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Thus concerning Christ's death, shewed forth or signified in this ordinance. We are farther, under this head, to consider how he is present, and they who engage in it aright feed on his body and blood by faith. We are not to suppose that Christ is present in a corporal way, so that we should be said to partake of his body in a literal sense; but he being a divine person, and consequently omnipresent; and having promised his presence with his church in all ages, and places, when met together in his name; in this respect he is present with them, in like manner as he is in other ordinances, to supply their wants, hear their prayers, and strengthen them against corruption and temptation, and remove their guilt by the application of his blood, which is presented as an object for their contemplation in a more peculiar manner in this ordinance.
As for our feeding on, or being nourished by the body and blood of Christ, these are metaphorical expressions, taken from, and adapted to the nature and quality of the bread and wine by which it is signified; but that which we are to understand hereby, is, our graces being farther strengthened and established, and we enabled to exercise them with greater vigour and delight; and this derived from Christ, and particularly founded on his death. And, when we are said to feed upon him, in order hereunto, it denotes the application of what he has done and suffered, to ourselves; and, in order hereunto, we are to bring our sins, with all the guilt that attends them, as it were, to the foot of the cross of Christ, confess and humble our souls for them before him, and by faith plead the virtue of his death, in order to our obtaining forgiveness, and, at the same time, renew our dedication to him, while hoping and praying for the blessings and privileges of the covenant of grace, which were purchased by him.
Moreover, there is another thing signified in this ordinance, as a farther end for which it was instituted, namely, in that we are to have communion with one another, and thereby express our mutual love, as members of Christ's mystical body, who have the same end in view, and make use of the same means, viz. Christ crucified, as we attend on the same ordinance in which this is set forth, and having the same common necessi→ ties, infirmities and corruptions, and the same encouragements for our faith. Therefore we ought to sympathize with one another, and, by faith and prayer, be helpful to them, with whom we join in this ordinance, while we are representing our own case in common with theirs, before the Lord. This leads us to consider,
VII. What ought to be the qualifications of those who have a right to, and are obliged to partake of the Lord's supper: These are expressed in general terms by the apostle, by dis
cerning the Lord's body, 1 Cor. xi. 29. Now this a person cannot do, who is ignorant of the design of his death; therefore there must be some degree of knowledge in those who are qualified for this ordinance. There must also be an afflictive sense of the weight and burden of the guilt of those sins which are daily committed by us, and an apprehension arising from thence, of our need of the merits of Christ, to take them away, and that his death is designed to answer this end. And, that this may be done for our real advantage, as we are said to feed on Christ by faith; it is supposed, that this grace is wrought in us, or, that we are effectually called out of a state of unregeneracy, to partake of gracious communion with Christ; whereby we may be said to be fitted to have fellowship with him in this ordinance, and so partake of it in a right manner, for our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.
QUEST. CLXXI. How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, to prepare themselves before they come unto it?
ANSW. They that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves, of their being in Christ, of their sins, and wants, of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance, love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong, of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.
HE Lord's supper being a sacred and solemn ordinance, in without due
before-hand, in those who partake of it. The duties mentioned in this answer, which are preparatory for it, are selfexamination, the renewing the exercise of those graces which are necessary to our partaking of it aright, serious meditation on the work we are going about, and fervent prayer for the presence and blessing of God therein.
I. Concerning the duty of self-examination; in order hereunto, we must retire from the hurries and incumbrances of the world, that our minds may be disengaged from them, and not filled with distracting thoughts, which will be an hindrance to us in our enquiries into the state of our souls. We must also resolve to deal impartially with ourselves, and consider what really makes against us, as matter of sorrow, shame, and humiliation, as well as those things that are encouraging, and
occasions of thanksgiving to God. We must also endeavour to be acquainted with the word of God, to which our actions and behaviour are to be applied; whereby we are to determine the goodness or badness of our state in general, or the frame of spirit in which we are, in particular.
Now there are several things, concerning which we are to examine ourselves before we come to the Lord's supper.
1. Whether we are in Christ or no? since persons must be first in him before they can have spiritual communion with him. There are some things, which, if we find in ourselves, would give us ground to determine that we are not in Christ; particularly,
That man is not in Christ who is an utter stranger to his person, natures, offices, and the design of his coming into the world; together with the spiritual benefits purchased by his death. Neither is he in Christ, who never saw his need of him, or that there is no hope of salvation without him. Again, he is not in Christ, who obstinately refuses to submit to his government, lives in a wilful contempt of his laws, resolutely persists in the commission of known sins, or in the total neglect of known duties. Again, he is not in Christ, who is ashamed of his doctrine, his gospel, his cross, which a true believer counts his glory; as the apostle says, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Jesus Christ, Gal. vi. 14. He must also be reckoned out of Christ, who is stupid and presumptuous; and, though, probably, he may hope to be saved by him, yet desires not to have communion with him, but expects to be made partaker of his benefits without faith; or if he pretends to have faith, it is only an assent to some truths, without being accompanied with repentance, and other graces which are inseparably connected with that faith which is saving.
