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in steady faith and full persuasion of mind, that he is (supposing our dutiful compliance) ready to bestow upon us all the blessings then exhibited; in attentively fixing the eyes of our mind, and all the powers of our soul (our understanding, will, memory, fancy, affection) upon him, as willingly pouring forth his life for our salvation; lastly, in motions of enlarged good-will and charity toward all our brethren for his sake, in obedience to his will, and in imitation of him: such like duties should attend our participation of this holy sacrament.
3. The effects of having duly performed which, should appear in the practice of those duties which are consequent thereon; being such as these: an increase of all pious inclinations and affections, expressing themselves in a real amendment of our lives, and producing more goodly fruits of obedience; the thorough digestion of that spiritual nourishment, by our becoming more fastly knit to our Saviour by higher degrees of faith and love; the maintaining a more lively sense of his superabundant goodness; the cherishing those influences of grace which descend upon our hearts in this communion, and improving them to nearer degrees of perfection in all piety and virtue; a watchful care and endeavour in our lives to approve ourselves in some measure worthy of that great honour and favour which God hath vouchsafed us in admitting us to so near approaches to himself; an earnest pursuance of the resolutions, performance of the vows, making good the engagements, which in so solemn a manner, upon so great an occasion, we made, and offered up unto our God and Saviour; finally, the considering that by the breach of such resolutions, by the violation of such engagements,
our sins receiving so mighty aggravation of vain inconstancy and wicked perfidiousness, our guilt will hugely be increased; our souls relapsing into so grievous distemper, our spiritual strength will be exceedingly impaired; consequently hence our true comforts will be abated, our best hopes will be shaken, our eternal state will be desperately endangered.
There is one duty which I should not forbear to touch concerning this sacrament; that is, our gladly embracing any opportunity presented of communicating therein; the doing so being not only our duty, but a great aid and instrument of piety; the neglecting it a grievous sin, and productive of great mischiefs to us.
The primitive Christians did very frequently use it, partaking therein, as it seems, at every time of their meeting for God's service; it is said of them Acts ii. 42. by St. Luke, that they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and communion, and in breaking 1 Cor. x.20. of bread, and in prayers; and, when you meet together, it is not (as according to the intent and duty of meeting it should be) to eat the Lord's Supper, saith St. Paul: and Justin Martyr in his second Apology, describing the religious service of God in their assemblies, mentioneth it as a constant part thereof; and Epiphanius reporteth it a custom in the church, derived from apostolical institution, to celebrate the eucharist thrice every week, that is, so often as they did meet to pray and praise God; which practice may well be conceived a great means of kindling and preserving in them that holy fervour of piety, which they so illustriously expressed in their conversation, and in their gladsome suffering for
Christ's sake and the remitting of that frequency, as it is certainly a sign and an effect, so in part it may possibly be reckoned a cause, of the degeneracy of Christian practice, into that great coldness and slackness which afterward did seize upon it, and now doth apparently keep it in a languishing and halfdying state.
The rarer occasions therefore we now have of performing this duty, (the which indeed was always esteemed the principal office of God's service,) of enjoying this benefit, (the being deprived whereof was also deemed the greatest punishment and infelicity that could arrive to a Christian,) the more ready we should be to embrace them. If we dread God's displeasure, if we value our Lord and his benefits, if we tender the life, health, and welfare of our souls, we shall not neglect it; for how can we but extremely offend God by so extreme rudeness, that when he kindly invites us to his table, we are averse from coming thither, or utterly refuse it? that when he calleth us into his presence, we run from him? that when he, with his own hand, offereth us inestimable mercies and blessings, we reject them? It is not only the breach of God's command, who enjoined us to do this, but a direct contempt of his favour and goodness, most clearly and largely exhibited in this office. And how can we bear any regard to our Lord, or be anywise sensible of his gracious performances in our behalf, if we are unwilling to join in thankful and joyful commemoration of them? How little do we love our own souls, if we suffer them to pine and starve for want of that food which God here dispenseth for their sustenance and comfort? if we bereave them of enjoying so high a privilege, so
inestimable a benefit, so incomparable pleasures as are to be found and felt in this service, or do spring and flow from it? what reasonable excuse can we frame for such neglect? Are we otherwise employed? what business can there be more important, than serving God, and saving our own souls? is it wisdom, in pursuance of any the greatest affair here, to disregard the principal concern of our souls? Do we think ourselves unfit and unworthy to appear in God's presence? But is any man unworthy to obey God's commands? Is any man unfit to implore and partake of God's mercy, if he be not unwilling to do it? What unworthiness should hinder us from remembering our Lord's excessive charity towards us, and thanking him for it? from praying for his grace; from resolving to amend our lives? Must we, because we are unworthy, continue so still, by shunning the means of correcting and curing us? Must we increase our unworthiness, by transgressing our duty? If we esteem things well, the conscience of our sinfulness should rather drive us to it, as to our medicine, than detain us from it. There is no man indeed who must not conceive and confess himself unworthy; therefore must no man come thither at God's call? If we have a sense of our sins, and a mind to leave them; if we have a sense of God's goodness, and a heart to thank him for it; we are so worthy, that we shall be kindly received there, and graciously rewarded. If we will not take a little care to work these dispositions in us, we are indeed unworthy; but the being so, from our own perverse negligence, is a bad excuse for the neglect of our duty. In fine, I dare say, that he who, with an honest meaning, (although with an imperfect devotion,) doth address
himself to the performance of this duty, is far more excusable than he that upon whatever score declineth it; no scrupulous shyness can ward us from blame; what then shall we say, if supine sloth, or profane contempt, are the causes of such neglect?
Αὕτη non recepta
Ὥσπερ γὰρ τὸ ὡς ἔτυχε προσιέναι κίνδυνος, οὕτω τὸ μὴ κοι- Mens defνωνεῖν τῶν μυστικῶν δείπνων ἐκείνων, λιμὸς καὶ θάνατος. γὰρ ἡ τράπεζα τῆς ψυχῆς ἡμῶν τὰ νεύρα, τῆς διανοίας δεσμος, τῆς παῤῥησίας ἡ ὑπόθεσις, ἡ ἐλπὶς, ἡ σωτηρία, τὸ wn. Chrys. in 1 Cor. Or. 24.
σύν- erigit et acφῶς, Cyp. Εp.54.
Thus having briefly despatched the considerations that offered themselves upon these subjects, I shall conclude all with prayer to Almighty God, that we, by his grace and help, believing rightly, strongly, constantly, and finally; being frequent and fervent in prayer, and all pious devotion; sincerely obeying all God's commandments; continuing orderly, dutiful, and worthy members of Christ's church, growing continually in grace, by the worthy participation of the holy sacraments, may obtain the end of our faith, the success of our prayers, the reward of our obedience, the continuance in that holy society, the perfect consummation of grace in the possession of eternal joy, glory, and bliss; which God in his infinite mercy grant to us, for our blessed Saviour's sake; to whom be all glory and praise for ever and ever. Amen.