Preparing for the Lord’s Table

“I will be sanctified in them that come near Me…”

Lev. 10:3

“Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.  For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”

1 Cor. 11:27-31

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Subsections

Bible Verses on Preparation for Communion with God

Preparatory Communion Sermons and Table Addresses

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Order of Contents

Introduction
What is it to Eat and Drink Unworthily?
The Necessity of Preparation
Preparation in the OT
The Necessity of Pastoral Preparation of the People
Coming to the Table for the First Time?
Meditation, Self-Examination & Prayers
Preparatory Materials
At the Table
After the Lord’s Table
On a Preparatory Worship Service Before the Supper
Historical Articles

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Introduction  (Under Construction)

Quote from John Carstairs intro to Durham’s, Unsearchable Riches

John Spalding:

‘I am, by virtue of the keys of the kingdom committed to us ministers, to shut the door of this ordinance upon those whom Christ has judged unworthy thereof… and therefore, I in the name and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ… do excommunicate and debar from this holy ordinance, generally… (2) All these that keep up and foster any known sin and transgression and have no mind to shed with it, and will not be in Christ’s common to rid them of it…’

‘I in the same name and authority… am to set open the door to: (1) All these that are broken in themselves, and see no relief but in Christ Jesus; O ye poor, blind, naked, lame, dumb and deaf, come.  (2) All ye that have so much as a greedy look, a heart hankering and langor[ing] after Christ and his righteousness. ; O ye serious desirers, earnest thirsters and hungerers, come get (though ye cannot be satisfied) come get a hungry fill of Christ; O creepers, though ye cannot walk nor run, come borrow legs and wings from Him.’

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What is it to Eat & Drink Unworthily?

Articles

1600’s

Vines, Richard – A Treatise on the Institution, Right Administration and Receiving of the Lord’s Supper, pp. 197-240 & 291-304, Vines was a Westminster divine

Ch. 18 – ‘Of Worthy and Unworthy Receiving of the Lord’s Supper’, pp. 197-240

Ch. 23 – ‘Of Worthy and Unworthy Receiving, with some Cautions to prevent mis-judging ourselves in the case’, pp. 291-304

Ch. 24 – ‘Of Worthy Receiving, etc.’, pp. 305-317

Ch. 25 – ‘That a Godly Man may Receive the Sacrament Unworthily’, pp. 318-321

Ch. 30 – ‘The Sinfulness of Eating an Drinking Unworthily’, pp. 370-375

Ch. 31 – ‘The Cause of this Sin: Not Discerning the Lord’s Body’, pp. 376-380

Ch. 32 – ‘The Aggravations of the Sin of Unworthy Receiving’, pp. 381-384

Ch. 33 – ‘The Danger of this sin’, pp. 385 ff.

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1700’s

Willison, John – Direction 6: Concerning the Sin and Danger of Unworthy Communicating  in A Sacramental Directory, or a Treatise Concerning the Sanctification of a Communion Sabbath, pp. 58-65

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1800’s

Hodge, Charles – ‘But what is it to Eat and Drink Unworthily?’  (1860)  3 paragraphs, from his Commentary on 1 Corinthians

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The Necessity of Preparation

Quote

Walter Stewart of Pardovan, Collections & Observations Concerning the Worship, Discipline & Government of the Church of Scotland  (1709)

“15.  Secret Preparation

It is so far from being a warrant and satisfying to a man’s conscience for approaching the Lord’s Table because the discipline of the church admits him, that even a man habitually gracious and prepared will not for ordinary adventure to approach it except he has made conscience of getting himself actually prepared and his graces put in exercise, and set apart some considerable time for that purpose.”

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Articles

Bolton, Samuel – The Guard of the Tree of Life, or, A Sacramental Discourse showing a Christian’s Privilege in Approaching to God in Ordinances, Duty in his Sacramental Approaches, Danger if he do not Sanctify God in Them  Buy  1644

Bolton was a Westminster divine.

Burgess, Anthony – A Treatise of Self-Judging, in Order to the Worthy Receiving of the Lord’s Supper  (London, 1658)

Burgess was a Westminster divine.

Vines, Richard – ‘Of Examination in Order to this Sacrament’, being ch. 33 of A Treatise of the Institution, Right Administration and Receiving of the Lord’s Supper, pp. 391-420

Vines was a Westminster divine.

