THE CHRISTIAN FEAST.
1 Cob. r. 8.—Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
AS we have the agreeable prospect of celebrating the Lord's supper on the next Lord's day, we cannot spend this day to better purpose than preparing for it. And no preparative can be of more importance than a right knowledge of the end and design of that solemn ordinance, and the qualifications necessary in those that would worthily partake of it. To this I would devote the present discourse: and so important a design certainly demands the attention of all, especially of such of you a9 intend to join in the participation of the sacred supper.
Though my text may be taken in a larger latitude, yet it is justly supposed to have a particular reference to this institution, which has the same place under the gospel-dispensation which the passover had under the law. St. Paul had very naturally glided into the style of the Jewish law concerning the paschal supper, in the directions he had been giving concerning a scandalous member of the Corinthian church: and he carries on the metaphor with a beautiful uniformity, when he comes to speak of the gospel dispensation, and particularly of the Lord's supper. He had directed the church of Corinth to cast the offender out of their communion, while he continued impenitent, because if they should tolerate such a corrupt member among them, it would tend to corrupt the whole society. Wickedness is of a spreading infectious nature, and the indulgence of it in one instance may occasion extensive mischief; for, says he, Know ye not that leaven ferments and diffuses itself, till at length it has leavened the -whole lump? Just so one corrupt member in a church may spread a contagion through the whole. Therefore purge out the old leaven; cast out this scandalous offender, and labour also to purge your church and your own hearts from all corruption, that ye may be as a new, solid, and pure lamp : for ye are more strongly bound to keep yourselves morally pure, and to guard your church against infection, than the Jews were to abstain from all things mixed with leaven at the feast of the passover; for though that feast is no more to be observed, yet that which was signified by the paschal Lamb is now come to pass; Christ our fiassover is sacrificed for us, and the ordinance of his supper is appointed as a sacred feast, in commemoration of him, and our deliverance by him, as the passover was com. memorative of the deliverance from Egypt, and the destroying angel. And this is a stronger reason for the more purity of particular persons and congregations under the gospel, than there could be for ceremonial purity under the law. Therefore, says he, let us keef i this evangelical feast* not with old leaven, not with those corrupt dispositions which we once indulged, and which, like leaven, soured our nature, and fermented through our frame: neither with the leaven of malice, or any kind of wickedness; but renouncing our old temper and practice, and with hearts uersally sanctified, and full of love and good will to all mankind, let us religiously celebrate this gospel feast with those dispositions which were signified by the unleavened bread, namely, sincerity and truth.
It was the practice of the Jews, when the passover was approaching, to search every corner of their houses with lighted candles, that they might be sure there was no leaven to be found under their roofs. The apostle probably alludes to that practice, and exhorts christians to a like care in searching and purging their hearts, and the churches to which they belong, that they may be pure, and fit for partaking of so holy an ordinance.
My design is to show you the principal ends of the institution of the Lord's supper: and as I go along, to delineate the character of those who are fit to attend upon it; for by knowing the former, we may easily know the latter.
The Lord's supper partakes of the general nature of those divine institutions which are called sacraments: in this, " That it is intended to represent things spiritual by material emblems or signs which affect our senses, and thereby enlarge our ideas, and impress our hearts in the present state of flesh and blood." As we have not only rational minds, but also animal bodies endowed with sense.-;, God has wisely adapted his institutions to the make of human nature, and called in the assistance of our eyes* and our ears to help our conceptions of divine things, and to affect our minds with them. And this method is agreeable to the nature of mankind; God has been pleased to use it in every age, and unt'er every dispensation of religion. The tree of life was the sacrament of the first covenant; a sensible confirmation to Adam that he should obtain eternal life by his obedience. The rainbow was appointed as a confirmation of the covenant with Noah, that the world should no more perish by a deluge; and we have not only the assurance of the divine promise, but we may receive the confirmation through our eyes by beholding thai illustrious sign in the clouds. Circumcision and the passoyer were noted sacraments of the covenant of grace, under the Jewish dispensation; and Baptism and the Lord's Supper are
* Sejjnius irritant animos demissa per anrem,
Qiiiini gux sunt oculissubjecta fidelibus. Hok.
VOL. II. 12
appointed in their room, and answer the like ends under the gospel. In all these ordinances God consults our weakness, and, as I observed, makes our bodily senses helpful to the devotions of our minds. Indeed this method of representing and confirming things by sensible signs and significant actions is so natural and expressive, that men have used it in all ages in their transactions with one another. It was remarkably in use among the ancients; and it is not quite laid aside in our age, which does not abound in such methods of representation. In our age and country it is usual to confirm contracts by annexing seals to an instrument of writing; to confirm an agreement by shaking hands; to signify love by a kiss, and complaisance by bowing; and we sometimes give some token as a memorial to a parting friend I mention these low and familiar instances that I may, if possible, give some just ideas of a sacrament to the meanest capacity. It partakes of the general nature of these significant signs and actions, and is intended, like them, to strike our senses; and through that medium to instruct or affect our minds: and such a sign, such a seal, such a significant action is the Lord's supper in particular.
Having made this remark upon its general nature, I now go on to shew the particular ends of its institution. And,
I This ordinance was intended as a memorial of the sufferings of Christ for his people.
