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"and to be in perfect charity with all men, that fo we "may be meet partakers of thofe holy myfteries."
And because this work of examining ourselves concerning our state and condition, and of exercising repentance towards God, and charity towards men, is incumbent upon us as we are Chriftians, and can never be put in practice more feasonably, and with greater advantage, than when we are meditating of this facrament; therefore, befides our habitual preparation by repentance, and the conftant endeavours of a holy life, it is a very pious and commendable custom in Chriftians, before their coming to the facrament, to fet apart fome particular time for this work of examination. But how much time every perfon fhall allot to this purpose, is matter of prudence; and as it need not, fo neither indeed can it be precisely determined. Some have greater rear fon to spend more time upon this work than others; I mean those whofe accounts are heavier, because they have long run upon the score, and neglected themselves: and fome alfo have more leisure and freedom for it, by reafon of their easy condition and circumstances in the world; and therefore are obliged to allow a greater portion of time for the exercises of piety and devotion. In general, no man ought to do a work of fo great moment and concernment flightly and perfunctorily. And in this, as in all other actions, the end is principally to be regarded. Now, the end of examining ourselves, is, to understand our state and condition, and to reform whatever we find amifs in ourselves. And provided this end be obtained, the circumstances of the means are lefs confiderable: whether more or lefs time be allowed to this work, it matters not fo much, as to make sure that the work be thoroughly done.
And I do on purpose speak thus cautiously in this matter, because some pious perfons do perhaps err on the ftricter hand, and are a little fuperftitious on that fide, infomuch that, unless they can gain fo much time to fet apart for a folemn preparation, they will refrain from the facrament at that time, though otherwife they be habitually prepared. This I doubt not proceeds from a pious mind. But, as the Apostle fays in another cafe about the facrament, Shall I praise them in this? I praife
them not for, provided there be no wilful neglect of due preparation, it is much better to come fo prepared as we can, nay I think it is our duty fo to do, rather than to abstain upon this punctilio. For, when all is done, the best preparation for the facrament is, the general care and endeavour of a good life: and he that is thus prepared, may receive at any time when opportunity is offered, though he had no particular forefight of that opportunity. And I think in that cafe fuch a one shall do much better to receive than to refrain; because he is habitually prepared for the facrament, though he had no time to make fuch actual preparation as he defired. And if this were not allowable, how could Ministers communicate with fick perfons at all times, or perfuade others to do it many times upon very short and sudden warning?
And indeed we cannot imagine that the primitive Chriftians, who received the facrament fo frequently, that, for ought appears to the contrary, they judged it as ef fential and neceffary a part of their publick worship, as any other part of it whatsoever, even as their hymns and prayers, and reading and interpreting the word of God; I fay, we cannot well conceive how they who celebrated it fo conftantly, could allot any more time for a folemn preparation for it, than they did for any other part of divine worship; and, confequently, that the Apostle, when he bids the Corinthians examine themselves, could mean no more, than that, confidering the nature and ends of this inftitution, they fhould come to it with great reverence; and, reflecting upon their former mifcarriages in this matter, fhould be careful, upon his admonition, to avoid them for the future, and to amend what had been amifs: which to do, requires rather resolution and care, than any long time of preparation.
I fpeak this, that devout perfons may not be intangled in an apprehenfion of a greater neceffity than really there is, of a long and folemn preparation every time they receive the facrament. The great neceffity that lies upon men, is to live as becomes Christians, and then they can never be abfolutely unprepared. Nay, I think this to be a very good preparation; and I fee not why men fhould not be very well fatisfied with it, unless they intend to
make the fame use of the facrament that many of the Papifts do of confefsion and absolution; which is, to quit with God once or twice a-year, that fo they may begin. to fin again upon a new score.
But because the examination of ourselves is a thing fo very useful, and the time which men are wont to fet apart for their preparation for the facrament, is fo advantageous an opportunity for the practice of it; therefore I cannot but very much commend those who take this occafion to search and try their ways, and to call themselves to a more folemn account of their actions: because this ought to be done fome time, and I know no fitter time for it than this. And perhaps fome would never find time to recollect themselves, and to take the condition of their fouls into ferious confideration, were it not upon this folemn occafion.