Willison, John – A Sacramental Directory, or a Treatise Concerning the Sanctification of a Communion Sabbath

Direction 4: Concerning the Necessity of Solemn Preparation before our Partaking, pp. 50-53

Direction 5: Concerning Habitual and Actual Preparation, pp. 54-58

Direction 8: Concerning Self-Examination before Partaking; of the Examination of our State, Sins, Wants, Ends and Graces, pp. 72-102

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Moral Preparation Before Sacraments of Communion in the Old Testament 

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Samuel Rutherford

The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (1644), pt. 2, pp. 190-91

“3. That God required not moral preparation in them for eating the Passover as he does in us before we eat the Lord’s Supper [as the congregationalists claimed], I conceive to be an untruth.

1. Because not to profane the holy things of God, and not to take God’s Law in their mouth and to hate to be reformed, Ps. 50:16, not to sacrifice with bloody hands, Isa. 1:11-12, etc. Ps. 50:8-10; Isa. 66:1, was moral, and did bind and oblige the Jews as they do us, and 2 Chron. 30:6, the posts are sent to gather the people to the Passover, charging them to turn to the Lord God of their fathers, not to be like their fathers; and it is clear by Hezekiah’s prayer, verses 18-19, ‘Good Lord pardon him that prepares his heart to seek the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary,’ verse 20, ‘And the Lord hearkened, and healed the people.’  Therefore, there was required a preparation of the heart for the right eating of the Passover, besides the typical and ceremonial preparation.

Yea God counted the ceremonial preparation void of the moral preparation but abomination, as Isa. 66:1; Isa. 58:3-6 and Josiah’s Passover is commended from this, 2 Kings 23:22 (as Junius well observes) that none did with such care and zeal, as Josiah did prepare the priests, the people and himself for the passover, in removing all idolatry and abomination, and in renewing their covenant and reso∣lution, verse 3, ‘to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments with all their heart and with all their soul.’

4. The unclean and uncircumcised in heart were no more members of the true and invisible Church of the Jews, and of Christ’s mystical body, his spouse, his royal generation, than Sodom and Gomorrah, Isa. 1:10, than the Ethiopians, Amos 9:7, than Ammon and Moah, Jer. 9:25-26, as in the New Testament, and the true invisible Church amongst them, as amongst us were kings and priests unto God, Ex. 19:5,9; Ps. 149:1, as we are, 1 Pet. 2:9-10; Rev. 1:5.

5. Amongst them no man could invade the priest’s office, or run unsent, no more than under the New Testament, Heb. 5:4; 1 Tim. 4:22, though they were to rebuke one another, Lev. 19, and they had sacrifices for sins of ignorance, Lev. 4:27…

And a third step was excommunication and casting out of the synagogue after the captivity, which are the very degrees of our Church censure.”

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The Necessity of Pastoral Preparation of the People

English

Gillespie, George – Book 3, ch. 11, ‘Whether it be a Full Discharge of Duty to Admonish a Scandalous Person of the Danger of Unworthy Communicating?  And Whether a Minister in Giving Him the Sacrament After Such Admonition be no Way Guilty?’  in Aaron’s Rod Blossoming, p. 223 ff.  (1646)

Boston, Thomas – Memoirs, pp. 243-4

Houston, Thomas – Preparation for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper & Necessity of Special Pastoral Training and of Faithful Oversight and Discipline in Preparation for the Lord’s Supper, in The Lord’s Supper: its Nature, Ends, and Obligations and Mode of Administration, pp. 158-161 & 162-174

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Latin

Voetius, Gisbert – 4. Question  in Ecclesiastical Politics, vol. 1, book 2, tract 2, section 4, ch. 3, p. 754-6

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Coming to the Table for the First Time?

Books

Alexander, J.W. – Plain Words to a Young Communicant  Buy  reprinted as Remember Him by the Banner of Truth

This book ‘has its origin in a desire to provide young communicants with fuller advice than can, in ordinary cases, be given orally to individuals by their pastor and its latter part is related to the beginnings of a Christian walk.  Small and plan though this work is, it may also be useful to Christians of some standing in the Church, especially those who have been without careful instruction.’

Bavinck, Herman – The Sacrifice of Praise: Meditations Before & After Receiving Access to the Table of the Lord  (1922) 138 pp.

These are meditations for persons making for the first time a public confession of their faith in Christ, and for continuing therein before the world.