That this is its immediate and principal design we learn from the words of the blessed Jesus at its first institution. This do in remembrance of me. That we are to remember him particularly and principally as suffering for our sins, is evident from his words in distributing the elements, This is my body which is broken/or you. Here a moving emphasis is laid upon his body's being broken; broken, crushed, and mangled with an endless variety of sufferings. So again, This cu/i is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you. Hence it is evident this ordinance was appointed as a memorial of a suffering Saviour; and it is under this notion that we are particularly to remember him. We are to shew forth the Lord's death, says the apostle ; his death which was the consummation of his sufferings, till he come again to visit our world in a very different and glorious manner.
The Lord's supper in this view is to be looked upon as a token of love, or memorial left by a friend at parting among his friends, that whenever they see it they may remember him. Our Lord knew we should be very apt to forget him ; and therefore, that the memory of his sufferings might never be lost, he instituted this ordinance; and by the humble elements of bread and wine, he represents himself to our senses as broken under the burden of his sufferings, and shedding his blood. Corn, out of which bread is made, which is first threshed, then ground in a mill, then baked in an oven, is a very proper emblem to signify the violences which our Lord's sacred body endured; and wine pressed from the grape, and poured into the cup, is a striking representation of his blood, which was forced from him by the crushing weight of his agonies. Therefore there was a peculiar propriety in appointing these elements to be the memorials of his sufferings.
This remembrance of a suffering Saviour must be attended with suitable affections. To remember him with a careless indifferency, or with contempt, is the most ungrateful insult. Were he an insignificant person, in whom we have no concern, we might treat him thus; but thus to treat the beloved Son of God, and our only Saviour, thus to requite all his love and sufferings for us, what can be more shocking? What can be more base ingratitude? We should therefore remember him in this ordinance with a penitent sense of our sins, which were the causes of his death; with an ardent love and gratitude for his dying love to us; with an humble faith and confidence in the merit of his death, to procure us acceptance with God; and with a voluntary dedication of ourselves to him and his service forever.
And hence you may learn the character of those who are prepared to communicate in this feast. They, and only they, are prepared, who are true penitents, fully convinced of their sins, and deeply sensible of their malignity, especially as the causes of his death, and thoroughly determined to forsake them; who are lovers of a crucified Jesus, and feel their hearts fired with gratti tude to him for all his love ; who are sensible that they .have no personal righteousness, and therefore place all their dependence upon his only; who feel his love constraining them, and are determined to Uve no more to themselves, but to him that died for 'Item, and rose again.
Self-examination is a necessary preparative to this ordinance. Let a man examine himself, says the apostle, and so let him eat of this bread, and drink of this cufi. Therefore, my brethren, inquire whether this be your character; if it be not. you have no right to this privilege. It is a shocking incongruity to pretend to commemorate the death of Christ without love to him, or peni. tential sorrows for those sins for which he died. Memorials of friendship and love-tokens are only for friends; and when ott.ers use them, it is mere farce and hypocrisy. Therefore till you have these dispositions, do not adventure to come to his table.
II. The Lord's supper was appointed as a badge of our christian profession, and of our being the disciples of Jesus Christ
Baptism is appointed for our initiation into the christian church at our first assuming the christian profession: and by partaking of this ordinance of the Lord's supper, we declare our constancy in that profession, and that we do not repent of our choice, nor desire to change our Mas■er. We openly profess that we are not ashamed of the cross, or the religion of the despised Nazarene, but publicly avow our relation to him before the world. This perhaps may be intended by that expression of St. Paul, shrwing forth the Lord's death. We shew, profess, and publish to all the world the regard we have even to his ignominious death. We may look upon this ordinance as an oath of allegiance to Jesug Christ. And hence probably it was first called [sacrament'urn] a sacrament; which properly signifies an oath,* md particui irly that kind of oath which the Roman soldiers took to their generals, in which they engaged to be faithful to their leaders, and to fight for their country, and never desert its cause.
To this practice probably■ St. Augustine, about fourteen hundred years ago, refers, as well known to his hearers, when he addresses them thus: 'Ye know, my beloved, that the soldiers of this world, who receive but temporal rewards from temporal masters, do first bind themselves by military sacraments or oaths, and profess that they will be faithful to their commar>ders ; how much more then ought the soldiers of the eternal King, who shall receive eternal rewards, to bind themselves with the heavenly sacraments or oaths, and publicly profess then fidelity to him !'f
* So Horace uses it;
-Non ego perfidum
■f Notum est, Dilectissimi, charitati vestrse quod milites sect'li hener-ci» temporalis, a temporalibus Dominis aecepluri, prius Sacri.mentis irilitai ihui obligantur, & Dominis suis fidem se servaturos prnffteiitur ■ qiiirtr n :.pt ergo aeterno Regi militatun, &. xterna prrcmia pevcpptiiri, deberrt S:-( r«menjis, coclestibus obligari, & fidem per quam ei placituri sunt, publics profiteri? August. 6per. Tom. s. p. 98*.
Now if we receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper in this view, we assume a badge or mark of distinction from tne rest of the world, and openly profess ourselves his disciples. We take a solemn oath of allegiance to him, and swear that we will be his faithful servants and soldiers to the end of life.
