Project Canterbury
Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology

A Short and Plain Instruction for the Better Understanding of the Lord's Supper
by Thomas Wilson, D.D.

Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1851.

transcribed by the Reverend Walter Hannam
AD 2003



THERE are two holy Ordinances or Sacraments appointed by Jesus Christ, as most especial means of obtaining grace and salvation: which no Christian, who hopes to be saved, must wilfully neglect. These are, BAPTISM, and the LORD'S SUPPER.

It must be supposed, that you have already been made partaker of one of these two Sacraments; namely, that of BAPTISM; by which you were admitted into the congregation of Christ's flock, were restored to the favour of God, and had the Holy Spirit communicated to you, for a principle of a new and spiritual life; in order to awaken you, and to direct and assist that natural reason, with which God has endued all mankind.

But forasmuch as you have done many things contrary to the promise made in your name when you were baptized, and will stand in need of greater degrees of grace and assistance, to enable you to resist the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to do your duty in that state of life unto which the providence of God shall call you; you are therefore now called upon to be partaker of the other Sacrament, that of the LORD'S SUPPER; by which, upon your sincere repentance, you may obtain the pardon of all your past sins, [340] and such other graces as you stand in need of, to bring you to eternal life and happiness.

Take care, therefore, that you understand what you are called to, as well as you are able; and God expects no more.

For if you go to the Lord's Supper without considering the reason of that Ordinance, and the very great concern you have in it,--without seeing the necessity and blessing of a Redeemer,--you will go with indifference, and return without such benefit as you might otherwise hope for.

To prevent this, you should seriously consider what account the holy Scriptures have given us of the condition we are in both with respect to this life, and the life which is to come: that is, That we are by nature sinners, and that, as such, God cannot take pleasure in us; and that if we die before we are restored to His favour, we shall be separated from Him, and miserable for ever.

This will lead you to enquire, how the nature of man came to be thus disordered, and prone to evil; for you must not imagine that God, who is infinitely good, created man in such a state of corruption as you now see and feel him to be; but that he must have fallen into this wretched condition since he came out of the hands of his Creator.

And so the Scripture informs us. In the third chapter of Genesis, we have this following account of the state of Man, before and after the fall; That Adam and Eve, from whom sprang all mankind, were formed in the image of God; that is, holy and innocent; having a perfect knowledge of their duty, a command of their will and affections, and a power, through the grace of God, to do what they saw fit to be done.

In this condition they were placed in Paradise, in a state of trial, with a promise of immortal life and happiness, if they should continue to fear, to love, to honour, and obey, their Creator; as also with an express warning of the dreadful consequence of their disobedience.

Notwithstanding which warning, they, through the temptation of the devil, transgressed the commands of God; and by doing so, they did not only forfeit all right to the promise of eternal life and happiness, but also contracted such a blindness in the understanding, such a disorder in their will and affections, as all their posterity feel their sorrow; and became [341] subject to sin, and the punishment of sin, which is misery and death.

Concerning the nature and greatness of this sin, we are to judge of it by the greatness of the punishment inflicted upon them and their posterity. For God, being infinitely just and holy, could not inflict a punishment greater than their sin deserved.

Now this was the occasion of that universal corruption and wickedness which you see and hear of in the world, and which you cannot but in some measure feel in your own nature. For, as the Scriptures inform [b] us (Gen. v. 3.), Adam begat his children in his own likeness; that is, with such a depraved nature as his was then become.

And now consider into what a sad condition these unhappy offenders had brought themselves; and remember that this is your own condition, and the condition of all their posterity.

The law of nature and reason was full in force, and could not possibly be dispensed with. At the same time they found, by sad experience, that as St. Paul describes the fallen state of man, there was a law in their members warring against the law of their mind; so that the good which they would, they did not; but the evil that they would not, that they did (Rom. vii. 23, 15).

There could not sure be a condition more deplorable than this: To live only to contract evil habits; and by doing so, to increase their guilt, to displease their Creator, and to leave an offspring as miserable as themselves.

This therefore gave occasion to God to manifest another of His most glorious perfections, that is, His infinite goodness and mercy.

For God foreseeing this lamentable condition into which they had fallen by departing from their obedience, His goodness had provided such a remedy, as that neither they nor any of their posterity should on account of their fall be eternally miserable, except through their own fault.

He therefore, in consideration of a Redeemer, one of the seed of the woman, who should make full satisfaction to the Divine Justice for their transgression, and who should bruise the head, or break the power of that serpent (the devil), which tempted them to sin;--in consideration of this promised seed, [342] God entered into a new covenant with them, by way of remedy for what was past, and could not be undone.

We have reason to believe that this new covenant was more fully explained to Adam than is set down in this short account given us by Moses, and as it is more fully explained in the Gospel; and which was to this purpose: That, on condition of their sincere repentance, and sincere obedience afterwards, they should be restored to the favour of God; and, after death, to that life and happiness, which in their state of innocence was promised to them without tasting of death; which favour they had forfeited by their disobedience.

And when we consider that our first parents, now become sinners, stood in need of an atonement, without which, while under the displeasure of God, their very lives must be a burden; and it being decreed by God, as it afterwards appeared, that without shedding of blood there was to be no remission of sin; that is, without the death of the sinner, or someone in his stead; we do therefore conclude, that at this time God did appoint sacrifices, or sin-offerings, to make an atonement for the soul, and to foreshew the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (which we now commemorate) until He should be offered in behalf of them and all their posterity.

