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III. Of the Duties which we are to perform after receiving the holy Communion, called Action or Practice.
The duty which we are to perform after the receiving of the Lord’s Supper is called action or practice, without which all the rest will minister to us no comfort.
The action consists of two sorts of duties:-—First, Such as we are to perform in the church, or else after we are gone home.
Those that we are to perform in the church are either several from our own souls, or else jointly with the congregation.
The several duties which thou must perform from thine own soul are three:—First, Thou must be careful that forasmuch as Christ now dwelleth in thee, therefore, to entertain him in a clean heart, and with pure affections 256 (Psal. xviii. 26),103103Sancta non nisi sancte et sanctis. for the most Holy will be holy with the holy; for if Joseph of Arimathea, when he had begged of Pilate his dead body to bury it, wrapped it in sweet odours and fine linen, and laid it in a new tomb, how much more shouldst thou lodge Christ in a new heart, and perfume his rooms with the odoriferous incense of prayers, and all pure affections? If God required Moses to provide a pot of pure gold to keep the manna that fell in the wilderness, what a pure heart shouldst thou provide to receive this divine manna that is come down from heaven?
And as thou earnest sorrowing, like Joseph and Mary, to seek Christ in the temple, so now having there found him in the midst 6f his word and sacraments, be careful with joy to carry him home with thee as they did.
And if the man that found but his lost sheep rejoiced so much, how canst thou, having found the Saviour of the world, but rejoice much more?
Secondly, Thou must offer the sacrifice of a private thanksgiving to God for this inestimable grace and mercy; for as this action is common to the whole church, so is it applied particularly to every one of the faithful in the church; and for this particular mercy every soul must joyfully offer up a particular sacrifice of thanksgiving. For if the wise men rejoiced so much when they saw the star which conducted them to Christ, and worshipped him so devoutly when he lay a babe in the manger, and offered unto him their gold, myrrh, and frankincense, how much more shouldst thou rejoice, now that thou hast both seen and received this sacrament which guideth thy soul unto him where he sitteth at the right hand of his Father in glory? And thither, lifting up thy heart, adore him, and offer up unto him the gold of a pure faith, the myrrh of a mortified heart, and this or the like sweet incense of prayer and thanksgiving:—257
A Prayer to be said after the receiving of the Communion.
What shall I render unto thee, O blessed Saviour, for all these blessings which thou hast so graciously bestowed upon my soul? How can I sufficiently thank thee when I can scarce express them? Where thou mightest have made me a beast, thou madest me a man after thine own image. When by sin I had lost both thine image and myself, thou didst renew in me thine image by thy Spirit, and didst redeem my soul again by thy blood; and now thou hast given unto me the seal and pledge of my redemption, nay, thou hast given thyself unto me, O blessed Redeemer. O what an inestimable treasure of riches, and overflowing fountain of grace hath he got who hath gained thee! No man ever touched thee by faith but thou didst heal him by grace; for thou art the author of salvation, the remedy of all evils, the medicine of the sick, the life of the quick, and the resurrection of the dead. Seemed it a small matter unto thee to appoint thy holy angels to attend upon so vile a creature as I am; but that thou shouldest enter thyself into my soul, there to preserve, nourish, and cherish me unto life everlasting?
