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at the altar: none but such can have real communion with Christ : none but such receive benefit from this service. “ The wicked, indeed, and such as be void of a lively faith *, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth, as Saint Austin saith, the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a thing.
But this does by no means hinder the blessed effect of this heavenly ordinance on the souls of those who receive it in faith and love; it would be strange if it did. The matter is well set forth in the xxvi Article of Religion, which is entitled, “Of the unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments,” the whole of which deserves to be carefully perused. It declares that “ the effect of Christ's ordinance is not taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gift diminished from such, as by faith, do rightly receive the sacraments ministered to them, which be effectual because of Christ's institution and promise.” Let none then be discouraged from attending the Lord's Table on account of the ungodliness of others. It is a vain thing to expect that, in this world, the Church should be cleansed from all tares: both wheat and tares must grow till the time of harvest. A perfect communion of spotless worshippers we must patiently wait for, till we arrive at heaven.
We owe that respect to our excellent Church that we ought to attend her services, as many as "worship God in the Spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus," even though the evil should happen to have chief authority * in the ministration of the word and sacraments; and though there should be too much reason to suppose, without any breach of Christian charity, that many who profess themselves members of the visible church, and with us partake of the outward part or sign of the Lord's Supper, are dead in trespasses and sins. Oh! my Brethren, let us do all the good we can to them, by practically convincing them that we are the true Churchmen; and that those are the false ones, who either profanely neglect the Lord's Supper entirely, or who, by their lives, make it plain, that they receive that holy sacrament unworthily. Let us not harden them against the truth by giving them occasion to suppose that we are ill affected to the national Establishment. Let us adhere to it, and act consistently with our profession, that we may be the means of spreading the savour of godliness among others. To promote this generous design, let us bear, without murmuring, various crosses, which, indeed, are but light things compared with the worth of souls. Surely, this would be to follow the example of St. Paul, “ I will eat no flesh,” says he,“ while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” If indeed the Church itself were essentially corrupt, we ought to separate ourselves from it, as our Fathers separated themselves from Popery. But, since the Church of England is as pure, perhaps more pure, than any other Protestant Church this day in the world, we, who see its excellency, and have had a discovery of the fair beauty of the Lord
* Vide xxix Article.
in his temple, ought, I think, to frequent its services; and not only to do nothing that may give occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully; but also, as much as possible, to cut off occasion from them that seek occasion, of cavil or quarrel against our publick Liturgy
The Apostle in the Text is speaking of “ the cup of blessing,” the consecrated wine, and “the bread which we break," the consecrated bread in this Sacrament. He is shewing that in them, by faith, the believer has actual communion with Christ. it not the communion of the blood of Christ; Is it not the communion of the body of Christ ?" He has, spiritually, as real an intercourse of friendship with his Saviour in heaven, when he thus worthily commemorates his death, as a man has, temporally, with a friend on earth; and his soul is nourished and strengthened with a view to carry it on the way to heaven, as actually, as the body is nourished by temporal food. “For we, being many, are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” Christ's real members are all united in one body, all partaking of that one Bread of life, Christ Jesus.
I know nothing that will more simply and truly illustrate these comfortable ideas of the union subsisting between Christ and his Church, and also between the real members of it, among one another, than the Communion Service of the church. I despair, on this side heaven, ever to find this ordinance more spiritually conducted. Let me beseech you, who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, to study it. With this view let us proceed, as
See the Preface to the book of Common Prayer.
I proposed, to make some reflections on the several
parts of it.
At the time of the celebration of the Communion, the Priest begins with an exhortation ; in which he informs us how St. Paul exhorteth all persons to try themselves, before they presume to eat of that bread and drink of that cup. Where men partake of it aright, there they “ spiritually eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood; there they dwell in Christ and Christ in them; they are one with Christ and Christ with them;" exactly according to the ideas of communion set forth in the Text. That this blessed end may be answered to us, and that we may avoid the great peril which attends the unworthy receiving thereof, we are exhorted to condemn ourselves, to repent sincerely, and believe the Gospel, and bring forth the fruits of it in love. A spirit of thankfulness to God our Saviour is particularly recommended'; and, to this end, we are reminded what we ourselves are,—“miserable sinners, who lay in darkness and the shadow of death."
It is an easy thing for a person, in words, and in repeating a general confession, to own this ; but for a man to own himself a miserable sinner from the heart, is a matter of much more difficulty: What pains do people take to prevent themselves from being convinced of this their real state! Yet, without such a conviction, how can men bring to God thankfulness for their redemption by Jesus Christ? Surely, if I feel not myself a miserable sinner, I shall never either heartily prize Christ or heartily thank him. The language of praise will come from me as dead and unmeaning as the language of humiliation.
Ye then that mind to come to the holy communion of the body and blood of our Saviour Christ, consider how you are disposed in this respect. And let all, who know Christ indeed, dwell much upon these self-humbling views.
Another thing, with the remembrance and the consideration of which we are called upon to be heartily affected, is “the death and passion of our Saviour Christ both God and man, who did humble himself even to the death upon the Cross for us.” And this is, most certainly, the life and soul of the whole Communion. Let us, then, ask ourselves, before we come to the Table, what views we have of HIM. If indeed we do thus regard Christ, thus esteem him as our God and Saviour, who laid down his life for us, we must both trust in and love him above all things.
The next thing to which this exhortation calls our attention, is the end of his sufferings. It was an end worthy of God, “that he might make us the children of God, and exalt us to everlasting life.” Thou then, who art verily and indeed looking to. Jesus in this ordinance, shouldst be considering the immense value of thy privileges. Thou art already a child of God. His Father is thy Father; He has mansions prepared for thee : His worthiness is thy Title to everlasting life. Thou art now a poor sinner; a miserable creature in many respects; and exposed, in this earthly state, to many calamities ; but, he allows and commands thee to expect the best things, even heaven itself, from him. He orders thee to eat and drink these pledges of his dying love, as a testimony of thy faith in him as