This shews the peculiar propriety of this ordinance as following upon baptism, especially with regard to those that were baptized in infancy, as we have generally been. In baptism our parents offered us up to God as his servants, and members of the christian church, before we were capable of personal choice, or doing any thing for ourselves; and when we arrive to years of discretion, it is expected we should approve of what they did. by our own personal act. Now the Lord's supper is an institution in which we may make their act our own, and acknowledge that we may stand to the contract they made for us. And ;& often as we partake of it, so often we make this profession. And hence by the way, you may see that such who neglect this ordinartce when they are grown up to a capacity of acting for themselves, do virtually renounce their baptism, and disown the act of their parents in devoting them to Cod. Their parents were to act for them no longer than while they were incapable to act for themselves ; and now when they are arrived at that age, and refuse to confirm the let of their parents, they practically disown it, and wilfully make heathens of themselves: and consequently they proclaim themselves rebels against Christ; for what but rebels are we to account such who refuse the oath of allegiance when tendered to them, and that over and over?
From hence you may learn another qualification of an acceptable communicant, namely, an hearty willingness to rcnoui ce his lusts and pleasures, and every sin. and to become uersally and eternally the devoted servant and disciple ol Jesus Christ. Here again examine yourselves whether you have this qualification.
III. We may consider this ordinance of the Lord's supper as a seal of the covenant of grace, both upon God's part and upon ours.
Every sacramental institution seems to partake of the general nature of a seal; that is, it is a sensible sign for the confirmation of a covenant or contract. This St. Paul expressly asserts, with regard to circumcision, when he says, that Abraham recrix'cd the "gn of eircumcition, a seal of the rightcoutmeis of faith. Rom. iv. 11. And Christ asserts the same tiling concerning the ordinance now under consideration: This cufi, says he, is the New Testament, or covenant in my blood; that is, it is a ratifying sign or seal of the covenant of grace, which is founded in my blood.
That you may rightly understand this, you must observe that God has cast his dispensation towards our guilty world into the form of a covenant, or contract, in which God and man are the parties, and Christ is the Mediator between them. The tenor of the covenant on God's part is to this purpose, 'That he will graciously bestow for the sake of Christ, pardon of sin, eternal life, and all the blessings of his purchase, upon all such sinners oftheraceof man as comply with the terms on which these blessings are offered.' The tenor or terms upon our part are to this purpose, ' That we receive and submit to the Lord Jesus as our only Saviour and Lord; or, in other words, that we believe in him with all our hearts, and repent of our sins, and devote ourselves to his service.' This is the substance of that happy contract: and of this the Lord's supper is a seal, as to both parties.
On God's part this covenant can receive no intrinsic confirmation. He has plainly declared it in his word; and no oaths or confirming signs can add any intrinsic certainty to his declaration. We say,' an honest man's word is as good as his oath, or bond and seal;' and surely we may apply this in the highest sense to the declarations of eternal truth. But though this covenant cannot be made more certain in itself on God's part, yet the evidence of its certainty may be made more sensible and affecting to poor creatures that are so slow of heart to believe. And hence God has been pleased, in condescension to our weakness, to confirm it with the most solemn oaths and sacramental signs. This institution, in particular, is a standing evidence, obvious to our senses, in all the ages of the christian church, that he is unchangeably willing to stand to the articles on his part; that he is as ready to give his Son and all his blessings to such as believe, as he is to give bread and wine as signs and seals of them.
As to our part in receiving these elements, we signify our hearty consent to the covenant of grace, and, as it were, set our seal to it to confirm it. The language of that speaking action is to this purpose; 'I cordially agree to the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ revealed in the gospel; and in token thereof I hereto affix my seal. As I take this bread and wine before many witnesses, so I openly and avowedly take and receive the Lord Jesus as my only Saviour and Lord, and the food and life of my soul: I cheerfully receive the offer of salvation according to the terms proposed in the gospel; of which let this bread and wine given and received be a token, or pledge, and seal.'
This, my brethren, is the meaning of this solemn action. And hence you may know whether you are qualified to join in it. If you have not heartily consented to the contract, it is the greatest absurdity and dissimulation to set your seal to it. What1 will you, as it were, annex your hand and seal to a bargain that you do not agree to? Can you dare thus to be trifling with an heart. searching, all-knowing God? But, if divine grace has powerfully engaged your hearts to consent to this agreement, come with humble boldness, and attest and seal it before men and angels. And remember, for your comfort, that on God's part it always stands firm and unalterable. You have his word, his hand-writing, his oath, his seal, to confirm your faith ; and what can you desire more to give you strong consolation?
IV. This ordinance of the Lord's supper was intended for the saints to hold communion together.
By the communion of saints, I mean that mutual love and charity, that reciprocal acknowledgment of each other, that brotherly intercourse and fellowship, which should be cultivated among them as children of the same father, in the same family, and as members of the same society, or mystical body. This is a thing of so much importance, that it is an article of the common creed of the christian church.
