|« Prev||I. Of Preparation.||Next »|
I. Of Preparation.
That a Christian ought necessarily to prepare himself before he presume to be a partaker of the holy communion, may evidently appear by five reasons:—
First, Because it is God’s commandment; for if he commanded, under the pain of death, that none uncircumcised should eat the paschal lamb (Exod. xii. 48), nor any circumcised under four days preparation, how much greater preparation does he require of him that comes to receive the sacrament of his body and blood? which, as it succeeds, so doth it exceed by many degrees the sacrament of the passover.221
Secondly, Because the example of Christ teaches us so much; for he washed his disciples’ feet before he admitted them to eat of this supper; signifying how thou shouldst lay aside all impureness of heart, and uncleanness of life, and be furnished with humility and charity, before thou presumest to taste of this holy supper (John xiii. 5.)
Thirdly, Because it is the counsel of the Holy Ghost: “Let every man examine himself and so let him eat,” &c. (1 Cor. xi. 28.) And if a man, when he is to eat with an earthly prince, must consider diligently what is before him, and put a knife to his throat, rather than commit any rudeness (Prov. xxiii. 1, 2), how much more oughtest thou to prepare thy soul, that thou mayest behave thyself with all fear and reverence when thou art to feast at the holy table of the Prince of princes.
Fourthly, Because it has been ever the practice of all God’s saints, to use holy preparation before they would meddle with divine mysteries. David would not go near to God’s altar, till he had first washed his hands in innocency (Psal. xxvi. 6;) much less shouldst thou, without due preparation, approach the Lord’s table. Abimelech would not give, nor David and his men would not eat the shew-bread, but on condition that they were pure from all defilement (1 Sam. xxi. 4;) how much less shouldst thou presume to eat the Lord’s bread, or rather the bread which is the Lord, unless thy heart be first cleansed by repentance? And if the Lord required Joshua, as he had done Moses before, to put off his shoes, in reverence of his holiness (Exod. iii. 5; Josh. v. 14), who was present in that place, where he appeared with a sword in his hand, for the destruction of his enemies; how much rather shouldst thou put off all the affections of thine earthly conversation, when thou comest near that place, where Christ appeareth to the eye of thy faith, with wounds in his hands and side, for the redemption of his friends? And for this cause it is said, that the Lamb’s wife hath made herself ready for the marriage (Rev. xix. 7.) Prepare 222therefore thyself, if thou wilt in this life he betrothed unto Christ by sacramental grace, or in heaven married unto him by eternal glory.
Fifthly, Because God hath ever smitten with fearful judgments those who have presumed to use his holy ordinances without due fear and preparation. God set a flaming sword in a cherubim’s hand to smite our first parents, being defiled with sin, if they should attempt to go into paradise to eat the sacrament of the tree of life (Gen. iii. 24.) Fear thou, therefore, to be smitten with the sword of God’s vengeance, if thou presumest to go to the church with an impenitent heart, to eat the sacrament of the Lord of life. God smote 50,000 of the Bethshemites for looking irreverently into his ark, and killed Uzza with sudden death, for but rashly touching the ark, and smote Uzziah with a leprosy for meddling with the priest’s office, which pertained not to him (1 Sam. vi. 19; 1 Chron. xiii. 9, &c.; 2 Chron. xxvi. 19.) The fear of such a stroke made Hezekiah so earnestly pray to God that he would not smite the people that wanted time to prepare themselves as they should, to eat the passover: and it is said, that the Lord heard Hezekiah, and healed the people; intimating, that had it not been for Hezekiah’s prayer, the Lord had smitten the people for their want of due preparation. And the man who came to the marriage-feast without his wedding garment, or examining himself, was examined by another; and thereupon bound hand and foot, and cast into utter darkness (Matt. xxii. 12.) And St. Paul tells the Corinthians, that for want of this preparation in examining and judging themselves, before they did eat the Lord’s Supper, God had sent that fearful sickness among them, of which some were then sick, others weak, and many fallen asleep, that is, taken away by temporal death; insomuch that the apostle saith, that every unworthy receiver eats his own judgment,—temporal, if he repents; eternal, if he repents not; and that in so heinous a measure, as if he were guilty of the very body and blood of the Lord, 223whereof this sacrament is a holy sign and seal (1 Cor. xi. 27, 30.) And princes punish the indignity offered to their great seal, in as deep a measure as that which is done to their own persons, whom it represents. And how heinous the guiltiness of Christ’s blood is, may appear by the misery of the Jews ever since they wished his blood to be on them and their children (Matt. xxvii. 25.) But then thou wilt say, it were safer to abstain from coming at all to the holy communion: not so, for God has threatened to punish the wilful neglect of his sacraments with eternal damnation both of body and soul (Numb. ix. 13; Heb. ii. 3; Matt. xxvi. 26; 1 Cor. xi. 24.) And it is the commandment of Christ, “Take, eat; do this in remembrance of me;” and he will have his commandment, under the penalty of this curse, obeyed. And seeing that this sacrament was the greatest token of Christ’s love, which he left at his end to his friends whom he loved to the end (John xiii. 1), therefore the neglect and contempt of this sacrament must argue the contempt and neglect of his love and blood shedding (Heb. x. 29;) than which no sin in God’s account can seem more heinous. Nothing hinders why thou mayest not come freely to the Lord’s table; but because thou hadst rather want the love of God, than leave thy filthy sins. O come, but come a guest prepared for the Lord’s table; seeing they are blessed who are called to the Lamb’s supper (Rev. xix. 9.) O come, but come prepared, because the efficacy of the sacrament is received according to the proportion of the faith of the receiver.
This preparation consists in the serious consideration of three things: First, Of the worthiness of the sacrament, which is termed, to discern the Lord’s body; Secondly, Of thine own unworthiness, which is, to judge thyself; Thirdly, Of the means whereby thou mayest become a worthy receiver, called communion of the Lord’s body.224
1. Of the Worthiness of the Sacrament.
The worthiness of this sacrament is considered three ways: First, By the majesty of the author ordaining; Secondly, By the preciousness of the parts of which it consists; Thirdly, By the excellency of the ends for which it was ordained.
(1.) Of the Author of the Sacrament.
The author was not any saint or angel, hut our Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of God. For it pertains to Christ only, under the New Testament, to institute a sacrament; because he only can promise and perform the grace that it signifieth. And we are charged to hear no voice but his in his church (Matt. xvii. 5.) How sacred should we esteem the ordinance that proceeds from so divine an author.
(2.) Of the Parts of the Sacrament.
The parts of this blessed sacrament are three: First, The earthly signs signifying; Secondly, The divine word sanctifying; Thirdly, The heavenly graces signified.
