oil, wool, sometimes cloth, silver, and any thing else: that might be useful to the Church, (till, by express canons of the Church, [Can. 37. Afric.] those oblations in kind were limited to such things only as could be employed about the Sacraments and service of the Church); and all this was offered up to God by all Christians, by way of a daily Sacrifice. And when the Christians had offered up to God their goods, the priest who did receive them did solemnly pray to God, that he would be pleased to look on their oblations, as he did once on those of Abel, of Noah, and of Abraham. Out of these oblations, the elements of the holy Communion were taken forth, and presented at the other table, where they were blessed by the Bishop or priest, and distributed by him to the people, as from God, to assure them he had accepted of both their persons and offerings; and that instead of the bread and wine, which they had offered upon his altar, as either the first fruits, or the representatives of all their goods, he was pleased to return to them, not simple bread and simple wine, but such blessed bread and wine as were both the sacred mysteries of the body and blood of his Son, and an infallible surety of all things depending thereon. This is the reason why, because primitive Christians never received those holy mysteries but after they had made their offerings, and because those very mysteries which they received were commonly taken, as to the matter, from that bread and wine which they had before offered, the holy fathers, (for instance, St. Ireneus,) [Iren. lib. iv. c. 30, 34. et alibi passim.] who then had no occasion to be so exact or cautious as to distinguish precisely the nature of two sacred offices, which went constantly together, do not scruple to speak of the blessed Communion promiscuously, as Sacrament or Sacrifice.
12. Now to bring all this more home, the Law of ancient Israel, the practice of the primitive Church, and the very equity of the thing itself, do sufficiently testify, that we ought not in these, more than in the former ages, to appear before the Lord with empty hands; that it is not more fit for worshippers now than it was then, to present their persons without their goods, as it were trees without their sap and fruit; and that these same nations, which, in the prediction of Isaiah, were, at their first coming, to bring and consecrate both themselves and their gold unto the Lord, must not be now less liberal, when, by their Sacrifice, they appear to renew the vows of their former consecration; as surely God is not, upon the same occasions, less merciful, when, by his holy Sacrament, He renews unto them the covenant of his saving grace. Therefore he that comes rich is bound to appear before his Saviour with his hands full of such free-will offerings as he may take out of his abundance; as did in Israel the husbandman out of a plentiful harvest, when the Lord had blessed his field. He that is less able, must offer out of what he can either get by his labour, or spare by his parsimony; as the poor widow did, when she offered her mite. In a word, every one, whether he be rich or poor, is to lay down at the offerings of God, according as the same God hath either blessed or spared him. (1 Cor. xvi. 2.)
13. The quantity of these oblations, whether extraordinary, as upon a communion day, or more ordinary, as upon other daily occasions, is wholly left to the discretion of the Christian worshipper. And whereas God, by his Law, did deal with the Israelites as fathers do with children in an age unfit to guide itself, prescribing to them the measure, the time, and the manner, of every thing which they were either to do or to give, our Saviour hath by the Gospel freed all Christians from this punctual pedagogy, leaving them, as men able to give an account of themselves, both to their own judgment, and to the direction of his Spirit. But if this different way of the Gospel discharges Christians, now-a-days, from the subjection of doing punctually and literally every thing which the ancient Israel were to observe, it certainly obliges them to do more as to the matter, and to do it in a better manner. And God forbid that this honour and liberty, which He vouchsafes us above what He did to the Jews, should be taken by us either as a permission or as an occasion of being worse. Therefore God, in former times, did give special laws to his people for every thing they were to do, in point either of piety or charity; for example, they were to give the tenth part of whatsoever they could gather out of their fields, their trees, and their flocks, besides another tenth part every third year, that is, a thirtieth part every year, and whatever could grow of itself during the vacancy of every seventh year. They were bound, moreover, to many other charitable ways of helping the poor, as to lend them money without taking either use or pawn; and to leave in their fields and vineyards so much of their corn and fruits behind, as could recompense the labour and diligence of many honest neighbours, who, at the end of the year, had no other harvest than this gleaning. And although all this was charity, yet it was among the people of Israel called justice, because it was commanded by Law, and that they were obliged to pay these alms as strictly as any other debt. Here, then, a downright Christian will do well to take notice of what all these charges may come to, and what proportion they will bear with the estate and revenue that God blesses him with, that so he may contribute towards works of piety and charity, not only so much, but more; and if not in the very same, yet in as good a kind as the Jews did. So that he may go beyond them in charity, whom the Gospel commands us to exceed in all other virtues, as we exceed them in blessings.