Our sitting down at the same table, partaking of the same elements, and commemorating the same Lord, are very expressive of this communion, and have a natural tendency to cultivate and cherish it. In such a posture we look like children of one family, fed at the same table upon the same spiritual provisions. It is a significant expression, that we are one in heart and affection; that we have one hope of our calling, one faith, one baptism, one Lord Jesus Christ, one God and Father of all ; and that we acknowledge one another as brethren and fellowchrsitians.*
* The iyiirut, or love feasts, among the primitive christians, were intended still farther to express this brotherly love and communion; but as the practice was at length abused, it was laid aside.
him. He draws near to them, and revives their souls ; and they draw near to him, and converse with him in prayer, and in other ordinances of his worship. Hence he is said to dwell in them, and to walk in them; 2 Cor vi. 16. And our bodies are the temfiles of the Holy Ghost, in uhich he residet. 1 Cor. vi. 19. Christ speaks of this mutual intercourse in the strongest terms; If a man love me, my Father will love him, and I will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him. John xi v. 23. There is also a kind of community of goods between Christ and his people. They are children of the same Father, and he is not ashamed to call them brethren; they are joint heirs of the same inheritance. They have a fellowship in his sufferings, Phil. iii. 10. and are sharers in the glory and bliss of his resurrection and exaltation. The relation between them is often represented by that between husband and wife, between whom all things are common. Hence the apostle argues, that if we are Christ's, then all things are ours. I Cor. iii. 21 ad Jin. There is also an happy interchange of property between Christ and his people: happy for them, though it was terrible to him. He took their sin upon him, and they have his righteousness in exchange. He endured the death they had incurred, and they enjoy the life he obtained. He assumed the curse due to them, and they have the blessing transferred to them whioh was due to him. Here again the conjugal relation may be a proper illustration. As the wife is entitled to the inheritance of her husband, and he is answerable for her debts and obligations, so Christ made himself answerable in behalf of his people, for all their debts to the law and justice of God ; and they are entitled to all tlwJ blessings he has purchased. O what a gracious and advantageous exchange is this for us!
Now the Lord's Supper is a very proper emblem of this communion, and a suitable mean to cultivate it.* It is the place where Christ and his people meet, and have their interviews. He, the great Master of the feast, feeds them at his own table, upon his own provisions, in his own house, and they eat and drink, as it were, in company with him; and thus it is a social
* The apostle illustrates this point in 1 Cor. x. where he cautions the Corinthians against joining with idolaters in their religious festivals, because they could not do it without holding communion with those daemons in honour of whom they were celebrated. His argument is to this purpose ; "That as in the Lord's Supper, we hold communion with Christ, and as the Jews, in their sacred feasts, communicated with God at his altar, so, in these idolatrous feasts, they held a religious communion with the idol." And this supposes that in the Lord's supper, we really have communion with Christ. See ver. 20,21.
entertainment between them. There he favours them with his spiritual presence, and gives them access to him; and they draw hear to him with humble boldness, and enjoy a full liberty of speech and conversation with him. There, under the elements of bread and wine, he makes over to them his body and blood, and all the blessings purchased by his sufferings ; and they receive them with eager desire: they cast their guilt and unworthiness upon him, and give themselves to him, in return for hit richer gifts to them. There they put in their humble claim as fellow-heirs with him, and he graciously acknowledges their title good. There is a solemn exchange made between them of guilt for-righteousness, of misery for happiness, of the curse for a blessing, of life for death. Christ takes the evils upon himself, and they cast them off themselves upon him ; and he makes over the blessings to them, and they humbly receive them by faith. And of all this, his appointing and their receiving this ordinance, and, as it were, sitting down together at one table, like husband and wife, or parent and children,is a very proper emblem and representation. And I doubt not but some of you, upon such occasions, have enjoyed the pleasures of communion with him, which gives you an high esteem for this sacred feast. and clearer ideas of its design, than is in the power of any language to afford.
Here again you may learn one important preparative for the ordinance of the Lord's Supper; and that is, reconciliation to God, and a delight in communion with him. You cannot walk together, or maintain fellowship with him, till you are agreed, and take pleasure in his society; therefore carefully inquire into this point.
Having thus shewn you the principal ends of this institution, and the qualifications necessary in those that would partake of it, I shall subjoin this one general remark,' That it is evident from all 'that has been said, that persons who live vicious and irreligious 1 lives, whatever their profession be, have no right to this ordi'nance, and should not be admitted to it by the officers of the 'church, till they profess their repentance and reformation.' When we exclude such, we are not taking too much upon us, nor pretending to judge of what we have nothing to do with ; but We only exercise that power which is inherent in every society, and with which Christ has expressly invested his church. Every society has a power to exclude those from its peculiar privileges, who violate the essential and fundamental laws of its constitution
And no law can be so essential to any constitution, as a life of holiness is to the character of a christian, and the constitution of the christian church. It is no matter what persons profess with their lips, it is the life that is to be regarded as the decisive evidence. What would it signify for a man to insist upon it that he was honest, if he persisted in theft and robbery; or to take the oaths of allegiance, when his conduct was a course of rebellion against his sovereign? And equally insignificant and absurd is a profession . of christianity without a correspondent practice. If we consider the design and end of this ordinance, we cannot but see that such persons cut themselves off from all right to it. Is it fit that a drunkard, a swearer, or any profane sinner should commemorate the death of the holy Jesus, while he has no love to him, but is determined to go on in sin? Should they wear the badge of Christ's disciples, whose lives proclaim them his enemies? Should they affix their seals to the covenant of grace, who have never consented to it, but are grossly violating it by their practice \ Should they hold communion with Christ and his people, who have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness I Hear the apostle upon this head: Ye cannot drink the cufi of the Lord and the cufi of devils: ye cannot be fiarlakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils, 1 Cor. x. 21. the thing is absurd and impracticable. For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? Or what communion hath light with darkness? Or what con* cord hath Christ with Belial ? