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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
1 Corinthians 11

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

DISCOURSE: 1977

TRUE WISDOM AND CHARITY

1 Corinthians 10:32-33; 1 Corinthians 11:1. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God: even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

CHRISTIAN morals, in their sublimer parts, are far from being fully understood, or duly appreciated, even by those who are most zealous in the profession of Christian principles. The duties of Christian forbearance, and Christian forgiveness, and Christian liberality, are but very imperfectly discerned, and, consequently, but very imperfectly practised, in the religious world. Nor are the limits of true Christian charity by any means clearly ascertained. On this subject, in particular, I must say, that I think there is scarcely a Christian upon earth that would have made the distinctions contained in this chapter; and not many that would approve of them, now they are made, if they were not forced to yield to apostolic authority. It is an easy thing to lay down broad principles; as, that “We must not do evil that good may come:” and it is easy to decry “expediency,” as the refuge of time-serving and dishonest men. But it is not easy to see the different modifications of a good principle, as affected by different circumstances; or the different situations under which expediency alone can guide us. And even the discussion of such a subject as this, however carefully conducted, would be condemned at once by many, as no better than Jesuistical sophistry and refinement. But we must not, therefore, be deterred from treading in the Apostle’s steps, and marking what we believe to be the true boundaries of Christian liberty and Christian duty.

I shall take occasion, from the passage before us, to shew,

I. Our duty in reference to things which are indifferent—

There are many things on which different parties lay a great stress; which yet, in the sight of God, are altogether indifferent—

[In the apostolic age, the observance of the Jewish ritual was regarded by some as of primary and indispensable importance. The keeping of certain days, and the abstaining from certain meats, and the practice of circumcision, were by many insisted on as of continued obligation; notwithstanding they were never intended but as types and shadows, which were to vanish when the substance should appear. There were not in those rites any essential qualities, either of good or evil. They derived all their force from their having been divinely appointed; and, of course, they lost all their force when that appointment was withdrawn. If any chose to observe them, they were at liberty to do so, without any offence to God: and if any were disinclined to observe them, they were equally at liberty to follow the dictates of their own judgment. If any man thought them still obligatory, he of course was bound by them: but all who saw that they were no longer required, were free to neglect and discard them.

The same might be said of many things at this day, respecting which different parties form different opinions, according to the degree of their information, or to the particular prejudices which they have imbibed. I refer to certain rites and ceremonies in religion, on which some place an undue stress; whilst others, with equal vehemence, decry them. I must say the same, also, in reference to some habits of the world, respecting which men may speak in too unqualified terms; whether they justify them, or whether they condemn.]

But our great duty, in reference to all such things, is, to guard against giving needless offence to any party—

[In reference to Jewish or Gentile observances, the Apostle says, “Give no offence either to the Jews, or to the Gentiles, or to the Church of God.” The things about which the parties differed were really non-essential: and there was danger of giving offence to either side by a contemptuous disregard of their prejudices. It was not right to wound the feelings of a Jew, by doing in his presence what was contrary to the law, which he regarded as still in force: nor was it right, by a free and indiscriminate use of meats offered to idols, to hurt the feelings of a Gentile brother; who, having been accustomed to feast on these meats as a religious act, would be ready to think that the person eating them did not indeed abhor idolatry in the way that he professed. At the same time, offence might easily be given to the Church of God, by producing disunion and division amongst her members, whom we should rather have laboured to “edify in faith and love.”

The same may be said in reference to all matters of indifference, in every age and in every place. There should be a tender regard to the feelings and infirmities of others; and a determination never to please ourselves at the expense of others. Self-denial, rather, should be the disposition of our minds, and the habit of our lives: and rather than wound the consciences of others, and lead them by our example to do what their own consciences condemned, we should abstain from the most innocent indulgence, as long as the world shall stand [Note: 1 Corinthians 8:13.]. The rule given in relation to all such matters is, “We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves [Note: Romans 15:1.].”]