And this appears from what follows in the next chapter of Genesis, where we find Abel, by faith (that is believing and depending upon this ordinance of God for the remission of sins, until the promised Redeemer should come; we find him) offering a sacrifice which was acceptable to God, that is, a sin-offering, which his brother not doing was rejected.

But here take notice, and remember, that these sacrifices could not take away sin, but only through obedience to the ordinance of God, and through faith in the promised seed.

They were indeed very instructive, and proper to lead sinners to repentance and amendment of life, when they saw that their sins could not be forgiven, but by the death of an innocent creature, bleeding and dying before their eyes, to make an atonement for sin.

And as all good men, before the coming of Christ, did most religiously keep up the remembrance of the promised seed, and obtained the pardon of their sins and acceptance with God upon offering sacrifices through faith in a Redeemer which [343] was to come; so all Christians, since the coming of that redeemer, are obliged, as they hope for pardon and favour from God, to keep up the remembrance of God's great mercy, in sending us a Redeemer, and of what that Redeemer has done to save us; and this in the manner which He Himself hath ordained.

Now, that you may be more sensible of, and thankful to God for, His infinite loving-kindness, and that you may be fully convinced of the necessity and blessing of a Redeemer, you ought to know and consider, that our Saviour and Redeemer came not until man had been tried in all conditions; IN A STATE OF INNOCENCE,--UNDER THE GOVERNMENT OF HIS OWN REASON, and UNDER THE LAW GIVEN BY MOSES. All which methods of Providence, through the perverse will of man, had been rendered ineffectual for the amendment of the world. Notwithstanding which, such was the goodness of God, that He sent, after all, His own beloved Son, to take our nature upon Him, and to assure mankind of the tender love which he had for His poor creatures, which were ruining themselves, without perceiving the danger they were in.

This was the promised Seed; promised to Adam as He that should break the serpent's head, or power of the devil; promised to Abraham as He in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed; promised to the people of Israel, as that Prophet whom they should hear and obey at their peril; lastly, promised to David, as the One whose kingdom should have no end. And indeed it was with this promise that God supported the spirits who feared Him, and were in fear for themselves, until the fulness of the time for His appearance should come.

And now this promised Redeemer being come, He first shewed by His own example, recorded in the Gospel, how men must live so as to please God. And the law of nature, as well as the law of Moses, having through sin been much obscured and perverted, He explained them, and gave us such other laws and rules as were absolutely necessary, to mend our nature, to restore us to the image of God, to keep us from backsliding, and to fit us for Heaven and happiness.

And because in the decrees of God, as was before observed, without shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin; [344] and it being impossible that the blood or life of any other creature, or of any mortal man, could take away the guilt and punishment due to sin; our gracious God, both to give to mankind the greatest token of his love, and at the same time to shew how great His hatred to sin is, by the greatness of the punishment it required, He sent His own Son to be the propitiation for our sins; that is, to make satisfaction to His justice, and to take off the just displeasure which He had declared against sinners.

And His Son (blessed for ever be His goodness!) knowing how dreadfully sad the condition would be of all such who should live and die under the displeasure of God, and what inconceivable happiness they would deprive themselves of; He therefore, moved with compassion for so great a calamity, undertook to obtain their pardon.

In order to this, He clothed Himself with our flesh, that, as man, He might suffer what our sins had deserved; and as He was the Son of God, He might make a full and suitable satisfaction to the Divine Justice, offering Himself a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; and for the joy of delivering so many millions of souls from misery, He endured the death of the cross, and all the afflictions leading to it, which we find recorded in the Gospel.

And by this worthy sacrifice, all mankind are restored to the favour of God, and put into a way and state of salvation; God having, for His Son's sake, promised to pardon all such as shall repent and forsake their sins, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance; as also to give His Holy Spirit to all such as shall sincerely desire Him: and lastly to make them eternally happy after death, if during this short state of trial, which is designed to mend our corrupt and disordered nature, they endeavoured to observe the rules which He has given them, and which are absolutely necessary to make them capable of heaven and happiness.

Stop here awhile, and adore the infinite goodness of God, who did not overlook lost mankind, but sent His Son to redeem us.

He might in strict justice have required men to live [c] up to the law of nature and reason given in the state of innocence, [345] on pain of being for ever separated from His presence; but instead of that, He has been graciously pleased to accept of our sincere though imperfect obedience, and of our sincere repentance, when we have done amiss, and return to our duty.

Consider this seriously; and you cannot but express your thankfulness after some such manner as this:


Blessed be God for ever for this instance of His love to fallen mankind, in committing the miserable case of His unhappy creatures to no less a person than His own Son! We are not worthy of all the mercies which Thou hast shewed Thy servants. Grant, O God, that this wonderful love may not be lost upon me; but that knowing my sad condition by nature, I may be truly convinced of the necessity and blessing of a Redeemer; and that I may, with a heart full of gratitude, join with Thy Church in giving our devoutest thanks to Thee, and in keeping up the remembrance of what Thy Son has done and suffered for us; to whom with Thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour, praise, and thanksgiving, for ever and ever. Amen.


[a] Add "with preparatory Devotions, intended for the use and benefit of young Communicants."

[*] [In reprinting this Tract, the 4to. edition of Bishop Wilson's Works, 1781, has been followed. The footnotes shew the result of a collation with the 11th edition of the Tract, 1755. The reasons of this arrangement will be given in the Preface to the last volume.]

[b] "Scripture informs"

[c] "have lived"

Project Canterbury