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to the judgment of GoD for so doing; | morate Christ's death,) to furnish forth
as, indeed, all persons are who either pray, or hear, or perform any other duty otherwise than they ought to perform it. And what kind of judgment the Apostle here means, he himself plainly declares in the words immediately following our text: "For this cause," says he, "many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep"all which are temporal judgments that GOD is often pleased to inflict for other sins as well as this, and are so far from eternal damnation, that they frequently prove the very means of preventing it.
Having thus explained away a term which we have reason to believe has been a stumbling-block to many welldisposed Christians, we may enter on the important question, what it is to eat and drink unworthily." And here it will be necessary that we take a general survey of the context.
a common banquet, where no man might appropriate to himself what he brought, but was to eat in common with the rest; this charitable custom the Corinthians wholly perverted. The richest among them ate and drank too much, whilst the poor had nothing to eat and drink. Hence, the Apostle's complaint--" these were hungry, and the other drunken." And they who eat this bread, and drink this cup (he proceeds to tell us), after such an unbecoming fashion, are guilty of the body and blood of Christ; that is, they violate and profane the Lord's mystical body and blood, and so are guilty in a manner of the same sin as the Jews were in crucifying and deriding him. They "trampled upon the Son of GoD, and accounted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing," and behaved themselves accordingly in receiving it. That this is the true sense of receiving unworthily, is rendered still more apparent from the final clause of our text: "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation (or more properly judgment), to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." The latter words are as explicit as we could wish or require, for by them the Apostle shows wherefore they who eat and drink unworthily, eat and drink judgment to themselves; it is because they discern not the Lord's body; that is, they do not discern or discriminate Christ's body from ordinary food, by taking it with that veneration which is its peculiar due.
St. Paul had been speaking of the great disorders which he heard of among the Corinthians in their Christian assemblies; that there were divisions among them even at those sacred times; and that, though they intended to receive the sacrament, they did not in reality do it. "When ye come together, therefore,” says he, into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper; for 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 drink in? Or, despise ye the church of GOD, and shame them that have not?" From which expostulation it is evident, that the sin which St. Paul here rebukes in the Corinthians was, that they ate the Lord's supper as if it had been ordinary food, without expressing any regard or reverence to Christ's mystical body and blood. They carried themselves at the Lord's table, as if they had been at their own. And whereas there was a custom, (when they came together to comme
Such is the exposition, and I think the only exposition, which these words of our Apostle will justly bear. They were applied in the first instance to the Corinthian converts, and, in a literal sense, to the Corinthians alone are they applicable. No judgment could be too great or sharp to vindicate our blessed Saviour's
holy institution from the contempt to man who is otherwise desirous of bewhich, by their gluttony and intem- coming a communicant. In a strict perance, the Christians of Corinth had sense we are none of us worthy of so reduced it. Those scandalous irregu- great a favour and privilege as being larities and excesses are here called admitted to this sacrament, and de. "eating and drinking unworthily,” riving the inestimable benefits which it which were heard of only in the first confers upon us.
After all our careages of the church, when the sacra- after all our preparation to make ourment was always accompanied with selves fit, we must still acknowledge charitable banquets or love-feasts, that we are unworthy even to pick which were, therefore, in process of up the crumbs that fall from our time, wholly abrogated; and to pre
Master's table,” much more to sit and vent that intemperance and abuse they feast at it. If, then, we are not to had introduced, it very generally pre- receive this sacrament until we can vailed, to receive the sacrament fasting. account ourselves worthy, the very best My brethren, I have entered into this of men must go away sorrowful; nay, short historical account, with a view the humbler and the holier they are, to justify the opinion I now freely give the less inclined would they be to you. Whatever faults may be found enter upon their duty.
Such unamongst our communicants of the pre- worthiness, however, which all must sent day, they cannot be charged with confess to, is no bar or hinderance to those mentioned in the chapter before our receiving the sacrament. We are us. The worst of modern Christians, not, indeed, worthy of the smallest if they communicate at all, do it with mercy, either temporal or spiritual, greater reverence than did the Corin- which we enjoy, but shall we therethians of old. So that neither the fore starve ourselves or go naked, befault here reproved, nor the judg- cause undeserving of food or raiment ? ment here denounced, hath place We are not worthy so much as to cast up amongst us now. What reason, then, our eyes towards heaven, the habitaI seriously ask, what reason that this tion of God's holiness; but what then? text of Scripture, whether read in our Shall we never make our humble adBibles or repeated in our prayer-books, dresses to the throne of grace, because should frighten any from the sacra
we are not worthy to ask and have our ment, since there is neither the same petitions heard and granted? Shall we fault committed now, nor the same refuse any favours which the kindness punishment inflicted.
