Chapter III. Of Faith, as it is a Necessary Disposition to the Blessed Sacrament.
To this I answer, that if fools can desire it, and can be kept innocent, the church did never deny it to them; but unless they be capable of love and obedience in some degree, they must in no case be admitted. A vicious fool is intolerable; and he that knows nothing of it, nor can be taught any thing, must be permitted to the mercies of God, and the prayers of the church; but he that is not capable of laws, can be no part of a society, and, therefore, hath nothing to do with communion. If he can but learn so much that it is good for his soul; if he can desire to go to God, and if he can, in any degree, believe in Christ, he will be judged according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not: but if he cannot discern between good and evil, but indifferently likes and does one and the other, though mercy is to be hoped for him in the last account, yet because he does that which is materially evil, and cannot discern what is spiritually good, he must not be admitted so much as to the symbols of the divine mysteries.
But concerning madmen the case is otherwise; and, therefore, lam to answer with a distinction. If, from a state of sin and debauchery, they entered into their madness, their case is sad, and infinitely to be deplored; but their debt-books are sealed up;--they are like dead men; until they be restored to reason, they cannot be restored to grace, and, therefore, not admitted to the sacrament. But if they were men of a good life, they may, in their intervals, that is, when they can desire it, and when they will not use the sacrament irreverently, be communicated. For the seed of God abides within them, and no accident of nature can destroy the work of God and the impresses of the Spirit; nothing but their own wills can do that.
For, in these cases, it is a good rule, and of great use in the practice of the sacrament: 'Whoever can communicate spiritually, may be admitted to communicate sacramentally;' --that is, they who are in a state of grace, and can desire it, must not be rejected: and, therefore, good men falling into this calamity,--when they have any ease from their sadness, and that they can return to words of order, and composed thoughts, though but for awhile, though but in order to that ministry,--are not to be rejected.
But, on the other side, whoever can hinder the effect of the sacrament, they are not to be admitted to it, unless they do not only not hinder it, but actually dispose themselves to it. For if they can do evil, they can and ought to do good; and, therefore, vicious madmen having been, and still remaining, in a state of evil, cannot be admitted till they do good; and, therefore, never, while their madness remains. The godly man that is so afflicted may; but yet not till the fire that was hidden makes some actual and bright emissions.
But then, lastly; For others who are of a probable life, concerning whom no man can tell whether they be in the state of grace or no; because no man can tell whether he that comes with that sadness, be capable or no, no man can tell, whether he does well or ill: and, therefore, he must determine himself by accidents, and circumstances, and prudential considerations, having one eye upon the designs and compliances of charity, and the other upon the reverence of the sacrament. And the case is in all things alike with dying persons, past the use of speech and reason.