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Holy Living

by Jeremy Taylor





Of Preparation to, and the Manner how to receive the holy Sacrament of the Lordís Supper.


1. The celebration of the holy sacrament is the great mysteriousness of the Christian religion, and succeeds to the most solemn rite of natural and Judaical religion, the law of sacrificing. For God spared mankind, and took the sacrifice of beasts, together with our solemn prayers, for an instrument of expiation. But these could not purify the soul from sin, but were typical of the sacrifice of something that could. But nothing could do this, but either the offering of all that sinned, that every man should be the anathema or devoted thing: or else by some one of the same capacity, who by some superadded excellency might, in his own personal sufferings have a value great enough to satisfy for all the whole king of sinning persons. This the Son of God, Jesus Christ, God and man undertook, and finished by a sacrifice of himself upon the altar of the cross.

2. This sacrifice, because it was perfect, could be but one, and that once; but because the needs of the world should last as long as the world itself, it was necessary that there should be a perpetual ministry established, whereby this one sufficient sacrifice should be made eternally effectual to the several new-arising needs of all the world, who should desire it, or in any sense be capable of it.

3. To this end Christ was made a priest for ever: he was initiated or consecrated on the cross, and there began his priesthood, which was to last till his coming to judgment. It began on earth, but was to last and be officiated in heaven, where he sits perpetually representing and exhibiting to the Father that great effective sacrifice which he offered on the cross, to eternal and never-failing purposes.

4. As Christ is pleased to represent to his Father that great sacrifice as a means of atonement and expiation for all mankind, and with special purposes and intendment for all the elect, all that serve him in holiness; so he hath appointed that the same ministry shall be done upon earth too, in our manner, and according to our proportion; and of men who, by Ďshewing forth the Lordís death,í by sacramental representations, may pray unto God after the same manner that our Lord and high-priest does; that is, offer to God and represent in this solemn prayer and sacrament, Christ is already offered; so sending up a gracious instrument, whereby our prayers may, for his sake and in the same manner of intercession, be offered up to God in our behalf, and for all them for whom we pray, to all those purposes for which Christ died.

5. As the ministers of the sacrament do, in a sacramental manner, present to God the sacrifice of the cross, by being imitators of Christís intercession; so the people are sacrificers too in their manner; for besides that, by saying Amen, they join in the act of him that ministers, and make it also to be their own; so, when they eat and drink to consecrated and blessed elements worthily, they receive Christ within them, and therefore may also offer him to God, while, in their sacrifice of obedience and thanksgiving, they present themselves to God with Christ, whom they have spiritually received, that is, themselves with that which will make them gracious and acceptable. The offering their bodies and souls and services to God in him, and by him, and with him, who is his Fatherís well-beloved, and in whom he is well pleased, cannot but be accepted to all the purposes of blessing, grace, and glory.[293]

6. This is the sum of the greatest mystery of our religion; it is the copy of the passion, and the ministration of the great mystery of our redemption; and therefore, whatsoever entitles us to the general privileges of Christís passion, all that is necessary by way of disposition to the celebration of the sacrament of his passion; because this celebration is our manner of applying or using it. The particulars of which preparation are represented in the following rules:

(1.) No man must dare to approach to the holy sacrament of the Lordís supper, if he be in a state of any one sin,[294] that is, unless he have entered into the state of repentance, that is, of sorrow and amendment; lest it be said concerning him, as it was concerning Judas, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table: and he that receiveth Christ into an impure soul or body, first turns his most excellent nourishment into poison, and then feeds upon it.

(2.) Every communicant must first have examined himself; that is, tried the condition and state of his soul, searched out the secret ulcers, inquired out its weaknesses and indiscretions, and all those aptnesses where it is exposed to temptation; that, by finding out its diseases he may find a cure, and by discovering its aptnesses he may secure his present purposes of future amendment, and may be armed against dangers and temptations.

(3.) This examination must be a manís own act and inquisition into his life; but then also it should lead a man on to run to those whom the great Physician of our souls, Christ Jesus, hath appointed to minister physic to our diseases, that in all dangers and great accidents we may be assisted for comfort and remedy, for medicine and caution.

