An Homily of the Worthy Receiving of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ Part II

THE SECOND PART OF THE HOMILY OF THE WORTHY RECEIVING AND REVERENT ESTEEMING OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST.

In the Homily of late rehearsed unto you ye have heard, good people, why it pleased our Saviour Christ to institute that heavenly memory of his death and passion, and that every one of us ought to celebrate the same at his table in our own persons, and not by other. You have heard also with what estimation and knowledge of so high mysteries we ought to resort thither, you have heard with what constant faith we should clothe and deck ourselves, that we might be fit and decent partakers of that celestial food. Now followeth the third thing necessary in him that would not eat of this bread nor drink of this cup unworthily, which is newness of life and godliness of conversation.

For newness of life, as fruits of faith, are required in the partaker of this table. We may learn by the eating of the typical lamb, whereunto no man was admitted but he that was a Jew, that was circumcised, that was before sanctified. Yea, St. Paul testifieth,[1] that, although all thee people were partakers , of the Sacraments under Moses, yet, for that some of them were still worshippers of images, whoremongers, tempters of Christ, murmurers, and coveting after evil things, God over threw those in the wilderness, and that for our example ; that is, that we Christians should take heed we resort unto our Sacraments with holiness of life, not trusting in the outward receiving of them, and infected with corrupt and uncharitable manners. For this sentence of God must always be justified I will have mercy and not sacrifice.[2] “Wherefore,” saith Basil ” it behoveth him that cometh to the Body and Blood of Christ, in commemoration of him that died and rose again, not only to be pure from all flithiness of the flesh and spirit, lest he eat and drink to his condemnation but also to shew out evidently a memory of him that died and rose again for us, in this point, that he be mortified to sin and the world, to live now to God in Christ Jesu our Lord.” So then we must shew outward testimony in following the signification of Christ’s death: amongst the which this is not esteemed least, to render thanks to Almighty God for all his benefits briefly comprised in the death, passion, and resurrection of his dearly beloved Son.

The which thing because we ought chiefly at this table to solemnize, the godly fathers named it Eucharistia, that is Thanksgiving: as if they should have said, Now above all other times ye ought to laud and praise God; now may ye behold the matter, the cause, the beginning, and the end of all thanksgiving; now if ye slack, ye shew yourselves most unthankful, and that no other benefit can ever stir you to thank God, who so little regard here so many, so wonderful, and so profitable benefits. Seeing then that the name and thing itself doth monish us of thanks, let us as St. Paul saith, offer always to God the host or sacrifice of praise by Christ, that is, the fruit of the lips which confess his Name.[3] For, as David singeth, he that offereth to God thanks and praise honoureth him.[4] But how few be there of thankful persons in comparison to the unthankful! Lo, ten lepers in the Gospel[5] were healed, and but one only returned to give thanks for his health. Yea, happy it were, if among forty communicants we could see two unfeignedly to give thanks. So unkind we be, so oblivious we be, so proud beggars we be, that partly we care not for our own commodity, partly we know not our duty to God, and chiefly we will not confess all that we receive. Yea, and if we be forced by God’s power to do it, yet we handle it so coldly, so drily, that our lips praise him, but our hearts dispraise him; our tongues bless him, but our life curseth him ; our words worship him, but our works dishonour him. O let us therefore learn to give God here thanks aright, and so to agnize his exceeding graces poured upon us, that they, being shut up in the treasure house of our heart, may in due time and season in our life and conversation appear to the glorifying of his holy Name.

Furthermore, for newness of life, it is to be noted that St. Paul writeth, that we being many are one bread and one body for all be partakers of one bread;[6] declaring therby not only our communion with Christ, but that unity also wherein they that eat at this table should be knit together. For by dissension, vainglory, ambition, strife, envying, contempt, hatred, or malice they should not be dissevered, but so joined by the bond of love in one mystical body, as the corns of that bread in one loaf. In respect of which strait knot of charity the true Christians in the tender time of Christ’s Church called this Supper Love as if they would say none ought to sit down there that were out of love and charity, who bore grudge and vengeance in his heart, who also did not profess his kind affection by some charitable relief for some part of the congregation. And this was. their practice. O heavenly banquet, then so used! O godly guests, who so esteemed this feast! But O wretched creatures that we be at these days, who be without reconciliation of our brethren whom we have offended, without satisfying them whom we have caused to fall, without any kind thought or compassion toward them whom we might easily relieve, without any conscience of slander, disdain, misreport, division, rancour, or inward bitterness ; yea, being accombred with the cloaked hatred of Cain, with the long covered malice of Esau, with the dissembled falsehood of Joab, dare yet presume to come up to these sacred and fearful mysteries. O man whither rushest thou unadvisedly? It is a table of peace, and thou art ready to fight. It is a table of singleness, and thou art imagining mischief. It is a table of quietness, and thou art given to debate. It is a table of pity, and thou art unmerciful. Dost thou neither fear God, the maker of this feast? Nor reverence his Christ, lie refection and meat? Nor regardest his spouse, his beloved guest? Nor weighs thine own conscience, which is sometime thine inward accuser? Wherefore, O man, tender thine own salvation; examine and try thy good will and love towards the children of God, the members of Christ, the heirs of the heavenly heritage; yea, towards the image of God, the excellent creature thine own soul. If thou have offended, now be reconciled. If thou have caused any to stumble in the way of God, now set them up again. If thou have disquieted thy brother, now pacify him. If thou have wronged him, now relieve him. If thou have defrauded him, now restore to him. If thou have nourished spite, now embrace friendship. If thou have fostered hatred and malice, now openly shew thy love and charity; yea, be prest and ready to procure thy neighbour’s health of soul, wealth, commodity, and pleasure, as thine own. Deserve not the heavy and dreadful burden of God’s displeasure for thine evil will towards thy neighbour, so unreverently to approach to this table of the Lord.

