DUTIES FOLLOWING THE LORD’S SUPPER
by George Swinnock, an edited excerpt from
chapter 20 of “The Christian Man’s Calling,” in
 Works 1.212–22


I shall speak to your duty after the Supper, which consists mainly in these two things, thankfulness and faithfulness.


Thankfulness


After such a banquet as this, you may well give thanks. The Jews at their Passover did sing the hundred and thirteenth Psalm, with the five following psalms, which they called the great Hallelujah. A Christian should in everything and at all times give thanks, but at a sacrament the great Hallelujah must be sung; then God must have great thanks, then we must with our “souls bless the Lord, and with all within us praise his holy name.” O reader, call upon yourself, as Barak and Deborah did, “Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song:… Barak, and lead captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam” (Judg 5:12). “Awake, my love; awake, my joy; utter a song.” “A feast is made for laughter, and wine rejoiceth the heart of man” (cf. Eccl 10:19). Friend, is not this a rare treat? Where is your cheerful face? Is not here good wine, a cup of nectar indeed, the blood of the Son of God? What mirth, what music have you to this banquet of wines?


It will be an excellent conclusion of this ordinance to rejoice in the Lord. O let your “soul… magnify the Lord, and [your] spirit rejoice in God [your] Saviour” (Lk 1:46–47).


The cup in the sacrament was called the Eucharistical cup, or “the cup of blessing” (1 Cor 10:16) let it be so to you. Let your heart and mouth say, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, [who] hath visited and redeemed his people” (Lk 1:68).


Can you think of that infinite love which God manifested to your soul without David’s return, “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits?” (Ps 116:12). His heart was so set upon your salvation, His love was so great to your soul, that He delighted in the very death of His Son because it tended to your good. “It pleased the LORD to bruise him” (Isa 53:10); or as Junius reads it, “He was exceedingly delighted” in it. Surely the mind of God was infinitely set upon the recovery of lost sinners, in that,—whereas other parents, whose love to their children in comparison of His to Christ is but as a drop to the ocean, follow their children to their graves with many tears, especially when they die violent deaths,—He delighted exceedingly in the barbarous death of His only Son, in the bleeding of the head, because it tended to the health and eternal welfare of the members.


Friend, “what manner of love hath the Father loved thee with?” (cf. 1 Jn 3:1). He gave His own Son to be apprehended, that you might escape; His own Son to be condemned, that you might be acquitted; His own Son to be whipped and wounded, that you might be cured and healed; yea, His own Son to die a shameful cursed death, that you might live a glorious blessed life forever. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Lk 2:14)! Alas, how unworthy are you of this inestimable mercy! You are by nature a child of wrath as well as others, and had been now wallowing in sin with the worst in the world, if free grace had not renewed you; no, you had been roaring in hell at this hour if free grace had not reprieved you. Your conscience will tell you that you do not deserve the bread, which springs out of the earth, and yet you are fed with the bread which came down from heaven. O infinite love! May not you well say with Mephibosheth to David, “What is thy servant, that thou shouldst look upon such a dead dog as I am?… For all of my father’s house were but dead men before my lord the king: yet didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table” (2 Sam 9:9; 19:28). Lord, I was a lost, dead, damned sinner before Thee, liable to the unquenchable fire, and yet Thou has been pleased to set me among them that eat at Thine own Table, and feed on Thine own Son. Oh, what is Thy servant, that Thou should take notice of such a dead dog as I am?


Look abroad in the world, and you may see others refused when you are chosen, others passed by when you are called, others polluted when you are sanctified, others put off with common gifts when you have special grace, others fed with the scraps of ordinary bounty, when you have the finest of the flour, even the fruits of saving mercy. As Elkanah gave to Peninnah, and to all her sons and daughters, portions, “But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion: for he loved Hannah” (1 Sam 1:5); so God gives others outward portions, some of the good things of this life; but to you, O Christian, He gives a Benjamin’s mess,—His image, His Spirit, His Son, Himself,—a worthy portion, a goodly heritage, because He loves you.


Others have a little meat, and drink, and wages, but you have the inheritance; others, like Jehoshaphat’s younger sons, have some cities, some small matters given them; but you, like the first-born, have the kingdom, the crown of glory; others feed on bare elements, you have the sacrament; others stand without doors, and you are admitted into the presence chamber; others must fry eternally in hell flames, and you must enjoy fullness of joy for evermore. O give thanks unto the Lord for he is good, for His mercy endures forever; to Him that chose you before the foundation of the world, for His mercy endures forever; to Him that called you by the Word of His grace, for His mercy endures forever; to Him that gave His only Son to die for your sins, for His mercy endures forever; to Him that entered into a covenant of grace with you, for His mercy endures forever; to Him that have provided for you an exceeding and eternal weight of glory, for His mercy endures forever. “O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Ps 107:1).


