Thomas Smyth.

Complete works of Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D online

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they are wholly dispelled, he will probably, have long to wait.
Some fears as to our character and prospects will, and even
ought to follow us whilst we are in a scene of contention and
sorrow. But surely these fears should be controlled by the
cheering promises and invitations of the adorable Saviour.
"He casteth out none who come to Him." "He is able to save
to the uttermost." "His blood cleanseth from all sin." Can
the fearful inquirer doubt of his having some evidences of a
renewed state of mind, when he is trembling on account of sin,
abhorring himself, earnestly praying for divine grace, seeking
for the way of salvation in Christ Jesus, and forsaking every
known evil ? Do not his fears, his anxiety, his alarm, all bear



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THE LORD^S SUPPER. -. 616

testimony to the influences of God's grace in his heart ? Phil,
ii. 12. And should the remaining apprehensions which alarm
him keep him from the very Sacrament which is the seal of
salvation, the earnest of forgiveness, the means of enlightening
and establishing his heart?

A third diflBculty, connected with the two former, arises from
the dread of being found at last to have been only hypocrites
before God. A more fearful state than that of h)rpocrisy can
scarcely be conceived. But is it very likdy that those should
be really h)rpocrites who are alarmed at the very possibility of
being such characters ? Is it not more probable that they mis-
take the conflict of the evil passions still remaining in their
minds with the calls of duty and the leadings of grace, Rom.
vii. 14, 24, for the base pretences of the false christian ? Nay,
does not the anxiety which they discover of taking nothing for
granted, of examining their state to the bottom, of comparing
their spirit and conduct with the rule of God's word, of solicit-
ing instruction from ministers and friends, of seizing every
opportunty of ascertaining the real principles by which they
are governed, of avoiding h)rpocrisy as a most fatal delusion,
and of imploring the grace and Spirit of God to lead them into
the full knowledge of themselves, sufliciently testify that they
are upright in their hearts before God ? And should they not
be encouraged to receive the Lord's Supper, that they may be
enabled more steadily to resist every approach to dissimula-
tion, and may bind themselves by stronger ties to an unreserved
obedience to God ?

Others may, Fourthly, dread the possibility of eating and
drinking damnation unto themselves, in partaking of the Lord's
Supper. This fear has agitated many sincere minds. It has
arisen from the language of the Apostle, "He that eateth and
drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to him-
self." 1 Cor. xi. 29. But it is evident that the Apostle did
not here mean eternal damnation, from the explanation which
he immediately adds, ver. 30, "For this cause many are weak
and sickly among you, and many sleep." The temporal judg-
ments of God, then, as consequent upon a wilful abuse of the
Lord's Supper, are decidedly intended. Accordingly, the word
damnation here means, as it is given in the margin of our
Bibles, judgment, which is indeed the Apostle's own explica-
tion, in verses 31, 32, "For if we would judge ourselves, we
should not be judged. But when we are judged, we
are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned



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616 THE lord's supper.

with the world;" which undoubtedly means, that if we would
examine ourselves, we should not be punished. But when we
are thus punished, we are chastened of the Lord, that we
should not be condemned of the world. The apprehension
then of eating and drinking our own eternal damnation has no
foundation whatever in this passage of Holy Writ. Let not
therefore any be terrified with the apprehension, that any
peculiar punishment is annexed to our eating and drinking
unworthily, more than may be feared from any other offence
against God. Every sin exposes to eternal death, and there-
fore this amongst the number; but ''he that confesseth and
forsaketh" this, supposing him indeed to have conmiitted it, as
well as any other transgression, shall most undoubtedly "find
mercy."