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing. 2 Cor. vi. 14—17. As to public offences, the apostle gives this direction to Timothy, which is binding upon all the ministers of Christ: 7'hem that sin, that is, that sin publicly, rebuke before all, that others also may fear. 1 Tim. v. 20. To the same purpose he speaks to Titus; a man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject, Tit. iii. 10, or cast out of the church. This indeed is immediately intended of fundamental errors in principle, but it may undoubtedly be applied to vicious practices; for, as Archbishop Tillotson justly observes, ' The worst of heresies is a bad life.' As to private offences against a particular person, in which the church, as such, is not concerned, private measures are to be taken to bring the offender to repentance, till they are found to be in vain, and then the church is to be apprised of it; and if he pay no regard to that authority, he is to be excluded from the society. This is according to Christ's express direction, in Matt, xviii. 15, &c. If thy brother trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more ; and if he neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church ; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen-man and a fiublican. There is nothing more plain in scripture, than that scandalous members should be cast out of the church ; and an excessive indulgence is most severely censured. St. Paul orders Timothy to turn away from such as have the form of godliness- but deny the power thereof. 2 Tim iii. 5. He lays the weight of his apostolic authority upon the christian church in this case. We command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which ye received of us. 2 Tlitss. iii. 6. The churches of Pergamos and Thyalira are severely threatened by Christ himself, for tolerating the corrupt sect of the Nicolaitans, and the followers of Balaam's and Jezebel's profane and loose practices, and not casting them out of their communion. Rev. ii. 14, Sec. And the church of Ephesus is commended for her strict discipline, and that she could not bear them that were evil, and had tried pretended aftostles, discovered and rejected them as impostors. But I need go no farther than the chapter where my text lies, for abundant evidence of the necessity of this holy discipline. Here St. Paul warmly rebukes the Corinthian church for allowing a scandalous member to continue in communion with them; and solemnly charges them to cast him out from the church into the wide world, the territories of Satan, who is called the god of this world. And this he strongly describes, in order to strike terror into the offender, as a delivering him over to Satan. He urges this wholesome severity, as a proper expedient to bring the offender himself to repentance, and especially to keep their church pure. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole tumfi ? And just so the indulgence of one corrupt member may in time corrupt the whole society. It was by the remarkable strictness of their discipline, that the primitive church kept itself from corruption in the midst of heathens and idolaters. And it is the want of this that has so scandalously corrupted the generality of our modern churches, whose members are very often the reproach of that religion which they profess. Lit not us imitate them, but pity and pray for them, lest we be>
come a mere mass of corruption, like them. The apostle forbids not only all religious communion, but all unnecessary familiarity with such scandalous professors; and intimates, that we should be more shy of them than of such as make no pretensions to religion at all. / wrote to you, says he, not to keefi comftany with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world: that is,' I do not mean that you should break off all intercourse with the fornicators of this world, who are professedly of the world, and make no pretensions to Christianity ; or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters; for then ye must needs go out of the world :* all places are so full of such profligate sinners, that you cannot avoid them without leaving human society altogether. But now I have written unto you, says he, not to keefi com' fiany, if any one that is called a brother, a christian brother by profession, here lies the emphasis, if any one that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard or an extortioner, not to keefi comfiany with such an one, no not to eat. 1 Cor. v. ver. 10, II. Cultivate no unnecessary familiarity with such a one: do not m:ike a choice of him as your guest or companion at your common meals, much less in the sacred feast of the Lord's supper.
You see, my brethren, we are not at liberty in this case; we are tied down by the divine authority to the faithful exercise of discipline. And though nothing can be more disagreeable to us than to touch the sores of mankind, yet we cannot dispense with our duty in this respect. If we make a compliment of the ordinances of Christ, it is at our peril. It is therefore the most unreasonable and absurd thing for persons by their offences to constrain the officers of the church to animadvert upon them, and then to take it ill that they faithfully do their duty. All that is required of them is a profession of deep repentance for their misconduct and a promise of reformation for the future. And is this too much to do to repair the injury they have done to religion, to satisfy the socie'y to which they belong, and restore themselves into the charity of their brethren, whose hearts are so grieved by their conduct? Or are they indeed determined not to repent and reform, but go on in their- wicked courses? Then they have nothing to do with the peculiar privileges of the christian church, and therefore should not claim them It is in vaih here to object, ' That none can forgive sins but God, and therefore they will not confess them to man.' For, as 1 told you, every member of the christian church ought to give his fellowmembers some evidence that he is indeed one of their body, and worthy of their chanty. But what evidence can they have of this, if when he falls into some scandalous sin inconsistent with his profession, he does not so much as profess his repentance? It is only God that can pardon the sin, as it is done against him: .but the church is also offended, and every society as well as the particular person who is offended, has a right te demand satisfaction. Hence we are commanded to confess our fault* to one another, James v. 16. and that is a proud, impenitent creature indeed, unworthy of a place among christians, who thinks it a mighty thing to make this small satisfaction. The incestuous Corinthian was brought to repentance by the wholesome severities used with him. And upon this, the apostle, in his second epistle, advises them to forgive him, (which implies, that in some sense the offence was against the church; and, in that sense, that they had power to forgive him) that they should comfort him, and confirm their love towards turn, lest he should be swallowed u/t with over-much sorrow. 2 Cor. ii. 7, 8. And shall we be more obstinate than an incestuous, excommunicated Corinthian?