But, on the other hand, we may know that we are in Christ, if we can truly say,
(1.) That we have received a new nature from him, from whence proceed renewed actions, which discover themselves in the whole course of our lives; If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new, 2 Cor. v. 17.
(2.) We must enquire, whether we endeavour constantly to adhere to his revealed will, not barely as the result of some sudden conviction; but as making it the main business of life, to approve ourselves to him in well doing, as our Saviour says, If ye continue in my word, then ye are my disciples indeed, John viii. 31.
(3.) Converse with Christ in ordinance, is another evidence of our being in him: For, as a man is said to be known by the
company he keeps, or delights to be in; so a true Christian is known, as the apostle says, by his having fellowship with the Father, and with his son Jesus Christ, 1 John i. 3.
(4.) We must enquire, whether we have a great concern for the glory and interest in our own souls, and an earnest desire that his name may be known and magnified in the world; and this accompanied with our using the utmost endeavours in our various stations and capacities in order thereunto?
2. The next thing that we are to examine ourselves about, before we come to the Lord's supper, is, what sense we have of sin? whether we are truly humbled for, and desirous to be delivered from it? It is not sufficient for us to take a general view of ourselves as sinners, in common with the rest of mankind, without being duly affected with it; but we must consider the various aggravations of sin, with a particular application thereof to ourselves; and how much we have exceeded many others therein, either before or since we were called by the grace of God, by which means we may take occasion to say, as the apostle does concerning himself, that we are the chief of sinners, 1 Tim. i. 15. and a sense of the guilt hereof, when duly considered, will give us occasion to lie very low at the foot of God. We are also to take notice of our natural propensity and inclination to sin, and the various ways by which this has discovered itself in our actions; and accordingly we are to enquire,
(1.) Whether we have sinned knowingly, wilfully, presumptuously, and obstinately? or, whether we have been surprised into it, or ensnared by some sudden unforeseen temptation, and committed it without the ful! bent of our wills? whether we have striven against it, or given way to it, and suffered ourselves to be prevailed upon without making resistance?
(2.) We must enquire, whether we have continued in sin, or unfeignedly repented of it? whether sin sits light or heavy on our consciences? or, if our consciences are burdened with it, whether we seek relief against it in that way which Christ has prescribed in the gospel?
(3.) We must enquire, whether there are not some sins that more frequently and easily beset us? what they are, and whether we are daily watchful against them, and use our utmost endeavours to avoid them?
(4.) We must also enquire, whether we have not frequently relapsed into the same sin which we have resolved against at various times, and, in particular, at the Lord's table, and hereby broke our engagements; and if so, whether we did not rely too much on our own strength, when we made those resolutions against sin?
(5.) We are to enquire, whether sin gets ground upon us,
whereby grace is weakened? or, whether, though we commit it, we find its strength abated, and we enabled, in some measure, to mortify it, though we do not wholly abstam from it? as the apostle says, That which I do, I allow not; but what I hate, that do I, Rom. vii. 15,
(6.) We are also to enquire, whether our sins have not carried in them a great neglect of Christ, his blood, his grace, his benefits, as not thinking of them, admiring or prizing them above all things, nor laying hold on them by faith, and so not making a right use of his dying love, which is signified in the Lord's supper.
3. We are to examine ourselves, before we come to the Lord's table, what particular wants we have to be supplied. Our Saviour is to be considered in this ordinance, not only as signified by the external elements; but as present with his people when met together in his name, with earnest expecta tion of enjoying communion with him: And, as he is appointed to apply, as well as purchase redemption for us, we must consder him as having his hands full of spiritual blessings, to impart to his necessitous people, who come to him for them: Therefore they ought before they go, to enquire, not only, as has been before observed, what are their sins which are to be confessed and bewailed before him, but what it is more espe cially, that they stand in need of from him? The question that Christ will ask them, when they come there, is, what is thy petition, and what is thy request? what are those wants which thou desirest a supply of? Accordingly, we are before-hand to enquire, whether, though we have some little hope that we have experienced the grace of God in truth, yet we do not want a full assurance of our interest in Christ, that we may know that we have eternal life, 1 John v. 13, together with the joy of faith accompanying the actings thereof? and, whether we do not want enlargement of heart, and raised affections in holy duties? which the Psalmist seems to intend, when he says, Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name, Psal. cxlii. 7.
Again, whether we do not want many experiences, which we have formerly had, of the grace of God, and his special presence in holy duties; or have not occasion to say with Job, O that it were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me: When his candle shined upon my head, and, by his light I walked through darkness, Job xxix, 2, 3. Moreover, we are to enquire, whether we do not want a greater degree of establishment in the great doctrines of the gospel; or to be kept steady in a time of temptation? and, whether we do not want a greater degree of zeal for the honour of God, in a day I i