Page images
PDF
EPUB

account of this ordinance by saying, I have received of the Lord, that which I also delivered to you. 1 Cor. xi, 23. The command being positive, love to our Saviour constrains us to obedience. If ye love me, keep my commandments, applies to every direction of Christ; but with peculiar force to one given at the point of death, and directly concerning his own honour. The command being positive, the matter comes, where this ordinance is neglected, to this sad issue, “either Christ is not your Lord, or you are not his disciples; for a Lord without obedience! a disciple without obligation! how manifest the absurdity, how evident the inconsistency !"

2. THE MOTIVE ASSIGNED FOR OBEDIENCE.-It is peculiarly touching and affecting--in remembrance of Christ. In fulfilling a plain precept, you also give a required evidence of affectionate recollection of a Saviour's death. A grateful heart longs for occasions of testifying its attachment, and gladly avails itself of any opportunity of shewing love to a gracious benefactor. To whom are you so much indebted as you are to Christ? In whatinstance can you possibly have equally strong reasons to shew gratitude and affection?

3. THE UNIVERSAL PRACTICE OF THE CHURCH in the primitive ages strengthens this view of the duty, The whole scope of the Apostle's reasoning with the Corinthians, (1 Cor. x, 16-21; xi, 20-34;) shews that the first Christians, were in the frequent habit of eating this bread and drinking this wine. The mode of expression, (Acts xx, 7.) upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, naturally leads us to conclude that it was the practice of the church at Troas to commu

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

nicate weekly. In fact, it is known that it was in the primitive times received weekly, and in some cases oftener. Now if they, some of whom had seen our Lord die, and all of whom had the ardent attachment

says, after

* See Bingham's Christian Antiquities, book xv, chap, ix.

Justin Martyr has given us, in au apology for the Christians, written only 140 years after Christ, an account of the mode of celebrating the Lord's Supper in his time. I subjoin what he says, as being caleulated not only to shew the practice of the church, but to prove that the peculiarities of the Roman Catholic Mass were then unknown.

Describing the rites of the first Communion after Baptism, he

prayers,

“ bread and a cup of wine, and water, are brought to the President or Bishop, which he takes, and offers up praise and glory to the Father of all things, through the name of his Son, and the Holy Spirit; and this thanksgiving to God for vouchsafing us worthy of these his creatures, is a prayer of more than ordinary length. When the Bishop has finished the prayers and the thanksgiving service, all the people present conclude with an audible voice, saying, Amen; now Amen in the Hebrew tongue is, so be it. The Eucharistical office being thus performed by the Bishop and concluded with the acclamations of all the people, those we call Deacons, distribute to every one present to partake of Eucharistical bread, and wine, and water, and then they carry it to the absent."

“ This food we call the Eucharist, of which none are allowed to be partakers, but such only as are true believer and have been baptized in the laver of regeneration for the remission of sins, and live according to Christ's precepts, for we do not

take this' as common bread, and common wine. But as Jesus Christ our Saviour was made flesh by the word of God, and had real flesh and blood for our salvation, so we are taught that this food, which the very same word blessed by prayer and thanksgiving, is turned into the nourishment and substance of our flesh and blood, and is in some sense the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus." After quoting the account of the institution from the Gospel, and adding a remark respecting the mysteries of Mithra, he proceeds, “ after this sacrament is over, we remind each other of the obligations to his duty, and the rich relieve poor, and upon su charitable accounts we visit some or other every day." His description of Christian worship on the Sunday, leads us to conclude that the Lord's Supper ever formed a part of public worship on that day. See Reeve's Apologies of the Fathers, p. 116--126.

1

of primitive christianity to their Lord, felt it needful and advantageous thus frequently to celebrate the memorials of his dying love, how much more should we who live at so much greater a distance of time, and in a period when the love of so many has waxed cold? This being an Institation appointed by Jesus Christ, the Founder of a spiritual Church, and who gave his disciples his complete design when he established that Church, it was not like many of the ordinances of the Jewish state, inerely supported by carnal reason, or suited to their national condition, or continued for a season, on account of their prejudices. It is evidently and eminently fitted to promote our spiritual improvement, and commanded in a manner which leaves us no reason to suppose that it was ever intended to be set aside, or abrogated, as the Church got more light and experience, but rather designed as a standing ordinance.

4. THE STATEMENT OF ST. PAUL PROVES THAT THE OBLIGATION IS STILL BINDING ON CHRISTIANS. As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come, 1 Cor. xi, 26. While the expression implies that the Corinthians were in the frequent practice of partaking of the Lord's Supper, it shews that it is the duty of the Church to celebrate it, till our Lord comes to judge the world. It is surely an insufficient answer to this passage to say that the coming of Christ here intended is his spiritual coming, or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in true believers; for he had andoubtedly come in this manner to many of the Corinthians, and yet they were in the habit of partaking of the outward ordinance, and the Apostle directed them to continue the practice.

Hence we conclude then that the respectable, and in many respects exemplary body of Christians, who from motives of conscience lay aside the outward observance of this Sacrament, are not borne out by scriptural authority, or primitive practice.—But let us not judge or condemn them; but rather remember of each one, to his own Master he standeth or falleth. Our reasoning applies with peculiar force to those who have no such scruples, and yet usually abstain from the Lord's table. It leaves them without excuse.

The FREQUENCY with which we shall discharge this duty is indeed here left, as in various other cases, to our own conscience. Thus it becomes a trial of the state of our mind towards our Redeemer, a test of our affectionate remembrance of him, and an evidence of the warmth of our love to him. · Judging by this test, is not, Christian reader, the true state of the Church, even in favoured England, lamentably low? It may be said generally, that if your heart be right with God, you will ornit no opportunity that occurs in the place where you worship, to pass by without enjoying this blessing. Thomas, when once absent from the disciples, lost the cheering sight of his Saviour, which they enjoyed. Yet the frequency of the communion should not perhaps be such as may tend to prevent preparation, or the impression which such a solemnity has, when received at occasional intervals. It appears very desirable that it should be administered and received once a month, and on the great festivals of our Church, Nor need we fear that such a frequent reception will so abate our reverence in attending as to hinder our profit. The daily practice of prayer and reading the Scriptures has not such an effect. It is observable,

[ocr errors]

that the Epistle which gives particular cautions against formality, gives the direction, not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together. Heb. x, 35. Some pious ministers have found monthly communion to be more adapted to the present circumstances of the Church, than its more frequent administration.

Supposing the obligation to receive it be plainly proved, and fully admitted, consider farther, that to NEGLECT it, is attended with aggravated guilt and danger.

It is WILFUL AND REPEATED DISOBEDIENCE TO YOUR SAVIOUR. He directs you, and his ministers invite you, to frequent his table. They say again, and again, Come, for all things are now ready. But if you are living in the neglect of this ordinance, you greatly resemble those who first rejected the Gospel. They with one consent began to make excuse ; and you

know that it was said of them, none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

The soul was to be cut off, and the man was to bear his sin, that neglected to eat the passover. Numb. ix, 7–11. Have you not reason to fear that a neglect of the Lord's Supper will be attended with a similar danger.

It is SEPARATING FROM YOUR CHRISTIAN BRETHREN. You thụs break off communion with

your

fellow Christians. By such conduct you declare that you wish not to be numbered with the true disciples of Jesus Christ, but had rather have your lot with those who neglect him.

It is A VIRTUAL UNDERVALUING OF YOUR BAP ! TISM. That was the sign of your admission into the Christian church. The Lord's Supper is the sign of your continuance in it. By neglecting it, you appear

« PreviousContinue »