As this subject naturally came in my way, and as it is necessary for us as church-members to have right ideas of gospel-discipline, I have taken this opportunity to enlarge on it ; and I hope you will so remember it, as to render all instructions on this headneedless hereafter.
I now proceed to what is more practical.
Let me as an herald of Jesus Christ proclaim to you the business of the next Lord's day. We are going to commemorate the most important event that ever happened upon our globe; an event accomplished about seventeen hundred years ago, but never to be forgotten; an event that extends its happy consequences to the remotest periods of eternity, I mean the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ for us. And who among you is prepared and willing to commemorate this grand event? Where are the broken-hearted penitents? Where the lovers of a crucified Saviour? Where the happy persons that believe in him with, all their hearts? Come, take the dear memorials of your precious Redeemer; come, refresh your souls once more with the sweet remembrance of his love. O ! shall his dear name be forgot among us ? What! forgotten, after all he has done, after all he has suffered for us I Can you bear the thought? We are going to profess openly before a scoffing world, that we are the servants and disciples of a crucified Christ; we are going to put on the badges of his servants, and wear his livery; to enlist as volunteers under his banner, and swear allegiance and fidelity to him. And where are those that are willing to join with us? Who it ufion the Lord's side? Who? Come ye that will have Christ for your Master, come enter your names in his list: be fixed and determined for him. Hov> long will ye halt between two opinions? It is a plain case and requires no long time to deliberate. Come ye that would stand among his people at his right hand at last, come now with prepared hearts, and mingle among them at his table. We are going to enter into an everlasting covenant with our God, and to set our solemn seal to the contract. And who among you gives his consent? Who is willing to take the Lord Jesus for his only Saviour and Lord, and to give himself up to him entirely and forever? Who will avouch the Lord to be his God, that He may avouch him to be one of his people? How are your hearts, my brethren, disposed in this respect? Do they give a full consent? And are you willing from this time to renounce and abjure all your lusts and sinful pleasu res? In short, do you consent to the covenant of grace? If so, come and confirm it with that solemn oath and seal. God and Christ are agreed to the proposal ; and if you agree, the happy contract is made: it is established firmer than the pillars of heaven ; and if you had them, you might venture ten thousand souls upon it. We are going to maintain communion with the saints, and sit down with them at the same table of our common Lord. And who of you would join yourselves with that little flock, that despised but happy few? If you would mingle with them in heaven, separate from the wicked world, and join them now ; and as a token of it eat of the same bread, and drink of the same cup with them. But we are going to maintain communion of a still more exalted kind: communion with the Father of our spirits, with the Son of his love, and with the Holy Ghost. And where are they that pant and languish for this sacrtd and divine fellowship? Come to the table of the Lord, the place of interview, and you may humbly hope to meet him there. There you may pour out your hearts to him with all the freedom of intimacy and filial boldness, and there you may receive the tokens of his love.
My brethren, if, upon careful self-examination, you find reason to hope you h ave the qualifications of acceptable communicants. which I have described, I require you, in the name of that Jesus who expired upon the cross for you, a name which one would think should have some weight with you; in his endearing, irresistible name, I require you to come to his tabic. This is not only your privilege, but your duty; and you cannot neglect it, without the basest ingratitude and wickedness. Shall Jesus, when he views the guests around his table, find your seat empty? Alas! shall he have reason to say,' What! has such a one turned his back upon me? I bought him with my blood, and have I deserved to be thus treated by him?' O! my brethren, is it come to that pass with you that you stand in need of persuasions to commemorate that Saviour who laid down his life for you? Had he been as shy of a cross as you are of his table, as backward to die as you are to commemorate his death, alas! what would have become of you?
What are the obstructions and discouragements that lie in your way? Mention them, and melliinks I can remove them all in a few words, when the case is so plain. Do you urge, that you are afraid you are not prepared? But have you examined yourselves impartially by what I have said? Are you sure you have the qualifications mentioned? If so, your way is very clear. Or if you are not sure, does it appear probable to you? If so, you may humbly venture. Or if you cannot go so far as a probability, have you some trembling hopes? hopes which, though they often waver, yet you cannot entirely cast away, though you admit all the evidence you can get, and are desirous to know the very worst of yourselves. Why, if you have even thus much of encouragement, I would advise you to come, though with trembling. If you are impartial in self-examination, and yet cannot after all discover that you are destitute of those qualifications I have mentioned, it is extremely unlikely that you are deceived: persons are never deceived in this case but by their own carelessness and partiality ; therefore take courage. If you look out with a careful eye, there is little danger of your splitting on this rock.
Or are you afraid that you will not be able to perform your sacramental vows, but may apostatise from your God? But I need not tell you that your strength is entirely from God: and I appeal to yourselves, whether it be most likely you will obtain strength from him in the way of duty, or in the neglect of it? VOL. II. 14
My brethren, do you do your duty, and leave the consequence to him. Trust in him, and he will take care of you, and keep you from falling, or raise you up if you should fall. It is not his usual way to desert those that, sensible of their own weakness, depend upon him; nay, he has bound himself by promise that he will not do it; but you shall be kefit by his fiower through faith unto salvation, 1 Pet. i. 5, and he will never leave you nor forsake you, Ilch xiii. 5, therefore in his strength, humbly make the adventure.
