The People's State and Condition
2 Chronicles 30:17-20
For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified…

This text, though it speaketh of the celebration of the Passover, yet will well enough befit the solemnity of the Lord's Supper.

I. THE INDISPOSITION OR UNPREPAREDNESS OF THE PEOPLE." A multitude of the people had not cleansed themselves."

1. In these times in which there is much care had about the right celebration of a sacrament, there are many yet that are unworthy.

(1) Because there is a great deal of laziness in people, and an unwillingness against such a soul-searching ordinance as the sacrament.

(2) There is a great deal of hypocrisy in many men, and it is possible that they may carry their naughtiness so secretly that they may hide it from the most discerning eye.

2. If when much care is taken about the ordinances, many are unworthy to come, it serveth,

(1) To show what need we in this land have to humble ourselves, as for other sins, so especially for our sacramental sins.

(2) For a double exhortation:(a) To pastors, that they should use all diligent care to prevent this unworthiness, by instructing the people in the nature of the ordinances, and by admonishing them of the danger of their unprepared coming.

(b) To the people. To stir them up every one to look unto himself whether he be not one of the number. A gracious heart is apt to suspect itself (Matthew 26:22). The unprepared, unworthy receiver is he that doth not come with answerable meet affections, and so holy and reverent a frame of spirit as God requires we should bring into His presence. They are — All ignorant persons that cannot discern the Lord's body. Those that do not judge and condemn themselves (1 Corinthians 11:31, 32). A gracious prepared heart is a self-judging heart: a wicked heart is loth to come to trial. Those that come in uncharitableness and malice.

3. There is no cause why men should abstain from the use of ordinances, for fear of communicating with wicked and profane men.

II. THEIR PRACTICE NOTWITHSTANDING. "Yet they did eat the Passover otherwise than was written." Many rush on ordinances notwithstanding their unpreparedness. The reasons are —

1. The remissness, or abuse of the censures, of the Church, that do not restrain such persons from coming.

2. It proceedeth from ourselves, because —

(1) There is a great deal of ignorance and unbelief in the hearts of most men.

(2) Custom prevaileth with most rather than conscience. Custom usually eateth out the strength of any performance, and dissolves it into a mere formality.

III. THE FAULT OF THEIR PRACTICE. They ate otherwise than was written. God's service is a written service. We offend in our duties when we do otherwise than is written. We do this —

1. When we do too much.

1. The essentials of a sacrament are set down in the institution; there is the rule. If we seek to patch it up with some zealous additions and pieces of our own, we go beyond the rule.

2. In the outward part of duty, in corporal service, and in the pomp and solemnity of his worship, there we may do too much — more than we need to have done. It is easy to be too pompous in a sacrament, and to sin against the plainness of the ordinance. Duties are like your coats of arms, best when they are plainest, and not overcharged with too many fillings; or like wine, then most generous and sprightly, when it is pure and uncompounded. The sacraments were to feed men's hearts, not to please their eyes, or tickle their ears. Ordinances nourish best when they come nearest their primitive institution. We may, then, do too much here. A sense-pleasing religion is dangerous, it is too much suitable to our natural inclinations; and that is the reason why country people are so much taken with these shows; they do not love the native beauty that is in duties half so well as they do the painting of them. It is a miserable thing when you will place religion in that for which you have no ground nor warrant. If you will find yourselves work, and not take that which is cut out for you, you know who must pay you your wages. Mark the question of the Saviour (Matthew 15:3).

2. When we do too little. When we come not up to the spiritual part of the commandment. Consider what is required about duty —

(1) Something about the heart before duty. Preparation (ver. 19). We must come with faith and repentance and other qualifications; we must come with a desire to find the Lord (Psalm 93:1).

(2) Something about the heart in duty. Stirring it up. A duty done without life and efficacy is as a duty not done at all. We come short of the rule if we come not with holy life and activity, with a working waiting spirit that will warm our hearts within us, and make them burn under the ordinances. See what a qualification James requireth in prayer (James 5:16). There is an expression (Acts 27:7). "Instantly serving God day and night," which means in the original, with the forcible putting to of all their might and strength, with their stretched-out strength. There can never be too much done in respect of the spiritual part of the commandment.

3. Something to be done after duty. Recollecting and running over all the carriage of the heart towards God in the duty, and the gracious intercourse that the soul had with God.

( T. Manton, D. D..)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the LORD.

WEB: For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves: therefore the Levites were in charge of killing the Passovers for everyone who was not clean, to sanctify them to Yahweh.

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