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lead you into the Way of Salvation. But perhaps you are not so Ignorant as you think yourself; or you mis. take the Degrees of Knowledge which are required in a worthy Communicant.
If you know the Author of this Ordinance to be Jesus Christ, and the End of it to be a Commemoration of his Death, the Use of it to renew your Covenant with God, which you made at your Baptism, and the Pardon of your Sins to be hereby. sealed; if you consider that Christians are hereby united in the strictest Bonds of Love and Charity; if you come with an earnest Desire to increase daily more and more in the Knowledge of Jesus Christ, and grow in Grace, and in all Godliness of Living, depend upon it that God will graciously receive
For a fourth Excuse you say thus; I fear my Heart is hardened: I cannot, like Mary Magdalen, weep much, though I have much to be forgiven..
I answer, Though you cannot mourn so much as others may do, as you yourself would wish to do, nevertheless you may be a true Penitent for all this. You grieve that you are grieved no more, therefore you have not a hard Heart, nor do you want the Grace of Repentance: therefore should you come to this Sacrament to increase your godly Sorrow for Siu, wherein the Breaking of the Bread, and the Pouring out of the Wine will put you in Remembrance of a bleeding crucified Saviour, and will help to soften your Heart, and increase your Godly Sorrow for Sin.
The fifth Excuse you make for not coming to the Sacrament is this: Some of those who come, do not lead better Lives than they who keep away; and therefore what Good is there in communicating?
Answ. How do you know that your Neighbours who frequent the Lord's Table have not repented of
their past Sins, or make firm Resolves against them for the Time to come? And suppose any of these have unhappily started aside, like a broken Bow, and fallen into presumptuous Sifs afterwards, yet still is their Condition worse than your's, who profanely turn your Back upon the Lord's Table, casting off all Regard to God and Religion?
A sixth Pretence against frequent receiving is, That it will diminish the Reverence due to the holy Sacra
This Objection is founded upon the Experience Men have, that their Familiarity and intimate Converse with Men and Things in this World, is apt to diminish their Value and Respect for them; not considering that it is quite contrary in spiritual Things, the frequent Use whereof is "the likeliest Means to increase our Veneration and Respect towards them. The oftener we converse with God in his holy Ordinances, the more we shall admire his divine Perfections, and the more we shall be disposed to conform ourselves to his Likeness; for an Object of infinite Perfection in itself, and of infinite Goodness to us, will always raise our Admiration, and heighten our Respect and Esteem, the more we contemplate it. I am sure Experience will inform us that the devoutest Ages of the Church were those wherein the Practice of frequent Communion most prevailed.
Never was there so much Fervour and Strictness of Piety, as when the Faithful met daily at the Lord's Table. And in the Accounts we have of the greatest Saints, never any one excelled in the Virtues of the Christian Life, but what distinguished himself by frequently nourishing his Soul with this heavenly Banquet. Nay, I dare appeal to those holy Souls who live under a strict Sense of their Duty in this Particular, and embrace all Opportunities which the Providence of God offers them to commemorate the ineffable Love of their dying Redeemer ; whether they do not find themselves more determined
to be just in all their Dealings, and readier to relieve the Necessities of the Poor: whether their Affections in the World do not lose Ground, and their Desires towards Heaven do not grow more intense and vigorous: whether their Passions are not more calm, and their Patience and Submission to the Will of God more evident and conspicuous; whether they are not sensible of less Fondness of Life, less Earnestness for Trifles, less Desire of Glory, less Eagerness for Profit, and less Concern for whatever the World most esteems.
7. The last Plea you urge against receiving the Sacrament is, I am not in Charity with my Neighbours, and therefore cannot come to that Ordinance, which requires so much of mutual Love and Charity.
