HOMILY ON THE WORTHY RECEIVING OF THE SACRAMENT
AN HOMILIE OF THE
worthy receiuing and reuerend esteeming of
the Sacrament of the body and blood
THE great loue of our Sauiour Christ towards mankinde (good Christian people) doth not onely appeare in that deare bought benefit of our redemption and saluation by his death and passion, but also in that he so kindely prouided, that the same most mercifull worke might be had in continuall remembrance, to take some place in vs, and not bee frustrate of his end and purpose. For as tender parents are not content to procure for their children costly possessions and liuelyhood, but take order that the same may be conserued and come to their vse: So our Lord and Sauiour thought it not sufficient to purchase for vs his Fathers fauour againe (which is that deepe fountaine of all goodnesse and eternall life) but also inuented the wayes most wisely, whereby they might redound to our commodity and profit. Amongst the which means, is the publike celebration of the memory of his pretious death at the Lords table. Which although it seeme of small vertue to some, yet being rightly done by the faythfull, it doeth not onely helpe their weakenesse (who be by their poysoned nature readier to remember iniuries then benefits) but strengtheneth & comforteth their inward man with peace and gladnesse, and maketh them thankefull to their redeemer, with diligent care and godly conuersation. And as of olde time GOD decreed his wonderous benefits of the deliuerance of his people, to be kept in memory by the eating of the Passeouer, with his Rites and Ceremonies (Exodus 12.14): So our louing Sauiour hath ordeyned and established the remembrance of his great mercy expressed in his passion, in the institution of his heauenly Supper (Matthew 26.26-28), where euery one of vs must be ghestes, and not gazers, eaters, and not lookers, feeding our selues, and not hiring other to feed for vs, that we may liue by our owne meat, and not to perish for hunger, whiles other deuour all (1 Corinthians 11.21). To this, his commandement forceth vs, saying, Do ye this, drinke yee all of this (Luke 22.17). To this, his promise entiseth, This is my body which is giuen for you (1 Corinthians 11.24-25), this is my blood which is shed for you (Matthew 26.28). So then of necessity we must be our selues partakers of this table, and not beholders of other: So wee must addresse our selues to frequent the same in reuerent and comely maner, lest as Physicke prouided for the body, being misused, more hurteth then profiteth: so this comfortable medicine of the soule vndecently receiued, tendeth to our greater harme and sorrow. And Saint Paul sayth: He that eateth and drinketh vnworthily, eateth and drinketh his owne damnation (1 Corinthians 11.29). Wherefore, that it be not sayd to vs, as it was to the ghest of that great Supper, "Friend, how camest thou in, not hauing the mariage garment? (Matthew 22.12)" And that wee may fruitfully vse Saint Pauls counsell, "Let a man prooue himselfe, and so eate of that bread, and drinke of that cuppe: (1 Corinthians 11.28)" We must certainely know, that three things bee requisite in him which would seemely, as becommeth such high mysteries, resort to the Lordes table. That is: First, a right and worthy estimation and vnderstanding of this mysterie. Secondly, to come in a sure faith. And thirdly, to haue newnesse or purenesse of life to succeede the receiuing of the same.
