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Are you kind and tender hearted, ready to forgive, and abounding in works of mercy? Are you liberal towards the destitute, gentle towards the froward, forbearing towards the impatient and irritating, and kind and loving to your enemies ? Are you pitying and praying for the ungodly? Are you delighting in and doing good to the pious? In short, you should enquireHave I that charity which suffereth long and is kind, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things?
A close examination on these subjects is calculated to produce that humble mind and contrite spirit, and that sense of sinfulness and weakness which are most especially adapted to the advantageous reception of the Lord's Supper. Who can question himself on all these points, without seeing his own sinfulness? But be not too much discouraged by such a review; remember, the real desire after the grace of God is a sign that you
have a measure of that grace already. MEDITATION is both an important and a profitable part of preparation. We should think much, and deeply, if we would derive much benefit. Our chief attention should be directed to the sufferings of our Saviour. If those portions of Scripture which describe his sufferings, as the 22d Psalm, the 53d of Isaiah, and the latter chapters in the four Gospels, are carefully perused, and dwelt on in patient and deliberate meditation, our minds will receive some holy impressions, some convictions of the evil of sin, and some lively sense of the love of Christ. Dr. Owen advises, that our meditation should be regulated by our peculiar present condition. Suppose, for instance, the soul is pressed with a sense of the guilt of any
sin, or of many sins, let your preparatory meditation be fixed on the grace of God and the love of Jesus Christ, as proved to the very utmost degree by his death. This is suited to give relief to your mind. Do you lament that you have not a just feeling of the evil of sin ? let your meditation be principally directed to the great guilt of sin as represented in the cross, and to the severity of God against it as there manifested.*
Judge Hale found it a means of preventing wanderings, and fixing his mind, to commit his meditations to writing; and there would doubtless be much advantage in putting down those thoughts which most affect
your own heart. But after all our efforts, let us ever bear in mind, the true preparation of the heart is from God alone ; earnest PRAYER is therefore here both our privilege and our duty. All the gifts and qualifications which we need, come only from God ; and he gives them, and ordinarily gives them only, to those whose hearts he inclines to seek them in prayer. The more earnest, and serious, and full our prayers are,
greater blessings we are likely to receive.
Perhaps to knowledge, self-examination, meditation, and prayer, may be added EXPECTATION, or a looking and hoping for the blessing connected with this ordinance. In general, in proportion as we expect the fulfilment of God's promises, so shall we receive, in God's good time and way. We should enquire, What may I hope to receive? We should expect a more lively manifestation of the Divine presence, a more
* Some helps to méditation are added in the second part.
* “ It con
sensible communion with him, an increase of the hope of his glory, and the like. Before our Lord healed the two blind, he required them to believe in his ability to do so, and then touched he their eyes, saying, according to your faith be it unto you.
The discharge of this duty of preparation requires some STATED TIME. Mr. Earle remarks, * cerns me to prepare, that I may be a welcome guest, and a worthy receiver. To prepare! though the expression be short, it is comprehensive, and I shall find it implies more work than can be crowded into a little time, or done with a little pains. Let me therefore redeem some time from my business, or at least from my pleasures, before the week be far advanced, that unforeseen occurrences may not deprive me of an opportunity to dress my soul for the glorious solemnity, and put me upon the unbappy plunge of missing the feast, or wanting the wedding garment." There is much truth in these remarks; yet it may well be doubted, whether it be expedient to make so much of a given time for preparation, as to hinder Christians from that which was the primitive plan--frequent communion. Some have time at their command, others have not; and the period of time to be given to the duty of preparation will vary accordingly. But in general most persons might, were they in earnest, give some stated and uninterrupted time to this great work. It has been observed, “ your profiting will for the most part be proportioned to the diligence with which you prepare." It may also be remarked, that in all cases,
* See Earle's Sacramental Exercises.
much time may be saved by watchfulness to improve opportunities. By edifying conversation, particularly in going to and returning from church, we may redeem time. Remember, our Saviour notices what passes in mutual discourses. What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another as ye walk?
Be not discouraged as if you were to be perfect before you go; this very institution is designed as a help for your imperfection and weakness. “If we were perfect we should not need it.” Guard also against two opposite evils, self-righteous formality in preparation, and slothful self-indulgence in neglecting to prepare. As to self-righteous views of ourselves, it was a remark of Luther's “ Never are men more unfit than when they think themselves most fit, and best prepared for their duty; never more fit than when most humbled and ashamed in the sense of their own untitness." We must not rest on the exactness of our preparation, whatever it may have been, but come only in the name of Jesus. There is a tendency also in our minds, to be very careful not to sin before we receive the Lord's Supper, and afterwards to be too careless about sinning. Let us watch against this self-righteous spirit, while we foster and cherish those more serious and devout thoughts, and those greater longings after Christ and his blessings which we may experience at that time.
Seek to prepare in dependence on the grace of God, and as his appointed means for obtaining a blessing, and such a preparation will discover to you more of your sinful and lost condition; and thus the atonement of Christ, and the gift of his Holy Spirit will be unspeakably precious to you, and you will go to his
table hungering and thirsting after righteousness. Then in partaking of the memorials of his death, you will receive the pledges of his love, and the assurance of your interest in his great salvation. You will enjoy communion with him and his people, and probably gain some foretaste of those superior pleasures which are at his right hand for evermore.
On the Benefits connected with a due Reception
of the Lord's Supper. THE performance of each of the duties to which our Lord calls his people, is attended with many advantages; as it regards all his statutes, in keeping of them there is great reward. It is so in this duty. While he calls us to remember him, to shew forth his death, and to manifest our expectation of his coming again : in the faithful discharge of this duty, our souls obtain the most important benefits.
It is the general mistake of a mere outward professor of religion, and one to which our fallen nature, even in the best of men, has a continual tendency, to put the means of grace in the place of
itself. Thus if the nominal Christian read the Scriptures, he congratulates himself on having performed a work of piety, without considering that they should mainly be read as the means of conforming the soul to the divine image; of quickening and directing it in the good