In my text, the Apostle marks,

II. The object which we should keep in view, for the regulation of our conduct—

The salvation of our fellow-men should be an object of the deepest interest to our minds—

[Doubtless the salvation of a man’s own soul should be his first concern. But no man should be indifferent to the eternal welfare of others; much less should he think himself at liberty to do any thing which may put a stumbling-block in their way. “We are all, in fact, one body in Christ;” and are bound, every one of us, to consult the welfare of the whole. No member is authorized to act independently, and for itself alone. None but a wicked Cain would ask, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” For we are his keeper, as he also is ours: and we are neither at liberty to injure each other, nor to neglect any opportunity of advancing each other’s welfare. The duty of mutual love and mutual aid is unalterable and universal.]

With a reference to that, therefore, should we act to the utmost extent of our power—

[We may either benefit our fellow-creatures, or injure them, according as we demean ourselves in reference to things which are in themselves indifferent. We may disgust some, by our unhallowed boldness; or grieve others, by passing an uncharitable judgment upon them; or ensnare others, by inducing them to follow our example, contrary to the convictions of their own conscience. We may, by our uncharitable disregard of the feelings and sentiments of others, produce the most fatal effects that can be imagined; not only offending many, but actually “destroying our weak brethren, for whom Christ died [Note: 1 Corinthians 8:9-11.].” What a fearful thought! Can any man, who calls himself a Christian, feel himself at liberty to act without any reference to such a result as that? Can any pleasure, or any “profit” arising to himself, compensate for such a calamity as that? Methinks, on any question arising in our minds, we should instantly ask ourselves, not, What will please or profit myself? but, What will please or profit others? What will have a tendency to promote the salvation of others? If any self-denial or forbearance on my part can advance, in the remotest degree, the salvation of a weak brother, I will die rather than gratify myself at his expense.]

That this is no extravagant requirement, will appear if we consult,

III. The examples which Christ and his Apostles have set us in reference to this very thing—

St. Paul calls us to “be followers of him, even as he was of Christ.”

Consider how our blessed Saviour acted under circumstances of this kind—

[He was called upon to pay a tribute levied for the support and service of the temple. From this, as being the Son of God, he might have pleaded an exemption: because it is an acknowledged fact, that kings receive tribute from strangers only, and not from their own children. But he knew that the Jews would not be able to see the truth and justice of his plea, and that his acting upon it would give serious offence: he therefore waved his right; and chose rather to work a miracle for the satisfying of their demands, than give offence to them by an assertion of his rights. Nor did he only wave his right in this particular, but gave occasion to all present to deny that he possessed any such right, or stood in any such relation to Jehovah as would have authorized him to assert it. Yet he considered not himself, but others only; and chose to submit to any thing, however humiliating, rather than, by maintaining his right, to put a stumbling-block in their way [Note: Matthew 17:24-27.]. Thus, by his example, he taught all his followers, not to please themselves, but “to please every man his neighbour for good to edification [Note: Romans 15:2-3.].”]

Observe, also, how St. Paul acted—

[It was not on any particular occasion that he conformed to this rule, but constantly, and in circumstances of continual occurrence. Hear his own account of his daily practice: “Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews: to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law: to the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:19-22.].” Here you see, not only what his constant habit of life was, but the principle by which he was actuated throughout the whole; preferring the “winning” of men to Christ, and the “saving” of their souls, to any personal consideration whatever. In all this he was an example to us; and therefore says, in reference to this very thing, “Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.”]

In accordance with this was the conduct also of all the Apostles—

[The last time that St. Paul came to Jerusalem, the whole college of Apostles, fearing that the Jews had a wrong impression of his principles, and that, because he had represented a conformity to Jewish ceremonies as unnecessary, they would imagine he had decried them as sinful, besought him to unite himself to some persons who were about to perform their vows as Nazarites, and purify himself, according to the Mosaic law, with them. And this he did, in conformity with their advice [Note: Acts 21:20-26.]: thus not only illustrating the principle by which he was habitually actuated, but setting, as it were, the seal of all the Apostles to this line of conduct, as sanctioned and approved by them.

After all this evidence, nothing further need be added to confirm the statement we have made respecting the Christian’s duty, or to enforce the advice which, in conformity with our text, we have presumed to give.]

