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an awful tendency has it, to fix the conviction, that we are not our own, being bought with such a price*! What a tendency has it, to guard against every temptation to those sins which we have so solemnly renounced, and to engage our fidelity to him to whom we have bound our souls as with an oath! Well may our hearts be knit together in mutual love+, when we consider ourselves as one in Christ‡: his blood becomes the cement of the society, joins us in spirit, not only to each other, but to all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours§: and we anticipate, in pleasing hope, that blessed day, when the assembly shall be complete, and we shall all be for ever with the Lord. Well may these views engage us to deny ourselves, and to take up our cross to follow our crucified master: well may they engage us to do our utmost by prayer, and all other suitable endeavours, to serve his followers and his friends; to serve those whom he hath purchased with his blood, and who are to be his associates, and ours, in the glories of an happy immortality.
§. 5. It is also the express institution and command of our blessed Redeemer, that the members of such societies should be tenderly solicitous for the spiritual welfare of each other: and that, on the whole, his churches may be kept pure and holy, that they should withdraw themselves from every brother that walketh disorderly**; that they should mark such as cause offences or scandals among them, contrary to the doctrine which they have learned, and avoid them++; that if any obey not the word of Christ by his apostles, they should have no fellowship or communion with such, that they may be ashamed‡‡; that they should not eat with such as are notoriously irregular in their behaviour, but on the contrary, should put away from among themselves such wicked persons||||. It is evident therefore, that the institution of such societies is greatly for the honour of christianity, and for the advantage of its particular professors. And consequently, every consideration of obedience to our common Lord, and of prudent regard to our own benefit and that of our brethren, will require, that those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, should enter into them, and assemble among them in these their most solemn and peculiar acts of communion at his table.
§. 6. I entreat you therefore, and if I may presume to say.
it, in his name, and by his authority I charge it on your conscience, that this precept of our dying Lord, go not, as it were, for nothing with you; but that, if you indeed love him, you̟ keep this, as well as the rest of his commandments-I know you may be ready to form objections. I have elsewhere debated many of the chief of them at large, and I hope, not without some good effect*. The great question is that which relates to your being prepared for a worthy attendance: and in conjunction with what has been said before, I think that may be brought to a very short issue. Have you, so far as you know your own heart, been sincere, in that deliberate surrender of yourself to God, through Christ, which I recommended in the former chapter? If you have, (whether it were with or without the particular form or manner of doing it there recommended,) you have certainly taken hold of the covenant, and therefore have a right to the seal of it. And there is not, and cannot be any other view of the ordinance, in which you can have any further objection to it. If you desire to remember Christ's death; if you desire to renew the dedication of yourself to God through him; if you would list yourself among his people; if you would love them and do them good according to your ability; and, on the whole, would not allow yourself in the practice of any one known sin, or in the omission of one known duty; then I will venture confidently to say, not only that you may be welcome to the ordinance, but that it was instituted for such as you.
§. 7. As for other objections, a few words may suffice by way of reply. The weakness of the religious principle in your soul, if it be really implanted there, is so far from being an argument against your seeking such a method to strengthen it, that it rather strongly inforces the necessity of doing it.—The neglect of this solemnity, by so many that call themselves christians, should rather engage you so much the more to distinguish your zeal for an institution, in this respect so much slighted and injured.—And as for the fears of aggravating guilt in case of apostacy, do not indulge them. This may, by the divine blessing, be an effectual remedy against the evil you fear; and it is certain, that after what you must already have known and felt, before you could be brought into your present situation, (on the suppositions I have now been making,) there can be no room to think of a retreat; no room, even for the wretched
* See the "Fourth of my Sermons to Young Persons."
hope of being less miserable than the generality of those that have perished. Your scheme therefore must be, to make your salvation as sure, and to make it as glorious as possible; and I know not any appointment of our blessed Redeemer, which may have a more comfortable aspect upon that blessed end, than this which I am recommending to you.
§. 8. One thing I would at least insist upon, and I see not with what face it can be denied. I mean, that you should take this matter into a serious consideration: that you should diligently enquire, whether you have reason in your conscience to believe it is the will of God you should now approach to the ordinance, or not:' and that you should continue your reflections, your enquiries, and your prayers, till you find farther encouragement to come, if that encouragement be hitherto wanting. For of this be assured, that a state in which you are on the whole unfit to approach this ordinance, is a state in which you are destitute of the necessary preparations for death and heaven; in which therefore, if you would not allow yourselves to slumber on the brink of destruction, you ought not to rest so much as one single day.
A Prayer for one, who earnestly desires to approach the Table of the Lord, yet has some remaining Doubts concerning his Right to that solemn Ordinance.
