« AnteriorContinua »
The Author to the Reader.
Reasons for publishing this book, and of the dangerous tendency of the ufe of the OLD Week's Preparation.
Having for many years experienced, in the course of my office, that, in no one inftance of chriftian duty, there was more need of affiftance than in this of the Lord's fupper; and that many devout communicants have laboured under the fame doubts and fcruples concerning a worthy preparation and partaking of this duty; I am of opinion, that many others would be very glad to find fuch doubts cleared up, and the cause of fuch fcruples removed for the future, which too commonly disturb and perplex them with fuch fears and terrors, as indeed make their defire of being truly religious the burthen and mifery, instead of the delight, of their lives.
For, notwithstanding the compiler of the fecond part of the OLD Week's Preparation, (a treatife very improper to come into the bands of many proteftant readers) has obferved a quite contrary method: I do not think my time can be better employed, than when I am endeavouring to render the preparation to that holy ordinance orthodox, rational, and fatisfactory to every one, And,
It is certainly a very great fault with the generality of those who have written upon this subject, that they have made it their whole business only to raife and inflame the devotion of communicants, without taking any thought about informing and fettling their understandings.
The popish book of Devotions, from whence all the meditations and bymns are taken, which conftitute above one half of the Second Part of the Old Week's Preparation, was condemned by Authority of Parliament tơ› be publickly burnt by the bands of the common hangman; and this circumftance I think myself in duty bound to take notice of, to prevent any farther ill confequences amongst the common people from the ufe of that book;; Fotwithstanding it is now pretended to be published by a Clergyman of london
The most confiderable doubts and fcruples, which are apt to diftract and render the minds of communicants uneafy, are fuch as, I think, fall under fome or other of the heads of the following meditations, which I have framed as full and fatisfactory, as I believe can reasonably be expected, in so small a volume.
Of the meditations, hymns, and prayers. The meditation for each day is placed first because I esteem meditation to be a noble exercise of a rational and devout foul. To revolve and confider over and over, and to reflect upon thofe diine fubjects, to which each meditation relates, will greatly conribute to the improvement of our lives, and to the rendering them more conformable to the will of almighty God.
Meditation bath an univerfal influence upon the whole life of a Chriftian, and is an admirable inftrument to quicken our progress in all the graces of God's holy Spirit. It illuminates our underftandings with the knowledge of our duty, and fiores our memories with all fuch arguments as are proper to excite us to the performance of it. It wings our prayers with reverence and devotion; and increafes our importunity by impressing a lively fenfe of the neceffity and importance of thofe things we beg of God. It habituates our minds to fpiritual objects, and raises them above the perishing things of this life. It frengthens our holy purposes, arms us againft temptations, and inflames all the faculties of our fouls with earnest defires of attaining and enjoying our chiefeft good.
In the ufe of the meditations, we should not read them over in a hafty and curfory manner; but muft proceed very deliberately, and try whether we cannot find out fomething of greater importance in each fentence, than may be apprehended at the first reading: and after we have thys gone through the meditation, which we should always do at one reading, begging God to affect our minds with a conftant fenfe of our duty in all the particulars of it; chiefly that he swould enable us to perform thofe refolutions we have made of advan cing in piety and virtue; that he would not leave us to ourselves; but fo affift us with his grace, that what we perceive and know to be our duty, we may faithfully fulfil all the days of our life: Ifay, when the meditation is thus ended, I have immediately fubjoined
the hymns to be fung or faid, according to the difpofition of every devout reader. And the reafon of this method, I doubt not, will readily appear to every one who confiders that the defign of hymns is to raise the foul to a nearer conference with God in prayer, when perchance fatigued in fome other part of a chriftian's duty.
To the hymns you have a prayer added, which will furnish you with fuitable petitions, fupplications, and thanksgivings to be offered up to our heavenly father through Jefus Chrift, bis dearly beloved fon, our Lord. Not that I prefume to dictate any thing that may stifle the fervency of any one's private devotion, who may rather chufe to conclude his devotions with an hymn: And it is with a view to fatisfy fuch different tempers, that in fome cafes I have added more hymns than one to fome of the fubjects. But as God has given us no direct command in this particular, let it be far from me to act with that prefumption, as to endeavour to enforce my own inventions inftead thereof..
Of the time to be fpent in preparation.
