Meditations on the holy sacrament of the Lords last Supper Written many yeares since by Edvvard Reynolds then fellow of Merton College in Oxford.
Reynolds, Edward, 1599-1676.
Page  170

CHAP. XVIII.

Of the subject, who may with benefit receive the holy Sacrament, with the necessary quali∣fications thereunto, of the necessity of due preparation.

WE have hitherto hand∣led the Sacrament it selfe; wee are now breifly to consider the subject whom it con∣cerneth, in whom we will observe such qualifications as may fit, and predispose him for the comfortable receiving, and proper interest in these holy mysteries. Sacraments, since the time that Satan hath had a Kingdome in the World, have been ever notes, and Characters whereby to distinguish the Church of God from the Ethnick, and unbeleeving part of men; so that they being not common unto all mankinde, some subject unto whom the right, and propriety of them belongeth must bee found out. GOD at the first created man upright, framed him after his owne Image, and endowed him with gifts Page  171 of nature, able to preserve him entire in that estate wherein he was created. And because it was repugnant to the essentiall freedome wherein he was made, to neces∣sitate him by any outward constraint unto an immutable estate of integrity, he there∣fore soa framed him that it might be within the free liberty of his owne will to cleave to him, or to decline from him. Man being thus framed, abused this na∣tive freedome, and committed sinne, and thereby in the very same instant became really, and properly dead. For as he was dead iudicially in regard of a temporall, and eternall death (both which were now al∣ready pronounced though not executed on him) so was he dead actually, and really in regard of that spirituall death; which consisteth in a separation of the soule from God, and in an absolute immobility un∣to Divine operations. But mans sinne did not nullifie Gods power. He that made him a glorious creature when he was no∣thing, could as easily renew, and rectifie him when he fell away. Being dead, true it is, that active concurrence unto his owne restitution he could have none, but yet still the same passive obedience, and capacity which was in the red Clay of which Adams body was fashioned unto that di¦vine Image which God breathed into it, Page  172 the same had man being now fallen unto the restitution of those heavenly benefits and habituall graces which then hee lost; save that in the clay there was onely a pas∣sive obedience, but in man fallen there is anb active rebellion, crossing resistance, and withstanding of Gods good worke in him. More certainely than this hee can∣not have, because howsoever in regard of naturall and reasonable operations hee bee more selfe-moving than clay, yet in regard of spirituall graces hee is full as dead. Even as a man though more excellent then a beast, is yet as truely and equally not an Angell as a beast is. So then thus farre wee see all mankinde doe agree in an equallity of Creation, in a universallity of descrtion, in a capacity of restitution.

God made the world that therein hee might commuicate his goodnesse unto the creature, and unto every creature in that proportion as the nature of it is capable of. And man being one of the most ex∣cellent creatures is amongst the rest capa∣ble of these two principall attributes, ho¦linesse, and happinesse, which two God out of his most secret Counsell and eternall mercy, conferreth on whom he had chosen and made accepted in Christ the beloved, shutting the rest either out of the com∣passe, as Heathen, or at least out of the Page  173 inward priviledges and benefits of that Covenant which hee hath established with mankind, as hypocrites and licentious Christians. Now as in the first Creation of man, God did into the unformed lumpe of clay infuse by his power the breath of life and so made man, so in the regenera∣tion of a Christian doth hee in the natu∣rall man who is dead in sinne, breathe a principle of spirituall life, the first Act, as it were, and the originall of all superna∣turall motions, whereby hee is constituted in the first being of a member of Christ.

And this first Act is faith, the soule of a Christian, that whereby wea live in Christ, so that till wee have faith wee are dead and out of him. And as faith is the principle (next under the Holy-Ghost) of all spirituall life here, so is Baptisme the Sacrament of that life, which accompanied and raised by the Spirit of grace, is unto the Church though not the cause, yet the bmeanes in and by which this grace is conveyed unto the soule.

Now as Adam after once life was infus'd into him, was presently to preserve it by theb eating of the fruites in the Garden where God had pla∣ced him, because of that continuall depa∣shion of his radicall moysture by vital heat▪ which made Nature to stand in need of Page  174 succours and supplies from outward nou∣rishment: so after man is once regenerated and made alive, hee is to preserve that faith which quickneth him by such food as is pro∣vided by God for that purpose, it being o∣therwise of it selfe subject to continuall languishings and decayes. And this life is thus continued and preserved amongst o∣ther meanes by the grace of this holy Eucha∣rist, which conveyes unto us that true food of life, the body and bloud of Christ cru∣cified. So then in as much as the Sacra∣ment of Christs supper is not the Sacra∣ment of regeneration, but of sustentation and nourishment; and in as much as no dead thing is capable of being nourished (aug∣mentation being a vegetative and vitall act) and lastly in as much as the principle of this spirituall life is faith, and the Sacra∣ment of it Baptisme, It followeth evidently that no man is a subject quallified for the holy communion of Christs body, who hath not beene before partaker of faith and Baptisme.

In Heaven, where all things shall bee perfected and renewed, our soules shall be in as little neede of this Sacrament, as our bodies of nourishment. But this being a state of imperfection subject to decayes, and still capable of further augmentation, wee are therefore by these holy mysteries to Page  175preserve the life which by faith and Baptisme wee have received: without which life, as the Sacrament doth conferre and confirme nothing, so doe we receive nothing neither but the bare elements. Christ is now in Heaven, no eye sharpe enough to see him, no arme long enough to reach him but one∣ly faith. The Sacrament is but thec seale of a Covenant, and Covenants essentially in∣clude conditions, and the condition on our part is faith, no faith no Covenant, no Co∣venant no Seale, no Seale no Sacrament. dChrist and Beliall will not lodge to∣gether.

Having thus found out the first necessa∣ry quallification of a man for the receiving of the holy Eucharist, without which hee is absolutely as uncapable of it, as a dead man of food, we may the more easily looke into the next more immediate and particular, consisting in that preparatory Act ofeex∣amination or triall of the conscience touch∣ing its fitnesse to communicate, because the former is to bee the rule and measure by which wee proceed in the latter.

f Some things there are which men learne to doe by doing of them, and which are better perform'd, and the dangers incident unto them better avoided by an extempora∣ry dexterity, than by any premeditation or forecast. But yet generally since matters Page  176 of consequence are never without some perplexed difficulties not discernable by a sudden intuition, and since the mindes of men are of a limited efficacy, and therefore unfit for any serious worke, till first dispossessed of all different notions which might divert, and of all repugnant prin∣ciples or indispositions which might oppose it in the performance of any great bu∣sinesse set upon with sudden, uncomposed and uncollected thoughts; It is very ne∣cessary before wee undertake any serious and difficult worke, both to examine the sufficiency, and to prepare the instruments by which wee may bee enabled to per∣forme it. Thus wee see in the workes of Nature, those which admit of any lati∣tude or degrees of perfection are seldome done without many previous dispositions to produce them. In Plants and vegeta∣bles the Earth is to bee opened, the seed to bee scattered, the raine to moysten, the Sunne to evocate and excite the seminall vertue, and after all this comes a Fruit∣full Harvest: and so in generation of all other naturall bodies there are ever some antecedent qualities introduc'd by meanes whereof Nature is assisted and prepared for her last act. So in the workes of Art wee finde howa wrestlers and runners in ra∣ces did supple their joynts with oyntments Page  177 and diet their bodies that by that meanes they might be fit for those bodily exer∣cises; howb those Romane Fencers in their gladiatory fights did first use presa∣tory or dulled weapons before they entred in good earnest into the Theater, and then their custome was, first to carry their weapons to the Prince to have his allow∣ance of the fitnesse of them before they used them in fighting. ThecLacede∣monians were wont to have musicall in∣struments before their warres, that there∣by their courage might bee sharpned, and their mindes raised unto bold attempts. And wee reade ofdScipio Africanus, that ever before hee set himselfe upon the undertaking of any great businesse, his manner was to enter the Capitole, to submit his projects unto the judgment of the gods, and to implore their aid and allowance for the good successe of such his enterprises. A thing for the sub∣stance of it, practised by all the Ethnicks before they addressed themselves unto any worke of consequence, whose constant use it was to have recourse unto their gods ine prayers, for benediction and encou∣ragement. And it was a religious obser∣vation in the Romane superstitious sacri∣fices for aa servant that stood by, to put the Priest in minde what hee was a∣bout, Page  178 and to advise him to consider ma∣turely, and to doe with his whole mind, and endeavour that worke hee was to per∣forme. Andb whatsoever vessells, or garments were in those solemnities used, were before-hand washed and cleansed, that they might bee fit instruments for such a worke. Thus farre wee see the light of reason, and the very blindnesse of super∣stition enforceth a necessity of preparation unto any great, especially divine, worke.

If wee looke into the holy Scriptures wee may finde God himselfe a patterne of these deliberate preparations. In making the world it had beene as easie for him in one simple command to have erected this glorious frame at once, as to be six daies in the fashioning of it. But to exhibite unto us an example of temperate, and aduis'd pro∣ceedings, he first provides the materialls, and then superadds the accomplishment and perfection. In the dispensing of his judgments hee first prepares them, before hee inflicts them, He hath whet his sword, and bent his bow, and made ready his arrowes, before he strikes or shootes: his eye comes be∣fore his hand;c He comes downe to see Sodome before to consume it. Hee examines before he expells,dAdam where art thou? before he drive him out of Paradise. Nay in the very sweetest of all his attributes, his mer∣cy Page  179 we find him firsteconsider his people Israel, before he sends Moses to deliver them. In like manner our blessed Savi∣our, though having in him the fulnes of the God-head, the treasures of Wisdome, and Grace without measure, he was there∣fore perfectly able to discharge that great worke unto which the Father had Sealed him, was yet pleased to prepare himselfe both unto his propheticall, and sacerdo∣tall obedience byf Baptisme,g Fast∣ing, Temptation, andh Prayer, That the practise of this great Worke, where it was not necessary, might be a president, unto us who are not able of our selves to thinke, or to doe any good thing,a In the building of Salomons Temple the stones were perfected, and hewed before they were brought, there was neither Hammer, nor Axe, nor any toole of Iron heard in the house while it was in building. And so should it be in the Temple of which that was a type even in the mysticall body of CHRIST, every man should be first hewed, and fitted by repentance, and other preparatory workes before he should ap∣proach to incorporate himselfe into that spirituall, and eternall building. In the observation of Leviticall ceremonies wee may note thatb before the celebration of the Passeover the Lambe was to be taken Page  180 and severed from the flocke three dayes ere it was slaine, in which time the people might in that figure learne to sanctifie themselves, and to be seperated from sin∣ners. And our saviour Christ in the cele∣bration of the last Supper, would not have so much as thec roome unprovided, but he sent his Disciples before hand about it. Teaching us that in sacred things there should be first a preparation before a cele∣bration. So then we see in generall the ne∣cessity of preparing, and deliberating be∣fore we addresse our selves unto the per∣formance of any holy worke, and if any where, certainly in this worke of the Sa∣crament most necessary it is. Though Gods commands by his Apostle were bond e∣nough to inforce us thed necessity of obe∣dience, depending rather on the Author then on the emolument of the Law, yet GOD, who is not wanting all wayes to winne men unto the observance of what he requires, urgeth us thereunto not onely with an argument of debt because we are his servants, but with an argument of profit too, because the omission of it will not onely nullifie unto us the benefit of his Sacrament but make us, guilty of that very bloud which was shed for the Salva∣tion of the World, and turne that into Judgment which was intended for mercy.

