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cannot be persuaded, that frequent feeding on it is as necessary; and so repair to it but once or twice in the
twice in the year, and that but coldly, as to a repast, they have no great relish to.
Nevertheless, coldly as they then attend it for want of an habitual spirit of piety, I will go no further, than to their own breasts, for a convincing proof, that frequent receiving is necessary. Tell me, you who make this unhappy plea against the express commandment of your Lord, do you not find yourself a better man, more watchful over your own ways, and more guarded against temptations of all kinds, for some time before and after receiving, than in the other parts of your life. Answer this question honestly to yourself, and then farther say, whether it would not be happy for you, if you were always as good a man, and if, in order to it, you were to receive this blessed sacrament every day of your life. But in case you are not very
much a better man for receiving, it is only owing to your receiving so seldom. Try the experiment. Be a constant and careful communicant for one year; and my soul for yours, you will find your resolutions better supported, your temptations greatly baffled, and your piety more enlivened, invigorated. Pleasure will succeed to dryness in your heart, and peace in the Holy Ghost will take the place within you of a war with God and goodness.
Pleasure, you know, comes with habit, and habit with repeated acts. We are apt to think often of that which pleases, and not less apt to feel an increase of this pleasure on a long continuance of that thinking, which in proportion as it produces an additional degree of love to the object thought on, produces likewise an equal degree of aversion to its opposite, if such there is.
A mind, so unhappy as to fix its thoughts on an hurtful or seducing object, we see, suffers in point of virtue, just as a body does in point of health, when the depraved appetite is accustomed to, and pleased with, unwholesome food. Such a mind equally hates virtue, and loves vice. The vicious entertainment, wherewith it feeds itself, becomes, at once, its delight and its destruction. It preys on corruption, is satiated with carrion, and bloated with the principles of death.
On the other hand, the mind which hath wisely chosen to feed itself with virtuous thoughts, enjoys a state of spiritual health and strength, resembling the soundness of that body, whereof the appetite is used to, and pleased with wholesome food. This mind equally hates vice, and loves virtue. In this mind, good thoughts are perpetually producing good resolutions, and those again, good actions. Unfading pleasures attend each step of this happy progress; pleasures, that not only comfort the heart, but take in the whole man, carry the understanding with them, and ravish the very conscience. This is breathing the air, as well as eating the food of heaven.
However in those minds, who are habituated to the most refined and religious way of thinking, so many evil thoughts, and sometimes even sinful habits of thinking have crept in during their unguarded hours ; and the enemy hath sown so much tares among their wheat, while they slept, that great watchfulness and care to weed out these, and encourage the good seed, are become necessary, lest when the harvest arrives, the heavenly reapers should find a crop more fit for the fire, than for the garner of God.
And that the bread of life may not be wanting to minds thus prepared for it, we must, at every opportunity, repair to the Lord's table, “Who satisfieth the empty soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.' It is impossible, he should live for ever, who goes not thither; and most highly improbable, that he who goes but seldom should feed the principle of eternal life in himself during a long famine, and that often recurring, of its necessary nourishment. As the stomach, so the soul, by too long a fast loses its appetite and power of digestion. In long interruptions of selfexamination, of serious reflection, and of close communication with the fountain of strength, evil habits gain, and good ones lose ground; conscience is laid asleep, and the soul starved out of all its vigour.
He who makes a long journey, especially if his road lies upward, ought to be strong and active ; and, in order to sufficient strength, should have frequent and plentiful refreshments on the way. The traveller to heaven particularly ought to consider how far that place is from him, how high it is above him, and what necessity there is, that he should, as often as possible, have recourse to that gracious provider, who saith, ' Come unto me all ye that travel and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.' Without this refreshment, the soul will soon faint and give up: and as there is no standing still, will be tempted by the smoothness and down-hill tendency of the contrary road, into that common jaunt of pleasure which ends in hell.
A real Christian cannot be long absent from the sacrament, because he knows, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord ; that holiness without grace is impossible, and that grace is not to be expected from God, its only dispenser, but in the way of his own appointment. He is perfectly sensible of all this, and therefore never absents himself from the table of God.
But there are other Christians who believe it as well as he, who yet, by one temptation or another, are often, nay, for the greater part of their lives, hindered to receive ; that is, there are a sort of Christians, who have good principles only to condemn their bad practices. That Christ will not acknowledge such as his, we have his own word for it, for of all those who constantly, or generally absent themselves from his table, there is not a single one, who in other respects leads the life of a Christian. Though therefore they may say to him at the last day, Lord, have we not believed in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils,' he will answer, • I know ye not; depart from me, ye that work iniquity,' ye that have broken my commandment, and cut yourselves off from my body.