of heaven may bestow, because they But it is not enough, my fellow- are beyond our merits, or more than Christians, that I have endeavoured to we could challenge or expect? It is put the words of my text in a clear pot said in the text, “He that is unand distinct point of view. As long worthy to eat and drink of this sacraas the plea of unworthiness is insisted ment, by doing so eateth and drinketh on for not attending the sacrament, his own damnation,” (for then might and as long as that plea remains un- all of us be justly afraid of approachanswered and unrefuted— 1 speak iting the Lord's table), but “he that with concern-our labour as ministers eateth and drinketh unworthily.” is in vain. Grant me, then, your con
There is a wide difference between the tinued attention, while, with a plain- two-between a man's being unworthy ness of speech suitable to the subject, to receive the sacrament, and his reI enquire how far the danger of receiving the same unworthily—a differceiving unworthily ought to prevent a ence which I shall thus illustrate.
Suppose, for example, that a man appointed, and for whose benefit it was hath grossly wronged, maliciously instituted. Were we not all sinners, slandered, or without any provoca- we had no need of such means of tion of mine, evil entreated me; he is, grace, such instruments of religion as you will allow, utterly unworthy of the sacramental ordinances. “ I came any kindness or favour from me. not,” says Jesus, “ to call the righteStill, if notwithstanding this unwor- ous, but sinners to repentance. They thiness, I do him some considerable that are whole need not a physician, kindness, or offer him some signal but they that are sick.” What folly favour, his unworthiness is no hin- for man to be afraid to receive alms, derance to his receiving it. And if he because he is miserably poor ; to be accepts it with a due sense and a grate- loath to take physic, because he is ful mind; and by it is moved to lay dangerously sick. Equal folly does it aside his former enmity, repent him of betray in us to shun the altar for the his former ill-will, and seek only how very reason that we should hasten to requite the present favour; it is thither. Just in proportion to our felt clear that, though he were unworthy unworthiness, do we stand in need of of the favour, yet he has now received this holy sacrament; that good resoit worthily, and that it has produced lutions may be raised, or strengthened, upon him the desired effect.
and confirmed in us; that sufficient In like manner, my brethren, we grace may be communicated to enable are all unworthy to partake of this us by degrees to subdue our darling holy feast; but, being invited and ad- passions, and resist our prevailing mitted, we may conduct ourselves as temptations; and that by often rebecomes us in such a presence, and at ceiving, we may become every time such a solemnity. And if therein we less unworthy to receive the sacred thankfully commemorate the death of elements. our Saviour Christ, forsake our former It has been a subject of dispute sins, renounce our evil ways, vow to among divines, whether the sacrament him a holier obedience, and be touched of the Lord's supper be (like prayer with a devouter sense of his love ; then, and preaching) a converting ordinance though unworthy of so great a favour, or not. I confess, for my part, I see yet we have worthily—that is after a no reason why this sacrament may right manner as to God's acceptance-not (as well as prayer or any other received this blessed sacrament. But duties of religion) be a means of beif, in addition to our acknowledged getting true repentance in a sinnner, unworthiness, we also receive it un- of turning him from sin to righteous. worthily, neither regarding the end, ness, and from the power of Satan nor design, nor use of it, without any unto God. And my argument is simply repentance for past sins, any resolu- this. If the death of Jesus Christ, tions of future amendment, or any his bitter passion and mortal agony, gratitude for the self-sacrificing love was, among other reasons, designed by of our Redeemer, then indeed do we God to convince us of the heinousness most highly provoke the Omnipotent of sin, to withdraw us from an attachGod, and must justly incur his dis- ment to it, and engage us in a new pleasure. But I proceed another step, and better life, surely the consideration and I affirm that those who are un. of the same things represented to us in worthy, and truly sensible of their the sacrament. the commemoration of own unworthiness, are the very per- his death and passion there made, may song for whom this sacrament was contribute to promote the same beneficial
end. Granting then that it is one means of conversion, it cannot be necessary that this change should be completely wrought in us before we have commemorated our Saviour's death, for that would be to suppose the end obtained before ever we have adopted the means.
