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into a sickly and languishing condition. Infinite wisdom and goodness hath given us the sacrament of the Lord's supper, as the grand remedy against both these evils. The examinations, the meditations, the resolutions, it calls us to, turning on the great points of faith, repentance, and charity, to which we are bound by covenant and vow, are wonderfully fitted to prepare us for; and the grace of God, on which we feed in this holy ordinance, is equally well calculated to stay us up in, that healthful and happy frame of mind, to which eternal life is promised, and indeed naturally annexed. • This is the bread which came down from heaven, that a mán may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread, ' saith Christ, which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever : and the bread that I will give is my Aesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life ; for my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.' What tongue of men, or angels, is able to express the benefit and necessity of this sacrament in words so strong as these? The spiritual health, and eternal life of the soul, are here represented, as depending absolutely on it. We live for ever, if we receive this food; we perish for ever, if we do not. We are united to Christ, if we take this holy sacrament; we are cut off from him, if we decline it. But may not one receiving answer the end? Can one meal of ordinary food support our bodies during a life of seventy years ? Why is this holy ordinance at all repeated, if once receiving will do ? I have already shewn the use of this sacrament, as a continuation of the covenant, and as the food for the soul, by such reasons, and by such expressions of our blessed Saviour, as cannot possibly deceive us.
Considered therefore in either light, it cannot be too often repeated. We cannot too often examine the state
our own minds. We cannot too often repent of our sins, and resolve to lead a better life. We cannot too often renew and confirm our covenant of peace with God. We cannot too often, nor too plentifully, receive the grace, or spiritual sustenance, on which the health and life of our souls depend. We cannot therefore too often, nor too carefully, nor too devoutly, receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper.
The third consideration, arising from the nature of this sacrament, and calling us to constant communion, is gratitude for the death of our Redeemer, whereby we were bought, as with a price, from the eternal punishment of sin. This was the comprehensive, this the tender and affecting end, for which he instituted his last supper. I say comprehensive, because it is impossible gratefully to commemorate the death of Christ, without answering, at the same time, all the other ends of the institution. He who receives this sacrament, before he hath deligently examined himself by the articles of the covenant, and found his heart animated with a settled hatred of sin, and a firm resolution to glorify his Redeemer by a new life and conversation, and his understanding thoroughly convinced of the fundamental truths taught him by the holy Scriptures, instead of shewing himself grateful, or doing any honour to his Saviour, does but ‘put him to open shame,' does but crucify him afresh,' and is therefore ' guilty of the body and blood of the Lord,' because he rends his body, and pours out his blood, like a Jew, without faith, without love, without repentance, and reformation of manners. Likewise call the grateful commemoration of Christ's death an affecting end of this sacred institution, because, being about to die for us, he ordained this holy sacrament, and said, “This do in remembrance of me; as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death, till he come.' A worthy mind is ever on the watch for opportunities of testifying its gratitude for the favours it hath received. If those favours are such as it can never possibly repay ; if they are too great to be returned ; and if the benefactor either cannot, or will not, admit a benefit by way of requital; how is the greatful heart pained and distressed under the sense of so much goodness, till the benefactor is pleased to appoint some method, by which its thanks may be expressed! This is exactly the case between Christ, and his grateful disciple. Christ died the reproachful and painful death of a slave, to save the Christian from the eternal punishment of his sins, and to bring him to that endless happiness and glory, which no human righteousness can ever merit. This obligation the Christian can never pay. But were the obligation small enough in itself to be returned by man, yet how could the return be made to Christ, who is God, and consequently can receive no benefit from his creatures? Here the infinite benefactor, unwilling to encourage the ingratitude of some, or too much to distress the generous hearts of others, by shutting the door against all acknowledgments, says, ' As I am going to die for you all, I desire you may all eat this bread, in remembrance of my body torn, and drink this wine, in remembrance of my blood spilt, for tener; for we find,ʻthey continued daily in the temple, and also broke bread from house to house;' from which it is natural to conclude, that, as often as any number of them met at one another's houses, which was almost every day, they constantly went to prayers, and celebrated this sacrament. This holy practice had not ceased in St. Cyprian's time ; for he says, ' we daily receive the eucharist, as the food which nourishes us to salvation ;' nay, we find it still alive as far down as the days of St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, and St. Augustin, in the western churches; and, as to the eastern churches, whose piety began sooner to cool, St. Basil says, they communicated four times a week, and oftener, if the festival of any martyr called them together.
