« ÎnapoiContinuă »
only for the sake of his benefits, or, that he might deliver us from the wrath to come? Whether we desire Christ only when his service is attended with the esteem of men, or, as a means to gain some worldly advantage from them? Or, whether we desire to adhere to him, when we are called to suffer reproach, or even the loss of all things for his sake; which will be a convincing evidence of the sincerity of our desires after, and, consequently, of our love to him?
And, we are farther to enquire, whether our love to Christ, and desire after him, discovers itself by renewed acts of obedience to him; particularly, whether our obedience be universal or partial, constant or wavering, performed with delight and pleasure or with some reluctancy? And, whether it puts us upon universal holiness, as being induced hereunto by gospel-motives? Thus concerning our examining ourselves about our faith, repentance, love to Christ, desire after him, and our endeavour to yield obedience to him in all things.
The next thing we are to examine ourselves concerning, is, whether we have such a love to the brethren, and charity to all men, whereby we are disposed to exercise forgiveness to those that have done us any injuries? The Lord's-supper being an ordinance of mutual fellowship, we are obliged to behave ourselves towards one another as members of the same body, subjects of the same Lord, engaged in the same religious exercise; and consequently, are obliged to love one another, whereby it will appear, that we are Christ's disciples, John xiii. 35. This love consists in our desiring and endeavouring to promote the spiritual interest of each other, to the end that Christ herein may be glorified; and it includes in it that charity that casts a veil over their failures and defects, and our forgiving those injuries which they have, at any time, done to us. This frame of spirit is certainly becoming the nature of the ordinance, in which we hope to be made partakers of the fruits and effects of Christ's love, and to obtain forgiveness from him, of all the injuries we have done against him; therefore it is very necessary for us to enquire,
[1.] Concerning our love to the brethren, whether it be such as is a distinguishing character of those who are Christ's friends and followers; or which, as the apostle expresses it, will afford an evidence to us, that we are passed from death to life, 1 John iii. 14. And, in order to our discovering this, let us examine ourselves, whether we love the brethren, because we behold the image of God in them? Which is, in effect, to love and glorify God in them, Gal. i. 24. Again, whether our love to men leads us to desire and endeavour to be reckoned a common good to all, according to the utmost of our ability? As it is said of Mordecai, that he was accepted of the multi
tude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed, Esther x. 8.
Again, we are to enquire, whether our love be more especially to the souls of men, as well as their outward concerns? This consists in our using all suitable endeavours to bring them under conviction of sin, by faithful and well-timed reproofs; the contrary to which, or our refusing to rebuke our neighbour or brother, and thereby suffering sin upon him, is reckoned no other than an hating of him, Lev. xix. 17. We are also to express our love to the souls of men, by endeavouring to persuade them to believe in Christ, if they are in an unconverted state, or to walk as becomes his gospel, if they have been made partakers of the grace thereof: Thus the apostle expresses his love to those to whom he writes, when he says, I travail in birth again till Christ be formed in you, Gal. iv. 19. and elsewhere, he signifies to another of the churches, how affectionately desirous he was of them; which made him willing, not only to impart the gospel of God, but his own soul; because they were dear unto him, 1 Thes. ii. 8.
Again, we must enquire, whether our love puts us upon choosing such to be our associates that truly fear the Lord; whom we count, as the Psalmist expresses it, The excellent, in whom is all our delight? Psal. xvi. 3. and, on the other hand, whether we avoid the society of, or intimacy with, those that are Christ's open enemies; the contrary to which, good Jehoshaphat was reproved for by the prophet, when he says, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? 2 Chron. xix. 2. Again, let us enquire, whether our love to men is then expressed when it is most needed? As it is said, A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity, Prov. xvii. 17. Again, whether we are inclined to all those acts of charity which covereth a multitude of faults? As the apostle describes it, that it suffereth long, and is kind; envieth not; vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly; seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth: Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, and endureth all things, 1 Cor. xiii. 4,-8.
[2.] We are to enquire, whether our love to men be expressed in forgiving injuries; which is a frame of spirit absolutely necessary for our engaging in any ordinance; as our Saviour says, If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, Matt. v. 23, 24. that is, if there be a misunderstanding between you, whoever be the aggressor, or gave the first occasion for it, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother; that is, do whatever is in thy power in order thereunto,
and then come and offer thy gift. And this is more necessary when we engage in this ordinance, in which we hope to obtain forgiveness of the many offences which we have committed against God; and accordingly the apostle says, Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, 1 Cor. v. 8. It is no difficult matter for us to know whether we are disposed to forgive those who have injured us; therefore the principal thing we are to examine ourselves about, is, whether we do this with a right frame of spirit, as considering how prone we are to do those things ourselves, which may render it necessary for us to be forgiven, both by God and man? and whether, as the consequence hereof, though we were before this, inclined to over-look those graces which are discernable in them; yet now we can love them as brethren, and glorify God for what they have experienced, and be earnessly solicitous for their salvation as well as our own? Thus concerning the first duty mentioned in this answer, viz. our examining ourselves before we engage in this ordinance. We now proceed to consider some other duties mentioned therein, viz.