On the ground therefore which has been established, I beg you to bear in mind,

1. What is the principle by which you are to be actuated, in all your intercourse with mankind—

[Love to their souls must animate you at all times: and by that must you be determined, in every thing where the path of duty is not clearly determined for you. By that must you be regulated, whether in acceding to their wishes, or in resisting their solicitations. There are certainly occasions whereon a compliance with them will produce a good effect; and there are occasions whereon it will be your duty rather to withstand the importunity even of your dearest friends. But you must be careful to distinguish aright the principle from which you act. You must not give way to fear: nor must you comply from a feeling of personal friendship or regard: and, least of all, must you conform to the world, to please yourselves. You must consider, under all circumstances, how you may best advance the welfare of men’s souls; and then act as in the sight of God, so as most to promote that great object. That is what Christ did, when he left the bosom of his Father, and died upon the cross: and in so doing you will fulfil those injunctions which he has given you; “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others [Note: Philippians 2:4.]:” and that also, in a few verses before the text, “Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:24.].”]

2. How you may best approve yourselves to the heart-searching God—

[The mode of conduct which we have recommended will, to superficial observers, lay you open to the charge of inconsistency: for, if you will observe rites, or not observe them, according as others may stand affected towards them, you must of necessity appear to many to be destitute of any fixed principle. But God sees the fixed principle which men cannot see; and he will approve that which perhaps your fellow-creatures will condemn. But, for your conduct in circumstances of more than ordinary difficulty, I would suggest three rules; which, though, when separately taken, they may be insufficient for your direction, will, when taken together, effectually preserve you from any material error. Ask yourselves three questions: What would an ungodly man do in my circumstances? That I will not do. Next, What would be agreeable to my own corrupt heart? That I will not do. Lastly, What would my Lord or the Apostle Paul do, in my circumstances? That I will do. Now I say again, that though no one of these, separately, will suffice, all of them together will prove an easy and a safe directory. It will be impossible for you greatly to err, if these questions be sincerely asked, and faithfully answered by you. If, in prosecuting this line of conduct, you be misunderstood and blamed, then say, with the Apostle, “It is a small matter to me to be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self; but he that judgeth me is the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:3-4.].” Thus will you ensure the approbation of your God, and enjoy the testimony of your own conscience that you have pleased him.]


Verse 24

DISCOURSE: 1978

THE DESIGN AND IMPORTANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

1 Corinthians 11:24; 1 Corinthians 11:26. This do in remembrance of me .. for as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

THE Corinthians had shamefully profaned the Lord’s supper. St. Paul reproves them, and rectifies their views of that ordinance.

I. The design of the Lord’s supper—

Our ungrateful hearts are prone to forget the richest mercies. To keep up “the remembrance” of his death, Christ instituted his last supper. When we celebrate that ordinance, we “shew forth” his death—

[The passover was a memorial of the deliverance vouchsafed to the Jews from the sword of the destroying angel. At every returning celebration of it the reason of that ordinance was declared [Note: In reference to Exodus 12:26-27. a custom obtained among the Jews that a child should ask the meaning of the passover, and that the person who presided should then give an account of its intent and origin, that so the remembrance of God’s mercy might be transmitted to their latest posterity: and this was called “the declaration” or “shewing forth.” Dr. Gill on the text.]. Christ in his death has effected a greater deliverance for us. In partaking of the bread and wine we “shew forth” his death: we shew forth the manner of it as excruciating and bloody [Note: The breaking of the bread and the pouring out of the wine seem well calculated to impress this idea.]: we shew forth the end of it as a sacrifice for our sins [Note: In this light it is represented by St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 5:7 and by our Lord himself, Matthew 26:28.]: we shew forth the sufficiency of it for our full salvation [Note: We express our affiance in his blood as the Jews did in the blood of the Paschal Lamb, when they sprinkled their door-posts with it, and eat of the flesh that had been roast with fire.].]

We shew forth his death “till he come”—

[Christ will, in due season, come again to judge the world; then his people will no longer need such memorials as these. They will incessantly enjoy the brightest vision of his person, and the richest fruits of his death; but till then the remembrance of his dying love, and the expectation of his future advent, must be thus preserved. Such was Christ’s end in instituting, and such should be our end in observing it.]

