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If this be truly the case, you are not the persons whose attendance I should urge. But let us examine the subject. Let me entreat you to consider, and do not judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life without examination; for if you judge yourselves to be unfit for communicating at the table of the Lord, you judge yourselves unfit for his kingdom. Let me ask—are you convinced that you are sinners 1 Do you know that sin was the cause of the sufferings and death of the blessed Jesus? Would you forsake sin? Do you love the Saviour? Are you sensible that no righteousness of your own, can justify you before God? Do you place all your dependence on the blood and righteousness of Christ, for the pardon of your sins, and acceptance with God? Are you determined through his grace to live no longer unto yourselves, but unto him who died for you and rose again? Do you desire communion and fellowship with God, and with his son Jesus Christ? Are you in love and charity with all mankind? If you can answer these questions in the affirmative, then you are prepared to come to the Lord's supper. Do you hope you can thus answer them? Then come, though it be with a trembling step. But if your consciences reply, No, to the questions I have proposed, you are certainly unfit to communicate at the sacred table. Yet remember, that want of qualifications which excludes you from this ordinance, will most assuredly close against you the door of the kingdom of heaven.
3. Another objection, made by some persons for their non-attendance at the sacrament of the Lord's
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supper, is an apprehension, lest after they have thus solemnly engaged themselves to God, they should fall into sin, and apostatize from him.
But if a possibility of sinning were to shut us out from the ordinance, the most confirmed and established christian dare not approach, and none ought to partake of it till the last moment of their lives. But if you truly desire strength to live to God, whence are you to obtain it? You can obtain it from God only. And how will you be most likely to obtain this strength? In the way of duty, or in the neglect of it? It is your part to pursue the path of duty; use all the appointed means of grace, and believe that the God of all grace will himself keep you from falling; or should you fall, he will raise you again. He will never desert those, who, sensible of their weakness, trust in him for strength. To every believer his language is—" I will never, never leave thee; I will never, never forsake thee." Every one shall be kept by his power through faith unto salvation. You should indeed watch and pray, that you may be preserved from sin; but you are not to imagine that sin is unpardonable; for what says the apostle John, " If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins." The dreadful fall of Peter occurred immediately after he had received the sacred emblems from the hand of Christ himself. But he repented, was pardoned, and restored to favour.
4. Others fear, lest by coming to the Lord's table they should eat and drink their own damnation.
The meaning of the text, so often quoted and mistaken,—"He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself,"—is, that such persons who partake of this holy sacrament in an irreverent, profane, and unworthy manner, as did some of the Corinthians, whom the apostle then addressed, displease and provoke God. Of them it may truly be said, that they eat and drink condemnation or judgment to themselves: they take the ready way to bring upon themselves the judgment of God, not distinguishing the Lord's body. But there is nothing in this text, that need afford the least discouragement to the weakest believer in Jesus.
5. Some sincere christians omit their attendance on the Lord's supper, from time to time, because they are not in what they term a good frame of mind.
Do we then come to this sacrament because we have grace enough, or because we want more ?—because we are what we ought to be, or that we may be made so? Should a man shun his physician because he is diseased? Would he not rather apply to him the more earnestly, in proportion to his sense of sickness and danger? O come then to the Great Physician ; apply for his healing balm ; come because you are guilty, that you may obtain mercy, and find grace to help you in the time of need.
6. There are others, who plead the irregular conduct of certain communicants, as a reason for their not attending on this institution.
They observe that the apostle commands us not to
eat with such brethren as live in allowed and wilful sin. His words are: "1 wrote to you not to keep company with fornicators; yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world:"—that is, I do not mean that you should break off the intercourse of common life with the fornicators of this world,—with those who professedly are of the world, and make no pretensions to religion; for then you must needs go out of the world. "But if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat." Cultivate no friendship with such a man as this; do not even keep company with him; have no conversation with him; do not so much as eat with him. This seems to be the primary meaning of the words; and therefore they imply nothing to keep individuals from the table of the Lord. At the same time, we cannot speak in terms sufficiently awful of the conduct of persons, who live in the practice of any such sins, and yet presume to approach the Lord's table; and if the discipline of the church were kept up, all such characters would be excluded. By their admission the holy sacrament is profaned; they are guilty of the body and blood of the Lord; they eat and drink judgment to themselves; and they are an offence to others, who sometimes make their conduct a plea for absenting themselves from the holy communion.
7. Finally, there are those who decline to communicate, because they are unwilling to bind themselves to a life consistent with the gospel.
They do not like the idea of walking in the way of holiness; the gate is too strait, and the path too narrow, to admit of their sins, and they prefer the broad road that leads to destruction. This is the worst case which we have noticed. This is indeed a sufficient reason for declining to partake of the precious memorials of the Saviour's unutterable love, and thereby openly professing themselves to be his disciples. But, alas! it is the worst reason that could be given. Let me ask, if any of you are so unhappy as to indulge so unholy a determination? Can you suppose, that by disobeying this command of Christ, you release yourselves from the obligation of obeying all his other commands? Because you refuse to comply with the requirements of your Maker, Preserver, and Redeemer, are those requirements no longer binding on you? Rather, are you not adding sin to sin, filling up the measure of your iniquities, and saying, in the language of open rebellion, "We will not have this man to reign over us." O consider the danger of such conduct, and flee for refuge to the covenant mercy of God in his beloved Son, before the door of hope is for ever closed.
By way of conclusion, allow me to ask, who among you are willing to commemorate the sufferings and death of Jesus? Where are the penitents? where are those who believe and trust in him? where are those who desire to live to his glory? 0 come and refresh your souls, renew your strength, and confirm your faith, with the remembrance of your Saviour's love; and feed upon the living bread which came down from heaven.