The Ten Commandments
by Thomas Watson
The Lord's Supper
"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and
gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take it; this is my body.' Then he took
the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,' he said to
them." Mark 14:22-24
The Lord's Supper is the most spiritual and sweetest
ordinance that ever was instituted. Here we have to do more immediately with
the person of Christ. In prayer, we draw near to God; in the sacrament, we
become one with him. In prayer, we look up to Christ; in the sacrament, by
faith, we touch him. In the Word preached, we hear Christ's voice; in the
sacrament, we feed on him.
What names and titles in Scripture are given to the
It is called, the Lord's table. 1 Cor
10:21. The Papists call it an altar, not a table. The reason is,
because they turn the sacrament into a sacrifice, and pretend to offer up
Christ corporally in the mass. It being the Lord's table, shows with
what reverence and solemn devotion we should approach these holy mysteries.
The Lord takes notice of the frame of our hearts when we come to his table.
"The king came in to see the guests." Matt 22:11. We dress ourselves when we
come to the table of some great monarch; so, when we are going to the table
of the Lord, we should dress ourselves by holy meditation and heart
consideration. Many think it is enough to come to the sacrament—but mind not
whether they come in "due order." 1 Chron 15:13. Perhaps they had scarcely a
serious thought beforehand, where they were going. All their dressing was by
the looking-glass, not by the Bible. Chrysostom calls it, "The dreadful
table of the Lord:" and so it is to such as come unworthily.
The sacrament is called the Lord's supper—to
import, it is a spiritual feast. 1 Cor 11:20. It is a royal feast. God is at
this feast. Christ, in both natures, God and man, is the matter of this
It is called a communion. "The bread which we
break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" 1 Cor 10:16. The
sacrament being called a communion, shows:
(1) That this ordinance is for believers only, because
none else can have communion with Christ in these holy mysteries. "Communion
is based upon union." Faith alone, gives us union with Christ,
and by virtue of this, we have communion with him in his body and blood.
None but the spouse communicates with her husband; a stranger may
drink of his cup—but she alone, has his heart, and communicates with him in
a marital manner; so strangers may drink of the cup—but believers only drink
of Christ's blood, and have communion with him.
(2) The sacrament being a communion, shows that it is "a
symbol of love"—a bond of that unity and love which should be among
Christians. "We being many are one body." 1 Cor 10:17. As many grains make
one bread—so many Christians are one body. A sacrament is a love-feast. The
primitive Christians, as Justin Martyr notes, had their holy salutations at
the blessed supper, in token of that dearness of affection which they had to
each other. It is a communion, therefore there must be love and union. The
Israelites ate the Passover with bitter herbs; so must we eat the sacrament
with bitter herbs of repentance—but not with bitter hearts of wrath and
malice. The hearts of the communicants should be knit together with the bond
of love. "You brag of your faith" says Augustine, "but show me your faith by
your love to the saints." For, as in the sun, light and heat
are inseparable, so faith and love are twisted together inseparably. Where
there are divisions, the Lord's supper is not properly a communion but a
What is the Lord's supper?
It is a visible sermon, wherein Christ crucified is set
before us; or, it is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein by receiving
the holy elements of bread and wine, our communion with Christ is signified
and sealed up to us. Or it is a sacrament divinely instituted, wherein by
giving and receiving bread and wine, Christ's death is showed forth, and the
worthy receivers by faith, are made partakers of his body and blood,
and all the benefits flowing from thence.
For further explaining the nature of the Lord's supper, I
shall refer to its institution.
"Jesus took bread." Here is the master of the
feast, or the institutor of the sacrament. The Lord Jesus took bread. He
only is fit to institute a sacrament who is able to give virtue and blessing
"He took bread." His taking the bread was one part of his
consecration of the elements, and setting them apart for a holy use. As
Christ consecrated the elements, so we must labor to have our hearts
consecrated, before we receive these holy mysteries in the Lord's supper.
How unfitting it is, to see any come to these holy elements, having hearts
leavened with pride, covetousness, or envy! These, with Judas, receive the
devil in the sop, and are no better than crucifiers of the Lord of glory.
"And blessed it." This is another part of the
consecration of the element. Christ blessed it. He blesses and it shall be
blessed. He looked up to heaven for a benediction upon this newly-founded
"And broke it." The bread broken, and the wine poured
out, signify to us the agony and ignominy of Christ's sufferings, the
rending of Christ's body on the cross, and the effusion of blood which was
distilled from his blessed side.
"And gave it to them." Christ's giving the bread,
denotes giving himself and all his benefits to us freely. Though he was
sold—yet he was given. Judas sold Christ—but Christ gave himself to us.
"He gave it to them;" that is, to the disciples. This is
children's bread. Christ does not cast these pearls before swine.
Whether Judas was present at the supper is controverted. I incline to think
he was not, for Christ said to the disciples, "This is my blood, which is
shed for you." Luke 22:20. He knew his blood was never shed effectually and
intentionally for Judas. In eating the Passover, he gave Judas a sop, which
was a bit of unleavened bread dipped in a sauce made with bitter herbs;
Judas having received the sop, went out immediately. John 13:30. Suppose
Judas was there, he received the elements—but not the blessing.
"Take, eat." This expression of eating denotes four
(1) The near mystic union between Christ and his
saints. As the food which is eaten incorporates with the body, and becomes
one with it, so, by eating Christ's flesh, and drinking his blood
spiritually, we partake of his merits and graces, and are mystically "one
with them." "I in them." John 17:23.
(2) "Take, eat." Eating shows the infinite delight
the believing soul has in Christ. Eating is grateful and pleasing to the
palate; so feeding on Christ by a lively faith is delicious. "The soul knows
no sweeter food." Lactantius. No such sweet feeding—as on Christ crucified.
This is a "feast of fat things, and wines on the lees well refined."
(3) "Take, eat." Eating denotes nourishment. As
food is delicious to the palate, so it is nourishing to the body; so eating
Christ's flesh and drinking his blood, is nutritive to the soul. The new
creature is nourished at the table of the Lord to everlasting life. "Whoever
eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life." John 6:54.
(4) "Take, eat," shows the wisdom of God, who
restores us by the same means by which we fell. We fell by taking and eating
the forbidden fruit, and we are recovering again by taking and eating
Christ's flesh. We died by eating the tree of knowledge, and we live by
eating the tree of life.