Remember the poor on that day. God’s bounty to you in spirituals may well provoke your mercy to others in carnals. The Jews at their Passover released a prisoner, in remembrance of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. Surely at the Lord’s Supper, when your heart is warmed with God’s compassion to you, your hand should be enlarged in contribution to the poor, in remembrance of your redemption out of slavery to sin and Satan. The primitive Christians had their collections for the poor (1 Cor 16:1), and the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), both on a day, on the first day of the week, because the saints, like the wall being then heated by the sun, should reflect that heat on others. Your cup runs over, O let others drink with you; your charity may make your coffer lighter, but it will make your crown heavier. It was a notable expression of one, who having given much away, was like to want, and asked what she would do: I repent not of my charity, for what I have lost in one world I have gained in another.


Faithfulness


The sacrament is a strong engagement to sanctity. At the Lord’s Supper you take a new oath of allegiance to the King of saints, whereby every wilful iniquity after it becomes perjury. The Greek word for an oath comes from a word, which signifies a hedge, to show that an oath should keep men in, and prevent their wandering out of the field of God’s Word. It is the character of a harlot to “[forget] the covenant of her God” (Prov 2:17). I know that the devil will come to sit with you after Supper. Flies love to settle on the sweetest perfumes. When Israel had “[drunk] of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:4), then Amalek sought them. When Jesus Christ had received the sacrament of baptism, then the devil pursued Him with His fierce assaults. When you have been at the Table, expect the tempter. That subtle thief will hear of the new treasure of grace, which is brought into your house, your heart, and will use all his policy and power to rob you of it. Your care must be by stronger bolts and locks than ordinary, by greater diligence and watchfulness than before, to secure it.


Surely, reader, if you did but find the Saviour in the sacrament, you cannot but fear sin after the sacrament. You have seen what sin cost Christ. Did you not at the Table see the Lord Jesus hanging on the cross? Did you not thus bespeak your soul:—Look, O my soul, who hangs there! Alas! it is your dearest Redeemer. See His bloody head, bloody hands, bloody back, belly, His body all over bloody; but, oh, His bleeding soul! Do you not hear His lamentation? “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1; Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34). What did you think is the cause of all this? Ah, it is your sins which is the source of all these sorrows. And can you join with them, or love those lusts that hate the Lord? Can you wound Him whom God has wounded, and crucify the Lord Jesus afresh? Have not your Saviour suffered enough already? Oh, here is a medicine, instead of all, to kill those diseases of your soul. It is said of the soldiers of Pompey, that though he could not keep them in the camp by any persuasion, yet when Pompey threw himself upon the ground and told them, “If you will go, you shall trample upon your general,”—then (says Plutarch, in the life of Pompey) they were overcome. Truly, if nothing will dissuade you from sin, yet this consideration, that it is a trampling upon your blessed Saviour, should prevail with you. Though you should be marching never so furiously, yet (as Joab’s soldiers, when they saw the dead body of Amasa, stayed their march, and stood still [2 Sam 20]) when you see the mangled, wounded, pierced, crucified body of your Saviour, you should stop and proceed no further.


How many arguments may you find in this ordinance to be close in your obedience! The greatness of Christ’s love calls for graciousness in your life. “The love of Christ constraineth” (2 Cor 5:14). Other motives may persuade, but this compels. If deliverance from the yoke of Pharaoh were such a bond to obedience, what is deliverance from sin, and wrath, and hell? May not you, reader, say with the Jews, after such a deliverance as this, “Should [I] again break thy commandments,… wouldst not thou be angry with [me] till thou hast consumed [me]?” (Ezra 9:14).


