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hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knoweth all things.'
But as there are habits of acting, so are there habits of speaking ; habits of lying, which is as much a habit as any one thing I can mention; of slander, which is as often habit as it is malice, or, more properly speaking, though it begins in malice, it soon becomes so habitual as to be almost involuntary. There are habits of captiousness, ingenious in perverting what others say ; of censoriousness, unable to discover or acknowledge a favorable point in any character except those of our own party, or to speak candidly of any thing in any person. These are all the effects of habit, and the point is to perceive when the habit is setting in. Now the circumstance which discovers this, is when any fault of any sort happens to have been committed oftener than before, and when it is each time committed with less and less uneasiness, then is it time to look to this point of our character. But thirdly, as there are habits of acting and speaking, so are there those of thinking. These habits are of all others the hardest to be rectified; for the imagination can draw upon her own fund when she pleases, without waiting for opportunity or assistance. Her wanderings are under no control of other persons, because they cannot be known by them. They do not break forth into outward acts; so we practise them almost without knowing it. They creep upon us insensibly. We think only to indulge a momentary pleasure, till by frequent repetitions it grows into a habit, rendering us incapable of entertaining any other subject whenever the humor sets in for that.
The thing is, that vanity, pride, ambition, covetousness, romantic schemes of pleasure, ruinous projects, revenge or lust, take so strong hold upon us, that those operate most powerfully and involuntarily upon our thoughts. One great part, therefore, of selfexamination, is to watch over our thoughts, and the moment we perceive any bad trains of thinking beginning to form in our imagination, to break them off forthwith, by refusing to entertain them, by avoiding such objects as are likely to foment them, and, above all other rules, to occupy our thoughts closely soine other way; for, assure yourselves, criminal thoughts sooner or later break out into pernicious and extravagant actions.
The watching of our habits is what I would lay out as the business of selfexamination; not perhaps the sole business, but the most important business, because most conducive to a good life.
The last point to be considered is the seasons for this duty. Those of leisure and reflection, of a serious and contemplative turn, may possibly want no directions or no certain occasions for this duty. Their thoughts, of themselves, naturally and frequently turn to such subjects. But they who are engaged in business, or who mix with the bustle of the world, young persons in high health and spirits, poor persons taken up with daily labors, rich persons occupied in rounds of diversion and company; these all must form to themselves stated seasons for this duty, or they will not perform it at all. It is to be hoped we have many of us our seasons for private prayer. Selfexamination will properly accompany our private devotions, if not always, at least sometimes, and at some stated times. Sunday is with all of us a day of cessation from business and from our ordinary diversions ; public worship takes up only a part of the day; there is always time enough to spare for this important concern.
The return of the sacrament is a fit opportunity for such an exercise.
I have only to add, that the business of selfexamination, like every business of importance, should be gone about when the mind and spirits are calm, firm, and cheerful. There is great uncertainty in what is done under the impression of some fright, or state of affliction; when the thoughts are hurried and disturbed, and the spirits sunk and overwhelmed.
Selfexamination is a serious, but not a melancholy business. No one need let his spirits sink under it, or enter upon it with terror and dejection ; because, let a man's spiritual condition turn out upon inquiry ever so bad, he has it always in his power to mend it; and because when the amendment is begun and goes on, every examination of himself affords fresh matter of comfort, hope, and satisfaction.
1 CORINTHIANS XI. 26.
As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's
death till he come.
THERE are some opinions, concerning the sacrament of the Lord's
supper, which are very deserving of consideration, as they are the means either of deterring Christians from coming to it, or making them uneasy in their minds after it; or, lastly, as they sometimes lead men to abuse this institution to the purposes of vice and profligacy, which is by far the worst of all.
There are many errors in religion, which having no bad effect upon a man's life or conduct, it is not necessary to be solicitous in correcting. A man may live in such like errors as these without prejudice, we humbly hope, to his happiness or salvation. But when errors in opinion lead to errors in practice, when our notions affect our behaviour, it then becomes the duty of every Christian, and especially of every teacher of Christianity, to set these notions right, as far as it is
in his power.
