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mercy from him; and humbly to beg that grace which may prepare you, and quicken you to, and in the work.
III. Your duty towards others in this your preparation, is, 1. To forgive those that have done you wrong, and to confess your fault to those whom you have wronged, and ask them forgiveness, and make them amends and restitution so far as is in your power; and to be reconciled to those with whom you are fallen out; and to see, that you love your neighbours as yourselves. 2. That you seek advice of your pastors, or some fit persons, in cases that are too hard for yourselves to resolve, and where you need their special help. 3. That you lovingly admonish them that you know do intend to communicate unworthily, and to come thither in their ungodliness, and gross sin unrepented of: that you shew not such hatred of your brother, as to suffer sin upon him: but tell him his faults, as Christ hath directed you, Matt. xviii. 15-17. And do your parts to promote Christ's discipline, and keep pure the church. See 1 Cor. v. throughout.
Direct. VI. When you come to the holy communion, let not the over-scrupulous regard of the person of the minister, or the company, or the imperfections of the ministration, disturb your meditations, nor call away your minds from the high and serious employment of the day.' Hypocrites who place their religion in bodily exercises, have taught many weak Christians to take up unnecessary scruples, and to turn their eye and observation too much to things without them.
Quest. But should we have no regard to the due celebration of these sacred mysteries, and to the minister, and communicants, and manner of administration?'
Answ. Yes you should have so much regard to them, 1. As to see that nothing be amiss through your default, which is in your power to amend. 2. And that you join not in the committing of any known sin. But (1.) Take not every sin of another for your sin, and think not that you are guilty of that in others, which you cannot amend; or, that you must forsake the church and worship of God, for these corruptions which you are not guilty of, or deny your own mercies, because others usurp them or abuse them. (2.) If you suspect any thing imposed upon you to be sinful to you,
try it before you come thither; and leave not your minds open to disturbance, when they should be wholly employed with Christ.
Quest. 1. May we lawfully receive this sacrament from an ungodly and unworthy minister?'
Answ. Whoever you may lawfully commit the guidance of your souls to as your pastor, you may lawfully receive the sacrament from, yea, and in some cases from some others: for in case you come into a church that you are no member of, you may lawfully join in communion with that church, for that present, as a stranger, though they have a pastor so faulty, as you might not lawfully commit the ordinary conduct of your soul to. For it is their fault and not yours, that they chose no better; and, in some cases, such a fault as will not warrant you to avoid communion with them. But you may not receive, if you know it, from a heretic, that teacheth any error against the essence of Christianity. 2. Nor from a man so utterly ignorant of the Christian faith or duty, or so utterly unable to teach it to others, as to be notoriously uncapable of the ministry. 3. Nor from a man professedly ungodly, or that setteth himself to preach down godliness itself. These you must never own as ministers of Christ, that are utterly uncapable of it. But see that you take none for such that are not such. And there are three sorts more, which you may not receive from, when you have your choice, nor take them for your pastors: but in case of necessity imposed on you by others, it is lawful and your duty. And that is, (1.) Usurpers that make themselves your pastors, without a lawful call, and perhaps do forcibly thrust out the lawful pastors of the church. (2.) Weak, ignorant, cold and lifeless preachers, that are tolerable in case of necessity, but not to be compared with worthier men. (3.) Ministers of scandalous, vicious lives. It is a sin in you to prefer any one of these before a better, and to choose them when you have your choice; but it is a sin on the other side, if you rather submit not to one of these, than be quite without, and have none at all. You own not their faults in such a case, by submitting to their ministry.
Quest. 11. May we communicate with unworthy persons, or in an undisciplined church?"
Answ. You must here distinguish if you will not err: and that, 1. Between persons so unworthy as to be no Christians, and those that are culpable, scandalous Christians. 2. Between a few members, and the whole society, or the denominating part. 3. Between sin professed and owned, and sin disowned by a seeming penitence. 4. And between a case of liberty, when I have my choice of a better society; and a case of necessity, when I must communicate with the worser society, or with none: and so I answer,
1. You ought not to communicate at all in this sacrament with a society that professeth not Christianity if the whole body, or denominating part be such; that is, 1. With such as never made profession of Christianity at all. 2. Or
ave apostatized from it. 3. Or, that openly own any heresy inconsistent with the essential faith or duty of a Christian. 4. Or, that are notoriously ignorant what Christianity is.
2. It is the duty of the pastors and governors of the church, to keep away notorious, scandalous offenders, till they shew repentance; and the people's duty to assist them by private reproof, and informing the church when there is cause. Therefore, if it be through the neglect of your own duty, that the church is corrupted and undisciplined, the sin is yours, whether you receive with them or not.