Men are not called upon to abstain from the sacrament altogether, till they be sensibly assured, that they are in a state of grace, established in GoD's favour, and emancipated from sin beyond the possibility of a relapse, 'tis enough that they heartily and sincerely resolve against their known and besetting sins; that they be willing and desirous to use all means for becoming better; and if, thus disposed, they approach the Lord's table, I doubt not they will find it the most effectual method for enabling them to renounce their past sins, and improve their future life. It is not men's unworthiness, but their determination to continue in that state, which disqualifies them for attending the sacrament.
"Master," in words acknowledge him, but in deeds deny him. He cannot brook the mock service of impure worshippers, who with their lips approach him, while their hearts are far from him; who claim him as their Sovereign, but would fain be exempt from his dominion. Nay, my brethren, if through a love of sin it be that you forswear the sacrament, even lay aside your whole Christian profession, renounce your baptism, (it is nothing more than your baptismal vows which you are called upon to repeat at the altar-it is no new engagement, but only a renewal of that which you entered into in childhood,) therefore, I say renounce your baptism openly; you do so tacitly when you refuse to renew its obligations at the sacramental table; deny your Saviour and disown his religion, for that is the safest course, whilst you resolve to continue in sin and disobedience. And as absentees from the altar, 'tis but too certain you will remain habitual sinners; since how should you attend to your Saviour's living precepts or example, when you slight his dying exhortation; "Do this in remembrance of me."
If, therefore, by your alleged unworthiness, you mean that you are living in sin, and are resolved to do so, and, as a natural consequence, dare not come to the sacrament, for fear you should further provoke Almighty God, I answer, that herein you show your wariness and prudence; but then I would advise you, for the same reason, and on the same account, to leave off all their duties of religion as well as this. If you would act consistently, you ought to reckon it the safest way never to pray to GoD any more, never to appear again in any of our religious assemblies, nor take any part in the solemnity of divine worship; for, of the two, God hath declared, that he does more abhor, and will more severely punish, the formal hypocrite, than the bold and open contemner of his authority. "The prayer of the wicked man is an abomination to the Lord." He hates the addresses of those who call him "Father" and
Christians do not sufficiently consider that in absenting themselves from the Lord's table, they violate a most positive commandment! If, indeed, the receiving of this sacrament were an indifferent rite or ceremony, that might be performed or omitted at pleasure, and much I fear that some of you have hitherto regarded it as such, why then the danger there is in receiving it unworthily might, in some degree, justify your omission of it. But what if the danger be as great, and the hazard equal, of not receiving it at all, as of receiving it unworthily? Where then is your prudence and safety, when to avoid one danger, you run into another every whit as great; when for fear of displeasing GoD, you disobey a plain command; and, through dread
of his judgment, commit an unjustifiable sin; for I can term it no less to live in the neglect and disregard of this holy ordinance. But, my brethren, I have done. If in the course of what I have said, a more than usual warmth or earnestness be apparent, impute it to the proper cause. Of all the duties which attach to me as your minister and spiritual guide, that which I have endeavoured to acquit myself of today, lies nearest my heart; and, alas! it is in vain to disguise the truth, it is the one in which I have hitherto least succeeded. You come to church each sabbath day (none so regular)—your devotion in the prayers and attention during the sermon are most exemplary, so much so as to have attracted the observation of strangers who have occasionally visited this church, and I bless GOD who has given me these earnests of a not quite unsuccessful ministry. But I remember the words of a pious bishop, and am humbled, nay dispirited. "Shew me,” said he, "the young clergyman who draws most communicants to the altar, and I will tell you whom I esteem the most useful." Apply this criterion to the present audience, and there is perhaps more cause for sorrow than rejoicing.
Wherefore is it the case? While musing thus on a circumstance so much
to be deplored, the thought struck me that some groundless fear or apprehension might be at the bottom of this evil, and I determined, if possible, to obviate it. You have seen then, in the foregoing discourse, that a sense of unworthiness, if accompanied by a hearty repentance and a sincere desire to amend, so far from withholding you, ought to bring you the oftener unto the altar. 'Tis there that our blessed Saviour communicates to his followers all the benefits of his death and passion, insomuch, that by a due and frequent receiving of this holy sacrament, our souls would be strengthened and refreshed by the body and blood of Christ, just as our bodies are by bread and wine. And such the supplies of grace and virtue we should derive from him, as to be enabled not only to avoid the sins and follies of this lower world, but to live in a manner above it, and have our conversation in heaven. Thus conversing with our blessed Lord, as guests at his table here below, we shall be ready at a moment to go meet him, and converse with him in his kingdom above; where there will be no need of sacraments to call him to our remembrance, or remind him of our duties; but we shall see him face to face, and laud while we imitate his perfections for evermore!
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