Secondly, The divine, word is the word of Christ’s institution, pronounced with prayers and blessings by a lawful minister (Heb. v. 4; Numb. xvi. 40; 1 Cor. x. 16.) The bread and wine without the word are nothing but as they were before; but when the word comes to those elements, then they are made a sacrament; and God is present with his own ordinance, and ready to perform whatsoever he promises. The divine words of blessing do not change or annihilate the substance of the bread and wine, for if their substance did not remain it could be no sacrament; but it changes them in use and in name. For that which was before but common bread and wine to nourish men’s bodies, 225is, after the blessing, destinated to an holy use, for feeding of the souls of Christians. And where before they were called but bread and wine, they are now called by the name of those holy things which they signify, the body and blood of Christ: the better to draw our minds from those outward elements to the heavenly graces, which by the sight of our bodies they represent to the spiritual eyes of our faith. Neither did Christ direct these words, “This is my body, this is my blood,” to the bread and wine, but to his disciples, as appears by the words going before, “Take ye, eat ye.” Neither is the bread his body, but in the same sense that the cup is the New Testament, viz. by a sacramental metonymy And St. Mark notes plainly that the words, “This is my blood,” &c., were not pronounced by our Saviour till after that all his disciples had drunk of the cup (Mark xiv, 23, 24.) And afterwards in respect of the natural substance thereof, he calls that the fruit of the vine, which, in respect of the spiritual signification thereof, he had before termed his blood (verse 25), after the manner of terming all sacraments. And Christ bids us not to make him, but to do this in remembrance of him; and he bids us eat not simply his body, but his body as it was then broken, and his blood shed; which St. Paul expounds to be but the communion of Christ’s body, and the communion of his blood (1 Cor. x. 16;) that is, an effectual pledge that we are partakers of Christ and of all the merits of his body and blood. And by the frequent use of this communion, Paul will have us to make a shew of the Lord’s death till he come from heaven (1 Cor. xi. 26; Acts iii. 21; i. 11), and till we, as eagles, shall be caught up into the air to meet him who is the blessed carcase and life of our souls (Matt. xxiv. 27, 28.)
Thirdly, The spiritual graces are likewise two: the body of Christ, as it was with the feeling of God’s anger due to us, crucified; and his blood as it was, in the like sort, shed for the remission of our sins. They are in 226number two, but in use one, viz. whole Christ, with all his benefits, offered to all, and given indeed to the faithful. These are the three integral parts of this blessed sacrament, the sign, the word, and the grace. The sign without the word, or the word without the sign, can do nothing; and both conjoined are unprofitable without the grace signified; but all three concurring make an effectual sacrament to a worthy receiver. Some receive the outward sign without the spiritual grace, as Judas, who, as Austin saith, received the bread of the Lord, but not the bread which was the Lord. Some receive the spiritual grace without the outward sign, as the saint thief on the cross, and innumerable of the faithful who dying desire it, but cannot receive it through some external impediments; but the worthy receivers to their comfort receive both in the Lord’s Supper.
Christ chose bread and wine, rather than any other elements, to be the outward signs in this blessed sacrament: First, Because they are easiest for all sorts to attain unto; Secondly, To teach us that as man’s temporal life is chiefly nourished by bread7878David calls bread the strength of man’s heart (Psal. civ. 15;) Isaiah, the stay of bread (ch. iii. 1;) Ezekiel, the staff of bread (ch. iv. 16;) Homer, Μύελος ἀνδρῶν. and cherished by wine, so are our souls by his body and blood sustained and quickened unto eternal life. Christ appointed wine with the bread to be the outward signs in this sacrament, to teach us—First, That as the perfect nourishment, of man’s body consists both of meat and drink; so Christ is unto our souls not in part, but in perfection, both salvation and nourishment; Secondly, That by seeing the sacramental wine apart from the bread, we should remember how all his precious blood was spilt out of his blessed body for the remission of sins. The outward signs the pastor gives in the church, and thou dost eat with the mouth of thy body; the spiritual grace Christ reacheth from heaven, and thou must eat it with the mouth of thy faith.227
(3.) Of the Ends for which this holy Sacrament was ordained.
The excellent and admirable ends or fruits, for which this blessed sacrament was ordained, are seven.
Of the first End of the Lord’s Supper.
1. To keep Christians in a continual remembrance of that propitiatory sacrifice which Christ, once for all, offered by his death upon the cross, to reconcile us to God (Matt. xxvi. 26.) “Do this,” saith Christ, “in remembrance of me.” (Luke xxii. 19.) And, saith the apostle, “As oft as ye shall eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Cor. xi. 26;) and he saith that by this sacrament, and the preaching of the word, Jesus Christ was as evidently set forth before the eyes of the Galatians, as if he had been crucified among them (Gal. iii. 1;) for the whole action represents Christ’s death, the breaking of the bread blessed, the crucifying of his blessed body, and the pouring forth of the sanctified wine, the shedding of his holy blood. Christ was once in himself really offered (Heb. ix. 26; x. 12x. 12;) but as oft as the sacrament is celebrated, so oft is he spiritually offered by the faithful.
Hence the Lord’s Supper is called a propitiatory sacrifice, not properly or really, but figuratively; because it is a memorial of that propitiatory sacrifice which Christ offered upon the cross. And to distinguish it from that real sacrifice, the fathers call it the unbloody sacrifice.7979Incruentum sacrificium. If it be unbloody, because it is void of blood, then it is not Christ’s natural body: if because it is offered without shedding of blood, then it is not available for the remission of sins (Heb. ix. 22.) It is called the Eucharist, because the “church in this action offers to God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for her redemption, effected by the true and only expiatory sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. If the sight of Moab’s king sacrificing on his walls his own son, to 228move his gods to rescue him (2 Kings iii. 27), moved the assailing kings to such pity, that they ceased the assault, and raised their siege, how should the spiritual sight of God the Father, sacrificing on the cross his only-begotten Son to save thy soul, move thee to love God thy Redeemer, and to leave sin, that could not in justice be expiated by any meaner ransom?
Of the second End of the Lord’s Supper.
2. To confirm our faith; for God by this sacrament doth signify and seal unto us from heaven, that according to the promise and new covenant which he hath made in Christ, he will truly receive into his grace and mercy all penitent believers who duly receive this holy sacrament; and that for the merits of the death and passion of Christ, he will as verily forgive them all their sins as they are made partakers of this sacrament. In this respect the holy sacrament is called “the seal of the new covenant and remission of sins.” (Rom. iv. 11; Matt. xxvi. 28; 1 Cor. xi. 25.) In our greatest doubts we may, therefore, receiving this sacrament, undoubtedly say with Samson’s mother, “If the Lord would kill us, he would not have received a burnt-offering and a meat-offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would at this time have told us such things as these.” (Judges xiii. 23.)
Of the third End of the Lord’s Supper.
3. To be a pledge and symbol of the most near and effectual communion which Christians have with Christ. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. x. 16;) that is, a most effectual sign and pledge of our communion with Christ. This union is called abiding in us, joining to the Lord, dwelling in our hearts (John xiv. 16, 23; 1 Cor. vi. 17, κόλλησις; Eph. iii. 17, 229κατοίκησις)—and set forth in the holy Scriptures by divers similes:—First, Of the vine and branches (John xv. 5.) Secondly, Of the head and body (Eph. iii. 6, σύσσωμα; Eph. v. 23; Col. i. 18; Rom. xii. 4, 5.) Thirdly, Of the foundation and building (Eph. ii. 19, 20.) Fourthly, Of one loaf confected of many grains (1 Cor. x. 17.) Fifthly, Of the matrimonial union between man and wife, and such like (Eph. v. 31, 32; Rev. xxi. 2.) And it is threefold between Christ and Christians. The first is natural, between our human nature, and Christ’s divine nature in the person of the word; the second is mystical, between our persons absent from the Lord, and the person of Christ, God and man, in one mystical body; the third is celestial, between our persons present with the Lord, and the person of Christ in a body glorified: these three conjunctions depend each upon other; for, had not our nature been first hypostatically united to the nature of God in the second Person, we could never have been united to Christ in a mystical body. And if we be not in this life, though absent, united to Christ by a mystical union, we shall never have communion of glory with him in his heavenly presence. The mystical union, chiefly here meant, is wrought between Christ and us by the Spirit of Christ apprehending us; and by our faith stirred up by the -same Spirit, apprehending Christ again: both which St. Paul doth most lively express—“I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. iii. 12.) How can he fall away that holds, and is so firmly holden? This union he shall best understand in his mind who doth most feel it in his heart. But of all other times this union is best felt, and most confirmed, when we duly receive the Lord’s Supper: for then we shall sensibly feel our hearts knit unto Christ, and the desires of our souls drawn by faith and the Holy Ghost, as by the cords of love, nearer and nearer to his holiness.
