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AT THE LORD'S TABLE ANSWERED.
267 E" Obj. 4. I acknowledge that I neglect communion at the
Lord's table ; but the reason is, my mind is vexed and troubled, by the conduct of one who attends there. He has said some very unwarrantable things about me. ;. Ans. Are you to fall out with the ordinances of the Lord Jesus Christ, because a brother or sister has fallen out with you? Are you to disobey the Son of God, because a friend has used a harsh word respecting you, or done an unkind action? Is your regard to the Lord's precepts, is your love to his ordinances, is your pleasure in remembering him, so small, that the unkind conduct of an imperfect fellow-sinner should lead you to disobey his commands, and to slight his ordi. nances ? Blush at such weakness, and such weak attachment to the best of friends. Be assured this objection commonly springs from unmortified pride. You are probably indulging rancour and resentment. While you indulge such hellish dispositions, what is your professed religion worth: Unless you forgive you will never be forgiven. But if you feel not these passions, let not the unkind conduct of a fellow-sinner keep you from that ordinance, which reminds you of him who died for all your sins. Go there, and think that ten thousand talents are forgiven you, and forgive and forget an erring brother's debt of a hundred pence.
Obj. 5. I love the Saviour, and wish to follow him; but I fear coming to his table, lest I should eat and drink unworthily, and thus eat and drink damnation to myself. This leads me to neglect his command. • Ans. It is probable that your fears are founded on. mistake.
To eat and drink unworthily, and to partake of this ordinance with a deep sense of entire unworthiness, are two things as distinct as possible. The sin of eating and drinking unwor. thily, is committed when persons commune at the Lord's table in a careless, irreverent manner. So did the Corinthians, when some were hungry and others were drunken.
But probably the idea you attach to the expression, eating and drinking unworthily, is of quite a different description, and consequently you have quite mistaken its meaning. They who were once the chief of sinners, but who have fled to Jesus for salvation, unworthy as they feel themselves, do not eat and drink unworthily, when commemorating his death, who is their hope. But the proud moralist, the good-hearted
THE LORD'S TABLE TO BE young man, or innocent young woman, as the world esteems them, who never knew their sinfulness, and whose religion is no more than a little morality, and an outward form, when they come to this sacred table do eat and drink unworthily.
Perhaps you have misunderstood the meaning of the expression, eating and drinking damnation. It is evident from the connexion the word does not signify future punishment, but temporal judgments; for the apostle adds, “ For this cause, (viz. eating and drinking unworihily) many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." Sickness and death were the judgment that the members of the Corinthian church incurred, by their irreverent behaviour at the Lord's table. But so different was the judgment they endured from damna. tion, that it was sent to preserve them from that dreadful doom ; for the apostle adds, “ When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world."
$ 6. This sacred ordinance should be treated with a peculiar degree of reverence. “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup." The feelings we should cherish at the Saviour's table are those of deep self-abasement, sincere gratitude, fervent love, and increasing devotedness to the Son of God. Go not to that sacred ordinance in a light, irreverent way. Go not without self-examination, as to the state of your soul, and your progress in the divine life. Go not there to perform a duty, but to enjoy a privilege. And 0, go there with a mind discerning the Lord's body. Tremble at the thought of partaking with a light, irreverent mind of the memorials of the Saviour's love. Place yourself as before his cross, and in the view of an expiring Redeemer, devote yourself anew to him, and let one subject of self-exarnination, before partaking at the table, be, how far the resolutions formed at the preceding opportunity have been regarded by you. Pursue this course, depend. ing on the Spirit's aid, and though you should feel yourself the unworthiest of the unworthy, yet you will not eat and drink unworthily.
Often improve this sacred privilege. It appears that the primitive Christians very frequently, even weekly, and perhaps oftener, partook of the Lord's supper. If partaken of
(a) 1 Cor. xi. 31, 32.
APPROACHED WITH REVERENCE.
269 with proper views it will nourish every grace, strengthen every virtue, and promote your growing meetness for that world of felicity, where though this ordinance will cease, yet the event it commemorates will be celebrated in the triumphal anthems of the redeemed for ever and for ever.
$ 7. There are many lamentable instances, in which communicants at the table of the Lord manifest a declension in religion by a disposition to neglect that sacred ordinance; and, at the same time, delude themselves with the notion, that they are not going to give up religion altogether. Some extracts from a letter drawn up with the design of sending it to a young female, who was falling into this deplorable condition, may perhaps without impropriety conclude these brief observations on the supper of the Lord. This young woman, while expressing her wish to neglect the Lord's table, professed that she should continue her attendance at public worship.