To enforce the observance of this ordinance, we will proceed to shew,

II. The necessity of attending it—

The duty of commemorating our Lord’s death is much neglected; but a neglect of it involves us in the deepest guilt. It implies,

1. Rebellion against the highest authority—

[Christ, the Supreme Governor of heaven and earth, has said, “Do this”; yet the language of too many is, ‘I will not.’ But they who disregarded the passover did not go unpunished [Note: If a man had contracted any ceremonial defilement, or were on a journey, he might omit eating the passover at the appointed time; only he must eat it a month afterwards. But if he forbore to eat of it without any such impediment, God said concerning him. “That soul shall be cut off, that man shall bear his sin.” Numbers 9:7-11.]; much less shall they who slight the invitations to Christ’s supper [Note: Luke 14:24.]. Surely it is no less than madness to persist in this rebellion.]

2. Ingratitude towards our greatest Benefactor—

[Christ has even “given his own life a ransom for us;” and shall we disregard his dying command? On the same night that he was betrayed, did he institute these memorials of his death. Had he at that season such a concern for us, and can we refuse to do so small a thing in remembrance of him? The Jews went thrice every year up to Jersusalem, from the extreme parts of Jud ζa, to commemorate their deliverance. And shall we turn our backs on the table when it is spread before us? Shall not God visit for such ingratitude as this [Note: Let such conduct be expressed in words; “Thou didst indeed give thy body to be broken, &c. for me; and only requirest me to eat bread, &c. in remembrance of thee; but I account even that too much to do for thee:” Who could dare to utter such language? Or who would endure it if spoken by his servant or his child? Yet such is the language of our actions.]?]

3. Contempt of the richest mercies—

[To communicate, without discerning the Lord’s body, can profit us nothing; but to approach the table in humility and faith is a sure mean of obtaining all spiritual blessings. Christ sometimes reveals himself in the breaking of bread, to those who had not so fully discovered him in the ministration of the word [Note: Luke 24:30-31.]. And do they not manifest a contempt of these mercies, who will not use the means of procuring them? How may the Saviour take up that lamentation over them [Note: Matthew 23:37.]—!]

4. A renunciation of our baptismal covenant—

[In baptism we covenanted to renounce the world, &c and to serve God: this covenant we ought to renew and confirm at the Lord’s table. But our refusing to confirm it is a tacit renunciation of it. And can we hope that God will fulfil his part while we violate ours? Will he be our God when we refuse to be his people?]

We shall conclude with answering some excuses—

[‘I am not prepared.’ How then can you be prepared to die [Note: Is not this acknowledgment the strongest reason for immediate repentance?]? ‘I am afraid of eating and drinking my own damnation.’ Are you not afraid of damnation for neglecting your duty [Note: In neglecting duty you ensure condemnation; in practising it as well as you can (to say the least) you may avert it.]? ‘I am afraid of sinning afterwards, and thereby increasing my guilt.’ If sins after receiving the Lord’s supper were unpardonable, none should receive it till the last moment of their lives [Note: If you really desire strength, where would you so soon obtain it? But if you determine to live in sin, your condemnation will be equally sure whether you come or not.]. ‘The time of administering it interferes with other engagements.’ To those who cannot deny themselves in any thing, we say with Paul [Note: Romans 3:8. “whose damnation is just.”]—; but where the difficulties are insurmountable, God will accept the will for the deed [Note: Matthew 12:7.]. They however, who are at liberty, should attend “as often” as they can; only they must be careful to communicate with reverence, humility, faith, and gratitude.]


Verse 26

DISCOURSE: 1978

THE DESIGN AND IMPORTANCE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

1 Corinthians 11:24; 1 Corinthians 11:26. This do in remembrance of me .. for as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

THE Corinthians had shamefully profaned the Lord’s supper. St. Paul reproves them, and rectifies their views of that ordinance.

