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were contracted, victims were immolated: and the contracting parties made a common repast on their flesh, to express the intimate union which they formed with each other.
has not been a partaker in the sacrifices of the idolatrous. In burnt-offerings, the part of the victim consumed by fire, was considered as the portion of Deity. Of this I shall adduce only This was the reason of all the rites which a single instance, that I may not load my diswere served between God and the people of course with too many quotations. Solinus reIsrael, in the alliance formed previous to the lates, that those who offered up sacrifices to promulgation of the law. They are recorded idols on Mount Etna, constructed their altars in the twenty-fourth chapter of the book of on the brink of its crater: that they placed Exodus. Moses represented God; Aaron, Na-bundles of dried sprigs upon those altars, but dab and Abihu his two sons, and the three- that they applied no fire to them. They prescore and ten elders represented the whole con- tended, that when the Divinity, in honour of gregation of Israel. Altars were reared; sacri- whom these rites were performed, was pleased fices were offered up; they feasted together on to accept the sacrifice, the bundles of sprigs the flesh of the victims. It is expressly related spontaneously caught fire; that the flame apthat Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and those other proached the persons who were celebrating this venerable personages whom I have mentioned, sacred festivity; that it encompassed them went up into the mountain, "also they saw round and round, without doing them any God, and did eat and drink," ver. 11. And to harm; and thus was declared the acceptance make it apparent that the divine presence in- of their oblation. tervened, the history adds, that God vouchsafed In like manner, in the sacrifices which were to bestow sensible tokens of his presence. "And offered upon the altar of burnt-offerings, one they saw the God of Israel: and there was un- part of the victim was for the people, another der his feet as it were a paved work of a sap- part for the priests, and another part was conphire-stone, and as it were the body of heaven sumed by fire; this last was considered as the in his clearness," ver. 10. A work paved with portion of God; this was particularly denomistars, resembling a composition of sapphire-nated the meat or the bread of God; and the stones: a symbol which, perhaps, God preferred whole solemnity was intended, as has been said, to any other, because the sapphire was, among to represent the intimate union, and the fathe Egyptians, the emblem of royalty, as may miliar intercourse, which God wished to mainbe seen in their hieroglyphics, which the indus- tain between himself and his people. try of the learned have preserved to us.
2. The same was likewise the design of the The pagans, likewise, had the same ideas of table of the show bread. It was natural that the sacrifices which they offered up. They did in the tabernacle, which was considered as the eat together the flesh of the victims, and this tent of Jehovah, and in the temple which was they called eating or feasting with the gods.* afterwards considered as his palace, there should They sometimes carried off part of it to their be a table replenished with provision for himhouses; sometimes sent a portion of it to their self and for his ministers. It was the comfriends; sometimes they partook of it in the mand of God, that twelve of those cakes temples themselves, in which tables were should be exhibited continually on the table of placed for the express purpose of celebrating the sanctuary, to denote the twelve tribes of festivals of this kind. Homer, in the Odyssey, Israel. This same number was kept up even introduces Alcinous, speaking to this effect: after the revolt of the ten tribes; because there "The gods render themselves visible to us, were always worshippers of the true God, when we immolate hecatombs to them; they scattered over the whole twelve tribes. These eat with us, and place themselves by us at the cakes, exposed continually in the presence of same table." The same poet, speaking of a Jehovah, were an invitation given to the resolemn festival of the Ethiopians, says, that volted tribes, to maintain his worship, and to Jupiter had descended among them, to be pre-serve him conformably to the rites, which he sent at a festival which they had prepared for himself had been pleased to prescribe by the him, and that he was attended thither by all hand of Moses. This was likewise the grand the gods." In another places he tells us, that motive urged by Abijah, king of Judah, to Agamemnon sacrificed an ox to Jupiter, and bring back the Israelites to their allegiance," 2 that he invited several of the chieftains of Chron. xiii. 9, &c. the Grecian army, to eat the flesh of that victim. He relates something similar respecting Nestor.||
Hence it comes to pass that the phrase to make a feast, is very frequently employed both by sacred and profane authors, to express performing acts of idolatrous worship. In this sense it is that we are to understand it, in that passage of the prophet Ezekiel, where, enumerating the characters of the just man, this is laid down as one, "He hath not eaten upon the mountains," chap. xviii. 6; that is, who
*Plato, tom. II. de Legibus II. p. 653. Edit. Steph.
