« PreviousContinue »
the devil; and let the enemy have no part or portion in us; but acknowledge the work of thine own hand, the price of thine own blood, the sheep of thine own fold, the members of thine own body, the purchase of thine own inheritance; and make us to be what thou hast commanded; give unto us what thou hast designed for us; enable us for the work thou hast enjoined us, and bring us to the place which thou hast prepared for us by the blood of the everlasting covenant, and by the pains of the cross, and the glories of thy resurrection, O blessed and most glorious Saviour and Redeemer Jesus. Amen.
OF OUR ACTUAL AND ORNAMENTAL PREPARATION TO THE RECEPTION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT.
He that is dressed by the former measures, is always worthy to communicate; but he that is always well vested, will, against a wedding-day, be more adorned; and the five wise virgins that stood ready for the coming of the bridegroom, with oil in their lamps, and fire on their oil, yet, at the notice of his coming, trimmed their lamps, and made them to burn brighter. The receiving of the blessed sacrament is a receiving Christ; and here the soul is united to our Lord; and this feast is the supper of the Lamb, and the Lamb is the bridegroom, and every faithful soul is the bride; and all this is but the image of the state of blessedness in heaven, where we shall see him without a veil, whom here we receive under the veil of sacraments; and there we shall live upon him, without a figure, to whom we are now brought by significations and representments corporal. But then
a Λύχνε, χρεῖαν ἔχων ἐπέχειν, μέμνησο ἔλαιον.
Panem angelorum sub sacramento manducamus in terris, eundem sine sacramento manifestius edemus in cœlis, non ministerio corporali sæpe repetitis actionibus ad eundem revertentes: sed, consummato sacerdotio nostro, erit et permanebit perpetua et stabilis, implens et reficiens nos sufficientia, quà proferet se palam absque ullis integumentis, omnibus conspicabilis summi presentiâ sacerdotis.-S. Cyprian. de Cœna Dom. cap. 2.
as we here receive the same thing as there, though after a less perfect manner; it is also very fit we should have here the same, that is, a heavenly conversation, though, after the manner of men, living upon the earth. It is true, that blessed souls receive Christ always, and they live accordingly, in perpetual uninterrupted glorifications of his name, and conformities to his excellencies. Here we receive him at certain times; and at such times, we should make our conversation celestial, and our holiness actual, when our addresses are so; so that, in our actual addresses to the reception of these divine mysteries, there is nothing else to be done, but that what in our whole life is done habitually, at that time be done actually. No man is fit to die, but he who is safe if he dies suddenly; and yet he that is so fitted, if he hears the noise of the bridegroom's coming, will snuff his lamp, and stir up the fire, and apply the oil; and so must he, that hath warning of his communion.
He that communicates every day, must live a life of a continual religion; and so must he, who, in any sense, communicates frequently, if he does it at all worthily; but he that lives carelessly, and dresses his soul with the beginnings of virtues against a communion-day, is like him that repents not till the day of his death; if it succeeds well, it is happy for him but if he does not, he may blame himself for being confident without a promise. Every worthy communicant must prepare himself by a holy life, by mortification of all his sins, by the acquisition of all Christian graces; and this is not the work of a day, or a week; but by how much the more these things are done, by so much the better we are prepared.
So that the actual address and proper preparation to thẹ blessed sacrament, is, indeed, an inquiry whether we are habitually prepared; that is, whether we be in the state of grace; whether we belong to Christ, whether we have faith and charity, whether we have repented truly. If we be to
Ecce panis angelorum
Qui nos pascis hic mortales,
Tuos ibi commensales,
Co-hæredes et sodales,
Fac sanctorum civium.-Hymn. Eccles.
communicate next week, or, it may be, to-morrow, these things cannot be gotten to-day; and, therefore, we must stay till we be ready. And if, by our want of preparation, we be compelled, for the saving of our souls and lest we die, to abstain from this holy feast,-let us consider what our case would be, if this should be the last coming of the bridegroom. This is but the warning of that; this is but his fast coming a little antedated; and God graciously calls us now to be prepared here, that we may not be unprepared then: but it is a formidable thing to be thrust out, when we see others enter.
