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It helps our understanding by being a sign, and is a confirmation, a seal, by virtue whereof Christ is passed, and made over to us, so that we have as true an interest and right to him, as to our meat and drink: yea, he becomes as effectually ours, for every purpose in our spiritual life, as our meat and drink doth for our corporal. To which end these elements are changed spiritually in their natures; not in substance, but in use, so that which was but now a common bread, becomes as far different as heaven is from earth, being altered in its use. For instance, the wax whereby the king passes over an inheritance to us, and by which conveyances of our estates are made, that wax is but as another piece of wax differing nothing from that which is in the shop, till the king hath stamped it with his seal: but being once sealed, one would not give it for all the wax in the kingdom, for now it serves to another use; so is it here in these elements; but still know, the difference is not in the matter, or substance, but in the use. And this is the reason why this blessed bread and wine is termed a communion, namely, because it is an instrument whereby Christ instates me into himself, and whereby I have fellowship, and communion with him. In the words then we have these particulars, viz.
1. A sin. If any man shall presume to eat that bread, or drink that cup unworthily. It is a dangerous thing, a great sin to eat and drink at the Lord's table in an unworthy manner.
2. A punishment. He eats and drinks damnation, or judgment unto himself. So that now what was ordained to life, and appointed to be a seal and confirmation of God's love and favor is now changed and become a seal and confirmation of God's anger and indignation. The unworthy receiving of it makes it prove clean contrary to what it was intended.
3. A reason; because he discerns not the Lord's body, but takes them as ordinary things, deeming the elements not different from the bread and wine which we have at our tables, not knowing that they are the dishes wherein Christ is served in unto us, that by these the greatest gift is given us, and nourishment conveyed, for the maintenance of our spiritual life. This life was given us in baptism, but in and by these signs is conveyed spiritual nourishment for the continuance and maintenance of it, for the strengthening of our faith, and making us daily stronger and stronger to fight the Lord's battles: now, when we discern not this, nor by the eye of faith see Christ Jesus, crucified for us, and by these elements conveyed unto us, but take them hand over head without any consideration, we receive them unworthily, and a fearful indignity is offered unto Christ, which he will certainly revenge. I will then
1. Shew in general what it is to eat worthily.
2. What it is to eat judgment; and then
3. I will come to the particulars, how this sin may be avoided, and what the particulars are wherein the sin consists.
1. Concerning the first, What it is to eat unworthily.
Obj. And here may some say, is there any of us who can avouch that he eats and drinks at the Lord's table worthily? is there any so presumptuous as to say, that he is worthy to eat Christ's flesh, and drink his blood? As for bodily food and entertainment, we are unworthy to present them to him; the centurion could say, "I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof:" How then comes this to pass, that he which eats and drinks the Lord's body unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself? If we are not worthy to present bodily food unto him; can we be worthy to receive spiritual from him?
Sol. But here understand what is set down; worthiness is not always taken for a matter of merit, or proportion of worth between the person giving and receiving; but in Scripture it is often taken for that which is meet, fitting, and beseeming; and in this sense the apostle uses it: "Ifd it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me." If it be meet: the word in the original is a£tov, or worthy, which is here rightly translated meet; so in that sermon of St. John Baptist: "bringe forth fruits meet for re
4 1 Cor. chap. 16. ver. 4.
* Matt. chap. 3. ver. 8.
pentance;" that is, fruits beseeming amendment of life. And in this sense are we said "tof walk worthy of God, who hath called us to his kingdom and glory." Worthy of God, that is, worthy of that calling God hath imparted to us. And therefore to use the similitude as I have elsewhere, if the king should vouchsafe to come into a subject's house, and find all things fit and beseeming so great a majesty, that subject may be said to give the king worthy entertainment; not that a subject is worthy to entertain his prince: but the meaning is, he provided all things, which were meet and fit for the entertainment of him. So is it here: if we prepare ourselves with such spiritual ornaments to entertain the King of Glory, as are. requisite for those who approach his table, though our performances come far short of the worth of his presence; yet we may be said to eat his body, and drink his blood worthily. When the king in the Gospel had prepared his feast, two sorts of guests there were, who were unworthy.