In this same sense is the table of the Eucharist, likewise, the table of the Lord. In this same sense, we consider as the meat of God, or as the bread of God, these august symbols which are presented to us in the holy sacrament of the supper. These two solemn ceremonies have exactly one and the same end in view. The end proposed by the table of the Eucharist, as by that of the altar of burnt-offerings, or by the table of the show bread, is to form, and to maintain between God and us, an intercourse of familiar friendship; it is to form between God and us the most intimate union which it is possible to conceive as subsisting between two beings so very different as are the Creator and the creature. What proofs of love can be
Polyh. cap. v. p. 15. Edit. Traject. 1689.
interchanged by two friends united in the ten- loved the world, that he gave his only begotten derest bonds, which God and the believer do Son," John iii. 16. "Greater love hath no not mutually give and receive at the Eucharis-man than this, that a man lay down his life for tical table. his friends," John xv. 13.
Two friends intimately united, become perfectly reconciled to each other, when some interposing cloud had dimmed the lustre of friendship, and they repair, by warmer returns of affection, the violence which love had suffered under that fatal eclipse. This is what we experience at the table of the holy sacrament. That august ceremony is a mystery of reconciliation between the penitent sinner and the God of mercy. On the one part, the penitent sinner presents unto God "a broken and contrite heart," Ps. li. 17, for grief of having of fended him: he pours into the bosom of his God the tears of repentance; he protests that if the love which he has for his God has undergone a temporary suspension, it never was entirely broken asunder; and if the flame of that affection has been occasionally smothered under the ashes, yet it was never entirely extinguished: he says to him with Thomas, recovered from his paroxysm of incredulity, "My Lord and my God; my Lord and my God," John xx. 28, and with Peter, restored to favour after he had denied his Master, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee," John xxi. 17. And on the other part, the God of mercy extends his bowels of compassion towards the believer; he gives him assurance that his repentance is accepted, and speaks peace inwardly to his conscience, saying, "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee," Matt. ix. 2.
Two friends intimately united, however well assured they may be of reciprocal tenderness, take pleasure in making frequent repetition of the expressions of it. Friendship has its high festivals, its overflowings, its ecstacies. This too is the experience of the saints at the table of the Lord. There the soul of the believer says to his Redeemer, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me," Gal. ii. 20. And there it is, on the other hand, that God communicates to the soul of the believer the full assurance of his love: "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed: but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee," Isa. liv. 10.
Thus it is, my brethren, that the altar of burnt offerings, or the table of the show bread, and the Eucharistical table of the Lord's supper, present the self-same mysteries to the eye of faith. Thus it is that both the one and the other are "the table of the Lord," and that the repast served upon it, is "the meat of God," or the bread of God. Thus it is, that in both the one and the other of those solemn ceremonies, the end which God proposes to himself is to form with men a union the most intimate and the most tender.
Having thus stated the first parallel proposed, that of the altar of burnt offerings, or the table of the show bread, and the sacramental table of the Lord's Supper, we now proceed,
Two friends intimately united, lose sight, in some sense, of the difference which there may be between their respective conditions. This too, is what the believer experiences at the Lord's table. On the one part, though there must ever be an immeasurable abyss between God and us, we go to him as to our brother, as to our friend; shall I presume to add, as to our equal? And on the other part, God is pleased to lay aside, in condescension to our weakness, if the expression be lawful, the rays of his divine majesty, with which the eyes of mortals would be dazzled into blindness. Jesus Christ clothes himself with our flesh and blood: and of that community of nature makes up a title of familiarity with us; according to those words of the apostle; "both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren," Heb. ii. 11, 12.
Two friends intimately united, blend their goods and fortune, in blending their condition. This likewise the believer experiences in the holy sacrament of the supper. On the one hand, we devote to God all that we are; we promise him that there is no band so tender but what we shall be ready to break asunder; no passion so dear, but that we are determined to sacrifice it; no possession so precious but that we are cheerfully disposed to resign, whenever his glory requires it at our hands. And on the other hand, God draws nigh to us with his grace, with his aid, and to say all in one word,lating to God all the vices which separate behe comes to us with his son: he gives us this tween him and them. Want of feeling, which Son, as the Son gives himself to us, "God so prevents their being kindled into gratitude, and 1
II. To state the parallel between the profanation of the altar, or the table in the ancient sanctuary, and the profanation of the sacramental table of the Eucharist: that is, to state the parallel between the duties prescribed to the ancient Jews, and those which are prescribed to Christians, when they draw nigh to God in the holy ordinance of the supper. As they trace the same important truths, they enforce the same practical obligations. What made the ancient Jews profane the table of the Lord? How came they to say, “the table of, the Lord is contemptible?" How durst they offer "polluted bread" on his altar? It was, 1. Because they formed not just ideas of the end which God proposed to himself, when he enjoined the observance of those solemnities. It arose, 2. From their unwillingness to fulfil the moral engagements which the ceremonial observance imposed. Finally, 3. It proceeded from their wanting a just sense of the value of the blessings communicated by these. Now the sources of unworthy communicating, so common in the Christian world, are precisely the same. Want of illumination; want of virtue; want of feeling. Want of illumination, which prevents their knowing the meaning and design of our sacred mysteries Want of virtue, which prevents their immo
love, and holy fervour, when God discloses to them, at his table, all the treasures of felicity and glory. Three heads of comparison between the priests of Malachi's days, and many who bear the Christian name among ourselves. Three touchstones furnished to assist you in the examination of your own consciences. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name: and ye say, wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon my altar: and ye say, wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, the table of the Lord is contemptible."
