William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

But What is it to Eat and Drink Unworthily?

by Charles Hodge

(From his Commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:27)

It is not to eat and drink with a consciousness of unworthiness, for such a
sense of ill desert is one of the conditions of acceptable communion. It is not
the whole, but the consciously sick whom Christ came to heal. Nor is it to eat
with doubt and misgiving of our being duly prepared to come to the Lord's table;
for such doubts, although an evidence of a weak faith, indicate a better state
of mind than indifference or false security. In the Larger Catechism of our
Church, in answer to the question, whether one who doubts of his being in
Christ, may come to the Lord's supper, it is said,

"One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the
sacrament of the Lord's supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be
not yet assured thereof, and in God's account hath it, if he be duly affected
with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in
Christ, and to depart from iniquity. in which case (because promises are made,
and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting
Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labor to have his doubts resolved.
and so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord's supper, that he may be
further strengthened."

To eat or drink unworthily is in general to come to the Lord's table in a
careless, irreverent spirit, without the intention or desire to commemorate the
death of Christ as the sacrifice for our sins, and without the purpose of
complying with the engagements with we thereby assume. The way in which the
Corinthians ate unworthily was, that they treated the Lord's table as though it
were their own; making no distinction between the Lord's supper and an ordinary
meal; coming together to satisfy their hunger, and not to feed on the body and
blood of Christ; and refusing to commune with their poorer brethren. This,
though one, is not the only way in which men may eat and drink unworthily. All
that is necessary to observe is, that the warning is directly against the
careless and profane, and not against the timid and the doubting.


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