Page images

outward signs confirms and seals his sincere engagements to be tbeir Saviour and food, and to impart to them all the benefits of his propitiation and salvation. And they, in receiving what is offered, and eating and drinking the symbols of Christ's body and blood, also profess their part in the covenant of grace : They profess to embrace the promises and lay hold of the hope set before them, to receive the atonement, to receive Christ as their spiritual food, and to feed upon him in their hearts by faith. Indeed what is professed on both sides is the heart : For Christ in offering himself, professes the willingness of his heart to be theirs who truly receive him, and the communicants on their part, profess the willingness of their hearts to receive him, which they declare by sig. nificant actions. They profess to take Christ as their spiritual food, and bread of life. To accept Christ as our bread of life, is to accept him as our Saviour and portion ; as food is both the means of preserving life, and is also the refreshment and comfort of life. The signification of the word manna, that great type of this bread of life, is a portion. That which God offers to us as our food, he offers as our portion ; and that which we accept as our food, we accept as our portion. Thus the Lord's supper is plainly a mutual renovation, confirmation, and seal of the covenant of grace. Both the covenanting parties profess their consent to their respective parts in the covenant, and each affixes his seal to his profession. And there is in this ordinance the very same thing acted over in profession and sensible signs, which is spiritually transacted between Christ and his spouse in the covenant that unites them. Here we have from time to time the glorious bridegroom exhibiting himself with his great love that is stronger than death, appearing clothed in robes of grace, and engaging himself with all his glory and love, and its infinite benefits, to be theirs who receive him : And here we have his sprouse accepting this bridegroom, choosing him for her friend, her only Saviour and portion, and relying on him for all his benefits. And thus the covenant transaction of this spiritual marriage is confirmed and sealed, from time to time. The actions of the coinmunicants at the Lord's ta le have as expressive and significant a language, as the most solemn words. When a person in this ordinance takes and cats and drinks those things which represent Christ, the plain meaning and implicit profession of these · his actions, is this, “ I take this crucified Jesus as my Saviour, my sweetest food, my chief portion, and the life of my soul, consenting to acquiesce in him as such, and to hunger and thirst after him only, renouncing all other saviours, and all other portions for his sake." The actions, thus interpreted, are a proper renovation and ratification of the covenant of grace ; and no otherwise. And those that take, and eat and drink the sacramental elements at the Lord's table with any other meaning, I fear, know not what they do.

The actions at the Lord's supper, thus implying in their nature and signification, a renewing and confirming of the covenant, there is a declarative explicit covenanting supposed to precede it ; which is the profeseion of religion, before spoken of, that qualifies a person for admission to the Lord's supper. And there doubtless is, or ought to be, as much explicitly professed in words, as is implicitly professed in these actions ; for by these significant actions, the communicant sets his seal but to his profession. The established signs in the Lord's supper are fully equivalent to words ; they are a renewing and reiterating the same thing which was done beo fore; only with this difference, that now it is done by speaking signs, whereas before it was by speaking sounds. Our taking the bread and wine is as much a professing to accept of Christ, at least, as a woman's taking a ring of the bridegroom in her marriage is a profession and seal of her taking him for her husband. The sacramental elements in the Lord's supper do represent Christ as a party in covenant, as truly as a proxy represents a prince to a forcign lady in her marriage ; and our taking those elements is as truly a professing to accept Christ, as in the other case the lady's taking the proxy is her professing to accept the prince as her husband. Or the matter may more fitly be represented by this similitude : It is as if a prince should send an ambassador to a woman in a foreign land, proposing marriage, and by his ambassador

should send her his picture, and should desire her to manifest her acceptance of his suit, not only by professing her acceptance in words to his ambassador, but in token of her sincerity openly to take or accept that picture, and so seal her profes. sion, by thus representing the matter over again by a symbolical action.

To suppose, persons ought thus solemnly to firofess that which at the same time they do not at all imagine they experience in themselves, and do not really pretend to, is a very great absurdity. For a man sacramentally to make such a firofession of religion, proceeding avowedly on the foot of such doctrine, is to profess that which he does not profess; his actions being no established signs of the thing supposed to be professed, nor carrying in them the least pretension to it. And therefore doing thus can be no man's duty ; unless it be men's duty to make a solemn profession of that which in truth they make no profession of. The Lord's supper is most evidently a professing ordinance ; and the communicants, pirofession must be such as is adjusted to the nature and design of the ordinance ; which nothing short of faith in the blood of Christ will answer, even faith unfeigned, which worketh by love. A profession therefore exclusive of this, is essentially defective, and quite unsuitable to the character of a communicant.