1. Those5 that made light of the invitation, who had their excuses, when they should come to the feast; one must go to his farm, another to try his oxen, &c.
2. Others there were who came, and yet were unworthy guests, for coming unpreparedly; for in the midst of the feast the king comes in to view his guests, and beholds a man that did not refuse to come, but yet came without his wedding garment, and so came unworthily for not coming preparedly. Ye see then there may be an unworthiness in those that do come, since they come unfitted and in a dress unbeseeming such a banquet. They are unworthy receivers of the Lord's body, and he accounts it an irreverent usage of him. In like manner may some say touching the ministeryof the word; May I not read a good sermon at home with as much profit? What needs all this stir? Why, here is the advantage and privilege you get in the public ministery of the word: God himself comes down, as a king amongst us, he views his guests, and considers, who comes with his wedding garment, who comes prepa redly. Christ comes and looks on us, and where two or three are gathered together in his name, there he hath promised to be in the midst of themh. He walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks, the ministers of his word; he takes a special view of those that come and frequent his ordinances, and is ready ever to reward them. You see then what it is to eat worthily; it is to do it with that reverence, that is requisite where the King of Heaven is master of the feast. Now this being the sin, unmannerliness, and unprepared approaching his table: we come to the second thing, viz.
'1 Thcss. chap. 2. vor. 12.
t Luke, chap. 14. ver. IS.
2. The punishment: and that is a terrible one: "He that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks damnation to himself:" damnation, that is somewhat hard, the word in the margin is better, Kpifia, judgment. True, there are such as so come, that they deserve to eat condemnation to themselves, as openly profane ones, in whom it is high treason, being God's vowed enemies, to take his privy seal, and put it to so vile a use: this, I say, deserves damnation; but then others there are that have faith and repentance, and a portion in Christ, yet coming unworthily to this feast, eat judgment to themselves: that is, a judgment of chastisement. There is a twofold judgment.
1. One of revenge: for such a person that puts God's seal to a wrong evidence, having no faith to make Christ his portion: in such a one it is high treason to put forth his hand to this tree of life.
2. Another of chastisement, for such a one as hath repentance, and yet comes too unmannerly, and carries himself too carelesly at the Lord's table: at this the apostle aims in the text; not at that judgment of condemnation, but at a judgment to prevent damnation; and this appears in the words following, where we shall find the apostle recounting up the particulars of this judgment of chastisement: "For' this cause many are weak, and sickly among you, and many sleep." Mark what is the judgment, he eats: why this? he is cast upon his bed of sickness, into
h;Matt. chap. IS. ver. 20. 1 Ibid. ver. 30.
a consumption perchance, or some other corporal disease; a cause physicians seldom or never look into: they look to agues, colds, or the like; they never once conjecture that their unworthy eating at the Lord's table cast them into the disease, and was the principal cause of the malady. Nay, death itself too often is the punishment of such bold attempts, so that all the physicians in the world cannot cure them. And thus God inflicts temporal judgments to free them from eternal, as appears farther in the thirty-second verse: "When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world;" that is, we undergo a judgment of chastisement, to prevent the judgment of condemnation: which, though it be a sharp and bitter pill, yet by the mercy of God we eat that whereby damnation is prevented. This judgment of condemnation is the portion of the profane person, who dares to meddle with that which belongs not to him, against whom the angel of the Lord with a flaming sword stands to keep the way of this tree of life. Those that come that have faith, yet coming unpreparedly, they eat judgment too, yet by God's mercy it is that which preserves them from the damnation of the soul.
Now before I come to the particulars, note how careful God is, that spiritual exercises shoul be spiritually performed. He is very angry, when he sees a spiritual duty carnally undertaken. "For this cause many are sick," that is, because you that are believers, have faith, repentance, and a portion in your Saviour, come irreverently, come unpreparedly, perform a spiritual work so carnally. We have precedents hereof in Scripture: and chiefly two: first, for circumcisionk. At the the twenty-first verse, God sent Moses on a message into Egypt, and in the twentyfourth verse, the text saith: "It came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him." This is very strange, this hath no dependance on that which goes before: a strange accident, God sought to kill,
Exod. chap. 4. ver. 21.