Chapter III. Of Faith, as it is a Necessary Disposition to the Blessed Sacrament.
EXAMINATION of ourselves is an inquiry, whether we have those dispositions which are necessary to a worthy communion. Our next inquiry is after the dispositions themselves, what they ought to be, and what they ought to effect; that we may really be that, which we desire to be found, when we are examined. I have yet only described the ways of examining; now I am to set down those things, whereby we can be approved, and, without which, we can never approach to these divine mysteries with worthiness, or depart with joy. These are three; 1. Faith, 2. Charity, 3. Repentance.
Section I. Of Catechumens, or unbaptized Persons.
THE blessed sacrament, before him that hath no faith, is like messes of meat set upon the graves of the dead; they smell not that nidour, which quickens the hungry belly; they feel not the warmth, and taste not the juice; for these are provided for them that are alive, and the dead have no portion in them. This is the first great line of introduction, and necessary to be examined: we have the rule from the apostle; "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your ownselves. Know ye not your ownselves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" As if he had said, 'Ye are reprobates: and Jesus Christ shall never dwell in you, except by faith: without this you can never receive him; and, therefore, examine strictly yourselves concerning your faith.'
But the necessity of this preparation by faith hath a double sense, and a proportionable necessity. 1. It means, that no unbaptized person can come to the holy communion. 2. It means that those that are baptized, have an actual and an operative faith, properly relative to these divine mysteries, and really effective of all the works of faith. Of this we have the most ancient and indubitable records of the primitive church: for in the apology which Justin Martyr made for the Christians, he gives this account of the manner of dispensing the holy eucharist: "it is lawful for none to participate of this eucharistical bread and wine, but to him who believes those things to be true which are taught by us, and to him that is washed in the laver of regeneration, which is to the remission of sins, and who lives as Christ hath commanded."--"Shut the profane and the unhallowed people out of doors," so Orpheus sang. None comes to this holy feast but they whose sins are cleansed in baptism, who are sanctified in those holy waters of regeneration, who have obedient souls, ears attentive to the sermons of the Gospel, and hearts open to the words of Christ. These are they who see by a brighter light, and walk in the warmth of a more refreshing sun; they live in a better air, and are irradiated with a purer beam, the glories of the Sun of Righteousness e; and they only are to eat the precious food of the sacrificed Lamb: for, by baptism, we are admitted to the spiritual life; and, by the holy communion, we nourish and preserve it.
But although baptism be always necessary, yet alone it is not a sufficient qualification to the holy communion, but there must be an actual faith also in every communicant. Neither faith alone, nor baptism alone, can suffice; but it must be the actual faith of baptized persons, which disposes us to this sacred feast; for the church gives the communion neither to catechumens, nor to infants, nor to madmen, nor to natural fools.
Of this, besides the testimony of Justin Martyr, St. Cyril of Alexandria gives this full account: "We refuse to give the sacraments to catechumens, although they already know the truth, and, with a loud voice, confess the faith of Christ;, because they are not yet enriched with the Holy Ghost, who dwells in them, who are consummated and perfected by baptism. But when they have been baptized, because it is believed, that the Holy Ghost does dwell within them, they are not prohibited from the contact and communion of the body of Christ. And, therefore, to them, who come to the mystical benediction, the ministers of the mystery cry with a loud voice, 'Sancta sanctis,' 'Let holy things be given to sanctified persons,' signifying, that the contact and sanctification of Christ's body does agree with them only, who, in their spirits, are sanctified by the Holy Ghost." And this was the certain and perpetual doctrine and custom of the church; insomuch, that, in the primitive churches, they would not suffer unbaptized persons so much as to sec the consecration of the holy mysteries, as is to be seen in many ecclesiastical records f. The reason of this is nothing, but the nature and analogy of the thing itself. For we first come to Christ by faith, and we first come to Christ by baptism; they are the two doors of the tabernacle, which our Lord hath pitched, and not man. By faith we desire to go in; and by baptism we are admitted. Faith knocks at the door; and baptism sets it open: but until we are in the house, we cannot be entertained at the master's table: they that are in the highways and hedges, must be called in, and come in at the doors, and they shall be feasted. The one is the moral entrance, and the other is the ritual. Faith is the door of the soul, and baptism is the door of the man. Faith is the spiritual address to God, and baptism is the sacramental. Baptism is, like the pool of Siloam, appointed for healing; it is salutary and medicinal: but the Spirit of God is that great angel, that descends thither, and makes them virtual; and faith is the hand, that puts us in. So that faith alone does not do it; and, therefore, as the unbaptized must not communicate, so neither will baptism alone admit us: and, therefore, infants and innocents are yet uncapable. But that is the next inquiry.