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Origin, nature, and obligation, of the
Lord's Supper. In the evening preceding the day on which our blessed Lord was betrayed and crucified; when the treachery of Judas, the shameful denial of Peter, and the approaching agonies of the cross, were all present to his divine mind, he was desirous, as we read, of eating the passover with his beloved disciples. "And as they were eatúng,' the evangelists record, that • Jesus took bread and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, take, eat; this ás my body,* which is given for you ; this do in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper, he took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it, for this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins.
* It has been justly observed that in the Hebrew Language, (the idioms of which are frequently preserved by the writers of the New Testament) there are not any verbs which express the ideas of likeness, or representation ; and that this deficiency is often supplied by the use of the substantive verb. Thus our blessed Lord says, on the present occasion, This is my body,' This is my blood; when he means that
From this awfully interesting and pathetic event, which is expressly mentioned by all the evangelists, except St. John, who, intending, for the most part, to supply the deficiencies of the others, seldom relates any thing which they had already recorded, originated, in the very infancy of Christianity, the Lord's Supper,' or the communion of the body and blood of Christ.
the bread and wine are respectively the signs, or symbols, of each. So also, it is said, Gen, 41, 26, 27, The seven kine are seven years, &o. See also, Gen. 49. 14, and seq. Issacher is, &c; Dan shall. be, &c. In the holy gospel, we find, Matt, 13. 38. The field is the world, the good seed are the children. See too, John 10. 7. John 15, 1. Cor. 10. 4. Gal. 4, 24, Rev. 4, 5. for similar examples.
The same licence is common in all languages. Of statues and pictures every body says, That is Cicero; that is Homer, &
his mode of expression, as used by our Saviour, that the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (i.e, that the actual body and blood of our Lord are in the bread and wine) in founded
It is on
It was ordained indeed, by the Saviour of the world himself, it was delivered by him to St. Paul, by St. Paul to his converts, with the assurance that by it the church is to shew forth Christ's death till he come ; and the disciples of Christ, in regularly commemorating it, have not followed the arbitrary institutions of men, but obeyed his express command.
The memory of the most interesting and important events soon becomes faint, and dies imperceptibly away, unless revived by some salutary exercise and regular celebration. Even the sentiments ‘of friendship and affection require to be kept alive by some sort of intercourse, or by such tokens as may reach the mind through the medium of the senses; and the devotional passion would soon lie dormant, if certain rites and ceremonies did not give it life and energy, and prevent it from languishing into absolute forgetfulness or total indifference.
If any of the disciples of our blessed Lord could be supposed incapable of losing, in any measure, the remembrance of what he had done, and suffered, it would have been those who continued with him in his temptation,'—those who witnessed his sufferings, and saw his miracles of love; who, also, in the hallowed moments of retirement from the world, eat of the bread which he brake, and drank of the cup which he blessed. They must have receive ed impressions, we may suppose, which not the longest life would obliterate, or diminish; but yet we learn from the Acts of the Apostles, the writings of St. Paul, and other parts of the New Testament, that they strictly obeyed the command of their divine master, regularly administering and partaking of this holy ordinance,
If, under such circumstances, therefore, they deemed it an indispensable duty, and necessary to keep alive the spirit of christian piety, what ought not we to think and feel on the occasion, at the distance of nearly two thousand years? Or what would have become of the genuine, vital religion of the gospel, in this lapse of time, if it had not been cherished and preserved through successive ages, by these and other ordinances of divine worship? It is easy to perceive, that it would have been buried in darkness almost before it was brought to light, lost entirely to the ignorant, and studied only by the learned as a matter of idle curiosity, or useless research.
Our Saviour has appointed in his church only two institutions, and those are so pure and simple, so easy of performance, and so truly expressive of the spiritual grace which should accompany them, that our thoughtless or contumacious neglect seems to be altogether without excuse.
Instead of the painful and sometimes dangerous ceremony of circúmcision, he substituted the rite of Baptism ; and instead of the passover, the Lord's Supper. The only outward sign used in baptism is water, which is easily procured, without any cruel