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frame: neither with the leaven of malice, or any kind of wickedness ; but renouncing our old temper and practice, and with hearts universally sanctified, and full of love and good will to all mankind, let us religiously celebrate this gospel feast with those dispositions which were signified by the unleavened bread, namely, sincerity and truth.
It was the practice of the Jews, when the passover was approaching, to search every corner of their houses with lighted candles, that they might be sure there was no leaven to be found under their roofs. The apostle probably alludes to that practice, and exhorts christians to a like care in searching and purging their hearts, and the churches to which they belong, that they may be pure, and fit for partaking of so holy an ordinance.
My design is to show you the principal ends of the institution of the Lord's supper : and as I go along, to delineate the character of those who are fit to attend upon it ; for by knowing the former, we may easily know the latter.
The Lord's supper partakes of the general nature of those divine institutions which are called sacraments : in this, “ That it is intended to represent things spiritual by material emblems or signs which affect our senses, and thereby enlarge our ideas, and impress our hearts in the present state of flesh and blood.” As we have not only rational minds, but also animal bodies endowed with senses, God has wisely adapted his institutions to the make of human nature, and called in the assistance of our eyes* and our ears to help our conceptions of divine things, and to affect our minds with them. And this method is agreeable to the nature of mankind ; God has been pleased to use it in every age, and under every dispensation of religion. The tree of life was the sacrament of the first covenant ; a sensible confirmation to Adam that he should obtain eternal life by his obedience. The rainbow was appointed as a confirmation of the covenant with Noah, that the world should no more perish by a deluge ; and We have not only the assurance of the divine promise, but we may receive the confirmation through our eyes by beholding that illustrious sign in the clouds. Circumcision and the passover were noted sacraments of the covenant of grace, under the Jewish dispensation ; and Baptism and the Lord's Supper aro
* Segnius irritant animos de missa per aurem,
Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus. VOL. II.
appointed in their room, and answer the like ends under the gospel. In all these ordinances God consults our weakness, and, as I observed, makes our bodily senses helpful to the devotions of our mirds. Indeed this method of representing and confirming things by sensible signs and significant actions is so natural and expressive, that men have used it in all ages in their transactions with one another. It was remarkably in use among the ancients; and it is not quite laid aside in our age, which does not abound in such methods of representation. In our age and country it is usual to confirm contracts by annexing seals to an instrument of writing ; to confirm an agreement by shaking hands ; to signify love by a kiss, and complaisance by bowing; and we sometimes give some token as a memorial to a parting friend I mention these low and familiar instances that I may, if possible, give some just ideas of a sacrament to the meanest capacity. It partakes of the general nature of these significant signs and actions, and is intended, like them, to strike our senses ; and through that medium to instruct or affect our minds : and such a sign, such a seal, such a significant action is the Lord's supper in particular.
Having made this remark upon its general nature, I now go on to shew the particular ends of its institution. And,
I This ordinance was intended as a memorial of the sufferings of Christ for his people.
That this is its immediate and principal design we learn from the words of the blessed Jesus at its first institution. This do in remembrance of me. That we are to remember him particularly and principally as suffering for our sins, is evident from his words in distributing the elements, This is my body which is broken for you. Here a moving emphasis is laid upon his body's being broken ; broken, crushed, and mangled with an endless variety of sufferings. So again, This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you. Hence it is evident this ordinance was appointed as a memorial of a suffering Saviour ; and it is under this notion that we are particularly to remember him. We are to shew forth the Lord's death, says the apostle ; his death which was the consummation of his sufferings, till he come again to visit our world in a very different and glorious manner.
The Lord's supper in this view is to be looked upon as a token of love, or memorial left by a friend at parting among his friends, that whenever they see it they may remember him. Our Lord
knew we should be very apt to forget him ; and therefore, that the memory of his sufferings might never be lost, he instituted this ordinance; and by the bumble elements of bread and wine, he represents himself to our senses as broken under the burden of his sufferings, and shedding his blood. Corn, out of which bread is made, which is first threshed, then ground in a mill, then baked in an oven, is a very proper emblem to signify the violences which our Lord's sacred body endured ; and wine pressed from the grape, and poured into the cup, is a striking representation of his blood, which was forced from him by the crushing weight of his agonies. Therefore there was a peculiar propriety in appointing these elements to be the memorials of his sufferings.
This remembrance of a suffering Saviour must be attended with suitable affections. To remember him with a careless indifferency, or with contempt, is the most ungrateful insult. Were he an insignificant person, in whom we have no concern, we might treat him thus ; but thus to treat the beloved Son of God, and our only Saviour, thus to requite all his love and sufferings for us, what can be more shocking? What can be more base ingratitude? We should therefore remember him in this ordinance with a penitent sense of our sins, which were the causes of his death ; with an ardent love and gratitude for his dying love to us; with an humble faith and confidence in the merit of his death, to procure us acceptance with God; and with a voluntary dedication of ourselves to him and his service forever.