But before all other things, this we must bee sure of especially, that this Supper be in such wise done and ministred, as our Lord and Sauiour did, and commanded to bee done, as his holy Apostles vsed it, and the good Fathers in the Primitiue Church frequented it. For (as that worthy man Saint Ambrose sayth) he is vnworthy of the Lord, that otherwise doeth celebrate that mystery, then it was deliuered by him. Neither can he be deuout, that otherwise doth presume then it was giuen by the authour. We must then take heed, lest of the memory, it be made a sacrifice, lest of a communion, it be made a priuate eating, lest of two partes, we haue but one, lest applying it for the dead, we lose the fruit that be aliue. Let vs rather in these matters follow the aduice of Cyprian in the like cases, that is, cleaue fast to the first beginning, hold fast the Lords tradition, doe that in the Lords commemoration which he himselfe did, he himselfe commanded, and his Apostles confirmed. This caution or foresight if we vse, then may we see those things that be requisite in the worthy receiuer, whereof this was the first, that we haue a right vnderstanding of the thing it selfe. As concerning which thing, this we may assuredly perswade our selues, that the ignorant man can neither worthily esteeme, nor effectually vse those marueylous graces and benefits offered and exhibited in that Supper: but either will lightly regard them, to no small offence, or vtterly condemne them, to his vtter destruction. So that by his negligence he deserueth the plagues of GOD to fall vpon him, and by contempt hee deserueth euerlasting perdition. To auoyde then these harmes, vse the aduice of the Wise man, who willeth thee when thou sittest at an earthly Kings Table, to take diligent heede what things are set before thee (Proverbs 23.1). So now much more at the King of Kings Table, thou must carefully search and know what daynties are prouided for thy soule, whither thou art come, not to feede thy senses and belly to corruption, but thy inward man to immortalitie and life, nor to consider the earthly creatures which thou seest, but the heauenly graces which thy faith beholdeth. For this Table is not (sayth Chrysostome) for chattering Iayes, but for Eagles, who flee thither where the dead bodie lyeth. And if this aduertisement of man cannot perswade vs to resort to the Lords Table with vnderstanding: see the counsell of GOD in the like matter, who charged his people to teach their posteritie, not only the rites and Ceremonies of the Passeouer, but the cause and end thereof: Whence we may learne, that both more perfect knowledge is required at this time at our hands, and that the ignorant cannot with fruit and profit exercise himselfe in the Lords Sacraments.
But to come nigher to the matter: Saint Paul blaming the Corinthians for the prophaning of the Lords Supper, concludeth that ignorance both of the thing it selfe, and the signification thereof, was the cause of their abuse: for they came thither vnreuerently, not discerning the Lords Body. Ought not we then by the monition of the wise man, by the wisedome of GOD, by the fearefull example of the Corinthians, to take aduised heed, that we thrust not our selues to this Table, with rude and vnreuerent ignorance, the smart whereof Christs Church hath rued and lamented these many dayes & yeres? For what hath bin the cause of the ruine of GODS religion, but the ignorance hereof? What hath bin the cause of this grosse Idolatrie, but the ignorance hereof? What hath beene the cause of this mummish Massing, but the ignorance hereof? Yea, what hath beene, and what is at this day the cause of this want of loue and charitie, but the ignorance hereof? Let vs therefore so trauaile to vnderstand the Lords Supper, that we be no cause of the decay of GODS worship, of no Idolatry, of no dumbe Massing, of no hate and malice: so may we the boldlier haue accesse thither to our comfort. Neither need wee to thinke that such exact knowledge is required of euery man, that hee be able to discusse all high points in the doctrine thereof: But thus much we must be sure to hold, that in the Supper of the Lord, there is no vaine Ceremonie, no bare signe, no vntrue figure of a thing absent (Matthew 26.26): But (as the Scripture saith) the Table of the Lord, the Bread and Cup of the Lord, the memorie of Christ, the Annuntiation of his death, yea the Communion of the Body and Blood of the Lord, in a marueilous incorporation, which by the operation of the holy Ghost (the very bond of our coniunction with Christ) is through faith wrought in the soules of the faithfull, whereby not onely their soules liue to eternall life, but they surely trust to win their bodies a resurrection to immortalitie (1 Corinthians 10.16-17). The true vnderstanding of this fruition and vnion, which