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dent Care: then go again to God's Altar, thankfully commemorate his pardoning Love, and claim anew the Benefit of his gracious Covenant. Following this Course honestly, he will assuredly gain Ground. And therefore such, as do not gain Ground, do not follow it honestly: but allow themselves to go round in a Circle of finning, then repenting, as they call it, and communicating, then sinning again : as if every Communion did of Course wipe off the old Score, and so they might begin a new one without Scruple : which is the absurdest, the most irreligious, the most fatal Imagination, that can be.
Il. The next Thing, required of them who come to the Lord's Supper, is a lively Faith in God's Mercy through Chrift, with a thankful Remembrance of his Death. And the Faith necessary is a settled Persuasion, that, for the Sake of the meritorious Obedience and Sufferings of our blessed Redeemer, God will pardon true Penitents; together with a comfortable Trust, that we, as such, have an Interest in his Merits. But here again you must observe, that different Persons may have very different Degrees of this persuafion and Trust. Some may be weak in Faith ; may have Cause to say with Him in the Gospel of St. Mark, Lord, I believe; help thou mine Unbelief; and yet their Prayers, like His, may be graciously heard. Others may be strong", and increase®, till they abound in Faith. And such have great Reason to be thankful to God for themselves : but surely they ought never to judge hardly of their Brethren, who have not advanced fo far. The Rule of judging, both in the Catechism and the Scripture, is not by the Positiveness, but by the Liveliness of our Faith; that is, the Fruits of a Christian Life, which it produces : for Faith without Works is dead. If we cannot shew the Evidence of these, the highest Confidence will do us no Good : and if we can, we need have no Doubts
b Rom. xiv. 1. • Luke xvii. 5.
Mark ix. 24•
& Rom. iv. 201 s Jam, ii, 17,
concerning our spiritual Condition; and though we have ever so many, provided we perceive no sufficient Reason for them, we may celebrate this holy Ordinance very safely. For fuch Weaknesses in our natural Temper and Spirits are no way inconsistent with having, in our fixed and deliberate Judgment, that full Trust in God's Mercy, which the Communion-Service requires : and we cannot take a more likely Method, either to perfect our Repentance or to strengthen our Faith, than receiving the Sacrament frequently.
Our Catechism teaches further, that our Faith in Christ must be accompanied with a thankful Remembrance of his Death. And surely, if we believe, that He died to save us, we must be thankful for it. But then the Measure of our Thankfulness must be taken from the Goodness and Constancy of its Effects, not from that sensible Warmth and Fervency, which we cannot, ordinarily speaking, feel so strongly in spiritual Things as in temporal ; and of which bad Persons may at Times have very much, and good Persons little. For that is the true Thankfulness, which produces Love, And this is the Love of God, that we keep his Commandments
But there is one Commandment, as I have shewn you, peculiarly connected with this Ordinance. And therefore our Catechism specifies it separately, and in express Terms, by requiring,
III. That we be in Charity with all Men. For we can have. no Share in the Love of our Creator, our Redeemer, and Sanctifier, unless, in Imitation of it, we love one another : and, as the Goodness of God is universal, so must ours. Receiving the holy Communion was indeed intended to increase the Degree of it: but the Reality we must have, before we are worthy to receive. And we must fhew it is real, by forgiving them who trespass against us; by affifting, as far as can be reasonably expected, those who need Amistance in any Kind; by our hearty Prayers for those, whom we
1 John 1.3
can help no other Way; by faithfully performing the Duties of our several Stations and Relations in Life ; and by Condefcenfion, Mildness, and Humanity towards every Person, as Occasion offers : all which Duties, and particularly that of Forgiveness, have been explained to you in their proper Places.