And, therefore, when the masters of spiritual life call upon us to set apart a day, or two, or three, for preparation to this holy feast, they do not mean that any man, who, on the Thursday, is unfit and unworthy, should be fitted to communicate on Sunday; but that he should on those days try whether he be or no, and pass from one degree of perfection to a greater, from the less perfect to the more; for let us think of it as we please, there is no other preparation. And it might otherwise seem a wonder to us, why St. Paul, who particularly speaks of it, and, indeed, the whole New Testament, should say nothing of any particular preparation to this holy feast; but only gives us caution that we do not receive it unworthily, but gives us no particular rule or precept but this one, That a man should examine himself, and so let him eat:' I say, this might seem very strange, but that we find there is, and there can be, no worthy preparation to it, but a life of holiness, and that "every one, who names the Lord Jesus, should depart from iniquity;" and, therefore, that against the day of communion there is nothing peculiarly and signally required, but to examine ourselves, to see if all be right in the whole; and, what is wanting towards our proportion of perfection and ornament, to supply it. So that the immediate preparation to the holy communion can have in it but three parts and conjugations of duty:
1. An examination of our conscience:
2. An actual supply of such actions as are wanting:
3. Actual devotion, and the exercise of special graces by way of prayer, so to adorn our present state and dispositions.
Rules for Examination of our Consciences against the Day of our Communion.
How we are to examine ourselves concerning such states of life and conjugations of duty, as are properly relative to the great and essential preparation and worthiness to communicate, I have already largely considered. Now I shall add such practical advices, which may, with advantage, minister to the actual reception, such which concern the immediate preparatory and ornamental address; that we may reduce the former doctrine to action and exercise against that time: and this will serve as an appendix, and for the completing the former measures.
1. In the days of your address, consider the greatness of the work you go about, that it is the highest mystery of the whole religion you handle; that it is no less than Christ himself in sacrament that you take; that as sure as any Christian does ever receive the Spirit of God, so sure every good man receives Christ in the sacrament; that to receive Christ in sacrament, is not a diminution or lessening of the blessing; it is a real communion with him, to all material. events of blessing and holiness; that now every communicant does an act, that will contribute very much to a happy or an unhappy eternity; that, by this act and its appendages, a man may live or die for ever; that a man cannot at all be supposed in any state, that this thing will be indifferent to him in that state, but will set him forward to some very great event; that this is the greatest thing that God gives us in this world, and if we do it well, it is the greatest thing we can do in the world; and, therefore, when we have considered these things in general, let us examine whether we be persons in any sense fitted to such glorious communications, and prepared by such dispositions, which the greatness of the mystery may, in its appearance, seem to require. Some may perceive their disproportion at the first sight, and need to examine no further. It is, as if a Jew, in Rome, with his basket and bottle of hay, should be advised to stand
candidate for the consulship: you mock him, if you speak of it; and, therefore, if you find your case like this, start back and come not near. It is rò 9ov, there is divinity in it; and to the wicked it brings brimstone and fire.
2. Next to this general consideration, examine yourself concerning those things, in which you are, or may be, offensive to others: for although every man is to begin at home, yet that which is first to be changed, is that which is not only evil in itself, but afflictive to others; that which is sin and shame, that which offends God and my neighbour too; that is, it is criminal, and it is scandalous. Examine, therefore, thyself about injuriousness, robbery, detraction, obloquy, scolding, much prating, peevish conversation, ungentle nature, aptness to quarrel, and the like. For thus if, like Zachary and Elizabeth, we walk unblamably, and unreprovable before all the world, certain it is, the church will not reject us from the communion; and we have purchased a good degree in the faith, and shall think our condition worth preserving, and worth improving.
3. Examine thyself concerning all intercourses in the matter of men, whether any unbandsome contract was made, any fraudulent bargain, any surprise or out-writing of the weaker, thy confident or unwary brother; and whatever you do, place that right: for money is a snare; and, in contracts, we are, of all things, soonest deceived, and are very often wrong, and yet never think so; and we do every thing before we part with this. But when every thing is set right here, we may better hope of other things; for either they are right, or will, with less difficulty, be made so.
4. Like to this, for the matter of the inquiry, is that we examine ourselves in the matter of our debts, whether we detain them otherwise than in justice we are obliged? Here we must examine, whether we be able to pay them: if so, whether presently or afterwards; by what we are disabled; whether we can, or ought to, alter the state of our expenses; what probability we have to pay them at all; how we can secure that they shall be paid; and if they cannot, how much can we do towards it; and what amends can we make to our creditors: and how we mean to end that intercourse; for this ought to be so far at least stated, that we may be sure we do no injustice, and do no injury that we can avoid.