THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 97. What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord's supper?

ANSWER: It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord's supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord's body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.


Q. 1. What preparatory duty is here required of those that would partake of the Lord's supper?

A. It is, that they examine themselves, 1 Cor. 11:28 -- "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup."

Q. 2. What is it for persons to examine themselves?

A. It is to make a strict inquiry into, and to pass an impartial judgment upon their spiritual state and frame, by the rule of the word, Psalm 77:6, and 119:105.

Q. 3. What is the best and most successful way of essaying this duty?

A. It is to put it into the hand of the Spirit of God to manage it for us, Psalm 139:23, 24 -- "Search me, O God, and know my heart," &c.

Q. 4. Why is self-examination necessary before receiving the Lord's supper?

A. Because it is peremptorily commanded, in order to discover whether we be in a gracious state; or, if we have grace in any measure of exercise; without either of which there can be no comfortable participation of this ordinance: "Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat."

Q. 5. Is this the duty of every man, or of some only?

A. It is unquestionably the duty of every man: "Let a man examine himself;" that is, every man and woman, without exception, whether they think themselves gracious or graceless.

Q. 6. Why should a gracious man examine himself?

A. Because "there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not," Eccl. 7:20.

Q. 7. Why should they, who think they are graceless, examine themselves?

A. Because "they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick," Matt. 9:12. They thus come to see more clearly their absolute need of Christ.

Q. 8. Is self-examination the duty of those only who are to partake for the first time?

A. It is the duty of persons every time they venture to partake of this ordinance, as the words of the precept evidenty bear, "so let him eat;" that is, let none approach this holy table at any time without first essaying this duty.

Q. 9. Is self-examination to be practised only about the time of communion?

A. It ought to be practised daily or habitually, 2 Cor. 13:5; and especially in the view of such a solemn approach to the Lord at his table.

Q. 10. What are those things, about which they that would worthily partake of the Lord's supper are required to examine themselves?.

A. They are required to examine themselves of their knowledge -- of their faith -- of their repentance, love, and new obedience.

Q. 11. What are they to try or examine about their knowledge?

A. If they have a competent measure of it; and if the measure they have, be of a saving kind.

Q. 12. What is that competent measure of knowledge, which is requisite to the worthy receiving of the Lord's supper?

A. That there be some understanding of the person, offices, and righteousness of Christ; of the fulness, freedom, and stability of the covenant of grace; of the nature, use, and end, of the sacrament of the supper; and likewise of our own manifold sins and wants.

Q. 13. Why is such a knowledge necessary?

A. It is necessary, to discern the Lord's body.

Q. 14. What is it to discern the Lord's body in this sacrament?

A. It is to view the meritorious atonement, made by the Son of God in our nature, through the symbols of bread and wine, which are designed to signify and represent the same.

Q. 15. Who are they who are guilty of not discerning the, Lord's body?

A. They who rest in partaking of the outward elements, without a firm belief of the mysteries that are wrapped up in them.

Q. 16. How may we know if the measure of knowledge we have attained, be of a saving kind?

A. If we think we know nothing yet, as we ought to know, 1 Cor. 8:2; if we are following on to know the Lord more and more, Hos. 6:3; and if our knowledge influences our practice, John 13:17 -- "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."

Q. 17. Why is faith necessary to the worthy partaking of the Lord's supper?

A. It is necessary in order to feed upon him.

Q. 18. What is it to feed upon Christ in the sacrament of the supper?

A. It is to receive into our souls, from his fulness, all that spiritual good which is exhibited to us in the promise, John 1:16.

Q. 19. What is it of Christ that faith feeds upon in the sacrament?

A. It feeds upon all those discoveries of him that are made in the word; such as, his person, offices, mediatorial character, and relations, John 6:57.

Q. 20. How may we know if we have that faith which feeds on Christ in the word and sacrament?

A. Where this true and saving faith is, it is of an appetising nature, whetting the spiritual appetite after more and more of him, Isa. 26:8, 9; it purifies the heart, Acts 15:9; accounts all things but loss for Christ, Phil. 3:8; and is careful to maintain good works, Tit. 3:8.

Q. 21. What is the use of repentance in this sacrament?

A. Without repentance there can be no mourning for sin, which is an inseparable concomitant of faith's looking to, or improving a crucified Saviour in this ordinance, Zech. 12:10 -- "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him."

Q. 22. How may we know if our repentance be genuine or of a right kind?

A. It is true and genuine, if we are grieved for sin as it is offensive to God, Psalm 51:4; if we are forsaking, and turning from it both in heart and life, Hos. 14:8; and, particularly, if we are deeply affected with the sin of unbelief, John 16:9.

Q. 23. What necessity is there for the exercise of the grace of love in partaking of the Lord's supper?

A. Without love to Christ, there can be no communion with him in this, or any other ordinance, John 14:21 -- "He that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and I will manifest myself to him."

Q. 24. How may we know if our love to Christ be sincere and unfeigned?

A. If it put us upon essaying the most difficult duties he may call us to, Psalm 23:4; if it engage us to put a favourable construction upon the afflicting providences we meet with in our lot, Heb. 12:10, and if we love his members out of love to himself, or because they are "begotten of him," 1 John 5:1.

