by John Flavel
CHRIST may be said to be crucified three ways; by the Jews actually, in the sacrament declaratively, and by unbelievers at his table interpretatively. Among sins, blood-guiltiness is reckoned one of the most heinous; and of all blood-guiltiness, to be guilty of the blood of Christ, is a sin of the deepest guilt, and will be avenged with the most dreadful punishment, 1 Cor. 10:27, 29. If vengeance be taken seven-fold on him that slew Cain, what vengeance shall be taken on him that crucifies a fresh the Lord of glory?
The heaviest blow of divine justice is still ready to avenge the abuse of the best mercy: what can the heart of man conceive more solemn, more sacred, or more deeply affective, than the representation of the most gracious love of the Father, and the most grievous passion of the Son? What sin can be more provoking to God, than the slight and contempt of those most awful mysteries? And what punishment can be more terrible, than for such a wretched soul to eat and drink damnation to itself? Melancthon records a very dreadful example of God's righteous judgment upon a company of profane wretches, who, in a tragedy, intended to act the death of Christ upon the cross. He that acted the soldier's part, instead of piercing with a spear a bladder full of blood hid under his garment, wounded him to death that was upon the cross, who falling down killed him, who (in a disguise) acted the part of the woman that stood wailing under the cross. His brother, who was first slain slew the murderer, who acted the soldier's part, and for slaying him was hanged by order of justice. Thus did the vengeance of God speedily overtake them, and hanged them up in chains, for a warning, to all that should ever dare to dally with the great and jealous God.
These are terrible strokes, and yet not so terrible as those which are more ordinarily, but less sensibly, inflicted on the inner man for the abuse of this ordinance.
To prevent these judgments, and obtain those blessings which come through this ordinance, great regard must be had to two things, viz. 1. The in-being. 2. The activity of true grace.
First, Examine thyself, reader, whether there be any gracious principle planted in thy soul, whereby thou art alive indeed unto God. It was an ancient abuse of the sacrament (condemned and cast out by the* Carthaginian council) to give it unto dead men. Dead souls can have no communion with the living God, no more benefit from this table than the Emperor's guests had from his table, where loaves of gold were set before them to eat. There is more than a shew of grace in the sacrament: it hath not only the visible sign, but the spiritual grace also, which it represents. See that there be more than a shew and a visible sign of grace also in thy soul, when thou comest nigh to the Lord in that ordinance: see to the exercise and activity, as well as to the truth and sincerity of thy grace.
Even a believer himself doth not eat and drink worthily, unless the grace that is in him be excited and exercised at this ordinance.
It is not faith inhering, but faith, realizing, applying and powerfully working. It is not a disposition to humiliation for sin, but the actual thawing and melting of the heart for sin; 'whilst thou lookest on him whom thou hast pierced, and mournest for him as one that mourneth for his only son, for his first-born:' nor is it a disposition or principle of love to Christ that is only required, but the stirring up of that fire of love, the exciting of it into a vehement flame.
I know the excitations and exercises of grace are attended with great difficulties: they are not things within our command, and at our beck. Oh! it is hard, it is hard indeed, reader, even after God hath taken the heart of stone out of thee, and given thee an heart of flesh, to mourn actually for sin, even when so great an occasion and call is given thee to that work at the Lord's table; for the same power is requisite to excite the act that was required to plant the habit. Gratia gratiam postulat.
However, the duty is thine, though the power be God's; why else are his people blamed, because they stirred not up themselves to take hold of him? Isa. 64:7.
To assist thee in this work, some help is offered in the following meditations: it is true, it is not the reading of the best meditations another can prepare for thee, that will alter the temper of thy heart, except the Spirit of God concur with these truths, and bless them to thy soul: but yet these helps must not be slighted, because they are not self-sufficient. 'Man lives not by bread alone; but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God;' yet it were a fond vanity, and sin, for any man, upon that ground, to cast away bread, and expect to live by a miracle without it. We must lift up our hearts to God for a blessing, and then eat. Do the same here; first pray; then read; and the Lord quicken thee by it for duty.
There are two thing of special concernment to thee, reader, when thou art to address thyself to any solemn duty, especially such as this.
1. Prepare for thy duty diligently.
2. Rely not upon thy preparations.
1. Prepare with all diligence for thy duty. Take pains with thy dull heart; cleanse thy polluted heart; compose thy vain heart; remember how great a presence thou art approaching. If* Augustus thus reproved one, that entertained him without suitable preparation, saying, 'I did not think we had been so familiar;' much more may thy God reprove thee, for thy careless neglect of due preparation for him.
2. But yet take heed, on the other side, that thou rely not upon thy best preparation. It is an ingenious, and true note of Luther,† (speaking to this very point of preparation for the sacrament) 'Never are men more unfit, than when they think themselves most fit, and best prepared for their duty; never more fit, than when most humbled and ashamed, in a sense of their own unfitness.'
That the blessing of God, and the breathings of his good Spirit, may accompany these poor labours to thy soul, is the heart's desire of,
Thy servant in Christ,
Table of Contents
To the Reader
THE FIRST MEDITATION, UPON PSALM 89:7.
THE SECOND MEDITATION, UPON JEREMIAH 12:2 THE THIRD MEDITATION, UPON ROM. 7:21
THE FOURTH MEDITATION, UPON EPH. 1:13
THE FIFTH MEDITATION, UPON JOHN 1:29
THE SIXTH MEDITATION, UPON ROM. 8:32
THE SEVENTH MEDITATION, UPON MARK 9:24
THE EIGHTH MEDITATION, UPON PSALM 40:8 THE NINTH MEDITATION, UPON ZECH. 12. part of ver. 10
THE TENTH MEDITATION, UPON JOHN 6:55
THE ELEVENTH MEDITATION, UPON CANT. 8:6
DISCUSSION CONCERNING THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD's SUPPER
A HYMN UPON ROMANS 5:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11