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THE DUTY OF CONSTANT COMMUNION.
Luke XXII. 19.
IT is no wonder that men who have no fear of God, should never think of doing this. But it is strange that it should he neglected by any that do fear God, and desire to save their souls: and yet nothing is more common. One reason why many neglect it is, they are so much afraid of eating and drinking unworthily, that they never think how much greater the danger is, when they do not eat or drink it at all. That I may do what I can to bring these wellmeaning men to a more just way of thinking, I shall,
I. Shew that it is the duty of every Christian to receive the Lord's Supper as often as he can; and,
II. Answer some Objections.
I. I am to shew, that it is the duty of every Christian to receive the Lord's Supper as often as he can.
* The following Discourse was written above five and fifty years ago, for the use of my Pupils at Oxford. I have added very little, but retrenched much; as I then used more words than I do now. But I thank God, I have not yet seen cause to alter my sentiments, in any point which is therein delivered.
J7S8. J. W.
1. The first reason why it is the duty of every Christian so to do, is because it is a plain command of Christ. That this is his command, appears from the words of the text, " Do this in remembrance of me:" by which, as the Apostles were obliged to bless, break, and give bread to all that joined with them in these holy things, so were all Christians obliged to receive those signs of Christ's body and blood. Here, therefore, the bread and wine are commanded to be received, in remembrance of his death, to the end of the world. Observe too, that this command was given by our Lord, when he was just laying down his life for our sakes. They are, therefore, as it were, his dying words, to all his followers.
2. A second reason why every Christian should do this, as often as he can, is because the benefits of doing it are so great, to all that do it in faith and in obedience to him: viz. the forgiveness of our past sins, the present strengthening and refreshing of our souls. In this world we are never free from temptations. Whatever way of life we are in, whatever our condition be, whether we are sick or well, in trouble or at ease, the enemies of our souls are watching to lead us into sin. And top often they prevail over us. Now, when we are convinced of having sinned against God, what surer way have we of procuring pardon froni him, than the skewing forth the Lord's death, and beseeching him, for the sake of his Son's sufferings, to blot out all our sins?
3. The grace of God given herein, confirms to ns the pardon of our sins, and enables us to leave them. As our bodies are strengthened by bread and wine, so are our souls by these tokens of the body and the blood of Christ. This is the food of our souls: this gives strength to perform our duty, and leads us on to perfection. If, therefore, we have any regard for the plain command of Christ, if we desire the pardon of our sins, if we wish for strength to believe, to love and obey God, then we should neglect no opportunity of receiving the Lord's Supper. Then we must never turn our backs on the feast which our Lord has prepared for us. We must neglect no occasion, which the good Providence of God affords us, for this purpose. This is the true rule; so often are we to receive as God gives us opportunity. Whoever, therefore, does not receive, but goes from the holy table, when all things are prepared, either does not understand his duty, or does not care for the dying command of his Saviour, the forgiveness of his sins, the strengthening of his soul, and the refreshing it with the hope of glory.
4. Let every one, therefore, who has either any desire to please God, or any love for his own soul, obey God, and consult the good of his own soul, by communicating every time he can: like the first Christians with whom the Christian Sacrifice was a constant part of the service of the Lord's-day. And for several centuries they received it almost every day. Four times a week always, and every saint's day beside. Accordingly those that joined in the prayers of the faithful, never failed to partake of the blessed sacrament. What opinion they had of any who turned his back upon it, we may learn from that ancient Canon, " If any believer join in the prayers of the faithful, and go away without receiving the Lord's Supper, let him be excommunicated, as bringing confusion into the Church of God."
5. In order to understand the nature of the Lord's Supper, it would be useful carefully to read over those passages in the Gospel, and in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, which speak of the institution of it. Hence we learn that the design of this sacrament is the continual remembrance of the death of Christ, by eating bread and drinking wine, which are the outward signs of the inward grace, the body and blood of Christ.
6. It is highly expedient for those who purpose to receive this, whenever their time will permit, to prepare themselves for this solemn ordinance, by self-examination and prayer. But this is not absolutely necessary. And when we have not time for it, we should see that we have the habitual preparation which is absolutely necessary, and can never he
dispensed with on any account, or any occasion whatever. This is, first, a full purpose of heart, to keep all the commandments of God. And, secondly, A sincere desire to receive all his promises.
II. I am, in the second place, to answer the common Objections against constantly receiving the Lord's Supper.
1. I say, Constantly receiving. For as to the phrase of frequent communion, it is absurd to the last degree. If it means any thing else than constant, it means more than can be proved to be the duty of any man. For if we are not obliged to communicate constantly, by what argument can it be proved, that we are obliged to communicate frequently? Yea, more than once a year, or once in seven years? or once before we die? Every argument brought for this, either proves that we ought to do it constantly, or proves nothing at all. Therefore, that indeterminate, unmeaning way of speaking, ought to be laid aside by all men of understanding.
2. In order to prove that it is our duty to communicate constantly, we may observe that the holy communion is to be considered either, 1, As a Command of God, or, 2, As a Mercy to man.
First, as a Command of God. God our Mediator and Governor, from whom we have received our life and all things, on whose will it depends, whether we shall be perfectly happy or perfectly miserable from this moment to eternity, declares to us, that all who obey his commands, shall be eternally happy; all who do not shall be eternally miserable. Now one of these commands is, "Do this in Remembrance of Me." I ask then, Why do you not do this, when you can do it if you will? When you have an opportunity before you, why do not you obey the command of God?
3. Perhaps you will say, " God does not command me to do this as often as I can:" that is, the words "as often as you can," are not added in this particular place. What then? Are we not to obey every command of God, as often as we can? Are not all the promises of God made to those, and those only, who give all diligence; that is, to those who do all they can to obey his commandments? Our power is the one rule of our duty. Whatever we can do, that we ought. With respect either to this or any other command, he that, when he may obey it if he will, does not, will have no place in the kingdom of heaven.
4. And this great truth, that we are obliged to keep every command as far as we can, is clearly proved from the absurdity of the contrary opinion: for were we to allow that we are not obliged to obey every commandment of God as often as we can, we have no argument left to prove that any man is bound to obey any command at any time. For instance. Should I ask a man, Why he does not obey one of the plainest commands of God? Why, for instance, he does not help his parents? He might answer, "I will not do it now; but I will at another time." When that time comes, put him in mind of God's command again: and he will say, " I will obey it some time or other." Nor is it possible ever to prove, that he ought to do it now, unless by proving that he ought to do it as often as he can; and therefore he ought to do it now, because he can if he will.
5. Consider the Lord's Supper, Secondly, as a Mercy from God to Man. As God, whose mercy is over all his works, and particularly over the children of men, knew there was but one way for man to be happy like himself, namely, by being like him in holiness: as he knew we could do nothing towards this of ourselves, he has given us certain means of obtaining his help. One of these is the Lord's Supper, which, of his infinite mercy, he hath given for this very end, that through this mean we may be assisted to attain those blessings which he hath prepared for us; that we may obtain holiness on earth, and everlasting glory in heaven.
I ask then, Why do you not accept of his mercy as often as ever you can? God now offers you his blessing: why do you refuse it? You have now an opportunity of receiving his mercy: why do you not receive it? You are weak: