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2dly, The total want of a due preparation, not only in the degree, but in the main and substance of it, though it render us unfit at present to receive this facrament, yet does it by no means excuse our neglect of it. One fault may draw on another, but can never excufe it. It is our great fault, that we are wholly unprepared; and no man can claim any benefit by his fault, or plead it in excufe or extenuation of this neglect. A total want of preparation, and an abfolute unworthinefs, is impenitency in an evil courfe; a refolution to continue a bad man; not to quit his lufts, and to break off that wicked courfe he hath lived in: but is this any excufe for the neglect of our duty, that we will not fit ourselves for the doing of it with benefit and advantage to ourselves? A father commands his fon to ask him bleffing every day, and is ready to give it him; but fo long as he is undutiful to him in his other actions, and lives in open difobedience, forbids him to come in his fight. He excufeth himself from asking his father bleffing, because he is undutiful in other things, and refolves to continue fo. This is just the cafe of neglecting the duty God requires, and the bleffings he offers to us in the facrament, becaufe we have made ourselves incapable of fo performing the one as to receive the other, and are refolved to continue fo. We will not do our duty in other things, and then plead that we are unfit and unworthy to do it in this particular of the facrament.
3lly, The proper inference and conclufion from a total want of due preparation for the facrament, is not to caft off all thoughts of receiving it, but immediately to fet about the work of preparation, that fo we may be fit to receive it. For if this be true, that they who are abfolutely unprepared, ought not to receive the facrament, nor can do it with any benefit; nay, by doing it in fuch a manner, render their condition much worfe; this is a moft forcible argument to repentance, and amendment of life. There is nothing reasonable in this cafe, but immediately to refolve upon a better course, that fo we may be meet partakers of thofe holy myfteries, and may no longer provoke God's wrath against us, by the wilful neglect of fo great and neceffary a duty of the Christian religion. And we do wilfully neglect it, fo long as we
do wilfully refufe to fit and qualify ourselves for the due and worthy performance of it. Let us view the thing in a like cafe: A pardon is gracioufly offered to a rebel, he declines to accept it, and modeftly excufeth himself, becaufe he is not worthy of it. And why is he not worthy? Because he refolves to be a rebel, and then his don will do him no good, but be an aggravation of his crime. Very true and it will be no lefs an aggravation that he refufeth it for fuch a reafon, and under a pretence of modefty does the most imprudent thing in the world. This is just the cafe; and in this cafe there is but one thing reasonable to be done, and that is, for a man to make himself capable of the benefit as foon as he can, and thankfully to accept of it: but to excufe himfelf from accepting of the Lenefit offered, because he is not worthy of it, nor fit for it, nor ever intends to be fo, is as if a man fhould defire to be excufed from being happy, because he is refolved to play the fool, and to be miferable. So that, whether our want of preparation be total, or only to fome degree, it is every way unreafon able: if it be in the degree only, it ought not to hinder us from receiving the facrament; if it be total, it ought to put us immediately upon removing the impediment, by making fuch preparation as is neceffary to the due and worthy receiving of it. And this brings me to the
IV. Fourth and last thing I proposed, viz. What preparation of ourselves is neceffary, in order to the worthy receiving of this facrament. Which I told you would give me occafion to explain the Apostle's meaning in the laft part of the text, But let a man examine himself, and fo let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. I think it very clear, from the occafion and circumstances of the Apostle's difcourfe concerning the facrament, that he does not intend the examination of our state, whether we be Christians or not, and fincerely refolved to continue fo; and confequently that he does not here fpeak of our ha bitual preparation by the refolution of a good life. This he takes for granted, that they were Christians, and refolved to continue and perfevere in their Chriftian profeffion. But he speaks of their actual fitnefs and worthinefs at that time when they came to receive the Lord's fupper. And for the clearing of this matter, we must conH 2 fider
fider what it was that gave occafion to this difcourfe. At the 20th verse of this chapter, he fharply reproves their irreverent and unfuitable carriage at the Lord's fupper. They came to it very diforderly, one before another. It was the custom of Chriftians to meet at their feast of charity, in which they did communicate with great fobriety and temperance; and, when that was ended, they celebrated the facrament of the Lord's fupper. Now, among the Corinthians this order was broken. The rich met, and excluded the poor from this common feast. And after an irregular feast, (one before another eating his own fupper as he came), they went to the facrament in great diforder; one was hungry, having eaten nothing at all; others were drunk, having eaten intemperately, and the poor were despised and neglected. This the Apoftle condemns as a great profanation of that folemn inftitution of the facrament; at the participation whereof they behaved themselves with as little reverence as if they had been