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in which many professors are lukewarm? as our Saviour ob serves concerning the church of Laodicea, That they were neither cold nor hot, Rev. iii. 15. or, whether we do not want together with this zeal, a compassion to the souls of others, who make shipwreck of faith, not having a good conscience, which may induce us, as the apostle says, In meekness to instruct those that oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentence to the acknowledging of the truth? 2 Tim. ii. 25. and, whether we are duly affected with the degeneracy of the age wherein we live, and are not too negligent in bearing our testimony against the errors advanced therein? or, whether we understand the meaning of those various dispensations of providence, which we are under, and what is our present duty in compliance therewith? These things are of a more general nature, and to be made the subject of our enquiry, whenever we draw nigh to Christ in any ordinance in which we hope for a supply of our wants.
But there are other things which we ought to have a more particular regard to in our enquiries, when we are to engage in the ordinance of the Lord's supper.
(1.) In order to our partaking of it aright, we are to enquire, whether we do not want a clear and distinct apprehension of the covenant of grace, and the seals thereof, and how we are to act faith in a way of self-dedication, and how we ought to renew our covenant engagements with God, which we are more especially called to do therein?
(2.) Whether we do not want a broken heart, suitably affected with the dying love of Jesus Christ, which is signified therein, that we may look on him who was pierced, and mourn, Zech. xii. 10.
(3.) Whether we do not want to be led into the true way of improving Christ crucified, to answer all those accusations that are brought in against us, either by Satan or our own consciences, and how this is an expedient for the taking away the guilt and power of sin?
(4.) Whether we do not want to be made more like to Christ, and conformed to his death, that, while we behold him represented as dying for us, we may reckon ourselves as dead to sin, and to the world; and that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin? Rom. vi. 6. 10.
(5.) Whether we do not want an abiding impression of the love of Christ, and a greater stedfastness in our resolution, to adhere to him; that so, whatever grace we may be enabled to act, by strength derived from him, may be maintained and exercised, not only at that time, but when we are more immodiately engaged in that ordinance?
These things we are to examine ourselves concerning, that we may spread our wants before the Lord at his table. And to induce us hereunto, we may consider, that our corrupt nature is very prone to think ourselves better than we really are; so that, how indigent and distressed soever we may be, we are ready to conclude, with the church of the Laodiceans, that we are rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, Rev. iii. 17.
Moreover, if we are not truly sensible of our necessities, we shall not value Christ's fulness, or the rich provisions he has made for his people, and is pleased to dispense in this ordinance; as it is said, The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick, Matt. ix. 12. and we must consider, that a great part of our work therein, consists in ejaculatory prayer, which we shall not be able to put up in a right manner, if we are not sensible of our wants; and one reason why we are so often at a loss in prayer, or go out of the presence of God empty, is, because our hearts are not enlarged therein, which they cannot be, unless we are affected with a sense of our necessities.
Now, to encourage us to examine ourselves concerning them, before we partake of the Lord's supper, let us consider that Christ invites us to draw nigh to him therein; that he may take occasion to communicate the blessings of his redemption, which are signified thereby; that he may supply our wants, satisfy our desires, surmount our difficulties, and apply to us the great and precious promises of the covenant of grace, which are to be sought for at his hands, by faith and prayer, which supposes the performance of this duty of self-examination, with respect to the blessings that we stand in need of from him.
4. We are, before we partake of the Lord's supper, to examine ourselves concerning the truth and measure of our knowledge in divine things; inasmuch as without the knowledge hereof, the heart cannot be good, nor any spiritual duty engaged in, in a right manner. As for a perfect comprehensive knowledge of divine truths, that is not to be expected, by reason of the weakness of our capacities, and the imperfection of this present state; wherein, as the apostle says, we see but through a glass darkly, or, as it is said elsewhere, We are but of yesterday, and know, comparatively, nothing, Job viii. 9.
However, there is a degree of knowledge, which is not only attainable, but necessary to our right engaging in this ordi nance; and this does not consist barely in our knowing that there is a God, or that he is to be worshipped, or that there was such a person as our Saviour, who lived in the world, was crucified, rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead: For a person may have a general notion of all these things, and yet be
unacquainted with the end and design of Christ's death, and the blessings and privileges of the covenant of grace, which he procured thereby, or with the claim that a person may lay by faith, to them; without which, there is not a sufficient knowledge, such as the apostle calls a discerning the Lord's body, 1 Cor. xi. 29. which we ought to do in this ordinançe.
Now, that knowledge of divine truths, which ought not only to be pressed after, but, we are to examine ourselves, whether we have, in some measure attained to, respects,
(1.) The person of Christ, as God-man, Mediator, and the offices which he executes as such; and more particularly, the manner and end of his executing his priestly office, in which he offered himself as a sacrifice for sin, which we are more especially to commemorate in this ordinance.
(2.) We must have an affecting sense or knowledge of the guilt of sin; and, as a relief against it, must be acquainted with the doctrine of the free grace of God, displayed in the gospel, and founded in the blood of Jesus, whereby sin is pardoned. We are also to be fully convinced of the almighty power of the Holy Ghost, whereby alone it can be subdued, and of the method he takes therein to make the redemption purchased by Christ, effectual to answer that end.