"This is my body." These words have been much
controverted between us and the Papists. "This is my body;" that is, by a
metonymy—it is a sign and figure of my body. The Papists hold
transubstantiation—that the bread, after consecration, is turned into the
very substance of Christ's body. We say, we receive Christ's body
spiritually; they say, they receive Christ's body physically;
which is contrary to Scripture. Scripture affirms, that the heavens must
receive Christ's body "until the times of the restitution of all things."
Acts 3:21. Christ's body cannot be at the same time in heaven, and in
the host. Aquinas says, "It is not possible by any miracle, that a
body should be locally in two places at once." Besides, it is absurd to
imagine that the bread in the sacrament should be turned into Christ's
flesh, and that his body which was crucified before, should be made again of
bread. So that, "This is my body," is, as if Christ had said, "This is a
sign and representation of my body."
"And he took the cup." The cup is put by a metonymy
for the wine in the cup. It signifies the blood of Christ shed for
our sins. The taking of the cup denotes the abundance of merit in Christ,
and the fullness of our redemption by him. He not only took the bread—but
"And when he had given thanks." Christ gave thanks
that God had given these elements of bread and wine to be signs and seals of
man's redemption by Christ. Christ's giving thanks shows his philanthropy,
or love to mankind, who did so rejoice and bless God that lost man was now
in a way of recovery, and that he should be raised higher in Christ,
than ever he was in innocence.
"He gave the cup to them." Why then dare any withhold
the cup? This is to pollute and curtail the ordinance, and alter it from its
primitive institution. Christ and his apostles administered the sacrament in
both kinds, the bread and the cup. 1 Cor 11:24, 25. The cup was received in
the ancient church for the space of 1400 years, as is confessed by two
Popish councils. Christ says expressly, "Drink from it, all of you." As
foreseeing the sacrilegious impiety of the church of Rome, in keeping back
the cup from the people. The Popish council of Constance speaks plainly but
impudently, "That although Christ instituted and administered the sacrament
in both kinds, the bread and the wine—yet the authority of the holy canons,
and the customs of the mother church, think good to deny the cup to the
laity." Thus, as the Popish priests make Christ but half a Savior, so they
administer to the people but half a sacrament. The sacrament is Christ's
last will and testament "This is my blood of the New Testament." Now, to
alter or take away anything from a man's will and testament, is great
impiety. What is it to alter and mangle Christ's last will and testament?
Sure it is a high affront to Christ.
What are the ends of the Lord's supper?
(1) It is an ordinance appointed to confirm our faith.
"Except you see signs, you will not believe." John 4:48. Christ sets the
elements before us, that by these signs our faith may be strengthened. As
faith comes by hearing, so it is confirmed by seeing Christ crucified. The
sacrament is not only a sign to represent Christ—but a seal to confirm our
interest in him.
(2) The end of the sacrament is to keep up the "memory of
Christ's death." "This do you in remembrance of me." 1 Cor 11:25. If a
friend gives us a ring at his death, we wear it to keep up the memory of our
friend; much more ought we to keep the memorial of Christ's death in the
sacrament. His death lays a foundation for all the magnificent blessings
which we receive from him. The covenant of grace was agreed on in heaven—but
sealed upon the cross. Christ has sealed all the articles of peace in his
blood. Remission of sin flows from Christ's death. "This is my blood of the
New Testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins." Matt
26:28. Consecration, or making us holy, is the fruit of Christ's death. "How
much more shall the blood of Christ purge your conscience?" Heb 9:14.
Christ's intercession is made available to us by virtue of his death. He
could not have been admitted an advocate, if he had not been first a
sacrifice. Our entering into heaven is the fruit of his blood. Heb
10:19. He could not have prepared mansions for us, if he had not first
purchased them by his death: so that we have great cause to commemorate his
death in the sacrament.
In what manner are we to remember the Lord's death in the
It is not only a historical remembrance of Christ's death
and passion. Judas remembered his death and betrayed him; and Pilate
remembered his death and crucified him. Our remembering his death in the
sacrament must be:
 A mournful remembrance. We should not be able
to look on Christ crucified, with dry eyes. "They shall look on him
whom they have pierced, and mourn over him." Zech 12:10. O Christian,
when you look on Christ in the sacrament, remember how often you have
crucified him! The Jews did it but once, you often. Every oath is a nail
with which you pierce his hands; every unjust sinful action is a spear with
which you wound his heart. Oh, remember Christ with sorrow—to think you
should make his wounds bleed afresh!
 It must be a joyful remembrance. "Abraham
rejoiced to see my day." John 8:56. When a Christian sees a
sacrament-day approaching, he should rejoice. This ordinance of the supper
is a pledge of heaven; it is the looking-glass in which we see him whom our
souls love; it is the chariot by which we are carried up to Christ. When
Jacob saw the wagons and the chariots which were to carry him to his son
Joseph, his spirit revived. Gen 45:27. God has appointed the sacrament on
purpose—to cheer and revive a sad heart. When we look on our sins we have
cause to mourn; but when we see Christ's blood shed for our sins we rejoice.
In the sacrament our needs are supplied, our strength is renewed; there
we meet with Christ—and does not this call for joy? A woman who has been
long debarred from the society of her husband, is glad of his presence. At
the sacrament the believing spouse meets with Christ; he says to her, "All I
have is yours; my love is yours, to pity you; my mercy is yours, to save
you." How can we think in the sacrament on Christ's blood shed, and not
rejoice? Christ's blood is the key which opens heaven—else we had been all
(3) The end of the sacrament is to work in us an endeared
love to Christ. When Christ bleeds for us, well may we say, "Behold how he
loved us!" Who can see Christ die and not be "love-sick?" That is a heart of
stone—which Christ's love will not melt!
(4) The end of the sacrament is the mortifying of
corruption. To see Christ crucified for us—is a means to crucify sin in us.
His death, like the water of jealousy, makes the thigh of sin to rot. Numb
5:27. How can a wife endure to see the knife which killed her husband? How
can we endure those sins—which made Christ veil his glory and shed his
blood? When the people of Rome saw Caesar's bloody robe, they were incensed
against those who slew him. Sin has rent the white robe of Christ's flesh
and dyed it of a crimson color. The thoughts of this should make us seek to
be avenged on our sins.
(5) Another end is the nourishment and increase of all
the graces, hope, zeal, and patience. The Word preached begets grace, the
Lord's supper nourishes it. The body by feeding increases strength, so the
soul by feeding on Christ sacramentally. "When my spiritual strength begins
to fail, I know a remedy," says Bernard, "I will go to the table of the
Lord; there will I drink and recover my decayed strength." There is a
difference between dead stones and living plants. The wicked, who are
stones, receive no spiritual increase; but the godly, who are plants of
righteousness, being watered with Christ's blood, grow more fruitful in
WHY are we to receive this holy supper?
