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Christ in his death, is here proposed before us, even by him who has appointed the institution. It is a way of proposal full of tenderness and love. To every communicant there is, by the grace and faithfulness of God, and through his ministers, a tender of Jesus Christ, in his death, and all its benefits. The main question is, whether you will stir up your hearts to a new and fresh receiving of Jesus Christ, who is thus proposed and tendered to you by the love of your Heavenly Father.”
This is a very refreshing view of the Lord's Supper. The promises and proposals which Almighty God makes to you by his word are more general, and have not that sensible and particular application to the individual which is made by this affecting and tender mode of proposing the blessings of the Gospel. When the minister says to you individually, Take, eat, and gives you individually the bread and the wine, how delightful is the thought that the blessings of salvation by Jesus Christ, are graciously tendered to you! O let us stir up our hearts gladly to receive them!
The Lord's Supper is designed to comMEMORATE CHRIST CRUCIFIED. To commemorate is to preserve the memory of any thing by some public act. We find that God frequently appointed memorials of past transactions of magnitude, to declare to future generations his glorious works. Thus, circumcision was appointed as a memorial of the covenant with Abraham; the stones taken out of Jordan, were appointed as a memorial of their passing across that river on dry land ; the passover, (in addition to its typical design,) was appointed as a memorial, a perpetually repeated memorial, of the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt. We should, if left to ourselves, soon forget our beneficent Deliverer, and the pride of our hearts is ever tending to lead us rely on ourselves, rather than simply rest on his promises of salvation ; and hence the need of this memorial. The connexion of the precept in which we are
required to do this in remembrance of Christ, shows that we , are called on chiefly to remember his death and sufferings. Let
us not remember them transiently and slightly, but deeply, seriously, and constantly. Let us recollect at the same time his original dignity and glory, his wonderful humiliation and abasement, his extreme sufferings and painful death, his resurrection, ascension, and consequent glory.
We may at all times with advantage remember Jesus Christ as a MARTYR, witnessing a good confession before Pontius Pilate, (1 Tim. vi. 13.) and sealing it with his blood-as an EXAMPLE of suffering obedience even unto death, (1 Pet. ii. 21.) as a CONQUEROR, even in death triumphing over all his enemies; but it is particularly as a SACRIFICE FOR sin, that we should regard his death when we surround his table.
Let not your minds be turned from this one point, but remember that Jesus Christ died for your sins, and keep in view the benefits thereby procured for you. It was remarked, by a much valued friend, (the late Rev. W. Richardson, of York,) that many sincere worshippers deprive themselves of much of that comfort and strength which they might have received at the Lord's table, by not having a single eye to the great object designed by that ordinance. Instead of keeping their minds steadily fixed upon Jesus Christ, as the Lamb that was slain, and dwelling on his sacrifice, and the efficacy of his blood, they have by turns meditated on a variety of other religious truths. They have endeavoured, for instance, to take a comprehensive view of the offices of Christ, and the various doctrines of his Gospel. This, though not so common a digression as vain and worldly thoughts, and not in itself a blameable one, may yet prevent our deriving that special benefit to be looked for in this sacrament, "the strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the body and blood of Christ,” if it lead us from fixing our main thoughts on his death, for our sins. Those who wish to be comforted by this ordinance, should determine, while engaged in it, to know nothing, and to think of nothing comparatively, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and what is directly connected with that cheering and leading truth of the Gospel. It is here taken for granted that such know the evil ofsin, wish earnestly to be healed of their spiritual maladies, and steadfastly purpose to lead a new life, for no other guests are invited to the Lord's table. But, on this supposition, no sense of unworthiness, none of the suspicions inseparable from conscious guilt, no respect to other religious doctrines, or topics, which in their season ought to engage our attention, should draw away our main thoughts from this capital truth of the Gospel. Nor shall we, if thus steadily and singly looking to the dying Saviour, depart from his table without some degree of strength and refreshment. It has been well observed, "There are seasons in the Christian's life in which the name of Jesus comes to his heart like a live coal from the altar, and brings with it a warmth, a feeling, and a joy, which angels might come down from heaven to share.9*
While the Lord's Supper commemorates, it also shows forth the death of Christ. 1 Cor. x. 26.
There is a precept respecting the observance of the passover which will illustrate this subject. It shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean you by this service, that ye shall say,
It is the Lord's passover, who passed over the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians and delivered our houses. Exod. xii. 16. Similar to this is the showing, the declaring, and openly publishing the Lord's death at his table.
But what do you show forth, or declare ? We declare the FACT OF HIS DEATH. It has been observed, that when a fact is such that men’s outward senses can judge of it; when it is per
• See Bradley's Sermons.
formed publicly in the presence of witnesses; when there are public institutions kept up in memory of it; and such institutions commence, and are established at the time when the fact took place, it becomes a decisive and incontrovertible evidence of the truth of the fact. It is impossible that such an event did not take place. In this view, then, the continual commemoration of the death of Christ is, from age to age, a plain, manifest, and satisfactory evidence of his death to all mankind, and that death a sacrifice for sin. It is a standing proof of that great fact which is the foundation of all our hopes.
We declare THE MANNER OF HIS DEATH. That though perfectly innocent, and the only-begotten and the beloved Son of God, his bodily and mental sufferings were most painful and se
The breaking of the bread declares his body brokenthe pouring out of the wine his blood shed. And in how many ways was that body broken ? Mark his anguish and passion in Geihsemane ; his being smitten, spitten on, mocked, and buffeted in the hall of judgment! His enemies put a crown of thorns on his head, and they smite them into his temples. After they had scourged him, the devoted victim is compelled to bear his own cross, till he sinks under the load. At length 'the iron nails were driven through the tender nerves, and he was suspended on the accursed tree. Every part of his holy body was bruised and wounded. After lingering several hours in this agony, and receiving gall and vinegar in derision, he expired, amid the bitter taunts and revilings of those he came to save, and bearing the heavy wrath of Him in whose bosom he had for ever dwelt. And even after his death one of the soldiers, in wanton indignity and derision, with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water.
