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come and eat of the bread of life. Let the ignorant come into the school of Christ, and proceed till they come to the highest form, to the upper room, where this feast is celebrated. Let those that are at enmity with their neighbours also come; let them only first go, and be reconciled to their brethren, and so let them offer their gift. Let those that have a multitude of worldly employments come; only let them leave them, as Abraham did his asses at the bottom of the mount, and so let them ascend to heaven in their thoughts, and converse with God. Let the weak come, that they may grow in strength; and let the strong come, that they may not grow weak. Let them who have fears come, that their hearts may be settled by the acts of a more lively faith; and let them come who have hopes, that they may rise to greater degrees of a humble confidence, Let those who have leisure accept of this invitation, because they have no excuse; and let those who have but little leisure entertain it also, that they may the more sanctify their business and their employments. Let the sad and sorrowful approach, that their hearts may be filled with the joys of the Lord; and let those that rejoice in the Lord always approach, that their joy may be full.”
On receiving unworthily. This
IIS part of our subject, from its importance, calls for distinct consideration. The timid and the fearful are either deterred from a most valuable means of grace, by needless fears and scruples, or come with suspicions, anxiety, and distress. The careless and worldly approach without hesitation the most solemn rite of our holy religion, and make that service which only hardens their hearts, and fills them with pride and self-righteousness, a sort of passport to heaven ; while a large body of professing Christians think the danger of receiving unworthily a sufficient reason for not coming at all. The
passage of Scripture on which the fears of men are principally founded, occurs in the 1st of Corinthians, xi, 27-29.-Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
The sin of the Corinthians had been before particularly specified. In eating, every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What! have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the Church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.
You may here see what grievous and open disorders had crept into the Corinthian Church, and need not wonder at the strong expressions of the Apostle, describing the danger of their sin. They slighted the sacred rite which represented the Saviour's death; made no difference between it, and a common meal; and were guilty of excesses, even at the very time of its celebration. The way in which the Lord's Supper is now administered among us, renders such a glaring abuse of it impracticable, though it be still possible, in our temper and spirit, to fall into a measure of the same guilt.
It may be first expedient to shew, WHAT IS NOT RECEIVING UNWORTHILY, He does not necessarily receive unworthily, who strongly feels his unworthiness; nor does it follow that he must have received unworthily, whose faith is weak. There may be many doubts and fears, much trepidation and anxiety, and yet the heart be in the main right with God; and those distressing feelings may only arise from not fully understanding the riches of Christ, and the liberty of his Gospel. Nor yet does it shew this, if we feel the power of indwelling sin: St. Paul could say, in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. This feast is not for angels, but for men encompassed with infirmities. A coldness and dulness in our duties, which we lament, does not of itself shew that we receive unworthily. Some are naturally dull and heavy; but, if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not. Some think a mere remembrance of an injury, though without ill will, or many worldly troubles, or the hatred of some one, or if their hearts have been little
moved or affected during the solemnity, or they have been then much harassed or tempted, that they have therefore received unworthily ; but this by no means follow's, as this chapter, and various parts of this treatise will sufficiently shew. Nor yet, if afterward we fall into sin or difficulty, does it necessarily shew that unworthy receiving was the cause. Anxious minds often distress themselves needlessly on these points.
The word UNWORTHILY means, as the context plainly shews, in an unbecoming and unsuitable way; not with that design with which this feast was instituted by Christ, nor in a manner agreeable to its importance and dignity.*
As it respects indeed the PERSONS who receive, those who are living in wilful and allowed sin, those who are impenitent, and have not sought the mercy of God, as poor and perishing sinners, by faith in Christ Jesus, have no suitable qualifications, and no scriptural encouragements, to go to the table of the Lord. Our Liturgy justly tells them, “Repent you of your sins, , or else come not to that holy table.”
He who makes no difference between the sacrament and a common meal, who looks not through the outward emblems, and does not by faith regard them as figures of the Saviour's body and blood, who trusts not in Christ's death, and has no love to him, and whose tempers towards his fellow creatures are unforgiving and malignant, he discerns not the Lord's body, and receives unworthily.
* avažiws non eo consilio, quo hoc epulum a Christo est institutum, modo non conveniente dignitati et gravitati rei.
Nor is this a slight sin with trivial consequencesgreat guilt is contracted, and severe afflictions follow.
Great GUILT IS CONTRACTED. They are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. In the full sense of the terms, this was the guilt of the Jews who crucified the Lord; in a secondary sense, of those nominal Christians who apostatize from the truth. But a measure even of this awful guilt, may be contracted by unworthily receiving the Lord's Supper. A person may thus manifest a contempt of the sacrifice of Christ, and be chargeable with a dreadful profanation of that sacred institution which brings it to our view.
If, Christian reader, you would shudder at the idea of imbruing your hands in the Saviour's blood, guard against any approach to so foul an iniquity. True it is, that even this is not unpardonable ; for many even of the murderers of our Lord repented, and were saved. But surely no Christian can voluntarily slight the Saviour in the greatest instance of his love, with the notion that his amazing goodness may yet pardon this sin. When the question is asked, Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? he will ever reply with the holy Apostle, God forbid !
SeveRE AFFLICTIONS HAVE SOMETIMES FOLLOWED THIS GUILT, The unworthy receiver eateth and drinketh damnation to himself. The term indeed means not, as some have needlessly distressed themselves by supposing it does, eternal ruin; but it does imply the condemnation of their heavenly Father, the Divine displeasure and anger. That the Apostle means thus much, with temporal chastisements for their sin, is evident from what he afterwards says~For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.