OF THE LORD'S SUPPER. The method of instructing such as have been confirmed, in order to prepare them for this holy ordinance.
IF Christians do frequently turn their backs upon this Sacrament and are not concerned to have it often administered, or seem little affected when they do partake of it, one may certainly conclude, they never truly understood the meaning of it.
This might surely in some measure be prevented, if due pains were taken to give young people a distinct knowledge of this most important duty, and of the manner of preparing themselves for it, before they should be admitted the first time to the Sacrament; for want of which, very many continue in a gross ignorance both of the meaning and benefits of this ordinance all their days.
A good pastor therefore will not suffer any one to come to the Holy Communion, until he has taken pains to examine and inform him very particularly concerning the meaning of this ordinance and the ends for which it was appointed;--what this Sacrament obliges Christians to, and the benefits they may expect from it;--with what dispositions a Christian should come to it, and the great sin of despising it.
The young Christian should, for instance, be put in mind that, as there were in the Jewish, so there are in the Christian Church, Two Sacraments.
That the Sacrament of Baptism was ordained by Christ for admitting us into His Church upon certain conditions, which such as are baptized in their infancy are to perform when they come to age.
And the Holy Supper He ordained, that Christians might have an opportunity of renewing their baptismal vows, which they are but too apt to forget, and of making their peace with God, when they had broke His laws and desire sincerely to return to their duty.
Now, as Jesus Christ did by His death make our peace with God and obtain eternal redemption for all them that obey Him, we Christians, in obedience to His command, do keep up the remembrance of His death until His coming again, after this solemn manner.
First, As God is the King of all the earth, we offer unto Him the best things that the earth affords for the life of man, namely, bread and wine, as an acknowledgment that all we have, whether for the support or comfort of our lives, is owing entirely to His bounty.
The bread and wine being placed upon the altar (by which they are sanctified, that is, set apart for holy uses), we then proceed to give God thanks for His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the life of our souls, after this manner:
The priest, by doing what Christ did, by prayer and thanksgiving, by breaking the bread and pouring out the wine, obtaineth of God, that these creatures by the descent of the Holy Ghost? become, after a spiritual manner, the body and blood of Christ, by receiving of which" our souls shall be strengthened and refreshed, as our bodies are by bread and wine.
For all this is done to represent the death of Jesus Christ and the mercies which He has obtained for us; to represent it not only to ourselves but unto God the Father, that as the prayers and alms of Cornelius are said to have gone up for a memorial before God, so this service may be an argument with His divine Majesty to remember His Son's death in heaven, as we do on earth, and for His sake to blot out our sins and to give us all an. interest in His merits.
After this we all receive the bread and wine (being thus made the body and blood of Christ) in token of communion with Christ our Head, and with all His members.
And that we may have a more lively sense imprinted upon our souls, of the love of God, of the kindness of our Redeemer, and of the benefits He has by the shedding of His blood obtained for us, the minister of God applieth the merits of Christ's death to the soul of every faithful receiver, in these words: Eat and drink this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and that He may preserve thy body and soul unto eternal life.
By explaining the meaning of this ordinance after some such familiar way as this, a young Christian will see,
That, by joining in this sacrament, we keep up the remembrance of Christ's death, which is our salvation:
We plead with God for pardon, for His Son's sake, after a way which His Son Himself appointed:
We are hereby more firmly united to Christ our Head, and to the Church, which is His body, out of which there is no salvation.
And lastly, we do hereby express our faith and hope of His coming again to reward His faithful servants.
Now, these being duties of the greatest concern to Christians, it is no wonder that the Church, directed by St. Paul, very seriously exhorts all Christians to examine and to prepare themselves for this holy ordinance; for if a Christian should presume to come to the Lord's table without knowing what he is going to do, without repentance, without purposes of leading a Christian life, without faith in God's mercy through Christ, without a thankful heart and without charity, he will receive a curse instead of a blessing.
Because many Christians, therefore, especially the younger sort, may not know upon what heads and after what manner they ought to examine themselves, or lest they should do it by halves, or perhaps not, at all, a faithful pastor will shew them the way, by examining them himself, after this, or some such-like plain method.
