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In our "form for the administration of baptism to adults," the candidate, after having given satisfactory evidence of his knowledge, faith, and piety, to the officers of the church, is required publicly to assent to the doctrines of the church, by giving an affirmative answer to the following question; viz. "Dost thou assent to all the articles of the Christian religion as they are taught here in this Christian church, according to the word of God, and purpose stedfastly to continue in the same doctrine to the end of thy life: And also dost thou reject all heresies and schisms, repugnant to this doctrine, and promise to persevere in the communion of our Christian church, not only in the hearing of the word, but also in the use of the Lord's supper ?"*
This is perfectly proper; and the only way to preserve peace and purity in the church. Want of attention to this has already filled some of our churches with discord-and rendered it rather unsafe for some of our ministers to preach, in their own pulpits, the doctrines of their own church!
Neither will the evil end here, unless strict and immediate attention be paid to the subject, in the reception of members. In the Dutch Church, where the eldership is continually changing, and where almost every male member expects some time or other to fill that office, attention to this is of vital importance. The business of the Elders, as stated in the "form of ordination," is, among other things, to "have regard to the doctrine and conversation of * Quest. 4
the ministers of the word-that no strange doctrine be taught, &c." Now, admit ignorant and unsound members: After a few years, elect and ordain them to the office of Elders; and set these men to guard the doctrines advanced from the pulpit!-What a sad state of things! Let us see to it, that it is never exemplified among us.
But enough of this. We promised, in the title prefixed to this letter, to make some remarks on the nature of an acceptable approach to the table of the Lord; for it is not impossible, that a communicant, possessing all the qualification's of which we have spoken, may be guilty of eating and drinking un worthily, because at the time of communing his graces are not in proper and lively exercise. Upon this point, however, it will not be necessary to dwell. I will only observe, that the qualifications we have specified, brought into vigorous exercise at the time of communicating, will render our approach to the table acceptable to God, and profitable to ourselves. If the mind be purified from error and superstition, so that we are enabled to "discern the Lord's body; if faith, in lively exercise, leans upon the Beloved, and feeds upon him in all his offices and benefits; if deep humility and godly sorrow for sin are felt; if love "rises to an ardent flame,' and the soul is carried out to Christ, and his people, in holy affection; if resolutions of sincere and universal obedience, and greater faithfulness, in the covenant of our God, are solemnly formed; we shall, no
doubt, receive the cheering welcome," Come eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled."*
"If we would communicate worthily, we must be earnest, not only for the life of grace, but also for the liveliness of grace; not only for the truth and sincerity of grace, but likewise for the activity and vigorous exercise of grace. So that a believer himself doth not eat and drink worthily, unless the grace that is in him be excited and exercised at this ordinance. There must be not only faith in the truth of it; but there must be faith realizing, applying, appropriating, and making use of Christ's death and purchase, in this ordinance. Not only must there be a disposition of soul to be humbled for sin, but there must be actual mourning and melting of heart for sin, and for particular sins, when we look on him whom we have pierced by them. Not only must there be a principle of love to Christ; but also an exciting of love to flame out to Christ, who loved us, and gave himself for us."+
"Three things (says the excellent John Brown of Haddington,‡) are necessary to a right partaking of the Lord's supper: 1. A worthy state of union with Christ, as our husband, father, righteousness; and strength. 2. A worthy frame in the actual exercise of all the graces of the Spirit, knowledge, faith, repentance, love, &c. 4. A worthy end of * Prov. ix. 5. + Willison's Intro. to Sac. Med. p. 4. Body of Div. p. 522,
honouring Christ, glorifying God, and receiving spiritual nourishment to our soul."
All this is briefly expressed in our "form for the administration of this ordinance.". "The true examination of ourselves consists in these three parts:
1st. "That every one consider by himself his sins, and the curse due to him for them, to the end that he may abhor and humble himself before God; considering that the wrath of God against sin is so great, that (rather than that it should go unpunished,) he hath punished the same in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with the bitter and shameful death of the cross!
2ndly. "That every one examine his own heart, whether he doth believe this faithful promise of God, that all his sins are forgiven him, only for the sake of the passion and death of Jesus Christ; and that the perfect righteousness of Christ is imputed, and freely given him as his own; yea, so perfectly, as if he had satisfied, in his own person, for all his sins, and fulfilled all righteousness.
3dly. "That every one examine his own conscience, whether he purposeth henceforth to shew true thankfulness to God in his whole life, and to walk uprightly before him: As also, whether he hath laid aside unfeignedly all enmity, hatred, and envy, and doth firmly resolve henceforward to walk in true love and peace with his neighbour."
"All those then, who are thus disposed, God will certainly receive in mercy, and count them worthy partakers of the table of his Son, Jesus Christ!"
That you may find acceptance, comfort, and refreshment, at the table of the Lord, is the sincere prayer of your friend and pastor!
Engagements made at the Redeemer's table-Unfaithfulness of professors-Exhortation to universal and holy obedience, with a few directions.
It has already been stated,* that baptism, and the Lord's supper, are called sacraments, because they bind all who partake of them, under the solemnity of an oath, to be faithful to the Master, and the cause of the church. We have also noticed the engagements made by parents, when they offer up their children to God in baptism. It may now be proper and useful to spend a few moments in considering what are the special engagements, made by the professors of religion, when commemorating, in the sacrament of the supper, the death of their Lord?
In all covenants there must be contracting parties, and reciprocal engagements. In the covenant of grace, God freely engages to become our God and portion forever, through the mediation of his beloved Son; and we, in embracing the covenant, engage