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(1.) That the passover and the Lord's supper were celebrated, ene immediately after the other, at the same table, or sitting; therefore the hand of Judas might be with Christ on the table, in the former, though not in the latter: So that, though these words, the hand of him that betrayeth me, is with me on the table, are inserted after the account of both these ordinances being concluded; yet we have ground to suppose, they were spoken while they were eating the passover, when Judas was present.
(2.) It appears yet more probable that he was not present at the Lord's supper, from the account which John gives of this matter, in chap. xiii. 21. wherein our Saviour tells them, that one of them should betray him: and, in ver. 26. he discovers that he meant Judas, by giving him the sop; and in ver. 30, it is said, that having received the sop, he went immediately out. Now it is certain there was no sop in the Lord's supper, as there was in the passover, inasmuch as there was no flesh therein: Therefore Judas went out when they were eating the passover, before they began to partake of the Lord's supper; being, as we may reasonably suppose, in a rage that his hypocrisy should be detected, and he marked out as a traitor, who was, before this, reckoned as good a man as any of them: Therefore we have not sufficient ground from hence to con clude, that wicked men ought to be admitted to partake of the Lord's supper.
Object, 3. For christians to exclude any from the Lord's supper, would argue a great deal of pride, or vain-glorious boasting, and it is, as it were, to say to them who are excluded, "Stand off, for we are holier than you."
Answ. 1. A believer may with thankfulness, acknowledge the distinguishing grace of God vouchsafed to him, and not to others; and, at the same time, bless him, that he has given him a right to the privilege of his house, which all are not admitted to partake of, without doing this in a boasting way; he may say with the apostle in 1 Cor. xv. 10. By the grace of God I am what I am; and yet at the same time, deal faithfully with those who are destitute of this grace; he may bless God for the right which he hopes he has to this ordinance, and yet it is not his duty to admit them to it who have no right.
2. It is one thing not to admit persons who are unqualified to this ordinance, and another thing to despise them upon this account. Our business is not to reproach them, but to treat them with meekness; if peradventure God may give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth, that hereby they may appear to have a right to it.
Object. 4. If wicked men are to be excluded from one ordinance which Christ has instituted in his church, they may, for Vor. IV.
the same reason be excluded from all; and so they may as well be debarred the privilege of hearing the word, and joining with the church in public prayer.
Answ. There is not the same reason for excluding wicked men from hearing the word, or joining in prayer with the church, as there is for refusing to admit them to partake of the Lord's supper. For prayer, and preaching the word, are God's appointed means for the working the grace of faith, instructing the ignorant, awakening the stupid and secure sinner, and putting him on complying with that method of salvation which God has prescribed in the gospel, and embracing Christ as offered therein: Whereas, on the other hand, the Lord's supper is an ordinance which supposes the soul to have, before this, received Christ by faith; and therefore he is therein to feed upon him, and to take comfort from what he has done and suffered for him, as conducive to the farther mortification of indwelling sin; which supposes that he has had, before this, some experience of the grace of God in truth. Thus concerning the exclusion of ignorant or immoral persons, as being not qualified for the Lord's supper.
And here we may farther observe, that they who bring these and such-like objections, with a design to open the door of the church so wide, that all may be received into it, and partake of those ordinances by which it is more particularly distinguished from the world, are very ready, in defence of their own cause, to charge others with being too severe in their censures, and refusing to admit any into church-communion, unless they can tell the very time in which they were converted, and the means by which this work was begun, and carried on; and this they are obliged to do in so public a manner, as that many are denied the privilege of partaking of this ordinance, for a mere circumstance; which is an extreme as much to be avoided as the receiving unqualified persons to the Lord's supper.
But it may be replied to this, that since this charge is rather the result of surmize than founded on sufficient evidence, it deserves to have less notice taken of it: However, this I would say in answer to it, that I never knew it to be the practice of any church of Christ, to exclude persons from its communion, because they knew not the time or means of their conversion; which may be sometimes occasioned by their having been favored with the blessing of a religious education and restraining grace from their childhood, so that they have not run those lengths in sin which others have done; and therefore the change which is wrought in conversion, especially as to what concerns the time and manner thereof, is less discernible. Sometimes the work has been begun with a less degree of
the terrors of conscience, under a sense of the guilt of sin, and the condemning sentence of the law, than others have experienced: These have been drawn with the cords of love, and the grace of God has descended upon them insensibly, like the dew upon the grass; and therefore all that can be perceived by them, or that is to be required of them as a necessary qualification for their being admitted to the ordinances and privileges which belong to believers, is their discovering those fruits of faith which are discernable in the conversation of such as have experienced the grace of God in truth.