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Meditations, Self-Examination & Prayers

Articles

1600’s

Swinnock, George – ‘A Good Wish about the Lord’s Supper’  in Works 1:218-22

Burroughs, Jeremiah – ’10 Meditations’, in Gospel Worship, Sermon 13, pp. 267-71

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1700’s

Henry, Matthew – A Communicant’s Companion

ch. 4, ‘Helps for Self-Examination Before we Come to this Ordinance’, pp. 81-104

ch. 6, ‘Helps for Meditation and Prayer in our Preparation for this Ordinance’, pp. 125-43

Willison, John

Meditations before Partaking, in A Sacramental Directory, p. 283 ff.

‘Meditations and Prayers Proper for Communicants Before Partaking’  in A Sacramental Catechism, p. 240 ff.

Sacramental Meditations and Advices grounded upon Scripture Texts proper for Communicants to prepare their hearts, excite their affections, quicken their graces and enliven their devotions on Sacramental Occasions, being 32 meditations & 14 advices, in Works, 3:201 ff.

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1800’s

Alexander, J.W. – chs. 18 & 19, ‘Self-Examination’ & ‘Questions Before the Communion’  in Plain Words to a Young Communicant, pp. 29-35

Milroy, William – ‘Private Meditations & a Prayer Preceeding the Holy Communion’  in A Scottish Communion  (1882), pp. 151-72

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Preparatory Material

1500’s

Bruce, Robert – Upon the Preparation to the Lord’s Supper  (1617)  being the 4th and 5th sermons of Sermons on the Sacrament, pp. 138-218

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1600’s

Bradshaw, William & Arthur Hildersham – Preparing for the Lord’s Supper  (SDG)

Bradshaw (1570–1618) was a puritan chaplain in the Church of England.  Hildersham (1563–1632) was an English puritan.

Tozer, Henry – Directions for a Godly Life, Especially for Communicating at the Lord’s Table, Intended First for Private Use…  (Oxford, 1628)

Tozer was a Westminster divine.

Burroughs, Jeremiah – ‘Sanctifying God’s Name in Receiving the Sacrament’ & ‘What is Required in Receiving the Sacrament?’  1647  being sermons 11 & 12 in Gospel Worship, pp. 225-260

Burroughs was a Westminster divine.

Swinnock, George – How a Christian may Exercise Himself to Godliness in Receiving the Lord’s Supper, and of the Nature of that Ordinance, and Preparation for it  Works 1:172 ff.

Westminster Larger Catechism

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1700’s

Earl, Jabez – Sacramental Exercises, in Two Parts: (1) The Christian’s Employment Before, At & After the Lord’s Supper, (2) The Christian’s Employment & Conduct in his Life Afterwards

Earl (1673-1768) was an English presbyterian minister.

Henry, Matthew –  The Communicant’s Companion, or Instructions for the Right Receiving of The Lord’s Supper  (1700)  314 pp.  with an Introductory Essay by John Brown of Edinburgh

Willison, John – A Sacramental Directory, or a Treatise Concerning the Sanctification of a Communion Sabbath  (d. 1750)  318 pp.

This work consists of three sections: (1) Containing Directions how to prepare for a Communion Sabbath, (2) Containing Directions for the Right Spending of a Communion Sabbath when it is Come,  (3) Containing Directions Concerning our Behavior After Partaking.

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1800’s

Oxenden, Ashton – The Earnest Communicant 

Oxenden (1808-1892) was an evangelical, Calvinist, Anglican bishop in Canada and prolific writer.

Alexander, J.W. – ch. 23 & 24, ‘Preparation’ & ‘Church Preparation’  in Plain Words to a Young Communicant, pp. 40-42

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2000’s

ed. Beeke, Joel – Feasting with Christ: Meditations on the Lord’s Supper

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At the Table

Articles

Alexander, J.W. – The Act of Partaking, Thoughts of Self and Sin, Thoughts of Christ, Thoughts of Brethren  being chapters 31-34 of Plain Thoughts to a Young Communicant, pp. 51-56

Earl, Jabez – The Christian at the Lord’s Table in Sacramental Exercises, p. 63-75

Henry, Matthew – Helps for the Exciting those Pious and Devout Affections which should be working in us while we attend this Ordinance  being chapter 10 of A Communicant’s Companion, pp. 199-218

Swinnock, George – How a Christian may Exercise Himself to Godliness at the Table  Works 1:192-211

Willison, John 

Meditations when Partaking, in A Sacramental Directory, p. 288

Concerning our Ejaculations [in Prayer] by the Way, in A Sacramental Directory, p. 202

Ejaculations Proper when we go forward to the Table, in A Sacramental Directory, p. 208

Suitable Subjects for our Meditation while we Sit there, in A Sacramental Directory, p. 210-233