As to the time requifite to be spent, in our preparation for a worthy receiving the Lord's fupper, I could wish it had been more particularly directed and commanded by the Church: yet, I doubt not but that her having not done it has proceeded from her knowledge that the best rules might hurt fome or other, if too clofely followed. But I am clear in my opinion, that it is always her intention, that her members should be as well and thoroughly prepared as they can, before they approach the Lord's Table; and, for my part, I think myflf bound to thank the great and good God, that I am not of the number of those self-fufficient chriftians, who can lay fo great firefs upon habitual preparation, as to fave themfelves the trouble of any preparation at all. *
See the Preface to the first Part of the NEW WEEK's Preparation, page viii, concerning the usefulness of actual Preparation before the receiving of the LORD's SUPPER.
Of our duty after receiving.
But what will all the preparation in the world avail us, if, as foon as we have turned our backs on the Lord's table, we forget that ever we were there, and remember no more our folemn engagement, nor thofe holy refolutions, which had been raised in our minds by that courfe of devotions in the Week preparatory to our receiving the holy communion: inftead of placing us in the favour of the Almighty, this will draw upon us the abundance and feverity of his wrath, for fuch our mockery of his divine inflitulion and commands.
Of the care of our foul.
It remains for me to defire fuch as have a great deal of worldly business upon their hands (more perhaps than they can well turn themselves to:) I fay I would d fire fuch to confider, that the worldly bufinefs they have, is ftill but the business of this world, this tranfient and unc rtain world, that foon paffeth away; and that they have another world to live in, as well as this; a world that will have no end
And therefore, if we have any care for our fouls, let us take heed of the cares of this life, that they do not hinder us from receiving Chrift's most bleffed body and blood, as often as we can. And for that purpose, whenfoever we are invited to the Lord's table, let us think thus with ourselves; we have now an opportunity put into our hands of partaking of the body and blood of our ever bleffed Saviour, to preferve our bodies and fouls to everlasting life: it is true, we have at this time more than ordinary business upon our hands: but what is all this world, in comparifon of everlasting life and happiness ? and who knows whether we shall ever have fuch another opportunity fo long as we live? I fay, think thus, and then let us flip any opportunity if we can. If we have any regard for our immortal fouls; I believe it will be very dif-. -ficult, if not impoffible.
It is certainly our bounden duty to take care of our worldly concerns, in the several callings, or ways of life, allotted to us by di vine providence; but it must be remembered, that we must always
bave the fear and commandments of God in view, and fo be under a perpetual obligation to perform all thofe promifes, fo lately made to his divine majesty, at his holy table. So that our outward or worldly employments must never remove our hearts from this duty; and when temptation to fin pursues us again, we must remember that it is a part of our folemn vozu to forfake tranfgref fion and to refift every temptation, that fhall deprive us of the favour of our maker and redeemer, with whom we enter into a ftrict covenant of friendship, when we receive Christ's most blessed body and blood. By this covenant we are affured of God's omnipotent protection against all our enemies both ghoftly and bodily: for, if God be with us, neither the malice of men, nor the craft of the devil can prevail against us. On the contrary, as on our part of the covenant, we vow entire obedience, as well as faith, we, by returning into the evil ways we have fo lately difavored, fhall forfeit our right to that friendship; bring God's wrath upon us; and then we fall of all men find ourselves the moft miferable; it not being in the power of any human means to escape his juftice.
Some account of the method of this work.
Therefore I bave, in this fecond part of the New Week's Preparation, exbibited fucb meditations, hymns, and prayers, to be ufed by the worthy communicant, during the week following bis participation of Chrift's body and blood, as I apprehend will furnish him with a right fenfe of his duty which I take to be the beft means he can make use of, to fecure himself against the fudden furprize, and impetuous attacks of all our eremies, both ghoftly and bodily. And,
It is fome fatisfaction to me, that I can affure the reader, that I have taken the church catechism and the communion fervice for my guide; fo that he may be fatisfied that what he meets with in this NEW Week's Preparation is strictly orthodox, and perfectly agreeable to the doctrine of the church of ENGLAND, and to the word of God itself; being convinced, that whoever will speak upon this fubject with any authority and certainty, muft Speak from thofe fountains of falvation, and not from popish and fuper ftitious prayer books; as the compiler and late editor of the OLD Week's Preparation have done.