But still. Fifthly, the dread **of eating and drinking
unworthily" may rest on the mind. If our fears on this head
arises from an apprehension that we are not in a state deserv-
ing to partake of this holy Sacrament, they spring entirely
from an erroneous sentiment. No one, in this view, is worthy
of receiving so great a blessing. But the expression of the
Apostle refers to a suitable, fit, becoming state of mind in par-
taking of the holy Eucharist. This is evident from the inter-
pretation which he himself gives, "He that eateth and drinketh
unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation unto himself, not
discerning the Lord's body'' not perceiving by faith the body
and blood of Christ, not distinguishing between the consecrated
elements of his body and blood and ordinary food, and there-
fore not being in a state of mind suitable for the sacred service.
Nor is this use of the word uncommon. A criminal who has
forfeited his life to the laws of his country, is wholly unworthy
of the kindness of a benevolent visitor ; and yet if he listen to
the admonitions of such an instructor with meekness and con-
trition, if he welcome the truth which is placed before him,
and appear desirous to profit by it, he may properly be said to
have received them worthily. Every notion of merit must be
carefully excluded from our views of the Lord's Supper.
"We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of
our Lord Jesus Christ, and not for our own works and deserv-
ings." Art. XL Our worthiness for this sacrament is that
meetness and suitableness which consists in right ideas of the
institution, humble renunciation of our own righteousness,
earnest prayers for an interest in the atonement of Christ, and
hearty desires to be devoted to his service. It is the fitness of



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THE LORD^S SUPPER. 617

a contrite sinner for receiving the memorials of the blessing^
of salvation.

Some may be deterred from approaching the altar of their
Saviour, Sixthly, by a fear lest they should not be able to keep
the vows which they undertake. This is indeed a matter of
serious consideration, and may well awaken all your watchful-
ness and activity; but it can assuredly be no reason why you
should not bind yourself by those vows, which you are called
upon by every motive to undertake, and which the grace of
God can assist you to perform. If you were invited to make
an unlawful, or unnecessary, or presumptuous, or doubtful
vow, you might properly herftate; but when the engagements
of the Lord's Supper are merely those of an entire separation
from sin, and a hearty resolution to obey God, you cannot with
any show of reason decline them. An honest mind will not
shrink from giving assurances ; especially when God has prom-
ised the supply of all needful grace to fulfil them, when the
very giving them is a natural means of fixing our uncertain
hearts in the service of God, and when the sacrament which
seals our obligations is the means of conveying the grace and
strength for carrying them into effect.

Others may be perplexed. Seventhly, With fears lest difficul-
ties should present themselves on the part of persons with
whom they are closely connected. We are timorous in what
is good. We apprehend perhaps an opposition to our purposes
of joining the Communion of the Church of Christ from those
around us. The child, the servant, the sister, the wife, may
be alarmed by the fear of those relatives or other superiors
whom they are required to love and obey. Or they may be
delaying their own participation of the Sacrament, under the
hope of inducing the individuals in question to join with th^n
in the solemn duty. I need not observe what extreme caution
over our own spirit is necessary in the discharge of any one
duty, when it appears to militate with another. But at the
same time we must remember that we are to "obey God rather
than man." We may perhaps properly suspend for some little
time the execution even of so good a purpose, if there be a rea-
sonable prospect of uniting those, whom we are bound to con-
sult on so many other occasions, in it. But there is great
danger, in such deliberations, of that "fear of man which
bringeth a snare." The words of our Redeemer must there-
fore be ever present with us, "He that loveth father or mother
more than me is not worthy of me, and he that loveth son or



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618 THE lord's supper.

daughter more than me is not worthy of mc." Nor should we
forget that we are never warranted in omitting a positive rdi-
gious duty, by any calculation of temporal inconveniences; not
to say in how many instances it may please God to bless our
firm and Ofpen profession of His tnith, to the spirittsal 'benefit of
the very individuals whom we have been so long anxious to
conciliate.