The fum of what I have faid is this, that fuppofing a perfon to be habitually prepared, by a religious difpofition of mind, and the general courfe of a good life, this more folemn actual preparation is not always neceffary and it is better when there is an opportunity to receive without it, than not to receive at all. But the greater our actual preparation is, the better: for no man can examine himself too often, and understand the state of his foul too well, and exercife repentance, and renew the refolutions of a good life too frequently. And there is perhaps no fitter opportunity for the doing of all this, than when we approach the Lord's table, there to commemorate his death, and to renew our covenant with him, to live as becomes the gospel.
All the reflexion I fhall now make upon this difcourfe, fhall be, from the confideration of what hath been faid, earnestly to excite all that profefs and call themfelves Chriftians to a due preparation of themselves for this holy facrament, and a frequent participation of it according to the intention of our Lord and Saviour in the inftitution of it, and the undoubted practice of Chriftians in the primitive and best times, when men had more devotion, and fewer fcruples about their duty.
If we do in good earnest believe that this facrament was instituted by our Lord in remembrance of his dying love, we cannot but have a very high value and effeem
for it upon that account. Methinks fo often as we read in the institution of it those words of our dear Lord, Do this in remembrance of me, and confider what he who faid them did for us, this dying charge of our best friend fhould stick with us, and make a ftrong impreffion upon our minds; especially if we add to thefe, thofe other words of his, not long before his death, Greater love than this hath no man, that a man lay down his life for his friend. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatfoever I command you. It is a wonderful love which he hath expreffed to us, and worthy to be had in perpetual remembrance. And all that he expects from us, by way of thankful acknowledgment, is to celebrate the remembrance of it by the frequent participation of this bleffed facrament. And fhall this charge laid upon us by him who laid down his life for us, lay no obligation upon us to the folemn rcmembrance of that unparallelled kindness which is the fountain of fo many bleffings and benefits to us? It is a fign we have no great fenfe of the benefit, when we are fo unmindful of our benefactor, as to forget him days without number. The obligation he hath laid upon us is fo vaftly great, not only beyond all requital, but be yond all expreffion, that if he had commanded us fome very grievous thing, we ought, with all the readinefs and chearfulness in the world, to have done it: how much more when he hath impofed upon us fo eafy a commandment, a thing of no burden, but of immenfe benefit? when he hath only faid to us, Eat, O friends, and drink, O beloved? when he only invites us to his table, to the best and most delicious feast that we can partake of on this fide heaven?
If we seriously believe the great bleffings which are there exhibited to us, and ready to be conferred upon us, we should be fo far from neglecting them, that we should heartily thank God for every opportunity he offers to us of being made partakers of fuch benefits. When fuch a price is put into our hands, fhall we want hearts to make ufe of it? Methinks we should long with David, (who faw but a fhadow of these bleflings), to be fatisfied with the good things of God's houfe, and to draw near his altar; and fhould cry out with him, O when shall I come and appear before thee! My foul longeth, yea even
fainteth for the courts of the Lord; and my flesh crieth out for the living God. And if we had a juft esteem of things, we should account it the greatest infelicity and judgment in the world to be debarred of this privilege, which yet we do deliberately and frequently deprive ourselves of.
We exclaim against the church of Rome with great` impatience, and with a very juft indignation, for robbing the people of half of this bleffed facrament, and taking from them the cup of bleffing, the cup of falvation; and yet we can patiently endure for fome months, nay years, to exclude ourselves wholly from it. If no fuch great benefits and bleffings belong to it, why do we complain of them for hindering us of any part of it? but if there do, why do we by our own neglect deprive ourfelves of the whole?
In vain do we bemone the decay of our graces, and our flow progrefs and improvement in Christianity, whilft we wilfully defpife the best means of our growth in goodness. Well do we deserve that God should fend leannefs into our fouls, and make them to confume and pine away in perpetual doubting and trouble, if, when God himfelf doth spread fo bountiful a table for us, and fet before us the bread of life, we will not come and feed upon it with joy and thankfulness.
A difcourfe against tranfubftantiation.
Oncerning the facrament of the Lord's fupper, one of the two great pofitive inftitutions of the Chriftian religion, there are two main points of difference between us and the church of Rome. One about the doctrine of transubstantiation; in which they think, but are not certain, that they have the fcripture, and the words of our Saviour on their fide: the other about the administration of this facrament to the people in both kinds; in which we are fure that we have the