Friend, has God wiped off the old score? and will you run again in debt? Did Christ speak peace to you at the Table? and will you turn again to folly? O reader, when you are tempted to sin, say with the spouse, “I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” (Song 5:3). I have washed my soul, how shall I pollute it with sin? I have given myself wholly to God before angels and men, and “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against [my] God” (Gen 39:9), against my Saviour, against my covenant? There is a beast, some write, which, if she be feeding, and does but turn her head about, forgets what she was doing. Oh, do not you, after you have fed on the bread of life, forget what you were doing; but as at the sacrament you have remembered Christ’s death, so do it after by dying to sin all the days of your life. Oh, do not use this ordinance, as papists do the pope’s indulgences, to purchase a new license to sin. Judas went from the Supper to betray his Master. Absalom, as arrant a dissembler as he was, pretended to hate such ingratitude. “If this thy kindness to thy friend?” says he to Hushai; “why wentest thou not with thy friend?” (2 Sam 16:17). When you are, by any sinister carriage, departing from Christ, give conscience leave to ask you, “Is this your kindness to your friend? Ah, why do you leave Him, and serve Him thus? Your sins will be more sinful, because God is more merciful to you than to others.” “The children of Israel… have only done evil… from their youth” (Jer 32:30). As if there had been no sinners in the world but they: their privileges being greater than others, their provocations were more grievous. The unkindness of a friend has much of an enemy in it. David was not much troubled at Shimei’s railing; but Absalom’s rebellion pierced his very soul. “My son that came out of my bowels hath lifted up his hands against me” (cf. 2 Sam 16:11). Will you give your Saviour cause to complain, “He that did eat bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me” (cf. Ps 41:9)? He that did eat at my Table, no, eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, he has lift up his heart, and his hand, and his heel against me. It was an aggravation of Saul’s fall; he fell “as though he had not been anointed” (2 Sam 1:21). And it will be a sad aggravation of your fall, if you should sin as if you had not been at a sacrament.


It is reported of an elephant, that being fallen down, and by reason of the inflexibleness of his legs, unable to rise, a forester came by and helped him up, with which kindness the elephant was so taken, that he followed the man up and down, did him much service, and never left him till his dying day. Reader, the moral is plain: you were fallen, and never able to rise of yourself. The Lord Jesus Christ forsook His Father in heaven, and His mother on earth, suffered unconceivable sorrows, to help you up. What love should you have to Him? What service should you do for Him? You cannot do less, since He has “redeemed you out of the hands of thine enemies” (cf. Pss 106:10; 136:24), than “serve him in holiness and righteousness all thy days” (Lk 1:74–75). As the hop in its growing follows the course of the sun from east to west, and will rather break than do otherwise, so should you, in all your actions, follow the course of the Sun of Righteousness, and rather die than deny Him.


When Moses came from the mount, where he had been conversing with God, his face shone (Ex 34:30). When you go from the Table where you have had sweet communion with your God, the face of your conversation must shine so with holiness that others may take notice of it.


It is said of the high priest and elders, that observing the language and carriage of Peter and John, “they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). So your words should be so gracious, and your works so exemplary after a sacrament, that all those with whom you have to do, may marvel and take knowledge that you have been with Jesus; that at the Table you did sup with Christ, and Christ with you.


Concluding Wishes


The Lord’s Supper being one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian religion, a lively representation of my dearest Saviour’s bleeding passion and blessed affection, and a real taste of that eternal banquet which I shall hereafter eat of in my Father’s house at His own Table, I wish in general that I may never distaste the person of my best Friend by abusing His picture; that I may not go to the Lord’s Table as swine to their trough, in my sin and pollution, but may receive those holy elements into a clean heart. Oh that my lamp might be flaming, and my vessel filled with oil, whenever I go to meet the Bridegroom!


I wish, in particular, that my soul may be so thoroughly affected with Christ’s special presence at this sacred ordinance, that I may both prepare for it, and proceed at it with all possible seriousness and diligence. Oh let me never be so unworthy and impudent as to defile that holy feast before the author’s face.


I wish that my heart may have an infinite respect for the blood of my Saviour, the stream in which all my comforts, both for this and a better world, come swimming to me, which has landed thousands safely at the haven of eternal happiness, one drop of which I am sure is more worth than heaven and earth; that as all murder is abominable, being against the light of nature, so Christ-murder may be most of all abhorred by me, as being directly against the clearest light of Scripture, and the choicest love which ever was discovered to the children of men. Good Lord, whatever I jest with, let me never sport or dally with the death of Thy Son! Let me not give Him cause to complain of me, as once of Judas, “He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me” (Mt 26:23)! Let me never buy a sacrament, as the Jews the potter’s field, with the price of blood. “Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness” (Ps 51:14).


I wish that I may prepare my heart to meet the God of Israel at this holy ordinance; and to this end, that I may be impartial in the search and examination of my soul, whether I come short of the grace of God or no. I desire that both by my tongue and hand, by my words and works, I may know the state and condition of my heart. In special, my prayer is, that I may never fail to try my faith, which is to the soul what the natural heat is to the body, by virtue of which the nutritive faculty turns the food into nourishment, but may make sure of an interest in the vine before I drink of the fruit thereof.


