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A beautiful custom of antiquity is thus made to illustrate the genius of the Gospel, and to give a pre-intimation of the institution and design of that blessed solemnity which is itself a perfect exposition of the spirit of Christ's religion,--the Supper of the Lord. When some arduous and momentous enterprise had been brought to a successful termination, or some great deliverance had been wrought, then he who had enjoyed such signal experience of the goodness of God felt constrained to gather his kinsfolk and friends to a grand religious banquet, the viands of which were first offered in sacrifice to God, and then taken from the altar to the festive board. Now Christ, before He entered into His agony, vowed that He would, after the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood, drink the wine new, with His disciples, in the kingdom of His Father,--that is, the completed Gospel-dispensation : and, so saying, He instituted the Lord's Supper. This, then, is Christ's votive feast; in commemoration of His victory over all His and our enemies. His bidden guests are " the meel," and “ they that seek the Lord.” The provision is His sacrifee; the issue, perfect satisfaction of soul, overflowing gratitude, and
“ The meek shall eat and be satisfied : they shall praise the Lord that seek Him: your heart shall live for ever." The Lord's Supper is, thus, a perfect exposition of the Christian life.
1. The Christian life is a feeding on the sacrifice of Christ; the Lord's Supper is a feasting on that same sacrifice.
2. Those only taste the happiness of the Gospel who are the subjects of Christ's primal beatitudes ;-the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the hungry and thirsty after righteousness. These, too, are Jesus's guests at His votive feast.
3. Christianity brings all who partake of its blessedness into covenant-relationship with God; the Lord's Supper is the most solemn and espressive sign and seal of that covenant-relationship. Hence it is called a Sacrament.
4. Christianity is not only union with God, through the sacrifice of Christ, but also union with God's people, through the common participation of that sacrifice; and the Lord's Supper is the most significant expression of that union with the people of God. Hence it is also known as the Holy Communion.
5. Christianity is joy in God, through Christ Jesus our Lord ; the Lord's Supper is the highest expression of that joy. It is the Eucharist.
6. Christianity is consecration to God, from the constraint of Christ's dying love, and of God's love in Christ. At the Lord's Supper we present our bodies a living oblation. In this sense, the Lord's Supper is the Christian Sacrifice.
All this is exquisitely intimated in our text.
1. The Christian life is a feeding on the sacrifice of Christ ; and the Lord's Supper is a feastingon that sacrifice. This is the idea which stands
in the forefront of the institution. It is a festive celebration of the completed atonement of Christ; in which the entire provision consists of a sacrifice, an offered and accepted victim. It is what the great Cudworth has defined it,"a feast after and upon a sacrifice ;” a symbolical and spiritual feasting, but none the less a real one, on the "once offered" and ever-availing sacrifice of the Lamb of God. It is not what the Romanist and other ritualists absurdly and audaciously, though most adroitly, call it,-"a commemorative sacrifice :” for it is not the offering of a sacrifice at all, but a feast upon Christ's accomplished and accepted sacrifice. It were just as rational to term a banquet in honour of a great victory a commemorative battle, as to term a feast upon a sacrifice“ a commemorative sacrifice.” But yet it is not, on the other hand, a mere commemoration of a sacrifice. It is a feasting on the sacrifice of Christ, accomplished once for all upon the cross; perfect, but not past ;-the perpetual and present sacrifice of Christ, grandly historical, and yet not in any wise a thing of the past; but the great fact of today, the great fact of eternity. It is the most solemn and significant appropriation, the taking into one's own soul, of the atoning death of Christ; and the receiving from it, by living faith, of perfect satisfaction of soul; the sweet allaying of the hunger and thirst of the heart; inexpressible enlivenment; strength to perform the will of God; vital union with Christ, through the establishment and strengthening of living lines of sympathy with Him, and the transmission, along those lines, of peace and joy, of power and purity, directly from Him to us; so that, by eating Christ, we live in Him and He in us, and our souls become assimilated to that on which they feed, and Christ is formed in us, “ the hope,” because the earnest and foretaste, "of glory.” And this is the feature of this sacrament, which, in its institution, the Master especially presented to our view, saying, “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you:” “Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you." Hence the name, the Lord's Supper; the Supper of which the Lord Himself is not only the Institutor and the Glory, but, at once, the Bidder, the Banquet, and the Master of the feast; supping with us, and we with Him; drinking with us, in performance of His vow, the new wine, in the kingdom of His Father. Then is brought to pass the saying that is written, “The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek Him: your beart shall live for ever.”
