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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 excuse 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 excuse or extenuation of this neglect. A total want of preparation, and an absolute unworthiness, is impenitency in an evil course ; a resolution to continue a bad man; not to quit his lusts, and to break off that wicked courfe he hath lived in : but is this any excuse 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 son to ask him blessing every day, and is ready to give it him ; but so long as he is undutiful to him in his other actions, and lives in open disobedience, forbids him to come in his fight. He excuseth himself from asking his father blessing, because he is undutiful in other things, and resolves to continue so. This is just the case of neglecting the duty God requires, and the blessings he offers to us in the facrament, because we have made ourselves incapable of fo performing the one as to receive the other, and are resolved to continue so. 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.
3.dly, The proper inference and conclusion from a total want of due preparation for the facrament, is not to cast off all thoughts of receiving it, but immediately to set about the work of preparation, that so we may be fit to receive it. For if this be true, that they who are absolutely unprepared, ought not to receive the facrament, nor can do it with any benefit ; nay, by doing it in such a manner, render their condition much worse; this is a most forcible argument to repentance, and amendment of life. There is nothing reasonable in this case, but imnediately to resolve upon a better course, that so we may Le meet partakers of those holy mysteries, and may no longer provoke God's wrath against us, by the wilful neglect of so great and necessary a duty of the Christian religion. And we do wilfully neglect it, so long as we
do wilfully refuse 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 graciously offered to a rebel, he declines to accept it, and modestly excufeth himself, because he is not worthy of it. And why is he not worthy? Because he resolves to be a rebel, and then his pardon will do him no good, but be an aggravation of his crime. Very true : and it will be no less an aggravation that he refuseth it for such a reason, and under a pretence of modesty does the most imprudent thing in the world. This is just the case; and in this case there is but one thing reasonable to be done, and that is, for a man to make himself capable of the benefit as soon as he can, and thankfully to accept of it: but to excufe him. felf from accepting of the benefit offered, because he is not worthy of it, nor fit for it, nor ever intends to be fo, is as if a man should desire to be excused from being happy, because he is resolved to play the fool, and to be miserable. So that, whether our want of preparation be total, or only to some degree, it is every way unreason 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 such preparation as is necessary 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 necessary, in order to the worthy receiving of this facrament. Which I told you would give me occasion to explain the Apostle's meaning in the last part of the text, But let a man examine himself, and So let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.' I think it very clear, from the occasion and circumstances of the Apostle's discourse concerning the facrament, that he does not intend the examination of our state, whether we be Christians or not, and sincerely resolved to continue fo; and consequently that he does not here speak of our habitual preparation by the resolution of a good life. This he takes for granted, that they were Christians, and refolved to continue and persevere in their Christian profession. But he speaks of their actual fitness and worthiness at that time when they came to receive the Lord's fupper. And for the clearing of this matter, we must con
fider what it was that gave occasion to this discourse. At the 20th verse of this chapter, he sharply reproves their irreverent and unsuitable carriage at the Lord's supper. They came to it very disorderly, one before another. It was the custom of Christians 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 disorder; one was hungry, having eaten nothing at all; others were drunk, having eaten intemperately, and the poor were despised and neglected. This the Apostle condemns as a great profanation of that folemn institution 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 discerning the Lord's body, making no difference in their behaviour between the facrament and a common meal: which irreve. rent 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 represented and commemorated in their eating of that bread, and drinking of that cup. By which irreverent and contemptuous usage 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. xpi'ors, which our translators render damnation, does not here signify eternal condemnation, but a temporal judgment and chastisement, in order to the prevention of eternal condemnation, is evident from what follows: He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself and then he says, For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and ma229 sleep; that is, for this irreverence of theirs, God had fent among them several diseases, 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 censures of the
church, church, or our private censuring of ourselves, in order to our future amendment and reformation, is not certain. If of the latter, which I think most probable, then judging here is much the same with examining ourselves, ♡ 28. And then the Apostle's meaning is, that if we would cenfure and examine ourselves, so as to be more careful for the future, we should escape the judgment of God in these temporal punishments. But when we are judged, we are chastened 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 these temporal judgments upon us, to prevent our eternal condemnation : which plainly shews, that the judgment here spoken of is not eternal condemnation. And then he concludes, Wherefore, my brethren, when ze come together to eat, tarry for one another. And if any man hunger, lei him eat at home; that ye come not together unto judgment : where the Apostle plainly thews both what was the crime of unworthy receiving, and the punishment of it. Their crime was, their irreverent and disorderly participation of the facrament ; and their punishment was, those temporal judginents 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 cxamination of ourselves, before we eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. But let a man examine himself; that is, “ consider “'well with himself what a sacred action he is going a-.
bout, and what behaviour becomes him when he is co-
lebrating this facrament instituted by our Lord, in me“morial of his body and blood, that is, of his death " and passion; and if heretofore he have been guilty of
any disorder and irreverence, (such as the Apostle here “ taxes them withal), let him censure and judge himself “ for it, be sensible 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
and circumstances of it, it cannot well have any other meaning.
But fome will say, 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 disorder in the celebration of it? I answer in short, This was the particular unworthiness with which the Apostle taxeth the Corinthians; and which he warns them to amend, as they desire to escape the judgments of God, such as they had already felt for this irreverent carriage of theirs, so unsuitable to the holy facrament. He finds no other fault with them at present in this matter; though any other sort of irreverence will proportionably expose men to the like punishment. He says nothing here of their habitual preparation, by the sincere purpose and resolution of a good life, anfwerable to the rules of the Chriftian religion. This we may suppose he took for granted. However, it 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 Christian religion, and are fincerely resolved to frame their lives according to the holy rules and precepts of it, are fit to communicate in this folemn acknowledgment and profession of it. So that it is a practice very much to be countenanced and encouraged; because it is of great use for Chriftians, by way of preparation for the sacrament, to examine themselves in a larger sense, than in all probability the Apostle here intended :
to examine our past lives, and the actions of them, in order to a sincere repentance of all our errors and niiscarriages, and to fix us in the steady purpose and resolution of a better life: particularly, when we expect to have the forgivenes of our sins sealed to us, we should lay aside all enmity, and thoughts of revenge, and heartily forgive those 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 earnestly exhorted, in the publick office of the communion, by way of due preparation and disposition for it, “to re
pent us truly of our lins past, to amend our lives,