Lastly, many may be disposed to say, IVe dare not approcLch
so awful and important a mystery as the Lord's Supper. An
indescribable alarm rests on some minds, especially those of
young persons, respecting the Eucharist. A holy reverence
should indeed always fill our hearts when we celArate the
most solemn of religious duties; yet we must beware of an
overwhelming, and therefore an excessive apprehension. Jesus
Christ is the tender and gracious Shepherd ; He feeds His flock
with all care and affection. He will not "break the bruised
reed, nor quench the smdcing flax." He presents himself in
the Sacrament, not in the terrors of the Judge, but in the am-
descension and love of the Saviour. Why, then, should you
not believe His promises, and trust His grace, c<Mmected as they
are with the most express invitation and command to celebrate
this feast in remembrance of Him? You dare to pray, you ven-
ture to hear the word of God preached, you are boW enough
to supplicate pardon and grace at the footstool of your Saviour.
These duties you do not think yourselves justified by any
excuses from neglecting. Why then should you dread to do
that with regard to the Sacramait, which you constantly do as
to the word of God and prayer? The same blessings arc
exhibited in the Lord's Supper as you have already most
earnestly sought. Come then, with composure of spirit, and
supplicate that pardon and strength, in receiving the holy body
and blood of Christ, which you have so often implored in the
use of the other means of spiritual improvement. "Fear not :
only believe."

I pass on. Secondly, to the objecticms on the subject of the
Lord's Supper which occasionally perplex those who are in the
habit of conscientiously discharging this part of their duty as
christians.

These may sometimes arise in the minds of christians : First,
from the idea that they have not found the benefit they
expected from celebrating these holy mysteries. This difficulty
may possibly have been created by your expecting some impres-
sions or effects not authorized by the word of God, or by your



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THE lord's supper. 619

looking for these consequences in a manner or degree beyond
the real rule of Scripture. Or you may have mistaken an
occasional depression of the animal spirits for desertion. Or
it may be you have neglected the ordinary means, either pre-
paratory to the Lord's Supper, or following upon it, with which
God usually Connects any important or permanent benefit. Or
you have at some times been blessed with such elevated and
holy emotions of heart at the Lord's Table, as have led you to
conceive yourselves wholly destitute of any advantage under
more calm and sedate exercises of devotion. But, whatever
may have been the particular cause of the difficulty you feel,
let it never for one instant deter you from persevering in a
regular attendance on the Holy Conummion. The promises of
God can never fail. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day,
and for ever. Pray only for more faith, implore of God a
corrected and enlarged' judgment, wait on Him for the fulfil-
ment of His own word, look up to the blessed Saviour for His
presence in the receiving of the consecrated memorial of His
love, and you shall obtain all, and more than all, the blessings
I have mentioned: you shall find that Christ's "flesh is meat
indeed, and His blood is drink indeed."

Some christians may inquire. Secondly, whether they should
continue to approach the Table of their Saviour when their
consciences are hardened with the guilt of some particular sin.
To this the answer is obvious, because one end of receiving the
body and blood of Christ is to obtain the very blessings of par-
don and peace of conscience, which the objection supposes to
be most wanted. If, indeed, unhappily, we have committed
some aggravated offence against God, and the ordinary period
of our partaking of the Eucharist be near, it may be expedient
to abstain for that season from the Lord's Supper: but this
abstinence must be with the express intention of more humbly
confessing our sins before God, that we may be prepared with
sincere penitence and faith to renew the covenant we have
violated, and apply again for that seal of pardon and reconcili-
ation which we so much need. In other cases, which may
occur, of our consciences being burdened with the remem-
brance of particular sins, our duty clearly is to renounce and
forsake those sins with unfeigned abhorrence, and then to par-
take the body and blood of Christ, that we may be strengthened
in our vigorous resistance of them.

But others may further doubt, Thirdly, whether, when they
arc in a declining state of religious feelings, they may not be



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629 THB lokd's suppbe.

committing a greater sin by receiving the Communion than by
omitttng it for a time altogether. To this I reply, to adopt the
sentiments of an able Divine, that the omission of the Lord's
Supper is itself a sin in a christian who has been in the habit
of receiving it, and a greater sin than communicating witli
whatever imperfection. It is true it is our duty to forbear sin,
that is, all those actions which are sins in their own kind and
nature; but not those actions which may become sins by some
accident or the defect of some circumstances. In this case,
the accidental evil is to be avoided, or the defect amended, and
not the act to be omitted. Now receiving the Sacrament is of
itself, and in its own nature, good, and becomes sinful from
some adherent corruption, which brings a defilement upon it.
Our concern, therefore, is to aim at the removal of this defile-
ment, which weakens and pollutes our act of duty, and not to
cease from the duty itself.