1. Want of illumination. The priests of Malachi's days did not form ideas sufficiently just of the end which Jehovah promised to himself, when he enjoined the presenting of offerings, on the altar of burnt offerings, and on the table of the show bread. Expressly set apart for teaching those great truths to others, they remained themselves in a state of ignorance. They had no other qualification to be the ministers of religion, except the tribe from which they descended, and the habit which they wore. Our prophet upbraids them with this gross and criminal ignorance: The priests' lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts: but ye are departed out of the way: ye have caused many to stumble at the law," chap. ii. 7, 8. They had not only conceived false ideas of religion themselves, but they communicated these to the people. The prophet does not indicate precisely respecting what points the ignorance of those unworthy ministers was most conspicuous: but if we may form a judgment of the case from the character of their successors, it was impossible to entertain ideas of religion more false than those which they propagated. How wretched was the doctrine of the Rabbins who were contemporary with our blessed Lord, and of those of modern times! Miserable conceits; insipid allegories; imaginary mysteries; puerile relations. These constituted the great body of the Rabbinical theology. Would to God that such whims were to be found only among Rabbins! But we must not pursue this reflection. Nothing more is wanting, many a time, but a single ignorant, prejudiced pastor, to perpetuate ignorance, and transmit prejudice, for ages together in a church. This was evidently the case in the times of our prophet: and this it was which dictated these keen reproaches: "ye are departed out of the way: ye have caused many to stumble at the law: ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts," chap. ii. 8.
Want of illumination: the first head of comparison between the criminality of the priests of Malachi's day, who said, the table of the Lord is contemptible, and the criminality of professing Christians, who profane the sacramental table. To profane the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, is to partake of the symbols there presented, without having maturely considered the great truths which they represent. To profane the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, is to communicate, without having any other ideas of the mysteries of the incarnation of the Son of God, which are there unfolded, than those which we had of them in the days of our
childhood. To profane the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, is to believe, on the faith of a man's pastor, or of his ancestors, that God sent his Son into the world, to redeem the human race, and to take no pains to be informed on what principles that doctrine is established.
To present "polluted bread on the altar of God;" to say, "the table of the Lord is contemptible:" it is the crime of that young man, who would account himself degraded by applying to the study of his catechism, by acquiring more perfect knowledge of his religion; who would rather continue to grovel in ignorance, than employ the means necessary to the attainment of instruction. It is the crime of that head of a family, who is so far from being in a condition to communicate religious instruction to his children, that he himself is a stranger to it. It is the crime of that magistrate, who, under pretence of a load of public business, will not take time seriously to examine, whether there be a God in heaven, and whether the Scriptures are of divine origin and authority. It is the crime of that female, who, under pretence of the weakness of her sex, debases the dignity of her nature, and devotes her whole attention to the management of her domestic concerns. Look well to it, examine yourselves carefully. Is there no one among you who can discern his own resemblance in any of these characters? Is it a knowledge of the truth, or the power of prejudice, or compliance with custom, which induces you to assume the livery of Christianity? Is it the decision of a learned divine, and the authority of your fathers; or is it the fruit of serious study, and an enlightened persuasion? Want of illumination; this is the first article of comparison between the profane priests of Malachi's days, and profane Christians of our own times: " you offer polluted bread upon mine altar: ye say the table of the Lord is contemptible."