(1) Because it is an incumbent duty. "Take,
eat." And observe, it is a command of love. If Christ had commanded
us some great matter—would we not have done it? "If the prophet had bid you
do some great thing—would you not have done it?" 2 Kings 5:13. If Christ had
enjoined us to have given him thousands of rams, or to have parted with the
fruit of our bodies—would we not have done it? Much more when he only says,
"Take," and "Eat." Let my broken body feed you; let my blood poured out,
save you. "Take," and "Eat." This is a command of love, and shall we not
(2) We are to celebrate the Lord's supper, because it is
provoking Christ to stay away. "Wisdom has furnished her table."
Proverbs 9:2. So Christ has furnished his table, set bread and wine
(representing his body and blood) before his guests, and when they willfully
turn their backs upon the ordinance, he looks upon it as slighting his love,
and it makes the fury rise up in his face. "For I say unto you, that none of
those men which were bidden, shall taste of my supper." Luke 14:24. I will
shut them out of my kingdom, I will provide them a black banquet,
where weeping shall be the first course, and gnashing of teeth the second
Should the Lord's supper be often administered?
Yes. "As often as you eat this bread." 1 Cor 11:26. The
ordinance is not to be celebrated once in a year, or once only in our
lives—but often. A Christian's own necessities may make him come
often hither. His corruptions are strong, therefore he had need come often
hither for an antidote to expel the poison of sin. His graces are weak.
Grace is like a lamp, which if it is not often fed with oil, is apt to go
out. Rev 3:2. How then do they sin against God, who come but very seldom to
this ordinance! Can they thrive who for a long time forbear their food?
Others there are, who wholly forbear, which is a great contempt offered to
Christ's ordinance. They tacitly say, "Let Christ keep his feast to
himself!" What a contrary piece is a man! He will eat when he should
not, and he will not eat when he should. When God says, "Eat not of this
forbidden fruit;" then he will be sure to eat! When God says, "Eat of this
bread, and drink of this cup;" then he refuses to eat!
Are all to come promiscuously to this holy ordinance?
No! for that were to make the Lord's table an ordinary.
Christ forbids to "cast pearls before swine." Matt 7:6. The sacramental
bread is children's bread, and it is not to be cast to the profane. As, at
the giving of the law God set bounds about the mount that none might touch
it, so God's table should be guarded, that the profane should not come near.
Exodus 19:12. In primitive times, after sermon was done, and the Lord's
supper was about to be celebrated, an officer stood up and cried, "Holy
things for holy men;" and then several of the congregation departed. "I
would have my hand cut off," says Chrysostom, "rather than I would give
Christ's body and blood to the profane." The wicked do not eat
Christ's flesh—but tear it; they do not drink his blood—but spill it.
These holy mysteries in the sacraments are mysteries, which the soul is to
tremble at. Sinners defile the holy things of God, they poison the
sacramental cup. We read that the wicked are to be set at Christ's feet,
not at his table. Psalm 110:1.
That we may receive the supper of the Lord worthily, and
that it may become efficacious:
I. We must solemnly PREPARE ourselves before we come.
We must not rush upon the ordinance crudely and irreverently—but come
in due order. There was a great deal of preparation for the Passover, and
the sacrament comes in the place of it. 2 Chron 30:18, 19. This solemn
preparation for the ordinance consists:
 In examining ourselves.
 In dressing our souls before we come, which is by
washing in the water of repentance and by exciting the habit of grace into
 In begging a blessing upon the ordinance.
 Solemn preparation for the sacrament consists in
SELF-EXAMINATION. "But let a man examine himself, and so let him
eat." 1 Cor 11:28. It is not only a counsel—but a command:
"Let him examine himself. " As if a king should say, "Let it be enacted."
These elements in the supper having been consecrated by Jesus Christ to a
high mystery, represent his body and blood; therefore there must be
preparation; and if preparation, there must be first self-examination. Let
us be serious in examining ourselves, as our salvation depends upon it. We
are curious in examining other things; we will not take gold until we
examine it by the touchstone; we will not take land before we examine the
title; and shall we not be as exact and curious in examining the state of
What is required for this self-examination?
There must be a solemn retirement of the soul. We must
set ourselves apart, and retire for some time from all secular employment,
that we may be more serious in the work. There is no casting up accounts
in a crowd; nor can we examine ourselves when we are in a crowd of
worldly business. We read, that a man who was in a journey might not come to
the Passover, because his mind was full of secular cares, and his thoughts
were taken up about his journey. Num 9:13. When we are upon self-examining
work, we had not need to be in a hurry, or have any distracting thoughts—but
to retire and lock ourselves up in our closets, that we may be more intent
upon the work.
What is self-examination?
It is the setting up a court of conscience and keeping a
register there, that by a strict scrutiny a man may see how matters stand
between Got and his soul. It is a spiritual inquisition, a heart-anatomy,
whereby a man takes his heart in pieces, as a watch, and sees what is
defective therein. It is a dialogue with one's self "I commune with my own
heart." Psalm 77:6. David called himself to account, and interrogates his
own heart. Self-examination is a critical enquiry or search. As the woman in
the parable lighted a candle and searched for her lost coin, so conscience
is the candle of the Lord. Luke 15:8. Search with this candle what you can
find wrought by the Spirit in you.
What is the rule by which we are to examine ourselves?
The rule or measure by which we must examine ourselves is
the Holy Scripture. We must not make our own reason, or the good opinion
which others have of us—a rule to judge of ourselves. As the goldsmith
brings his gold to the touchstone, so we must bring our hearts to a
Scripture touchstone. "To the law and to the testimony." Isa 8:20. What says
the Word? Are we divorced from sin? Are we renewed by the Spirit? Let the
Word decide whether we are fit communicants or not. We judge of colors by
the sun, so we must judge of the state of our souls by the sunlight of
What are the principal reasons for self-examination
before we approach the Lord's supper?
(1) It is a duty imposed: "Let him examine
himself." The Passover was not to be eaten raw. Exodus 12:9. To come to such
an ordinance slightly, without examination, is to come in an undue manner,
and is like eating the Passover raw.
(2) We must examine ourselves before we come, because it
is not only a duty imposed—but opposed. There is nothing to which the
heart is naturally more averse than self-examination. We may know that duty
to be good, which the heart opposes. But why does the heart so oppose it?
Because it crosses the tide of corrupt nature, and is contrary to flesh and
blood. The heart is guilty; and does a guilty person love to be examined?
