By Lewis Bayly
Of the Second sort of Duties which a worthy Communicant is to perform at the receiving of the Lord's Supper, called Meditation.
This exercise of spiritual meditation consists in divers points.
First, When the sermon is ended and the banquet of the Lord's Supper begins to be celebrated, meditate with thyself how thou art invited by Christ to be a guest at his holy table (Matt. xxii.), and how lovingly he inviteth thee, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters of life, &c. Come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price: eat ye that which is good, let your soul delight itself in fatness." (Isa. lv. 1, 2.) "Take ye, eat ye; this is my body which was broken for you: drink ye all of this; for this is my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins." (Matt. xxvi. 26, 27, 28, &c.) What greater honour can be vouchsafed than to be admitted to sit at the Lord's own table? what better fare can be afforded than to feed on the Lord's own body and blood? If David thought it the greatest favour that he could shew to good Barzillai, for all the kindness that he had shewn to him in his troubles, to offer him that he should feed with him at his own table in Jerusalem (2 Sam. xix. 33;) how much greater favour ought we to account it when Christ doth indeed feed us in the church at his own table, and that with his own most holy body and blood?
Secondly, As Abraham, when he went up to the mount, to sacrifice Isaac his son, left his servants beneath in the valley (Gen. xxii. 5), so when thou comest to the spiritual sacrifice of the Lord's Supper, lay aside all earthly thoughts and cogitations, that thou mayest wholly contemplate of Christ, and offer up thy soul unto him, who sacrificed both his soul and body for thee.
Thirdly, Meditate with thyself how precious and venerable is the body and blood, of the Son of God, who is the ruler of heaven and earth, the Lord, at whose beck the angels tremble, and by whom both the quick" and dead shall be judged at the last day, and thou among the rest: and that it is he, who having been crucified for thy sins, offereth now to be received by faith into thy soul. On the other side, consider how sinful a creature thou art-how altogether unworthy of so holy a guest-how ill-deserving to taste of such sacred food, having been conceived in sin, and wallowing ever since in the mire of iniquity; bearing the name of a Christian, but doing the works of the devil; adoring Christ with an Ave Rex in thy mouth, but spitting oaths in his face, and crucifying him anew with thy graceless actions.
Fourthly, Ponder then with what face darest thou offer to touch so holy a body with such defiled hands; or to drink such precious blood with so lewd and lying a mouth; or to lodge so blessed a guest in so unclean a stable? for if the Bethshemites were slain for but looking irreverently into the Ark of the Old Testament, what judgments mayst thou justly expect, who with such impure eyes and heart art come to see and receive the Ark of the New Testament, in which dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Col. ii. 3, 9.)
If Uzza, for but touching, though not without zeal, the Ark of the Covenant, was stricken with sudden death (2 Sam. vi. 7), what stroke of divine judgment mayst thou not fear, that so rudely, with unclean hands, dost presume to handle the Ark of the eternal testament, wherein are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge?
If John Baptist, the holiest man that was born of a woman, thought himself unworthy to bear his shoes (Matt. iii. 11), how unworthy is such a profane wretch as thou art, to eat his holy flesh and to drink his precious blood?
If the blessed Apostle St. Peter, seeing but a glimpse of Christ's almighty power, thought himself unworthy to stand in the same boat with him, how unworthy art thou to sit with Christ at the same table, where thou mayest behold the infiniteness of his grace and mercy displayed?
If the centurion thought that the roof of his house was not worthy to harbour so divine a guest (Matt. viii. 8), what room can there be fit under thy ribs for Christ's holiness to dwell in?
If the blood-issued sick woman feared to touch the hem of his garment, how shouldst thou tremble to eat his flesh, and to drink his all-healing blood?
Yet if thou comest humbly, in faith, repentance, and charity, abhorring thy sins past, and purposing un-feignedly to amend thy life henceforth, let not thy former sins affright thee, for they shall never be laid to thy charge: and this sacrament shall seal unto thy soul, that all thy sins and the judgments due to them, are fully pardoned and clean washed away by the blood of Christ. For this sacrament was not ordained for them who are perfect, but to help penitent sinners unto perfection: Christ came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; and he saith, that the whole need not the physician, but they that are sick (Matt. ix. 12, 13; xi. 28.) Those hath Christ called, and when they came them hath he ever helped. Witness the whole gospel, which testifieth, that not one sinner who came to Christ for mercy, ever went away without his errand. Bathe thou likewise thy sick soul in this fountain of Christ's blood, and doubtless, according to his promise (Zech. xiii. 1), thou shalt be healed of all thy sins and uncleanness. Not sinners, therefore, but they who are unwilling to repent of their sins, are debarred this sacrament.
Fifthly, Meditate that Christ left this sacrament to ns, as the chief token and pledge of his love; not when we would have made him a king (John vi. 15), which might have seemed a requital of kindness, but when Judas and the high-priests were conspiring his death,-therefore wholly of his mere favour. When Nathan would shew David how entirely the poor man loved his sheep that was killed by the rich man, he gave her, saith he, to eat of his own morsels, and of his own cup to drink (2 Sam. xii. 3;) and must not then the love of Christ to his church be unspeakable, when he gives her his own flesh to eat, and his own blood to drink, for her spiritual and eternal nourishment? If, then, there be any love in thy heart, take the cup of salvation into thy hand, and pledge his love with love again (Psal. cxvi. 11.)
Sixthly, When the minister begins the holy consecration of the sacrament, then lay aside all praying, reading, and all other cogitations whatsoever, and settle thy meditations only upon those holy actions and rites, which, according to Christ's institution, are used in and about the holy sacrament: for it hath pleased God, considering our weakness, to appoint those rites, as means the better to lift up our minds to the serious contemplation of his heavenly graces.
When, therefore, thou seest the minister putting apart bread and wine on the Lord's table, and consecrating them by prayer and the rehearsal of Christ's institution to be a holy sacrament of the blessed body and blood of Christ; then meditate how God the Father, of his mere lore to mankind, set apart and sealed his only-begotten Son, to be the all-sufficient means, and only Mediator, to redeem us from sin, and to reconcile us to his grace, and to bring us to his glory.
When thou seest the minister break the bread, being blessed, thou must meditate that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, was put to death, and his blessed soul and body, with the sense of God's anger, broken asunder for thy sins, as verily as thou now seest the holy sacrament to be broken before thine eyes; and withal call to mind the heinousness of thy sins, and the greatness of God's hatred against the same: seeing God's justice could not be satisfied but by such a sacrifice.
When the minister hath blessed and broken the sacrament, and is addressing himself to distribute it, then meditate, that the King, who is the master of the feast, stands at the table to see his guests (Matt. xxii. 11), and looketh upon thee whether thou hast on thee thy wedding garment; think also that all the holy angels that attend upon the elect in the church (1 Cor. xi. 10), and do desire to behold the celebration of these holy mysteries (1 Pet. i. 12), do observe thy reverence and behaviour. Let thy soul, therefore, whilst the minister bringeth the sacrament unto thee, offer this or the like short soliloquy unto Christ:-