“ A sincere desire to promote your spiritual welfare leads me to trouble you with these lines. Be assured they are written with an earnest wish for your everlasting welfare. Read them seriously, and weigh their purport as carefully as you would do on a dying bed : and as you love your own soul, consider well what you are doing, before you decide on what I fear will prove one of the most fatal actions of your life. Let me be plain with you. That plainness proceeds from love to your soul. Consider then, my friend, what you are doing, and whom you are pleasing by doing so, think what will be the probable consequences of the step you wish to take, and how you will view it at another day; and remember that the reasons of your conduct, whatever they are, must be examined by the Judge of all,
“ Consider what you are doing. You wish to leave the church of Christ. Can you leave it without plunging into sin ? and when separated from it, can you help leading a life of sin ? You cannot, for you will live a life of disobedience to the Redeemer. If you were to live uttering an oath with every sentence, you would think this a wicked life, and it would be so. Its wickedness would arise from its disobedience to him, who said, “Swear not at all.' But you know that it is as much his will that his disciples should be united in church fellowship, as it is that they should avoid profane language; and it is as great a sin to break Christ's commands 270
IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNING in one thing as in another. Did he ever give a more plain or positive command than, . This do in remembrance of me. It was his dying precept, and gratitude and love, if duty were out of the question, should lead you to obey his command. But in the life you wish to lead you would neglect this precept, and thus live a life of rebellion against the Lord Jesus Christ, whose last command you would habitually violate. Such conduct in any case is a dreadful sin; but in you the sin will be aggravated by the profession you have made. Have not you solemnly confessed the Saviour? Have not you, in private and in public, declared that you devoted yourself to the Lord ? and would you fly from these solemn engagements ? Have you vowed to the Lord, and would you go back? O, were you to live henceforth free from all other sin, yet this one of refusing and neglecting this sacred ordinance, would bring a dreadful load of guilt upon your soul. Surely you could not say to your Redeemer, ‘Lord, thou hast commanded me to remember thy dying love, in thy own ordinance; but I will forget it, and slight thy appointment. Thou hast taught me that I should be united with thy flock; but I will forsake it, and cherish no such union,' You could not, I know you could not, say this in words; but depend upon it the eternal Judge reads this as the language of your present wishes. In his sight as well as in ours, actions speak louder than words.
“ Think whom you are pleasing by your present conduct. Not your God. In his sight obedience is better than sacrifice. Not your Redeemer ; for he says, “If a man love me he will keep my words.' But be sure, as the wolf is delighted when he sees the sheep straying from the fold, and exposing itself to his assaults; so are those infernal spirits pleased with your conduct, who watch for your halting, and wait for your de struction.
“ Consider also what will be the probable consequences of the step you are taking. I cannot but fear that it will lead to entire backsliding. A deceitful heart and a deluding enemy may persuade you, that there is no danger of this kind. You may think, I will keep on attending at the house of God; but when you are persuaded to neglect one part of duty you will soon be persuaded to neglect another. I fear the step you are taking, will prove in the issue a principal step in your
AT THE LORD'S TABLE.
271 way from your Redeemer to destruction. While leading a life of disobedience to his institutions, if he should vouchsafe you any of his blessing, you have no reason to expect it in such a measure, as if you faithfully followed him, and therefore will probably soon forsake him altogether. You will also be deprived of the watchful care of every religious friend. If you fall now, there are those who are willing to raise you up; if you stray, who are anxious to bring you back; but when separated from the flock of Christ, every advantage of this kind will be lost to you. You will be numbered again with the unconverted world, and most probably will walk in the way of the multitude. And should your conduct, as it most probably will, end in total backsliding, surely you know who has said, The latter end of such is worse than their beginning.
« Think also how you will view your conduct at another day. If you disregard this faithful warning; if by degrees you fall from the truth, oh, what bitterness and anguish will seize upon you, when at death you review your conduct. Then when your spirit is just quitting its mortal tabernacle ; when your flesh and heart fail, how will you mourn the fatal hour when you began to slight the Redeemer's will! how wish that you had been faithful to your Lord, whoever may be unfaithful! Even if your present conduct should not lead to these sad consequences; if its issue should not be total declension; if you should keep up some of the form, and even feel some of the power, of religion; yet would it not fill your last moments with doubts and fears, to remember that you had led a life of wilful and obstinate disobedience to one important part of the blessed Redeemer's will. Will not those excuses which now satisfy your mind, then appear but vanity and folly? And after all, what are those reasons, those excuses ? Are they such as will stand the test of the judgment bar of Jesus Christ? Alas, does not conscience tell you that the true reason of all is, that you are not so much alive to God as you once were; that you are less concerned about eternal blessings ; and, at least in heart, fallen from what you once enjoyed."
The fears expressed in this letter appeared afterwards too well founded. The young woman by degrees dropped every thing like the form of religion; and a few years after her