From this communion with Christ, there follow to the faithful many unspeakable benefits—230
As, first, Christ took by imputation all their sins and guiltiness upon him, to satisfy God’s justice for them (Rom. iv. 25;) and he freely gives, by imputation, unto us all his righteousness in this life, and all his right unto eternal life when this is ended (Phil. iii. 9;) and counteth all the good or ill that is done unto us, as done unto his own person (Matt. xxv. 35; Acts ix. 4; Zech. ii. 8.)
Secondly, There floweth from Christ’s nature into our nature, united to him, the lively spirit and breath of grace, which reneweth us to a spiritual life (Eph. iv. 23, 24;) and so sanctifieth our minds, wills, and affections, that we daily grow more and more conformable to the image of Christ (Rom. viii. 29; 2 Cor. iii. 18.)
Thirdly, He bestoweth upon them all saving graces necessary to attain eternal life, as the sense of God’s love, the assurance of our election, with regeneration, justification, and grace to do good works (John xv. 5; i. 16; 2 Cor. viii. 1, 4, 6, 7, 19), till we come to live with him in his heavenly kingdom. This should teach all true Christians to keep themselves as the undefiled members of Christ’s holy body, and to beware of all uncleanness and filthiness, knowing that they live in Christ, or rather, that Christ liveth in them. From this union with Christ (sealed unto us by the Lord’s Supper) St. Paul draweth arguments to withdraw the Corinthians from the pollution both of idolatry and adultery (1 Cor. x. 7, 8, 16, 21.)
Lastly, From the former communion between Christ and Christians, there flows another communion between Christians among themselves, which is also lively represented by the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper; in that the whole church, being many, do all communicate of one bread in that holy action: “We being many, are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. x. 17;) that as the bread which we eat in the sacrament is but one, though it be confected of many grains; so all the faithful, though they be many, yet are 231they but one mystical body, under one’ head, which is Christ. Our Saviour prayed five times, in that prayer which he made after his last supper, that his disciples might be one (John xvii. 11, 21, 22, 23, 26), to teach us at once how much this unity pleases him. This union between the faithful is so ample, that no distance of place can part it; so strong, that death cannot dissolve it; so durable, that time cannot wear it out; so effectual, that it breeds a fervent love between those who never saw one another’s face. And this conjunction of souls is termed the communion of saints, which Christ effects by six special means:—first, By governing them all by one and the same Holy Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 13;) Secondly, By enduing them all with one and the same faith (Eph. iv. 5;) Thirdly, By shedding abroad his own love into all their hearts (Rom. v. 5;) Fourthly, By regenerating them all by one and the same baptism (Titus iii. 5; Eph. iv. 5;) Fifthly, By nourishing them all with one and the same spiritual food (1 Cor. x. 3, 17;) Sixthly, By being one quickening head of that one body of his church (Col. i. 18), which he reconciled to God in the body of his flesh (ver. 22.) Hence it was that the multitude of believers in the primitive church were of one heart and of one soul, in truth, affection, and compassion (Acts iv. 32.) And this should teach Christians to love one another, seeing they are all members of the same holy and mystical body, of which Christ is head. And therefore they should have all a Christian sympathy and fellow-feeling, to rejoice one in another’s joy, to condole one in another’s grief, to bear with one another’s infirmity, and mutually to relieve one another’s wants.
Of the fourth End of the Lord’s Supper.
4. To feed the souls of the faithful, in the assured hope of life everlasting. For this sacrament is a sign and pledge, to as many as shall receive the same according to Christ’s institution, that he will, according to his promise, by the virtue of his crucified body and blood, as 232verily feed our souls to life eternal, as our bodies are by bread and wine nourished to this temporal life. And to this end, Christ, in the action of the sacrament, really giveth his very body and blood to every faithful receiver.8080Audio quid verba sonent, neque enim mortis tantum ac resurrectionis suæ beneficium nobis offert Christus, sed corpus ipsum in quo passus est ac resurrexit. Concludo, realiter, hoc est vere nobis in cœena dari Ckristi corpus, ut sit animis nostris in eibum salutarem.—Calv. in Com. in 1 Cor. xi. 25. Therefore the sacrament is called the “communion of the body and blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor. x. 16.) And communication is not of things absent, but present;8181Quod se nobis communicat, id sit arcanâ spiritus sancti virtute, quæ res locorum distantiâ sejunctas, ac procul dissitas non modo aggregare, sed coadunare in unum potest.—Calv. ibid. neither were it the Lord’s Supper, if the Lord’s body and blood were not there. Christ is verily present in the sacrament, by a double union: whereof the first is spiritual, between Christ and the worthy receiver; the second is sacramental, between the body and blood of Christ, and the outward signs in the sacrament. The former is wrought by means that the same Holy Spirit, dwelling in Christ and in the faithful, incorporates the faithful, as members to Christ their head, and so makes them one with Christ, and partakers of all the graces, holiness, and eternal glory, which are in him, as sure and as verily as they hear the words of the promise, and are partakers of the outward signs of the holy sacrament. Hence it is that the will of Christ is a true Christian’s will, and the Christian’s life is Christ, who liveth in him (Gal. ii. 20.) If ye look to the things that are united, this union is essential; if to the truth of this union, it is real; if to the manner how it is wrought, it is spiritual. It is not our faith that makes the body and blood of Christ to be present, but the Spirit of Christ dwelling in him and us. Our faith doth but receive and apply to our souls those heavenly graces which are offered in the sacrament.