is betwixt the body & the head betwixt the true beleeuers and Christ, the ancient Catholike Fathers, both perceiuing themselues, and commending to their people, were not afraid to call this Supper, some of them, the salue of immortalitie and soueraigne preseruatiue against death: other, a deificall Communion: other, the sweet dainties of our Sauiour, the pledge of eternall health, the defence of Faith, the hope of the Resurrection: other, the food of immortalitie, the healthfull grace, and the conseruatorie to euerlasting life (Irenaeus, Bk. 4, Chap. 34; Ignatius, Epis. ad Ephes.; Dionysius?; Origen, Optat. Cyp. de Cana Domini; Athanasius, De Pec. in Spir. Sanct.). All which sayings both of the holy Scripture and godly men, truely attributed to this celestiall banket and feast, if we would often call to minde, O how would they inflame our hearts to desire the participation of these mysteries, and oftentimes to couet after this bread, continually to thirste for this food? Not as specially regarding the terrene and earthly creatures which remaine: but alwayes holding fast, and cleauing by Faith to the rocke whence wee may sucke the sweetnesse of euerlasting saluation? And to be briefe, thus much more the faithfull see, heare, and know the fauourable mercies of GOD sealed, the satisfaction by Christ towards vs confirmed, and the remission of sinne established. Here they may feele wrought the tranquilitie of conscience, the increase of Faith, the strengthening of hope, the large spreading abroad of brotherly kindnesse, with many other sundry graces of GOD. The taste whereof they cannot attaine vnto, who be drowned in the deepe durtie lake of blindnesse and ignorance. From the which (O beloued) wash your selues with the liuing waters of GODS word, whence you may perceiue and know, both the spirituall food of this costly Supper, and the happy trustings and effects that the same doth bring with it.
Now it followeth to haue with this knowledge a sure and constant faith, not onely that the death of Christ is auaileable for the redemption of all the world, for the remission of sins, and reconciliation with GOD the Father: but also that he hath made vpon his Crosse a full and sufficient sacrifice the thee, a perfect cleansing of thy sins, so that thou acknowledgest no other Sauiour, Redeemer, Mediatour, Aduocate, Intercessour, but Christ onely, and that thou mayest say with the Apostle, that he loued thee, and gaue himselfe for thee. For this is to sticke fast to Christs promise made in his Institution, to make Christ thine owne, and to apply his merits vnto thy selfe. Herein thou needest no other mans helpe, no other Sacrifice, or oblation, no sacrificing Priest, no Masse, no meanes established by mans inuention. That Faith is a necessary instrument in all these holy Ceremonies, wee may thus assure our selues, for that as Saint Paul saith, without Faith it is vnpossible to please GOD (Hebrews 11.6). When a great number of the Israelites were ouerthrowne in the wildernesse, Moses, Aaron and Phinees did eat Manna, and pleased GOD, for that they vnderstood (saith Saint Augustine) the visible meat Spiritually (Augustine, In Johan. Hom. 6). Spiritually they hungred it, spiritually they tasted it, that they might be spiritually satisfied. And truely as the bodily meat cannot feede the outward man, vnlesse it be let into a stomacke to bee digested, which is healthsome and sound: No more can the inward man be fed, except his meate bee receiued into his soule and heart, sound and whole in Faith. Therefore (saith Cyprian) when we doe these things, we need not to whet our teeth: but with syncere faith we breake and diuide that whole bread (Cyprian, De cana Domini). It is well knowne that the meat we seeke for in this Supper, is Spirituall food, the nourishment of our soule, a heauenly refection, and not earthly, an inuisible meat, and not bodily, a ghostly substance, and not carnall, so that to thinke that without Faith wee may enioy the eating and drinking thereof, or that that is the fruition of it, is but to dreame a grosse carnall feeding, basely obiecting and binding our selues to the elements and creatures. Whereas by the aduice of the Councell of Nicene, we ought to lift vp our mindes by fayth, and leauing these inferiour and earthly things, there seeke it, where the sunne of righteousnesse euer shineth (Council of Nicene, Concilium). Take then this lesson (O thou that art desirous of this Table) of Emissenus a godly Father, that when thou goest vp to the reuerend Communion, to be satisfied with spirituall meates, thou looke vp with fayth vpon the holy body and blood of thy GOD, thou maruayle with reuerence, thou touch it with the minde, thou receiue it with the hand of thy heart, and thou take it fully with thy inward man (Eusebius Emissenus, Serm. de Euchar.).