2. The priests of Malachi's days profaned the table of the Lord, in refusing to fulfil the moral engagements which the ceremonial observance imposed, in the symbols of a sacred union with Deity. While they were professedly uniting themselves to the Holy one of Israel, they entertained sentiments the most criminal, and were chargeable with practices the most irregular and impure. They participated in the table of the Lord, while their hands were defiled with the accursed thing; and they presumed, by offering to God a part of what they had forcibly or fraudulently taken away from their neighbours, to make in some measure, an accomplice in their injustice and rapacity. With this they are reproached in the 12th and 13th verses of the chapter from which our text is taken: ye have polluted my table, in presenting on it that which is torn or stolen. They were partakers of the table of the Lord, at the very time when they were avowedly living in forbidden wedlock with pagan women. With this they are upbraided in the second chapter of this prophecy, at the eleventh verse: "Judah had dealt treacherously, and an abomination committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the
daughter of a strange god." They were partakers of the table of the Lord, at the very time when they were practising criminal divorces, and indulging themselves in sentiments the most barbarous and inhuman, towards persons whom the laws of marriage ought to have rendered dear and respectable to them. With this they are reproached in the 13th verse of the same chapter: "This have ye done again, covering the altar of the Lord with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously; yet she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant." They were partakers of the table of the Lord, while they impiously dared to accuse him, not only of tolerating vice, but of loving and approving it. With this, too, they are reproached, in the 17th verse of that chapter: "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words: yet ye say, wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, every one that doth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them: or, where is the God of judgment?"
Want of virtue: a second point of comparison between the priests who said, "the table of the Lord is contemptible," and professors who, to this day, profane the holy ordinance of the supper. Can any among you discern your own likeness under this character? Are you going to vow unto the Lord an inviolable fidelity; or, while you are partaking of his grace, have you a secret reservation disrespectful to his laws? Is it your determination to put in practice the great, the essential virtues of the Christian life: or do you mean to satisfy yourselves with discharging the petty duties of morality, and with attending to the formal and less important obligations of religion? Are you going to declare war against every thing which opposes the empire of righteousness in your heart, or are you reserving the indulgence of some favourite passion, some Delilah, some Drusilla? Are you disposed to prescribe to your progress in grace a fixed point, beyond which it is needless to aim; or is it your fixed resolution, through grace, to be continually advancing towards perfection? Are you going to satisfy yourselves with vague designs; or are your projects to be supported by just measures and sage precautions?
3. Finally, the priests of Malachi's days profaned the table of the Lord, from their being destitute of a just sense of the inestimable value of the blessings communicated. It seemed to them, as if God put a price too high on the benefits which he proffered: and that, every thing weighed and adjusted, it was better to go without them, than to purchase them at the rate of such sacrifices as the possession of them demanded. This injurious mode of computation is reproved in very concise, but very energetic terms, chap. i. 13. "Ye said, what a weariness is it!" and, in another place, chap. iii. 14. "Ye have said it is vain to serve God: and what profit is it, that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?" and at
the very beginning of the book of this prophecy: "I have loved you, saith the Lord: yet we say, wherein hast thou loved us?" This was offering an insult to Deity, if the expression be warrantable, in the tenderest part. He declares to us, that he stands in no need of our worship, and of our homage; that, exalted to the height of felicity and glory, he can derive no advantage from our obedience and submission; that his laws are the fruit of love, and that the virtue which he prescribes to us, is the only path that can conduct us to the sovereign good. The priests belied this notion of religion.
Want of feeling: a third article of comparison, between the profanation of the table of the Lord, of which those detestable wretches rendered themselves guilty, and the guilt of Christian professors who profane the holy table of the Lord's Supper. A Christian who partakes of this sacred ordinance, ought to approach it with a heart penetrated by the unspeakable greatness of the blessings there tendered to our acceptance. He ought to view that sacred table as the centre, in which all the benedictions bestowed by the Creator meet. He ought to be making unremitting efforts to measure the boundless dimensions of the love of God, to implore the aid of the Spirit, that he may be enabled to view it in all its extent, and to "comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of that love," Eph. iii. 18. He ought to be contemplating that chain of blessings which are there displayed in intimate and inseparable union: "Whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son . moreover whom he did predestinate them he also called: and whom he called them he also justified: and whom he justified them he also glorified," Rom. viii. 29, 30. Under a sense of favours so numerous, and so distinguishing, he ought to cry out with the psalmist: "How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures," Ps. xxxvi. 7, 8. He ought to exclaim, with a soul absorbed in the immensity of the divine goodness: "my soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness," Ps. Ixiii. 5. He ought, above all, to be struck with the incomprehensible disproportion there is between what God does for us, and what he requires of us. He ought to make the same estimate of things which St. Paul did; "I reckon, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us," Rom. viii. 18, every thing fairly considered, I reckon that the trouble which the study of his religion demands, the sacrifices exacted of God, the constraint to which I am subjected in immolating to him my sinful passions, in resisting a torrent of corruption, in struggling against the influence of bad example, in straining to rise above flesh and blood, above selflove and nature: every thing fairly considered, I reckon that whatever is demanded of us by God, when we come to his table, is not once to be compared with the favours which he there dispenses, with the grand objects which
he there displays, with the pardon which he | year we partake of the holy sacrament of the supper; four times a year, consequently, this church ought to assume a new appearance; four times a year we ought to see multitudes of new converts. But do we see them of a truth? Ah! I dare not dive to the bottom of this mortifying subject. The evil is but too apparent; we have but too good reason to allege, that there is much unworthy communicating in the midst of us.