1 might specify various other objections which may disturb
the consciences of christians with regard to the Holy Commu-
nion; but I forbear, as those which I have answered may serve
to suggest suitable replies in similar cases.

It may, however, be proper here to mention, that objections
are sometimes raised against partaking of the Lord's Supper,
upon grounds very different from any of those which I have
as yet adiverted to. The cases I have considered are those of
persons sincerely in earnest about spiritual religion. But
objections are also made by those who betray, by the very
nature of them, a totally wrong state of mind. Many persons,
when invited to prepare for this important duty, will at once
admit that they are not in a fit state for performing it, and mil
yet remain for years apparently quite unconcerned about that
entire change of heart and character, which they are aware is
necessary to their rightly receiving the Lord's Supper. Others
will meet every exhortation addressed to them on the subject,
by replying, that they are not prepared to make that separation
from the amusements and pursuits of the world to which the
Sacrament would bind them. It is not uncommon, moreover,
to hear it affirmed by some, that they do not consider the duty
so essential to salvation as we endeavour to represent it : whilst
too many imagine that the hurry and engagements of their
families is an adequate reason for declining a compliance with
our Saviour's command. Others likewise, though liiAng in the
communion of known sin, will satisfy themselves in continuing
it, by the wretched pretence that they do not receive the Holy



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THE lord's supper. 621

Q)inmunion. Many, lastly, either defer attending to the sub-
ject, under the distant and slender hope of becoming better and
more fit for celebrating the Eucharist hereafter; or rashly and
superstitiously suppose, that receiving the communion on a
dying bed will be some security for the admission of their souls
into the happiness of heaven.

To these, and various like statements, one answer must be
given. They will proceed from minds fixed on the love and
practice of sin, and unawakened to a proper feeling of the
nature and importance of religion. The duty of all such objec-
tors is twofold: first, to repent and believe the Gospel: and,
secondly, thus repenting and believing, to prepare for celebrat-
ing, in an humble and spiritual manner, the most blessed mys-
teries of the body and blood of Christ. A merely external par-
ticipation of the Sacrament, in a formal, ignorant, and super-
stitious state of mind, can indeed only increase the guilt of
those who so profane the Redeemer's holy institution. No one
is to be encouraged to such a profanation. Those who, with
the objectors before us, consider their religious duties as in
some way meritorious before God, and regard the Sacrament
as a finish to their other performances, are fundamentally
wrong. They must be directed to fervent prayer to God, for
spiritual illumination, for contrition of heart for sin ; for real
faith in the sacrifice of the death of Christ, for a new spirit
and a right conduct. Till they have thus entered in earnest on
the duties of religion generally, in vain will they inquire as to
the particular duty of receiving the Lord's Supper. They
must become in some measure true christians, before they can
celebrate the christian's most sacred festival. They must learn
to know, and value, and love the Saviour, before they can
approach his table. They must have spiritual life, before they
can offer up spiritual sacrifices.

But this leads me to consider, in. the last place,

VI. The obligations tve are under to a regular partaking of
the Lord's Supper,

I need say less on this topic, after the various points which
I have already considered, because ever3rthing which has been
oflFered with respect to the Institution of the Sacrament, the
Design of it, and the Blessings to be derived from it, immedi-
ately tends to enforce the obligation under which we lie to a
constant receiving of it. It may be sufficient to notice that the
obligation rests,



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622 THE lord's supper.