I. The design of the Lord’s supper—

Our ungrateful hearts are prone to forget the richest mercies. To keep up “the remembrance” of his death, Christ instituted his last supper. When we celebrate that ordinance, we “shew forth” his death—

[The passover was a memorial of the deliverance vouchsafed to the Jews from the sword of the destroying angel. At every returning celebration of it the reason of that ordinance was declared [Note: In reference to Exodus 12:26-27. a custom obtained among the Jews that a child should ask the meaning of the passover, and that the person who presided should then give an account of its intent and origin, that so the remembrance of God’s mercy might be transmitted to their latest posterity: and this was called “the declaration” or “shewing forth.” Dr. Gill on the text.]. Christ in his death has effected a greater deliverance for us. In partaking of the bread and wine we “shew forth” his death: we shew forth the manner of it as excruciating and bloody [Note: The breaking of the bread and the pouring out of the wine seem well calculated to impress this idea.]: we shew forth the end of it as a sacrifice for our sins [Note: In this light it is represented by St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 5:7 and by our Lord himself, Matthew 26:28.]: we shew forth the sufficiency of it for our full salvation [Note: We express our affiance in his blood as the Jews did in the blood of the Paschal Lamb, when they sprinkled their door-posts with it, and eat of the flesh that had been roast with fire.].]

We shew forth his death “till he come”—

[Christ will, in due season, come again to judge the world; then his people will no longer need such memorials as these. They will incessantly enjoy the brightest vision of his person, and the richest fruits of his death; but till then the remembrance of his dying love, and the expectation of his future advent, must be thus preserved. Such was Christ’s end in instituting, and such should be our end in observing it.]

To enforce the observance of this ordinance, we will proceed to shew,

II. The necessity of attending it—

The duty of commemorating our Lord’s death is much neglected; but a neglect of it involves us in the deepest guilt. It implies,

1. Rebellion against the highest authority—

[Christ, the Supreme Governor of heaven and earth, has said, “Do this”; yet the language of too many is, ‘I will not.’ But they who disregarded the passover did not go unpunished [Note: If a man had contracted any ceremonial defilement, or were on a journey, he might omit eating the passover at the appointed time; only he must eat it a month afterwards. But if he forbore to eat of it without any such impediment, God said concerning him. “That soul shall be cut off, that man shall bear his sin.” Numbers 9:7-11.]; much less shall they who slight the invitations to Christ’s supper [Note: Luke 14:24.]. Surely it is no less than madness to persist in this rebellion.]

2. Ingratitude towards our greatest Benefactor—

[Christ has even “given his own life a ransom for us;” and shall we disregard his dying command? On the same night that he was betrayed, did he institute these memorials of his death. Had he at that season such a concern for us, and can we refuse to do so small a thing in remembrance of him? The Jews went thrice every year up to Jersusalem, from the extreme parts of Jud ζa, to commemorate their deliverance. And shall we turn our backs on the table when it is spread before us? Shall not God visit for such ingratitude as this [Note: Let such conduct be expressed in words; “Thou didst indeed give thy body to be broken, &c. for me; and only requirest me to eat bread, &c. in remembrance of thee; but I account even that too much to do for thee:” Who could dare to utter such language? Or who would endure it if spoken by his servant or his child? Yet such is the language of our actions.]?]

3. Contempt of the richest mercies—

[To communicate, without discerning the Lord’s body, can profit us nothing; but to approach the table in humility and faith is a sure mean of obtaining all spiritual blessings. Christ sometimes reveals himself in the breaking of bread, to those who had not so fully discovered him in the ministration of the word [Note: Luke 24:30-31.]. And do they not manifest a contempt of these mercies, who will not use the means of procuring them? How may the Saviour take up that lamentation over them [Note: Matthew 23:37.]—!]

4. A renunciation of our baptismal covenant—

[In baptism we covenanted to renounce the world, &c and to serve God: this covenant we ought to renew and confirm at the Lord’s table. But our refusing to confirm it is a tacit renunciation of it. And can we hope that God will fulfil his part while we violate ours? Will he be our God when we refuse to be his people?]

We shall conclude with answering some excuses—

[‘I am not prepared.’ How then can you be prepared to die [Note: Is not this acknowledgment the strongest reason for immediate repentance?]? ‘I am afraid of eating and drinking my own damnation.’ Are you not afraid of damnation for neglecting your duty [Note: In neglecting duty you ensure condemnation; in practising it as well as you can (to say the least) you may avert it.]? ‘I am afraid of sinning afterwards, and thereby increasing my guilt.’ If sins after receiving the Lord’s supper were unpardonable, none should receive it till the last moment of their lives [Note: If you really desire strength, where would you so soon obtain it? But if you determine to live in sin, your condemnation will be equally sure whether you come or not.]. ‘The time of administering it interferes with other engagements.’ To those who cannot deny themselves in any thing, we say with Paul [Note: Romans 3:8. “whose damnation is just.”]—; but where the difficulties are insurmountable, God will accept the will for the deed [Note: Matthew 12:7.]. They however, who are at liberty, should attend “as often” as they can; only they must be careful to communicate with reverence, humility, faith, and gratitude.]