It is with you, unhappy professors of the Christian name, with you I must begin the application of this discourse: with you who have so often found out the fatal secret of drawing a mortal poison from that sacred table: with you, who are, by and by, going once more perhaps to derive a curse from the very bosom of benediction, and death from the fountain of life.
there pronounces, with the peace of conscience which he there bestows, with the eternal glory which he there promises. To be destitute of such feelings as these, when we partake of the Lord's Supper, is to profane it. Examine yourselves once more by this standard. Want of feeling, this was the third head of comparison between profane Jews, and profane Christian professors: "Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; ye say the table of the Lord is contemptible."
Let each of us examine himself by an application of the truths now delivered. I shall address myself,
Do not deceive yourselves; seek not a disguise from your own wretchedness; think not of extenuating the apprehension of your danger; listen, O listen to the fearful threatenings denounced by the prophet, against God's ancient people, after he had addressed them in the words of the text: "Cursed be the deceiver which. voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing. . . . if ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts," chap. i. 14; ii. 2, 3.
1. To those who, on reviewing their former communion services, see cause to consider themselves as chargeable with the guilt which God imputed to the Jews who lived in the days of Malachi. And would to God that this topic of discourse might have no reference to any one in this assembly! Would to God that no one of you might be justly ranked in any of the odious classes which we have enumerated! But only employ a moment's reflection, on the shortness of the time usually devoted to preparation for partaking of the Lord's Supper. It is evident, as I think, from all we have said, that the preparation necessary to a worthy receiving of it, is a work, nay, a work which calls for both attention and exertion. But do we, of a truth, set apart much of our time to this work? I do not mean to examine all the cases in which a man may communicate unworthily; I confine myself to a single point, and only repeat this one reflection: Prepara- But on the other hand, infuse not poison tion for the Lord's table is a work which re-into your wounds, aggravate not the image of quires time, attention, exertion. That is your wretchedness, but attend to the comforta enough; that proves too much against us all. ble words, which immediately follow those of For we are constrained to acknowledge, that my text: "Now I pray you, beseech God that it is by no means customary among us to re- he will be gracious unto us . . . . he will retire for meditation, to fast, to engage in pecu- gard your persons," ver. 9. The sentence of liar acts of devotion, on the days which pre- your condemnation is not yet executed: the cede a communion solemnity. It is no unusual doom of death which has been pronounced thing to see, on those days, at many of our against you is not irrevocable. I see you still houses, parties formed, social festivity going blended with Christians who have communion: in these we see the same games, the same cated worthily, and who are going to repeat amusements, the same dissipation, as at other that delightful service: I still behold "the times. I have reason to believe that in other riches of God's goodness, and forbearance, and protestant countries, though the same corrup- long-suffering. . . . leading you to repenttions but too universally prevail, I believe, ance," Rom. ii. 4, and you may still become nevertheless, that such days are there distin- partakers in the blessedness of this day. guished by the suspension of parties of pleasure, by discontinuance of certain practices, perhaps abundantly innocent in themselves, but, at the same time, too foreign to the design of the holy communion, to engage our attention, when we have an immediate prospect of partaking of it. But in these provinces, we are so far from coming up to the spirit and the truth of Christianity, the exterior order and decency of it are hardly observed.
You must have recourse to that same Jesus whom you have so cruelly insulted: you must be covered with that very blood which you have "trampled under foot" in a manner so profane: you must flee and take refuge under the shadow of that very cross, to which you was going to nail afresh the Lord of glory: you must, by ardent and importunate supplication, avert the thunderbolt, which is ready to be launched against your guilty head; “Ŏ Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath; neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure," Ps. xxxviii. 1. "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight; deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation; restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit," Ps. li. 4. 14. 12.
But if this reflection be insufficient to convince you of a truth so mortifying, as that there is much unworthy communicating in the midst of us; think, I beseech you, on the slightness of the changes which these solemnities produce. Here is the touchstone; this is the infallible standard by which to determine the interesting question under discussion. Four times a year we almost all of us come to the
But, above all, resolutions sincere, deter
table of the Lord Jesus Christ; four times aminate, efficacious, followed up by execution