The other, being the sacramental union, is not a physical or local, but a spiritual conjunction of the earthly 233signs, which are bread and wine, with the heavenly graces, which are the body and blood of Christ, in the act of receiving: as if, by a mutual relation, they were but one and the same thing. Hence it is, that in the same instant of time that the worthy receiver eats with his mouth the bread and wine of the Lord, he eateth also with the mouth of his faith the very body and blood of Christ:8282Corpus non adest, cum pane, ἅμα, id est, simul loco, sed ὁμοῦ, id est, simul tempore. not that Christ is brought down from heaven to the sacrament, but that the Holy Spirit by the sacrament lifts up his mind unto Christ,8383Quum cœna cœlestis sit actio, minime absurdum est Christum in cœlo manentem à nobis recipi.—Calv. in 1 Cor. xi. 25. not by any local mutation, but by a devout affection; so that, in the holy contemplation of faith, he is at that present with Christ, and Christ with him8484Fidem mitte in cœlum, et eum in terris tanquam præsentem tenuisti.—Aug. Ep. iii. ad Vol. Fidem quum dico; non intelligo quamlibet opinionem, sed fiduciam qua quum audis panem tesseram esse corporis Christi, non dubitas impleri à Domino, quod verba sonant: corpus quod nequaquam cernis, spirituale esse tibi alimentum, vinque ex Christi carne vivificam in nos per spiritum diffundi.—Calv. ibid. And thus believing and meditating how Christ’s body was crucified, and his precious blood shed for the remission of his sins, and the reconciliation of his soul unto God, his soul is hereby more effectually fed in the assurance of eternal life, than bread and wine can nourish his body to this temporal life. There must be, therefore, of necessity in the sacrament, both the outward signs, to be visibly seen with the eyes of the body, and the body and blood of Christ, to be spiritually discerned with the eye of faith. But the form, how the Holy Ghost makes the body of Christ, being absent from us in place, to be present with us by our union, St. Paul terms a great mystery (Eph. v. 32), such as our understanding cannot worthily comprehend. The sacramental bread and wine, therefore, are not bare signifying signs, but such as wherewith Christ indeed exhibits and gives to every worthy receiver, not only his divine virtue and efficacy, but also 234his very body and blood, as verily as he gave to his disciples the Holy Ghost, by the sign of his sacred breath, or health to the diseased, by the word of his mouth, or touch of his hand or garment:8585Ego tunc nos demum participare Christi bonis agnosco postquam Christum ipsum obtinemus. Obtinetur non tantum quum pro nobis factum fuisse victimam credimus: sed dum in nobis habitat, dum ejus sumus membra, ex came ejus, dum in unam denique et vitam et substantiam (ut ita loquar.) cum ipso coalescimus.—Calv. in 1 Cor. xi. 25. and the apprehension by faith is more forcible than the most exquisite comprehension of sense or reason. To conclude this point. This holy sacrament is that blessed bread which, being eaten, opened the eyes of the disciples at Emmaus, that they knew Christ (Luke xxiv. 30, 41.) This is that lordly cup, by which we are all made to drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. xii. 13.) This is that rock, flowing with honey, that reviveth the fainting spirits of every true Jonathan that tastes it with the mouth of faith (1 Sam. xiv. 27.) This is that barley loaf, which, tumbling from above, strikes down the tents of the Midianites of infernal darkness (Judges vii. 13.) Elias’s angelical cake and water preserved him forty days in Horeb (1 Kings xix. 6, 7, 8;) and manna, angels’ food, fed the Israelites forty years in the wilderness (Psal. lxxviii. 24, 25; Exod. xvi. 35;) but this is that true bread of life, and heavenly manna (John vi. 32, 35, 49, 50), which if we shall duly eat, will nourish our souls for ever unto life eternal (ver. 51, 58.) How should, then, our souls make unto Christ that request from a spiritual desire, which the people of Capernaum did from a carnal motion, “Lord, evermore give us this bread?” (John vi. 34.)
The fifth End of the Lord’s Supper.
5. To be an assured pledge unto us of our resurrection. The resurrection of a Christian is twofold: First, The spiritual resurrection of our souls, in this life, from the death of sin (John v. 25; Rom. vi. 4, 5, 11), called the first resurrection; because that by the trumpet-voice 235of Christ, in the preaching of the gospel, we are raised from the death of sin to the life of grace: “Blessed and holy is he,” saith St. John, “who hath part in the first resurrection; for on such the second death hath no power.” (Rev. xx. 6.) The Lord’s Supper is both a mean and a pledge unto us of this spiritual and first resurrection: “He that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” (John vi. 57.) And then we are fit guests to sit at the table with Christ, when, like Lazarus, we are raised from the death of sin to newness of life (John xii. 2.)
The truth of this first resurrection will appear by the motion wherewith they are internally moved: For if, when thou art moved to the duties of religion and practice of piety, thy heart answers, with Samuel, “Here I am, speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth” (1 Sam. iii. 10;) and with David, “O God, my heart is ready” (Psal. cviii. 1;) and with Paul, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts ix. 6;) then surely thou art raised from the death of sin, and hast thy part in this first resurrection: But if thou remainest ignorant of the true grounds of religion, and findest in thyself a kind of secret loathing of its exercises, and must be drawn, as it Were, against thy will, to do the works of piety, &c., then surely thou hast but a name that thou livest, but thou art dead, as Christ told the angel of the church of Sardis, and thy soul is but as salt to keep thy body from stinking.
Secondly, The corporeal resurrection of our bodies at the last day, which is called the second resurrection, which frees us from the first death: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John vi. 54.) For this sacrament signifies and seals to us, that Christ died and rose again for us, and that his flesh quickeneth and nourisheth us unto eternal life, and that therefore our bodies shall surely be raised to eternal life at the last day. For seeing our Head is risen, all the members of the body shall likewise surely rise again. For how can those bodies, which, being the weapons of righteousness (Rom. vi. 13), 236temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. vi. 19), and members of Christ, having been fed and nourished with the body and blood of the Lord of life, but be raised up again at the last day? And this is the cause that the bodies of the saints, being dead, are so reverently buried and laid to sleep in the Lord; and their burial-places are termed the beds and dormitories of the saints (Isa. xxvi. 19, 20.) The reprobates shall arise at the last day, but by the almighty power of Christ, as he is Judge, bringing them, as malefactors out of the jail, to receive their sentence, and deserved execution: but the elect shall arise by virtue of Christ’s resurrection, and of the communion which they have with him, as with their head. And his resurrection is the cause and assurance of ours. The resurrection of Christ is a Christian’s particular faith: the resurrection of the dead is the child of God’s chiefest confidence. Therefore Christians in the primitive church were wont to salute one another in the morning with these phrases: “The Lord is risen;” and the other would answer, “True, the Lord is risen indeed.” Κύριος ἀνέστη, ὀρθῶς ανέστη.
The sixth End of the Lord’s Supper.
6. To seal to us the assurance of everlasting life. Oh what more wished or loved than life! Or what do all men naturally either fear or abhor more than death? Yet is this first death nothing, if it be compared with the second death: neither is this life anything worth, in comparison of the life to come. If, therefore, thou desirest to be assured of eternal life, prepare thyself to be a worthy receiver of this blessed sacrament. For our Saviour assures us, that “if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John vi. 51.) He, therefore, who duly eateth of this holy sacrament, may truly say, not only Credo vitam æternam, I believe life everlasting; but also, Edo vitam ceternam, I eat life everlasting. And indeed, this is the true tree of life, which 237God hath planted in the midst of the paradise of the church; and to eat of which he hath promised to give to every one that overcometh (Rev. ii. 7.) And this tree of life by infinite degrees excels the tree of life that grew in the paradise of Eden; for that had his root in the earth, this from heaven; that gave but life to the body, this to the soul; that did but preserve the life of the living, this restoreth life to the dead. The leaves of this tree heal the nations of believers; and it yields every month a new manner of fruit, which nourisheth them to life everlasting (Rev. xxii. 2.) Oh, blessed are they who often eat of this sacrament; at least, once every month, taste anew of this renewing fruit, which Christ hath prepared for us at his table, to heal our infirmities, and to confirm our belief of life everlasting!
Of the seventh End of the Lord’s Supper.
7. To bind all Christians, as it were, by an oath of fidelity, to serve the one only true God;8686Milites sacramento erant jurati et obstricti ad præstandam soli imperitori fidelitatem et obedientiam. and to admit no other propitiatory sacrifice for sins, but that one real sacrifice which, by his death, Christ once offered, and by which he finished the sacrifices of the law, and effected eternal redemption and righteousness for all believers; and so to remain for ever a public mark of profession, to distinguish Christians from all sects and false religions. And seeing that in the mass there is a strange Christ adored, not he that was born of the Virgin Mary, but one that is made of a wafer-cake; and that the offering up of this breaden god is thrust upon the church as “a propitiatory sacrifice for the quick and the dead;” all true Christians, upon the danger of wilful perjury before the Lord Chief-Justice of heaven and earth, are to detest the mass as the idol of indignation, which is most derogatory to the all-sufficient, world-saving merits of Christ’s death and passion. For by receiving the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, we all swear that all real sacrifices are 238ended by our Lord’s death; and that his body and blood, once crucified and shed, is the perpetual food and nourishment of our souls.