The heart opposes it; therefore set upon it; for that duty is good, which
the heart opposes.
(3) Because self-examination is a needful work.
Without it, a man can never tell how it is with him, whether he has grace or
not; and this must needs be very uncomfortable. He knows not, if he should
die presently—what will become of him, to what coast he shall sail, whether
to hell—or heaven! As Socrates said, "I am about to die, and the gods know
whether I shall be happy or miserable." How needful, therefore, is
self-examination; that a man by search may know the true state of his soul,
and how it will go with him to eternity!
Self-examination is needful, with respect to the
excellence of the sacrament. Let him eat "of that bread," that excellent
bread, that consecrated bread, that bread which is not only the bread of the
Lord—but the bread, the Lord. 1 Cor 11:28. Let him drink "of that cup;" that
precious cup, which is perfumed and spiced with Christ's love; that cup
which holds the blood of God sacramentally. Cleopatra put a jewel in
a cup, which contained the price of a kingdom! This sacred cup we are to
drink of, enriched with the blood of God, is above the price of a kingdom;
it is more worth than heaven. Therefore, coming to such a royal feast,
having a whole Christ, both his divine and human nature to feed on, how
should we examine ourselves beforehand, that we may be fit guests for such a
Self-examination is needful, because God will examine us.
That was a sad question, "Friend, how did you get in here without wedding
clothes?" Matt 22:12. Men are reluctant to ask themselves the question, "O
my soul! are you a fit guest for the Lord's table?" Are there not some sins
you have to bewail? Are there not some evidences for heaven that you have to
get?" Now, when people will not ask themselves the question, then God will
bring the question to them, "How did you get in here to my table, not
prepared? How did you get in here, with an unbelieving or profane heart?"
Such a question will cause a heart-trembling. God will examine a man, as the
chief captain would Paul—with scourging! Acts 22:24. It is true that the
best saint, if God should weigh him in the balance, would be found lacking:
but, when a Christian has made an impartial search, and has labored to deal
uprightly between God and his own soul, Christ's merits will cast in some
grains of allowance into the scales!
Self-examination is needful, because of secret corruption
in the heart—which will not be found out, without searching. There are in
the heart, "hidden pollutions." Augustine. It is with a Christian, as with
Joseph's brethren, who, when the steward accused them of having the cup,
were ready to swear they had it not; but upon search it was found in one of
their sacks. Little does a Christian think what pride, atheism, immorality
is in his heart—until he searches it! If there is therefore such hidden
wickedness, like a spring running under ground, we had need examine
ourselves, that finding out our secret sin, we may be humbled and repent.
Hidden sins, if not searched out, defile the soul. If corn lies long in the
chaff, the chaff defiles the corn. Just so, sins long hidden defile our
duties. Needful therefore it is, before we come to the holy supper, to
search out these hidden sins, as Israel searched for leaven before they came
to the Passover.
Self-examination is needful, because without it we may
easily have a cheat put upon us. "The heart is deceitful above all things."
Jer 17:9. Many a man's heart will tell him he is fit for the Lord's table.
As when Christ asked the sons of Zebedee, "Are you able to drink of the cup
that I shall drink of?" Matt 20:22. Can you drink such a bloody cup of
suffering? "They said unto him—We are able!" So the heart will suggest to a
man, that he is fit to drink of the sacramental cup, that he has on the
wedding-garment. Augustine. "The heart is a great impostor." As a cheating
tradesmen will put one off with bad wares, so the heart will put a man off
with seeming grace, instead of saving grace. A tear or two
shed—is repentance; a few lazy desires—are faith. Just as blue and red
flowers growing among corn, look like good flowers—but are beautiful only
weeds. The foolish virgins' vessels looked as if they had oil in them—but
they had none. Therefore, to prevent a cheat, that we may not take false
grace instead of true—we had need make a thorough search of our hearts
before we come to the Lord's table.
Self-examination is needful, because of the false fears
which the godly are apt to nourish in their hearts, which make them go sad
to the sacrament. As those who have no grace, for lack of examining,
presume; so those who have grace, for lack of examining, are ready to
despair. Many of God's children look upon themselves through the black
spectacles of fear. They fear Christ is not formed in them, they fear
they have no right to the promise; and these fears in the heart cause tears
in the eye; whereas, would they but search and examine, they might find they
had saving grace. Are not their hearts humbled for sin? What is this but the
bruised reed? Do not they weep after the Lord? What are these tears—but
seeds of faith? Do they not thirst after Christ in an ordinance? What is
this—but the new creature crying for the breast? Here are, you see, seeds of
grace; and, would Christians examine their hearts, they might see there is
something of God in them, and so their false fears would be prevented, and
they might approach with comfort to the holy mysteries in the Eucharist.
Self-examination is needful with respect to the danger of
coming unworthily without it. He "shall be guilty of the body and blood of
the Lord." 1 Cor 11:27. "It is as if he were butchering Christ!" Grotius.
God reckons with him—as with a crucifier of the Lord Jesus! He does not
drink Christ's blood—but sheds it; and so brings that curse upon
him, as when the Jews said, "His blood be upon us and our children!" Nothing
is more comfortable—than the virtue of Christ's blood; nothing is more
dreadful—than the guilt of it!
(4) We must examine ourselves before the sacrament, on
account of the difficulty of the work. Difficulty raises a noble spirit.
Self-examination is difficult, because it is an inward work, it lies with
the heart. External acts of devotion are easy; to lift up the eye, to bow
the knee, to read over a few prayers, is as easy as for the Papists to count
over a few rosary beads! But to examine a man's self, to take the heart in
pieces, to make a Scripture-trial of our fitness for the Lord's supper, is
not easy. Contemplative acts are hardest. The eye cannot see itself, except
in a looking-glass; so we must have the looking-glass of the Word and
conscience to see our own hearts. It is easy to spy the faults of others;
but it is hard to find our own faults! Self-examination is difficult, with
regard to self-love. As ignorance blinds, so self-love flatters. What
Solomon says of love, "Love covers all sins," is most true of self-love.
Proverbs 10:12. To a man looking upon himself in the flattering
looking-glass of self-love—his virtues appear greater than they are, and
his sins less. Self-love makes a man rather excuse himself, than examine
himself; self-love makes one think the best of himself; and he who has a
good opinion of himself, does not suspect himself; and not suspecting
himself, he is not forward to examine himself. The work, therefore, of
self-examination being so difficult, requires the more impartiality and
industry. Difficulty should be a spur to diligence.
