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enjoy all the privileges of their calling, she would not have them come to the table of the Lord, while they were in a state of unrepented sin; and therefore carefully excluded them from it, when they had by their conduct shown themselves unworthy. She encouraged all to exercise the duty of self-examination, and those who had openly transgressed, she obliged to perform public penance before they were restored to communion. The Church of England has been long deprived by unfortunate circumstances of the power of exercising a like godly discipline—a circumstance which, in the Communion Service of Ash-Wednesday, she annually deplores. But in as far as she has influence upon the consciences of her faithful children, she follows the example of the Primitive Church. She requires by her Canons, “ that in every Parish-Church and Chapel, where Sacraments are to be administered within this realm, the Holy Communion shall be ministered .... so often, and at such times, as every parishioner may communicate at the least thrice in the year.” (Can. xxi.) And she even
goes so far as to require that“ the Minister, Church-wardens, Quest-men, and Assistants of every Parish-church, and Chapel, shall yearly, within forty days after Easter, exhibit to the bishop or his chancellor, the names and surnames of all the parishioners, as well men as women, which being of the age of sixteen years, received not the Communion at the Easter before.” Though she has never been enabled by the civil power fully to put these laws into execution, they sufficiently show her intentions and wishes. At the same time, however, she is equally careful to admonish her members not to partake of the Communion lightly. She cannot enforce the primitive discipline; but she most solemnly warns all “ diligently to try and examine themselves before they presume to eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup," and brings before them the great “danger of receiving the same unworthily.”
The importance of receiving the Holy Communion, as it is shewn by the practice of the Primitive Christians, and the laws and formularies of the present Church, is evident. The nature of the Sacrament makes it quite certain that it ought to be received by all. “ As often as we eat this Bread, and drink this Cup, we do show the Lord's death till he come.” Our Lord himself commanded, “ This do in remembrance of me.” As we would keep up in our minds, therefore, a remembrance of the great sacrifice made for us on the cross, as we would obey a distinct command of the Saviour, we may not be absent from this sacred feast. The branch can live and bear fruit only as it is united to the vine-we can live only as we are united to Christand we know no other way in which we come into this blessed union as we do in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is to deprive ourselves of our most valuable privilege, and lose the most precious of the means of grace, to neglect it.
When we remember how it was prized by the Christians of former times, how frequently they received it, and what penances they submitted to endure that they might be restored to the enjoyment of it, if they had been so unhappy as to have forfeited the privilege of communion, it may well surprise us that so many now gratuitously neglect it. When we read the plain words of Scripture, and observe the practice of the first believers, and call to mind the enactments of the Church, it must not only astonish, but deeply pain every reflecting person, to know that so many habitually neglect so plain a duty. What is the cause of it? I would not make the case too general, but would confine it in the present occasion to ourselves. What is the cause that leads so many of you, my brethren, to neglect it? Your coming to Church, and acknowledging the restraints of the law of Christ, must be regarded as proof that you are not indifferent to the care of
your souls—why then not enjoy the blessings of religion? why deny yourselves the use of the most effectual means of grace? Indecision in such a matter as religion is preposterous. “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him : but if Baal, then follow him.”
If there are any who are conscious of living in unrepented sin, if they are intemperate, or unclean, or dishonest, they may not come indeed safely. Such persons would “ be guilty of the body and blood of Christ our Saviour, would eat and drink their own damnation, not considering the Lord's body.” Their business is to repent and amend their lives, and to seek pardon. And, oh, let them not delay repentance ! Awful indeed is it to frequent the Church, and habitually hear the word of God in impenitence and hypocrisy. Do they not fear to live on in a state in which they fear to receive the Lord's Supper ?
The case of such persons, however, is clear. I may only exhort them to repent
But I trust that there are very many among you who are not deterred by such motives from coming to the Lord's Table. You are deterred perhaps by scruples about your fitness to come; you cannot think yourselves worthy; you are conscious that you do not take a decided part; that you are too much occupied by worldly cares; that you do not entirely abstain from doubtful amusements; that you do