As for such of you as have not the qualifications described, and yet are communicants at the Lord's table, I have a few serious considerations to offer to you.
1. Did you never observe that solemn warning of St. Paul, which, like a flaming sword, hovers round the table of the Lord to guard it from your profanation? Whosoever shall eat . of this bread, and drink of this cufi of the Lord unwort/Uly, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord; and eateth and drinketh damnation, or judgment, to himself. 1 Cor. xi. 27, 29. Keep off, therefore, yc unholy sinners, lest the weight of this tremendous curse fall upon you and crush you to ruin.
2. To what purpose do you cpmmunicate ? This will not constitute you christians, nor save your souls. Not all the ordinances that ever God has instituted can do this, without an interest in Christ, and Uersal holiness of heart and life. And will you incur such dreadful guilt, without answering any valuable end by it?
3. How absurd is it for you to pretend friendship to Christ in this ordinance, when your hearts are not well affected towards him ! . This I have hinted at already. This ordinance is a seal; but what do you set your seal to, when you do not heartily and practically consent to the covenant of grace? How can you hold communion with the saints, when you are none of them ? Or with God, when you neither know him nor love him? How dare you wear the badge and livery of his servants, when you are enemies in your minds by wicked works? Will you mingle among his people, when you belong to the camp of the gloomy god of this world I Will you act the part of Judas over again, and compliment Christ with a traiterous kiss? What absurdity, what gross hypocrisy, what a daring insult is this? Can Omniscience be imposed upon by such pretensions? Or will a jealous God let them escape unpunished? Do but read a part of the fiftieth Psalm: you will see your doom, ver. 16—22. Unto the wicked, God .tailA, what hast thou to do, that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth ; teeing thou hatest instruction, and cailc.it my words behind thee ?—-These things hast thou done, and I kefit silence: thou thoughtest I was altogether such an one as thyself. But I will reprove thee, a.id set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in fiieces, and there be none to deliver. O, Sirs, consider, it will be a poor plea at last to have it to say, Lord, Lord, have we not eaten and drank in thy firesence? and thou hast taught in our streets. The supreme Judge will, notwithstanding, pronounce the dreadful sentence upon you, Defiart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. Luke xiii. 26, 27.
4. Has not God appointed other means which are preparatory to this ordinance; and in the use of which you may hope to obtain proper qualifications? His word, prayer, meditation, and such means, are for the common use of saints and sinners, and intended to beget as well as to confirm grace in the hearts of men. But the Lord's supper is the peculiar privilege of such as are true christians already; and is intended only to cherish and improve true religion where it is begun. Therefore your partaking of it without this grand preparative, is preposterous, and directlycontrary to the order of divine appointment. Sinners, go first upon your bended knees before God ; cry to him with all the earnestness of perishing creatures, for converting grace. Think upon your miserable condition, and never take off your thoughts from the melancholy contemplation, till your hearts are deeply affected. Read, and hear, and meditate upon his word, till you know your danger and remedy. Take this method first, and when you have succeeded, come to this ordinance, and God, angels and men, will bid you welcome.
5. Consider how aggravated your punishment will be, if you continue in your present condition. To sink into hell from the table of the Lord ! O! what a terrible fall! They that perished from Sodom and Gomorrah, though their punishment will be intolerable, will be but slightly punished in comparison of you. A lost communicant!—One that went to hell with the bread and wine, the memorials of a dying Saviour, as it were, in his mouth! 0! raethinks such a one must be the most shocking sight in the infernal regions. How will lost angels, and lost heathens, wonder and stare at you as an horrible phenomenon, a dreadful curiosity! How will they upbraid you, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! art thou also become as one of us I" To tell the truth without reserve, I cannot but tremble at the thought of seeing such of you on the left hand of the Judge.
0! what a shocking figure will you make there! Therefore do not make the profanation of the body and blood of Christ the whole of your religion, but begin where you should, in earnest endeavours after a new heart and life, in the use of the means appointed for that end.
But there are some of you, perhaps, who may take encouragement from hence, and think you are safe, because you have not been guilty of profaning this solemn institution. You are conscious you are not prepared, and therefore most .contentedly stay away. There are, no doubt, sundry of you who have lived in this neglect all your lives. 1 have a few things to say to you, and
I pray you to apply them to yourselves.
1. Consider what it is you say, when you declare you are unfit for this ordinance. There are some that seem to make a merit of it, that they stay away from a sense of their want of preparation. But what is this want? It is the want of all love to God, of faitli in Christ, of repentance for sin; it is the want of holiness of heart and life, and every good tiling; it is to be without pardon, without a title to heaven, without any interest in the righteousness oi Christ; it is to be a slave to sin and Satan, an heir of hell, a poor perishing creature, liable every moment to be cut off, and sink under the weight of divine vengeance: this is your case if you are unfit for this ordinance. Nothing but such things as I have mentioned can render you unfit. And is this a safe case? Can you contentedly rest in it? ALs! is there so much merit in neglecting to remember Christ in this institution, as will render your case safe, and indemnify you? Must you not be shocked at the thought?