Last of all, as there is here “the mystery of peace” and the Sacrament of Christian society, whereby we understand what sincere love ought to be betwixt the true communicants, so here be the tokens of pureness and innocency of life, whereby we may perceive that we ought to purge our own soul from all uncleanness, iniquity, and wickedness, “lest, when we receive the mystical bread,” as Origen saith, “we eat it in an uncleanplace, that is, in a soul denied and polluted with sin.” In Moses’ law[7] the man that did eat of the sacrifice of thanksgiving with uncleanness upon him should be destroyed from his people: and shall we think that the wicked and sinful person shall be excusable at the table of the Lord? We both read in St. Paul that the Church at Corinth[8] was scourged of the Lord for misusing the Lord’s Supper; and we may plainly see Christ’s Church these many years miserably vexed and oppressed for the horrible profanation of the same. Wherefore let us all, universal and singular, behold our own manners and lives, to amend them. Yea, now at the least let us call ourselves to an account, that it may grieve us of our former evil conversation, that we may hate sin, that we may sorrow and mourn for our offences, that we may with tears pour them out before God, that we may with sure trust desire and crave the salve of his mercy, bought and purchased with the blood of his dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ, to heal our deadly wounds withal. For surely, if we do not with earnest repentance cleanse the filthy stomach of our soul, it must needs come to pass that “as wholesome meat received into a raw stomach corrupteth and marreth all, and is the cause of further sickness,” so we shall eat this healthsome bread and drink this cup to our eternal destruction. Thus we and not other, must thoroughly examine, and not lightly look over, ourselves, not other men; our own conscience, not other men’s lives: which we ought to do uprightly, truly, and with just correction. “0,” saith St. Chrysostom, “let no Judas resort to this table; let no covetous person approach. If any be a disciple, let him be present. For Christ saith, With my disciples I make my Passover.[9] Why cried the deacon in the primitive Church, “If any be holy, let him draw near”? Why did they celebrate these mysteries, the choir door being shut? Why were the public penitents and learners in religion commanded at this time to avoid? Was it not because this table receiveth no unholy, unclean, or sinful guests? Wherefore, if servants dare not presume to an earthly master’s table whom they have offended, let us take heed we come not with our sins unexamined into this presence of our Lord and Judge. If they be worthy blame who kiss the prince’s hand with a filthy and unclean mouth, shalt thou be blameless, which with a filthy stinking soul, full of covetousness, fornication, drunkenness, pride, full of wretched cogitations and thoughts, dost breathe out iniquity and uncleanness on the bread and cup of the Lord ?

Thus you have heard how you should come reverently and decently to the table of the Lord, having the knowledge out of his word of the thing itself and the fruits thereof, bringing a true and constant faith, the root and wellspring of all newness of life, as well in praising God, loving our neighbour, as purging our own conscience from filthiness. So that neither the ignorance of the thing shall cause us to contemn it, nor unfaithfulness make us void of fruit, nor sin and iniquity procure us God’s plagues; but shall by faith in knowledge, and amendment of life in faith, be here so united to Christ our Head in his mysteries to our comfort, that after we shall have full fruition of him indeed to our everlasting joy and eternal life. To the which he bring us that died for us, and redeemed us Jesus Christ the righteous:[10] to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one true and eternal God, be all praise, honour, and dominion for ever. Amen.

  1. 1 Cor x, 1-11
  2. Hos vi, 1; Matt ix, 13
  3. Heb xiii, 15
  4. Ps I, 23
  5. Luke xvii, 1-18
  6. 1 Cor x, 17
  7. Numb v, 2; Is xix, 15
  8. 1 Cor xi, 30
  9. Matt xxvi, 18
  10. 1 John ii, 1

 



The Editors


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