2. Be it ever borne in mind, that the daily life of the believer is a feeding on the sacrifice of Christ. This is the truth enfolded in those startling but most precious words which Christ spake some time before the institution of His Supper: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.” Christ, and Christ crucified, is the only real aliment, the only life-giving food, of the human spirit. And, in order that
Christ may be our life, there must be an actual in-taking and in-working of His death into our souls. As, by the act of eating and drinking, and by the inscrutable processes of digestion and assimilation, the rich juices and essential properties of our food are taken into the system and become a part of our very substance, repairing its waste and reinforcing its vigour; so, by faith,-by lively, appropriating, hungry, hearty, contemplative, and working faith,—the life which is in Christ as its fountain is communicated to us, and we become partakers of His Dature, of His immortal life. The sacrifice of Christ yields all its virtue to a living faith. And, as at the stated feasting, so in the daily feeding upon Christ, it is only the subjects of His primal beatitudesthe poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness—who can, in the nature of the facts, put forth this hearty faith. To draw life from Christ, the heart must have become, as it were, an exhausted receiver, one vast sense of want. All other feeling must have left it, but that of want, weakness, worthlessDess; and it is then that, by a grand and immutable law of grace, love will flow into it from the heart of Christ, and expand and replenish it with the powers of an endless life. Thus Christ's flesh and blood- His sacrifice—will become the very substance and life-blood of our spirits. Well might Peter say, on listening to this life-breathing language, “ Lord, to whom should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."
What, then, is the difference between this habitual, this daily feeding upon Christ, and the feasting upon Him in the Supper of the Lord ? The answer is, That is just the difference between the quickly recurring meal and the special banquet. But where is the need of stated and frequent feasting on that whereon we are daily feeding ? To this, the bidding of Christ were surely, of itself, a conclusive reply. But it is not the only reply. The geniality of the great Father is not satisfied, unless His children have their feast-days as well as their working-days; their Sabbaths and their sacraments, as well as their daily labour and their daily bread. Besides, it is not physiologically true that the poor toiling man does not ever and again require a feast; and every true believer is poor in spirit, and always abounding in the work of the Lord. The working man cannot pursue his task cheerily unless he have his holidays and his feast-days; and thus the Master denies the name of Christian hospitality to any festive gatherings from which the poor are driven. True, the hungry, hearty, working man will enjoy his meal four times a day, or oftener, much more than the sickly, indolent man will enjoy a feast; and his coming rest will be sweet, whether he has feasted or only fed. A feast is not absolutely necessary to the bare sustaining of life. A man, if providentially debarred from the feast, may enjoy robust life through the heartiness and regularity of his daily meals; and a true believer, if thus debarred from the Supper of the Lord, (or even if, unhappily, and to his own
VOL. XI.-FIFTH SERIES.
sad loss, withheld from it by mistaken ideas about it,) may have real life in Christ, (as, for example, the devout members of a well-known Society in which such mistaken ideas are held,)—but not a life so hightoned, so exultant, as that which he would derive from this revivifying banquet. On the other hand, a feast cannot nourish or enliven through the mere fact of being present at it. In like manner, the Lord's Supper, when not “mixed with faith in them that” eat it, has no nutritive or exhilarating virtue whatsoever,
And let us never forget, that, although God has not "shut up His tender mercies" in any form,
“ While Jesu's blood, through earth and skies,
Mercy, free, boundless mercy, cries,”— yet, so clear is the dying injunction of the Master,“ Do this in remembrance of me,” that the refusal to comply is either a lamentable slight on the Redeemer's memory, or a transferring, in this instance, of the reverence due to the words of Christ, to some darling dogma of a merely hunian teacher, or to some favourite theory of one's own.
