Page images


1 CORINTHIANS, xi. 20.-“ The Lord's Supper.”

The word here translated - The Lord's” occurs only twice in the New Testament,--in this passage and in the first chapter of the Revelations. It is the venerable epithet applied to two leading ordinances of our holy religion,—the Lord's Supper and the Lord's Day, and points them out to our minds as containing each of them a commemoration of him whom emphatically we Christians call our Lord,Jesus the Son of God and Saviour of men,

6 the Author and Finisher of our Faith,”Captain of Salvation,"—the Anointed and Exalted Messiah. They are commemorations,—the one of that Saviour's blessed death, the other of his glorious resurrection, and both together of the completed work of him who was given for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” In the celebration, therefore, of the Lord's Supper upon the Lord's

.66 the


Day,--in the very fact of coming together, as is recorded of the primitive disciples, on the first day of the week, to break bread, there is included and implied a solemn exhibition of the whole gospel of our salvation, resting as it does on those two mighty pillars, the death and resurrection of our Lord,—the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that hath followed. The combination of these two ordinances of blessed memorial seems to have been uniform in the primitive church, and it has all along been the regret of many the wisest and most pious in all churches of the Reformation, that the primitive model is still, in most of them, so far from being approached,—that we enjoy so seldom the opportunity of making that full, unbroken display of the gospel, -that harmonious commemoration of the different parts of our Saviour's history, as humbled once and now exalted, for which the original order of Christian devotion provided by the constantly united observance of the Holy Feast and the Holy Day.

By God's good hand upon you, however, you now enjoy the prospect of erelong observing in its full completeness the sacred institution of the Lord's Supper on the Lord's Day, and in that prospect, it will, we trust, be a profitable exercise if we endeavour briefly to set before you a summary of what the Bible teaches in respect of the Christian festival ye hope then to celebrate.



Four different writers of the New Testament, the apostles Matthew and Paul, with the evangelists Mark and Luke-have left us an agreeing account of the institution of the Sacred Supper, from which it appears that on the memorable night wherein our Saviour was delivered into the hands of sinners,on the very eve of that profound and bitter passion which expiated the sins of men, when Jesus was upon the point of setting out on that dark journey which led, by four dread stages, first to the garden of agony, thence to the tribunal of unjust condemnation, thence to the tree of anguish and of shame, and thence to the darkness and the silence of the grave, the Saviour, knowing that his hour was come, and all with which that hour was fraught, not only gave to his disciples, as they sat together at the Paschal Supper, distinct and express verbal intimations of various scenes in that terrific tragedy from which the veil of futurity was now fast rolling away, but embodied to their senses, in a symbolic prophecy, its great catastrophe, with its most striking attendant circumstances, its moral meaning, and its glorious ends. For this purpose he took into his hands a portion of the paschal bread; and having, by prayer to God, blessed and sanctified it, as a religious symbol, he brake it, as a prophetic emblem of how his sacred body was soon to be broken, bruised, wounded, smitten, slain. Again, in like manner, he took the cup of outpoured wine, which, having

[ocr errors]

by the same form been blessed and hallowed, he exhibited to his wondering disciples as a predictive symbol of his blood, erelong to be poured out unto death, telling them, in words which they did but partially and faintly comprehend, that for them the body was broken,- for them the blood was shed,for them,--for many,--for the remission of sins ; and so he bade them eat,--he bade them drink,and gave them to understand his will, that often they should renew the sacred rite, by commanding them this to do in remembrance of him. This holy rite, accordingly, as we learn from the earliest records of the Christian church, formed a prominent and standing part of devotion among the primitive disciples, who, we are told, “continued stedfastly in the apostle's doctrine, and in fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” It was, by Christ's authority, established in the newly, founded societies of Christians. As they had received it of the Lord, so the apostles delivered it to the churches as a rite of continual obligation, changed indeed from prophecy into memorial, but still having the same general import,-presenting the same great truth in the same impressive and spiritual aspect,-commemorating those sufferings and that death which once it prefigured, as dured by an Incarnate God in love unspeakable to the souls of men,-endured in their stead as the sacrifice of their sins, the price of their redemp


tion. With a view, no doubt, to this future use of the ordinance in his church, our Saviour, at the institution, spoke of the events which it then foretold in the past, not in the future time, saying, not, my body to be smitten, my blood to be poured out, but, my body broken, my blood shed.

From this brief scriptural history of the ordinance, its continued obligation on the Christian church is sufficiently express and clear. We now proceed to inquire a little more minutely into its nature and its import: and here we shall consider, first, the general end and object of the ordinance; and, secondly, the special meaning of its various parts.

First, then, of its general end and object we remark, that it is intended to be an honourable memorial of Christianity, and more especially of Christ's death. “ This do,” he said himself, “in remembrance of me.”—“As often,” said the apostle, “ as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” Viewing the institution apart from any particular meaning contained in its special circumstances and details, merely as a conventional rite appointed in memorial of the Saviour and the Saviour's death, its observance is the Church's avowal of the honour and the gratitude which she considers eternally due to that Mighty Saviour, more especially on account of that blessed death. She holds forth to the view of all his person and his cross as worthy to be had in everlasting remem

« PreviousContinue »