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· Thirdly. I shall now attempt to account for some of the motives which prevent a due attendance at this holy sacrament. There is something so extremely solemn in this ceremony, and the language made use of by St. Paul is so strong, that the uneducated and ignorant are as it were overawed, and feel a difficulty in surmounting their fears upon this occasion. This is one reason of their absence, and it is our duty to explain to such, that these expressions are not likely to be applied to them. The Corinthians never properly considered the Lord's body; they so far forgot the benevolence and temperance of Christians, that the rich refused to share their bread and wine with the poor; they were wicked enough to intoxicate themselves in the church, and at the ceremony; so that first, it was not a communion ;* and
* Cæna vocatur a communione vescentium coinon quippe Græci commune dicunt.
secondly, they were undoubtedly guilty of prophaning the body and blood of Christ. To stop the progress of such enormous wickedness, called for strong language, and temporal punishment. But as such indecent and irreverent behaviour has never yet happened in the Church of England (and I trust never will), it is morally impossible for any of us to eat and drink his own damnation; or, as the word (crima) has been elsewhere rendered by the same writer, a judgment, or sentence of condemnation, on ourselves; for since the preparation is so simple, as that we should sincerely repent us of our fornier sins, and be in charity with all men, it is in every one's power to be a worthy partaker. With respect to the posture in which this sacrament is received, it is not to be doubted, but that at its first institution, the Apostles were rea cumbent, or sitting at meat.* It was the
' * Quia Cæna Domini communis fuit omnibus recumbentibus, non solumbonis sed etiam Iudæ proditori.
custom in those days, for persons at their meals to recline on little sophas, or couches, as may be learnt from several writers of that time.* In what posture the first Christians received it, or how long they were in its celebration, is not material; neither is the time at which we receive it. Tertullian informs us, that in times of persecution, the eucharist was celebrated in their assemblies before day. “ We of our church (says a learned commen“ tatort) receive the sacrament kneeling, o not to acknowledge any corporeal pre“ sence of Christ's natural flesh and blood, “6 as our church, to prevent all possibility of “ misconstruction, expressly declares, addSo ing, that his body is in Heaven, and not “ here, but to worship him who is every 56 where present, the invisible God. And " this posture of kneeling we by no means 56 look upon as in itself necessary, but as a 66 becoming appointment, and very fit to ac5 company the prayers and praises we offer “ up at the instant of receiving, and to ex- press that inward spirit of piety and hu6. mility, on which our partaking worthily « of this ordinance, and receiving benefit 56 from it, depend.” Another reason which may induce some to absent themselves from this sacrament, is a procrastinating disposition, and a want of resolution to do what they acknowledge to be right. It is a general custom, even with those who are rarely seen at the Lord's table, to be extremely anxious for having the communion administered to them in their last sickness, or on their death bed, as it is usually called. I do not mean to discuss, at present, the power of a death bed repentance, nor to find fault with this desire; I would only wish to place it in its true light, and to shew that no ex
* 66 Toro sic orsus ab alto.” ~ Stratoq super discumbitur ostro."-VIRGIL. of Secker.
traordinary efficacy ought to be attached to it. The joining in this ceremony at that period only, cannot atone for all the errors of a mispent life, nor be a palliation for the former neglect of religious duties. Those various rites which were laid upon the Jews, were, as the Apostle observes, “imposed “6 upon them till the time of reformation." The Romish Church has her seven sacraments, and attaches too much consequence to extreme unction, the administration of the host to the dying sinner, and to many ceremonies, for which there is no scriptural authority. The blessed Founder of our Religion has (as I before observed) instituted only two rites: as a clear injunction for the first, Christ has commanded us to go, baptize all 66 nations, in the name of the Father, and of “the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:9* for the latter, he says, “ Do this in remem· * Matthew xxviii. 19,