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The Duty of Constant Communion

15.  No business therefore can hinder any man from having that preparation which alone is necessary, unless it be such as unprepares him for heaven, as puts him out of a state of salvation.  Indeed every prudent man will, when he has time, examine himself before he receives the Lord’s Supper: whether he repents him truly of his former sins; whether he believes the promises of God; whether he fully designs to walk in his ways, and be in charity will all men.  In this, and in private prayer, he will doubtless spend all the time he conveniently can.  But what is this to you who have not time?  What excuse is this for not obeying God?  He commands you to come, and prepare yourself by prayer if you have time; if you have not, however, come.  Make not reverence to God’s command a pretence for breaking it.  Do not rebel against him for fear of offending him.  Whatever you do or leave undone besides, be sure to do what God bids you do.  Examining yourself, and using private prayer, especially before the Lord’s Supper, is good.  But behold!  ‘To obey is better than’ self-examination, ‘and to hearken’ than the prayer of an angel.

16.  A third objection against constant communion is that it abates our reverence for the sacrament.  Suppose it did?  What then!  Will you thence conclude that you are not to receive it constantly?  This does not follow.  God commands you, ‘Do this.’  You may do it now, but will not; and to excuse yourself say, ‘If I do it so often, it will abate the reverence with which I do it now.’  Suppose it did.  Has God ever told you that when the obeying his command abates your reverence to it then you may disobey it?  If he has, you are guiltless; if not, what you say is just nothing to the purpose.  The law is clear.  Either show that the lawgiver makes this exception, or you are guilty before him.

17.  Reverence for the sacrament may be of two sorts: either such as is owing purely to the newness of the thing, such as men naturally have for anything they are not used to; or such as is owing to our faith, or to the love or fear of God.  Now the former of these is not properly a religious reverence, but purely natural.  And this sort of reverence for the Lord’s Supper the constantly receiving of it must lessen.  But it will not lessen the true religious reverence, but rather confirm and increase it.

18.  A fourth objection is, ‘I have communicated constantly so long, but I have not found the benefit I expected.’  This has been the case with many well-meaning persons, and therefore deserves to be particularly considered.  And consider this first: whatever God commands us to do we are to do because he commands, whether we feel any benefit thereby or no.  Now God commands, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’  This therefore we are to do, because he commands, whether we find present benefit thereby or not.  But undoubtedly we shall find benefit sooner or later, though perhaps insensibly.  We shall be insensibly strengthened, made more fit for the service of God, and more constant in it.  At least we are kept from falling back, and preserved from many sins and temptations.  And surely this should be enough to make us receive this food as often as we can; though we do not presently feel the happy effects of it, as some have done, and we ourselves may when God sees best.

19.  But suppose a man has often been at the sacrament, and yet received no benefit.  Was it not his own fault?  Either he was not rightly prepared, willing to obey all the commands, and to receive all the promises of God; or he did not receive it aright, trusting in God.  Only see that you are duly prepared for it, and the oftener you come to the Lord’s table the greater benefit you will find there.

20.  A fifth objection which some have made against constant communion is that ‘the Church enjoins it only three times a year.’  The words of the Church are: ‘Note, that every parishioner shall communicate at the least three times in the year.’  To this I answer, first: What if the Church had not enjoined it at all?  Is it not enough that God enjoins it?  We obey the Church only for God’s sake.  And shall we not obey God himself?  If then you receive three times a year because the Church commands it, receive every time you can because God commands it.  Else your doing the one will be so far from excusing you for not doing the other that your own practice will prove your folly and sin, and leave you without excuse.

But, secondly, we cannot conclude from these words that the Church excuses him who receives only thrice a year.  The plain sense of them is that he who does not receive thrice at least shall be cast out of the Church.  But they do by no means excuse him who communicates no oftener.  This never was the judgment of our Church.  On the contrary, she takes all possible care that the sacrament be duly administered, wherever the Common Prayer is read, every Sunday and holiday in the year.

The Church gives a particular direction with regard to those that are in Holy Orders.  ‘In all cathedral and collegiate churches and colleges, where there are many priests and deacons, they shall all receive the communion with the priest, every Sunday at the least.’

21.  It has been shown, first, that if we consider the Lord’s Supper as a command of Christ, no man can have any pretence to Christian piety who does not receive it (not once a month, but) as often as he can; secondly, that if we consider the institution of it as a mercy to ourselves, no man who does not receive it as often as he can has any pretence to Christian prudence; thirdly, that none of the objections usually made can be any excuse for that man who does not at every opportunity obey his command and accept this mercy.

22.  It has been particularly shown, first, that unworthiness is no excuse, because, though in one sense we are all unworthy, yet none of us need be afraid of being unworthy in St. Paul’s sense, of ‘eating and drinking unworthily’; secondly, that the not having time enough for preparation can be no excuse, since the only preparation which is absolutely necessary is that which no business can hinder; nor indeed anything on earth, unless so far as it hinders our being in a state of salvation; thirdly, that is abating our reverence is no excuse, since he who gave the command, ‘Do this,’ nowhere adds, ‘unless it abates your reverence’; fourthly, that our not profiting by it is no excuse, since it is our own fault in neglecting that necessary preparation which is in our own power; lastly, that the judgment of our own Church is quite in favour of constant communion.  If those who have hitherto neglected it on any of these pretences will lay these things to heart, they will, by the grace of God, come to a better mind, and never more forsake their own mercies.

As published in John Wesley’s Sermons: An Anthology edited by Albert C. Outler & Richard P. Heitzenrater.  Nashville: Abingdon Press.  1991.  pp. 501-510.

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