14. The time of these oblations is not more limited than their measure. At first St. Paul had appointed the first day of the week, that is, the Lord's day, for the gathering of those charitable assistances, and, as he calls them, acceptable Sacrifices, (1 Cor. xvi. 2; Phil. iv. 18,) which were to be sent to the poor brethren of Jerusalem; because, even from that time, that day was in a more special manner consecrated to the solemn ministry of prayers, of preaching, and of Communion. Now, though the danger of profaneness, which then was less to be feared, hath in our days made the use of this Sacrament much less common than that of preaching and prayer; nevertheless, since by these two holy exercises, both God speaks to us and we to Him, this should be warning enough, not to presume to appear before Him without a gift. And that we may both bear up the more easily the expenses of this weekly Sacrifice, and diffuse more universally the sweet savour thereof into all the parts of our life, it would be a piece of holy prudence, to take care that every day should both bear some part of the burden, and have some share of the holiness: and that, by a daily attending to this service, the rich be still industrious to defalk some larger portions of his abundance; the poor to steal something out of his necessaries; and the middle-conditioned man to spare what he can out of all his competence. But, especially when the good Providence lets fall into our hand some considerable advantages, then let him that will grow rich in God, look upon those temporal occasions as a propitious time of harvest, whereof he must be sure to reserve the first fruits to God: and let him have a place in his house like the treasury in the Temple, where he may daily cast in his talent, or his didrachm, or his mite, according as God daily blesses him; and whence he must be sure to take nothing but for a special holy use, as if he did take it from God's altar.
15. It is true indeed, that not only this, but also any thing else that we have at home, is already consecrated, since God having given it to us, we have given it back again unto God. For, whensoever we gave Him up our own persons, all our goods were involved in this general consecration, and thereby became, ipso facto, holy offerings unto the Lord. But as these holy offerings under the Law were of two sorts, some which the worshipper and his wife and children might eat; some of which it was not lawful for any to eat, except the priests only; my meaning is, that the truly pious Christian should gather day by day, and by little and little, (both to make his devotion less burdensome, and, by a continual application to this work, to sanctify the whole course of his life the better,) a magazine of holy things of this last kind, which may be only employed to God and his Church's service.
16. But at the same instant that the Christian worshipper shall take the materials of his good works out of this store, he must have a great care to draw withal out of the good treasure of his heart the fire and the frankincense, that is, the zeal and the holy thoughts that may improve and raise good moral works to the being of religious sacrifices. And as, without doubt, at first he had a care not to lay aside these first fruits in a corner of his house, either negligently or rudely, as some do throw their alms into beggars' hands, or as Judas did his thirty pieces into the Temple; so he must not forget himself so much as to take them thence, and bestow them on the body or members of Christ, that is, the Church and his neighbour, but with such pious elevations and applications of his mind, as may become both that majesty which he adores, and the pious and holy act that he intends. Let him do it, whether at his door, or in the way, or in the Temple, it matters not; for the hour is long since come, that religious acts, or worshippings, are confined neither to this mountain nor to Jerusalem. (John iv. 21.) Wheresoever God gives thee the occasion and power to perform any holy work, there he makes holy ground for thee: only this work to be holy and becoming a worshipper, must, by all means, be done in spirit and in truth. This spirit will teach us what flesh and blood cannot do, both to perceive and consider, not an angel only, as the patriarchs often did, but Christ Himself, in the condition of an afflicted Church, for example, or of an honest, distressed friend; and then at such occasions to lay our liberalities, with that same mind, and thought that a true worshipper would lay his oblations, upon the altar, where he knows that Christ will most effectually both find it and accept of it. Once He received the gold, the myrrh, and the frankincense, which the wise men gave Joseph; [Matt. ii. 11. No mention is made of Joseph in this transaction.--Ed.] He did also receive the goods which Susanna and other religious women did put in the hands of his disciples; [Luke viii. 2. It is not stated that the disciples received these gifts.--Ed.] since that time the Church and all her distressed members have been instated by Christ Himself, most expressly, into the place of these happy persons; and, as if they had been for this purpose created Christ's solemn officers and angels, about the time that He was to suffer, and to leave his beloved disciples, He promised them both to accept and account as bestowed on Himself, these small offerings, which for his sake we should deposit in their hands. (Matt. xxv. 40. 45.)
17. This same spirit, and this actual application, are the only means that we can have to raise up good moral works, and to make them true heave-offerings. Without this elevation, what we give, may in itself be a good deed, to us a considerable expense, and to other men some benefit; but to God it is no sacrifice; or it is such a sacrifice as sends up no savour above; but either, like the oblation of Cain, falls all down to ashes and dust, or, like the alms of Pharisees, to such a paltry reward as we get perhaps from men. (Gen. iv. Matt. vi.)
18. All these considerations and pious intentions of the soul, which to the worshipper must be instead of the sacerdotal utensils, and to the oblation instead of the fire and frankincense, are much revived and stirred up by the circumstantial solemnity and holiness of the blessed Communion. Look to the adoration of the ancient Israelites. [1 Chron. xxix. 14.] I was, &c. (Deut. xxvi.)
I dare appear before the Lord with all my sins and my sorrows; it is very just also, that I should appear with these few blessings, which are mine; they are mine by thy favour, and having received them of thy hand, now do I offer them to thee. [No passage in this chapter begins thus. The place alluded to is probably v. 5. "A Syrian ready to perish was" &c.] Forgive, I beseech thee, my sins, deliver me from my sorrows, and accept of this small blessing. Accept of this my Sacrifice, as thou didst of that of Abel, of Abraham and of Noah; or rather look, in my behalf, on that only true Sacrifice whereof here is the Sacrament; the Sacrifice of the only unspotted Lamb, the Sacrifice of thine own Son, of thine only-begotten Son, of thy Son proceeding from thee, to die for me. O let Him again come from thee to me; let Him come now as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth, to bless me. Amen, Amen.