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A59850 A practical discourse of religious assemblies by Will. Sherlock. Sherlock, William, 1641?-1707. 1681 (1681) Wing S3322; ESTC R27485 148,095 402

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parts of the work of our redemption without using those visible signs I would fain know to what purpose they were instituted by our Saviour if Christian worship be compleat and perfect without it it is and ever was as needless an addition as most Christians now think it to be which I think derogates very much from the wisdom of our Saviour in its Institution We ought not to look upon the Supper of our Lord only as a particular act of worship but as an external and sensible rite of worship which is fitted to all parts of Christian worship and by the institution of our Saviour necessary to give vertue and efficacy to them as the oblation of Sacrifices under the Law did to those Prayers which were offered with them Now suppose that any men should have argued thus under the Law that if men prayed devoutly to God though they offered no Sacrifice they should be accepted by him I doubt this would have been called despising Moses's law and such men must have died without mercy though they had prayed never so devoutly and yet the Apostle tells us that we ought to have greater regard to the Laws and Institutions of Christ than the Jews had to the Law of Moses The great danger then of neglecting the Lords Supper is that such a neglect may render all our Worship unacceptable to God a right to Christ's Sacrifice upon the Cross is by the Institution of our Saviour conveyed in the Sacrament of the Lords Supper and therefore though we pray in Christ's Name if we neglect his Institution whereby the vertue of his Sacrifice is conveyed to our prayers we must pray without any interest in his Sacrifice and we may easily guess of what worth such prayers are just as much as our own good works without an Expiatory Sacrifice to recommend them to God The serious consideration of this thoroughly convinces me how highly useful not to say necessary it is to restore the Apostolical and Primitive practice to celebrate the Lords Supper as often as we meet for publick Worship if we would have our Worship true Christian Worship according to our Saviours own institution as understood and practised by the Apostles themselves 3. Another obligation to a frequent receiving the Lords Supper is that this is the principal act of Communion with Christ. There is nothing more frequently talked of than our Union to Christ and our Communion with him which is the great mysterie of our Religion and the great foundation of our hope Now Union to and Communion with Christ may either be considered as a constant state and relation and so it signifies being members of the body of Christ by being incorporated into his Church by a visible profession of our faith in him ratified and confirmed by Baptism and by the communication of his Grace and Spirit which dwells in the sincere Disciples of Christ as the bond of a spiritual Union and an abiding principle of sanctification and holiness or it may be considered as an Act and so it is most properly applyed to the Lords Supper which is the most visible external symbol of our Communion with Christ and instituted as a Sacrament of Union for the conveyance of all divine and spiritual blessings to us And for the explication of this I shall observe two things In this holy Feast 1. That it is our eating at the Table of our Lord and 2. That it is our feeding on the body of Christ. 1. In the Lords Supper we eat at the Table of our Lord for this is a Feast of Christ's own appointment instituted by him on purpose to commemorate his death and sacrifice upon the Cross and so answers to the institution of God under the Law to feast upon Sacrifices which was constantly observed in Peace-offerings of which part was burnt upon Gods Altar part belonged to the Priest and part was eaten by the Sacrificers or those Persons who offered the Sacrifice of Peace-offerings who are therefore said to partake of the Altar behold Israel after the Flesh are not they which eat of the Sacrifices partakers of the Altar To partake of the Altar signifies to partake with God whose Altar it is that is to have part with him for part of the Sacrifice was burnt upon the Altar or given to the Priests and that was Gods part or share and the other part was eaten by themselves Thus it was among the Heathens also who used to feast on the Sacrifices which they offered to their Gods and sometimes invited their Christian neighbours to these Feasts who not sufficiently understanding the nature of such Religious Feasts many times went as to common friendly entertainments and therefore are corrected by the Apostle for it as utterly inconsistent with their Christian profession for to eat of a Feast upon a Sacrifice is to have communion with that Being whatever he is to whom the Sacrifice is offered Now the Gentiles sacrificed to Devils and therefore to eat of such Sacrifices is to partake with Devils to be in confederacy and communion with them But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to Devils and not to God and I would not that ye should have fellowship with Devils 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 〈◊〉 that you should be Communicants with them Ye cannot drink the Cup of the Lord and the Cup of Devils ye cannot be partakers of the Lords Table and the Table of Devils that is it is as irreconcileable to eat at the Table of Christ and of the Gentile Sacrifice as it is impossible to unite Christ and false Heathen Gods From whence we learn that to eat of the Lords Table that is of the Christian Feast of the Lords Supper is to partake with Christ or to have Communion with him as to eat of the Sacrifices under the Law was to partake of the Altar or to eat of Pagan Sacrifices was to partake with Devils Now in general there were two things signified by these Religious Feasts 1. A Covenant relation that such persons who feasted at Gods Table were in Covenant with him for all solemn Covenants even between men in the Eastern Countrey were made and ratified by Sacrifice thus it was in the Covenant between Iacob and Laban and Iacob said unto his brethren gather stones and they took stones and made an heap and they did eat there upon the heap And what this eating was we may conclude from the nature of the action which was confirming a Covenant and therefore this eating is eating a Sacrifice as we are more expresly told then Iacob offered Sacrifice upon the Mount and called his Brethren to eat bread and they did eat bread and tarried all night upon the Mount And thus it is especially between God and men thus we know the Mosaical Covenant was confirmed by the blood of the Sacrifice as the first Testament is said to be dedicated by blood and the book and all the people the Tabernacle
