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use the power that is sent unto us.
We should look upon this bread as the bread of life, and conceive that we take the cup of immortality into our hands, and that the next draught may be in the kingdom of God, when our bodies shall be raised to feast at the eternal Supper of the Lamb. For this is but a just consequence of forgiveness of sins, that our bodies should live again which became mortal through sin. And, therefore, as Christ here seals unto us the one, so He likewise assures us of the other, and gives unto us the earnest of the Spirit. What joy, then, must these thoughts needs create in our souls ? What better cheer can we desire? What greater dainties would we taste than this holy feast affords? or what cause would we have of thanksgiving more than hath been named ?
Lay thy hand, Christian reader, upon thy heart, before thou comest to this Table, and feel how the pulse of thy soul beats: mind whether it beat evenly, or after a distempered sort. Doth it move three times as quick when thou thinkest of the world as it doth when God is in thy heart? When art thou all in a heat} when thou art in pursuit of the world, or when thou followest after God? Ask thy heart, Whom dost thou love most? what is it that thou dost most constantly desire? in what company is it thy pleasure to be ? Dost thou love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and all thy strength ? hadst thou rather die than displease Him ? are thy graces not only alive, but lively! Come, then, let us go to this holy feast, and thank the Lord for this grace, and for all His other favours.
MEDITATION BEFORE THE SACRAMENT.
CONSIDER with yourself, some time before you intend to communicate, that you are invited to come not only into the presence but unto the Table of God; to be one of the
What a grace,
guests of the Lord of the whole world. what an honour is this! Shall any business, any pleasure on earth, put by the thoughts of it? It is impossible, if you remember what the great God is who calls you to Him ; and that He sets the body of His Son before you upon your table; and that your cup is filled with His blood ; that the angels think it not below them to wait on you and minister to you; and the Divine Spirit will be ready to breathe upon you, and fill you with such holy love, that you shall send up your soul in joyful hymns of praise and thanks to God our Saviour. With what admiration should you receive the news of this invitation ! With what reverence ought you to approach Him ! With what forwardness of love, with what gladness of heart, should you go to meet our blessed Lord! Was there ever any kindness (should you think with yourselves) like unto that of His ? Did there ever such a furnace of love (if I may so represent it) burn in any heart? Could He do more than die the bloody and shameful death of the cross for to save sinners ? How is it possible that the remembrance of this tender love and compassion should ever die ? or that any heart should freeze over such a fire? Unless we be wilfully careless, I see that He will have our love: He will not suffer anything to rob Him of the purchase of His blood. For lest we should prove so ungrateful as to let Him slip out of our mind, He hath left Himself still among us in sensible signs and representations. By these He shows us His bloody death and passion: He makes Himself present to our faith: and we may see that He is desirous to do more than die for us, having contrived a way to live for ever in us, and be firmly united to us.
What manner of love is this that heaven hath manifested unto us? Who can refrain from tears of grief and sorrow to think of his own ingratitude, and from tears of joy to think of the wonderful kindness of the Lord? Can you look on Him who was pierced for our sins, and not lament and mourn? Can you see His bleeding wounds, and not be troubled ? No pious heart can be so hard. And yet, when you consider that by those stripes you are healed, that He hath washed us from our sins in His blood, that faithful souls may take sanctuary in His wounds, and be secure and safe, you cannot choose but rejoice in the Lord, and be glad in His salvation.