1. On the express command of our Saviour Christ, His
words were, "Do this in remembrance of me;" words delivered
when He was about to undergo the most bitter anguish of His
passion, and which therefore should move the love, as well as
ensure the obedience, of those who profess to be His disciples.
The command is besides the more obligatory, as it rests on the
ground, not of natural duty, but of positive institution; and
accordingly the observation of it is a more direct acknowledg-
ment of the authority of Christ, and the neglect of it is more
immediately connected with a marked contempt of His power
and grace. Add to this, that it was the last mandate of a
dying friend, and that friend our Redeemer and Lord; cir-
cumstances which, even in ordinary cases of human affection,
give a sanctity to an injunction, and which should much more
do so with respect to the blessed Saviour of our souls. The
command also is one which the Apostle Paul has largely
enforced and explained far beyond any other similar topic,— a
fact which evidently shows the high importance we should
attach to the institution. The simplicity of the rite, in opposi-
tion to the burdensome ceremonies of the Mosaic Law, whilst
it increases the facility of complying with the duty, augments
its obligation. To all which, when we further subjoin that the
christian Church has in every age fulfilled this their Lord's
command, and has thus given all the encouragement of pre-
scription and example to the conscientious performance of the
duty, it will appear, I think, beyond all dispute, that it is indis-
pensably binding on every christian.

But the obligation to this duty is not less apparent if we
take into view,

2. The benefit of our own souls. Every motive to be
derived from the value of the soul of man, and the importance
of spiritual religion for his present and future happiness, is
united in the case of this blessed Sacrament. The due and
humble participation of it brings with it unspeakable blessings;
the omission of it, where it is wilful, is inconsistent with a state
of grace and acceptance with God. All the obligation, then,
that can rest on an accountable being to consult his highest
interests, and on a sinner under a dispensation of grace to avail
himself of the offers of divine mercy, enforces the necessity of
partaking of that Sacrament which is the seal and bond of all
the blessings of salvation, and is the means of conveying to us
strength and support here, and preserving us to everiasting life
hereafter.



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THE lord's supper. 623

Sincerely therefore would I hope that all into whose hands
this Address may fall, will be convinced of the obligation
under which they lie, to partake in a suitable manner of the
Lord's Supper.

It remains only that, to promote this end still further, I
enforce, in conclusion, the obligation I have explained

I. On those who may be living in sin and negligence of
religion, for the purpose of exhorting them to repent and to
turn to God, Let such remember, that whilst they are unfit
for the Holy Communion, as at present they imdoubtedly are,
they are equally unfit to die, and appear before God in judg-
ment. Let them call to mind that the same state of heart
which would lead them to living faith in the Son of God,
would prepare them for celebrating the memorials of His death.
Their continuance, then, in habits of sin brings on them not
only the immediate guilt of the acts of provocation which they
commit against God, but also that mediate and remote crimi-
nality which is connected with their renouncing virtually their
holy profession, disallowing the dedication made of them to
God in baptism, and remaining unfit to celebrate those mys-
teries of religion which are absolutely essential to the name of a
sincere christian. Every one, in fact, who was in infancy
admitted to the Sacrament of Baptism, and there devoted to
the love and service of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Ghost, and who, being now arrived at years of discretion, lives
in a course of life which incapacitates him for participating
aright in the Communion of Jesus Christ, does virtually "tram-
ple underfoot the Son of God, counts the blood of the Covenant
wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and does despite
to the Spirit of grace." The fearful state of such a person I
need not describe. When he leaves the temple of God where
the mysteries of Christ are about to be celebratd, he turns
away from "Him that speaketh from Heaven ;" he declares that
"he has no part nor lot in the matter," "he judges himself
unworthy of eternal life." Let me aflFectionately call on such
to consider their ways, to hear the voice of mercy, to yield
themselves unto God, and to submit to the sceptre of Christ.
Then will the Church welcome them to this Holy Supper;
then will the Saviour feed them with His precious body and
blood ; then shall they know the blessedness and peace which
spring from pardon and acceptance with God, and the strength
and consolation which are derived from that Sacrament which
is the means of building them up to eternal life.



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624 THE lord's suppek.

II. Allow me next to press the obligation of receiving the
Holy Eucharist on those who are hesitating as to the course
they should pursue. You have been devoted to God in the
Sacrament of Baptism; you have be«i blessed perhaps with
much religious instruction; you have some good impressions
on your mind towards God ; your lives and conduct are amiable
and respectable ; but yet you delay the time of publicly devot-
ing yourselves to Christ at His holy institution; you "halt
between two opinions." Oh! let me beseech you to "choose



Online LibraryThomas SmythComplete works of Rev. Thomas Smyth, D. D → online text (page 58 of 68)