(5) We must examine ourselves before we come, because of
the benefit of self-examination. The benefit is great whatever way it
terminates. If, upon examination, we find that we have no grace in
truth, the mistake is discovered, and the danger prevented; if we find that
we have true grace, we may take the comfort of it. He who, upon
search, finds that he has the least degree of grace—he is like one who has
found his box of evidences; he is a happy man; he is a fit guest at the
Lord's table; he is heir to all the promises; he is as sure to go to
heaven—as if he were in heaven already!
What must we examine?
(1) We must examine our SINS. Search if any dead fly
spoils sweet ointment. When we come to the sacrament, as the Jews did before
the Passover, we should search for leaven, and having found it we
should burn it!
Let us search for the leaven of PRIDE. This sours our
holy things. Will a humble Christ be received into a proud heart? Pride
keeps Christ out. "Its presence within blocks the entrance of any other." To
a proud man Christ's blood has no virtue; it is like a cordial put into a
dead man's mouth, which loses its virtue. Let us search for the leaven of
pride, and cast it away.
Let us search for the leaven of AVARICE. The Lord's
supper is a spiritual mystery, to represent Christ's body and blood; what
would an earthly heart do here? The earth puts out the fire; so earthliness
quenches the fire of holy love. The earth is "the heaviest of the
elements"—it cannot ascend. A soul beslimed with earth, cannot ascend to
heavenly meditations. "Covetousness, which is idolatry." Col 3:5. Will
Christ come into the heart where there is an idol? Search for this leaven
before you come to this ordinance. How can an earthly heart converse with
that God which is a spirit? Can a clod of earth kiss the sun?
Search for the leaven of HYPOCRISY. "Beware of the leaven
of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." Luke 12:1. Aquinas describes it as
"the counterfeiting of virtue." The hypocrite is a living pageant, he only
makes a show of religion; he gives God his knee—but no heart; and God
gives him bread and wine in the sacrament—but no Christ. Oh, let us search
for this leaven of hypocrisy and burn it!
(2) We must examine our GRACES. I shall instance one
We are to examine whether we have knowledge, or we cannot
give God a reasonable service. Rom 12:1. Knowledge is a necessary requisite
in a communicant; without it there can be no fitness for the sacrament. A
person cannot be fit to come to the Lord's table, who has no goodness; but
without knowledge the mind is not good. Proverbs 19:2. Some say they have
good hearts, though they lack knowledge; as if one should say, his eye is
good—but it lacks sight. Under the law, when the plague of leprosy was in a
man's head, the priest was to pronounce him unclean. The ignorant person has
the plague in his head, he is unclean; ignorance is the womb of sin. 1 Pet
1:14. Therefore it is requisite, before we come, to examine what knowledge
we have in the main fundamentals of religion. Let it not be said of us, that
"unto this day the veil is upon their heart." 2 Cor 3:15. In this
intelligent age, we cannot but have some insight into the mysteries of the
gospel. I rather fear, we are like Rachel, who was fair and well-sighted—but
Let us examine whether our knowledge be rightly
qualified. Is it influential. Does our knowledge warm our heart?
"Clearness in the understanding, breeds zeal in the doing." Saving knowledge
not only directs, but quickens; it is the light of life. John
8:12. Is our knowledge practical? We hear much; do we love the
truths we know? That is the right knowledge which not only adorns the
mind—but reforms the life.
 This solemn preparation for the sacrament consists in
dressing our souls before we come. This soul-dress is in two
(1) Washing in the lever of repenting tears.
To come to this ordinance with the guilt of any sin unrepented of, makes way
for further hardening of the heart, and gives Satan fuller possession of it.
"They shall look on me whom they have pierced—and they shall mourn
for him." Zech 12:10. The cloud of sorrow must drop into tears. We must
grieve as for the pollution, so for the unkindness in every sin which is
against Christ's love who died for us. When Peter thought of Christ's love
in calling him out of his unregeneracy to make him an apostle, and to carry
him up to the mount of transfiguration, where he saw the glory of heaven in
a vision, and then of his denying Christ—it broke his heart: "he wept
bitterly." Matt 26:75. To think, before we come to a sacrament, of sins
against the heart-mercies of God the Father, the bleeding wounds of God the
Son, the blessed inspirations of God the Holy Spirit—is enough to fill our
eyes with tears, and put us into a holy agony of grief and compunction. We
must be distressed for sin, be divorced from it. Before the
serpent drinks, it casts up its poison; in this we must be wise as serpents.
Before we drink of the sacramental cup, we must cast up the poison of sin by
repentance. Augustine, "He truly bewails the sins he has committed, who does
not commit the sins he has bewailed."
(2) The soul-dress is the exciting and stirring up the
habit of grace into a lively exercise. "I put you in remembrance,
that you stir up the gift of God which is in you," that is, the gifts and
graces of the Spirit. 2 Tim 1:6. The Greek word to stir up, signifies to
blow up grace into a flame. Grace is often like fire in the embers,
which needs blowing up. It is possible that even a godly man may not come so
well disposed to this ordinance, because he has not before taken pains with
his heart, to come in due order, to stir up grace into vigorous exercise;
and though he does not eat and drink damnation—yet he does not receive
consolation in the sacrament.
 A solemn preparation for the sacrament, consists in
begging God's blessing upon the ordinance. The efficacy of the
sacrament depends upon the blessing of the Spirit. In the institution,
Christ blessed the elements: "Jesus took bread and blessed it." The
sacrament will do us good, no farther than it is blessed to us. We ought,
before we come, to pray for a blessing, that it may not only be a sign to
represent—but a seal to confirm, and an instrument to convey Christ and all
his benefits to us. We are to pray that this great ordinance may be
poison to our sins, and food to our graces. As with Jonathan,
when he tasted the honeycomb, "and his eyes were enlightened;" so by
receiving this holy Eucharist, our eyes may be enlightened to "discern the
Lord's body." 1 Sam 14:27. Thus should we implore a blessing upon the
ordinance before we come. The sacrament is like a tree hung full of
fruit—but none of this fruit will fall, unless shaken by the hand of prayer.
II. That the sacrament may be effectual to us, there must
be a right participation of it, which consists in four things.