2. How to consider thy own Unworthiness.
A man shall best perceive his own unworthiness, by examining his life according to the ten commandments of almighty God. Search, therefore, what duties thou hast omitted, and what vices thou hast committed, contrary to every one of the commandments: remembering, that without repentance and God’s mercy in Christ, the curse of God (containing all the miseries of this life, and everlasting torments in hell-fire, when this is ended) -is due to the breach of the least of God’s commandments (Deut. xxvii. 26; Gal. iii. 10.) And having taken a due survey both of thy sins and miseries, retire to some secret place, and there, putting thyself in the sight of the Judge, as a guilty malefactor standing at the bar to receive his sentence, bowing thy knees to the earth, smiting thy breast with thy fists, and bedewing thy cheeks with thy tears, confess thy sins, and humbly ask him mercy and forgiveness, in these or the like words:—
An humble Confession of Sins, to be made to God before the receiving of the Holy Communion.
O God and heavenly Father, when I consider the goodness which thou hast ever shewed unto me, and the wickedness which I have committed against Heaven and against thee, I am ashamed of myself, and confusion seems to cover my face as a veil; for which of thy commandments have I not transgressed? O Lord, I stand here guilty of the breach of all thy holy laws. For the love of my heart hath not so entirely cleaved unto thy majesty as to vain and earthly things. I have not feared thy judgments, to deter me from sins, nor trusted to thy promises, to keep me from doubting of my temporal, or from despairing of mine eternal state.8787The first commandment. I have made the 239rule of thy divine worship to be what my mind thought fit, not what thy word prescribed; finding my heart more prone to remember my blessed Saviour in a painted picture of man’s device, rather than to behold him crucified in his word and sacraments after his own ordinance.8888The second commandment. Where I should never use thy name (whereat all knees do bow) but with religious reverence, nor any part of thy worship without due preparation and zeal, I have blasphemously abused thy holy name by rash and customary oaths; yea, I have used oaths by thy sacred name, as false covers of my filthy sins; and I have been present at thy service oft-times more for ceremony than conscience, and to please men more than to please thee, my gracious God.8989The third commandment.
Where I should sanctify thy Sabbath-day, by being present at the public exercises of the church, and by meditating privately on the word and works of God, by visiting the sick, and relieving my poor brethren; alas! I have thought those holy exercises a burden, because they hindered my vain sports; yea, I have spent many of thy Sabbaths in my own profane pleasures, without being present at any of'thy divine worship.9090The fourth commandment.—Here confess thy travelling on the Sabbath, and thy leaving the holy exercise to go to sporting or feasting.
Where I should have given all due reverence to my natural, ecclesiastical, and politic parents, I have not shewed that measure of duty and affection to my parents which their care and kindness hath deserved. I have not had thy ministers in such singular love for their work’s sake, as I ought; but I have taunted at their zeal, and hated them because they reproved me justly: and I have carried myself contemptuously against thy magistrates and ministers, though I knew that it is thine ordinance that I should be obedient unto them.9191The fifth commandment.—Here confess thy disobedience to thy parents, ministers, magistrates, masters, or tutors.
Where I should be slow to wrath, and ready to forgive 240offences, and not suffer the sun to go down upon my wrath, but to do good for evil, loving my very enemies for thy sake, I, alas! for one sorry word, have burst out into open rage; and harbouring thoughts of mischief in my heart, I have preferred to feed on mine own malice, rather than to eat of thy holy supper.9292The sixth commandment.—Here confess thy hastiness and fury, and if thou hast been any way the cause of any man’s death unjustly or cruelly.
Where I should keep my mind from all filthy lusts, and my body from all uncleanness, O Lord, I have defiled both, and made my heart a cage of all impure thoughts, and my mind a very sty of the unclean spirit.9393The seventh commandment—Here confess unto God thy secret pollutions, fornication, or adultery, if Satan hath so far prevailed over thee.
Where I should have lived in uprightness, giving every man his due, being contented with mine own estate, and living conscionably in my lawful calling; should be ready, according to my ability, to lend and give unto the poor, O Lord, I have, by oppression, extortion, bribes, cavillation, and other indirect dealings, under pretence of my calling and office, robbed and purloined from my fellow-Christians; yea, I have deceived and suffered Christ, where was trusted, many a time, in his poor members, to stand hungry, cold, and naked, at my door, and hungry, cold, and naked, to go away succourless, as he came; and when the leanness of his cheeks pleaded pity, the hardness of my heart would shew no compassion.9494The eighth commandment.—Here confess if thou hast secretly stolen, or openly robbed anything, or hast detained from any fatherless child that which is his by right.
Where I should have made conscience to speak the truth in simplicity, without any falsehood, prudently judging aright, and charitably construing all things in the best part, and should have defended the good name and credit of my neighbour; alas! vile wretch that I am! I have belied and slandered my fellow-brother; and as soon as I heard an ill report, I made my tongue the instrument 241of the devil, to blazon that abroad to others, before I knew the truth of it myself. I was so far from speaking a good word in defence of his good name, that it tickled my heart in secret to hear one that I envied to be taxed with such a blemish, though I knew that otherwise the graces of God shined in him in abundant measure. I made jests of officious, and advantage of pernicious lies; herein shewing myself a right Cretian, rather than an upright Christian.9595The ninth commandment.—Here confess if thou hast belied or slandered thy neighbour, or not spoken the truth to clear his innocency, when thou wast called thereto.
And lastly, O Lord, where I should have rested fully contented with that portion which thy majesty thought meetest to bestow upon me in this pilgrimage, and rejoiced in another’s good as in mine own; alas! my life hath been nothing else but a greedy lusting after this neighbour’s house, and that neighbour’s land; yea, secretly wishing such a man dead, that I might have his living or office; coveting those things which thou hast bestowed on another, rather than being thankful for that which thou hast given unto myself.9696The tenth commandment. Thus I, O Lord, who am a carnal sinner, and sold under sin, have transgressed all thy holy and spiritual commandments, from the first to the last, from the greatest to the least; and here I stand guilty before thy judgment-seat, of all the breaches of all thy laws, and therefore liable to thy curse, and to all the miseries that justice can pour forth upon so cursed a creature. And whither shall I go for deliverance from this misery? Angels blush at my rebellion, and will not help me: men are guilty of the like transgression, and cannot help themselves. Shall I, then, despair with Cain, or make away myself with Judas? No, Lord; for that were but to end the miseries of this life, and to begin the endless torments of hell. I will rather appeal to thy throne of grace, where mercy reigns to pardon abounding sins; and out of the depth 242of my miseries, I will cry, with David, for the depth of thy mercies. Though thou shouldst kill me with afflictions, yet will I, like Job, put my trust in thee. Though thou shouldst drown me in the sea of thy displeasure, with Jonas, yet will I catch such hold on thy mercy, that I will be taken up dead, clasping her with both my hands. And though thou shouldst cast me into the bowels of hell, as Jonas into the belly of the whale, yet from thence would I cry unto thee, “O God, the Father of heaven, O Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, O Holy Ghost, my sanctifier, three persons, and one eternal God, have mercy upon me, a miserable sinner!” And seeing the goodness of thine own nature first moved thee to send thine only-begotten Son to die for my sins, that by his death I might be reconciled to thy majesty, O reject not now my penitent soul, who being displeased with herself for sin, desireth to return, serve, and please thee in newness of life; and reach from heaven thy helping hand to save me, thy poor servant, who am, like Peter, ready to sink in the sea of my sins and misery. Wash away the multitude of my sins with the merits of that blood which I believe that thou hast so abundantly shed for penitent sinners.
