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L ETTER IV.
THE next question propofed to be considered
1 (viz. by whom is the Lord Supper to be celebrated) is so intimately connected with the last, that the answer which was given to that will determine what is to be given to this. Whatsoever profession is implied in attending the ordinance, those persons and those only ought to attend it who can with truth make that profession. If receiving the Lord's Supper be only a declaration of a man's christianity, then all who believe christianity may and ought to receive it. But if this action implies a profession of a practical regard to Christ and the gospel, then those alone who poffess that qualification can with propriety engage in it. In the preceding letter I attempted to prove that the last supposition is the truth. I now proceed to justify the inference from it, and to examine what you have said on this branch of the subject. . .,
Your answer to the question now before us is as fola lows : “ This rite is to be celebrated by all profeffing « Christians, who are arrived at years of discretion. 66 In nothing (fay you) that I have read to you, (and * I have read to you every thing that relates to it in “ the New Testament) can you find any other quali« fication required (than professing christianity I « suppose you mean] and therefore what right have D 3
“ Christians of this day to infift upon any other ?"
This action is itself the declaration, and a more so« lemn one than any other." You must excuse me if I say these two passages are directly contrary to each other. Which of them you will abide by I must guess from the general strain of your book.
This leads me to fix upon the latter, and therefore obliges me to correct your definition of the persons duly qualified for the Lord's Supper by striking out the word profesing, and reading it, all Christians, i. e. all who believe that Jesus is a teacher sent from God, without regard to their moral character, fave only (what you bethought yourself to add in a parenthesis, four pages afterwards, p. 33.) that they must be free from scandalous vices. That I have not misrepresented your meaning appears plain from the following passage (among others) which I find under your head of abuses which have crept into this inftitution... “-Upon this, the terms of communion began to be " more strict, and a greater purity of heart and life 66 than was before required, was now thought abfo6 lutely necessary.” (p.42.) You then introduce Origen with evident disapprobation as saying, “ It does not " belong to every one to eat of this bread and drink
of this cup. They must have been both baptized, e believe the articles of the Christian faith, and ac
cordingly live holy and pious lives." You go on, fc This advance being made, &c." evidently representing Origen's account of the matter as an innovation. I shall now lay before you my reasons for be. lieving it is the truth,
.. . The
The first I shall mention is, that it best agrees with the nature of the ordinance, and the profession implied in attending upon it. ; As to the ordinance itself, I have before attempted to prove that it contains a declaration on God's part of his readiness to bestow certain blessings purchased by his Son's death, and promised in the covenant of grace, which may all be considered as included in what our Lord mentions, in the words of the inftitution as the great end of his shedding his blood, The remision of sins. Now it seems unreasonable to suppose that any have a right to, or can with propriety, receive, the outward signs of those spiritual blessings, or the seal or token of that covenant in which they are contained, but those who are interested in the blesings themselves represented thereby: on the contrary supposition, they lose their propriety and become destitute of any meaning. But who are the persons fpes cified in the new covenant as interested in the blessings of it? Not all that believe Jesus is the Christ, nor any but such as believe in him with the heart, as res pent of sin, and live according to the gospel. It follows therefore that only such persons as these are warranted to partake of the sacramental, bread and wine.
Further; the Profesion which is made in the par, ticipation of these elements is an additional (and to me a striking) proof, that they belong only to real Chriftians. A person who attends this ordinance, is sups posed from the nature of it as above explained to pro, fess (and if he attends it worthily means to profess) his grateful remembrance of Christ and the unspeakable benefits procured for sinful men by his medias tion, particularly by his offering himself a sacrifice for fin ; his own chéarful acceptance of those benefits, upon the terms on which they are offered, his hearty approbation of the grand requirements of the gospel covenant, and his resolute purpose to live according to them. No less than this you yourself, Sir, include in
cramentans, as there. It content
this profesfion when you say, “ It implies a resolution 56 to live and die like a Christian." But can all that believe the truth of christianity honestly make such a profession? Can those make it, who do not heartily defire the blessings of the gospel covenant, nor inwardly relish its requirements, nor even intend to comply with them ? but who, on the contrary, are yet under the power of their sins, if not of scandalous vices, yet of fecret lufts, whose minds are carnal, and there“fore at enmity with God?' which indeed is the case with all unconverted persons, whatever their outward behaviour may be. No mere nominal Christian does or can thus resolve. A resolution of this nature supposes such an hearty approbation of the laws of Christ, and such a zealous attachment to him, as are the grand characteristics of a real Christian, or a truly good man. * This observation seems to me to destroy that distinction on which the author of the Plain Account has laid so much stress, between a person's being himself worthy or pious, and his exercising dilpositions worthy of, or suited to the nature of the Lord's Supper. How an unholy man can exercise holy dispolitions is to me inconceivable, since that which constitutes a person holy or unholy, is his being poffefsed of, or his wanting, those dispositions which are required to be exercised in attending this inftitution.
There is another passage in your performance, in which you seem not only to allow the necessity of exercising pious dispositions, but of possessing a pious character in order to have a right to the Lord's Supper. Speaking of the preparation necessary for it (p. 35.) you say, “ this act of religion only requires " that serious and composed state of mind, which is te a temper that a Good Man, who never indulges 16 himself in any criminal excelles, habitually carries w about with him.” I should be glad to know, Sir, what sort of a person you intend by a good man, if not
such an one as I am endeavouring to prove is the only fit person to receive this ordinance. I cannot see, with what propriety a wicked man can be called by this name (and such every man is, who is not holy in heart and life) or how any other than a real Christian, can be said « habitually to carry about 66 with him a serious and composed state of mind. * In a word, I only contend for the necessity of such qualifications in a communicant as you here describe.
Now if the exercise of such holy dispositions as I have described, be necessary to intitle any one to the Lord's Supper, and be professed in attending upon it; and if it be true that no unholy person can exercise them, not being pofseffed of them; I infer, that those who attend the Lord's Supper while they remain una holy, as they folemnly profess a falsehood, eat and
drink unworthily ;' from whence it seems most clearly to follow, that all unholy persons ought to refrain from this ordinance till a thorough change takes place in them, left they eat and drink judgment to
themselves :'. unless it be supposed that it is better to receive unworthily, and declare what is absolutely false, than wholly to neglect the ordinance, which appears to me too unreasonable to need confutation.
You apprehend that there is no danger in a person's coming to the Lord's table who is deftitute of a truly christian temper. “ If I be asked (you say, p. 56 34.) whether it be not hazardous for a person of a " dubious or indifferent character to receive the Lord's “ Supper, I answer, you may judge for yourselves « by considering, that receiving the Lord's Supper is “ the same thing as standing up in the face of the " world and saying I am a Christian." You ought to have added, (and to make you consistent I must suppose you intended to include,) what you had before said such a declaration implied, “ And I resolve ** (by the grace of God) to live and die as becomes a
Christian." You go on “ This declaration cerstainly implies an obligation to live as becomes a