(4.) In this affair let no man deceive himself, and against such a time which public authority hath appointed for us to receive the sacrament, weep for his sins by way of solemnity and ceremony, and still retain the affection: but he that comes to this feast must have on the wedding-garment, that is, he must have put o Jesus Christ, and he must have put off the old man with his affections and lusts; and he must be wholly conformed to Christ in the image of his mind. For then we have put on Christ when our souls are clothed with is righteousness, when every faculty of our soul is proportioned and vested according to the pattern of Christís life. And therefore a man must not leap from his last nightís surfeit and bath, and then communicate; but when he hath begun the work of God effectually, and made some progress in repentance, and hath walked some stages and periods in the ways of godliness, then let him come to him that is to minister it, and having made known the state of his soul, he is to be admitted; but to receive into an unhallowed soul and body is to receive the dust of the tabernacle in the waters of jealousy; it will make the belly to swell, and the thigh to rot; it will not convey Christ to us, but the devil will enter and dwell there, till with it he returns to his dwelling of torment. Remember always, that after a great sin, or after a habit of sins, a man is not soon made clean; and no unclean thing must come to this feast. It is not the preparation of two or three days that can render a person capable of this banquet; for in this feast, all Christ, and Christís passion, and all his graces, the blessings and effects of his sufferings, are conveyed. Nothing can fit us for this but what can unite us to Christ, and obtain of him to present our needs to his heavenly Father: this sacrament can no otherwise be celebrated but upon the same terms on which we may hope for pardon and heaven itself.

(5.) When we have this general and indispensably necessary preparation, we are to make our souls more adorned and trimmed up with circumstances of pious actions and special devotions, setting apart some portion of our time immediately before the day of solemnity, according as our great occasions will permit: and this time is specially to be spent in actions of repentance, confession of our sins, renewing our purposes of holy living, praying for pardon of our failings and for those graces which may prevent the like sadnesses for the time to come, meditation upon the passion, upon the infinite love of God expressed in so great mysterious manners of redemption; and indefinitely in all acts of virtue which may build our souls up into a temple fit for the reception of Christ himself and the inhabitation of the Holy Spirit.

(6.) The celebration of the holy sacrament being the most solemn prayer, joined with the most effectual instrument of its acceptance, must suppose us in the love of God and in charity with all the world; and therefore we must, before every communion especially, remember what differences or jealousies are between us and any one else, and recompose all disunions, and cause right understandings between each other; offering to satisfy whom we have injured, and to forgive them who have injured us, without thoughts of resuming the quarrel when the solemnity is over; for that is but to rake the embers in light and fantastic ashes; it must be quenched, and a holy flame enkindled - no fires must be at all, but the fires of love and zeal; and the altar of incense will send up a sweet perfume, and make atonement for us.

(7.) When the day of the feast is come, lay aside all cares and impertinences of the world, and remember that this is thy soulís day, a day of traffic and intercourse with heaven. Arise early in the morning. 1. Give God thanks for the approach of so great a blessing. 2. Confess thine own unworthiness to admit so divine a guest. 3. Then remember and deplore thy sins, which have made thee so unworthy. 4. Then confess Godís goodness, and take sanctuary there, and upon him place thy hopes; 5. And invite him to thee with renewed acts of love, of holy desire, of hatred of his enemy, sin. 6. Make oblation of thyself wholly to be disposed by him, to the obedience of him, to his providence and possession, and pray him to enter and dwell there for ever. And after this, with joy and holy fear, and the forwardness of love, address thyself to the receiving of him, to whom, and by whom, and for whom, all faith and all hope and all love, in the whole catholic church, both in heaven and earth, is designed; him, whom kings and queens and whole kingdoms are in love with, and count it the greatest honour in the world that their crowns and sceptres are laid at his holy feet.