If the carcase of the dead prophet could revive a dead man that touched it, how much more shall the living body of the Lord of all prophets quicken the faithful, in whose heart he dwelleth? And if thou wilt raise my body at the last day out of the dust, how much more wilt thou now revive my soul which thou hast sanctified with thy Spirit, and purified with thy blood? O Lord, what could I more desire, or what couldst thou more bestow upon me than to give me thy body for meat, thy blood for drink, and to lay down thy soul for the price of my redemption? Thou, Lord, enduredst the pain, and I do reap the profit; I received pardon, and thou didst bear the punishment. Thy tears were my bath, thy wounds my weal, and the injustice done to thee, satisfied 258for the judgment which was due to me. Thus by thy birth thou art become my brother, by thy death my ransom, by thy mercy my reward, and by thy sacrament my nourishment. O divine food, by which the sons of men are transformed into the sons of God; so that man’s nature dieth, and God’s nature liveth and ruleth in us! Indeed all creatures wondered that the Creator would be enclosed nine months in the virgin’s womb. But that thou shouldst thus humble thyself to dwell for ever in my heart, which thou foundest more unclean than a dung-hill, it is able to make all the creatures in Heaven and earth to stand amazed. But seeing it is thy free grace and mere pleasure thus to enter and to dwell in my heart, I would to God that I had so pure a heart as my heart could wish to entertain thee. And who is fit to entertain Christ? Or who, though invited, would not choose with Mary rather to kneel at thy feet, than presume to sit with thee at thy table? Though I want a pure heart for thee to dwell in, yet weeping eyes shall never be wanting to wash thy blessed feet, and to lament my filthy sins. And, albeit, I cannot weep so many tears as may suffice to wash thy holy feet; yet, Lord, it is sufficient that thou hast shed blood enough to cleanse my sinful soul. And I am fully, O Lord, assured, that all the dainty fare wherewith the disdainful Pharisee entertained thee at his table, did not so much please thee as those tears which penitent Mary poured under the table. I would therefore wish with Jeremiah, that “my head were a fountain of tears;” that seeing I can by no means yield sufficient thanks for thy love to me, yet I might by continual tears testify my love unto thee. And though no man is worthy of so infinite a grace, yet this is my comfort, that he is worthy whom thou in favour accountest worthy. And seeing that now of thy mere grace thou hast counted me among others, thy chosen, worthy of this unspeakable favour, and sealed by thy sacrament, the assurance of thy love and the forgiveness of my sins, O Lord, confirm thy favour unto thy servant, 259and say of me as Isaac did of Jacob, “I have blessed him, therefore he shall be blessed.” And that I may say unto thee with David, “Thou, O Lord, hast blessed my soul, and made it thy house, and it shall be blessed for ever.” And seeing it pleased thee to bless the house of Obed-edom and all his household, whilst the ark of the Lord remained in his house, I doubt not but thou wilt much more bless my soul and body, and all that do belong unto me, now that it hath pleased thy majesty of thine own good will to enter under my roof, and to dwell for ever in my poor cottage. Bless me, O Lord, so that my sins may wholly be remitted by thy blood, my conscience sanctified by thy Spirit, my mind enlightened by thy truth, my heart guided by thy Spirit, and my will, in all things, subdued to thy blessed will and pleasure. Bless me with all graces which I want, and increase in me those good gifts which thou hast already bestowed upon me. And seeing that I hold thee not by the arms, as Jacob wrestling, without me, but inwardly dwelling by faith within me, surely, Lord, I will never let thee go except thou bless me, and give me a new name, a new heart, a new spirit, and strength by the power of God to prevail over sin and Satan. And I beseech thee, O Lord, desire not to depart from me, as thou didst from Jacob, because the day breaketh, and thy grace beginneth to dawn and appear; but I, from my soul, humbly, with the disciples at Emmaus, entreat thee, O sweet Jesus, to abide with me because it draweth toward night; for the night of temptation, the night of tribulation, yea, my last long night of death approacheth. O blessed Saviour, stay with me therefore now and ever. And if thy presence go not home with me, carry me not from hence. Go with me and live with me; and let neither death nor life separate me from thee. Drive me from myself; draw me unto thee. Let me be sick, but sound in thee; and in my weakness let thy strength appear. Let me seem as dead, that thou alone mayest be seen to live in me, so that all my members may be but 260instruments to act thy motions. Set me as a seal upon thine heart (Cant. viii. 6;) and let thy zeal be settled upon mine, that I may be out of all love with all, that I may be only in love with thee. And grant, O Lord, that as thou now vouchsafest me this favour to sit at thy table, to receive this sacrament in thy house of grace, so I may hereafter, through thy mercy, be received to eat and drink at thy table in thy kingdom of glory. And for thy mercy I do here, with the four beasts and twenty-four elders, cast myself down before thy throne of grace, acknowledging that it is thou that hast redeemed me with thy blood, and that salvation cometh only from thee. And therefore unto thee I do yield all praise, and glory, and wisdom, and thanks, and honour, and power, and might, and majesty, O my Lord and my God, for evermore. Amen.
