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Now these are but the ordinary duties of a Christian ; and though perhaps no man performs them in the perfect manner in which he ought, yet, without aiming at the performance of them, he is equally unfit for any other religious duty, as he is for receiving the sacrament; and if he resolves not to try to make himself more fit, he might as well cast off all religion whatever. The subject is of the utmost importance; I must be excused if, in dwelling on it a little, I repeat frequently the same arguments.* Unhappy errors prevail to too great a degree with respect to this ceremony, to the very great prejudice
* Arguments and persuasions to frequent communion were enforced by the author from the pulpit, in many sermons: these, in his life-time, he took occasion to throw together in a small pamphlet, which he published under the title of “ A Familiar Treatise on the Sacrament."-And it is for this reason that the 'repeated arguments,' to which allusion is made above, are not re-printed in this work, as the writer himself had given them to the world in another forin.
of religion, and danger even of many SERM. well-disposed persons. Mankind were in m a fallen state, overwhelmed with ignorance and wickedness, when Jesus Christ came down from heaven to teach and to save them. His whole life was passed in the former of these employments, and he willingly encountered a most painful and ignominious death to compass the latter. It was just before he died, that he appointed to be observed, in perpetual remembrance of him, this participation of bread and wine: “This bread (says he) represents my • body; this wine represents my blood ; · when you eat and drink them, think of • what I have undergone for you, and of the ' great advantages which you have gained by • it:' “ Do this in remembrance of me.” Now there is nothing mysterious in this ; nothing more than what all may understand: you are required to do a plain act, to shew your gratitude for the greatest inF 4
SERM. stance of benevolence that ever was: da
you, or do you not, believe that Christ died for us, and left us this command ? If you do not, there's an end of the matter; but if you do, how can you stand excused in your own eyes for refusing to comply with his so earnest request? You will not tell me it is too much trouble! what! to pass one hour in celebrating the goodness of that friend and Saviour, who spent all the hours of his life, and, lastly, sacrificed his life itself, in your service!
Besides, it is my duty to tell you that there is much reason to fear, that to those who will wilfully shut their eyes against what they ought to do in this particular, and absent themselves altogether from the Lord's table, all which he has done and suffered will have been in vain.
But you are afraid, perhaps, you will say; the threats of St. Paul, which are again repeated in the communion service, terrify
and alarm you; you cannot flatter your. SERM. selves that you shall be worthy partakers of the Lord's supper; and you therefore think it safer wholly to abstain from it! You are then resolved still to continue in your sins; you are determined not to ex. amine yourselves and repent; not to have hope in Christ, nor to be in charity with your brethren ;—for unless this be the case, if you have but a desire to turn to God, and a wish to be in charity with your neighbour, with a firm purpose to endeavour both, you may with the greatest safety draw near unto the Lord's table. The threats of St. Paul are principally directed against those to whom he writes, the Corinthians, on account of some irregularities, of which they had been guilty in celebrating this sacrament: as we celebrate it in a different manner, the same irregularities are not now practicable; therefore the apostle's threats scarce seem
SERM, applicable to the Christians of these days;
and even to the Corinthians, the punishment denounced is not so great as we may suppose it. There is one word, which has been too strongly translated in our Testament; in the original, the sense of the word evidently is not “ damnation,” but “ condemnation.” « For he who eateth « and drinketh unworthily, eateth and “ drinketh condemnation to himself;"_ and the word does not mean eternal, but temporal, condemnation; does not mean punishment in the next, but correction in order to amendment in this world: the very next verse explains it,-“ For this “ cause many among you are weak, and " sickly, and some sleep.” Now this certainly can only relate to punishment in this life.
Not that I would be understood, that you should approach the altar with no preparation whatever, with no purposes at all