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INTRODUCTORY ADDRESSES *.
THE DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERS OF A
It is a delightful truth, of which we ought never to be weary of speaking, nor you of hearing, “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the chief; and that whosoever comes to him, he will in no wise cast out.” No guilt, however aggravated, no depravity, however deep rooted, excludes the sinner from applying to the Saviour for pardon and acceptance, holiness and everlasting life. called to proclaim the good news to every creature,
* This part of the communion service, in the Scottish Presbyterian, church, is usually termed " The Fencing of the Table," and consists of a short and plain account of the character of those who have and of those who have not a right to communicate. It is their doctrine, " that all ignorant and ungodly persons, as they are unfit to enjoy communion with Him, so are they unworthy of the Lord's table, and cannot, without great sin against Christ, while they remain such, partake of these holy mysteries, or be admitted thereunto.” 1 Cor. xi. 27-29; 2 Cor. vi. 14. ; 1 Cor. v. 6, 7, 13.; 2 Thess. iii. 6. Matt. vii. 6.Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. xxix. S 8.
and to invite “ whosoever will, to take of the water of life freely.” There are no reserves in our commission, and we wish to make none. The invitation to the table of Jesus is, however, by no means so extensive. In receiving the Lord's supper, men are considered not merely as sinners, but as believing and penitent sinners; not merely as persons who may and ought to come to Christ, but as persons who have actually come to him. The divine Master of the feast, who, in the former case, proclaims—“Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come, buy and eat, without money and with out price;" in the latter case, confines his invitation to persons of a particular character—“Eat, О friends, drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved
A thoughtful person, who perceives this distinction, which is marked with sufficient plainness in the Holy Scriptures, will be anxious, before tak. ing his place at the Lord's table, to know, whether he be among the guests who have been invited, and who may reasonably expect to be made welcome by the Master of the feast. To relieve this natural anxiety, is the design of the preparatory duty of self-examination. It is not impossible, however, that even after serious attempts at self-inquiry, considerable obscurity may still hang on the important question, and a difficulty of discovering the path of duty may prevail to a distressing degree. To resolve, as far as possible, these doubts and scruples, on the one hand ;
; and, on the other, to warn those who, though strangers to the power of religion, have so much of the form of it as to render it impossible to exclude them from church communion, of the danger to which they expose themselves, by intruding into a situation to which they have no right, seem to be the ends proposed by that part of the service of our church, to which we now
proceed, the stating plainly from the scriptures, the character of those who have, and of those who have not, a right to the Lord's table. This service not being of direct divine appointment, is, of course, not absolutely necessary to the right dispensation of the Lord's supper; yet its use is sufficiently apparent:, it can scarcely do harm-it may do much good-and it is certainly quite in the spirit of the apostolic injunction, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”
He who deeply and habitually feels his need of the Saviour, who cordially acquiesces in the Christian plan of salvation, who is under the regenerating and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, and who pays a religious regard to all the commandments of God, he, and he only, has a right in the sight of God to a place at the table of Christ. Listen with attention and self-application to a plain illustration of the different parts of this proposition.
1st, He only has a right to the Lord's table, who deeply and habitually feels his need of the Saviour : “ All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The righteous law of God denounces condemnation agaiqst “every soul of man that doth evil.” Every sinner is thus “condemned already ;" and the sentence must be executed, unless satisfaction be made to the injured honour of the divine government. This satisfaction no infinite creature can give, and, of course, unless some superior being interpose in his behalf, man must perish for ever. These are principles with which all of you have been familiar from your infancy, and it is likely that all of you are ready to admit their truth : But it is one thing thus to take for granted that all mankind are sinners, and quite another thing, deeply and habitually to feel your own individual need of salvation,
Make this last point the subject of serious self-examination. Have you ever been convinced, that the law of God condemns you, as an individual, to everlasting destruction ? Have you ever seen your total inability to procure for yourself the reversal of this tremendous sentence? Have you trembled at the prospect of endless perdition, and cried out in good earnest, “What shall I do to be saved ?" If you are a total stranger to such feelings, you cannot be an acceptable communicant. He who never felt his need of a Saviour, never embraced him.
But beware of concluding, that you have a right to the table of the Lord, merely because you have had convictions of your danger as a sinner, and your need of a Saviour. Many have been convinced who have never been converted. Have your convictions been transient or abiding? did they wear off without producing any important permanent effect? or did they
lead to faith, repentance, and obedience? Do you ha1 bitually feel that you are a sinner, and have constant
need of the Saviour ? If you do, you have reason to hope, that
you will be a welcome guest at the table of Jesus.
2d, He only has a right to the Lord's table, who cordially acquiesces in the scriptural mode of salvation. In the Holy Scriptures, there is made known to us a scheme of reconciliation, formed by infinite wisdom, and executed by infinite power, by which guilty man may be pardoned, and depraved man regenerated and sanctified. Of this divinely constructed plan the following is an outline: The Son of God, moved by pure benignity, in obedience to the appointment of his Father, voluntarily engaged to become the Saviour of a lost world. In pursuance of this engagement, he substituted himself in their stead, assumed their nature, obeyed the law to which they were subject, and en
dured the penal evils which they deserved. The design of this was, to save them at once from the wrath of God and from all iniquity. The merits of his obedience, sufferings, and death, were infinite, and, in the estimation of divine justice, perfectly adequate for both these purposes. On the ground of this satisfaction, he offers pardon, and purity, and eternal life. No merits, no doings of our own are required, to give us an interest in the blessings of this salvation. We are called on but to believe, to the saving of our souls. By this faith we are united to his person, justified by his righteousness, and sanctified by his Spirit.
Now, what are your sentiments with respect to this way of reconciliation? Do you see little in it that is great or good, excellent or admirable? Would you rather be saved without being so completely indebted to the
grace of God, and the merits of his Son ? Does the freedom of salvation, and the exclusion of boasting, so offend your pride, as to induce you to refuse eternal life as a free gift, and go about to establish your own righteousness? Then are ye yet strangers to the power of Jesus' grace.-But are ye accounting the gospel record “worthy of all acceptation?" Is the plan of reconciliation "all your salvation and all your desire ?"
count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus?" and is it your $upreme desire “to be found in him, not having your own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith ?” Then are ye indeed the friends of Jesus, and ought to testify your friendship by sitting down at his table.
3d, He only has a right to the Lord's table who has experienced the regenerating and sanctifying influences of the Divine Spirit. All who are interested in the righteousness of Christ are made partakers of