Thus we see (beloued) that resorting to this table, we must plucke vp all the rootes of infidelity, all distrust in GODS promises, that we make our selues liuing members of Christs body. For the vnbeleeuers and faithlesse, cannot feed vpon that precious body: whereas the faythfull haue their life, their abiding in him, their vnion, and as it were their incorporation with him. Wherefore let vs prooue and trie our selues vnfaynedly, without flattering our selues, whether we bee plants of the fruitfull Oliue, liuing branches of the true vine, members indeed of Christs mysticall body, whether GOD hath purified our hearts by fayth, to the sincere acknowledging of his Gospel, and imbracing of his mercies in Christ Iesus, so that at this his table we receiue not only the outward Sacrament, but the spirituall thing also: not the figure, but the trueth: not the shadow only, but the body: not to death, but to life: not to destruction, but to saluation: which GOD grant vs to doe through the merits of our Lord and Sauiour, to whom bee all honour and glory for euer, Amen.
The second part of the Homilie, of the worthie receiuing and reuerend esteeming of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.
IN the Homilie of late rehearsed vnto you, yee haue heard (good people) why it pleased our Sauiour Christ to institute that heauenly memorie of his death and passion, and that euery one of vs ought to celebrate the same at his Table, in our owne persons, and not by other. You haue heard also with what estimation and knowledge of so high mysteries, wee ought to resort thither. You haue heard with what constant faith wee should clothe and decke our selues, that wee might be fit and decent partakers of that celestiall foode.
Now followeth the third thing necessarie in him that would not eate of this bread, nor drinke of this cup vnworthily, which is, newnesse of life, and godlinesse of conuersation. For newnesse of life, as fruits of faith are required in the partakers of this Table. We may learne by eating of the typicall lambe, whereunto no man was admitted, but hee that was a Iewe, that was circumcised, that was before sanctified. Yea Saint Paul testifieth, that although the people were partakers of the Sacramentes vnder Moses, yet for that some of them were still worshippers of images, whoremongers, tempters of Christ, murmurers, and coueting after euill things: GOD ouerthrew those in the wildernesse, and that for our example, that is, that wee Christians should take heede wee resort vnto our Sacramentes with holinesse of life, not trusting in the outward receiuing of them, and infected with corrupt and vncharitable maners (1 Corinthians 10.1-11). For this sentence of GOD must alwayes be iustified: I will haue mercie and not sacrifice. Wherefore (saith Basil) it behoueth him that commeth to the body and blood of Christ, in commemoration of him that died and rose againe, not onely to bee pure from all filthinesse of the flesh and spirit, lest hee eate and drinke his owne condemnation: but also to shew out euidently, a memorie of him that died and rose againe for vs, in this point, that yee be mortified to sinne and the world, to liue now to GOD in Christ Iesu our Lord (Basil, De Bapt., Bk. 1, chap. 3). So then we must shew outward testimony, in following the signification of Christes death, amongst the which this is not esteemed least, to render thanks to Almighty GOD for all his benefites, briefly comprised in the death, passion, and resurrection of his dearely beloued Sonne. The which thing, because we ought chiefly at this table to solemnise, the godly fathers named it Eucharistia, that is, thankesgiuing. As if they should haue said, Now aboue all other times ye ought to land and praise GOD. Now may you behold the mater, the cause, the beginning and the end of all thankesgiuing. Now if you slacke, ye shewe your selues most vnthankefull, and that no other benefite can euer stirre you to thanke GOD, who so little regard here so many, so wonderfull, and so profitable benefites. Seeing then that the name and thing it selfe doth monish vs of thankes, let vs (as S. Paul saith) offer alwayes to GOD, the host or sacrifice of praise by Christ, that is, the fruite of the lippes which confesse his Name (Hebrews 13.15). For as Dauid singeth: Hee that offereth to GOD thankes and prayse, honoureth him (Psalms 50.23). But how few be there of thankefull persons, in comparison to the vnthankefull? Loe ten Lepers in the Gospel were healed, and but one onely returned to giue thanks for his health (Luke 17.17). Yea happy it were, if among fourtie communicants, we could see two vnfainedly giue thankes. So vnkinde wee bee, so obliuious wee be, so proud beggers wee be, that partly wee care not for our owne commoditie, partly wee knowe not our duety to GOD, and chiefly we will not confesse all that wee receiue. Yea, and if wee be forced by GODS power to doe it: yet wee handle it so coldly, so dryly, that our lippes praise him, but our hearts dispraise him, our tongues blesse him, but our life curseth him, our wordes worship him, but our workes dishonour him. O let vs therefore learne to giue GOD here thankes aright, and so to agnise his exceeding graces powred vpon vs, that they being shut vp in the treasure house of our heart, may in due time and season in our life and conuersation, appeare to the glorifying of his holy Name.