We there declare THE TRUE CAUSE OF HIS DEATH. If Jesus Christ had deserved to suffer, if like other men he had himself sinned, then there would have been no cause thus to celebrate his death. But he was wounded for our transgressions. “In the ordinary course of justice,” says Bishop Andrews,“ when a party is put to death, we say, and say truly, that the executioner cannot be said to be the cause of his death, nor the sheriff by whose commandment he does it, nor yet the judge by whose sentence, nor the jury by whose verdict, nor the law itself by whose authority it proceeded. Sin, and sin only, is the murderer. In a certain sense it is so here. It was the sin of our polluted hands that pierced his hands; the swiftness of our feet to do evil, that nailed his feet to the tree; the wicked devices of our head that gored his head; and the wretched devices of our heart that pierced his heart; our sinfulness caused his death, and his death takes away our sin.” It has been observed, the very sufferings which, so far as we are concerned, were the effect of our crimes, were, by the mysterious counsel of God, the expiation of them.-Christ was weary, that we might rest; he hungered, that we might eat the bread of life; and thirsted, that we might drink the water of life. He grieved, that we might rejoice; and became miserable, to make us happy. He was apprehended, that we might escape; accursed, that we might be acquitted ; and condemned, that we might be absolved. He died, that we might live; and was crucified by men, that we might be justified before God.
Thus the Lord's Supper was designed to represent, comme morate, and show forth the Lord's death as a sacrifice for sin. This is done for our own edification, as a testimony to the world, and as a prevailing mode of pleading his merits before God. It has been observed, that“What we more compendiously express in that general conclusion of our prayers, through Jesus Christ our Lord, we more fully and forcibly represent in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, wherein we plead the virtue and merits of the same sacrifice here, that our great High Priest is continually urging for us in heaven.” WI
Vhenever, then, Christian reader, you celebrate this ordinance, we exhort you, in the expressive words of a late writer, “Look up to the offering of Jesus Christ once for all : look to him as dying for the remission of your sins, washing them away in his precious blood ; suffering that you might be saved. And while you are kneeling under his cross, touched with the utmost possible sense of God's love, who gave his only begotten Son, and affected with sentiments of the most tender devotion to him who gave himself for you, embrace also with your good will all mankind who he loved for his sake. Then rise up, by his grace, to the sober, continual practice of every thing that is good, and excellent, and praiseworthy, and conformable to the sentiments and affections, and the obligations laid on you by his infinite love."
The observance of the Lord's Supper contains also a virtual DECLARATION OF OUR EXPECTATION OF HIS COMING AGAIN. We show forth the Lord's death, till he come, as the Judge of all men.
1 Cor. iv. 5; xi. 26. By this ordinance we acknowledge that Jesus Christ will come to JUDGE THE WORLD. We show that we believe that a solemn day is approaching, when God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil—that all mankind shall then be divided into two classes, and only two, the righteous and the wicked—the future inhabitants of heaven and hell-of everlasting punishment and everlasting life. Partaking of the Lord's Supper, is an implied and public avowal of this expectation. How important is this avowal! How well calculated to restrain evil and encourage righteousness! How suited to fill us with a holy reverence of God, and a just fear of displeasing him!
But while this view inspires reverence, there is another consideration which should fill the servants of God with the liveliest hope and joy. He comes also as THE SAVIOUR OF HIS PEOPLE. Heb. ix. 28.
Had we no farther view than to remember and declare our Saviour's death, this ordinance would be full of comfort; but since we have not only to look back on what Christ has done, but forward to what he will do, new beams of light and joy are shed around this blessed institution. It leads us to look up to Jesus as a living
Redeemer, gone to prepare places for us in the mansions of his Father's house, (John xiv. 2, 3.) and to comfort each other with the animating hope that, notwithstanding all the dangers, trials, and sorrows of our present state, we shall soon be admitted into his presence, and than we shall ever be with the Lord. In receiving the Lord's Supper, we declare our hope, that Christ will hereafter appear for us as our Deliverer ; that however now we may be groaning under the burden of many sins, contending with our spiritual enemies, and often worsted in the contest; yet then he will have purified our souls and will present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. We declare our hope, that however the Christian may now be afflicted and despised, his wisdom will one day be universally acknowledged; the justice of God perfectly cleared ; and his servants be openly owned by him, and forever blessed with him.
When this happy day arrives, then, and not till then, will the observance of this solemn ordinance cease to be a duty. “Then his people will no longer need such memorials as these ; for they will incessantly enjoy the brightest vision of his person, and the richest fruits of his death."
The Obligation to receive the Lord's Supper. When we consider the very small proportion of the congregation assembling for public worship, which usually remains to partake of this ordinance, it cannot be deemed unnecessary, to insist on the obligation which lies on the truly pious not to neglect it. Even in more religious congregations, where the ministry is most efficient, it has been calculated that not more than one fourth stay to partake of the Lord's Supper, while the proportion is, in general, much less.
The primitive Christians did not thus turn away from the Lord's table; the churches communicated every Lord's day, and it was the practice for ALL both clergy and laity, to receive.
What a blessing it would be to the Church, could it be again said of Christians, they continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people.
Observe the reasons which should induce sincere Christians to attend to this institution.