Spiritually Partaking of the Lord’s Supper
From time to time, various readers of the fairer sex have inquired after the authors of This Day in Presbyterian History to include more female characters of excellent character and godly conduct in our biographies. To answer this request, this author came across a whole series of “Ladies of the Covenant” from the British Isles of centuries past who have been born into wealth and privilege on the one hand, but were more intent in pursuing spiritual wealth and spiritual privilege on the other hand. Such is our character today, namely Lady Catharine Hamilton, the duchess of Atholl.
Born in 1662 at Hamilton Palace, she enjoyed the benefits of a pious and godly mother, who took careful aim in providing her young daughter’s mind with divine truth. At an early age, Catharine gained an extensive acquaintance with the Bible, accompanied by a knowledge of the distinguishing truths of the gospel. As a result, on this day, November 18, 1681, when she was 19 years of age, Catharine surrendered her soul to God. She wrote in her diary that “she chose Christ as her Savior, God as her portion, the Divine glory as her chief end, and the Divine law as her infallible guide.” The rest of her life she proceeded to live in accords with these convictions.
From her diary, we gain an understanding of her subsequent Christian life, which written record was begun when she was 25 years of age, and continued until her death. Associated with the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, she wrote of her convictions in seeking to please the Lord through the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Listen to these words on Sunday, July 12, 1697.
“O my soul, bless God the Lord, that ever he put it into thy heart to seek him, for he hath promised that those that seek him shall find him. This day I was reading the sixteenth chapter of John, verses 23, 24, ‘verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he will give it you,’ &c. O gracious promises! Then I began to think what it was I would ask of God. The thought immediately occurred to me was, Jesus Christ to dwell in my heart by faith and love. Methought, that if God would put it in my offer to have all the universe, with all the glory, honour, riches, and splendour of it, I would rather have Christ to be my King, Priest, and Prophet, than have it all. O that he would always rule in me, and conquer all his and my enemies—my corruptions, temptations, and sins, that is—and always assist and strengthen me to serve him faithfully and uprightly.”
A little later in the long diary passage, she wrote, “And now Lord, thou knowest I am designing, if thou shalt permit, to partake of thy holy supper. O prepare me for it, and let me not be an unworthy receiver. Do thou there meet with my soul, and renew my covenant and faithfulness unto me, and enlarge my heart and soul, and give me supplies of grace and strength to serve thee.”
The entire quotation proves that her observance of the Lord’s Supper was no dry and mundane experience, but a living and rich spiritual partaking of the elements of the Lord’s Supper.
Words to Live By:
Our Confessional Fathers have given unto us in the Larger Catechism three questions and answers which should prepare each believer to partake aright of the Lord’s Supper, whether you partake weekly, monthly, or quarterly of that Sacrament. This author, when he was in the active pastorate, would always include those answers in the bulletin on the Sunday before the Sacrament, the Sunday of the observance itself, and the Sunday following the Lord’s Supper. I quote them for your meditation and subsequent actions.
Larger Catechism No. 171
“They that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation and fervent prayer.”
Larger Catechism No. 174
“It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions, heedfully discern the Lord’s body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fullness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace; in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.”
Larger Catechism No. 175
“The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it, beg the continuance of it, watch against relapses, fulfill their vows, and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance: but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time; but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled, and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence.”