And now that I am to receive this day the blessed sacrament of thy precious body and blood, O Lord, I beseech thee, let thy Holy Spirit, by thy sacrament, seal unto my soul, that by the merits of thy death and passion, all my sins are so freely and fully remitted and forgiven, that the curses and judgments which my sins have deserved, may never have power either to confound me in this life, or to condemn me in the world which is to come. For my steadfast faith is, that thou hast died for my sins, and risen again for my justification (Rom. iv. 25.) This I believe; O Lord, help my unbelief. Work in me likewise, I beseech thee, an unfeigned repentance, that I may heartily bewail my former sins, and loath them, and serve thee henceforth in newness of life, and greater measure of holy devotion; and let my soul never 243forget the infinite love of so sweet a Saviour, that hath laid down his life to redeem so vile a sinner. And grant, Lord, that having received these seals and pledges of my communion with thee, thou mayest henceforth so dwell by thy Spirit in me, and I so live by faith in thee, that I may carefully walk all the days of my life in godliness and piety towards thee, and in Christian love and charity towards all my neighbours: that living in thy fear, I may die in thy favour, and after death be made partaker of eternal life, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and only Saviour. Amen.
3. Of the Means whereby thou mayest become a worthy Receiver.
These means are duties of two sorts; the former respecting God, the latter, our neighbour. Those which respect God are three—First, Sound knowledge; secondly, True faith; thirdly, Unfeigned repentance. That which respecteth our neighbour is but one, sincere charity.
(1.) Of sound Knowledge, requisite in a worthy Communicant.
Sound knowledge is a sanctified understanding of the first, principles of religion: As first, Of the trinity of persons in the unity of the Godhead; secondly, Of the creation of man, and his fall; thirdly, Of the curse and misery due to sin; fourthly, Of the nature and offices of Christ, and redemption by faith in his death, especially of the doctrine of the sacraments, sealing the same unto us (Heb. vi. 1, 2; John xvii. 3; 1 Tim. ii. 4; 2 Cor. xiii. 5.) For as an house cannot be built unless the foundation be first laid, so no more can religion stand, unless it be first grounded upon the certain knowledge of God’s word. Secondly, if we know not God’s will, we can neither believe nor do the same. For as worldly businesses cannot be done but by them who have skill in them, so without knowledge must men be much more ignorant in divine and spiritual matters. And yet in 244temporal things a man may do much by the light of nature: but in religious mysteries, the more we rely upon natural reason, the further we are from comprehending spiritual truth (1 Cor. ii. 14; Rom. viii. 7;)—which discovers the fearful state of those who receive without knowledge, and the more fearful state of those pastors who minister to them without catechising.
(2.) Of sincere Faith, required to make a worthy Communicant.
Sincere faith is not a bare knowledge of the Scriptures and first grounds of religion—for that devils and reprobates have in an excellent measure, and do believe it and tremble (James ii. 19)—but a true persuasion, as of all those things whatsoever the Lord hath revealed in his word; so also a particular application to a man’s own soul, of all the promises of mercy which God hath made in Christ to all believing sinners (Heb. iv. 2;) and consequently, that Christ and all his merits do belong to him, as well as to any other;—for first, if we have not the righteousness of faith (Rom. iv. 11), the sacrament seals nothing to us, and every man in the Lord’s Supper receiveth so much as he believeth; secondly, because that without faith we communicating on earth, cannot apprehend Christ in heaven, for as he dwelleth in us by faith (Eph. iii. 17), so by faith we must likewise eat him; thirdly, because that without faith we cannot be persuaded in our consciences that our receiving is acceptable unto God (Heb. xi. 6; Rom. xiv. 23.)
(3.) Of unfeigned Repentance requisite for a true Communicant.
True repentance is a holy change of the mind, when upon the feeling sight of God’s mercy, and of a man’s own misery, he turneth from all his known and secret sins, to serve God in holiness and righteousness all the rest of his days (Isa. lv. 7; Ezek. xxxiii. 11; Acts xxvi. 29; 245 iii. 19; Luke i. 74, 75:) for as he that is glutted with meat is not apt to eat bread, so he that is stuffed with sins, is not fit to receive Christ (Heb. ii. 13, 14; Tit. i. 15;) and a conscience defiled with wilful filthiness, makes the use of all holy things unholy to us. Our sacrificed spotless Passover cannot be eaten with the sour leaven of malice and wickedness, saith Paul (1 Cor. v. 8.) Neither can the old bottles of our corrupt and impure consciences, retain the new wine of Christ’s precious blood, as our Saviour saith (Mark ii. 22.) We must therefore truly repent, if we will be worthy partakers.
(4.) The Duty to be performed in respect of our neighbour is Charity.
Charity is a hearty forgiving of others who have offended us, and after reconciliation, an outward unfeigned testifying of the inward affections of our hearts by gestures, words, and deeds, as oft as we meet, and occasion is offered;—for first, without love to our neighbour, no sacrifice is acceptable to God (Matt. v. 23, 24;) secondly, because one chief end wherefore the Lord’s Supper was ordained, is to confirm the love of Christians one towards another (John xiii. 14, 34, 35;) thirdly, no man can assure himself that his own sins are forgiven of God, if his heart cannot yield to forgive the faults of men that have offended him (Matt. vi. 12, 14, 15; xviii. 35.)
Thus far of the first sort of duties which we are to perform before we come to the Lord’s table, called preparation.
II. Of the Second sort of Duties which a worthy Communicant is to perform at the receiving of the Lord’s Supper, called Meditation.
This exercise of spiritual meditation consists in divers points.
First, When the sermon is ended and the banquet of the Lord’s Supper begins to be celebrated, meditate 246with thyself how thou art invited by Christ to be a guest at his holy table (Matt. xxii.), and how lovingly he inviteth thee, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters of life, &c. Come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price: eat ye that which is good, let your soul delight itself in fatness.” (Isa. lv. 1, 2.) “Take ye, eat ye; this is my body which was broken for you: drink ye all of this; for this is my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.” (Matt. xxvi. 26, 27, 28, &c.) What greater honour can be vouchsafed than to be admitted to sit at the Lord’s own table? what better fare can be afforded than to feed on the Lord’s own body and blood? If David thought it the greatest favour that he could shew to good Barzillai, for all the kindness that he had shewn to him in his troubles, to offer him that he should feed with him at his own table in Jerusalem (2 Sam. xix. 33;) how much greater favour ought we to account it when Christ doth indeed feed us in the church at his own table, and that with his own most holy body and blood?
Secondly, As Abraham, when he went up to the mount, to sacrifice Isaac his son, left his servants beneath in the valley (Gen. xxii. 5), so when thou comest to the spiritual sacrifice of the Lord’s Supper, lay aside all earthly thoughts and cogitations, that thou mayest wholly contemplate of Christ, and offer up thy soul unto him, who sacrificed both his soul and body for thee.
