John Calvin, at length, from the Institutes of Christian Religion 4.XVIII.40, 42:
Paul enjoins that a man examine himself before eating this bread or drinking from this cup (1 Cor 11:28). He meant that each should descend within himself, ponder with himself whether he:
- Rests with inward assurance of heart upon the salvation purchased by Christ;
- Acknowledge it by confession of mouth,
- Aspires to the imitation of Christ with the zeal of innocence and holiness;
- After Christ’s example he is prepared to give himself up for his brothers and to communicate himself to those with whom he shares Christ in common;
- Is counted a member of Christ, he in turn so holds all his brothers as members of his body;
- Desires to cherish, protect and help them as his own members.
Let us remember that this sacred feast is medicine for the sick, solace for sinners, alms to the poor’ but would bring no benefit to the healthy, righteous and rich – if such could be found. For since in it Christ is given to us as food, we understand that without him we would pine away, starve and faith – as famine destroys the vigour of the body. Then, since he is given us unto life, we understand that without him in us we would plainly be dead.
Therefore, this is the worthiness – the best and only kind - we can bring to God is to:
- Offer our vileness and (so to speak) our unworthiness to him so that his mercy may make us worthy of him;
- Despair in ourselves so that we may be comforted by him;
- Abase ourselves so that we may be lifted up by him;
- Accuse ourselves so that we may be justified by him;
- Aspire to that unity which is commends to us in his Supper to desire one soul, one heart, one tongue for us all.
Rather, we come as:
- Poor to a kindly giver;
- Sick to a physician;
- Sinners to the author of righteousness;
- Dead to him who gives us life.
Image: Alex Leung - Creative Commons.