II. The renewing the exercise of those graces, which are necessary to our right engaging in it, whereby the sincerity and truth thereof may be discerned: Therefore, since faith, repentance, and several other graces, ought to be exercised in this ordinance, it is necessary for us to give a specimen thereof, before we engage in it. As the artificer first tries the instrument he is to make use of in some curious work before he uses it, so the truth and sincerity of our faith is to be tried before it be exercised in this ordinance.
There is another duty preparatory to the Lord's Supper, mentioned in this answer, viz. serious meditation, that so we may not engage in it without considering the greatness of the Majesty with whom we have to do, together with our own vileness and unworthiness to approach his presence: We must also consider his power, wisdom, and goodness, to encourage us to hope for those supplies of grace from him, which we stand in need of; and we are to have an awful sense of his omnipresence and omniscience, as he is an heart-searching God, to excite in us an holy reverence, and prevent the wandering of our thoughts and affections from him, or any unbecoming behaviour in his presence; and, more particularly we are to consider, before-hand, the end and design of Christ's instituting this ordinance, viz. that his dying love to sinners might be signified and shewed forth, as an encouragement to our faith, and an inducement to thanksgiving and praise, as the nature of the thing calls for it. VOL. IV.
After all this it is farther observed, that we are to endea vour to prepare for this ordinance by fervent prayer, as being sensible, that when we have done our best, we shall be too much unprepared for it, unless we have the special assistance of God, when engaging in it; to which I may apply Hezekiah's words, The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his father; though he be not cleansed according to the cleansing of the sanctuary, 2 Chron. xxx. 18, 19. And we are to be earnest with him, that he would give us a believing view of Christ crucified, and especially of our interest in him; that we may be able to say as the apostle does, He loved me, and gave himself for me, Gal.ii. 20. and that he would apply to us those blessings which he has purchased by his death, which we desire to wait upon him for, when engaging in this ordinance, that our drawing nigh to him therein may redound to his glory and our spiritual advantage.
QUEST. CLXXII. May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, and of his due preparation, come to the Lord's Supper?
ANSW. One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not assured thereof; and in God's account, hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity, in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians,) he is to bewail his unbelief; and labour to have his doubts resolved, and so doing, he may, and ought to come to the Lord's Supper, that he may be farther strengthened.
QUEST. CLXXIII. May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord's Supper, be kept from it?
ANSW. Such as are found to be ignorant, or scandalous, notwithstanding their professsion of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord's Supper, may, and ought to be kept from that sacrament by the power which Christ hath left in his church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.
N these answers we have an account of those who are the subjects of this ordinance and ought to partake of it, or of
those who must be kept from it: the former respects, more especially doubting Christians, who desire to receive satisfaction, whether they ought to engage in it or no; the latter respects those who are ready to presume that they are qualified for it, and ought to partake of it; though, indeed, they are to be excluded from it.
I. As to the case of one who doubteth of his being in Christ, and duly prepared for the Lord's Supper: Here are several things that may afford matter of encouragement to him; and accordingly it is observed,
1. That though this be a matter of doubt to him, as being destitute of assurance of his being in Christ; yet he may be mistaken in the judgment which he passes concerning himself: since assurance, as has been before observed, is not of the es sence of saving faith *. For a person may rely on, or give up himself to Christ, by a direct act of faith, who cannot at the same time, take the comfort that would otherwise arise from thence, that Christ has loved him, and given himself for him. Many have reason to complain of the weakness of their faith, and the great resistance and disturbance which they meet with from the corruption of nature: And others, who have assurance, at present, of their interest in Christ, may afterwards, through divine desertion, lose the comfortable sense thereof; so that we must not conclude, that every doubting believer is destitute of faith. Such are to be tenderly dealt with, and not discouraged from attending on that ordinance, which others, who converse with them, cannot but think they have a right to, and are habitually prepared for; though they themselves very much question, whether they are actually meet for it, as being apprehensive that they cannot exercise those graces, that are necessary to their partaking of this urdinance in a right manner. However, it is observed,
(1.) That there are some things, which, if duly considered by such an one, would afford him, ground of hope; though it may be, he cannot sufficiently improve them to his own comfort. As,
[1.] If he be truly affected with his want of assurance, and, as the result thereof, is filled with uneasiness in his own mind, laments his condition, and can take no comfort in any outward enjoyments, while destitute of it; and, if he be importunate with God in prayer, that he would lift up the light of his countenance upon him, and grant him the exercise, as well as the joy of faith. Moreover, if he frequently examines himself with impartiality, and an earnest desire to be satisfied, as to his state; and if, notwithstanding this, he still walks in darkness,
* See Quest. lxxxi. Vol. III. page 268.