sins. Do this to shew forth my death, and to prove you do not forget my friendship for you, till I return again to bring you away from this lower world into that heavenly inheritance, which the sacrifice of my blood entitles you to. If you really love me, as often as you see this bread broken, you will think you see my flesh shivering in the agonies of death, and torn to pieces on the cross, to prepare it for the sustenance of your souls; and as often as you see this wine poured out, your affection and gratitude will represent it to your hearts, as that blood which streamed from my wounds to wash away all sin from your souls. But you know, dearly beloved, for whom I am laying down my life, that I am led to my cross by your sins, and the infidel cruelty of my enemies. When therefore you come to this costly banquet of my flesh and blood, if you have any love for me, or sense of what I suffer in your stead, do not bring with you
either unbelief or sin, lest I understand you as coming to crucify me afresh; lest in you I see another Judas and his band, another Caiaphas, another Pilate. I do not tell you how often I require this proof of your gratitude: I leave that to the thankful notions of your own hearts. But, if as often as you think fit thus to acknowledge my
kindness, you do it with that affection, that sorrow for your sins, and that trust in my services and promises, which I require, you shall dwell in me, I will dwell in you; and eternal love shall so unite us into one happy and immortal body, that where I am, there shall you be also ; and neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate you from the love of my Father, which manifests, and will for ever manifest, itself towards you, in me your Lord and Saviour.'
Is he now a Christian who can be deaf to such an address? Who can coldly comply with, or flatly refuse, such an invitation? Who hath baseness enough to say within himself, or brutality enough even to say to others, “I do not intend to communicate more than once or twice a year; perhaps I shall not prevail on myself to do it so often. It is true, when I do attend this duty, I lay out but a small portion of two or three days in preparing for it; yet this gives so painful an interruption to the pursuits my heart is engaged in, that I cannot think of going about this business, either more frequently or more warmly.' Now compare this with the address of our blessed Saviour, that you may suppose it, as is really the case, returned by way of answer to that address; and then tell us whether you can conceive human nature, or any thing short of the diabolical, capable of a more detestable, or a more infernal, degree of ingratitude. Were the man absolutely an Atheist, he could never think of coming to the Lord's table at all. What then (in the name of wonder), is he? Is he a Christian? Does he hope for salvation through the death of Christ? Good God! How then can he answer his Saviour in such a manner? Or with what enormous impudence can he hope, that attendance, so cold, so forced, so seldom paid, can pass on the searcher of hearts for gratitude, for gratitude under the weight of such infinite obligations ? But why do I thus lash this wretch ? The ungrateful cannot be obliged, cannot be served, cannot be saved.
Beside these reasons for frequent communion, arising from the nature of the institution itself, there is another of no less force and better qualified to shew how often we ought to communicate, drawn from the practice of the apostolic age, and of that which followed for some hundreds of years. The apostles, who were guided immediately by the Spirit of God, could not have been mistaken in a thing of this consequence ; nor could the primitive fathers, who pursued the example of the apostles. Now St. Luke informs us, it was the custom of the disciples to come together on the first day of the week to break bread, which is the expression he uses to signify the celebration of the Lord's supper. From whence it appears, they performed this solemnity once a week. Nay, it seems, they did it much of
Their practice also instructs us in another point of great moment, relating to this awful institution; namely, that they not only denied communion to all open offenders, as we see by the instance of the incestuous person among the Corinthians, but also threatened all such with excommunication, as came to the public place of worship, and did not stay to receive the Lord's supper, as we see by the apostolic canons, and the synod of Antioch. If any man in health should but once absent himself from this solemnity on the Lord's day, he was regarded by all the Christians of his acquaintance as an infamous person, whose secret sins had cut him off from the body of Christ. Such were the customs in relation to this sacred and solemn ordinance, that arose from the immediate directions of the Holy Spirit.
Let us now ask ourselves, whether we think this sacrament is a different thing in these days from what it was in the purer ages of the church? Whether we stand in less need of the grace communicated by it, than the primitive Christians did? Whether our acknowledgments are not as often due, as theirs, for the death of Christ? Or whether it can be rationally supposed, that our practice comes nearer to the design of our blessed Saviour, than that which flowed from the immediate dictates of his Holy Spirit? The right answers to these questions will condemn the usage, in this behalf, of every church now on earth. In what an unworthy light must the present professors of Christianity stand, when so few can be found among the largest and best congregations, who are willing to communicate once a month;