Verse 27

DISCOURSE: 1979

ON EATING AND DRINKING OUR OWN DAMNATION

1 Corinthians 11:27; 1 Corinthians 11:29. Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord . For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

THE more excellent any thing is, the greater is the guilt contracted by the abuse of it. A contempt of the law is not so bad as a contempt of the Gospel [Note: Hebrews 10:28-29.]. An irreverent attendance on Divine ordinances is exceedingly sinful; but to profane the Lord’s supper is worse, inasmuch as that institution is more solemn and brings us nearer to God. Hence when St. Paul reproved the former, he spake mildly [Note: 1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Corinthians 14:40.]; but when he reproved the latter, he spake with great severity.

I. What is it to eat the bread, and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily—

To understand this, we should inquire how the Corinthians behaved [Note: ver. 20–22. Their conduct seems at first sight to be absolutely inconsistent with a profession of Christianity. But, having been accustomed to such behaviour in their feasts during their Gentile state, they were as yet too much addicted to their former habits.]. The abuses of which they were guilty are impracticable now: nevertheless we may imitate them in our spirit and temper. Like them we shall eat and drink unworthily if we do it,

1. Ignorantly—

[The Corinthians did not discriminate between the common and religious use of the consecrated elements. Many at this time also partake without discerning the Lord’s body: they, not remembering his death, defeat the end for which the Supper of the Lord was instituted.]

2. Irreverently—

[The customs of our country do not admit of our meeting in the tumultuous way that was practised at Corinth [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:21.]; but many are altogether as destitute of reverence and sacred awe. A light, worldly, impenitent heart, is unbecoming that solemnity: such a frame, if habitual, mates us partake unworthily.]

3. Uncharitably—

[The rich did not impart of their provisions to the poor [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:22.]. We also may be equally destitute of Christian love: we may be haughty, injurious, unforgiving, &c. Such a frame wholly unfits us for the Lord’s table [Note: Matthew 5:23-24.].]

4. Sensually—

[The Corinthians made it an occasion for intemperance and excess: though we cannot imitate them in this, we may be as carnal as they. A want of spirituality and affiance in Christ makes our service carnal; nor can such a service be acceptable to Him who will be worshipped in spirit and in truth.]

To attend at the Lord’s table in such a manner is no slight or venial offence.

II. The consequence of so doing—

The consequences mentioned in the text respect,

1. The guilt we contract—

[They were “guilty of the body and blood of our Lord” who crucified him, as they are also who apostatize from his truth [Note: Hebrews 6:6.]. They too are involved in the same guilt who partake unworthily of the Lord’s supper: they manifest a contempt of his sacrifice [Note: Hebrews 10:29.]. What a dreadful iniquity is this! How careful should we be to abstain from the commission of it!]

2. The punishment we incur—

[The word “damnation” imports temporal judgment [Note: The Apostle explains his meaning in the following verse; “for, for this cause,” &c and he tells us that it was a chastisement inflicted to keep them from eternal condemnation, ver. 32.]. Eternal damnation is by no means a necessary consequence of this sin [Note: Matthew 12:31.]: yet if it be unrepented of, no doubt this punishment will follow; and we may expect some spiritual or temporal judgments for it here. We should therefore examine ourselves well before we attend the table of the Lord [Note: ver. 28.].]

Address—

1. Those who urge this as an excuse for neglecting the Lord’s supper—

[There are many who under this pretext cover their own unwillingness to yield themselves up to God; but God will not admit their vain excuses. The habitual neglect of their duty ensures the punishment which they desire to avoid. Let all then devote themselves to the Lord in the use of all his instituted ordinances.]