How to Employ our thoughts when we see the Sacramental Elements and Actions, and hear the Words of Institution, in A Sacramental Directory, p. 241-244

Some Further Meditations on the Sacramental Elements, Actions and Words, in A Sacramental Directory, p. 244-258

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After the Lord’s Table

Articles

Alexander, J.W. – Cautions after Communion, Disappointed Hopes, Thankful Review, General Retrospect, Going Down to the World, Courage, Interval Between Communions  being chapters 35-41 of Plain Words to a Young Communicant, pp. 56-64

Earl, Jabez – The Christian in his Retirements after the Lord’s Supper  in Sacramental Exercises, pp. 76-104

Henry, Matthew 

Directions Concerning the Frame of our Spirits when we come Away from this Ordinance  being ch. 12 of A Communicant’s Companion, pp. 235-58

An Exhortation to Order the Conversation Aright After this Ordinance  being ch. 13 of A Communicant’s Companion, pp. 259-275

Milroy, William – After Addresses to Communicants, Private Meditations and a Prayer After the Holy Communion   1882, in A Scottish Communion, pp. 179-228

Swinnock, George – What a Christian Ought to do After a Sacrament  Works 1:212-218

Willison, John

A Sacramental Directory

Meditations After Partaking, p. 293

Concerning our Deportment when Rising & Going from the Lord’s Table, pp. 259-70

Containing Directions how to Behave when we go Home to our Retiring Places, pp. 270-3

‘Meditations and Prayers Proper for Communicants After Partaking’, in A Sacramental Catechism, p. 257 ff.

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On Public, Preparatory Meetings & Worship Services before the Supper

Articles

Sprott, George W. – ‘Preparatory Services’  in The Worship and Offices of the Church of Scotland: Or the Celebration of Public Worship, the Administration of the Sacraments, and Other Divine Offices, According to the Order of the Church of Scotland; Being Lectures…, pp. 103-107  1882

Leishman, Thomas – bottom of p. 341-2  in ‘The Ritual of the Church’  in ed. Story, Robert, The Church of Scotland, Past and Present, vol. 5  1890 ff.

Edgar, Andrew – pp. 462-3  in ‘The Discipline of the Church’ in ed. Story, Robert, The Church of Scotland, Past and Present, vol. 5  1890 ff.

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Quotes

On a Lasco

Earngey, Mark – ‘Soli Deo Gloria: The Reformation of Worship’ being ch. 2 of Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present (New Growth, 2017), p. 40

“A Lasco’s bimonthly Communion took a period of two weeks and even involved a special preparatory service the day before.  Thus, an important contributing factor to the differing frequencies of the Lord’s Supper throughout the churches of the Reformation was the balance between the desire for frequent Communion, and the desire for thoroughgoing church discipline.”

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Samuel Rutherford  1642

A Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul’s Presbytery in Scotland, Chapter 20, Article 6

“…this sacrament requiring a self-examination going before (1 Cor. 11:28).  Therefore a sermon of preparation is preached the day before, even as Christ prepared and dieted his guests with heavenly sermons preceding the action (as is clear, Luke 22:14,15; Mark 14:18-20; Matt 26:21-23; John 13:13-16).

The nature of the sacrament requires thanksgiving, and therefore in the afternoon [on the Lord’s Day] a sermon of thanksgiving is preached, which is also warranted from Matt 26:30.”

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Church of Scotland  1645

Acts of General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1638–1842 (Edinburgh: 1842), 120.

“That there be one sermon of preparation delivered in the ordinary place of public worship upon the day immediately preceding.”

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Samuel Miller  1845

Letters on the Observance of the Monthly Concert in Prayer, p. 21

“…and so are the special services preparatory to the administration of the Lord’s Supper, which are observed without scruple in a large number of Christian churches.” 

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Historical

Articles

On the 1500’s

Carr, Kevin – ‘Robert Bruce on the Nature of the Lord’s Supper, & Preparation for its Observance’  (2010)  42 pp.

Robert Bruce’s sermons on the Lord’s Supper, 1590, are a Scottish classic.  Here is an article giving a bit of the life of Bruce, putting the sermons in their historical context, and summarizing their theology and significance.

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On the 1700’s

MacLeod, Ian – Ch. 5, ‘The Preparation & Admission of Communicants’, pp. 153-209  in The Sacramental Theology & Practice of the Reverend John Willison (1680-1750)  PhD thesis  (1994)

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Related Pages

The Lord’s Supper

Bible Verses on Preparation for Communion with God

Communion Sermons and Table Addresses

Self-Examination

Meditation