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A. It were much to be wished that men would be persuaded to live under the constant practice of it; and cousider every week, or indeed every day, how their accounts stand towards God. But, at least, if they neglect it at other times, yet certainly they ought to do this very nicely and scrupulously before they come to the holy communion. 1 Cor. xi. 28, 30, 31. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
3. Q. How inust this examination be performed ?
A. By a careful and diligent search into our lives and actions; that so we may, if possible, know what the true state of our souls is, in all those particulars concerning which we are here directed to examine ourselves. And this accompanied with earnest prayer to God for his assistance in, and blessing upon, our endeavours.
4. Q. What is the first point concerning which we are to examine ourselves ?
A. QUhether we repent us truly of our former sins, stedfastly purposing to lead a new life.
5. 2. How may we know whether we do this so effectually as we are here required to do?
A. We can only judge by the present frame and disposition of our souls. If we are heartily sorry for and ashamed of our sins; if we earnestly desire God's forgiveness of them; if we are instant with God in our prayers for pardon, and where we have done any injury to our neighbour, are ready to ask his forgiveness also, and to make all reasonable satisfaction to him: if, lastly, as far as we can judge of ourselves, we do all this uprightly and sincerely: if we reserve no secret affection for any sin in our souls, but uni.. versally resolve to forsake all our evil ways; and in every thing to follow the rules of our duty: we may then justly conclude that our repentance and resolutions are hearty, and without deceit; and, as such, will qualify us for the worthy receiving of this holy sacrament.
6. Q. But what, if after all this, we should relapse into sin again?
A. If we do it by surprise or infirmity, if we fall back only into some lesser sins, and such as are hardly together to be avoided by us in this present life, we ought not to be discouraged. But, indeed, if after this we should fall into the commission of some heinous, deliberate, wasting sin, but especially should relapse into a habit and course of such sins; this would be of a dangerous consequence to us, and. make our last state worse than our first.
7. Q. Would it not therefore be the safest way ra: ther to abstain altogether from the holy table, than to run the hazard of coming unworthily to it?
A. Were it a matter of indifference whether we ever received this sacrament or no, this might the more reasonably be insisted upon; but, as the case now stands, it is altogether idle and absurd. For, first, to come to the holy table is a matter of express duty: Christ has commanded us to do it; and it is equally dangerous not to come at all, as it is to come unworthily to it. Secondly, by not coming, we deprive ourselves of the grace of God, which this sacrament was designed to convey to us; and in that, of the greatest present benefit, as well as comfort to
our souls in the course of our duty, that our religion has provided for them.
To all which let me add, thirdly, that the shortness and uncertainty of our lives, being considered, we ought, upon that account, to make the same preparation against the hour of our death, that we are required to do for coming to the holy table. And since men are so very apt to put both the thoughts of death and their provision for it afar off; it is an instance of the great mercy and concern of our Saviour Christ for us, that by calling us frequently to his table, and requiring so strict a preparation for it, he has thereby engaged us to keep our souls always in such a state as will fit us for dying, should we chance, ere we are aware, to be surprised by death.
8. Q. What is the next thing wherein we are to examine ourselves before we come to the holy communion ?
A. Whether we have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ; i. e. do stedfastly believe that if we truly repent us of our sins, God will not only most certainly forgive them, but as an earnest of it, does here, in this very sacrament, ratify and seal anew his covenant with us, and make us partakers of the benefit of that redemption which our blessed Saviour purchased for us by the sacrifice of his own body and blood.
9. Q. Why do you call such a faith as this a lively faith?
A. To shew that our faith is then only acceptable unto God, and profitable to our salvation when it is lively and active, and works in us such a sincere repentance of our past sins, and such a constant and
uniform obedience to God's commandments, as our Saviour, in his Gospel, requires of us. For otherwise to know and assent to the truths of our religion, without living agreeably thereunto, will carry us no farther than the worst of men may go; and even the devils themselves, as St. James says, do go. James, ii. 19. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble.
10. Q. What is the next particular upon which we are to examine ourselves before we come to the holy communion?
A. Whether we come to it with a thankful remem. brance of Christ's death; which is therein designed to be set forth and shewn by us. Whether we are truly sensible of the infinite love of God, and condescension of Jesus Christ, thereby declared to us. Whether we are careful always to keep up in our minds a lively memory of his death and passion : and do, by the sincerity of our love to God, and the zeal we have for our duty, endeavour, in some measure, to testify how hearty a sense we have of those unspeakable mercies which he has been pleased thereby to favour us withal.
11. Q. What is the last thing concerning which we are to examine ourselves ?
A. Whether we are in charity with all men: whether we do not only freely forgive whatsoever injuries any may chance to have done us, but are so entirely frieuds with them as to be ready to do them all the kindness we can; and that as sincerely and heartily as if they had never offended us, or otherwise done us the least injury.
12. Q. Is this all that is required of us before we come to the Lord's Supper?
A. Other cxercises there are which may profitably be made use of by us, in order to our better performance of those duties we have before mentioned. Such are some extraordinary acts of prayer and devotion to God; and of charity towards our neighbour. A retirement from the business and conversation of the world; but especially from the follies and vanities of it. And these accompanied with some acts of severity and mortification, wbilst we are making the examination of ourselves before proposed.
But these must be governed by the rules of prudlence, as every man's business, opportunities, needs, state of health, and the like circumstances either require or will allow of.
13. Q. Is such a preparatory examination of ourselves so necessary before we come to the holy table, that we may, in no case, presume to come without it?
A. No, it is not: those who live in a strict and regular course of life, and have nothing extraordinary happen to them, as they always know what their state towards God is, so are they always ready to receive this holy sacrament; and need not be afraid, upon any occasion, to partake of it, although they had not the opportunity of making a particular previous preparation of themselves for it. Yet, if even these should design to go, at a certain time (before known) to the communion, they not only piously may, but in duty ought to do somewhat of this kind, in order to their going with the better dispositions to it.
14. Q. What if by this means a good Christian should not be able fully to satisfy himself concerning his worthiness to go to the holy table?