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questioned, there comes in what St. Paul says in the eleventh chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians; written many years after the ascensionwritten to a Church consisting principally of converts from among the Gentiles-written under the light of a command divinely communicated to this apostle especially: For says he-"I have received of the Lord, that which I also delivered unto you."*
In like manner as under the head of baptism, there is objected attachment to a Jewish customthe blessing of bread and wine, at the conclusion of the Paschal Supper. In like manner, we may answer -This being custom merely, why should it have been suffered to intrude; and to adulterate-as is thought-the new revelation of the gospel? And if suffered, why should it have been bound on the necks of the Gentile converts? If we look into the early records of ancient Churches; there is not a single Church to be found, over the whole face of Christendom, which did not receive the rite in question, with the first preaching of the Christian faith among them. They received it, without the errours by which it became encumbered in succeeding ages. And we may trace its origin, even in the complexion of those errours: For they are such as could not have been received, without a deep reverence of the rite, and with a misdirected zeal to do it honour.
The extravagance of those errours, independently on any other cause, makes an irreconcileable division between us and the Church of Rome. The decisions of that Church, naturally and by fair consequence, lead to the adoration of what they call the body and the blood of the Redeemer; but what we consider as in themselves mere bread and wine, although made by consecration representative of that body and that blood. In the Scriptures, there is evidently no plea for the opposite doctrine ex
1.Cor. xi. 23.
cept in the letter of the command: which ought to be interpreted agreeably to the rules applying to all figurative language. For three hundred years, there were no sentiments entertained in the Christian Church, which threatened to lead, even by remote consequence, to such an extreme. But in the centuries following; when the plain and unadorned instructions of the clergy of early times, yielded to the more showy.eloquence introduced by their successours, in imitation of the heathen orators; it became not uncommon, to apply to the elements the most glowing language, rhetorically introduced, but piously intended; and which laid the foundation for the pretensions set up in much later times. For it was not until the thirteenth century, that the idea was conceived of the adoration of the host: Which was so natural, on the supposition of its comprehending of the divinity; that the lateness of the ceremony is unanswerable evidence of the lateness of the doctrine.
I conceive so unfavourably of whatever may lead, even by remote, consequence, to creature worship, as to give a caution against a notion, which sometimes appears in writers, who were sincere-although inconsistent-Protestants. The notion is, that there is in the Eucharist a real sacrifice; that it is offered on an altar; and that the officiating minister is a priest, in the sense of an offerer of sacrifice. Under the economy of the gospel, there is nothing coming under the names referred to; except the fulfilment of them, in the person of the high priest of our profession. As to our Church; although she commemorates a great sacrifice in the Eucharist, yet she knows of no offering of any thing of this description; except in the figurative sense, in which prayers and alms are sacrifices. She calls the place on which her oblation is made, not "an altar," but "a table;" although there is no impropriety in calling it an altar also, the word being understood figuratively. And as to the minis
ter in the ordinance; although she retains the word "Priest," yet she considers it as synonymous with presbyter: Which appears from the Latin standard of the Book of Common Prayer, and is agreeable to etymology.
But while we reject, with idolatry and super. stition, whatever tends to them; it concerns us to avoid those low ideas of the ordinance, which divest it of its energy, as a mean of grace. Whenever this happens; it is not because of a defect of what the Catechism has defined to be the end of the institu tion "a continual memory of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby;" but it must be from low ideas of the nature of that transaction, and of the character to whom it relates. For if we believe in Christ, as uniting in his person the human nature with the divine; and as offering himself a propitiatory sacrifice for sin; this is a matter which cannot be commemorated, without a recognizing and an applying of whatever is its effect; combining all things which make up the means of grace, and give a foundation for the hope of glory.
Let us not leave the consideration of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, without charging our consciences with the duty of an attendance on it. The time will not permit an entering largely into the pleas of neglect, of those who entertain no doubts of the divine appointment of the ordinance. The most common plea is unfitness. If under this term be understood imperfection and weakness, it was for the remedy of these, that the institution was designed. But if there be meant the living in habitual and known sin; it becomes the party to be aware, that if this be a disqualification for the communion of the faithful on earth, it must be so, for the society of just men made perfect in heaven. The alarming tendency of the plea is the most of all conspicuous, when it is confined to the acknowledgment, that the party is in a state of wrath and
enmity. Such an acknowledgment is often mades without its being perceived, that the disqualification affects not merely this duty in particular, but that of prayer generally. For we cannot put up the short prayer enjoined for daily use; without consent to the dependence of the forgiveness of ourselves by the father of mercies, on the like being extended by us to our fellow sinners.
In what is said, it is not intended to urge a compliance with this call of duty, on those who are living in a state of sin, and while they so continue. And here, by a state of sin, I allude not only to offences which are notorious and give publick scandal; but those which are less obvious, yet very much impair the happiness of social life. Under this head, come all deviations from strict truth and integrity, in the conversation and in the dealings. While people are conscious of such traits of character, they are right in abstaining from the Lord's Table. Not only are such persons not invited to it; but they are cautioned in one of the exhortations of the Church, that by attendance on it, they kindle God's wrath against them. And as to any support which they may think given to religion, by attending on an ordinance confessedly divine, the very reverse is the result: inducing an opinion-although a mistaken one-in persons of more correct conduct than themselves, that a rite observed to be so inoperative on the observers of it, may be dispensed with.
But while we acknowledge, that consciousness of a state of sin should restrain from this holy ordinance; it is to be lamented, that the same should ever be the effect of some difficulties, which the persons labouring under them can sometimes hardly account for or explain; and which also may sometimes be traced to the want of a certain species of animal sensibility; not having any more connexion with holy habit, than with any other which may be descriptive of character. The way to avoid such de
lusion, is to keep constantly in view, that the great end of religion is "the living godly, righteously and soberly in this present world;" and that the mean of this, ordained by divine wisdom, must rest not on our transient feelings, but on its own permanent obligation.
With some, there is a restraint from the Lord's Table, in a consideration which we cannot but respect, while we fault the omission which it occasions. I allude to persons, who neither doubt of their christian obligations, nor are afraid or ashamed to avow them before the world; but who shrink back from the making of a profession, the sanctity of which they may not sustain in future life. Now these are eminently the persons, who will find the benefit of binding themselves by this tie, to the great captain of their salvation; for the obtaining of his grace, to secure them against all sin: at the same time distinguishing between what deserves the name, and what is within the bounds of: Christian liberty. And it should further be considered by them, that if they were to act consistently with their erroneous principle; it would hinder from all attendance on the publick worship of God, and even from all conversation advocating his existence and his perfections: because any thing of this sort ope rates rather to the injury than to the increase of religion; if, while we thus confess him with our lips, we should be found denying him in our works.
Many an ill-informed conscience has revolted at what is said in the eleventh chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians" He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself." There are frequently misunderstood the two words as used in this place" unworthily" and "damnation:" which however may be made clear, by other expressions in the passage. The "eating and drinking unworthily;" or in a manner unworthy of the occasion, was the eating and drink
* Verse 29.