I wish that before I go for a discharge, I may look into the book of my conscience, cast up my accounts, and consider how infinitely I am indebted to my God, that I may consider whence I am fallen and repent, and like Tamar, though I am ravished and defiled by force, may yet rend my garments, my heart I mean, with godly sorrow and self-abhorrency. Oh that my soul might be so searched to the bottom that none of my wounds may fester, but all may be discovered and cured. I pray that I may not dare to turn the Table of the Lord into the table of devils, by receiving the sacrament in the love of any known sin, but may go to it with a hearty detestation of every false way, and a holy resolution against every known wickedness.


I wish that when I come to the Table I may, like the beloved disciple, behold the wounds of my Saviour, and see that water and blood which did flow out of His side; that as in the Gospel I read a narrative, so in this ordinance I may have a prospective of His sufferings: how He emptied Himself to fill me, and to raise my reputation with His Father, laid down His own; how He humbled Himself, though He had the favour of a Son, to the form of a servant, and though He were the Lord of life and glory, to the most ignominious death, even the death of the cross.


I wish that in His special passion I may ever take notice of His affection, and esteem the laying down His life, as the hyperbole of His love, the highest note that love could possibly reach. Ah! how near did this high priest carry my name to His heart, when He willingly underwent the rage of hell to purchase for me a passage to heaven! “I will remember thy love more than wine” (cf. Song 1:4). I desire that when I see Christ crucified before mine eyes, in the breaking of the bread, and pouring out of the wine, I may not forget the cause, my corruptions, but may so think of them and my Saviour’s kindness, in dying to make satisfaction for them, that as fire expels fire, so I may be enabled by the fire of love to expel and cast out the fire of lust.


I wish that however my body be attired, my soul may by faith put on the Lord Jesus Christ at this heavenly feast; that I may not only look up to Him, as the cripple to Peter and John, expecting an alms, but may receive Him by believing, and so banquet on His blessed body, and bathe my soul in His precious blood, that my spirit may rejoice in God my Saviour, whilst I am assured that though the pain were His, yet the profit is mine; though the wounds were His, yet the balm issuing thence is mine; though the thorns were His, yet the crown is mine; and though the price were His, yet the purchase is mine. Oh let Him be mine in possession and claim, and then He will be mine in fruition and comfort, “Lord, I believe; help mine unbelief” (Mk 9:24)! I wish, since love is the greatest thing my Saviour can give me, for God is love, and the greatest thing which I can give my Saviour, that His love to me may be reflected back to Him again, that my chiefest love may be as a fountain sealed up to all others, and broached only for Him who is altogether lovely, that I may hate father, mother, wife, child, house, and land, out of love to Him; that many waters of affliction may not quench this love, but rather like snuffers make this lamp to burn the brighter. Beasts love them who feed them. Wicked men love their friends and benefactors; my very clothes warming me are warmed by me again, and shall not I love Him who has loved me, and washed me in His own blood! Oh how I desire that I may follow Christ at this ordinance, as the women did to His cross, weeping, considering that my sins were the cause of His bitter and bloody suffering.


When my soul has been thus feasted with marrow and fatness, Lord, let my mouth praise Thee with joyful lips. Ah, what am I, and what is my father’s house, that when others eat the bread of violence, and drink the wine of deceit, I should eat the flesh and drink the blood of Thine own Son? “What is man, that thou art so mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Ps 8:4; Heb 2:6). I wish that I may show my thankfulness to my God and dearest Saviour for these benefits—the worth of which men and angels can never conceive—by the love of my heart, the praises of my lips, and the exemplariness of my life. At the sacrament Christ gave His body and blood to me, and I gave my body and soul a living sacrifice to Him, and that before God, angels, and men. Shall I pollute that heart which was solemnly devoted to God, and profane that covenant which I have seriously contracted with the most High? Oh let me never start aside from my vow like a deceitful bow! Lord, I have sworn, and will perform, that I will keep, through Thy strength, Thy righteous judgments.


Lastly, I desire that I may not only differ from them who, like the Habassines, will not spit on a sacrament day, but will spew the next day; deny sin at present, but afterwards defy it; that I may not only be faithful to my oath of allegiance, but also fruitful in obedience; that as Elijah walked in the strength of one meal forty days, I may walk in the strength of that banquet, serving my Saviour and my soul all my days. In a word, I wish that I may ever after walk worthy of my birth, having royal, heavenly blood running in my veins; worthy of my breeding, being brought up in the nurture of the Lord, fed at His own Table with the Bread of heaven, clothed with the robes of His Son’s righteousness; and that my present deportment may be answerable to my future preferment. Oh that I might in all companies, conditions, and seasons, walk worthy of Him who has called me to His kingdom and glory! Amen.