(8.) When the holy man stands at the table of blessing and ministers the rite of consecration, then do as the angels do, who behold and love and wonder that the Son of God should become food to the souls of his servants; that he, who cannot suffer any change or lessening, should be broken into pieces, and enter into the body to support and nourish the spirit, and yet at the same time remain in heaven, while he descends to thee upon earth; that he who hath essential felicity should become miserable and die for thee, and then give himself to thee for ever to redeem thee from sin and misery; that by his wounds he should procure health to thee, by his affronts he should entitle thee to glory, by his death he should bring thee to life, and by becoming a man he should make thee partaker of the divine nature. These are such glories that, although they are made so obvious that each eye may behold them, yet they are also so deep that no thought can fathom them; but so it hath pleased him to make these mysteries to be sensible, because the excellency and depth of the mercy is not intelligible; that while we are ravished and comprehended within the infiniteness of so vast and mysterious a mercy, yet we may be as sure of it as of that thing we see and feel and smell and taste; but yet it is so great that we cannot understand it.

(9.) These holy mysteries are offered to our senses, but not to be placed under our feet; they are sensible, but not common; and therefore as the weakness of the elements adds wonder to the excellency of the sacrament, so let our reverence and venerable usages of them add homour to the elements, and acknowledge the glory of the mystery, and the divinity of the mercy. Let us receive the consecrated elements with all devotion and humility of body and spirit; and do this honour to it, that it be the first food we eat, and the first beverage we drink that day, unless it be in case of sickness, or other great necessity; and that your body and soul both be prepared to its reception with abstinence from secular pleasures, that you may better have attended fastings and preparatory prayers. For if ever it be seasonable to observe the counsel of St. Paul, that married persons by consent should abstain for a time, that they may attend to solemn religion, it is now.[295] It was not by St. Paul, nor the after-ages of the church, called a duty so to do, but it is most reasonable that the more solemn actions of religion should be attended to, without the mixture of anything that may discompose the mind and make it more secular or less religious.

(10.) In the act of receiving, exercise acts of faith with much confidence and resignation, believing it not to be common bread and wine, but holy in their use, holy in their signification, holy in their change, and holy in their effect; and believe, if thou art a worthy communicant, thou dost as verily receive Christís body and blood to all effects and purposes of the Spirit as thou dost receive the blessed elements into thy mouth - that thou puttest thy finger to his hand, and thy hand into his side, and thy lips to his fontinel of blood, sucking life from his heart;[296] and yet, if thou dost communicate unworthily, thou eatest and drinkest Christ to thy danger and death and destruction. Dispute not concerning the secret of the mystery, and the nicety of the manner of Christís presence; it is sufficient to thee that Christ shall be present to thy soul as an instrument of grace, as a pledge of the resurrection, as the earnest of glory and immortality, and a means of many intermedial blessings, even all such as are necessary for thee, and are in order to thy salvation. And to make all this good to thee, there is nothing necessary on thy part but a holy life, and a true belief of all the sayings of Christ; amongst which, indefinitely assent to the words of institution, and believe that Christ in the holy sacrament, gives thee his body and his blood. He that believes so much needs not to inquire further, nor to entangle his faith by disbelieving his sense.

(11.) Fail not at this solemnity, according to the custom of pious and devout people, to make an offering to God for the uses of religion and the poor, according to thy ability. For when Christ feasts us with his body, let us also feast our fellow- members, who have right to the same promises, and are partakers of the same sacrament, and partners of the same hope, and cared for under the same Providence, and descended from the same common parents, and whose Father God is, and Christ is their elder brother. If thou chancest to communicate where this holy custom is not observed publicly, supply that want by thy private charity; but offer it to God at his holy table, at least by thy private designing it there.

(12.) When you have received, pray and give thanks. Pray for all estates of men; for they also have an interest in the body of Christ, whereof they are members: and you, in conjunction with Christ, (whom then you have received,) are more fit to pray for them in that advantage, and in the celebration of that holy sacrifice, which then is sacramentally represented to God. Give thanks for the passion of our dearest Lord: remember all its parts, and all the instruments of your redemption; and beg of God, that by a holy perseverance in well-doing you may from shadows pass on to substances, from eating his body to seeing his face, from the typical, sacramental, and transient, to the real and eternal supper of the Lamb.

