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I CORINTHIANS Xi. 26.
For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do fhew forth the Lord's death till he come.
IT was the intention of the apostle in this chapter, to point out to the Corinthians fome of thofe abufes which they had introduced into the worship of God, and to bring them back to a purer and more perfect plan. Their manner of celebrating the Lord's fupper, had been remarkably indecent. When they met together for this purpose, instead of behaving fo that this inftitution might promote their piety, and confirm their integrity, they had shamefully converted it into a mean of fostering fenfuality, riot, and even inhumanity. The apoftle openly charges them with their vices, and boldly condemns them on account of them. His zeal, however, is the zeal of an honest man, fenfible of the C c
faults, but anxious for the reformation of those to whom he wrote.
With a view to their reformation, he gives them a fimple, yet full and perfpicuous account of the Lord's fupper; which, he declares, fprung not from the tradition of men, or from the fuggeftions of his own reason or imagination, but from the immediate revelation of the Lord Jefus Chrift; For I have received of the Lord, that which also I deliver unto you, that the Lord Jefus, the fame 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 remembrance of me. After the fame manner alfo, he took the cup, when he had Jupped, faying, This cup is the New Teftament my blood: this do ye, as oft as you drink it, in remembrance of me. After this account of the inftitution of the Lord's supper, the apostle endeavours to turn the attention of the Corinthians to its principal end, and thus to infinuate an argument for the decent and orderly obfervance of it: For as oft as ye cat
a Ver. 23, 24, 25.
this bread, and drink this cup, ye do fhew forth the Lord's death till he come.
This and the fimilar paffages of the New Teftament, clearly point out the intention and object of this inftitution, and give us a diftinct and full view of them. Can any thing be more plain than it is from scripture, that the bread and wine, which are made use of in the Lord's fupper, are intended to be memorials of the body of Christ which was broken, and of his blood which was shed upon the cross; and that the eating of this bread, and the drinking of this wine, were enjoined his followers as folemn acts, to be performed in remembrance of his death? Almost every Chriftian underftands this. And yet, making allowance for the manner of speaking common at that period, and suppofing nothing intended contradictory to our reason, and our fenfes, the words of Chrift appear to me to be as intelligible and perfpicuous as the paraphrafe now given. But though the design of the inftitution may be easily understood, being delivered with that plainness for which the gofpel in general is remarkable; yet certainly it is not for that reason to be regarded with the lefs reverence, Cc 2
or obferved with the lefs folemnity. All religious and well-difpofed Chriftians, nay, many of very indifferent characters, have commonly confidered it as an institution extremely facred, the neglect or contempt of which betrayed a very corrupt heart, and a very impious temper.
I propofe, in difcourfing upon the word3 now read, to inquire what thofe caufes are, which have engaged men to view it in this light, to regard it with this peculiar reverBefore I enter upon this inquiry, let me premise an obfervation or two.
ift, When I fpeak of the caufes which engage men to confider the Lord's fupper as an ordinance peculiarly facred and folemn, I do not intend to infift upon those causes which, though they may have at particular periods, and with particular persons, or even with large bodies of men, greatly contributed to this, yet are not founded in the reafon of things, or the nature of the inftitution. I am very fenfible, that for many ages of the church, the mystery which the priests affected, and the ignorance in which the people were involved, together with many abfurd doctrines refpecting this inftitution, occafioned
ed much of that veneration which was paid to the Lord's fupper. With many men, there is nothing which more promotes admiration, than a strong faith, and little knowledge. Curiosity excited but not gratified, proves the fureft foundation on which fuperftition, enthusiafin, and error can be built. I wish that even in our days the veil, which is fometimes induftrioufly, fometimes undefignedly, and fometimes ignorantly thrown over the ordinances of religion, be not often the principal caufe of our reverence for them. But the caufe of God and virtue have fo many real fupports, that they need no false ones. Every fraud is deteftable: but a pious fraud (the very appellation is an affront to Heaven) is the worst of all frauds. I propose, therefore, to confider only those causes of reverence for this facred ordinance which I regard as juft and well-founded, and which I believe chiefly to have prevailed in the first and pureft ages of the church, and to prevail fill with wife and fober chriftians.
2dly, In mentioning the peculiar reverence with which the inftitution of the Lord's fupper is to be regarded, I do not mean to innuate a comparifon between that degree of