2. Are you using all proper means to obtain preparation, with the utmost diligence and earnestness? Or are you inactive and unconcerned about it? If so, it is plain you love to be unprepared: you take pleasure in being disqualified to remember the Lord Jesus. And while you are careless about this, you are virtually careless what will become of you, careless whether heaven or hell will be the place of your everlasting residence : and O! what will be the end of such a course! and how terrible is your guilt!
3. Is it nothing to you that you have lived so many years in the world, without affectionately commemorating that Saviour who died for you, without devoting yourselves to God, consenting to his covenant, and joining yourselves with his people? O! is there no guilt in all this? No guilt in suffering so many opportunities of attending upon this ordinance to pass by neglected? what can be a more aggravated wickedness?
4. This neglect clearly proves that you have no regard for Jesus Christ. You do perhaps insist upon it that you love him. But he himself has left a test of your love: If ye love me, kerfi my commandments. Now this brings the matter to a short issue. There is no command in the whole Bible more plain than that of remembering him in this ordinance. This you know in your consciences. And yet you have lived in the wilful neglect of this known, easy, dying command of Jesus. With what face then can you pretend that you love him? Your love is reprobated, and will not stand the test.
5. Let me remind you of what I observed before, that, by the neglect of this ordinance, you practically renounce your baptism. You are now of age to act for yourselves, and you have not apr proved of the act of your parents, by ratifying it in your own person, therefore you abjure it; you renounce the blessed Trinity, in whose name you were baptised, and to whom you were devoted ; and you give yourselves back to an horrible trinity of another kind, to the world, to sin, and the devil. And are you indeed willing to have no more to do with the God that made you, and with Jesus of Nazareth? Pause and think before you agree to such a dreadful renunciation. But, alas! you have agreed to it already, by refusing to renew your early dedication in your own persons. Therefore the best you can now do is to recall your renunciation and immediately acknowledge the act of your parents as your own.
I would inculcate this particularly on young people. You that are eight or ten years old, or more, you have sense enough to act for yourselves in so plain a case. And what are you resolved upon? Will you be Christ's or Satan's I You cannot avoid choosing one or the other for your master; for not positively choosing Christ, is virtually choosing the devil for your Lord, and hell for your home. If you stand to the act of your parents in dedicating you to God, come make it your own at his table. Such young guests would be an ornament to it: and O! that we may early see you there properly prepared?
6. Do not think that by this neglect you keep yourselves from being under obligations to be holy, and that you are at liberty to live as you list. Your obligations do not depend upon your consent. You were born the servants of God, and you will continue under obligations to be such in spite of you. Is he not the most excellent of Beings, your Creator, your Lawgiver, your Preserver, your Redeemer? And do these things infer no obligation upon you? Have you not also, in sickness, or under horror of conscience, made vows and resolutions in your own persons .' And are you free to sin still? The truth of the case is, do what you will, you are under the strongest obligations to God, and you cannot shake them off; and if you will not observe these obligations to duty, you must submit forever to your indispensable obligation to punishment. And he will make you know that he has a right to punish you, if you will not acknowledge bis right to your obedience.
7. What avails it that you can avoid the Lord's table, when you cannot possibly shun death, or avoid his tribunal? Here try all your art, and you will find it in vain. And if you are not prepared for this ordinance of worship in the church on earth, much less are you prepared for those more exalted forms of worship in the church iu heaven! What then will become of you?
In short, it is a national sin in our country, that the table of the Lord is contemptible; that men who call themselves christians live in the wilful neglect of that ordinance which was appointed by him, whom they acknowledge as the Founder of their religion, to be a memorial of himself. Alas! the very memory of Christ is almost lost among us. Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord. Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this ? Jer. v. 9.
Perhaps some of you will say, .' You shut us up in a strange dilemma indeed. If we come unprepared, we sin; and if we stay away, we sin ; and what then shall we do?' My brethren, I thus shut you up, on purpose that you may see what a wretched case you are in, and that there is no safety for you while you continue in it. You are shut up under a necessity of sinning, and the best choice in such a condition can be only the lesser evil; though even that is extremely aggravated. Whether you come or stay away, you grievously sin: it is all sin, peril, ruin, and misery all throuqS : you should neither come unprepared, nor stay away unprepared; that is, you should not be unprepared at all. Your want of preparation is in itself a complication of wickedness ; and whatever you do in that state, you are neither safe nor in the way of duty : it is altogether a state of sin and danger. The only way of safety and duty is to seek for preparation immediately, and with the utmost earnestness, and then to come to the Lord's supper. And O! let me set all this congregation upon this work before we part to day, and make it the business of this week. You have spent many a week about things of less importance, and will you refuse one to this great work ? Now set about it; now begin to look into the state of your neglected souls; now recollect your sins; look in upon your depraved hearts; look back upon a miserable mis-spent life ; look forward to death, eternity, anJ the divine tribunal just before you; look to Jesus in the agonies of crucifixion on Mount Calvary; and O! look up to God in earnest prayer for his mercy. Let these things follow you home to your houses; let them dwell upon your hearts night and day. Do not laugh, or talk, or trifle them away; for O ! they will rebound upon you with overwhelming weight at last, if you now turn them off. O ! that God may prepare a people for himself in this poor place! O ! that he would visit this barren spot with the showers of divine grace! And may he prepare our hearts for the rich entertainment before us 1 Amen.