Chapter V. Of Repentance, Preparatory to the Blessed Sacrament.
"WHEN Isaac and Abimelech had made a covenant of peace and mutual agreement, they would not confirm it by a sacramental oath till the next morning, that they might swear fasting, for the reverence and religious regard of the solemn oath," saith Lyra. But Philo says, 'they did it symbolically to represent that purity and cleanness of soul, which he that swears to God, or comes to pay his vows, ought to preserve with great religion.'--He that in a religious and solemn address comas to God, ought to consider whether his body be free from uncleanness, and his soul from vile affections. "He that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is justified, let him be justified yet more," saith the Spirit of God; and then it follows, "He that thirsts, let him come and drink of the living waters freely, and without money;" meaning that when our affections to sin are gone, when our hearts are clean, then we may freely partake of the feast of the supper of the Lamb.
For, as in natural forms, the more noble they are, the more noble dispositions are required to their production,--so it is in the spiritual: for when Christ is to be efformed in us, when we are to become the sons of God, flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, we must be washed in water, and purified by faith, and sanctified by the Spirit, and cleansed by an excellent repentance; we must be confirmed by a holy hope, and softened by charity. So God hath ordered in the excellent fabric of human bodies: first, our meat is prepared by fire,--then macerated by the teeth,--then digested in the stomach, where the first separation is made of the good from the bad, the wholesome juices from the more earthy parts: these being sent down to earth, the other are conveyed to the liver, where the matter is separated again, and the good is turned into blood, and the better into spirits: and thence the body is supplied with blood, and the spirits repair into the heart and head, and thence they may be sent on embassies for the ministries of the body, and for the work of understanding. So it is in the dispensation of the affairs of the soul: the car, which is the mouth of the soul, receives all meat; and the senses entertain the fuel for all passions and all interests of virtue and vice. But the understanding makes the first separation, dividing the clean from the unclean.--But when the spirit of God comes and purifies even the separate matter, making that which is morally good, to be spiritual and holy, first cleansing us from the sensualities of flesh and blood, and then from spiritual iniquities that usually debauch the soul: then the holy nourishment which .we receive, passes into divine excellences. But if sensuality be in the palate, and intemperance in the stomach; if lust be in the liver, and anger in the heart,--it corrupts the holy food, and makes that to be a savour of death, which was intended for health and holy blessings.
But, therefore, when we have lived in the corrupted air of evil company, and have sucked in the vile juices of coloquintida, and the deadly henbane; when that is within the heart which defiles the man,--the soul must be purged by repentance, it must be washed by tears, and purified by penitential sorrow. For lie that comes to this holy feast with an unrepenting heart, is like the fly in the temple upon the day of sacrifice: the little insect is very busy about the flesh of the slain beasts; she flies to every corner of the temple; and she tastes the flesh, before the portion is laid before the god: but when the nidour and the delicacy hath called such an unwelcome guest, she corrupts the sacrifice, and therefore dies at the altar, or is driven away by the officious priest. So is an unworthy communicant; he comes, it may be, with passion, and an earnest zeal; he hopes to be fed, and he hopes to be made immortal; he thinks lie does a holy action, and shall receive a holy blessing; but what is his portion? It is a glorious thing to be feasted at the table of God; glorious to him that is invited and prepared, but not to him that is unprepared, hateful, and impenitent.
But it is an easy thing to say, that a man must repent before he communicates: so he must before he prays, before he dies, before he goes a journey; the whole life of a man is to be a continual repentance: but if so, then what particular is that which is required before we receive the holy communion? For if it be a universal duty of infinite extent, or unlimited comprehension, then every Christian must always be doing some of the offices of repentance: but then, which are the peculiar parts and offices of this grace, which have any special and immediate relation to this solemnity? For if there be none, the sermons of repentance are nothing but the general doctrine of good life, but of no special efficacy in our preparation.
The answer to this will explicate the intricacy, and establish the measures of our duty in this proper relation, in order to this ministry.