2. Those who are really kept away by a fear of incurring this punishment—

[Many are kept from the table by a sense of their own unworthiness. But to be unworthy, and to partake unworthily, are very different things [Note: A rebel against a mild and merciful prince is unworthy of pardon: but if he receive with gratitude the pardon offered him, and return to his allegiance, he receives it worthily. Thus we are unworthy of the smallest mercies, and much more of the children’s bread: but if we receive this bread with humility, gratitude, and an increasing devotedness of heart to God, we receive it as we ought, that is, worthily.]: yet if we have partaken unworthily in past times, let us humble ourselves for it; and then may we come again with joy: this has been the experience of many [Note: 2 Chronicles 30:15-23.], and may be ours also.]


Verse 28

DISCOURSE: 1980

ON THE PREPARATION REQUISITE BEFORE THE LORD’S SUPPER

1 Corinthians 11:28. Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.

GOD is a holy and jealous God, and greatly to be feared: in all our approaches to him we should be filled with awe; but a want of reverence prevails among the generality of mankind; even real Christians manifest it sometimes, and that too even in the most sacred ordinances. St. Paul, reproving the Corinthians for their conduct at the Lord’s supper [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:20-22.], lays down an universal rule for communicants: “Let a man,” &c.

I. The duty of self-examination in general—

This is an important but much neglected duty: it is strongly recommended in the Scriptures—

[The Apostle expressly enjoins it to all [Note: 2 Corinthians 13:5.]. This injunction is remarkably strong and energetic [Note: In the words δοκιμάζετεand ἀδόκιμοι, which latter is too harshly translated “reprobate,” there seems an allusion to the trying of metals by a touchstone: the repetition also of the injunction, and the expostulation that follows it, are expressive of the Apostle’s earnestness, and consequently of the importance of the duty enjoined.] — — —]

There is great reason for it: we cannot ascertain the state of our souls without it—

[It is evident that the generality of men deceive themselves. We also are liable to the same deception through pride and self-love; nor can we form a right conclusion without a strict investigation.]

A mistake respecting our state would be fatal—

[There is no repentance in the grave: as we die, so shall we continue for ever.]

The benefits to be derived from it are exceeding great—

[If our state be found good, we shall rejoice in the testimony of a good conscience: if it be bad, we shall be stirred up to flee from the wrath to come.]

We should therefore live in the habitual practice of this duty [Note: Psalms 77:5.]. But self-examination is more especially needful on certain occasions—

II. The need of it before the Lord’s supper in particular—

This is intimated in the text; “Let a man examine himself, and so let him come.” And indeed there is peculiar reason for it at that time.

That ordinance is a season of remarkable solemnity—

[There we see Christ crucified, as it were, before our eyes: there we contemplate the most stupendous mysteries: there we commemorate the greatest of all mercies: there we are admitted to most familiar fellowship with God. And does it become us to engage lightly in such an ordinance?]

It is a season that calls for the exercise of all our powers—

[The understanding should be occupied in devoutest meditations: the affections should be engaged to the uttermost. And can we thus command our faculties without any preparation?]

The neglect of self-examination may rob us of all the benefit of the ordinance—

[Who can estimate the benefits we might receive if we came prepared? But who has not often communicated in vain? And has not our neglect been the true cause of this ]

We should therefore be peculiarly attentive to it at such a season.

To assist in the discharge of this duty we shall shew,

III. The subjects which we should then more especially inquire into—

We should examine ourselves respecting,

1. Our knowledge of the ordinance—

[To come without a proper discernment is dangerous [Note: ver. 27.]. We should inquire what we know of the nature and ends of the ordinance. On a distinct view of these our profiting much depends.]

2. The state of our souls before God—

[At the Lord’s table we receive “the children’s bread.” We should inquire therefore whether we be God’s children?]

3. The immediate frame of our souls—

[We ought to have all our graces in lively exercise [Note: Song of Solomon 4:16.].]

Application—

[Begin this necessary work without delay — — — Yet set not about it in a legal manner or for self-righteous ends: do not trust in your preparation, or expect acceptance on account of it; but look to Christ as the only ground of your hope towards God: neither stay away from the table because you have not spent so much time in preparation as you could wish. Whether you have used more or less diligence you must go as the publican [Note: Luke 18:13.]. Be assured however that your profiting will for the most part be proportioned to your preparation.]


Verse 29

DISCOURSE: 1979

ON EATING AND DRINKING OUR OWN DAMNATION

1 Corinthians 11:27; 1 Corinthians 11:29. Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord . For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.