Furthermore, for newnesse of lift, it is to bee noted that Saint Paul writeth: that we being many, are one bread and one body: For all bee partakers of one bread. Declaring thereby, not onely our Communion with Christ, but that vnity also, wherein they that eate at this table, should bee knitte together. For by dissension, vaine glorie, ambition, strife, enuying, contempt, hatred, or malice, they should not bee disseuered: but so ioyned by the bond of loue, in one mysticall bodie, as the cornes of that bread in one loafe. In respect of which straite knotte of charitie, the true Christians in the Primitiue Church, called this supper, loue. As if they should say, none ought to sitte downe there, that were out of loue and charitie, who bare grudge and vengeance in his heart, who also did not professe his kinde affection by some charitable reliefe, for some parte of the congregation. And this was their practise. O heauenly banket then so vsed. O godly ghestes, who so esteemed this feast.
But O wretched creatures that wee bee at these dayes, who bee without reconciliation of our brethren whom we haue offended, without satisfying them whom wee haue caused to fall, without any kinde of thought or compassion toward them whom we might easily relieue, without any conscience of slander, disdaine, misreport, diuision, rancor, or inward bitternesse. Yea, being accombred with the cloked hatred of Cain (Genesis 4.8), with the long coloured malice of Esau (Genesis 27.41), with the dissembled falshood of Ioab (2 Samuel 3.27), dare ye presume to come vp to these sacred and fearefull mysteries? O man, whither rushest thou vnaduisedly? It is a table of peace, and thou art ready to fight. It is a table of singlenesse, and thou art imagining mischiefe. It is a table of quietnesse, and thou art giuen to debate. It is a table of pitie, and thou art vnmercifull. Doest thou neither feare GOD the maker of this feast, nor reuerence his Christ the refection and meate, nor regardest his spouse his welbeloued ghest, nor weighest thine owne conscience, which is sometime thine inward accuser? Wherefore (O man) tender thine owne saluation, examine and try thy good will and loue towards the children of GOD, the members of Christ, the heires of the heauenly heritage: yea, towards the image of GOD, the excellent creature thine owne soule. If thou haue offended, now be reconciled. If thou haue caused any to stumble in the way of GOD, now set them vp againe. If thou haue disquieted thy brother, now pacifie him. If thou haue wronged him, now relieue him. If thou haue defrauded him, now restore to him. If thou haue nourished spite, now imbrace friendship. If thou haue fostered hatred and malice, now openly shew thy loue and charitie, yea be prest and ready to procure thy neighbours health of soule, wealth, commoditie, and pleasures, as thine owne. Deserue not the heauie and dreadfull burden of GODS displeasure for thine euill will towards thy neighbour, so vnreuerently to approch to this table of the Lord. Last of all, as there is here the mysterie of peace, and the Sacrament of Christian societie, whereby wee vnderstand what sincere loue ought to be betwixt the true communicants (Chrysostome, Ad Popu. Ant. Homil. 