3. Christianity again brings all who partake of its blessedness into covenant-relationship with God; and the Lord's Supper is the most solemn and expressive sign and seal of that covenant-relationship. Hence it is named, “ The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.” The primitive classical meaning of the word “sacrament” is, briefly, a legal, sacred, public engagement, entered into with fitting formalities, as a security for the discharge of an individual obligation.* Its signification, therefore, is substantially the same as that of the word “covenant,” which our Lord used at the institution of this rite. When we speak of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, we mean the solemn covenant-engagement of the Lord's Supper; and next to the jubilant emotions flowing from a high feast upon the atonement of Christ, and blended with them, must be a sense of the awfulness of a solemn contract between the Most High and His ill-deserving creatures ;-a covenant, on His part, to be our God, regarding us with infinite compassion and new complacency; supplying us with all-sufficient help for the performance of duty, the resistance of temptation, the endurance of His fatherly discipline, and the gaining of a meetness to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;—a covenant, on our part, to be wholly His, taking His love as our portion, His law as our rule:-we sealing this covenant, in the most significant and solemn manner possible, by symbolically and spiritually eating the sacred flesh and drinking the precious blood of the covenant-Victim; and God sealing it, by testifying of our gifts, sending into our hearts the assuring Spirit of peace, and joy, and love. This is the Holy Spirit's own definition of a saint,-one who has made a covenant with God by sacrifice. (Psalm 1. 5.) Hence, the designation of this solemnity which
See Smith's " Antiquities," p. 651.
we usually employ seems to be the most coinplete ; namely, “The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper."
4. Still further : Christianity is not only union with God, through the sacrifice of Christ, but also union with God's people, through the common participation of that sacrifice; while the Lord's Supper is the most significant expression of that union. Hence it is also the Holy Communion.
This, too, is a scriptural expression. “The cup of blessing, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ ? the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” We have seen that the Lord's Supper is essentially a feast. Now, a feast implies sociality and mutual goodwill among those who con. jointly partake of it. But we have seen also that this is not a common feast, but a covenant-feast, a sacramental participation, in which all the communicants, by the very act of communicating, become scorn, sworn to Him of whose body and blood they have symbolically and spiritually become the recipients; sworn to each other, being thus united by a bond more sacred than any earthly bond, a tie more tender and enduring than that of natural brotherhood : for this is blood-relationship indeed! And, if the fact that kindred human blood flows in the bodily veins is felt to link together mortal hearts, how much more when one blood, and that the precious blood of Christ, circulates through all our spirits, and makes them animate with the life of God! What a cup is that in which we pledge ourselves ! “ Is it not the communion of the blood of Christ ?” The partaking together of this makes us all “fellow-citizens," fellow-soldiers, sworn friends, and fellow-helpers; yea, members of the same family,--for this is also the Christian family meal, which, like the recurrent gatherings of home around the parental table, strengthens the family tie, and sweetens the family affections. Here we do all eat the same spiritual meat, and drink the same spiritual drink,--the streams of the open fountain, the well-head of immortality; and the fruitage of the tree of life. And Christ Himself presides in person; as to His Godhead, actually; as to His manhood, virtually: for with Him local distance is not absence. And thus He redeems the pledge given in a verse preceding our text:-“I will declare Thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee." He stoops to the doubting disciple, as to Thomas, and says, “Reach bither thy hand,......and be not faithless, but believing."
Having thus become “partakers of Christ,” we are “all one in Christ.” What is the true idea of the church? It is generally conceived of as being so many millions of individuals, of many different nations, divided into a vast number of sects, differing very widely as to modes of worship, as to church-government, and even as to the wording of their confessions of faith ; whose claim to the common name of Christians rests on their common belief of certain facts relating to