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The Lord's Supper.
HAVING discussed, at considerable length, the ordinance of baptism, about which there is a diversity of opinion ; we proceed to a brief view of the ordinance of the Lord's supper : in which we may hope for a greater harmony of sentiment and practice. The Lord Jesus, on the night, in which he was betrayed, partook of his last passover with his disciples; and the scene unusually solemn. For at this feast, he gave them to understand, distinctly, that one of them should betray him. All began to suspect themselves, and to say, one by one, Lord, is it I? Even Judas, to conceal his treachery, said, Lord, is it I ? Jesus, then divulged the secret ; and Judas, being exposed, went immediately out, and collected an armed force. In the absence of Judas, Jesus instituted the sacramental supper. Hav. ing finished the passover, “ He took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying, Drink
blood of the new testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins." The broken bread represents the body of Christ, “ wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities;" and the wine poured forth, represents the blood of Christ, shed in the garden, and on the cross, to make an atonement for our sips, and to redeem us from the curse of the divine law," being made a curse for us.” A plain example of the celebration of this ordinance was exhibited ; to which was added the command of our divine Lord and Saviour,“ This do in remembrance of me.” The remembrance of Christ, as he is set forth crucified before our eyes, is calculated to excite in our minds a lively sense of his infinite condescention and grace ; as well as a solemn sense of our own sinfulness and ill desert. Infinite must be the evil of
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sin, to render it necessary for the Lord of glory to die on the cross, to make an adequate atonement. died for all," and one so infinitely dignified and glorious, 64 then were all dead," dead in trespasses and sins. To commune together, therefore, in the use of the symbols of Christ's death, is virtually to commune on the affecting subjects of human depravity and guilt, as well as of divine love.
The design of this sacrament, therefore, is two-fold. 1. To express the infinite guilt and wretchedness of fallen man; and 2. To manifest the riches of divine mercy, in his redemption and salvation. By a view of our guilt and condemnation, as they appear in the light of Christ's sufferings on the cross; repentance and humiliation are excited. And by a view of the infinite mercy of Christ, displayed in his sufferings for us; faith, hope and joy are excited. For these important purposes, was the ordinance of the Lord's supper instituted.These effects of the Lord's supper do not take place, however, except in humble and pious minds. Proud and impenitent hearts are disgusted with a clear view of the import of Christ's sufferings on the cross. They do not realize their sin and guilt, as they are represented in this awful scene; nor can they place their hope and confidence in the bleeding and dying Saviour. To them, Christ crucified is a “ stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.” They can see no propriety in the doctrines and ordinances of the cross.
In every thing which is self-exalting or self-gratifying, they can have fellowship with one another; but in nothing which is self-condemving, like the sacramental Supper. This ordinance is, in every view, self-abasing. Whatever we read in the scriptures, respecting the price of our redemption; we find applied to ourselves, when we contemplate Christ crucified. Do we read of the inflexible justice of God: It is seen and realized in Christ crucified. Do we read the necessity of evangelical repentance, and faith in Christ? and of personal holiness? These are clearly realized, when we look on Christ crucified. Surely, he, who died on the cross, to vindicate and magnify the divine law, while he opened a door of mercy to sinners, must be an infinite enemy to sin ; and an infinite advocate for holiness. Do we read, that the only foundation of pardon and hope, is laid in the great work of redemption by Jesus Christ? This is realized, by a view of Christ crucified. For surely, if pardon and hope could have come by the deeds of the law, or by any other means, Christ would not have died for our sins. If justification might have been obtained by the law, Christ is dead in vain. In short, the death of Christ confirms all his doctrines : all are sealed with his precious blood. In a correct view of the import of his death, which was, " that God might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth ;" we see displayed and vindicated, the sum and substance of all the laws, doctrines, promises, and threatenings of the bible. The doctrine of Christ crucified is the dividing line, between christianity and infidelity. On these accounts, the sacrament of the Lord's supper is infinitely important and interesting. It is a commemoration of all that is divinely true, and specially interesting to the souls of mankind. And, as a means of growth in grace, no one thing is to be compared with it.