These then being the Dispositions requisite for receiving the holy Sacrament, as indeed they are for obtaining eternal Happiness; we are all greatly concerned to examine ourselves, whether we have them or not: and should have been concerned to do it, though this Ordinance had never been appointed. But we are now more especially bound to it with a View to this Ordinance; both from the Nature of it, and from St. Paul's positive Injunction: Let a Man examine himself, and fo let him eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cupi. • The principal Subjects of our Examination are comprehended under the three Heads just now mentioned. But as to any particular Method to be taken, or Time to be spent in it, or in any other further Preparation subsequent to it, we have no Command : it is left to every one's Prudence and voluntary Piety. They who live in a constant Practice of Religion and Virtue, are always fit for the Sacrament; and may, if the Call be sudden, by reflecting for a few Moments, sufficiently know that they are fit. Persons, who live in any Sin, may as easily and quickly know that they are not. And it is only in doubtful Cases, that any Length of Consideration is necessary to satisfy us about this Matter, But it must be extremely useful for ali Perfons, not only to be attentive to their Ways constantly, but to look back upon them frequently; much more frequently than almost any one receives the Sacrament. And as Things, which have no certain Season fixed for them, are very apt to be neglected; we should fix upon this, as one certain Season for as particular an Inspection into the State of our Hearts and Lives as we can well make, and can hope to be the better for ; į i Cor, xi. 28.
joining with it suitable Meditations, Resolutions, and Devotions. But then in the Whole of this work, we must be careful, neither to hurry over any Part thoughtlessly, nor lengthen it wearisomely. And in our Examination we must be especially careful, neither to fiatter nor yet to affright ourselves : but observe impartially what is right in us, thank God, and take the Comfort of it; acknowledge what is wrong, beg Pardon, and amend it. For without Amendment, being ever so sorry will avail Nothing.
The last Thing, to be mentioned in Relation to this holy Sacrament, is our Behaviour at it; which ought to be very serious and reverent; such as may shew, in the propereft Manner, that, to use the Apostle's Word's, we discern or distinguish the Lord's Body k ; look on the Action of receiving it, as one of no common Nature, but as the religious Memorial of our blefied Saviour's dying for us, and by his Death establishing with us a Covenant of Pardon, Grace, and everlasting Felicity on God's Part, and of Faith and Holiness on ours. With this important Consideration, we should endeavour to affect our Hearts deeply and tenderly: yet neither to force our Minds, if we could, into immoderate Transports, by which we shall only bewilder and lose, instead of benefiting ourselves; nor express even what we ought to feel, by any improper Singularities of Gesture; nor yet be dejected, if we have less Feeling, and even less Attention to the Service, than we have Reason to wish. For such Things may be, in a great Measure at least, natural and unavoidable. Or, supposing them Faults; they may be, and often are, the Faults of such Persous, as notwithstanding are, on the Whole, very worthy Communicants. They may be, for a Time, useful Means of keeping us humble and watchful: after that, God may deliver us from them: and should we continue all our Lives afflicted with them, it would never hinder our receiving all the neceflary Benefits of this Ordinance.
God grant that both it, and all his other gracious Inftitutions, may contribute effectually to build us up on our mojt holy Faith in a suitable Practice, that so we may ever keep ourselves in the Love of God; and on good Grounds look for the Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal Life!
AVING now, through God's Mercy, car
ried on these Lectures to the End of the Catechifm, and in some Meafure explained to you every Part of Christian Faith and Duty comprehended in it, I have only one Instruction more to add, but the most important of all for you to remember and consider well: that, if ye know these Things, happy are ye, if ye do them *; and miserable are ye,
do them not. We all know indeed by Nature, in a great Degree, what Manner of Perfons we ought to be in this World: and therefore, if we fail of being such, are in a great Degree inexcusable. For how little Teaching foever fome may have had; yet our Saviour's home Question will reach even them: Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not, what is right" ? The Work of the Law is 'written in the Hearts of Men, their conscience also bearing Witness “. Being reasonable Creatures, we are evidently bound to govern our Passions, Appetites, Fancies, and whole Behaviour, by the Rules of Reason. And who doth not fee, that Sobriety, Temperance and Mo
* John xiii. 17..
b Luke xii. 576
c. Rom. ii. 15.