As we approach this Table, we have to be careful. One the one hand, we are encouraged to come gladly, putting away all false scruples and morbid introspection. On the other hand, we know that coming to this Table is inconsistent with stark unrepented sin.
How can we teach against one error without encouraging the other? If we charge you all to beware of approaching this Table with defiled hands, will not the sensitive among us shrink back when they ought not? And if we encourage you to come as you are, will not unrepentant people, filled with resentments, or those who are tyrants in their homes, or those who are secretly indulging their lusts, be emboldened to come?
What are we to do? We are charged to insist that you come. The sensitive must come; they may not refrain from coming. And when they come, God strengthens them. He builds them up. He receives them, and fills their hearts with gladness, as when grain and new wine abound.
But what of the hypocrite? Do we not have a responsibility to keep him away from the Table? When the hypocrisy is open and defiant, the answer to this is yes. That is what church discipline is for, that is the meaning of excommunication. But when the hypocrisy is hidden, there is great sin in approaching the Table, and, in a certain sense, it is a sin we encourage.
Come, we say, to the Lord who sees all. Come, to the Lord who weighs hearts. Come, to the Lord who inspects grimy hands. Come, to the Table of spotless righteousness. When we come in faith, the Lord deals with our sins and sinfulness. When we come in unbelief, the Lord deals with our unbelief, either by bringing us to repentance, or by hastening the day when we come to the precipice of judgment.
And again, you tender of heart, the Lord gives you the strength to hear such warnings rightly.