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ON THE HOLY COMMUNION. 1843.
(Among the Tracts of the Christian Knowledge Society.)
THE duty of partaking in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, or the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, is one which, though more attended to than formerly, is yet much neglected at the present day ; particularly, perhaps, by men rather than women, and by the lower orders rather than the higher.
This Sacrament is administered in the church of this parish several times in the year, of which Christmas day, that is now approaching, is one. It is much to be wished that none should miss this opportunity of receiving it ; and it may therefore be proper to consider now, first, the proof that it is a duty to be performed by all Christians; secondly, the reasons which, either openly or secretly, make so many people neglect it.
We all know that the proof of any duty which we are to perform lies in this, that we find it commanded in the Bible; and whoever wilfully perseveres in neglecting any duty there commanded, can have no right to hope to be saved after his death. And, with regard to the particular duties of Christians, whatever Christ Himself or His Apostles command, it is our duty to do; that is, we are to look for them, in the first place, in the New Testament. We may not by ourselves be able to understand everything that is there set down, but we understand everything in the sense in which the Church of England, to which we belong, understands it; not having any reason why we should not so understand it. Therefore we look, in the second place, to the Catechism and Services of the Church.
First, then, for proof from the Bible. The chief passages in the New Testament in which the observance of the Holy Communion is commanded to all Christians, are these :-Matt. xxvi. 26-28,"" And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Here He commands it to His Apostles. The same words occur in St. Mark. Luke xxi. 19, 20, “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you : this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you."
These are the words in which Christ instituted this Holy Sacrament. And in another place, John vi. 51-57, He thus speaks to His disciples : “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. . . . . Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath
eternal life ; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.”
These words may have many other and deep meanings : but remembering the language in which, after having thus spoken, He appointed the Holy Sacrament of the Communion of His Body and Blood, we learn from them also, that at this Communion we spiritually eat and drink the Flesh and Blood of our Blessed Lord ; and that thereby, if we use it rightly, are communicated spiritual life and grace to our souls, and all those other benefits which are announced to us in this passage.
Let us now see how the Apostles and first converts obeyed Him, and what directions the Apostles give on the subject. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we read,* that they who believed “continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers ;" expressing, it would seem, the whole duty of a Christian. St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ ? the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? ... for we are all partakers of that one bread.”+-"I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread : and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat : this is my body, which is broken for you : this do in * Acts ii. 42. † i Cor. x. 16, 17.