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of his affections, his union with Christ as a branch in a tree, and his guidance through a dangerous world, all are important; and there is a reality in them all, although Christ is literally neither light nor heat, neither a vine nor a shepherd. In like manner, there is a reality in the Christian's eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man, although the sacramental bread and wine be literally neither flesh nor blood. “ It is the spirit that quickeneth ; the flesh profiteth nothing.”
Having communion with Christ, we have communion also with the universal church of Christ, “ which is the blessed company of all faithful people.” Differing in many things yet we agree in this. Broken into
Broken into many parties among men, yet are we but one body, under one head ; animated by one Spirit, interested in one covenant, partaking of one feast, one faith, one new nature, having one Father and one home. The ceremonies attending the celebration of this ordinance are various; the bread and wine are taken into the body by some sitting, by some kneeling, by some standing, by some with a form of words, by some without any words: but there is one way only of taking Christ into the soul, even by a true and living faith, wrought by the Holy Ghost in the hearts of God's people, according to the eternal counsel of his will. These two branches of communion correspond with the two objects above mentioned, as being kept in view in this ordinance.
As it is a memorial of Christ, so we have in it communion with Christ.
As it is an open confession of faith, so we have in it communion with the church.
And we may observe further in these two things, the prevailing dispositions of mind, with which we ought to partake of this feast. Have we communion with the Lord Jesus? then we ought to be crucified to the world, dead with him unto sin, and alive with him unto God : that is we ought to be mortifying our members which are upon the earth, bitterly repenting of our sins past, and seeking grace through Christ to åvoid a repetition of them; and we ought also to be rejoicing in the Lord, giving thanks unto his name. Have we communion with the whole church of Christ ? then we ought to cultivate the fruits of unity and godly love, being in perfect charity with all men. And these combined are precisely the dispositions suitable to the observance of this blessed supper: repentance of sins, lively and joyful faith in the Lord, and love and good will to all our brethren. The paschal lamb was eaten in Egypt with bitter herbs, and unleavened bread; and our paschal feast is to be kept with a deeply penitent spirit, and “not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
But there is more than communion in this ordinance, there is something of the nature of an oath, an engagement entered into upon a solemn obligation. Acknowledging the Lord Jesus to be our rightful sovereign, we bind ourselves to allegiance, as his willing and obedient subjects. We enlist under his banners, and pledge ourselves to fight against his enemies. Hence this ordinance has been called a sacrament or oath. Hence also the danger of joining lightly in it, for the more frequently solemn obligations are violated, the less likely they are to be kept; they become common, and the mind disregards them.
This leads us to consider, in conclusion, one of the excuses most usually pleaded for not joining in the ordinance.
Many persons (some of whom appear to be truly religious) say, 'We are afraid to approach the Lord's table: that awful passage in St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians terrifies us; lest we might be eating and drinking damnation to ourselves.'
Dear brethren has this apprehension arrested any of your minds? And is it indeed from conscientious awe, and not from either gross ignorance or wilful sin, that you have been absenting yourselves from this precious feast? Then let us fairly consider the language of the apostle to which you refer. It is this. "Let a man
examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup; for he that eateth and drinketh unworthily:" observe the application of this expression unworthily; it refers, not to the character of the receiver (who at the best is still unworthy even to gather up the crumbs under the Lord's table) but to the manner or motive of receiving ; “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.” Observe here the cause of the evil, not discerning the Lord's body : and in the following verse observe the effect produced. “For this cause many are weak, and sickly among you, and many sleep.” A careless irreverent manner of coming to this ordinance, without personal examination and lively faith, has an extremely injurious effect upon the experience of a Christian ; lukewarmness and slothfulness follow as the just punishment; “ For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged,” that is; if we would examine ourselves with the scrutiniz
ing severity of faithful self-reproach, and stir up : the gift that is in us to a living participation
of this ordinance, we should not be punished by the Lord. But this punishment which Christians endure, the serious injury they sustain for their carelessness, is a great mercy, and inflicted in the distinguishing grace of God; for“when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord,
that we should not be condemned with the world.” It appears quite evident from this context, that the word damnation in the twentyninth verse, signifies the present just chastisements which God inflicts upon careless Christians; and not his everlasting wrath.
Now there can be no doubt but that a careless irreverent manner of reading or hearing the holy scriptures is exceedingly injurious to Christian experience, and that God punishes it by withdrawing all relish for the scriptures, and permitting the meditations and affections of the Christian to become most grievously secular : but can this be pleaded as a good reason for reading no more? and would not that be to add sin to sin, and make bad worse? It is equally true that a want of serious self-collected reverence in prayer, is highly detrimental in its consequences : but can it be pleaded as a reason for praying no more ? Nay, rather, should it not make us feel more deeply the value of real prayer, and our bounden duty earnestly to aim at it?
In like manner, and perhaps to a peculiar extent, a want of special preparation of heart, of due reverence, of active animated devotion, in this ordinance of the Lord's supper; does, in the language of our church service, “provoke the Lord to plague us, with divers diseases, and sundry kinds of death.” For this cause many