As to the other part of the charge, in which some churches are pretended to insist on such terms of communion as are merely circumstantial, so as to refuse to receive any that cannot comply with them: This is to be answered by those who appear to be liable to it. All that I shall therefore add under this head, is, that since a visible profession of faith in Christ is to be made, as necessary to constitute a visible church, and the conversation of those who make it, ought to be apparently agreeable thereunto: And inasmuch as none are obliged to make any thing known to the church, that contains the least appearance of dishonour or reflection on their character in the world; but are only required to testify and give a proof of their steady adherence to Christ, and their desire to embrace him in all his offices, as well as worship him in all his ordinances; this cannot justly be reckoned an unnecessary circumstance or making that a term of communion which Christ has not made, and thereby excluding those who have a right to the Lord's supper.
And now we have considered the terms of communion, and the qualifications for it, as well as the spiritual privileges that are to be expected by those who have a right to it. I cannot but observe, how this is abused, and practically disowned, by those who engage in this ordinance merely as a qualification for a civil employment. A person may certainly be a good member of a commonwealth, and very fit to be entrusted with the administration of the civil affairs thereof, who has little or nothing to say concerning his experiences of the grace of God. To assert, that a right to a civil employment is founded on the same qualifications that give a person a right to partake of the Lord's supper, would be to advance, not only that which is indefensible, but what would be almost universally denied, unless it could be proved, that all might partake of it, the contrary to which, we have endeavoured to maintain.
Moreover, when Christ instituted this ordinance, his people were in no expectation of bearing any part in the civil government; therefore this was most remote from the first intent and design thereof: And we often find that this is a temptation to
men to profane this ordinance, and lays a burden on the consciences of those who know themselves unprepared for it, who had little or nothing in view but the securing their secular interest; by which means it is to be feared, that many of them eat and drink unworthily, and, instead of receiving advantage by it, bring their consciences under such entanglements, that they canuot easily extricate themselves from. Thus concerning those who are to be admitted to be partakers of the Lord's Supper, though doubting of their meetness for it, and others being excluded, who have no right to it.
The last thing observed in this answer, is, that they who are not, at present, deemed fit for this ordinance, may afterwards be admitted to it when they have received instruction, and manifested a thorough reformation; or when, by their diligent attendance on other ordinances, or means of grace, accompanied with the divine blessing, that, which at present disqualifies them, being removed, they may humbly and thankfully wait on God therein, and hope for his presence and blessing; and then the church will have reason, as well as themselves, to bless God for that grace which they have experienced, whereby they may come to it for the better, and not for the worse.
QUEST. CLXXIV. What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, in the time of the administration of it?
ANSW. It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, that during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions, heedfully discern the Lord's body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces, in judging themselves and sorrowing for sin, in hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fulness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace, in renew. ing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.
QUEST. CLXXV. What is the duty of Christians after they have received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper?
ANSW. The duty of Christians after they have received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, is, seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what
success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfil their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance; but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time; but if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterward with more care and diligence.
HESE two answers respect our behaviour in, and after our engaging in this ordinance.
I. We are to consider with what frame of spirit we are to engage therein; how our meditations are to be employed, and what graces are to be exercised.
1. Here is something observed, which is common to it with all other ordinances, viz. that we are to wait on God with an holy reverence arising from a becoming sense of his divine perfections, and the infinite distance we stand in from him; and we are to impress on our souls an awful sense of his omniscience and omnipresence; whereby he knows with what frame of spirit we draw nigh to him, better than this is known to ourselves; and highly resents every thing that is contrary to his holiness, or unbecoming the character of those who are worshipping at his footstool.
2. There are other things peculiar to this ordinance, that are necessary in order to our engaging in it in a right man
(1.) We are diligently to observe the sacramental elements and actions, which contain the external part of the duty required of us. The bread and wine, together with the actions to be performed in our receiving them by Christ's appointment, are, as has been before observed, significant and instructive signs of his death, and the benefits which he has procured for us thereby, that are to be attended to, and brought to our remembrance in this ordinance.
Moreover, we are to consider, that though the blessings of the covenant of grace are signified thereby, as they are instituted, not natural signs thereof; yet the gospel, in which we have an account of what Christ did, and suffered for us, is a large and sufficient explication hereof for the direction of our faith, when conversant about them.
(2.) We are affectionately to meditate on the sufferings and death of Christ, which are signified thereby. Meditation is a great part of the work we are to be engaged in, and the death of Christ is the principal subject thereof; accordingly