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say-Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is true, that this communion, as well as the benefits which have been already considered, is perceived in. other means of grace; in the intercourse of private life, in Christian conversation, in mutual prayer, and the exercises of charity; but it is especially and peculiarly enjoyed in this ordinance, which is eminently calculated to unite us together as shewing our common dependence on the death of the same Saviour, our common participation of his grace, our common hope of his glory
3. We have only farther to notice among the benefits of the Lord's Supper, that a right reception of it is a PLEDGE, earnest, or foretaste, of FUTURE BLES
The appointed words of the InstitutionTake, eat, this is my body which is given for you, cannot imply less than that the true believer, when he receives the sacred elements, receives a pledge and assurance of the favour of him by whose appointment these words are addressed to him. One of the resormers says" By.commanding us to take, he signifies that he is ours; by commanding us to eat and drink, he signifies that he is become one with us." As the rainbow in the heavens is a token of the covenant between God and the earth, that he will no more destroy al flesh by a flood, and that man may multiply and replenish the earth : so this ordinance may be to us as a token, that God has by a better covenant, provided a deliverance for us, from a far worse destruc. tion, and obtained for us a heavenly inheritance. The very appointment of this institution by our gracious Redeemer, and its administration to us by his ministers, as they assure us that he is willing to be the food of
our souls, and joined to us as a source and support of spiritual life, strength and consolation, so they afford us the lively hope that he will never leave us nor forsake us:
Indeed, when holy affections are here excited, and communion with Christ and his people here enjoyed, these things manifest that we have received that gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the earnest of our inheritance. As the Lord's Supper is peculiarly calculated to increase faith, hope, and love; so if you can thereby trace in yourselves stronger evidences of the work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, your confidence will be increased, that he which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
We have seen what the blessings of the new covenant are, and what the hope of glory is which it sets before us. Is it a small advantage then, to have such a hope strengthened and confirmed by this pledge of God's favour? Does not he who has this hope purify himself as he is pure ?
The due reception of the Lord's Supper is thus one of the most effective means of preparation for the second coming of Christ. Never are we more ready for the immediate presence of our Lord, than when, with a broken and contrite spirit, with a lively faith in his death, with ardent gratitude for his unspeakable mercies, and warm love to our fellow creatures, we have been remembering Christ at bis table. We come from it kind, gentle, and tender-hearted; our souls burn with the pure flame of holy love; we long to spend our whole strength in our Saviour's service; we delight in the exercise of devotion, and we have sensible communion with the Father of spirits; in short, a blessed anticipation and foretaste of the future bliss. There is that grace imparted through this most expressive ministration of the Gospel of our Saviour, which purifies and refines us, makes us meet for the heavenly inheritance, raises us above the love of this world and the fear of death, and almost inclines us to adopt Simeon's words--Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. It is only the Gospel that is efficacious through the
of God to sweeten life, and console in death; to make us happy here, and blessed for ever hereafter; and no where bas the Christian a more perceptible and lively exhibition of the Gospel, than in this ordinance.
It may be useful to add a few remarks of a more general nature on this subject.
The reader will have seen that all those blessings which the Scriptures promise to faith in Christ, and the possession of Christ, do in fact belong to the faithful communicant. The reason is obvious; no one can duly receive the Lord's Supper, but as he believes in Christ and rests all on him. Therefore, all that the Scriptures say of the riches, and blessings, and treasures, which faith in Christ, as our Redeemer, can procure to us; ALL THAT they say of the benefit of that faith which is absolutely required by, and will be exercised in the due reception of this sacrament.”.
Many Christians do not expect enough at the Lord's table, and thence lose much of the benefits to be there obtained. We should have a large expectation, and we shall receive large. We might justly suppose the great God to address the believing communicant,-ask what I shall give thee; (1 Kings iii, 5.)
and to urge him further-open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. Ps. lxxxi, 10. Here we may have the nearest approaches to the Divine presence, that our state in this world admits. The church may say of this means of grace,---While the king sitteth at his table, my spikenard sendeth forth the smell thereof. Cant. i, 12. There is a blessed manifestation of the Divine Presence to the soul to be here expected. View this ordinance in its true blessedness and glory, and you will justly have enlarged views of the benefits to be derived from it. Real believers may here look for abiding peace of conscience, strength of grace, joy in the Holy Ghost, and overflowing hopes of future blessedness. “ It is therefore the fault of many to come rather like prisoners to the bar, than like children and friends to the table; they come trembling and full of confusion. Their apprehension of the danger of receiving unworthily runs into an extreme, so as to become an hinderance to the exercise of faith, hope, and love."
To what has been said respecting the benefits of the Lord's Supper, it is, as has already been cursorily noticed, sometimes objected, “ I have been there several times, and seemed to get no benefit.” This is a subject which calls for more particular consideration here, as it may remove a difficulty from the minds of humble Christians, and make those who are careless and worldly, sensible that they are wrong.
We allow that all who partake of the Lord's Supper do not receive these blessings. It has long since been stated by our church, “ The wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth, as St. Augustine saith,
the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ, but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign and sacrament of so great a thing." Those also, who receive it merely as a matter of form and custom, or as a selfrighteous act to do away past transgressions, without any real hatred of sin, faith in Christ, or love to him; and with perhaps a secret reserve that they may afterwards go on more freely in sin; some slighting it as a common matter, and others over estimatiug the outward service, as having a power which was never given it, of atoning for their sins; these communicants do not gain the benefits which have been described, just as a formal worshipper gains none of the blessings of true prayer.
Do you then find that you have gained no benefit? Ask yourself a few questions of this kind-Have I ever really repented of my sins and turned to God? If you have no spiritual life, you are not in a state to benefit by an ordinance which is designed for the Christian's growth and nourishment.--Have I duly prepared for this ordinance ? Perhaps you were engaged in worldly business, when this greater business might, and should, have occupied your mind. Were you not at work, when you should have been in your closet; or reading some book on indifferent subjects, when you should have been searching the Scriptures; or enjoying yourself in your family, or with your friends, when you should have been alone? But possibly you did give a considerable time to preparation : enquire then, farther, -Have I not rested in my preparation, and expected a blessing for it, rather than for Christ? No preparation must be trusted in, or put in the place of Jesus; if so,