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The Duty of Constant Communion

8.  But suppose this were no mercy to us (to suppose which is indeed giving God the lie; saying, that is not good for man which he purposely ordered for his good), still I ask, Why do not you obey God’s command?  He says, ‘Do this.’  Why do you not?  You answer, ‘I am unworthy to do it.’  What!  Unworthy to obey God?  Unworthy to do what God bids you do?  Unworthy to obey God’s command?  What do you mean by this?  That those who are unworthy to obey God ought not to obey him?  Who told you so?  If he were even ‘an angel from heaven, let him be accursed.’  If you think God himself has told you so by St. Paul, let us hear his words.  They are these: ‘He that eatheth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.’

Why, this is quite another thing.  Here is not a word said of ‘being unworthy’ to eat and drink.  Indeed he does speak of eating and drinking ‘unworthily’; but that is quite a different thing – so he has told us himself.  In this very chapter we are told that by eating and drinking unworthily is meant taking the holy sacrament in such a rude and disorderly way that one was ‘hungry and another drunken.’  But what is that to you?  Is there any danger of your doing so?  Of your eating and drinking thus unworthily?  However unworthy you are to communicate, there is no fear of your communicating thus.  Therefore, whatever the punishment is of doing it thus unworthily, it does not concern you.  You have no more reason from this text to disobey God than if there was no such text in the Bible.  If you speak of ‘eating and drinking unworthily’ in the sense St. Paul uses the words you may as well say, ‘I dare not communicate “for fear the church should fall” as for fear I should “eat and drink unworthily”.’

9.  If then you fear bringing damnation on yourself by this, you fear where no fear is.  Fear it not for eating and drinking unworthily; for that, in St. Paul’s sense, ye cannot do.  But I will tell for what you shall fear damnation: for not eating and drinking at all; for not obeying your Make and Redeemer; for disobeying his plain command; for thus setting at nought both his mercy and authority.  Fear ye this; for hear what his Apostle saith: ‘Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all’ (James 2:10).

10.  We see then how weak the objection is, ‘I dare not receive (the Lord’s Supper), because I am unworthy.’  Nor is it any stronger, though the reason why you think yourself unworthy is that you have lately fallen into sin.  It is true our Church forbids those ‘who have done any grievous crime’ to receive without repentance.  But all that follows from this is that we should repent before we come; not that we should neglect to come at all.

To say, therefore, that ‘a man may turn his back upon the altar because he has lately fallen into sin; that he may impose this penance upon himself’, is talking without any warrant from Scripture.  For where does the Bible teach to atone for breaking one commandment of God by breaking another?  What advice is this – ‘Commit a new act of disobedience, and God will more easily forgive the past’!

11.  Others there are who to excuse their disobedience plead that they are unworthy in another sense, that they ‘cannot live up to it; they cannot pretend to lead so holy a life as constantly communicating would oblige them to do.’  Put this into plain words.  I ask: Why do not you accept the mercy which God commands you to accept?  You answer, ‘Because I cannot live up to the profession I must make when I receive it.’  Then it is plain you ought never to receive it at all.  For it is no more lawful to promise once what you know you cannot perform than to promise it a thousand times.  You know, too, that it is one and the same promise whether you make it every year or every day.  You promise to do just as much whether you promise ever so often or ever so seldom.

If therefore you cannot live up to the profession they make who communicate once a week, neither can you come up to the profession you make who communicate once a year.   But cannot you, indeed?  Then it had been good for you that you had never been born.  For all that you profess at the Lord’s table you must both profess and keep, or you cannot be saved.  For you profess nothing there but this, that you will diligently keep his commandments.  And cannot you keep up to this profession?  Then you cannot enter into life.

12.  Think then what you say, before you say you cannot live up to what is required of constant communicants.  This is no more than is required of any communicants, yea, of everyone that has a soul to be saved.  So that to say you cannot live up to this is neither better nor worse than renouncing Christianity.  It is in effect renouncing your baptism, wherein you solemnly promised to keep all his commandments.  You now fly from that profession.  You willfully break one of his commandments, and to excuse yourself say you cannot keep his commandments!  Then you cannot expect to receive the promises, which are made only to those that keep them.

13.  What has been said on this pretence against constant communion is applicable to those who say the same thing in other words: ‘We dare not do it, because it requires so perfect an obedience afterwards as we cannot promise to perform.’  Nay, it requires neither more nor less perfect obedience than you promised in your baptism.  You then undertook to keep the commandments of God by his help, and you promise no more when you communicate.

But observe upon the whole, this is not so properly an objection against constantly communicating as against communicating at all.  For if we are not to receive the Lord’s Supper till we are worthy of it, it is certain we ought never to receive it.

14.  A second objection which is often made against constant communion is the having so much business as will not allow time for such a preparation as is necessary thereto.  I answer: all the preparation that is absolutely necessary is contained in those words, ‘Repent you truly of your sins past; have faith Christ our Savior’ (and observe, that word is not here taken in its highest sense!); ‘amend your lives, and be in charity with all men; so shall ye be meet partakers of these holy mysteries.’  All who are thus prepared may draw near without fear, and receive the sacrament to their comfort.  Now what business can hinder you from being thus prepared?  From repenting of your past sins?  From believing that Christ died to save sinners?  From amending your lives, and being in charity with all men?  No business can hinder you from this, unless it be such as hinders you from being in a state of salvation.  If you resolve and design to follow Christ you are fit to approach the Lord’s table.  If you do not design this, you are only fit for the table and company of devils.

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