(3.) We are to endeavour, in some measure, to know God as our Father, and covenant-God in Christ, who bestows on his people the rich and splendid entertainment of his house, and satisfies them with the abundance of his goodness, pursuant to what Christ has purchased. And we must also know what it is to deal with him as those who see themselves obliged herein to devote themselves to him as their God; and what large expectations they may have from him, whom he has avouched to be his peculiar people; and how this is a foundation of that humble boldness with which they are encouraged to come unto the throne of grace, that they may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need, Heb. iv. 16.
Moreover, we are not only to enquire, whether we are apprehensive of the excellency, glory, and suitableness of those great things, that are revealed in the gospel, to answer our particular exigencies, and render us happy in the enjoyment of God; but whether the knowledge hereof makes a due impression on our hearts, is of a transforming nature, and has a tendency to regulate the conduct of our lives, and put us on the application of these great things to ourselves?
As to the degree of our knowledge we must enquire, whether it be only a single apprehension that the doctrines of the gospel are true, or, at most, contains in it some general ideas of their being excellent and worthy of the highest esteem; but whether we can prove them to be true, and render a reason of
our faith, without which, it may, indeed, be rightly placed as to its object? But it cannot be said to be deeply rooted; and therefore it is exposed to greater danger of being foiled, weakened, or overthrown by temptation. We must also enquire, whether we grow in knowledge in proportion to those opportunities or means of grace that we are favoured with, which the apostle calls growing in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, 2 Pet. iii. 18.
5. We are to examine ourselves concerning the truth and degree of our faith, and other graces that are inseparably connected with it. As for faith, we are to enquire, whether it be a living, or what the apostle calls a dead faith, James ii. 17, 18. as being alone, and destitute of those good works which ought to proceed from it? Whether it only contains in it an assent to the truth of divine revelation; or, whether it puts us upon a closure with Christ, embracing him in all his offices, and trusting in him for all those benefits which he has purchased by his blood? We must also enquire, what fruits or effects it produces, and what other graces accompany or flow from it? Whether it inclines us to set the highest value on Christ, as being in our esteem, altogether lovely; and gives us low thoughts of ourselves, as having nothing but what we depend on him for, or derive from him? Whether it be attended with some degree of holiness in heart and life, as the apostle speaks of the heart's being purified by faith, Acts xv. 9. Again, whether it be such a faith as overcomes the world, 1 John v. 14. and prevents our being easily turned aside from God, by the snares that we may meet with in it? Whether we are inclined hereby, to confess ourselves to be strangers and pilgrims on the earth, Heb. xi. 13. and desire a better country,
There are many other fruits and effects of faith, which the apostle mentions in Heb. xi. by which we may examine ourselves concerning the truth and sincerity of this grace; and there are several graces mentioned in this answer, which are connected with faith, concerning which, we must enquire, whether they are found in us, particularly repentance, which must of necessity be exercised in this ordinance as well as faith; inasmuch as by the one, we behold Christ's glory, and, by the other, we take a view of sins deformity? And it is such a repentance, as inclines us not only to hate sin, but forsake and turn from it, as seeing the detestable and odious nature of it, in what Christ endured to make satisfaction for it.
But since faith and repentance have been particularly considered under a foregoing answer, together with the nature, properties, and effects thereof; we shall pass them over, and
See Quest. Ixxii. Vol. III. page 97. & seq, and Quest. lxxvi, lxxxv, lxxxvii.
consider the graces of love to God, desire after Christ, and our using endeavours to approve ourselves his servants and subjects, by constant acts of obedience to him: These things are to be the subject-matter of our enquiry, before we engage in this ordinance. It is very suitable to the occasion, to enquire, whether we love Christ or no; inasmuch as we are to behold and be affected with the most amazing instance of love, which he has expressed to us; Let us therefore enquire, whether our love to him be superlative, far exceeding that which we bear to all creatures, how valuable soever they may be to us, how nearly soever we may be related to them, or whatever engagements we may be laid under to esteem and value them.
We may also try the sincerity of our love to God, by enquir ing, whether it puts us on performing the most difficult duties for his sake, with the greatest cheerfulness? And, whether we are hereby encouraged to bear the most afflictive evils with patience; because it is his pleasure that we should be exercised therewith, 1 Sam. iii. 18. Let us also enquire, whether we love him with all our heart, or, whether our love is divided betwixt him and the creature, whereby our affections are often drawn aside from him? And, whether it puts us upon im proving our time, strength, and all our other talents to his glory? Whether we have no interest separate from his, which we cannot but prefer to our chief joy? whether this be the very end of living? As the apostle says, For me to live is Christ, Phil. i. 21. and, whether we are earnestly desirous to bring others to him, not only by recommending his glory to them in words; but by expressing the esteem and value we have for him, in the whole course of our conversation? Whe ther we are hereby inclined to hate every thing that he hates; as the Psalmist says, Ye that love the Lord hate evil, Psal. xcviii. 10. and whether we make those things the object of our choice that he delights in?
Moreover, we are to euquire, whether we have had any communion with him in ordinances, and particularly in this ordinance at other times? And when he is pleased to withhold this privilege from us in any degree, that hereby we may see that all our comforts flow from him; or, when he has a design to humble us for those sins that provoke him to depart from us, whether we are earnestly desirous of his return, and cannot be satisfied with any thing short of him?
As for our desires after Christ, which we are farther to examine ourselves about, we must enquire, whether, that, which moves or inclines us to desire him, be the view we have of the glory of his person, and the delight that arises from our contemplating his divine excellencies; or whether we desire him,