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This done, the minister proceedeth to the exhortation. Dearly beloved in the Lord, forasmuch as we be now assembled to celebrate the holy communion of the body and blood of our Saviour Christ, let us consider these words of St. Paul, how he exhorteth all persons diligently to try and examine themselves before they presume to eat of that bread, and to drink of that cup. For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy sacrament, (for then we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood, then we dwell in Christ and Christ in us, we be one with Christ and Christ with us, so is the danger great if we receive the same unworthily ; for then we be guilty of the body and blood of Christ our Saviour ; we eat and drink our own condemnation, not discerning the Lord's body; we kindle God's wrath against us, and provoke him to plague us with divers diseases and sundry kinds of death.
And therefore, in the name and by the authority of the eternal God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, I excommunicate from this table all blasphemers of God, all idolaters, all murderers, all adulterers, all that be in malice or envy, all disobedient persons to father or mother, to princes or magistrates, pastors or preachers, all thieves and deceivers of their neighbours, and, finally, all such as live a life directly fighting against the will of God; charging them, as they will answer in the presence of Him who is the righteous Judge, that they presume not to profane this most holy table. And yet this I pronounce not to seclude any penitent person, how grievous soever his sins before have been, so that he feel in his heart unfeigned repentance for the
same; but only such as continue in sin without repentance. Neither yet is this pronounced against such as aspire to a greater perfection than they can in this present life attain unto; for albeit we feel in ourselves much frailty and wretchedness, so that we have not our faith so perfect and constant as we ought, being many times ready to distrust God's goodness, through our corrupt nature; and also that we are not so thoroughly given to serve God, neither have so fervent a zeal to set forth his glory, as our duty requireth, feeling still such rebellion in ourselves, that we have need daily to fight against the lusts of our flesh; yet nevertheless, seeing that our Lord hath dealt thus mercifully with us, that he hath printed his gospel in our hearts, so that we are preserved from falling into desperation and unbelief; and seeing also that he hath endued us with a will and desire to renounce and withstand our own affections, with a longing for his righteousness, and the keeping of his commandments, we may be now right well assured that those defaults and manifold imperfections in us shall be no hinderance at all against us, to cause him not to accept and account us as worthy to come to his spiritual table ; for the end of our coming thither is not to make protestation that we are upright or just in our lives, but contrariwise, we come to seek our life and perfection in Jesus Christ, acknowledging in the mean time that we of ourselves be the children of wrath and condemnation.
Let us consider then that this sacrament is a singular medicine for all poor sick creatures, a comfortable help to weak souls; and that our Lord requireth no other worthiness on our part, but that we unfeignedly acknowledge our sinfulness and imperfection. Then, to the end that we may be worthy partakers of his merits and most comfortable benefits, (which is the true eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood,) let us not suffer our minds to wander about the consideration of these earthly and corruptible things, (which we see present to our eyes and feel with our hands,) to seek Christ bodily present in them, as if he were enclosed in the bread and wine, or as if these elements were turned and changed into the substance of his flesh and blood ; but as the only way to dispose our souls to receive nourishment, relief, and quickening of his substance, let us lift up our minds by faith above all things worldly and sensible, and thereby enter into heaven, that we may find and receive Christ, where he dwelleth undoubtedly, very God and very man, in the incomprehensible glory of his Father; to whom be all praise, honour, and glory, now and ever. Amen.
The exhortation ended, the minister cometh down from the pulpit, and sitteth at the table, every man and woman likewise taking their place as occasion best serveth : then he taketh bread, and giveth thanks, either in these words following, or like in effect :
O FATHER of mercy, and God of all consolation, seeing all creatures do acknowledge and confess thee as Governor and Lord, it becometh us, the workmanship of thine own hands, at all times to reverence and magnify thy godly Majesty ; first, for that thou hast created us in thine own image and similitude; but chiefly in that thou hast delivered us from that everlasting death and damnation, into the which Satan drew mankind by the means of sin, from the bondage whereof neither man nor angel was able to make us free; and in that thou, O Lord, rich in mercy, and infinite in goodness, hast provided our redemption to stand in thine only and well-beloved Son, whom of very love thou didst give to be made man like unto us in all things, sin excepted, in his body to receive the punishment of our transgression, by his death to make satisfaction to thy justice, and through his resurrection to destroy him that was the author of death; and so to bring again life to the world, from which the whole offspring of Adam most justly was exiled.
O Lord, we acknowledge that no creature is able to comprehend the length and breadth, the depth and height of that thy most excellent love, which moved thee to shew mercy where none was deserved, to promise and give life where death had gotten the victory, to receive us in thy grace when we could do nothing but rebel against thy justice. O Lord, the blind dulness of our corrupt nature will not suffer us sufficiently to weigh these thy most ample benefits; yet, nevertheless, at the commandment of Jesus Christ our Lord, we present ourselves at this his table, which he hath left to be used in remembrance of his death, until his coming again, to declare and witness before the world, that by him alone we have received liberty and life; that by him alone thou dost acknowledge us thy children and heirs; that by him alone we have entrance to the throne of thy grace; that by him alone we are possessed in our spiritual kingdom to eat and drink at his table, with whom we have our conversation presently in heaven, and by whom our bodies shall be raised up again from the dust, and shall be placed with him in that endless joy, which thou, O Father of mercy, hast prepared for thine elect before the foundation of the world was laid. And these most inestimable benefits we acknowledge and confess to have received of thy free mercy and grace, by thine only beloved Son Jesus Christ: for the which, therefore, we thy congregation, moved by thine Holy Spirit, render all thanks, praise, and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
This done, the minister breaketh the bread, and delivereth it to the
people, who distribute and divide the same among themselves, according to our Saviour Christ's commandment, and likewise giveth the cup. During the which time some place of the Scriptures is read, which doth lively set forth the death of Christ, to the intent that our eyes and senses may not only be occupied in those outward signs of bread and wine, which are called the visible word, but that our hearts and minds also may be fully fixed in the contemplation of the Lord's death, which is by this holy sacrament represented ; and after this action is done, he giveth thanks, saying:
Most merciful Father, we render to thee all praise, thanks, and glory, for that it hath pleased thee, of thy great mercies, to grant unto us, miserable sinners, so excellent a gift and treasure, as to receive us into the fellowship and company of thy dear Son Jesus Christ our Lord, whom thou hast delivered to death for us, and hast given him unto us as a necessary food and nourishment unto everlasting life. And now, we beseech thee also, O heavenly Father, to grant us this request, that thou never suffer us to become so unkind as to forget so worthy benefits; but rather imprint and fasten them sure in our hearts, that we may grow and increase daily more and more in true faith, which continually is exercised in all manner of good works; and so much the rather, O Lord, confirm us in these perilous days and rages of Satan, that we may constantly stand and continue in the con