"BLESSED Lord, I adore thy wise and gracious appointments, for the edification of thy church in holiness and in love. I thank thee, that thou hast commanded thy servants, to form themselves into societies; and I adore my gracious Saviour, who hath instituted, as with his dying breath, the holy solemnity of his supper, to be through all ages a memorial of his dying love, and a bond of that union which it is his sovereign pleasure that his people should preserve. I hope thou, Lord, art witness to the sincerity, with which I desire to give myself up to theè; and that I may call thee to record on my soul, that if I now hesitate about this particular manner of doing it, it is not because I would allow myself to break any of thy commands, or to slight any of thy favours. I trust thou knowest that my present delay arises only from my uncertainty as to my duty, and a fear of profaning holy things by an unworthy approach to them. Yet surely, O Lord, if thou hast given me a reverence for thy. command, a desire of communion with thee, and a willingness to devote myself wholly to thy service, I may regard it as a token for good, that thou art disposed to receive me, and that I am not wholly unqualified for an ordinance, which I so highly
honour, and so earnestly desire. I therefore make it my humble request unto thee, O Lord, this day, that thou wouldst graciously be pleased to instruct me in my duty, and to teach me the way which I should take. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me, try my reins and my heart*! Is there any secret sin, to the love and practice of which I would indulge? Is there any of thy precepts, in the habitual breach of which I would allow myself? I trust, I can appeal to thee as a witness, that there is not. me not then wrong mine own soul, by a causeless and sinful absence from thy sacred table! But grant, O Lord, I beseech thee, that thy word, thy providence, and thy spirit may so concur, as to make my way plain before me+! Scatter my remaining doubts, if thou seest they have no just foundation! Fill me with a more assured faith, with a more ardent love: and plead thine own cause with my heart in such a manner, as that I may not be able any longer to delay that approach, which, if I am thy servant indeed, is equally my duty and my privilege! In the mean time, grant, that it may never be long out of my thoughts: but that I may give all diligence, if there be any remaining occasion of doubt, to remove it by a more affectionate concern to avoid whatever is displeasing to the eyes of thine holiness, and to practise the full extent of my duty! May the views of Christ crucified be so familiar to my mind, and may a sense of his dying love so powerfully constrain my soul, that my own growing experience may put it out of all question, that I am one of those for whom he intended this feast of love!
"And even now, as joined to thy churches in spirit and in love, though not in so express and intimate a bond as I could wish, would I heartily pray, that thy blessing may be on all thy people that thou wouldst feed thine heritage, and lift them up for ever! May every christian society flourish in knowledge, in holiness, and in love! May all thy priests be clothed with salvation, that by their means thy chosen people may be made joyfuls! And may there be a glorious accession to thy churches every where, of those who may fly to them as a cloud, and as doves to their windows! May thy table, O Lord, be furnished with guests¶ ; and may all that love thy salvation, say, let the Lord be magnified, who hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servants**! And I earnestly pray, that all who profess to have received Christ Jesus the Lord, may be duly careful to walk in
* Psal. xxvi. 2. Isa. Ix. 8.
+ Prov. xv. 19.
Psal. xxviii. 9. **Psal. xxxv. 27.
§ Psal. cxxxii. 16.
him; and that we may be all preparing for the general assembly of the first-born, and may join in that nobler and more immediate worship, where all these types and shadows shall be laid aside; where even these memorials shall be no longer necessary; but a living, present Redeemer shall be the everlasting joy of those, who here in his absence have delighted to commemorate his death! Amen."
N. B. I purposed to have added something here, concerning "a regular approach to the Lord's table," a proper "attendance upon it, and suitable reflections after it:" But I find this work swell under my hand, beyond what I at first expected; and therefore, as these articles have been handled by so many valuable writers, I chuse to refer to them, and particularly to "Dr. Earle's Sacramental Exercises," and "Mr. Grove's Devotional Exercises relating to the Lord's Supper:" Books which I think remarkably excellent in their kind, and which may be had at very easy rates. Yet for the farther assistance of devout communicants, I have some thoughts of publishing a small volume of "Sacramental Meditations on Select Texts of Scripture," if God spare me to finish my "Exposition on the New Testament," and some other pieces, which I have now in hand.
Some more particular Directions for maintaining continual Communion with God, or being in his Fear all the Day long.
A Letter to a pious Friend on this Subject introduced here, §. 1. A general Plan of Directions, §. 2. [I.] For the beginning of the Day: §. 3. (1.) Lifting up the Heart to God at our first Awakening: §. 4. (2.) Setting ourselves to the secret Devotions of the Morning; with Respect to which particular Advices are given, §. 5—10. [II.] For the Progress of the Day: §. 11. Directions are given concerning, (1.) Seriousness in Devotion, §. 12. (2.) Diligence in Business, §. 13. (3.) Prudence in Recreations, §. 14. (4.) Observation of Providences, §. 15. (5.) Watchfulness against Temptations, §. 16. (6.) Dependence on Divine Influences, §. 17. (7.) Government of the Thoughts when in Solitude, §. 18. (S.) Management of Discourse in Company, §. 19. (III.) For the Conclusion of the Day: §. 20. (1.) With the secret Devotions of the Evening, §. 21. Directions for Self-Examination at large, §. 22, 23. (2.) Lying down with a proper Temper, §. 24. Conclusion of the Letter, §. 25, and of the Chapter: §. 26. With a serious View of Death, proper to be taken at the Close of the Day.
§. 1. I WOULD hope, that upon serious consideration, self
examination, and prayer, the reader may by this time be come to a resolution to attend the table of the Lord, and to seal his vows there. I will now suppose that solemn transaction to be
* Col.ii. 6.