(13.) After the solemnity is done, let Christ dewll in your hearts by faith and love, and obedience and conformity to his life and death: as you have taken Christ into you, so put Christ on you, and conform every faculty of your soul and body to his holy image and perfection. Remember, that now Christ is all one with you; and, therefore, when you are to do an action consider how Christ did or would do the like; and do you imitate his example, and transcribe his copy, and understand all his commandments, and choose all that he propounded, and desire his promises, and fear his threatenings, and marry his loves and hatreds, and contract his friendships; for then you do every day communicate; especially when Christ thus dwells in you, and you in Christ, growing up towards a perfect man in Christ Jesus.

(14.) Do not instantly, upon your return from church, return also to the world and secular thoughts and employment; but let the remaining parts of that day be like a post-communion, or an after-office, entertaining your blessed Lord with all the caresses and sweetness of love and colloquies, and intercourses of duty and affection, acquainting him with all your needs, and revealing to him all your secrets, and opening all your infirmities; and as the affairs of your person or employment call you off, so retire again with often ejaculations and acts of entertainment to your beloved guest.


The Effects and Benefits of Worthy Communicating.

When I said that the sacrifice of the cross, which Christ offered for all the sins and all the needs of the world, is represented to God by the minister in the sacrament, and offered up in prayer and sacramental memory, after the manner that Christ himself intercedes for us in heaven, (so far as his glorious priesthood is imitable by his ministers on earth,) I must of necessity also mean, that all the benefits of that sacrifice are then conveyed to all that communicate worthily. But if we descend to particulars, then and there the church is nourished in her faith, strengthened in her hope, enlarged in her bowels with an increasing charity; there all the members of Christ are joined with each other, and all to Christ their head; and we again renew the covenant with God in Jesus Christ, and God seals his part, and we promise for ours, and Christ unites both, and the Holy Ghost signs both in the collation of those graces which we then pray for an exercise and receive all at once. There our bodies are nourished with the signs, and our souls with the mystery: our bodies receive into them the seed of an immortal nature, and our souls are joined with him who is the first-fruits of the resurrection and never can die. And if we desire anything else and need it, here it is to be prayed for, here to be hoped for, here to be received. Long life and health, and recovery from sickness, and competent support and maintenance, and peace and deliverance from our enemies, and content and patience, and joy, and sanctified riches, or a cheerful poverty, and liberty, and whatsoever else is a blessing was purchased for us by Christ in his death and resurrection, and in his intercession in heaven. And this sacrament being that to our particulars which the great mysteries are in themselves and by design to all the world, if we receive worthily, we shall receive any of these blessings, according as God shall choose for us; and he will not only choose with more wisdom, but also with more affection, than we can for ourselves.

After all this, it is advised by the guides of souls, wise men and pious, that all persons should communicate very often, even as often as they can, without excuses or delays; everything that puts us from so holy an employment, when we are moved to it, being either a sin or an imperfection, an infirmity or in devotion, and an inactiveness of spirit. All Christian people must come. They, indeed, that are in the state of sin must not come so, but yet they must come. First they must quit their state of death, and then partake of the bread of life. They that are at enmity with their neighbours must come-that is no excuse for their not coming; only they must not bring their enmity along with them, but leave it, and then come. They that have variety of secular employment must come;[297] only they must leave their secular thoughts and affections behind them, and then come and converse with God. If any man be well grown in grace, he must needs come, because he is excellently disposed to so holy a feast: but he that is but in the infancy of piety had need to come, that so he may grow in grace. The strong must come lest they become weak; and the weak that they may become strong. The sick must come to be cured; the healthful to be preserved. They that have leisure must come, because they have no excuse; they that have no leisure must come hither, that by so excellent an act of religion they may sanctify their business. The penitent sinners must come, that they may be justified; and they that are justified, that they may be justified still. They that have fears and great reverence to these mysteries, and think no preparation to be sufficient must receive, that they may learn how to receive the more worthily; and they that have a less degree of reverence must come often, to have it heightened: that as those creatures that live amongst the snows of the mountains turn white with their food and conversation with such perpetual whitenesses, so our souls may be transformed into the similitude and union with Christ by our perpetual feeding on him, and conversation, not only in his courts, but in his very heart, and most secret affections and incomparable purities.



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