Concerning their repentance.
Do you know that God will not accept of the service of such as live in the practice of any known sin?
Let me therefore advise you, as you love your soul, to consider seriously, whether you are subject to any evil habit, either of lying, or swearing, or drinking; or of any sin of uncleanness; or of an idle life, which will lead to these? And if you find you are, your duty is to judge yourself, to beg God's pardon and to amend your life.
Will you do this, and in obedience to God, because He requires it?
Will you promise sincerely to avoid all occasions of sin, especially of such sins as you have been most apt to fall into?
If through weakness or temptation you commit any sin, will you forthwith confess your fault to God, ask His pardon, and be more careful for the time to come?
Will you endeavour to live in the fear of God, always remembering that a good life is the best preparation for this sacrament?
Will you constantly pray for God's grace and assistance, without which all your good purposes will come to nothing?
Will you strive to keep your conscience tender and awake, that you may know when you sin/ and that your heart may not be hardened, which is the greatest judgment?
Lastly, Will you be careful to keep a watch over yourself, that you may not fall into the sins you have repented of?
And will you often examine into the state of your soul, especially before you go to the Lord's table, that you may see whether you grow in grace and get the mastery over your corruptions? For if you do so, you are certainly under the government of God's Holy Spirit.
Concerning a Christian's purposes of leading a new life, that is, a Christian life.
Do you sincerely purpose to make the law of God the rule of your life?
Will you do whatever you believe will please God, and avoid what you know or suspect will displease Him?
Will you shew that you believe and fear and love God with all your heart, by being fearful of offending Him, by giving Him thanks for His mercies, and by praying to Him daily for pardon, for grace and for protection?
Will you have a great regard for everything that belongs to God, His name, His house, His day, His ministers, and His Word?
Will you be careful to attend the public worship of God, and especially upon the Lord's day, as you hope for God's blessing the whole week following?
Will you be sure to behave yourself reverently in God's house, not sitting at your ease when you should stand or kneel, lest your prayers become an abomination?
Will you reverence and obey your parents, your governors, and your betters, and especially such as are over you in the Lord?
Will you endeavour to live peaceably and charitably with all men, avoiding all malice, revenge, ill-will, and contention?
Will you be chaste, sober, and temperate, as becomes a member of Christ and His family, avoiding all excess in meat and drink, and an idle life, which are the occasions of sins not fit to be named amongst Christians?
Will you be true in all your dealings, avoiding all wrong, oppression, and extortion?
And will you remember that without restitution, where it can be made, there is no acceptance with God?
Will you be careful to speak the truth, avoiding the sins of lying, of perjury, of tale-bearing, and meddling with matters which do not belong to you, as being hateful to God and man?
Will you be content with your lot, whatever it be; neither coveting what is another's, nor envying his prosperity, nor being glad at calamities?
Lastly, Will you do these things out of the love and reverence you bear to God, whose laws they are?
And will you seriously beg of Him to write all these laws in your hearts and to incline and enable you to keep them?
How a Christian should examine whether he hath a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ.
As the blood of the paschal lamb sprinkled upon their doors was that which saved the Israelites from death, so the Blood of Jesus Christ is that which saves all Christians that partake of it. Do you stedfastly believe this?
Do you trust in Jesus Christ, and in what He has done and suffered, and in Him only, for pardon and salvation?
Do you firmly believe that Jesus Christ is now in heaven, interceding with God, by virtue of His death, for all such as on earth do religiously keep up the remembrance of that His death, until His coming again?
Your faith being built upon the promises of God in Jesus Christ, and all His promises being on condition that we live as becomes Christians, will you seriously purpose to do so?
And will you remember not to presume upon God's mercy, or expect that He will communicate His graces, while you continue under the power of a sinful life?
How a Christian may know whether he has a thankful remembrance of Christ's death.
Do you desire to have a thankful remembrance of Christ's death?
Why then consider what He has done for you and for all mankind, to recover us from a state of sin and misery.
