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An Application to the Communion.
I have hitherto, as carefully as so short a time would permit (and yet, it may be, with greater earnestness than you could have been content I should), searched into the retired corners of our hearts, and there discovered a vice, which, it may be, you little expected, namely, atheism; a strange vice, I confess, to be found in Christian hearts. I have likewise exemplified in some particular practices of these times, most exactly contrary to our profession of Christian religion. If I should endeavour to discover all that might be observed of this nature, not my hour only, but the day itself, would fail me. Notwithstanding, I am resolved to make one instance more about the business for which we are met together, namely, the receiving of the blessed body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I suppose you will all acknowledge with me, that that is a business of the greatest consequence that a Christian is capable of performing. I hope I need not to instruct you, how inexcusably guilty those men render themselves, who come with an unprepared heart, with an unsanctified mouth, to the partaking of these heavenly mysteries. “Who art thou (saith God by the Psalmist) that takest my word into thy mouth, when thou hatest to be reformed ?” And if that be so great a crime for a man only to talk of God, to make mention of his name, when the heart is unclean and unreformed, with how much greater reason may Christ say, What art thou that takest me into thy mouth? What art thou that darest devour my flesh, and suck my blood, that darest
incorporate my flesh and blood into thyself to make my spotless body an instrument of thy lusts, a temple for the devil to inhabit and reign in ? To crucify Christ once more, and put him to open shame? To crucify him so that no good shall follow upon it, to make the blood of the new covenant a profane thing? And thus far, if not deeper, is that man guilty, that shall dare to come to this heavenly feast with spotted and unclean affections.
" Let him deny himself.”—LUKE ix. 23.
Good reason there is, that, according to that excess of value and weight, wherewith heavenly and spiritual things do surmount and preponderate earthly and transitory; so likewise the desire and prosecution of them should be much more contentiously active and earnest, than that of the other : yet, if men were but in any proportion so circumspect and careful in businesses, that concern their eternal welfare, as even the most foolish worldlings are about riches, honour, and such trifles, as are not worthy to take up the mind even of a natural man; we should not have the glorious profession of Christianity so carelessly and sleepily undertaken, so irresolutely and fearfully, nay, cowardly maintained ; I might add, so treacherously pretended, and betrayed to the encompassing of base and unworthy ends, as now it is.
2. To what may we more justly impute this negligent, wretchless behaviour of Christians, than to an extreme incogitancy, and want of consideration in us, upon what terms it is, that we have entered into league with God, and to what considerable strict conditions we have, in our first initiation at our baptism, so solemnly submitted and engaged ourselves; without a serious resolute performance whereof, we have promised by no means to expect any reward at all from God, but to remain strangers, utterly excluded from the least hope of enjoying any fruit of those many glorious promises, which it hath pleased our gracious God so liberally to offer and reach out unto us, in our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ?
3. It was no good sign, when the precious seed of the word was received into the stony ground with such a sudden joy: hearers, resembled by that ground, give good heed to the glorious and comfortable promises, which attend religion, without having respect to many troublesome and melancholic conditions, which must necessarily go along too; and, therefore, when persecution begins, either within them, when they are commanded to strangle a lust as dear unto them, and as necessary for their employments, as an eye, or right hand; or without them, when that profession, which they have undertaken, becomes offensive or scandalous to great men; then (as if they had been mistakeri in the purchase, or deceived by the preacher) the joy, so suddenly kindled, as soon vanishes, and they retire themselves home, expecting a more commodious and gainful bargain.
4. Hereupon it is, that our Saviour in this chapter spends two parables-one of a king preparing for war, the other of a builder for a house; whereby to instruct his hearers, what they should do, before they did offer to undertake his service; the sum whereof is this : that, if they had any ends
, and projects of their own, if they thought to serve themselves upon him, they were much deceived'; that they should deeply and thoughtfully consider, of what weight and consequence the business was that they were about.
5. There is a kingdom to be obtained, and a glorious palace, wherein are to be erected many fair mansions to reign in; but it is a kingdom
that suffers violence, and the violent must take it by force: and it is a building that will exact perchance all they have, and their whole lives' labour 'to boot. Wherefore it is good for them to sit down, to send for their friends to counsel; to question their hearts, whether they have courage and resolution; and to examine their incomes, whether they will bear the charges; to muster soldiers for the conquest, and labourers for the building.
6. If they like these large offers, and have means enough for the employment, and are unwilling to spare for cost, let them go in God's name: there is no doubt to be made of an end, that shall fully recompense their losses, and satisfy their utmost, boldest desires, and fill the whole capacity of their thoughts. But, on the other side, unless all these conditions concur, he has so much care of their credit, that he would wish them not to set one foot further in the employment, but to betake themselves home, lest, if they should fail in the business, they should make themselves ridiculous to the world of scorners; to whom it would be meat and drink to see some glorious fresh ruins of a building left to the fowls and beasts to inhabit; or to see a fierce, invading army forced to retire themselves home, cooled, and content with their former want and poverty.
7. Object. But might not some poor, low-minded, sinful hearer reply upon our Saviour, and inquire, whence these sums must be raised, and these forces mustered ? Alas! what is a wretched mortal man, that he should think of taking heaven by composition, much more of forcing and invading it? What is there on earth to lay in balance against heaven? Has not the Spirit of God told