Thirdly, Meditate with thyself how precious and venerable is the body and blood, of the Son of God, who is the ruler of heaven and earth, the Lord, at whose beck the angels tremble, and by whom both the quick” and dead shall be judged at the last day, and thou among the rest: and that it is he, who having been crucified for thy sins, offereth now to be received by faith into thy soul. On the other side, consider how sinful a creature thou art—how altogether unworthy of so holy a guest—how ill-deserving to taste of such sacred 247food, having been conceived in sin, and wallowing ever since in the mire of iniquity; bearing the name of a Christian, but doing the works of the devil; adoring Christ with an Ave Rex9797Hail, King! in thy mouth, but spitting oaths in his face, and crucifying him anew with thy graceless actions.
Fourthly, Ponder then with what face darest thou offer to touch so holy a body with such defiled hands; or to drink such precious blood with so lewd and lying a mouth; or to lodge so blessed a guest in so unclean a stable? for if the Bethshemites were slain for but looking irreverently into the Ark of the Old Testament, what judgments mayst thou justly expect, who with such impure eyes and heart art come to see and receive the Ark of the New Testament, in which dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col. ii. 3, 9.)
If Uzza, for but touching, though not without zeal, the Ark of the Covenant, was stricken with sudden death (2 Sam. vi. 7), what stroke of divine judgment mayst thou not fear, that so rudely, with unclean hands, dost presume to handle the Ark of the eternal testament, wherein are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge?
If John Baptist, the holiest man that was born of a woman, thought himself unworthy to bear his shoes (Matt. iii. 11), how unworthy is such a profane wretch as thou art, to eat his holy flesh and to drink his precious blood?
If the blessed Apostle St. Peter, seeing but a glimpse of Christ’s almighty power, thought himself unworthy to stand in the same boat with him, how unworthy art thou to sit with Christ at the same table, where thou mayest behold the infiniteness of his grace and mercy displayed?
If the centurion thought that the roof of his house was not worthy to harbour so divine a guest (Matt. viii. 8), what room can there be fit under thy ribs for Christ’s holiness to dwell in?248
If the blood-issued sick woman feared to touch the hem of his garment, how shouldst thou tremble to eat his flesh, and to drink his all-healing blood?
Yet if thou comest humbly, in faith, repentance, and charity, abhorring thy sins past, and purposing un-feignedly to amend thy life henceforth, let not thy former sins affright thee, for they shall never be laid to thy charge: and this sacrament shall seal unto thy soul, that all thy sins and the judgments due to them, are fully pardoned and clean washed away by the blood of Christ. For this sacrament was not ordained for them who are perfect, but to help penitent sinners unto perfection: Christ came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; and he saith, that the whole need not the physician, but they that are sick (Matt. ix. 12, 13; xi. 28.) Those hath Christ called, and when they came them hath he ever helped. Witness the whole gospel, which testifieth, that not one sinner who came to Christ for mercy, ever went away without his errand. Bathe thou likewise thy sick soul in this fountain of Christ’s blood, and doubtless, according to his promise (Zech. xiii. 1), thou shalt be healed of all thy sins and uncleanness. Not sinners, therefore, but they who are unwilling to repent of their sins, are debarred this sacrament.
Fifthly, Meditate that Christ left this sacrament to ns, as the chief token and pledge of his love; not when we would have made him a king (John vi. 15), which might have seemed a requital of kindness, but when Judas and the high-priests were conspiring his death,—therefore wholly of his mere favour. When Nathan would shew David how entirely the poor man loved his sheep that was killed by the rich man, he gave her, saith he, to eat of his own morsels, and of his own cup to drink (2 Sam. xii. 3;) and must not then the love of Christ to his church be unspeakable, when he gives her his own flesh to eat, and his own blood to drink, for her spiritual and eternal nourishment? If, then, there be 249any love in thy heart, take the cup of salvation into thy hand, and pledge his love with love again (Psal. cxvi. 11.)
Sixthly, When the minister begins the holy consecration of the sacrament, then lay aside all praying, reading, and all other cogitations whatsoever, and settle thy meditations only upon those holy actions and rites, which, according to Christ’s institution, are used in and about the holy sacrament: for it hath pleased God, considering our weakness, to appoint those rites, as means the better to lift up our minds to the serious contemplation of his heavenly graces.
When, therefore, thou seest the minister putting apart bread and wine on the Lord’s table, and consecrating them by prayer and the rehearsal of Christ’s institution to be a holy sacrament of the blessed body and blood of Christ; then meditate how God the Father, of his mere lore to mankind, set apart and sealed his only-begotten Son, to be the all-sufficient means, and only Mediator, to redeem us from sin, and to reconcile us to his grace, and to bring us to his glory.
When thou seest the minister break the bread, being blessed, thou must meditate that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, was put to death, and his blessed soul and body, with the sense of God’s anger, broken asunder for thy sins, as verily as thou now seest the holy sacrament to be broken before thine eyes; and withal call to mind the heinousness of thy sins, and the greatness of God’s hatred against the same: seeing God’s justice could not be satisfied but by such a sacrifice.
When the minister hath blessed and broken the sacrament, and is addressing himself to distribute it, then meditate, that the King, who is the master of the feast, stands at the table to see his guests (Matt. xxii. 11), and looketh upon thee whether thou hast on thee thy wedding garment;9898This wedding garment is righteousness and true holiness (Rev. xix. 8: Eph. iv. 24.) think also that all the holy angels 250that attend upon the elect in the church (1 Cor. xi. 10), and do desire to behold the celebration of these holy mysteries (1 Pet. i. 12), do observe thy reverence and behaviour. Let thy soul, therefore, whilst the minister bringeth the sacrament unto thee, offer this or the like short soliloquy unto Christ:—
A sweet Soliloquy to be said between the Consecration and receiving of the Sacrament.
Is it true indeed, that God will dwell on earth? Behold the heaven, and the heaven of heavens are not able to contain thee; how much more unable is the soul of such a sinful caitiff as I am to receive thee?