Dreadful words from our redeemer and judge ! from him who is our shepherd, our sponsor, our physician, our spiritual commander, our Lord and master! from him who hath purchased us with his precious blood! Where can the Christian sheep hope for pasture and protection from the wolf, but in the enclosures of Christ? Where should the children of God look for their daily bread, but at his table, through whom they are adopted, wko is their security with the Father, and who must either feed them, or give them up? Where should the sickly soul apply for medicine, but at his hands, who alone can heal it? To what
magazine, but that stored up for him by the captain of his salvation, should the spiritual soldier have recourse for military provisions? Whose invitations should he attend, or whose commands obey, who hath been bought off from the slavery of sin, and brought into the free, the honourable, and happy service of God, but those of his gracious purchaser? And as this purchase is made by the blood of his Redeemer, where, but in the cup of blessing, can he find the price, which he is to pay and plead for his soul.
There is not, that I know of, any one relation we stand in to God, as Christians, that does not make a constant and careful attendance on the Lord's supper, a necessary and indispensable duty, for he hath commanded it, as the chief means to make us ' strong in the Lord,' for it is the food of the soul; and as a testimony of gratitude, for this is the grand commemoration of that death, which alone can give us life,
If, particularly, we consider ourselves as by nature slaves to sin, and doomed to eternal misery, but redeemed and set at liberty by the blood of Christ, we must be utterly incapable of gratitude, if we do not, on all occasions, call to mind this instance of infinite goodness with all possible love and thankfulness. And as our great benefactor hath himself appointed an holy institution, by our attendance whereon he expressly and peculiarly requires our acknowledgments for this astonishing act of compassion towards us, we cannot refuse that attendance, without, in effect, either denying the favour, or refusing our thanks ; nay, without returning again into that state of slavery to sin, and that just dread of infamy and misery, from which he died to deliver us. All the benefits of his death, forgiveness of sins, grace, mercy, and peace with offended omnipotence, are conveyed to us in this holy ordinance. To decline it therefore is in form to disclaim those benefits, in as much as it is presumption in the ungrateful to hope for them, especially through any channel, but that of Christ's own appointment.
Besides, as this blessed sacrament is not only the formal act and seal, whereby Christ, in his last will and testament, bequeaths to us all our title to an inheritance in heaven, but also the chief means of imparting to us those aids of his Holy Spirit, without which it will be impossible to make good that title, he who stays away from this sacrament, puts himself again, as I just now observed, where his old sinful nature left him, and renounces at once, all the assistance, titles, and benefits of that religion, on which alone he professes hls entire dependence for eternal salvation. What name shall we give to such a professor? Will foolish, or mad, or wicked, give him a just character ? No, all together they are too feeble to exhibit the picture of such a monster, in whom there is so great a mixture of folly promoting vice, and vice maturing folly, such a professing and denying of the same religion! such an acknowledgment of his own weakness, and presumption in his own strength! Such a contempt for his own reason, and yet such a preference of it to the wisdom of Christ! Such an attempt, not only to look two ways at once, but to go two contrary ways at once! in short, such an amazing jumble of all falsehood all inconsistencies, all sins, as never did meet, never possibly can meet, this single case only excepted, in any one mind.
Are we the servants of God? And do we, in good earnest, mean to do his work? What! work without strength! Or hope for strength without meat and drink! He,' saith the apostle, who will not work, let him not eat.' Though this is spoken of meat for the body, it is as justly applicable to food for the soul. He that will not do the work of God, how dare he presume to spunge on the spiritual food at his table? But on the other hand, he that does not eat, cannot work, for want of strength. What shall we do,' say the Jews to Christ, that we may work the works of God ? In answer to this question, he first tells them, what is the work of God, namely, 'to believe on him whom God had sent;' and then proceeds to describe and recommend to them the bread of God, which alone could enable them to believe in him, or to lead a life conformable to that belief. And so strongly does he insist on the resemblance of this spiritual, to bodily food, calling it twenty times in the same passag by the same name, that we cannot help thinking the frequent use of it as necessary to the eternal, as that of outward food is to the temporal life, especially as he there, in the strongest terms assures us, we have no life in us, do not eat and drink it.'
If we call ourselves the servants and dependants of Christ, and if he vouchsafes, as indeed he does, to call us his friends, how can we possibly turn a deaf ear to those