 A right participation of the supper is, when we draw
near to God's table in a humble sense of our UNWORTHINESS. We do
not deserve one crumb of the bread of life; we are poor indigent creatures,
who have lost our glory; and are like a vessel that is shipwrecked! We smite
on our breasts, as the publican, "God be merciful to us sinners." This is
partaking of the ordinance aright. It is part of our worthiness—to see our
 We rightly partake when at the Lord's table we are
filled with breathing of soul and inflamed desires after Christ,
which nothing can quench but his blood. "Blessed are those who thirst." Matt
5:6. They are blessed not only when they are filled—but while they are
 A right participation of the supper is, when we
receive it in FAITH. Without faith we get no good. What is said
of the Word preached, it "did not profit them, not being mixed with faith,"
is true of the sacrament. Heb 4:2. Christ turned stones into bread; unbelief
turns the bread into stones—which do not nourish. We partake aright when we
come in faith. Faith has a twofold act, an adhering, and an
applying. By the first we go over to Christ, by the second we bring
Christ over to us. Gal 2:20. This is the grace we must set to work. Acts
10:43. Philo calls it, "the eye of faith." It is the eagle-eye that discerns
the Lord's body; it causes a virtual contact, it touches Christ. Christ said
to Mary, "Touch me not," etc. John 20:17. She was not to touch him with the
hands of her body; but he says to us, "Touch me," touch me with the hand of
your faith. Faith makes Christ present to the soul. The believer has a real
presence in the sacrament. The body of the sun is in the sky—but the light
of the sun is in the eye. Christ's essence is in heaven—but he is in a
believer's heart by his light and influence. "That Christ may dwell in your
hearts by faith." Eph 3:17. Faith is the palate which tastes Christ.
1 Pet 2:3. It causes the bread of life to nourish. "Believe and you have
fed." Augustine. Faith makes us one with Christ. Eph 1:23. Other graces make
us like Christ; faith makes us members of Christ.
 We partake aright of the sacrament when we receive it
(1) Love to Christ. Who can see Christ pierced
with a crown of thorns, sweating in his agony, bleeding on the cross—but his
heart must needs be endeared in love to him? How can we but love him who has
given his life a ransom for us? Love is the spiced wine and juice of the
pomegranate which we must give to Christ. Canticles 8:2. Our love to this
superior and blessed Jesus must exceed our love to other things; as the oil
runs above the water. Though we cannot, with Mary, bring our body ointment
to anoint his body, we do more than this, whence bring him our love, which
is sweeter to him than all ointments and perfumes.
(2) Love to the saints. This is a love-feast.
Though we must eat it with the bitter herbs of repentance—yet not with the
bitter herbs of malice. Were it not sad if all the food we eat, should turn
to our hurt? He who comes in malice to the Lord's table, turns all he eats
to his hurt. "He eats and drinks damnation to himself." 1 Cor 11:29. "Come
in love." It is with love, as with fire which you keep all the day upon the
hearth—but at special times, you make larger. We must have love to all; but
to the saints, who are our fellow-members here, we must draw out the fire of
our love larger; and must show the largeness of our affections to them, by
prizing them, by choosing their company, by doing all offices of love to
them, by counseling them in their doubts, comforting them in their fears,
and supplying them in their needs. Thus one Christian may be an Ebenezer to
another, and as an angel of God to him. The sacrament cannot be effectual to
him who does not receive it in love. If a man drinks poison and then takes a
cordial, the cordial will do him little good, so he who has the poison of
malice in his soul, the cordial of Christ's blood will do him no good; come
therefore in love and charity.
Use one. Learn how precious this sacrament
should be to us. It is a sealed deed to make over the blessings of the new
covenant to us. A small piece of wax put to a parchment is made the
instrument to confirm a rich conveyance or lordship to another; so these
elements in the sacrament of bread and wine, though in themselves of no
great value—yet being consecrated to be seals to confirm the covenant of
grace to us, are of more value than all the riches of the Indies.
Use two. The sacrament being such a holy
mystery, let us come to it with holy hearts. There is no receiving a
crucified Christ but into a consecrated heart. Christ in his conception lay
in a pure virgin's womb, and, at his death, his body was wrapped in clean
linen, and put into a new virgin tomb, never yet defiled. If Christ would
not lie in an unclean grave—surely he will not be received into an unclean
heart. "Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord." Isa 52:11. If those
who carried the vessels of the Lord were to be holy, those who are to be the
vessels of the Lord, and are to hold Christ's blood and body, ought to be
Use three. Christ's body and blood in the
sacrament are a most sovereign elixir or comfort to a distressed soul.
Having poured out his blood, God's justice is fully satisfied. There is in
the death of Christ enough to answer all doubts. What if sin is the
poison—the flesh of Christ is an antidote against it! What if sin be red as
scarlet—is not Christ's blood of a deeper color, and can wash away sin? If
Satan strikes us with his darts of temptation—here is a precious balm out of
Christ's wounds to heal us. Isa 53:5. What though we feed upon the bread of
affliction—so long as in the sacrament we feed upon the bread of life?
Christ received aright sacramentally, is a universal medicine for healing,
and a universal cordial for cheering our distressed souls!
"But I give myself unto prayer." Psalm 109:4.
I shall not here expatiate upon prayer, as it will be
considered more fully in the Lord's prayer. It is one thing to pray, and
another thing to be given to prayer. He who prays frequently, is said
to be given to prayer; as he who often distributes alms, is said to be given
to charity. Prayer is a glorious ordinance, it is the soul's trading with
heaven. God comes down to us by his Spirit—and we go up to him by prayer.
What is prayer?
It is an offering up of our desires to God for things
agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ.
"Prayer is offering up our desires;" and therefore called
making known our requests. Phil 4:6. In prayer we come as humble
petitioners, begging to have our suit granted. It is "offering up our
desires to God." Prayer is not to be made to any but God. The Papists pray
to saints and angels, who know not our grievances. "Abraham is ignorant of
us." Isa 63:16. All angel-worship is forbidden. Col 2:18, 19. We must not
pray to any but whom we may believe in. "How shall they call on him in whom
they have not believed?" Rom 10:14. We cannot believe in an angel, therefore
we must not pray to him.
Why must prayer be made to God alone?
(1) Because he only hears prayer. "Oh you who hear
prayer." Psalm 65:2. Hereby God is known to be the true God, in that he
hears prayer. "Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that you
are the Lord God." 1 Kings 18:37.
(2) Because God only can help. We may look to second
causes, and cry, as the woman did, "Help, O king." And he said, "If the Lord
does not help you, whence shall I help you?" 2 Kings 6:26, 27. If we are in
outward distress, God must send from heaven and save; if we are in inward
agonies, he only can pour in the oil of joy; therefore prayer is to be made
to him only.