Call to your soul, then, and bid it awaken in itself the liveliest thoughts of Him and the devoutest affections to Him. Call to it to put itself in tune, to string (as I may so speak) the instruments of joy and praise; and stir up all the graces of the Holy Spirit: that so you may go with a deep humility, 'a godly sorrow, a perfect hatred of all sin, both of the flesh and of the spirit, a strong resolution against them; with a lowly faith, and in the heights of love; with enlarged desires and great longings, to this holy feast. Ask your soul, What dost thou think of? what dost thou love? what dost thou long for? with what intentions art thou going to the Lord's Table ? Are the treasures of Christian wisdom and knowledge more in thine account than thousands of gold and silver? Dost thou heartily believe the Holy Gospel of Christ Jesus, and love Him and His religion in sincerity? Is all sin already bleeding to death in thee, and hadst thou rather die than willingly offend thy Saviour that died for thee? Art thou going to hang all remaining affection to them upon His cross; that there they may be perfectly crucified, and never taken down till by continued meditation on it they be quite dead? Resolve, then, to go and tell Him as much, to declare and show to Him that this is the sense of thine heart. Only ask thyself again, What appetite dost thou feel in thee? Art thou going as a thirsty man to his drink? or a hungry man to his food? or a bride to the marriage of a chosen soul, dearer than all the world beside? Or dost thou feel something like these things in thine heart? What is it that thou hungerest and thirstest after? Is it the tastes of the love of God? Is it His divine grace and Holy Spirit? Dost thou long to be more like Him, and made partaker of His divine nature? Art thou going to make a new resignation of thyself to Him, to be made one spirit with Him, never any more to depart from Him? Then think how the Bridegroom will welcome thee; how our Saviour, I mean, will declare and set forth His love to thee, and give thee assurances that His mercy endureth for ever, and bid thee rejoice and be exceeding glad in what He hath done already, and in the hopes thou hast of what He will do hereafter.
DR. LANCELOT ADDISON,
DEAN OF LICHFIELD, 1683.
your heart duly furnished with faith toward God, and (the proper effect thereof) charity toward man, you must once more go down into your soul, to see if it have that holy and heavenly temper called devotion; which is a grace so suitable to the receiving of the Sacrament that it seems to make up the whole office. And if devotion be not so warm and vigorous in your soul as it ought and you would have it to be, you must inquire into the impediments thereof in order to their speedy removal.
Now amongst the fatal hindrances of devotion the cares of the world are with too great justice chiefly to be reckoned; for they naturally fasten your thoughts to the earth, and set your affections on things below; and are as so many depressing weights upon the soul, which unluckily keep her from those transports of devotion by which she would soar to heaven. And, therefore, upon your coming to the Sacrament, you had need to allow yourself some time wherein to withdraw from worldly business, and to cast off earthly thoughts, and by holy meditation to lift up your heart unto the Lord, and to give yourself unto prayer, which is, indeed, the principal instance of that devotion now spoken of. And your prayer must at this time be chiefly for pardon of by-past sins, for strength against them for the future, and that God would grant you all those graces which He now requires at your hands when you come to the Sacrament. Be sure, then, to be diligent in this duty : for should your other endeavours be never so vigorous and constant, regular and uniform, yet without prayer for God's blessing and assistance, you appear to trust to your own arm, and to rely upon your own strength; not considering that all your sufficiency is from God, that He gives you the will and power to do well: and, therefore, unto Him direct your prayer with humility, sincerity, and zeal, to assist you with His Spirit, that you may come so prepared to the Holy Table as that you may partake of the benefits there reacht out to every worthy receiver.
Besides humility and reverence, there is required of them who come to the Lord's Supper a thankful remembrance of Christ's death. And this you cannot want, when you reflect upon what He suffered for you, both in credit and body, when He underwent the most painful and ignominious sort of dying, and in those sharp and fearful agonies of His soul which forced Him to cry out His God had forsaken Him. And seeing all this was to save you from perishing, this must needs awaken you to an holy ambition of making your thankfulness, if possible, as unspeakable as His sufferings. And how can you but praise and magnify His goodness, who hath redeemed you at so dear a rate! especially when you come to the Sacrament to make solemn commemoration of God's mercies, in sending His Son to die for you, and appointing the Sacrament to be a continual pledge of your thankfulness for the same. With angels, therefore, and archangels, and all the company of heaven, laud and magnify His glorious name, praising Him, and saying, "Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of Thy glory : glory be to Thee, O Lord most high.” Thanksgiving, or praising of God, was the devout practice of the first Christians at the receiving of the Lord's Supper. (Acts ii., 46, 47.) And in after ages thanksgiving was thought so necessary at its celebration that the Sacrament itself thence got the name of Eucharist; a word, though it be not found in Scripture in this sense, yet Casaubon doubts not but it was derived from the time of the apostles. (Exercit. 16, ad Annal. Baron., cap. 33.)
No man can express greater love to his dearest friends