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Be assured of this fact: The indulgence of angry, revengeful feelings, can never form a justifying excuse for absenting ourselves from the table of the Lord. The very plea set up in such a case, proves that we are wrong; and that, while we persist, we must be guilty. Suppose, (says Dr. Proudfit,)* that one child in a family should give offence to another child, would this justify the latter in trampling Or if on the command of their common father? one soldier in a corps behaves disorderly, would this disorder justify another in departing from the ranks, and deserting the service of his captain? I know it is often objected, that if our brother have aught against us, we are commanded to leave our gift at the altar, and go and be reconciled to our brother. But suppose that he refuses to be reconciled,-suppose that his bosom burns with rage against us, still it becomes us to forgive, and to aim, with humility, at performing our duty,"
This gives a correct view of the subject; and leaves the professor who absents himself, because he has been offended, as he alledges, without excuse. It is very evident, while he makes no effort to have the offence removed, and is unwilling to exercise forgiveness, that there is something radically wrong in himself, and that he is not sorry to have an excuse for neglecting his duty. A member, who is so easily offended-who is so difficult to be pacified and who suffers every trifling offence to detain him from the sanctuary, and the table of the Re* Theol. Works, vol. iii. p. 62.
teemer-gives painful evidence, that he cares but little about being there. The value we put upon privileges may be fairly estimated, by the exertions we make to secure them. And the man who has always an excuse-who has this and the other difficulty, who has not been used well, by this and the other member,—and who suffers disputes to be unsettled for months and years,-shows that he wants a heart to wait upon God in the ordinances of his house. O! did he love the Saviour-did he love his dying command-did he love the supper?-he could not be thus delinquent: He would renounce these animosities; he would rush through these difficulties; he would meet his Saviour at his boardand there drink in the spirit of meekness, of forbearance, and of forgiveness..
"Surely, (says the author last quoted,)* the affectionate, dutiful child, would regret that any thing should occur to prevent it from complying with the request of a beloved, revered father; or the generous soldier would feel mortified that any accident should render him incapable of appearing at his post and perforining his duty, especially that he should be absent on some great occasion when the honour of his captain peculiarly. required his presence; and is it no grief, no humiliation, to a professed Christian to neglect, from year to year, one of the most sublime and interesting ordinances of New Testament worship-the last injunction of *Proudfit's works, vol. iii. pp. 61, 62,
"Him who was slain, and redeemed us unto God by his blood?"
4. The last excuse we shall notice for staying back from the table of the Lord, relates to ecclesiastical proceedings. The officers of the church have passed and executed some resolutions which are offensive to the complainant-and therefore he will not commune. They have made some alteration or fixtures to the place of worship; or they have erected their church on a site different from that which, he thought, most eligible; or they have exercised discipline upon a relative; or they have admitted some one as a member, of whom they do not entertain a favourable opinion; or- but I will not enlarge. I will only remark, that church officers are accountable for their conduct to higher judicatories, and bound to govern the church according to their own views of duty, and not according to the whims of every individual belonging to the congregation.
Nothing is more easy than to say, the consistory have done wrong-the minister has done wrongand I will not attend church; I will not commune. But how can the acts of consistory release you from your duty to your God? He has commanded you to appear statedly in his sanctuary; and when the table is spread, the notice is given to every member, "The Master is come, and calleth for thee:" And let those who refuse to obey the call prepare to answer for it to their Judge!
In the meantime, the officers of the church have a duty to perform: They are bound to notice delin
quents, and to ascertain the cause of their delinquency, especially when their delinquency has been of some standing. Witsius says, "that, in the early ages of the Christian Church, when the sacrament was administered every Lord's day, it was decreed by several synods, that whoever did not communicate every third Lord's day, at least, should be cut off." And I have no hesitation to assert, that every one who now absents himself, three times in succession, ought to be called to an account. The officers of the church ought to know the reasons of such absence. Sickness may occasionally prevent attendance: Some unexpected difficulty may occur just at the eve of a communion Sabbath, when there is no time nor opportunity to have it adjusted, or to bring the feelings into a proper state. But there will be time for all this before the next communion. If it be neglected, and the person is absent again on the next communion, and again on the third, it manifestly becomes a case that ought to be noticed. The officers of the church are bound to investigate it; and if expostulation, admonition, and reproof are disregarded, they must proceed to the exercise of severer discipline; and, in the name of the Lord, eut off from the fellowship of the church the incorrigible delinquent.
So it was in the Jewish church-so it was in the primitive Christian church; and so it ought to be in the churches of the Reformation.
* Vol. iii. p. 438.
Serious address to non-communicants—Their excuses answered-their guilt stated—and their duty pointed out-Conclusion.
IN my last paper, I noticed the excuses of professors for not attending statedly and perseveringly on the sacrament of the supper. I now propose to make one more effort,* to convince such of you as are not professors, of your exceeding sinfulness in not confessing Christ before the world, and honouring him, by obedience to his dying-command.
The sacrament of the supper is certainly a most^ important institution; and attendance on it is at once the sacred duty and exalted privilege of all who love the Lord Jesus, and hope in his mercy! Most of you who are parents, if not all, profess to put a high value on the sacrament of baptism; and you suffer nothing to prevent you from soliciting the privilege of offering up your children. But let me solemnly entreat you to consider, whether it is more necessary to have your children baptized, than it is to have your own souls fed at the Redeemer's table? Is baptism of higher consequence to the salvation of your children, than the Lord's supper is to your
* See letter xiv.