We are to pray "for things agreeable to his will." When
we pray for outward things, for riches or children, perhaps God sees these
things not to be good for us. Our prayers should comport with his will. We
may pray absolutely for grace; "For this is the will of God—even your
sanctification." 1 Thess 4:3. There must be no strange incense offered.
Exodus 30:9. When we pray for things which are not agreeable to God's will,
it is offering strange incense.
We are to pray "in the name of Christ." To pray in the
name of Christ, is not only to mention Christ's name in prayer—but to
pray in the hope and confidence of his merits. "Samuel took a lamb and
offered it," etc. 1 Sam 7:9. We must carry the lamb Christ in the arms of
our faith, and so shall we prevail in prayer. When Uzziah would offer
incense without a priest, God was angry, and struck him with leprosy. 2
Chron 26:16. When we do not pray in Christ's name, in the hope of his
mediation, we offer up incense without a priest; and what can we expect but
to meet with rebukes, and to have God answer us by dreadful things?
What are the several PARTS of prayer?
(1) Confession—which is the acknowledgment of sin.
(2) Supplication—when we either deprecate and pray
against some evil—or request the obtaining of some good.
(3) Thanksgiving—when we give thanks for mercies
received, which is the most excellent part of prayer. In petition, we act
like men; in giving thanks, we act like angels.
What are the several KINDS of prayer?
(1) There is mental prayer, in the mind. 1 Sam 1:13.
(2) Vocal prayer. Psalm 77:1.
(3) Ejaculatory prayer, which is a sudden and short
elevation of the heart to God. "So I prayed to the God of heaven." Neh 2:4.
(4) Inspired prayer, when we pray for those things which
God puts into our heart. The Spirit helps us with sighs and groans. Rom
8:26. Both the expressions of the tongue, and the impressions of the heart,
so far as they are right, are from the Spirit.
(5) Prescribed prayer. Our Savior has set us a pattern of
prayer. God prescribed a set form of blessing for the priests. Numb 6:23.
(6) Public prayer, when we pray in the audience of
others. Prayer is more powerful when many join and unite their forces. "A
united force is stronger." Matt 18:19.
(7) Private prayer; when we pray by ourselves. "Enter
into your closet." Matt 6:6.
That prayer is most likely to prevail with God which is
rightly qualified. That is a good medicine which has the right ingredients;
and that prayer is good, and most likely to prevail with God, which has
these seven ingredients in it:
 Prayer must be mixed with FAITH. "But let
him ask in faith." James 1:6. Believe that God hears, and will in due time
grant; believe his love and truth; believe that he is love, and therefore
will not deny you; believe that he is truth, and therefore will not deny
himself. Faith sets prayer to work. Faith is to prayer, what the feather is
to the arrow; it feathers the arrow of prayer, and makes it fly swifter, and
pierce the throne of grace. The prayer which is faithless, is fruitless.
 It must be a MELTING prayer. "The
sacrifices of God are a broken spirit." Psalm 51:17. The incense was to be
beaten—to typify the breaking of the heart in prayer. Oh! says a
Christian, I cannot pray with such gifts and elocution as others; as Moses
said, "I am not eloquent." But can't you weep? Does your heart melt in
prayer? Weeping prayer prevails. Tears drop as pearls from the eye. Jacob
wept and made supplication; and "had power over the angel." Hosea 12:4.
 Prayer must be fired with ZEAL and FERVENCY.
"Effectual fervent prayer avails much." James 5:16. Cold prayer, like cold
suitors, never prevail. Prayer without fervency, is like a sacrifice without
a fire. Prayer is called a "pouring out of the soul," to signify vehemence.
1 Sam 1:15. Formality starves prayer. Prayer is compared to incense. "Let my
prayer be set forth as incense." Psalm 141:2. Hot coals were to be put to
the incense, to make it odoriferous and fragrant; so fervency of affection
is like coals to the incense; it makes prayer ascend as a sweet perfume.
Christ prayed with strong cries. Heb 5:7. "Such a cry pierces the clouds."
Luther. Fervent prayer makes heaven's gates fly open. To cause holy fervor
and ardor of soul in prayer, consider,
(1) Prayer without fervency is no prayer; it is
speaking—not praying. Lifeless prayer is no more prayer, than the
picture of a man is a man. One may say as Pharaoh, "I have dreamed a dream."
Gen 41:15. It is dreaming, not praying. Life and fervency baptize a duty,
and give it a name.
(2) Consider in what need we stand, of those things which
we ask in prayer. We come to ask the favor of God; and if we have not his
love all we enjoy is cursed to us. We pray that our souls may be washed in
Christ's blood; if he does not wash us—we have no part in him. John 13:8.
When will we be in earnest, if not when we are praying for the life of our
(3) It is only fervent prayer, which has the promise of
mercy affixed to it. "You shall find me, when you shall search for me with
all your heart." Jer 29:13. It is dead praying without a promise; and the
promise is made only to ardency. God's heart is ever open to fervent prayer.
 Prayer must be SINCERE. Sincerity is the
silver thread which must run through the whole duties of religion. Sincerity
in prayer, is when we have gracious holy ends; when our prayer is not so
much for temporal mercies as for spiritual. We send out prayer as our
merchant ship, that we may have large returns of spiritual blessings. Our
aim in it is, that our hearts may be more holy, that we may have more
communion with God and that we may increase our stock of grace. The prayer
which lacks a good aim—lacks a good outcome.
 The prayer that will prevail with God must have a
FIXEDNESS of mind. "My heart is fixed, O God." Psalm 57:7. Since
the fall, the mind is like quicksilver, which will not fix; it has "a
principle of restlessness, not of peace." The thoughts will be roving and
dancing up and down in prayer, just as if a man who is traveling to a
certain place should run out of the road, and wander he knows not where. In
prayer we are traveling to the throne of grace—but how often do we, by vain
cogitations, turn out of the road! This is rather wandering, than
How shall we cure these vain impertinent thoughts, which
distract us in prayer, and, we fear, hinder its acceptance?
(1) Be very apprehensive in prayer of the infiniteness of
God's majesty and purity. His eye is upon us in prayer, and we may say as
David, "You see my wanderings." Psalm 56:8. The thoughts of this, would make
us mind the duty we are about. If a man were to deliver a petition to an
earthly king, would he at the same time be playing with a feather? Set
yourselves, when you pray, as in God's presence. Could you but look through
the keyhole of heaven, and see how devout and intent the angels are in their
worshiping God, surely you would be ready to blush at your vain thoughts and
vile impertinences in prayer.
