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profession: there was one at that first communion who received no benefit thereby.
But the eleven-were they sinless guests? were they strong in the Spirit, and matured in faith, and entitled by their holy lives, and undivided hearts, to a participation in the feast? Were they ready to follow their master to prison and to death? They said so, and they meant it, for their hearts were single, and their love was true; but it did not prove so; twelve hours had not passed before one denied his master, and the rest forsook him. It is for sinners, then, miserable sinners, that this feast was instituted; for the weak in faith, for the untried in love, for the uncertain in conduct, for those who had no strength, no constancy, no faithfulness in themselves, to follow their Master for a single day. Jesus knew this, but he did not refuse them: he did not desire them to wait, as we think fit to wait, till they were holier, and stronger, and surer of themselves. He gave them the bread and wine to strengthen and refresh their souls, that they might grow thereby into that which they did afterwards become, devoted, sanctified, and able indeed to follow him to prison and to death, as several of them did in after-times. It does not appear that he withheld it even from Judas. Judas made the same profession as others of the twelve; he seemingly obeyed the call to follow Christ, and ranged himself among his chosen ones: most probably he sinned
against his own conviction that Christ was indeed the Son of God, preferring this world's gain before him. Only to the Master were the secrets open of the traitor's heart: one whom he had chosen was a devil, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. He kept the secret, and suffered him to pass as his disciple, and as such administered to him the outward and visible signs of the communion, the bread and wine, no verity, by his false heart received, of the inward and spiritual grace.
The administration of the Sacrament to all who profess and call themselves Christians, without any satisfactory knowledge of their hearts, has been an occasion of much controversy and separation in the churches. Tender spirits have been deeply pained, and some have even excluded themselves from our communion, because they feared to administer or to partake the sacred emblems, with those who give no token of being members of Christ, and children of God, although baptized to be so. Our church has been much questioned upon this subject, and other churches have devised various plans to keep their communion pure. It appears to me that the scruple is unnecessary, as the precaution is unavailing. It must be unavailing, because when all is done that can be devised, to test the faith of the communicant, and discover the seal of adoption upon his brow, he may deceive us, if not himself: the
life and conversation have as often denied the public examination or written experience, as the renewed baptismal vow; which alone our church requires. Since after every precaution, the profession must be taken, I do not perceive why the mode of profession accepted in our church, is not as sufficient as any other. The most powerful exhortations are made, and the most awful warnings given; a form of words is prescribed, which no unfit communicant can speak with truth. A confession of faith or profession of Christ, could hardly be devised more full and close, than that which every communicant is required to utter before the elements are delivered to him. What can man do more than leave the forswearer to his peril? It was what Jesus did as man, though as God he saw through all. To show that he was not deceived, he exposed the traitor's guilt at the very time of the celebration; in one gospel it is said just before, in the others just after, the distribution of the bread and wine. Judas was not left to believe that the bread was best to him, although he ate it; nor the wine, although he drank it; nor we, that he derived any benefit from them, administered though they were, by the Lord's own sacred hands. If this administration seems to exonerate the church, that, giving the impenitent sinner due warning of his peril, accepts his profession, and leaves him to the judgment of the Almighty, it places in an
awful light the delusion of that church which attaches to the elements a saving efficacy administered in the last moments of a sinful life. It was the very moment of the hypocrite's exposure: it was the consummation of his guilt, that, ready in his heart to betray his Master, he sat down as a disciple at his table. It was the time when Satan took full possession of his soul, to make what use of him he would. Did this never happen but once? or has the viaticum of the Papist, and the superstitious reception of the Protestant bread and wine upon the death-bed, passed other souls into the hands of him whose wages they have taken while they lived.
"And as they were eating." The first communion was taken in a sitting posture, after the ordinary manner of sitting at meat, whence some Christians have made it a point of conscience, and even a ground of separation from the church, to take the Sacrament in that position. Certainly there is no reason apparent here, why we should not take it sitting: but it seems a trivial question; kneeling is the posture of devotion, and best becomes the position of the soul at such a time. The Protestant kneels to him whom he addresses, but he makes no address to the elements, as that God were present in them: therefore his position cannot be construed into an act of idolatrous worship.
"Take, eat, this is my body." In the words addressed by our Saviour to the disciples, there
is a very slight variation between the Evangelists; but as we have in the epistle to the Corinthians the Holy Spirit's exposition of the ceremony, the variation presents no difficulty. St. Paul says he has received it of God-"That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, “This cup is the new testament of my blood-this do as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me." Where can we learn the nature of the Sacrament so well as in these few words? How dissipate our fears, or warm our hearts to love, so well as in the meditation of them?
"Take, eat." But were they prepared? were they fit? Jesus did not ask them that; he had not told them to prepare themselves. He had chosen them to be his disciples, and they had chosen him to be their Lord-their right to come was his invitation to the feast, and their title to partake of it was his command. "Take, eat-take what I offer you-eat what I have prepared for you." "Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the, waters, and he that hath no money let him come and buy; buy wine and milk without money and without price."
"Take, eat—this is my body." We will not