3. If you rather choose a corrupted, undisciplined church to communicate with, when you have your choice of a better, cæteris paribus,' it is your fault.
But on the contrary, it is not your sin, but your duty to communicate with that church which hath a true pastor, and where the denominating part of the members are capable of church communion, though there may some infidels, or heathens, or incapable persons violently intrude, or scandalous persons are admitted through the neglect of discipline; in case you have not your choice to hold personal communion with a better church, and in case also you be not guilty of the corruption, but by seasonable and modest professing
b Gildas de Exeid. Britt. speaketh thus to the better sort of pastors then. Quis perosus est consilium malignantium, et cum impiis non sedit? Quis eorum salutari in arca (hoc est, nunc Ecclesia,) nullum Deo adversantem ut Noe diluvii tempore, non admisit, ut perspicue monstraretur non nisi innoxios vel pœnitentes egregios, in dominica domo esse debere? Josseline's Ed. pp. 61, 62.
your dissent, do clear yourself of the guilt of such intrusion and corruption. For here the reasons and ends of a lawful separation are removed; because it tendeth not to God's honour, or their reformation, or your benefit: for all these are more crossed by holding communion with no church, than with such a corrupted church. And this is to be preferred before none, as much as a better before this.
Quest. 111. But what if I cannot communicate unless I conform to an imposed gesture, as kneeling or sitting?'
Answ. 1. For sitting or standing, no doubt it is lawful in itself: for else authority were not to be obeyed, if they should command it; and else the church had sinned in forbearing kneeling in the act of receiving, so many hundred years after Christ; as is plain they did, by the canons of general councils (Nic. i. and Trull.) that universally forbade to adore kneeling, any Lord's day in the year, and any week day between Easter and Whitsuntide; and by the fathers, Tertullian, Epiphanius, &c., that make this an apostolic or universal tradition. 2. And for kneeling, I never yet heard any thing to prove it unlawful; if there be any thing, it must be either some Word of God, or the nature of the ordinance, which is supposed to be contradicted. But 1. There is no Word of God for any gesture, nor against any gesture: Christ's example can never be proved to be intended to oblige us more in this, than in many other circumstances that are confessed not obligatory: as that he delivered it but to ministers, and but to a family, to twelve, and after supper, and on a Thursday night, and in an upper room, &c.: and his gesture was not such a sitting as ours. 2. And for the nature of the ordinance, it is mixed: and if it be lawful to take a pardon from the king upon our knees, I know not what can make it unlawful to take a sealed pardon from Christ (by his ambassador) upon our knees.
Quest. IV. But what if I cannot receive it, but according to the administration of the Common prayer-book? or some other imposed form of prayer? Is it lawful so to take it?'
Answ. If it be unlawful to receive it, when it is administered with the Common prayer-book, it is either, 1. Because it is a form of prayer. 2. Or because that form hath
c Mr. Paybodie's book, I think unanswerable.
some forbidden matter in it. 3. Or because that form is imposed. 4. Or because it is imposed to some evil end and consequent. 1. That it is not unlawful, because a form, is proved before, and indeed needs no proof with any that is judicious. 2. Nor yet for any evil in this particular form: for in this part the Common Prayer is generally approved. 3. Nor yet, because it is imposed: for a command maketh not that unlawful to us, which is lawful before; but it maketh many things lawful and duties, that else would have been unlawful accidentally. 4. And the intentions of the commanders, we have little to do with; and for the consequents they must be weighed on both sides; and the consequents of our refusal will not be found light.
In the general, I must here tell all the people of God, in the bitter sorrow of my soul, that at last it is time for them to discern that temptation, that hath in all ages of the church almost, made this sacrament of our union, to be the grand occasion or instrument of our divisions; and that true humility, and acquaintance with ourselves, and sincere love to Christ and one another, would shew some men, that it was but their pride, and prejudice, and ignorance, that made them think so heinously of other men's manner of worship and that on all sides among true Christians, the manner of their worship is not so odious, as prejudice, and faction, and partiality representeth it: and that God accepteth that which they reject. And they should see how the devil hath undone the common people by this means; by teaching them every one to expect salvation for being of that party which he taketh to be the right church, and for worshipping in that manner which he and his party thinketh best and so wonderful a thing is prejudice, that every party by this is brought to account that ridiculous and vile, which the other party accounted best.
Quest. v. But what if my conscience be not satisfied, but I am still in doubt, must I not forbear? Seeing he that doubteth is condemned if he eat, because he eateth not in faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin d.'
Answ. The apostle there speaketh not of eating in the sacrament, but of eating meats which he doubteth of whether they are lawful, but is sure that it is lawful to for
d Rom. xiv. 24.