From the nature of this ordinance, which is the key, that opens to view the whole plan of the gospel; we see the great importance of being enlightened, united and harmonious, in our fellowship one with another; in order to commune, with profit and acceptance, at the table of the Lord. The Apostle speaks of some who “ eat and drink damnation to themselves, not discerning the Lord's body;" not perceiving the true import of his sufferings; and not having those humble and devout exercises of heart, which ought to be excited by a view of Christ crucified. Would we avoid a perversion of this holy ordinance; we must, in the first place, well understand it; and, with great humility of heart, we must embrace, that very gospel, whose doctrines and precepts it seals, establishes, and commemorates. On these conditions, and by these means, we may, through divine grace, enjoy real christian fellowship. We may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. We may be strengthened to mortify our own corruptions; to “ crucify the flesh, with its affections and lusts." We may be enabled to glorify the name and religion of Christ, before an ungodly world. We may be instrumental of conveying the knowledge of the divine Redeemer, and the savor of divine truth, to all nations. And hen we sit down at the table of Christ, to celebrate his dying love, we may be prepared in heart, “ to keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness ; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
On this subject, some practical queries arise, which deserve a serious consideration, One is this; Ought a member of the church to attend, and sit down to communion, having a certain knowledge, but no means of proof, that one or more of the communicants are guilty of cena surable crimes ? The answer must be in the affirmative, for the following reasons :
1. In the sacrament of the Lord's supper, our cominunion is not with individuals, but with the church, as a body. In the present degenerate age, we can hardly expect, that any of the churches should be so pure, as to be in a state of perfect fellowship among all its individuals. Yet so long as no visible offence or scandal appears, all the members are bound to treat each other visibly, as inoffensive brethren and sisters. And although it is painful to sit down with known offenders, and with those for whom we have no christian fellowship; yet, in this, case, we must bear the burden which we cannot remove. Care must be taken to cultivate fellowship with the body; however corrupt we may consider some of its members.
2. If we forsake the communion of the church, on account of private and unproveable offences in individuals, we expose ourselves to a censure, from which we cannot be exonerated. We can give no reason for our absenting from communion, without impeaching, and criminating others, without any proof. We expose ourselves, therefore, to be cut off for slander. We may labor privately, with a private offender. But, in no way, is it lawful to express our censure publicly.
Another query is this ; Is it proper for those who are under a course of discipline to be indulged in christian communion ? The answer to this query must also be in the affirmative, with some proper exceptions. All the steps and measures taken with a supposed offender, previous to entering a complaint, are supposed to be private steps. But the prohibition of communion would immediately abolish all privacy in the business. And whether the supposed offender was guilty at first or not, he is made guilty, at last, even of a public offence. He is, by a rule of the church, driven from communion ; unable to assign a reason without divulging a process of private discipline. And even after a complaint is made to the church, the defendant has a claim to innocence, till he is proved guilty. Still, when the matter becomes public, it may be acting the part of christian humility, if not of christian duty, to withdraw, till the cause is decided. Possibly cases of this kind are alluded to by the Saviour, in these words : “ Therefore, when thou bringest thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest, that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Though reference is had, in this passage, to the settlement of difficulties between brethren, about which there is no dispute; yet it may be applicable to those who lie under an unsettled complaint and accusation.
Another query, somewhat indefinite, is this; Whether, on account of great difficulties, which often occur, in this imperfect and militant state, churches ought not frequently to suspend their communion, till difficulties can be healed, and communion become more pleasant and profitable ? This
query demands an answer, pointedly in the negative. Noinstance is to be found in the scriptures, of a suspension of communion, while the church exists. Not one of the churches in Asia, which were reproved by the Apostle John, was advised to suspend coinmunion. They were exhorted to repent, on penalty of having their candlestick removed out of its place. So long as they existed, and transacted any thing, as churches, the holy