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THE EXPRESS COMMAND OF OUR SAVIOUR.- This do in remembrance of me. Luke xxii. 19; 1 Cor. xi. 24, 25. Here we have a plain and positive precept. It is so express that it cannot easily be mistaken. It has been objected, that such a rite is inconsistent with the spirituality of the Gospel, and has no moral foundation; but the very circumstance that the command rests on the ground of positive institution, and not of natural duty, makes the observance of it a direct acknowledgment of the authority of Christ, and the neglect of it a disregard of his precept. Hence, as Dr. Owen says, “Faith and obedience here give special honour to Christ as our Sovereign. It is, in fact, the most direct profession of the subjection of our souls and consciences to the authority of Christ in all our religion. Our reason for it is, Christ would have it so." There is no uncertainty in the direction ; it is not conveyed in dark and obscure terms,-THIS DO. The command is easy. No burdensome and costly sacrifices are required, no long and tedious rites and ceremonies are to be gone through. You cannot say it was designed for the twelve apostles, or for the Jewish nation only; for the motive applies to all with increasing strength as time rolls on, and the practice of the primitive Gentile Church contradicts such an interpretation. It is also against the express revelation made to the great apostle of the Gentile Church, for the instruction of the Gentiles. He begins his 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, this sad issue, “either Christ 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 gave 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 showing love to a gracious benefactor. To whom are you so much indebted as you are to Christ? In what instance can you possibly have equally strong reasons to show gratitude and affection ?
3. THE UNIVERSAL PRACTICE OF THE CHURCH in the primitive ages strengthens this view of duty. The whole scope of the apostle's reasoning with the Corinthians, (1 Cor. x. 1621; xi. 20—34;) shows 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 communicate 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 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 distance of time, and in a period when the love of so many has waxed cold? This being an institution 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, merely supported by carnal reason, or suited to the na tional 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 show 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 shows that it is the duty of the Church to celebrate it, till our Lord come 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 undoubtedly 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. soning 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 our favoured land, lamentably low? It may be said ge
nerally, that if your heart be right with God, you will omit 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 occa sional 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, that the Epistle which gives particular cautions against formality, gives the di-rection, 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 OF 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 or dinance, 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 thus 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 BAPTISM. 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 to count your baptism a privilege not worth maintaining. This is also done when you come to years of discretion, and it is your own voluntary act, even after, through the piety of your parents, you had been baptised. Is it not manifest, that if it had been left to your own choice, you would not have been baptised? Do not go thus far to renounce Christianity. It was a great sin to withdraw from professing it, in times of difficulty and persecution, (Heb. x. 26–31.) when it might seem to admit of some extenuation from the frailty of
man, and the fear of such dreadful sufferings as the primitive martyrs underwent ; but “by neglecting the Lord's Supper, (the peculiar rite of Christians,) do you not in effect deny the profession that you may have made of Christianity, and deny it, remember, in times of liberty and encouragement ?"
It is A PUTTING A SLIGHT ON YOUR SAVIOUR'S DEATH. The Lord's Supper is the memorial of his sacrifice. When you refuse to come, you do in effect declare, I will remember my worldly friends, my pleasures, my private pursuits, or other engagements; but I will not remember my Redeemer in the greatest instance of his love. I will not confess my dying Lord; I will not honour his name; I will not declare my hope in his cross. I wish to have no concern in his atonement and salvation. Christian reader, can you bear the implications which attach to this neglect ? Did Jesus die for you, and will you not obey one of his last, one of his most easy, one of his most delightful precepts? The point is gained. Your heart yields. You will mourn over your past ingratitude, and determine to embrace every opportunity of remembering and publicly confessing a crucified Saviour. You see that not to do so, is in fact to renounce communion with Christ, and to say, “I can spend my time with ease and pleasure, in the scenes of idleness and trifling; but I care not to be with Christ, and love not commu nion with him."
But THE YOUNG may be especially addressed on this subject. The Jews, it would appear, (Luke ii. 41, 42.) took their children at twelve years of age, to partake of the passover; and well would it be if Christian youth, at twelve or fourteen, under right impressions, and with intelligence and piety, began to partake of the Lord's Supper. When this season is neglected, life passes silently forward, habits of omission get formed, and diffidence and false shame strengthen them. It has been observed, "we naturally feel some degree of embarrassment in doing any thing, for the first time, that is attended with a considerable degree of interest, and public solemnity." This difficulty increases with increasing years. I trust that those of my younger readers, whose hearts are renewed by divine grace, will therefore feel that now is the happy opportunity, now is the precise time, in which they should commence a practice which will soon become a blessed habit, bringing along with it a most important train of consequences; full of Benefit to them all their days. It is a turning point of your life. Come to this table, and you are taking a most important step towards fixing you for a holy, useful, and happy life. Turn from it, and you are multiplying the difficulties which the world, the flesh, and the devil, ever present in the way to heaven. The kindness of our youth, (Jer. ii. 2.) is much remembered by our heavenly Father. Give, then, to Christ, the first and the best of your days:
Yet while we would invite you and all Christians, and re. quire you in the name of your Saviour, not to neglect his plain command, we would press you also to exainine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; if you are still living in a course of sin, come not here; but yet keep not away altogether; repent of your sins, believe in Christ, devote yourselves to him, and then come, and you will obtain both edification and comfort.
In this chapter we have only considered the obligations in the way of duty; the privilege must be reserved for farther notice. Let us feel with Bishop Taylor, “ Happy is that soul that comes to these springs of salvation, as the hart to the wa ter-brooks, panting and thirsting, weary of sin, and hating vanity, and reaching out the hearts and hands to Christ.”
- Answers to the excuses commonly made for not coming to
the Lord's Supper.
DARE NOT GO,
The obligation will be still farther felt, if we consider the excuses by which scrupulous or unwilling minds commonly justi fy their absence.
That which is most frequently urged, and which has perhaps the greatest weight, is this—they that receive unworthily incur great guilt; WE ARE UNWORTHY, AND THEREFORE WE
This excuse, seeming to imply a reverence to this institution, makes many easy, under a direct act of disobedience; yet, in fact, it arises from ignorance and unbelief.
It arises from IGNORANCE: for many persons do not make the evident distinction between being UNWORTHY, and receiving
The very best are unworthy. The guilty and the sinful are the very persons invited to come. A sense of our sinfulness is a needful part of preparation. If indeed a poor man resist, or cast from him, the bounty of the benevolent, he is unworthy of relief. If a sick man reject the medicine which would heal him, he is unworthy of health ; but you see evidently that the poverty of the one is the very reason why he should take the offered relief; the sickness of the other is the most powerful motive to welcome and receive the physician's prescription. If then you are sensible of your unworthiness, and desire pardon and grace, you should ask them, not because you are worthy, but because you need these blessings, and must perish without them. You not only want them, but Jesus Christ invites you to come and receive supplies adapted to your necessities. If you are afraid of receiving UNWORTHILY, you will find in a subsequent chapter some information and directions which may remove this fear.
But is there not much UNBELIEF and presumption in staying away? You think, perhaps, that by going you are presuming.
it is not presumption to accept our Lord's invitation, and