The Sacrament, indeed, is a Sacrament of Love, being left as a Pledge of our blessed Saviour's Love to us, and therefore to be received in Love and Charity. It is true, so long as you are in a State of Hatred, or of an upcharitable Temper, you are not fit for this, or any other religious Duty. Whose Fault is it, that you are not in Charity with your Neighbour? Pray consider, what Love can you have for your Saviour (whatever Reverence you pretend for his Sacrament) who laid down his Life for your Sake, when you will not give up all hard and uncharitable Thoughts against your Brethren at his Request? Shall Christ die to reconcile you to his Father, and will not you be reconciled to your Neighbour for whom Christ died as well as for you? It is amazing that you make your Guilt a Pretence for not performing religious Duties. Assure yourself that as long as you are resolved to hate your Brother, you can have no Advantage from Christ's Blood, who, out of the Riches of his Love and Charity, died for Mankind, even while they were Sinners. If your Brother, who has offended you, refused to be reconciled, that is not your Fault; the Crime of Uncharitableness, lies then
then at his Door; but do you preserve your charitable Temper, and approach the holy Table.
The Love of Christ one would think, should subdue the Enmity of our Nature toward each other; that Pride, the Cause of almost all Quarrels; that Bitterness of Spirit, that Rancour and Revenge, which too much prevail every where. Our Hatred, our Resentments, our Revenge, should be turned against our Sins, What a happy World would this be if the whole Body of Christians did frequently meet together in perfect Love and Charity, at the holy Communion? All Mankind must needs love one another, if they did often meet at his holy Table: they could not, they dared not entertain any Hatred and Malice in their Breast, one against another.
This Consideration will, I hope, make you as solicitous as may be, for a speedy Reconciliation with your Neighbour; and you will not look upon that any longer as a Plea to keep you from the Lord's Table.
These are some of the common Excuses for the Neglect of this Duty. But oh! let these and all other Obstacles be removed out of the Way; and no longer neglect coming to this Holy Table; neglect not your own Salvation, when it may be so easily obtained. It is a certain Sign we have no great Sense of the Benefit of a Saviour, when we forget him Days, nay even Months and Years, without Number. We should be so far from neglecting this Ordinance, that we should heartily thank God for every Oppor tunity he offers us, of thus shewing forth his Death, and our grateful Remembrance of it. Methinks we should long with holy David (who saw but the Shadows of these Blessings) to be satisfied with the good Things of God's House, and to compass his Altar; and should cry out with him, O when shall I come and appear before thee? My Soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the Courts of the Lord, and my Flesh crieth out for the Living God! Had we
therefore but a just Esteem of Things, we should account it the greatest Unhappiness in the World to be debarred of this Privilege, which yet we do deliberately and frequently refuse to Partake of.
I now come to shew what Preparation is necessary before you receive the blessed Sacrament.
Now a holy Life; a daily walking before God in his holy Ways the being faithful and diligent in your honest Calling; the exercising yourself unto Godliness, and keeping a Conscience void of Offence towards God, and towards Man, is the best Preparation. It is certain, thut the Primitive Christians, being mostly of the poorer Sort, and obliged to get their Bread by the Sweat of their Brow, and yet receiving the Sacrament very often, sometimes every Day, could not employ much Time by Way of Preparation. Much depends upon the habitual Temper and Disposition of the Mind, and the constant Exercise of true Devotion: Likewise the Capacity and Leisure of each Person must be considered in fixing the Portion of Time to be employed in actual and particular Preparation. A good Christian, who sets the Lord always before him, cannot need much Time to assure himself that he comes with due Dispositions. On the contrary, those who have forgotten God, Days without Number, require more Time, and ought to undergo a stricter Examination, to see if their Repentance be sincere. But the great Matter to be attended to, is the general Tenour of our Lives, in which, if there be but an Evenness and Regularity in well-doing, if there be but an honest and good Heart, A Man may go forth to his Work, and to his Labour, on Saturday, and be a good Communicant on Sunday Morning. To love our Lord Jesus Christ in Sincerity, and keep his Commandments; to cease to do Evil, and learn to do well; to refrain the Tongue from Evil, and the Lips that they speak no Guile; to seek Peace, and ensue it; to follow the Works of our Calling with