met at a common fupper or feast. And this he calls not difcerning the Lord's body, making no difference in their behaviour between the facrament and a common meal: which irreverent and contemptuous carriage of theirs, he calls eating and drinking unworthily; for which he pronounceth them guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, which were reprefented and commemorated in their eating of that bread, and drinking of that cup. By which irreverent and contemptuous ufage of the body and blood of our Lord, he tells them that they did incur the judgment of God; which he calls eating and drinking their own judgment. For that the word xpios, which our tranflators render damnation, does not here fignify eternal condemnation, but a temporal judgment and chaftifement, in order to the prevention of eternal condemnation, is evident from what follows: He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himfelf: and then he fays, For this caufe many are weak and fickly among you, and many fleep; that is, for this irreverence of theirs, God had fent among them feveral difeafes, of which many had died. And then he adds, For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. If we would judge ourselves; whether this be meant of the publick cenfures of the
church, or our private cenfuring of ourfelves, in order to our future amendment and reformation, is not certain. If of the latter, which I think moft probable, then judging here is much the fame with examining ourselves,
28. And then the Apoftle's meaning is, that if we would cenfure and examine ourselves, fo as to be more careful for the future, we fhould escape the judgment of God in these temporal punishments. But when we are judged, we are chaftened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. But when we are judged ; that is, when, by neglecting thus to judge ourselves, we provoke God to judge us. We are chaftened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world; that is, he inflicts thefe temporal judgments upon us, to prevent our eternal condemnation: which plainly fhews, that the judgment here spoken of is not eternal condemnation. And then he concludes, Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry for one another. And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto judgment: where the Apostle plainly fhews both what was the crime of unworthy receiving, and the punishment of it. Their crime was, their irre verent and diforderly participation of the facrament; and their punishment was, thofe temporal judgments which God inflicted upon them for this their contempt of the facrament.
Now, this being, I think, very plain, we are proportionably to understand the precept of examination of ourfelves, before we eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. But let a man examine himself; that is, "confider "well with himself what a facred action he is going a66 bout, and what behaviour becomes him when he is ce-lebrating this facrament instituted by our Lord, in me"morial of his body and blood, that is, of his death "and paffion; and if heretofore he have been guilty of << any diforder and irreverence, (such as the Apoítle here
taxes them withal), let him cenfure and judge himself "for it, be fenfible of, and forry for his fault, and be "careful to avoid it for the future: and having thus "examined himself, let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup." This, I think, is the plain fenfe of the Apostle's discourse; and that, if we attend to the scope H 3
and circumstances of it, it cannot well have any other meaning.
But fome will fay, Is this all the preparation that is required to our worthy receiving of the facrament, that we take care not to come drunk to it, nor to be guilty of any irreverence or diforder in the celebration of it? I anfwer in fhort, This was the particular unworthiness with which the Apostle taxeth the Corinthians; and which he warns them to amend, as they defire to efcapethe judgments of God, fuch as they had already felt for this irreverent carriage of theirs, fo unfuitable to the holy facrament. He finds no other fault with them at prefent in this matter; though any other fort of irreverence will proportionably expofe men to the like punishment. He fays nothing here of their habitual preparation, by the fincere purpofe and refolution of a good life, anfwerable to the rules of the Chriftian religion. This we may fuppofe he took for granted. However, concerns the facrament no more than it does prayer, or any other religious duty. Not but that it is very true, that none but those who do heartily embrace the Chriftian religion, and are fincerely refolved to frame their lives according to the holy rules and precepts of it, are fit to communicate in this folemn acknowledgment and profeffion of it. So that it is a practice very much to be countenanced and encouraged; because it is of great ufe for Chriftians, by way of preparation for the facrament, to examine themselves in a larger fenfe, than in all probability the Apostle here intended: I mean, to examine our paft lives, and the actions of them, in order to a fincere repentance of all our errors and mifcarriages, and to fix us in the steady purpose and resolution of a better life: particularly, when we expect to have the forgivenefs of our fins fealed to us, we fhould lay afide all enmity, and thoughts of revenge, and heartily forgive thofe that have offended us; and put in practice that univerfal love and charity which is represented to us by this holy communion. And to this purpose we are earneftly exhorted, in the publick office of the communion, by way of due preparation and difpofition for it, "to repent us truly of our fins paft, to amend our lives,