Many persons entertain a scruple about coming to the sacrament, on account of what they read in the eleventh chapter of St Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, concerning the unworthy receiving of it. • He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself;' surely, they say, it is better to keep away from the Lord's supper altogether than to incur the risk of so terrible a sentence. And who, they will ask, can know that he is safe from it? Who will be bold enough to say that he eats and drinks worthily? who, however, that is conscious of many defects and imperfections, who that has made so imperfect preparation for it, and what is worse, who is so liable to forget it all, and relapse again into his former course of life? Now there are two sorts of persons who profess this scruple. There are your heartless, indifferent Christians, who are glad of any reason to get rid of their duty, and who, because this seems a sort of excuse from coming to the sacrament, take up with it without farther inquiry, or any sincere concern, indeed, about the matter.
Besides these, there are also many serious and well meaning Christians who have been much and really affected by this text; and who have been either kept away, as I said before, from the communion, or much disturbed and distressed in their minds about it. Now none but sincere and pious people have these scruples, and therefore the utmost tenderness and indulgence are due to them ; even where there is less foundation for them than there appears to be in the present case. For the ease, therefore, and satisfaction of all such, I will endeavour, in this discourse, to make out two points. First, that the unworthy eating and drinking, meant by St Paul, is what we, at this time of day, can scarcely possibly be guilty of; second, that the damnation here spoken of means worldly punishment ; or, as we say, judgment upon the offender in this world, and not everlasting perdition in the world to come, as the term damnation commonly signifies in our mouths.
First ; I maintain that the eating and drinking, meant by St Paul, is what we, at this time of day, can hardly be guilty of.
St Paul, you observe, is not writing to all Christians in general, but to the Corinthians, to the christian converts in that city. Now these converts, it should seem, had been guilty of some disorderly behaviour in the receiving of the Lord's supper, or at least, at the time of receiving it. • Now in this that I declare unto you I praise ye not; that ye come together, not for the better but for the worse.' x. 17. The coming together in this verse, means the coming to the sacrament, because in the twentieth verse he says, ' When ye come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.' So then they had incurred St Paul's censure for some misbehaviour about the sacrament ; and the next question will be what that misbehaviour was? And this we find out from what St Paul
of them, in the twentyfirst and twentysecond verses, which two verses are the key, indeed, to the whole chapter. In eating, every one taketh before other his own supper, and one is hungry and another is drunken. What! have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God and those that have not? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.'
The fact was, then, the Corinthians had perverted the Lord's supper into a common feast, or, at least accompanied it with a common feast; in which, forgetting entirely the nature and design of this institution, they indulged themselves without moderation in eating and drinking, so as, in some degree, to come away from it surfeited and drunken ; • One is hungry,
and another is drunken ;' one goes to indulge in eating, and another in drinking.
It appears, I dare say, to you, unaccountable how any people could fall into such a mistake and misbehaviour as this, so gross an abuse of a religious institution ; but it appears from St Paul's words that, in fact, they did so ; and one way of accounting for it may be this. These Corinthians, you are to consider, were not like us, bred up to Christianity from their infancy. They had been heathens, and a great part of them were converted to Christianity. Now it had been a practice among them before their conversion, as it was with all the heathens, to make feasts to their gods, in which all sorts of intemperance were practised and allowed of. It is possible, and probably was the case, that when they became Christians, some of them mistook the Lord's supper for one of these sorts of feasts which they had been accustomed to hold to their gods, and celebrated it accordingly with the same licentious festivity and intemperance. But whatever was the reason of it, such, in fact, was their mistake and misbehaviour. It is certain, however, that the misbehaviour was that unworthy eating and drinking which St Paul mentioned, and which he condemned in such severe terms. The fault which St Paul reproves, was the fault which the people he writes to had been guilty of. That is very plain. The fault they had been guilty of was, the indulging themselves to excess in eating and drinking at the time of celebrating this sacrament. That is equally plain, from St Paul's account of them ; 'The one is hungry and another drunken. What! have ye not houses to eat and drink in?' to make, that is, your entertainments and hold your feasts in ? which shows that they made a common feast and entertainment of the holy communion.
St Paul proceeds to state to them the history of the institution of the sacrament, which certainly was the proper preservative against the gross abuse of it; and he adds, in order to put an end to so strange proceedings, . He that eateth and drinketh unworthily,' that is, in this unworthy manner which ye have done, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself,'
not discerning the Lord's body;' that is, not distinguishing it from a common feast, not at all reflecting that it was a commemoration of the Lord's body.
I am now, therefore, authorized to say, that the unworthy receiving, intended by St Paul, is what none of us can almost possibly be guilty of; as none of us, I trust, can ever so far forget ourselves as to mistake this institution for a worldly en