And hence you may learn the character of those who are prepared to communicate in this feast. They, and only they, are prepared, who are true penitents, fully convinced of their sins, and deeply sensible of their malignity, especially as the causes of his death, and thoroughly determined to forsake them ; who are lovers of a crucified Jesus, and feel their hearts fired with gratis tude to him for all his love ; who are sensible that they have no personal righteousness, and therefore place all their dependence upon his only ; who feel his love constraining them, and are determined to live no more to themselves, but to him that died for them, and rose again.
Self-examination is a necessary preparative to this ordinance. Lei a man examine himself, says the apostle, and so let him eat of this bread, and drink of this cup. Therefore, my brethren, inquire
whether this be your character; if it be not, you have no right to this privilege. It is a shocking incongruity to pretend to commemorate the death of Christ without love to bim, or penj. tential sorrows for those sins for which he died. Memorials of friendship and love-tokens are only for friends; and when others use them, it is mere farce and hypocrisy. Therefore till you have these dispositions, do not adventure to come to his table.
II. The Lord's supper was appointed as a badge of our christian profession, and of our being the disciples of Jesus Christ
Baptism is appointed for our initiation into the christian church at our first assuming the christian profession : and by partaking of this ordinance of the Lord's supper, we declare our constancy in that profession, and that we do not repent of our choice, nor desire to change our Mas er. We openly profess that we are not ashamed of the cross, or the religion of the despised Nazarene, but publicly avow our relation to him before the world. This perhaps may be intended by that expression of St. Paul, shrwing forth the Lord's death. We shew, profess, and publishi to all the world the regard we have even to his ignominious death. We may look upon this ordinance as an oath of allegiance to Jesus Christ. And hence probably it was first called [sacramentum) a sacrament; which properly signifies an oath.* and particularly that kind of oath which the Roman soldiers took to their generals, in which they engaged to be faithful to their leaders, and to fight for their country, and never desert its cause.
To this practice probably St. Augustine, about fourteen hun. dred years ago, refers, as well known to his hearers, when he addresses them thus : " Ye know, my beloved, that the soldiers of this world, who receive but temporal rewards from temporal masters, do first bind themselves by military sacraments or oaths, and profess that they will be faithful to their commarders ; how much more then ought the soldiers of the eternal King, who shall receive eternal rewards, to bind themselves with the heavenly sacraments or oaths, and publicly profess their fidelity to him!'t
. So Horace uses it;
-Non ego perfidum
Dixi Sacramentum. † Notum est, Dilectissimi, charitati vestræ quod milites seculi benefcia temporalia a temporalibus Dominis accepturi, prius Sacramentis militaribus obligantur, & Dominis suis fidem se servaturos profitentur : quanto magis ergo æterno Regi militaturi, & æterna præmia percepturi, debent Suera. mentis, cælestibus obligari, & fidem per quam ei placituri sunt, publice profiteri ?
AUGUST. Oper. Tom. x. p. 984.
Now if we receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper in this view, we assume a badge or mark of distinction from ine rest of the world, and openly profess ourselves his disciples. We take a solemn oath of allegiance to him, and swear that we will be bis faithful servants and solliers to the end of life.
This shews the peculiar propriety of this ordinance as following upon baptism, especially with regard to those that were baptized in infancy, as we have generally been. In baptism our parents offered us up to God as his servants, and members of the christian church, before we were capable of personal choice, or doing any tbing for ourselves ; and when we arrive to years of discretion, it is expected we should approve of what they did, by our own personal act. Now the Lord's supper is an institution in which we may make their act our own, and acknowledge that we may stand to the contract they made for us. And is often as we partake of it, so often we make this profession. And hence by the way, you may see that such who neglect this ordinance when they are grown up to a capacity of acting for themselves, do virtually renounce their baptism, and disown the act of their parents in deroting them to God. Their parents were to act for them no longer than while they were incapable to act for themselves ; and now when they are arrived at that age, and refuse to confirm the act of their parents, they practically disown it, and wilfully make heathens of themselves : and consequently they proclaim themselves rebels against Christ ; for what but rebels are we to account such who refuse the oath of allegiance when tendered to them, and that over and over?
From hence you may learn another qualification of an acceptable communicant, namely, an hearty willingness to renoui ce his lusts and pleasures, and every sin, and to become universally and eternally the devoted servant and disciple of Jesus Christ. Here again examine yourselves whether you have this qualification.
III. We may consider this ordinance of the Lord's supper as a seal of the covenant of grace, both upon God's part and upon ours.
Every sacramental institution seems to partake of the general nature of a seal; that is, it is a sensible sign for the confirmation of a covenant of contract. This St. Paul expressly asserts, with regard to circumcision, when he says, that Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of faith. Rom. iv.