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not prepared to say, that it is not more wicked to commune unworthily, than not to commune at all; I am prepared to say that either is sin: And that either, unless repented of, and forgiven through the blood of the Lord Jesus, must draw down the eternal wrath of God upon the offender.
But is it possible, that the sin of eating and drinking unworthily at the Lord's table can be forgiven? Does not the Apostle preclude all hope of pardon, when he says that such eat and drink damnation to themselves? Here is the very heart of the difficulty in regard to this passage. The superstition and the fears of many lead them to consider the sin of unworthy communing, as absolutely unpardonable; or, at least, they wish to excuse themselves, by making us believe that they so understand it. It is indeed to be regretted that our translation assumes a harshness, which the original does not require, and which Dr. Doddridge* considers the most unhappy mistake in all our version of the Bible. Yet, a little attention to the language, and reasoning of the Apostle, will enable us to understand his meaning. The original word Kpa signifies judgment, and is frequently so rendered. The Dutch translation expresses this idea, and is in this instance, as well as many others, to be preferred to the English. Again; it is an established rule in Biblical criticism, that the text is to be explained by the context. An examination of what follows the terrific expression "damnation,"
will teach us that, according to the Apostle's view, the damnation, incurred by a profanation of this ordinance, may consist in temporal afflictions-weakness, sickness, &c. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep."* This was the damnation or judgment sent on the Corinthians, for their disorderly and profane conduct in relation to the supper. Still further; the Apostle gives us to understand that the damnation, incurred by the profanation of this ordinance, may be inflicted on such as are in a state of grace, and consequently out of the reach of everlasting misery. "But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world."+ The damnation or judgment sent on the believing Corinthians consisted in fatherly chastisements, designed to prevent their eternal condemnation. The idea of the Apostle, we conceive then to be this: God will visit the sin of an unworthy and profane approach to the Redeemer's table with fatherly chastisements, temporal afflictions, or eternal punishments, as the nature of the case, and the character of the offenders, shall render proper and necessary.
That he cannot mean more is evident from the fact, conceded in the subsequent verses, and already noticed, that some of the Corinthian believers were guilty of the sin, for which he reproves them, and against which he cautions them. And, indeed, it is no doubt the case in our day, that true believers
* 1 Cor. xi. 30.
† V. 32.
sometimes commune unworthily. Their union to Christ gives them an habitual preparation for the supper; but in a time of declension they may nevertheless, for the want of actual preparation, come to the table of the Lord in an improper and unworthy manner. But a believer cannot cominit an unpardonable sin. The commission of such a sin is inconsistent with God's unchangeable love to his people, and the doctrine of the final perseverance of the
To conclude our remarks on this expression of the Apostle. The sin of communing unworthily deserves the eternal curse of God; but it is not a sin absolutely unpardonable. It may be repented of; and when repented of, it shall be forgiven ! And what more favourable statement can you make of the sin of not cominuning? Does not that deserve eternal punishment?-or will that be forgiven without repentance ?-Certainly the wide difference which some make between these sins is altogether unwarranted, and unscriptural.
Under the construction which I have put upon the term damnation, as here used by the Apostleand of the correctness of that construction I presume you will be satisfied-damnation lies on either side! If you commune unworthily, you incur damnation. If you neglect to commune, you incur damnation, too Which will you choose? O! let me again* exhort you not to choose either side of
* See letter xiv.
this chilling alternative! Behold! I show unto you a more excellent way! Flee to the Lord Jesus Christ!-embrace him as your only hope, as your only Saviour! Repent sincerely of all your sins, and devote yourselves heartily and entirely to the service of the God who made you, who sent his Son to save the lost; and who will shortly be the Judge of quick and dead. "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near : Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon!"*
And now, beloved people, I am prepared, so far as these letters are concerned, to give you my parting blessing. May the God of mercy give audience to my prayers, and bless my intentions, and my labours, to your religious improvement and your everlasting welfare! With a degree of anxiety and labour far beyond what was anticipated when I took up my pen, have brought these letters to a close. Frequently, in the course of these discussions, has my pen been dropped through discouragement and fatigue; and once, as you know, my pen has been laid aside to witness, in the death of a very promising and favourite child, the prostration of one of my fairest earthly hopes! That wounding providence, under which my heart still bleeds, and the recollection of which moistens this page with a tear, has, I
* Isa. Įv. 6, 7.
trust, had the effect to make me feel more sensibly than ever the importance of the relation between parents and children; and caused me to admire, with livelier gratitude, the exceeding riches of that grace of our God, which gives to our children a name and a place in his covenant; and, in infinite condescension, promises "I will be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee!"That wounding providence, I can also assure you, has filled me with the tenderest solicitude for your own and your children's welfare and O! that God may give me, in answer to my prayers, the satisfaction to see, that this labour and that affliction have not been in vain.! May covenant blessings rest upon you and your offspring! And may we all at last meet each other -our respective children-and our common Judge
"Now unto Him, that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless, before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy: To the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."*
* Jude, vs. 24, 25.