2 March 1766
Lecture 27
The last question in the Catechism is, What is required of them who come to the Lord’s supper?  I shall make some observations on this before I proceed to the answer.
1. There is nothing required of us – in the sense of terms and conditions strictly speaking. Too many quite mistake the whole design of the Gospel, as though it set forth certain conditions to be performed on our parts which if we comply with, then God will on his part pardon our sins and take us into his favour – but this is to make the Gospel a covenant of works, and to confound it with the law. What is more common than to hear it said, We must do what we can and Christ must do the rest. If we will humble our own hearts, repent of our sins, forsake our evil ways, and put our trust in Christ, then he will make out what is wanting, and give us an interest in his sufferings, to make our obedience full weight. This is smooth doctrine to those who know nothing of the spirituality of God’s law, or of the depravity of their own evil hearts. But should we have said if our Lord had stood at Lazarus’s grave and proposed a condition to him, that if he would rise out of his tomb, and come to him, he would restore him to life. Yet it is plainly to be proved from Scripture that it is as easy for a man to rise from the dead by his own power, as to bring himself to that state of repentance, faith and love, or the very lowest degrees of it, which is suited to the character of a pardoned sinner. Ministers must lay hold of every occasion to tell you that salvation from first to last is of the Lord Jesus – and that he is the only way, foundation, name and hope for fallen man.

This mistake concerning the Gospel in general, produces another of the like kind with regard to the Lord’s supper in particular. When the season is returning, people who know not its true end and design lay a great stress upon their preparation. Perhaps the whole week before the[they] force themselves to abstain, from many things in which their hearts delight – cards and foolish amusements are laid aside. A round of prayers, meditations and chapters are read over every day – it may be they will fast – and give a double alms to the poor. When all these tasks are despatched, they doubt not they have done all that they have required, and nothing remains but by the act of receiving the bread and wine, to wipe off the whole score of their sins, and then they can go home content and think that surely God is well pleased with them because they have [been] so devout, and diligent, in waiting upon his ordinances. This spirit abounded in degenerate Israel – and because they boasted of their drawing near to God with lip worship and outward sacrifices the Lord speaks as though he was weary and displeased with his own appointments. He says, Bring no more vain oblations to me, incense is an abomination, your new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies I cannot away with, when you spread forth your hands I will I will hide my eyes from you and when ye make many prayers I will not hear etc. [1] To guard against this mistake, our reformers have appointed one of the prayers to begin with those humbling words, We do not presume to come trusting in our own righteousness. But alas how many use these words who are far from understanding them and in effect trust in nothing else.
2. I do not mean to discourage any from setting time apart to examine into their state and their views before they come to the Lord’s table, or by solemn prayer to seek blessing for their souls in the use of the ordinance. But I mean that those who are not habitually prepared, by a love to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in conversation becoming his Gospel, cannot work themselves into a right disposition by a few outward forms, in which their hearts are little concerned, and in which their own performances have more of their confidence, than the righteousness and person of the Lord Jesus Christ. All this is as fruitless as to attempt to change the colour of the Ethiopian’s skin by many washings. But:
3. There is something required of them that come to the Lord’s supper. [2] That is, it is children’s bread and it is required that they should be children who come to partake of it. It is the king’s feast and it is required that those who come to it should have the wedding garment. It is a spiritual feast, and it is required that those who would rightly share in it should have a spiritual understanding, and spiritual affections. The particular exercises of a gracious soul, of those to whom the Lord says, Come and welcome, are well described in the answer, which if the Lord please we will consider hereafter. At present I will point some persons who have not the preparation of the heart which the Lord requires, and have therefore no right to come.
  3.1 All those who live in the allowed practice of sin. Can two walk together except they are agreed?  Hear how the Lord expostulated with Israel of old. Will ye steal, murder, commit adultery and swear falsely and come and stand before me in the house which is called by my name?  Will ye live in drunkenness, take the name of God in vain, indulge yourselves in vain conversation, walk in the way of sinners?  Will ye oppress the poor, etc, and while you live in these evils, will ye dare to come and take the name of Christ into your mouths and his body and blood into your hands?  What is this but to mock him, to crucify him afresh, to count his blood an unholy thing. I hope we have not many of this character found among us; the Lord grant there may not be one – for this would be to add contempt to all your other sins. In his name I charge all such to keep away. To such as you there is poison in the cup. Only remember that those evils which unfit you for this ordinance, make you likewise unfit to die – you are in a state of condemnation – but as sentence is not gone forth, there is yet room for you likewise to seek and to obtain mercy. Jesus can pardon – if now at last you are sensible of your sins, and pray to him for faith. But till your hearts are humbled, come not near.
  3.2 Those whose carriage is not remarkably blameable, who abstain from outward vices, should farther enquire, whether they discern the Lord’s body – whether they are indeed seeking salvation by Jesus alone – whether (as the prayer expresses it) they feel that they are not worthy so much as to gather the crumbs that fall from the table. Otherwise they have not that disposition which alone can make the ordinance profitable. How can [you] admire the grace and love of a dying Saviour, unless you are convinced that you must have perished without him?  How can you devote yourselves to him as a living sacrifice, unless you are clearly sensible that you are not your own?  But:
  3.3 All you that are weary and heavy laden, wounded, thirsting, tempted souls – all who are desirous to have guilt pardoned and sin subdued – all who long to call Jesus and his righteousness yours, Come – you shall be welcome – the Lord invites you – he has prepared the feast on purpose for such as you. And has said, To this man will I look even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit. [3]

[1] Isaiah 1:13–15 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
[2] ms ‘2’ should be ‘3’, which has been assumed here
[3] Isaiah 66:2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.


Marylynn Rouse, 02/05/2020