Thirdly, Seeing Christ hath sacrificed himself for thee, and all that thou canst give is too little, therefore thou must offer thyself to be a living, holy, and acceptable sacrifice unto God, by serving him in righteousness and holiness all thy days. Thus Tertullian witnesseth that in his time a Christian was known from another man, only by the holiness and uprightness of his life.
2. Of the Duties which we are to do after the Communion, jointly with the congregation.
The duties to be performed jointly with the church are three: First, Public thanksgiving, both by prayers, and singing of psalms (Matt. xxvi. 30:)104104Which is probable to have been the 113th Psalm. thus Christ himself and his apostles did. Secondly, Joining with the church, in giving (every man according to his ability) towards the relief of the poor (1 Cor. xvi. 1; Rom. xv. 25:) this was the manner of the primitive churches, to make collections and love-feasts after the Lord’s Supper, for the relief of the poor Christians. Thirdly, When thanks and praise is ended, then with all reverence to 261stand up, and to receive the blessing of God, by the mouth of his minister; and to receive it, as if thou didst hear God himself pronouncing it unto thee from heaven; for by their blessing God doth bless his people (Numb. vi. 23, 27.)
Thus far of the duties to be practised in the Church.
The duties which thou art to practise after that thou art departed home, are three: First, To observe diligently whether thou hast truly received Christ in the sacrament; which thou mayest thus easily perceive: for seeing his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed, and that he is so full of grace, that no man ever touched him by faith, but he received virtue from him, it cannot possibly be, that if thou hast eaten his flesh, or drunk his blood, but thou shalt receive grace and power to be cleansed from thy sins and filthiness; for if the woman that did but touch his garment was forthwith cured of her disease that had continued so long, how much more will the plague of thy sin be healed, if thou then hast truly eaten and drunk the very flesh and blood of Christ? But if thy issue still runneth, thou mayest justly suspect thou hast never yet truly touched Christ.
Secondly, Seeing thou hast now reconciled thyself to God, and renewed thy covenant, and vowed newness and amendment of life, thou must therefore have a special care, that thou dost not yield to commit thy former sins any more; knowing that the unclean spirit, if ever he can get into thy soul again, after that it is swept and garnished, will enter forcible possession with seven other devils worse than himself; so that the end of that man shall be worse than his beginning. Be ye not therefore like the dog, that returns to his vomit, or the washed sow that walloweth in the mire again. And return not to thy malice, like the adder, who laying aside her poison while she drinks, and takes it up again when she hath done. But when either the devil or thy flesh shall offer to tempt and move thee to relapse into thy former sins, answer 262them as the spouse doth in the Canticles, “I have put off my coat” (of my former corruptions), “how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them again?” (Cant. v. 3.)
Lastly, If ever thou hast found either joy or comfort in receiving the holy sacrament, let it appear by thy eager desire of receiving it often again. For the body of Christ, as it was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, so doth it yield a sweeter savour than all the ointments of the world; the fragrant smell of which allureth all souls who have once tasted its sweetness ever after to desire oftener to taste of it again. “Because of the savour of thy good ointments, therefore do the virgins love thee.” (Cant. i. 3.) “O taste, therefore, often, and see how good the Lord is,” saith David. This is the commandment of Christ himself, “Do this in remembrance of me;” and in doing this, thou shalt shew thyself best mindful and thankful for his death: “For as oft as ye shall eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye shall shew the Lord’s death until he come.” And let this be the chief end to which both thy receiving and living tends,—that thou mayest be a holy Christian, zealous of good works, purged from sin, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; that thou mayest be acceptable to God, profitable to thy brethren, and comfortable unto thine own soul.
Thus far of the manner of glorifying God in thy life.
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