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repent you of your sins, or else come not to that holy table ; lest after the taking of that holy sacrament, the Devil enter into you as he entered into Judas, and fill you full of all iniquities, and bring you to destruction both of body and soul.”
The primitive churches were very particular on this point. “Let no Judas," says Chrysostom," no lover of money, be present at this table ; he that is not Christ's disciple, let him depart from it. Let no inhuman, no cruel person, no uncompassionate man, or unchaste come hither. I speak this to you that administer, as well as to those that partake.”
Indeed it is both prejudicial and unprofitable to the wicked. Just as the rain which falls upon a rock, does not penetrate, and soften, and fertilize it, but ever runs off from it; so the wicked, by their sinful and hard hearts, repel that gracious influence which would otherwise enter and bless their souls.
But while the case is clear as to open sinners, there is a large class of persons, in the main, of a moral character, but who manifestly have not that spiritual mind which is life and peace, who are walking not after the spirit but after the flesh, and we cannot recommend such persons, while in this state of mind, to go to this table. Let them repent and believe the Gospel, and then come.
The graces of repentance, faith, humility, charity, and the like, are needful to a due reception of the Lord's Supper. Men are destitute of these by nature; and till the Holy Ghost be received, there are none of these evidences of spiritual life. Now if we give ever so much meat and drink to a dead man, it can neither bring him to life, nor nourish him; and so this holy ordinance cannot profit a man dead in sins, and without a spiritual appetite and spiritual dispositions.
Yet, on the other hand, it may be observed, for the comfort of humble Christians, who are sometimes in a great strait between a sense of their unfitness, and the obligation of a plain command, that this ordinance requires not perfection in any grace in those who come. If a man have but the very beginnings of holy dispositions, let him come to have them strengthened. The remarks of one of the Reformers (the great Calvin *) on this point, may help the reader to come to a right decision. Speaking of those for whom this ordinance is intended, he says, “Let us remember, that this sacred banquet is medicine to the sick, comfort to the sinner, alms to the poor; but that it would confer no advantage on the healthy, the righteous and the rich, if any such could be found. - The best and only worthiness that we can present to God, is to offer him our vileness and unworthiness, that he may make us worthy of his mercy; to despair in ourselves, that we may find consolation in him ; to humble ourselves, that we may be exalted by him; to accuse ourselves, that we may be justified by him.” Speaking afterwards of the necessity of faith and charity, he says,
" There are those who have fallen into a considerable error respecting the degree of these graces, requiring a perfection of faith to which nothing can approach, and a charity equal to that which Christ has manifested towards us. But by this requisition they exclude all men from access to this sacred supper.
See his Institutes, which are full of important instruction. The author caunot forbear testifying, that Calvin's writings, in general, as far as he has read them, are deeply pious and prac. tical. His commentaries are especially valuable to ministers.
For if their opinion were admitted, no person could receive it but unworthily ; since all, without a single exception, would be convinced of their imperfections. And surely it must betray extreme ignorance to require that in the reception of the sacrament, which would render the sacrament unnecessary and useless; for it was not instituted for the perfect, but for the imperfect and feeble; to awaken, excite, stimulate, and exercise their
graces of faith and charity, and to correct the defects of both."
Let us now proceed to consider more particularly how we may prepare for that ordinance which the Lord has instituted.
A KNOWLEDGE OF ITS NATURE is in the first place requisite, that when we come to his table, we may discern the Lord's body. The previous chapter will have, we trust, given you sufficient information on this point. Read over yourselves those parts of Scripture which dwell on Christ's atonement, (as Isa. liii ;) and his death, (as John xix ;) the nature of the New Covenant, (as Heb. viii;) the accounts of this institution given in the Holy Scriptures, (Matt. xxvi, 26-30; Mark xiv, 22-26; Luke xxii, 15-20; 1 Cor. x, 16–18; xi, 1734;) and our Lord's statements respecting the nature, necessity, and advantages of faith in him; John vi, 28-71. Remember, it is intended to bring to your remembrance Christ's death as a sacrifice taking away your
it represents that death to you; it instructs you in the nature and need of faith in him; it offers afresh his benefits to you; and, rightly received, assures you
of your interest in them. SELF-EXAMINATION AS TO THE STATE OF YOUR OWN MIND AND HEART, is another material point. By self-examination we mean a diligent search into
the true state of our character, as it is in the sight of God, by comparing it with his holy word.
There are holy dispositions and tempers, there is a peculiar conduct and conversation, stated in the Holy Scriptures, as marking the character of all the children of God. And then, with more especial reference to our receiving the Lord's Supper, the intention of mind in going to this table should be examined. There may be wrong motives for going; as, to obtain a religious character; from an idea of thereby meriting divine blessings; because others ge; or, merely to gratify our friends. These are improper motives; and should be guarded against. We should be influenced to approach his holy table simply by a regard to the authority of Jesus Christ, and a desire to obtain, in the appointed means, his grace and blessing. There are, besides, qualifications and graces of the Holy Spirit, suitable for the due reception of the Lord's Supper. We should ascertain whether we possess these.
The Church of England has, in its Catechism, given very plain and valuable instruction on the nature of the duty of self-examination; nor do I think that I can put the subject in a more instructive form, than by bringing that before you. In answer to the question, “ What is required of them who come to the Lord's Supper?" we are told, “ To examine themselves whether they repent them truly of their former sins, stedfastly purposing to lead a new life, have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death, and be in charity with all men.” This answer shews us that we should examine whether we do in reality possess that repentance, faith, gratitude, and charity, which are necessary to our receiving the Lord's Supper with spiritual benefit. A few observa
tions will now be made on those points, for the purpose of assisting you in your examination.
- Enquire, then, as to your REPENTANCE. Do you know your exceeding sinfulness before God? You cannot repent of your sins without knowing them; nor can you know them but as you are acquainted with the word of God. By the law is the knowledge of sin, It is from ignorance of the holy law of God, that we hear so many say—they are not great sinners—they are not worse than others—and they have never done any thing particularly wrong. Even when they admit they are sinners in general, they will not confess that they are guilty of any one particular transgression, nor do they feel that they daily come short of the glory of God. Alas! such know not God's perfect law, and are wholly ignorant of themselves. They may know the character of thousands around them; they may know the histories of thousands of years of every country; but they know not what is to them the most important of all the history of their own hearts, and their own lives. We are not only sinners in general, but we never did one thing wholly free from sin. We are born in a sinful world, prone to iniquity from our earliest years, and through the whole course of our lives we have been offending God. Every day, from our rising up to our lying down, in many things we offend. For what is sin? not merely what man will acknowledge to be wrong, nor what human laws punish; but sin is what God says is wrong. Sin is the transgression of the law of God. What says that law? It requires us to love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. It calls us to be spiritually minded. It tells us, whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. The bare recital of these things will shew us, if we are duly conscious