Q. 25. Why is the obedience required of worthy receivers called new obedience?

A. Because it flows from a new principle of faith and love, Gal. 5:6; it is performed in a new manner, namely, in the strength of "the grace that is in Christ Jesus," 2 Tim; 2:1, and is directed to a new end, even the glory of God; 1 Cor. 10:31.

Q. 26. How may we know if our obedience is indeed new obedience?

A. If we are conscientiously diligent in the practice of every duty, and at the same time look on ourselves as unprofitable servants, Luke 17:10, and lean wholly to the surety-righteousness as the sole ground of our acceptance, Isa. 45:24.

Q. 27. What risk do they run who omit to examine themselves as to the above graces, before they come to the Lord's table?

A. They run the risk of coming unworthily.

Q. 28. What is it to come unworthily?

A. It is to come without any real sense, or consciousness of the need that we stand in of Christ, as "of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption," 1 Cor. 1:30.

Q. 29. What danger do they incur who thus come unworthily?

A. They eat and drink judgment to themselves, 1 Cor. 11:29.

Q. 30. In what sense can they who come unworthily, be said to eat and drink judgment to themselves?

A. In so far as by their eating and drinking unworthily, they do that which renders them obnoxious to the righteous judgment of God.

Q. 31. To what judgment do they render themselves obnoxious?

A. To temporal judgments, or afflictions of various kinds, in the present life; and to eternal judgment, or condemnation (if mercy prevent not) in the life to come, 1 Cor. 11:30, 32.

Q. 32. "May not one who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord's supper?

A. "If he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of" an interest in Christ, "and unfeignedly desires to be found in him, and to depart from iniquity:" in that case, "he is to bewail his unbelief, and labour to have his doubts resolved; and, in so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord's supper, that he may be further strengthened."[156]

Q. 33. When may a person be said to be duly affected with the apprehension of his want of an interest in Christ?

A. When he is filled with a restless uneasiness, and can take no comfort in any outward enjoyment, while he thinks himself destitute of an interest in Christ; and, at the same time, is active and diligent in the use of all the ordinary means, in which Christ is usually to be found, Song 3:1-5.

Q. 34. "May any who profess their faith, and desire to Come to the Lord's supper, be kept from it?"

A. "Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord's supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church; until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation."[157]

Q. 35. Why ought the ignorant to be kept back?

A. Because they cannot discern the Lord's body, nor comprehend the end and design of this sacrament; and, therefore, will but eat and drink judgment to themselves, 1 Cor. 11:29.

Q. 36. Why ought the scandalous to be kept back from this sacrament?

A. Because, by the habitual immorality of their practice, they manifest themselves to be under the dominion of the prince of darkness; and, therefore, while in that state, can have no right to the privileges which belong only to the members of Christ's family, 1 Cor. 10:21.

Q. 37. "What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, in the time of the administration of it?"

A. "It is required of them, that they -- heedfully discern the Lord's body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in sorrowing for sin, hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith -- and in renewing their covenant with God, and love to all the saints."[158]

Q. 38. What is it for the Lord's people to renew their covenant with him at his table?

A. It is to acquiesce anew in the covenant of grace, as made with Christ, Isa. 44:5; and, in so doing, to surrender themselves to the Lord, to be wholly his, trusting that he will keep them by his power, "through faith unto salvation," 1 Pet. 1:5.

Q. 39. What is it for them to renew their love to all the saints on that occasion?

A. It is to embrace the opportunity of being at the Lord's table, to breathe out the secret and habitual desires of their souls before him, that all the saints, as well as themselves, may share abundantly out of the fulness of Christ, Psalm 90:14; and that they keep themselves "in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life," Jude ver. 21.

Q. 40. What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord's supper?

A. It is "seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfil their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance."[159]

Q. 41. What is it to fulfil our vows?

A. It is to set about the practice of all commanded duty, according to our engagements, Psalm 116:16, 18; and at the same time depend upon the grace and furniture that is in Christ Jesus for the right performance of it, Phil. 4:13.

Q. 42. What if Christians can find no present benefit by their attendance on this ordinance?

A. Then they are "more exactly to review their preparation for, and carriage at the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God, and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time."[160]

Q. 43. What if they have failed in their preparation for, and carriage at the sacrament?

A. Then "they are to be humbled, and attend upon it afterward, with more care and diligence."[161]

Q. 44. "Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper agree?"

A. "In that the author of both is God; the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits; both are seals of the same covenant; and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming."[162]

Q. 45. In what do they differ?

A. In that baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and in-grafting into Christ, and that even to infants: whereas the Lord's supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our continuance and growth in him, and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves."[163]


[156] Larger Catechism, Question 172.

[157] Larger Catechism, Question 173.

[158] Ibid., Question 174.

[159] Larger Catechism, Question 175.

[160] Ibid.

[161] Ibid.

[162] Ibid., Question 176.

[163] Ibid., Question 177.


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