THE more excellent any thing is, the greater is the guilt contracted by the abuse of it. A contempt of the law is not so bad as a contempt of the Gospel [Note: Hebrews 10:28-29.]. An irreverent attendance on Divine ordinances is exceedingly sinful; but to profane the Lord’s supper is worse, inasmuch as that institution is more solemn and brings us nearer to God. Hence when St. Paul reproved the former, he spake mildly [Note: 1 Corinthians 14:33; 1 Corinthians 14:40.]; but when he reproved the latter, he spake with great severity.

I. What is it to eat the bread, and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily—

To understand this, we should inquire how the Corinthians behaved [Note: ver. 20–22. Their conduct seems at first sight to be absolutely inconsistent with a profession of Christianity. But, having been accustomed to such behaviour in their feasts during their Gentile state, they were as yet too much addicted to their former habits.]. The abuses of which they were guilty are impracticable now: nevertheless we may imitate them in our spirit and temper. Like them we shall eat and drink unworthily if we do it,

1. Ignorantly—

[The Corinthians did not discriminate between the common and religious use of the consecrated elements. Many at this time also partake without discerning the Lord’s body: they, not remembering his death, defeat the end for which the Supper of the Lord was instituted.]

2. Irreverently—

[The customs of our country do not admit of our meeting in the tumultuous way that was practised at Corinth [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:21.]; but many are altogether as destitute of reverence and sacred awe. A light, worldly, impenitent heart, is unbecoming that solemnity: such a frame, if habitual, mates us partake unworthily.]

3. Uncharitably—

[The rich did not impart of their provisions to the poor [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:22.]. We also may be equally destitute of Christian love: we may be haughty, injurious, unforgiving, &c. Such a frame wholly unfits us for the Lord’s table [Note: Matthew 5:23-24.].]

4. Sensually—

[The Corinthians made it an occasion for intemperance and excess: though we cannot imitate them in this, we may be as carnal as they. A want of spirituality and affiance in Christ makes our service carnal; nor can such a service be acceptable to Him who will be worshipped in spirit and in truth.]

To attend at the Lord’s table in such a manner is no slight or venial offence.

II. The consequence of so doing—

The consequences mentioned in the text respect,

1. The guilt we contract—

[They were “guilty of the body and blood of our Lord” who crucified him, as they are also who apostatize from his truth [Note: Hebrews 6:6.]. They too are involved in the same guilt who partake unworthily of the Lord’s supper: they manifest a contempt of his sacrifice [Note: Hebrews 10:29.]. What a dreadful iniquity is this! How careful should we be to abstain from the commission of it!]

2. The punishment we incur—

[The word “damnation” imports temporal judgment [Note: The Apostle explains his meaning in the following verse; “for, for this cause,” &c and he tells us that it was a chastisement inflicted to keep them from eternal condemnation, ver. 32.]. Eternal damnation is by no means a necessary consequence of this sin [Note: Matthew 12:31.]: yet if it be unrepented of, no doubt this punishment will follow; and we may expect some spiritual or temporal judgments for it here. We should therefore examine ourselves well before we attend the table of the Lord [Note: ver. 28.].]

Address—

1. Those who urge this as an excuse for neglecting the Lord’s supper—

[There are many who under this pretext cover their own unwillingness to yield themselves up to God; but God will not admit their vain excuses. The habitual neglect of their duty ensures the punishment which they desire to avoid. Let all then devote themselves to the Lord in the use of all his instituted ordinances.]

2. Those who are really kept away by a fear of incurring this punishment—

[Many are kept from the table by a sense of their own unworthiness. But to be unworthy, and to partake unworthily, are very different things [Note: A rebel against a mild and merciful prince is unworthy of pardon: but if he receive with gratitude the pardon offered him, and return to his allegiance, he receives it worthily. Thus we are unworthy of the smallest mercies, and much more of the children’s bread: but if we receive this bread with humility, gratitude, and an increasing devotedness of heart to God, we receive it as we ought, that is, worthily.]: yet if we have partaken unworthily in past times, let us humble ourselves for it; and then may we come again with joy: this has been the experience of many [Note: 2 Chronicles 30:15-23.], and may be ours also.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/1-corinthians-11.html. 1832.

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