and all the Vessels of the Ministery were sprinkled with blood nay not only this general Covenant was confirmed by Sacrifice but all good men when they offer Sacrifices to God are understood to make renew or confirm their Covenant with him whence is that expression in the Psalms Gather my Saints together unto me those that have made a Covenant with me by Sacrifice Thus the death of Christ did ratifie and confirm the Gospel Covenant between God and men and therefore the blood is called the blood of the Covenant and to feast on the memorials of his death and passion is a signification that we are in Covenant with God and God with us that we still own our Covenant and are resolved still to do so it is to put God in mind of his Covenant with us and us of our Covenant with him and if we have been guilty of any breach of Covenant with God by venturing upon the commission of any sin when we have with tears bewailed our sin and renewed our repentance here we must renew our Covenant and by approaching the Table of our Lord declare that though we are sinners yet we are not Apostates that we still own our Covenant and by the Grace of God which we now implore and hope to receive resolve to continue stedfast in it while we live And is not this an inestimable priviledge to be in Covenant with God and to have this Covenant as it were signed and sealed to us as often as we please by a foederal Rite of God's own appointment especially is it not a mighty favour for such frail sinners who are so exposed to temptations and so often conquered by them to have liberty granted upon their sincere repentance to return to Gods Table and to renew their Covenant and to be received again into Covenant by God Is it not a mighty affront to God when he invites us to his Table as those who are in Covenant with him to live in so great a neglect of it Is it not a kind of renouncing our Covenant when we refuse to own it by such publick solemnities as he himself has appointed for that purpose 2. These Religious Feasts signifie a state of Peace and Friendship with God and therefore those Sacrifices of which the Sacrificers were allowed to eat are called Peace-offerings in the Law of Moses Under the Law it was not permitted to them to eat of the Sin-offering that Sacrifice which was offered for the expiation of sin but when they had offered a Sacrifice for sin they might then offer a Peace-offering and feast before the Lord on the Sacrifice as a token of peace and reconciliation with God And thus it is under the Gospel Christ offered himself once for all a Sacrifice or Offering for sin and has obtained eternal redemption for us and therefore there is no more expiatory Sacrifice to be offered for sins but when through the frailty of humane nature and the powerful temptations of flesh and sense of the World and the Devil we have defiled and polluted our consciences with sin and guilt instead of those particular Sacrifices for sin which the Iews were directed to offer we must offer up the Sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart to God that is we must truly repent of our sins and turn from them and arm our selves with powerful resolutions against them for the future and then we may approach the Table of God and receive the pledges of his love and the fresh assurances of our pardon and acceptance through our Lord Jesus Christ. We do not use to receive and entertain any at our Tables but those who are our Friends or at least are not our enemies others are intruders and if they be not turned out again yet must make themselves welcome and indeed a Covenant made by Sacrifice alwayes signifies a Covenant of Peace and such to be sure the Gospel Covenant is of which the Lords Supper is the Seal and Sacrament a Covenant of peace and reconciliation between God and men None ought to come to this Table but the Friends of God as all holy men and all true humble penitents are and such men shall be sure to receive a joyful welcome and all the peculiar marks of Gods favour for such this holy Supper it self is to all worthy receivers 2. In the Supper of our Lord we do not only eat at his Table but we feed on his body not as if in a carnal sense we eat his natural flesh and drink his blood as the Church of Rome teaches contrary to the common sense and experience of mankind and without any colourable pretence from Scripture or Primitive Antiquity but we eat his flesh and drink his blood in such a spiritual manner as they are exhibited to us in the Sacrament of his own Institution As to explain this in as few words as may be The Lords Supper I told you before in General did answer to a Feast upon a Sacrifice in the Jewish Law And now I add that it is a Feast upon the Sacrifice of Christ who dyed upon the Cross and bore our sins in his own body upon the Tree and therefore it is called eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ. For under the Law the Iews did in a literal sense eat the flesh of the Sacrifice for part of it was burnt upon the Altar and part they eat and this eating of the Sacrifice did give them a right and interest in the vertue of the Sacrifice and all the blessings purchased by it Now though Christ dyed upon the Cross for us yet he could not in a literal sense give us his natural flesh to eat for he was to rise again from the dead with a glorious and incorruptible body and ascend up in the same body to Heaven and there to continue united to this humane but glorified body till he return again to judge the World This Sacrament of his body and blood was to be celebrated in all parts of the World where a Christian Church should be planted and though he himself who is over all God blessed for ever more is present also in all places and especially in all the Assemblies of his Disciples who meet to worship him yet his body though glorious and perfect as a body can be yet is but matter still and therefore confined to one place and cannot at the same time be at Rome and Constantinople nor in ten thousand places at once more remote than they and this Sacrament is to be celebrated his flesh eat and his blood drank as long as the Church and the World lasts and it is contrary to the nature of a body to be so often eat and yet continue the same body and at best were the thing possible it would be no better than an inhumane and barbarous Rite to eat the flesh of a man and of our Friend And therefore since by the Institution of God a Sacrifice for a Peace offering was to be