Изображения страниц




It seems to require some apology to publish another Treatise on the Lord's Supper, when several valuable ones have appeared already.

It might perhaps be sufficient to say, that many are


disposed to look at a modern publication, who would not even read a more valuable one of former years. But what is the state of the Christian Church? Numbers who have attended public worship constantly and regularly, from year to year, ten, twenty, thirty, or more years, never have received the Lord's Supper!

Many thousands, not to say many millions, in Great Britain, who have been baptized, and who profess themselves to be Christians, have never obeyed a dying charge of their Redeemer! Yet it has been justly remarked, that in the accounts which we have of those most distinguished for piety, never any one excelled in the virtues of the Christian life, but was accustomed frequently to nourish his soul with "the banquet of this most heavenly food." Publications of this nature cannot, therefore, be

unseasonable, while so important an ordinance continues to be neglected by so large a proportion of Christians.

Without invidious remarks on any former works on this subject, it cannot but be obvious that some have a tendency to foster self-righteousness, or to make preparation not only so tedious and troublesome as to be impracticable for persons engaged in the ordinary concerns of life, but, as Bishop Beveridge expresses it, so nice and ticklish a thing, that they despair of ever observing all the little rules which are laid down, and therefore seldom, or never, trouble their heads about it."


The author, while he has gladly availed himself of the help afforded by the Treatises of others, has endeavoured to take the scriptures as his only sure guide. He has had occasion to see, that the nature of this ordinance has been much mistaken from a neglect of that guide. In extracting passages from old authors, he has taken the liberty here and there of altering a word, or the construction of a sentence, to adapt it to more modern usage. Where he has varied the idea, he has generally noticed the passage as taken from others, by inverted commas, without quoting the authority; thus making himself responsible for the sentiment expressed.

The writer has seldom quoted the opinions of the Christian Fathers on the Sacrament, being convinced

that the holy scriptures are the only and the sufficient rule of faith to the church. He was anxious also not to swell his work; and not to make it controversial, instead of a practical and devotional book. Those who wish to see the sentiments of the Fathers GENERALLY, may consult the writings of Cranmer and Jewell. L'Arroque's History of the Sacrament gives a full account of their sentiments on its form of celebration, doctrine, and worship. Waterland's Treatise on the Eucharist, gives their sentiments on the DOCTRINES of the Sacrament; and Bingham's Christian Antiquities, on the DISCIPLINE of the Church respecting it. These writers sufficiently establish the point, that the doctrines and practices peculiar to the Roman Catholics have no support in the primitive fathers, whose statements in the main concur with those of the Protestant churches, and particularly of the Church of England. Cranmer's Treatise on the Sacrament is well worth reading by every one; but readers in general will find little interest or profit from controversial treatises.

It is generally known that this institution was one of the chief points in controversy with the Protestants and Roman Catholics, and, alas! among the Protestant churches themselves at the Reformation. The Author has almost wholly abstained from that controversy, being persuaded that the plain statement, and the scriptural proof of truth, is here

an effectual way of combating error. What Christian does not long for the day when that ordinance which too often has served to divide Christians, shall at length serve to unite them, and teach them what it was evidently designed to do-to love one another even as Christ has loved them.

He has introduced statements in the body of the work, and confessions in the meditations, respecting the sinfulness of man, which some may think too strong, or too particular. He would repeat however what has been often observed, that the true penitent will have a far deeper sense of the guilt of an evil desire, or an unholy temper, than a person careless and unconcerned about his soul will have of an openly immoral action. If the Holy Spirit have convinced us of our sinfulness, there will be a tenderness of conscience as to the commission of sin, to which worldly men are entire strangers. They will therefore often quite mistake the believer's real character: -looking only at his confessions, they would count him a grievous sinner; but looking at his life, they will reckon him needlessly precise and strict.

He has to express his obligations for the valuable remarks of a kind and able friend, who revised much of the manuscript; and of a dear brother (dear both by the ties of nature, and of a common ministry in the gospel of Christ,) to whom he is indebted, not only in this, but also in his former publications.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »