10 September 2008

Westminster Wednesday #97

Q. 97. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord's Supper? A. It is required of them who would worthily partake of the Lord's Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord's body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience, lest coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

That we may receive the supper of the Lord worthily, and that it may become efficacious: -
I. We must solemnly prepare ourselves before we come. We must not rush upon the ordinance rudely and irreverently, but come in due order. There was a great deal of preparation for the passover, and the sacrament comes in the room of it. 2 Chron 30:18, 19. This solemn preparation for the ordinance consists: -
[1] In examining ourselves. [2] In dressing our souls before we come, which is by washing in the water of repentance and by exciting the habit of grace into exercise. [3] In begging a blessing upon the ordinance.
[1] Solemn preparation for the sacrament consists in self-examination. 'But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat.' I Cor 11:28. It is not only a counsel, but a charge: 'Let him examine himself. ' As if a king should say, 'Let it be enacted.' These elements in the supper having been consecrated by Jesus Christ to a high mystery, represent his body and blood; therefore there must be preparation; and if preparation, there must be first self-examination. Let us be serious in examining ourselves, as our salvation depends upon it. We are curious in examining other things; we will not take gold till we examine it by the touchstone; we will not take land before we examine the title; and shall we not be as exact and curious in examining the state of our souls?
What is required for this self-examination?
There must be a solemn retirement of the soul. We must set ourselves apart, and retire for some time from all secular employment, that we may be more serious in the work. There is no casting up accounts in a crowd; nor can we examine ourselves when we are in a crowd of worldly business. We read, that a man who was in a journey might not come to the Passover, because his mind was full of secular cares, and his thoughts were taken up about his journey. Num 9:13. When we are upon self-examining work, we had not need to be in a hurry, or have any distracting thoughts, but to retire and lock ourselves up in our closets, that we may be more intent upon the work.
What is self-examination?
It is the setting up a court of conscience and keeping a register there that by a strict scrutiny a man may see how matters stand between Got and his soul. It is a spiritual inquisition, a heart-anatomy, whereby a man takes his heart in pieces, as a watch, and sees what is defective therein. It is a dialogue with one's self 'I commune with my own heart.' Psa 77:6. David called himself to account, and put interrogatories to his own heart. Self-examination is a critical enquiry or search. As the woman in the parable lighted a candle and searched for her lost groat, so conscience is the candle of the Lord. Luke 15:8. Search with this candle what thou can't find wrought by the Spirit in thee.
What is the rule by which we are to examine ourselves?
The rule or measure by which we must examine ourselves is the Holy Scripture. We must not make fancy, or the good opinion which others have of us, a rule to judge of ourselves. As the goldsmith brings his gold to the touchstone, so we must bring our hearts to a Scripture touchstone. 'To the law and to the testimony.' Isa 8:20. What says the word? Are we divorced from sin? Are we renewed by the Spirit? Let the word decide whether we are fit communicants or not. We judge of colours by the sun, so we must judge of the state of our souls by the sunlight of Scripture.
What are the principal reasons for self-examination before we approach the Lord's supper?
(1) It is a duty imposed: 'Let him examine himself.' The passover was not to be eaten raw. Exod 12:9. To come to such an ordinance slightly, without examination, is to come in an undue manner, and is like eating the passover raw.
(2) We must examine ourselves before we come, because it is not only a duty imposed, but opposed. There is nothing to which the heart is naturally more averse than self-examination. We may know that duty to be good which the heart opposes. But why does the heart so oppose it? Because it crosses the tide of corrupt nature, and is contrary to flesh and blood. The heart is guilty; and does a guilty person love to be examined? The heart opposes it; therefore the rather set upon it; for that duty is good which the heart opposes.
(3) Because self-examination is a needful work. Without it, a man can never tell how it is with him, whether he has grace or not; and this must needs be very uncomfortable. He knows not, if he should die presently what will become of him, to what coast he shall sail, whether to hell or heaven; as Socrates said, 'I am about to die, and the gods know whether I shall be happy or miserable.' How needful, therefore, is self-examination; that a man by search may know the true state of his soul, and how it will go with him to eternity!
Self-examination is needful, with respect to the excellence of the sacrament. Let him eat de illo pane, 'of that bread,' that excellent bread, that consecrated bread, that bread which is not only the bread of the Lord, but the bread the Lord. I Cor 11:28. Let him drink de illo poculo, 'of that cup;' that precious cup, which is perfumed and spiced with Christ's love; that cup which holds the blood of God sacramentally. Cleopatra put a jewel in a cup which contained the price of a kingdom: this sacred cup we are to drink of, enriched with the blood of God, is above the price of a kingdom; it is more worth than heaven. Therefore, coming to such a royal feast, having a whole Christ, both his divine and human nature to feed on, how should we examine ourselves beforehand, that we may be fit guests for such a magnificent banquet!
Self-examination is needful, because God will examine us. That was a sad question, 'Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?' Matt 22:12. Men are loath to ask themselves the question, 'O my soul! art thou a fit guest for the Lord's table?' Are there not some sins thou hast to bewail? Are there not some evidences for heaven that thou hast to get?' Now, when persons will not ask themselves the question, then God will bring the question to them, How came you in hither to my table, not prepared? How came you in hither, with an unbelieving or profane heart? Such a question will cause a heart-trembling. God will examine a man, as the chief captain would Paul, with scourging. Acts 22:24. It is true that the best saint, if God should weigh him in the balance, would be found wanting: but, when a Christian has made an impartial search, and has laboured to deal uprightly between God and his own soul, Christ's merits will cast in some grains of allowance into the scales.
Self-examination is needful, because of secret corruption in the heart, which will not be found out without searching. There are in the heart plangendae tenebrae, Augustine, 'hidden pollutions.' It is with a Christian, as with Joseph's brethren, who, when the steward accused them of having the cup, were ready to swear they had it not; but upon search it was found in one of their sacks. Little does a Christian think what pride, atheism, uncleanness is in his heart till he searches it. If there be therefore such hidden wickedness, like a spring running under ground, we had need examine ourselves, that finding out our secret sin, we may be humbled and repent. Hidden sins, if not searched out, defile the soul. If corn lie long in the chaff, the chaff defiles the corn; so sins long hidden defile our duties. Needful therefore it is, before we come to the holy supper, to search out these hidden sins, as Israel searched for leaven before they came to the passover.
Self-examination is needful, because without it we may easily have a cheat put upon us. 'The heart is deceitful above all things.' Jer 17:9. Many a man's heart will tell him he is fit for the Lord's table. As when Christ asked the sons of Zebedee, 'Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?' Matt 20:22. Can ye drink such a bloody cup of suffering? 'They say unto him, We are able.' So the heart will suggest to a man, he is fit to drink of the sacramental cup, he has on the wedding-garment. Grande profundum est homo. Augustine. 'The heart is a grand impostor.' As a cheating tradesmen will put one off with bad wares, so the heart will put a man off with seeming grace, instead of saving. A tear or two shed is repentance, a few lazy desires are faith, just as blue and red flowers growing among corn, look like good flowers, but are beautiful weeds only. The foolish virgins' vessels looked as if they had oil in them, but they had none. Therefore, to prevent a cheat, that we may not take false grace instead of true, we had need make a thorough search of our hearts before we come to the Lord's table.

Self-examination is needful, because of the false fears which the godly are apt to nourish in their hearts, which make them go sad to the sacrament. As they who have no grace, for want of examining, presume, so they who have grace, for want of examining, are ready to despair. Many of God's children look upon themselves through the black spectacles of fear. They fear Christ is not formed in them, they fear they have no right to the promise; and these fears in the heart cause tears in the eye; whereas, would they but search and examine, they might find they had grace. Are not their hearts humbled for sin? What is this but the bruised reed? Do not they weep after the Lord? What are these tears but seeds of faith? Do they not thirst after Christ in an ordinance? What is this but the new creature crying for the breast? Here are, you see, seeds of grace; and, would Christians examine their hearts, they might see there is something of God in them, and so their false fears would be prevented, and they might approach with comfort to the holy mysteries in the Eucharist.
Self-examination is needful with respect to the danger of coming unworthily without it. He 'shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.' I Cor 11:27. Par facit quasi Christum trucidaret [It is as if he were butchering Christ]. Grotius. God reckons with him as with a crucifier of the Lord Jesus. He does not drink Christ's blood, but sheds it; and so brings that curse upon him, as when the Jews said, 'His blood be upon us and our children.' Than the virtue of Christ's blood, nothing is more comfortable; than the guilt of it, nothing is more formidable
. - Thomas Watson

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