Page  181 What this danger of being guilty of Christs blood is, I will not stand long to explaine. Briefly, to be guilty, of the body and bloud of Christ, is to offer some no∣table contempt, and indignity unto the sufferings of Christ, to sinne against the price of our redemption, and toa vi∣lifie and set at nought the pretious bloud of the new covenant, as if it were a com∣mon, and profane thing when men out of ignorant, sensuall, secure, presumptuous, formalizing, inconsiderate, and profane affections approach unto Christs Table to Communicate of him. To be guilty of bloud is in some sort, or other tob shed it, and to joyne with the Crucifiers of CHRIST. A sinne, which as it drove Iudas to dispaire, and to end with himselfe, who had begunne with his Master, so doth it to this day lie with the heaviest curse that ever that people indured, on the off∣spring of those wicked Iewes, whose im∣precation it was, His bloud be on us, and on our children. As Christ on the Crosse was in regard of himselfe offered up unto the Father, but in regard of Pilat, and the Iewes crucified; so is his bloud in the Sacrament by the faithfull received, by the wicked shed, and spilt on the ground, when not discerning or differencing the Lords body from other ordinary Food, they rush Page  182 irreverendly to the participation of it.* For a man may be guilty of the blood of Christ though he receive it not at all, as a man may of murther though he hit not the party against whom his Weapon was directed.c It is not the event but the purpose which specifies the sinne. The an∣ger of a Dog is as great, when he barkes at the Moone which is above his malice, as when at a man whom he may easily bite. The malice of the apostate who shot up dDarts against Heaven was no lesse then if he had hit the body of Christ at whom he shot. If that which is done un∣to the Apostles of Christ is done unto him, because they are his Ambassadores, and if that which is done unto the poore, and distressed flocke of Christ, is done unto him because they are his members, then surely that which is done unto the Sacrament of Christ must needs be done unto him too, in as much as it is his representation, and Image. For a man may be guilty of treason, by offering indigni∣ty to the Picture, Coyne, Garment, or Seale of a Prince. The dishonour that is done to the Image (it being a relative thing) doth ever reflect on the originall it selfe. And therefore the Romans when they would dishonor any man, would shew some dis∣grace toe the statues that had bin e∣rected Page  183 to his honour, by demolissing, break∣ing, downe, and dragging them in the Dirt. Againe a man may be guilty of the bloud of Christ by reaching forth his hand to receive it having noe right unto it. A sacriledge it is, to lay hold wrong∣fully on the Lords inheritance, or on any thing consecrated to the maintenance of his worship, and service; but this certain∣ly by so much the greater by how much the Lords body is more pretious then his portion. To counterfeit right of inheritance unto some Kingdome hath beene ever a∣mongst men unfortunate, and Capitall. We know how ill it is succeeded with the counterfeitaNero amongst the Ro∣mans, and that forged Duke of Yorke in the time of Henry the seventh. And sure∣ly no lesse succesfull can their insolence be, who having by reason of their un∣worthy approach noe clayme nor interest unto the benefits of Christs body, doe yet usurpe it, and take the Kingdome of Heaven as it were by rapine, and presump∣tuous violence. Certainly if Christ will not have the wicked to take hisb Word much lesse his body into their mouths; If thec Raine that falleth to the ground returnes not empty, but according to the quality of the ground on which it falls maks it fruitfull eyther in Herbs meete for the Page  184 use of men that dressed it, or in Thornes, and Briars that are neere unto cursing, im∣possible it is that the blood of Christ in his Sacrament should be uneffectuall, whe∣ther for a blessing unto the faithfull, or for a curse to those that unworthly receive it. So then necessary it is that before the Commu∣nication of these sacred mysteries, a man prepare himselfe by some previous devo∣tions; and for this cause wee finde our eSaviour Christ washing his Disciples Feet, that is cleansing their earthly, and humane affections before his institu∣tion of this Sacrament. And we finde Ioseph of Arimatheaf wrapping his dead Body in a cleane linnen Garment, and putting it into a new Tombe, never yet defiled with rottennes, and corruption. And can we imagine that he that endured not an uncleane grave or shrowd will en∣ter into a sinfull, and unprepared Soule. The everlasting Dores must first bee lif∣ted up before the King of Glory will enter in.