But seeing it is thy blessed pleasure to come thus to sup with me, and to dwell in me, I cannot fox joy but burst out and say, “What is man, that thou art so mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou so regardest him?” what favour soever thou vouchsafest me in the abundance of thy grace, I will freely confess what I am in the wretchedness of my nature. I am, in a word, a carnal creature whose very soul is sold under sin: a wretched man, compassed about with a body of death. Yet, Lord, seeing thou callest sinners, I have thrust myself in among the rest; and seeing thou callest all with their heaviest loads, I see no reason why I should stay behind. O Lord, I am sick, and whither should I go, but unto thee, the physician of my soul; thou hast cured many, but never didst thou meet with a more miserable patient, for I am more leprous than Gehazi, more unclean than Magdalene, more blind in soul than Bartimeus was in body; for I have lived all this while, and never seen the true light of thy word. My soul overflows with sin. Mephibosheth was not more lame to go, than my soul is to walk after thee in love. Jeroboam’s arm was not more withered to strike the prophet, than my hand is maimed to relieve the poor. Cure me, O Lord, and thou shalt do as great a work as in curing them all. And though I have all their sins and sores, yet, Lord, so 251abundant is thy grace, so great is thy skill, that if thou wilt, thou canst with a word forgive the one and heal the other; and why should I doubt of thy good will, when to save me will cost thee now but one loving smile; who didst shew thyself so willing to redeem me, though it should cost thee all thy heart-blood; and now offerest so graciously unto me the assured pledge of my redemption by thy blood. Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my merit, that thou hast bought me with so dear a price? (2 Sam. vii. 18.) It is merely thy mercy, and I, O Lord, am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies (Gen. xxxii. 10;) much less to be a partaker of this holy sacrament, the greatest pledge of the greatest mercy, than ever thou didst bestow upon those sons of men whom thou lovest. How might I, in respect of my own unworthiness, cry out for fear at the sight of thy holy sacrament, as the Philistines did, when they saw the ark of God come into the assembly (1 Sam. v. 7.) Woe now unto me, a sinner! but that thy angel doth comfort me, as he did the woman, “Fear thou not, for I know that thou seekest Jesus which was crucified.” (Matt. xxviii. 5.) It is thou indeed that my soul seeketh after; and here thou offerest thyself unto me in thy blessed sacrament. If, therefore, Elizabeth thought herself so much honoured at thy presence in the womb of thy blessed mother, that the “babe sprang in her for joy,” how should my soul leap within me for joy, now that thou comest by thy holy sacrament, to dwell in my heart for ever? O what an honour is this, not that the mother of my Lord, but my Lord himself, should come thus to visit me; indeed, Lord, I confess with the faithful centurion, that I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof: and that if thou didst but speak the word only, my soul shall be saved; yet seeing it hath pleased thee, in the riches of thy grace, for the better strengthening of my weakness, to seal thy mercy unto me, by thy visible sign, as well as by thy visible word; in all thankful humility my soul speaks unto thee with 252the blessed Virgin: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Knock thou, Lord, by thy word and sacraments, at the door of my heart; and I will, like the publican, with both my fists knock at my breast, as fast as I can, that thou mayest enter in; and if the door will not open fast enough, break it open, O Lord, by thine almighty power, and then enter in, and dwell there for ever, that I may have cause with Zaccheus to acknowledge that “this day salvation is come into mine house.” And cast out of me whatsoever shall be offensive unto thee; for I resign the whole possession of my heart unto thy sacred Majesty, entreating that I may not live henceforth, but that thou mayest live in me, speak in me, walk in me, and so govern me by thy Spirit, that nothing may be pleasing to me, but that which is acceptable unto thee; that finishing my course in the life of grace, I may afterwards live with thee for ever in the kingdom of glory. Grant this, O Lord Jesus, for the merits of thy death and blood-shedding. Amen.
When the minister bringeth towards thee the bread thus blessed and broken, and offering it to thee, bids thee, take, eat, &c., then meditate, that Christ himself cometh unto thee, and both offereth, and giveth indeed unto thy faith, his very body and blood, with all the merits of his death and passion, to feed thy soul unto eternal life; as surely as the minister offereth and giveth the outward signs, that feed thy body unto this temporal life. The bread of the Lord is given by the minister, but the bread which is the Lord is given by Christ himself.
When thou takest the bread at the minister’s hand to eat it,9999Sacramentum requirit sacram mentem. then rouse up thy soul to apprehend Christ by faith, and to apply his merits to heal thy miseries. Embrace him as sweetly with thy faith in the sacrament, as ever Simeon hugged him with his arms in his swaddling clothes.253
As thou eatest the bread, imagine that thou seest Christ hanging upon the cross, and by his unspeakable torments, fully satisfying God’s justice for thy sins; and strive to be as verily partaker of the spiritual grace, as of the elemental signs; for the truth is not absent from the sign; neither doth Christ deceive, when he saith, “This is my body:” he giveth himself indeed to every soul that spiritually receives him by faith; for as ours is the same supper which Christ administered, so is the same Christ verily present at his own supper, not by any papal transubstantiation, but by a sacramental participation,100100Christ calls it his body, not the sign of his body, because this sacrament was instituted not only to signify, but also to communicate the spiritual graces that it represents, and by the signs to draw our minds to the graces signified. So Euthymius, in Matt. xxvi.—“Non dixit dominus, Hæc sunt signa corporis mei, sed hoc est corpus meum. Oportet ergo, non ad naturam eorum quæ proposita sunt aspicere, sed ad ipsorum virtutem et gratiam. Non hoc corpus quod videtis manducaturi estis, et bibituri illum sanguinem quem fusuri sunt qui me crucifigent. Sacramentum aliquid vobis commendo; spiritualiter intellectum vivificabit vos.”—Aug. in Psal. xcviii., speaking in the person of Christ. The disciples did not eat Christ corporally and substantially in the first institution; no more do we in the reiteration of the same supper. whereby he doth truly feed the faithful unto eternal life; not by coming down out of heaven unto thee, but by lifting thee up from the earth unto him, according to that old saying, Sursum corda, lift up your hearts. And “where the carcase is, thither will the eagles resort.”
When thou seest the wine brought to thee apart from the bread, then remember that the blood of Jesus Christ was as verily separated from his body upon the cross, for the remission of thy sins; and that this is the seal of the new covenant, which God hath made to forgive all the sins of all penitent sinners that believe in the merits of his blood-shedding; for the wine is not a sacrament of Christ’s blood contained in his veins; but as it was shed out of his body upon the cross for the remission of the sins of all that believe on him.
As thou drinkest the wine, meditate and believe, that 254by the merits of that blood which Christ shed upon the cross, all thy sins are as verily forgiven, as thou hast now drunk this sacramental wine, and received it in faith. And in the instant of drinking, settle thy meditation upon Christ, as he hanged upon the cross, as if, like Mary and John, thou didst see him nailed, and his blood running down his blessed side out of that ghastly wound which the spear made in his innocent heart; wishing thy mouth close to his side, that thou mightst receive that precious blood before it fell to the dusty earth. And yet the actual drinking of that real blood with thy mouth, would be nothing so effectual as this sacramental drinking of that blood spiritually by faith (Matt. xxvi. 28.) For one of the soldiers might have drunk that, and-been still a reprobate; but whosoever drinketh it spiritually by faith in the sacrament, shall surely have the remission of his sins, and life everlasting.101101If remission of sins and eternal life had been appropriated to the drinking of the real blood, doubtless John and Mary would have made means to have drunk it; but John ascribes the virtue to believing that it was shed.
As thou feelest the sacramental wine which thou hast drunk, warming thy cold stomach, so endeavour to feel the Holy Ghost cherishing thy soul in the joyful assurance of the forgiveness of all thy sins, by the merit of the blood of Christ. And to this end God giveth every faithful soul, together with the sacramental blood, the Holy Ghost to drink: “We are all made to drink into one spirit.” (1 Cor. xii. 13.) And so lift up thy mind from the contemplation of Christ-, as he was crucified upon the cross, to consider how he now sits in glory at the right hand of his Father, making intercession for thee (Rom. viii. 34; Heb. vii. 25; ix. 24), by presenting to his Father the invaluable merits of his death, which he once suffered for thee, to appease his justice for the sins which thou dost daily commit against him.
After thou hast eaten and drunk both the bread and wine, labour that as those sacramental signs turn to the 255nourishment of thy body, and by the digestion of heat become one with thy substance, so by the operation of faith and the Holy Ghost thou mayest become one with Christ, and Christ with thee; and so mayest feel thy communion with Christ confirmed and increased daily more and more (1 Cor. x. 17.)102102Unus est panis communi notione sacramenti, non autem necessario unus numero. That as it is impossible to separate the bread and wine digested into the blood and substance of thy body, so it may be more impossible to part Christ from thy soul, or thy soul from Christ.
Lastly, as the bread of the sacrament, though con-fected of many grains, yet makes but one bread, so must thou remember that though all the faithful are many, yet are they all but one mystical body, whereof Christ is head. And therefore thou must love every Christian as thyself, and a member of thy body.
Thus far of the duties to be done at the receiving of the holy sacrament, called meditation.
|« Prev||I. Of Preparation.||Next »|