(2) If you would keep your mind fixed in prayer, keep
your eye fixed. "Unto you lift I up my eyes, O you who dwell in the
heavens." Psalm 123:1. Much vanity comes in at the eye. When the eye wanders
in prayer, the heart wanders. To think to keep the heart fixed in prayer,
and yet let the eye gaze, is as if one should think to keep his house safe,
and yet let the windows be open.
(3) If you would have your thoughts fixed in prayer, get
more love to God. Love is a great fixer of the thoughts. He who is in love
cannot keep his thoughts off the object. He who loves the world has his
thoughts upon the world. Did we love God more, our minds would be more
intent upon him in prayer. Were there more delight in duty, there
would be less distraction.
(4) Implore the help of God's Spirit to fix your minds,
and make them intent and serious in prayer. The ship without a pilot rather
floats, than sails. That our thoughts do not float up and down
in prayer, we need the blessed Spirit to be our pilot to steer us. Only
God's Spirit can bound the thoughts. A shaking hand may as well write a line
steadily, as we can keep our hearts fixed in prayer without the Spirit of
(5) Make holy thoughts familiar to you in your ordinary
course of life. David was often musing on God. "When I am awake, I am still
with you." Psalm 139:18. He who gives himself liberty to have vain thoughts
out of prayer, will scarcely have serious thoughts in prayer.
(6) If you would keep your mind fixed on God, watch your
hearts, not only after prayer—but in prayer. The heart will be apt to give
you the slip, and have a thousand vagaries in prayer. We read of angels
ascending and descending on Jacob's ladder; so in prayer you shall find your
hearts ascending to heaven, and in a moment descending upon earthly objects.
O Christians, watch your hearts in prayer. What a shame is it to think, that
when we are speaking to God—that our hearts should be in the fields, or in
our counting-houses, or one way or other—running upon the devil's errand!
(7) Labor for larger degrees of grace. The more ballast
the ship has—the better it sails; so the more the heart is ballasted with
grace—the steadier it will sail to heaven in prayer.
 Prayer that is likely to prevail with God must be
argumentative. God loves to have us plead with him, and use arguments in
prayer. See how many arguments Jacob used in prayer. "Deliver me, I pray
you, from the hand of my brother." Gen 32:11. The arguments he used are from
God's command "You said to me, Return to your country;" ver 9; as if he had
said, I did not take this journey of my own head—but by your direction;
therefore you can not but in honor protect me. And he uses another argument.
"You said, I will surely do you good;" ver 12. Lord, will you go back from
your own promise? Thus he was argumentative in prayer; and he got not only a
new blessing—but a new name. "Your name shall no more be called Jacob—but
Israel: for as a prince have you power with God, and have prevailed;" ver
28. God loves to be overcome with strength of argument.
Thus, when we come to God in prayer for grace, let us be
argumentative. "Lord, you call yourself the God of all grace; and where
should we go with our vessel—but to the fountain? Lord, your grace may be
imparted—yet not impaired." Has not Christ purchased grace for poor indigent
creatures? Every grain of grace costs a drop of blood. Shall Christ die to
purchase grace for us, and shall not we have the fruit of his purchase?
Lord, it is your delight to milk out the breast of mercy and grace, and will
you abridge yourself of your own delight? You have promised to give your
Spirit to implant grace; can truth lie? can faithfulness deceive? God loves
thus to be overcome with arguments in prayer.
 Prayer which prevails with God, must be joined with
holiness of life. "If you stretch out your hands toward him; if iniquity is
in your hand, put it far away." Job 11:13, 14. Sin, lived in—makes the heart
hard, and God's ear deaf. It is foolish to pray against sin, and then sin
against prayer. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear
me." Psalm 66:18. The loadstone loses its virtue when bespread with garlic;
so does prayer when polluted with sin. The incense of prayer must be offered
upon the altar of a holy heart.
Thus you see what is the prayer which is most likely to
prevail with God.
(1) It reproves such as do not pray at all. It is made
the mark of a reprobate—that he calls not upon God. Psalm 14:4. Does he
think to have an alms—who never asks it? Do they think to have mercy from
God—who never seek it? Then God would befriend them more than he did his own
Son. Christ offered up prayers with strong cries. Heb 5:7. None of God's
children are born dumb! Gal 4:6.
(2) It reproves such as have left off prayer, which is a
sign that they never felt the fruit and comfort of it. He who leaves off
prayer leaves off to fear God. "You cast off fear, and restrain prayer
before God." Job 15:4. A man who has left off prayer, is fit for any
wickedness. When Saul had given over inquiring after God—he went to the
witch of Endor.
Use two. Be people given to prayer. "I give
myself," says David, "to prayer." Pray for pardon and purity. Prayer is
the golden key which opens heaven! The tree of the promise will not drop
its fruit, unless shaken by the hand of prayer. All the benefits of Christ's
redemption, are handed over to us by prayer.
I have prayed a long time for mercy, and have no answer.
"I am weary of crying." Ps 69:3.
(1) God may hear us when we do not hear from him; as soon
as prayer is made, God hears it, though he does not presently answer. A
friend may receive our letter, though he does not presently send us an
(2) God may delay prayer—yet he will not deny
Why does God delay an answer to prayer?
(1) Because he loves to hear the voice of prayer. "The
prayer of the upright is his delight." Proverbs 15:8. You let the musician
play a great while before you throw him money, because you love to hear his
music. Canticles 2:14.
(2) God may delay prayer when he will not deny it, that
he may humble us. He has spoken to us long in his Word to leave our sins—but
we would not hear him; therefore he lets us speak to him in prayer and seems
not to hear us.
(3) He may delay to answer prayer when he will not deny
it, because he sees we are not yet fit for the mercy we ask. Perhaps we pray
for deliverance when we are not fit for it—our scum is not yet boiled away.
We would have God swift to deliver—yet we are slow to repent.
(4) God may delay to answer prayer, that the mercy we
pray for may be more prized, and may be sweeter when it comes. The longer
the merchant's ships stay abroad, the more he rejoices when they come home
laden with spices and jewels. Therefore be not discouraged—but follow God
with prayer. Though God delays, he will not deny. Prayer
"conquers the invincible"—it overcomes the Omnipotent. Hos 12:4. The Syrians
tied their god Hercules fast with a golden chain, that he should not move.
The Lord was held by Moses' prayer—as with a golden chain. "Let me alone;"
why, what did Moses do? he only prayed. Exodus 32:10. Prayer ushers in
mercy. Be your case ever so sad—if you can but pray you need not fear. Psalm
10:17. Therefore give yourself to prayer.