XI. When the apostle says, 1 Cor. xi. 28. 6. Let a man examine himself and so let him eat," it seems to be much the most reasonable to understand it of trying himself with regard to the truth of his Christianity, or reality of his grace ; the same which the same apostle directs the same Corinthians to in his other epistle, 2 Cor. xiii. 5, where the same word is used in the original. The Greek word (doxoua fetw) will not allow of what some have supposed to be the apostle's meaning, viz. that a man should consider and inquire into his circumstances, and the necessities of his case, that he may know what are the wants he should go to the Lord's table for a supply of. The word properly signifies proving or trying a thing with respect to its quality and goodness, or in order to determine whether it be true and of the right sort. And so the word is always used in the New Testament; unless that sometimes it is used

lated, either discerners of trial. Nor is the wo sort of trial

as it were metonymically, and in such places is variously tansa lated, either discerning, or allowing, approving, liking, &c. these being the effects of trial. Nor is the word used more frequently in the New Testament for any sort of trial whatever, than for the trial of professors with regard to their grace or piety. The word (as Dr. Ames in his Catecheseos Sciagraphia, and Mr. Willard in his Body of Divinity, observe) is borrowed from goldsmiths, properly signifying the trial they make of their silver and gold, whether it be genuine or counterfeit : And with a manifest allusion to this original application of the word, is often used in the New Testament for a trying the piety of professors. It is used with this view in all the following texts : 1 Pet. i. 7." That the TRIAL of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be TRIED by fire, might be found unto praise,” &c. 1 Cor. iii. 13. “ The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.” James i. 3. “ The TRYING of your faith worketh patience.” 1 Thess. ii. 4.“ God who TRIETH our hearts.” The same word is used in 2 Cor. viii. 8.“ To PROVE the sincerity of your love." So, Gal. vi. 3, 4. “ If any man thinketh himself, "to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself : But let every man PROVE his own work." In all these places there is the same word in the Greek with that in the text now under consideration..

When the apostle directs professing Christians to try themselves, using this word indefinitely, as properly signifying the examining or proving a thing whether it be genuine or counterfeit, the most natural construction of his advice is, that they should try themselves with respect to their spiritual state and religious profession, whether they are disciples indeed, real and genuine Christians, or whether they are not false and hypocritical professors. As if a man should bring a piece of metal that had the color of gold, with the impress of the king's coin, to a goldsmith, and desire him to try that money, without adding any words to limit his meaning, would not the goldsmith naturally understand, that he was to try whether it was true gold, or true money, yea or no ?

· But here it is said by some, that the context of the passage under debate (1 Cor. xi. 28,) does plainly limit the meaning of the word in that place ; the apostle there speaking of those things that had appeared among the communicants at Corinth, which were of a scandalous nature, so doubtless unfiting them for the Lord's supper ; and therefore when the apostle directs them to examine or prove themselves, it is but just, to suppose his meaning to be, that they should try whether they be not disqualified by scandal. To this I answer, though the apostle's putting the Corinthians upon trying themselves, was on occasion of the mentioning some scandalous practices found among them, yet this is by no means any argument of its being only his meaning, that they should try themselves whether they were scandalous persons ; 'and not that they should try whether they were true, genuine Christo ians. The very nature of scandal (as was observed before) is that which tends to obscure the visibility of the piety of professors, and wound others' charity towards them, by bringing the reality of their grace into doubt ; and therefore what could be more natural, than for the Apostle, when mentioning such scandals among the Corinthians, to put them upon trying the state of their souls, and proving their sincerity ? This is certainly the case in this apostle's directing the same persons to prove themselves, 2 Cor. xiii. 5, using the same word there, which he uses here, and giving his direction on the like occasion. For in the second epistle (as well as in the first) his putting them on examining and proving themselves, was on occasion of his mentioning some scandals found among them ; as is plain from the foregoing context. And yet there it is expressly said, That the thing concerning which he directs them to firove themselves, is, whether they be in the faith, and whether Christ is in them. Nor is there any thing more in the preceding context of one place, than in that of the other, obliging or leading us to understand the apostle to intend only a trying whether they were scandalous, and not whether they were sincere Christians.

And as to the words following in the next verse : “ For tie that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judge

« PreviousContinue »