6): So heere be the tokens of purnesse and innocencie of life, whereby we may perceiue that we ought to purge our owne soule from all vncleannesse, iniquitie, and wickednesse, lest when we receiue the mysticall bread (as Origen saith) we eate it in an vncleane place, that is, in a soule defiled and polluted with sinne (Origen, In Levit. Cap.). In Moses law, the man that did eate of the sacrifice of thankesgiuing, with his vncleannesse vpon him, should bee destroyed from his people. And shall we thinke that the wicked and sinfull person shall bee excusable at the table of the Lord? We both reade in Saint Paul, that the Church of Corinth was scourged of the Lord, for misusing the Lords Supper (1 Corinthians 11.29), and wee may plainely see Christs Church these many yeeres miserably vexed and oppressed, for the horrible prophanation of the same (Luke 17.1, Chrysostome? Homil. 14). Wherefore let vs all vniuersall and singular, behold our owne maners and liues, to amend them. Yea now at the least, let vs call our selues to an accompt, that it may grieue vs of our former euill conuersation, that wee may hate sinne, that wee may sorrow and mourne for our offences, that we may with teares powre them out before GOD, that we may with sure trust desire and craue the salue of his mercy, bought and purchased with the blood of his dearely beloued Sonne Iesus Christ, to heale our deadly wounds withall. For surely, if wee doe not with earnest repentance cleanse the filthie stomacke of our soule, it must needes come to passe, that as wholesome meate receiued into a raw stomacke corrupteth and marreth all, and is the cause of further sickenesse: so shall we eat this wholesome bread, and drinke this cup to our eternall destruction. Thus we and not other, must thorowly examine, and not lightly looke ouer our selues, not other men, our owne conscience, not other mens liues, which wee ought to doe vprightly, truely, and with iust correction. O (saith Chrysostome) let no Iudas resort to this Table, let no couetous person approach (Chrysostome, ad popul. Ant. Homil. 6). If any be a Disciple, let him be present. For Christ saith, With my Disciples I make my Passeouer (Matthew 26.18). Why cryed the Deacon in the Primitiue Church, If any bee holy, let him draw neere? Why did they celebrate these mysteries, the quier doore being shut? Why were the publique penitents and learners in Religion commanded at this time to auoid? was it not because this Table receiued no vnholy, vncleane, or sinfull ghests? Wherefore, if seruants dare not to presume to an earthly masters table, whom they haue offended: Let vs take heed we come not with our sinnes vnexamined, into this presence of our Lord and Iudge. If they bee worthy blame which kisse the Princes hand with a filthy & vncleane mouth: shalt thou be blamelesse which with a stinking soule, full of couetousnesse, fornication, drunkennes, pride, ful of wretched cogitations and thoughts, doest breathe out iniquity and vncleannesse on the Bread and Cup of the Lord?
Thus haue you heard, how you should come reuerently and decently to the Table of the Lord, hauing the knowledge of his word, of the thing it selfe, and the fruits thereof, bringing a true and constant Faith, the roote and welspring of all newnesse of life, aswell in praising GOD, and louing our neighbour, as purging our owne conscience from filthinesse. So that neither the ignorance of the thing shall cause vs to contemne it, nor vnfaithfulnesse make vs voide of fruit, nor sinne and iniquitie procure vs GODS plagues: but shall by Faith, in knowledge and amendment of life in Faith be here so vnited to Christ our Head in his mysteries, to our comfort, that after wee shall haue full fruition of him indeede, to our euerlasting ioy and eternall life, to the which he bring vs, that dyed for vs and Redeemed vs, Iesus Christ the righteous, to whom with the Father, and the holy Ghost, one true and eternall GOD, be all praise, honour and dominion for euer, Amen.
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