We were all enemies to God by wicked works. Jesus Christ undertook to restore us again to God's favour. God therefore laid on Him the iniquities of us all: for the sake of His death, God was pleased to overlook the untowardness of our nature, to forgive us our sins, to look upon us as His children, to give us all the grace and assistance which we shall want; and if we behave ourselves like His children in this state of trial, He will, for Christ's sake, make us happy to all eternity when we die.
You see what reason we have to remember His death with thankful hearts.
Will you therefore keep these things in your heart, and shew your thankfulness for the same, by living like one who has been redeemed from death and from damnation?
And will you be sure to remember this; that Jesus Christ did indeed die to redeem us from death and hell? But then He must first redeem us from this present evil world, from our vain conversation and from all iniquity; that is, He must make us holy that we may be happy, for without holiness no man can see the Lord.
How a Christian may examine and know whether he is in charity with all men.
OUR Lord Jesus Christ having by His death restored all mankind to the favour of God, He only expects this of us; that we should love one another as He loved us.
To this end He hath appointed that in this sacrament we should all, as members of one family, of which He is the Master, as members of one body, of which He is the Head, that we should eat of one bread in remembrance of His death, and in token of that strict union which there ought to be amongst Christians.
Will you, then, walk in love, as Christ hath loved us, and given Himself for us?
Will you consider whether you have given any just occasion of offence, or injured anybody, so as that you ought to ask their pardon and make them restitution?
And that no worldly shame may hinder you from doing so, you shall hear the very direction of Christ Himself:--Matt. v. 23, 24, If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee: leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Will you therefore desire forgiveness of all such as you have offended?
And do you forgive all that have offended you?
Can you heartily pray for everybody; and will you do so?
Will you (as the Apostle directs) love, not in word only, but in deed and in truth, that is, doing good, as well as giving good words?
You will see Jesus Christ every day in some of His members; some naked, some hungry, some in affliction, some wanting comfort, others, instruction: will you for His sake be kind to them, according to their wants and your power to help them?
After this, a good pastor will let the young Christian see the benefits of receiving as often as he has opportunity, and the great sin of turning his back upon this ordinance.
He will, for instance, put him in mind that all Christians being obliged to examine themselves before they go to this sacrament; this will keep them from falling into a state of sin and security.
That if we find we grow in grace, we shall have the greatest comfort; and if we have not got ground of our corruptions, this will make us more careful.
That our faith will hereby be strengthened, when we call to remembrance what Jesus Christ hath done for us, and that His love and His power are still the same, if we strive to deserve His favour.
Lastly, that, by duly partaking of this holy ordinance, we shall come to such a state that it will be uneasy to us to offend God, and the very pleasure of our souls to obey His laws.
On the other hand, if a Christian turns his back upon this sacrament (without good cause) he transgresses an express command: Do this in remembrance of Me. He shuts himself out of Christ's family; he lives without hopes and without promises.
If therefore he ask how often he should receive this sacrament, he ought to have an answer in the words of an ancient writer: "Receive it as often as you can, that the old serpent, seeing the blood of the true Paschal Lamb upon your lips, may tremble to approach you."
And if to these instructions a pastor exhort the young Christian to be very careful not to separate from the Church, in unity with which he may expect the Holy Spirit and all other benefits of Christ's passion: and if he likewise require Him, at all times hereafter, before he designs to communicate, to give his pastor an account of it (in obedience to the orders of the Church) that he may receive further advice as there shall be occasion, he will have done a work worthy of a good pastor, and will undoubtedly receive a good reward for so doing.
A person who turns his back upon the Lord's Supper does in effect say some of these things: "For this time I will not own Jesus Christ for my Saviour." "I have a sin which for the present I cannot resolve to part with." "I have an enemy whom I am not yet disposed to forgive and be in charity with." "I cannot yet prevail with myself to lead a new life." "I am not thankful for the death of Christ."
No Christian excused from this duty. Every one for whom Christ died, every one who has sins to be pardoned, has any thing to ask of God, every one who has a soul to be saved, and expects it, is bound.