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Authority of the Lord's Supper. In an essay on religious rites, in the last number of the Miscellany, it was proposed to consider in some future ones, the authority, nature, design, efficacy, and obligation of that rite of christianity, which we usually denominate the Lord's Supper.
First of all it is necessary to settle the authority of this rite. We must determine whether our Saviour did, or did not intend, that such a form should be observed by his followers, before we can, with any propriety, enter into an investigation of its influences and effects; for though it might be proved that many good results would arise from our calling to remembrance by some outward signs the death of our Saviour, there is no reason why the form of eating breau and drinking wine should be adopted in preference to several others. And even if it could be shown that such a form was the best possible manner of commemorating that great event, still would it be deficient in the dignity and high obligation, which must necessarily belong to a command of Jesus Christ. It would be an observance of mere expediency-an expediency too, which we had discovered ourselves, and which we should consider ourselves at liberty to supersede, from convenience, and at will. Nay, more; it would be divested of that sacredness, and solemnity, and deep and affecting interest, which are naturally associated with a dying injunction of our Master and Saviour; and of the power, likewise, which it would assume from being acknowledged an instituted part of his divine religion. It appears, therefore, that the nature, design, efficacy, and obligation, of the rite of the Communion, are founded on its authority.
What then are the grounds of our belief that the Lord's Supper is an established ordinance of our religion? What is there in the accounts which are given of it in the Scriptures, which would lead us to view it in any other light, than in that of a particular occurrence, which took place on the mournful night in which Jesus was betrayed, and which, from that impressive circumstance, was thought fit to be recorded? Did he, in the first place, intend that they who were then present should ever repeat it? And if so, did he, in the second place, intend that its observance should be confined to them, and expire with them, or, on the contrary, that it should be obligatory on all his disciples, and be transmitted to the latest ages?
In order to obtain the most satisfactory solution of these inquiries, we must recur to the accounts of the transaction, which are handed down to us by the sacred writers. In matters of subsidiary importance, and in the investigation of the history, fluctuations, and changes of opinions, we do well in referring to custom, tradition, and the documents of the church,
but when we are to decide what is, and what is not, a precept, doctrine, or ordinance of our religion, we are without excuse if we resort to any authorities but the sacred books of that religion, or are satisfied with any decisions but such as those books contain. Whatever the streams may be, we shall be sure to quench our thirst purely at the fountain head.
The history of the institution of the Lord's Supper is given by four of the sacred writers, and may be found in the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew, from the twenty-sixth to the twenty-ninth verse; in the fourteenth chapter of Mark, from the twenty-second to the twenty-fifth verse; in the twenty-second chapter of Luke, from the nineteenth to the twenty-first verse; and in the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, the eleventh chapter, from the twenty-third to the twentyseventh verse. These are the accounts, and the only accounts of this transaction, which are given in the Scriptures; they will therefore be my only authorities in attempting to ascertain its true nature and design; and as I shall have frequent occasion to refer to them, I shall quote them at length, in the order in which they stand.
The account of Matthew is as follows;
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And 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."
The words of Mark bear a close resemblance to those of Matthew.
“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the
and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them; and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many."
The next account is that of Luke.
“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you; this do, in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup, after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you."
The remaining account is the one given by Paul, in the following words;
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same 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 same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament* in my blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.”
* Instead of testament, it would be better, in these passages, to translate the Greek dratnxn by the word covenant. It will be remarked, that the phraseology of Matthew and Mark, in this place, differs a little from that of Luke and Paul; the two former kaving, “This is my blood of the new testament,” and the two latter, "This cup is the new testament in my blood.” Both phrases, however, intend the same sentiment, which may be thus expressed; This cup of wine represents my blood, which is to seal the new covenant between God and man.
These are the histories which we have of the Last Supper; and from these it may be clearly proved, that Jesus laid an injunction on the twelve disciples to repeat the ceremony of eating bread and drinking wine in remembrance of him; and also, that the same injunction was designed to be obligatory on all his disciples, in every succeeding age; in short, that the Lord's Supper is an established rite of the Christian religion.
In the first place, it may be clearly proved from these accounts, that our Saviour intended that the disciples who were then with him, should repeat the ceremony of eating bread, and drinking wine, for the express purpose of recalling him vividly to their memories, when he should be no more among them. What other construction, indeed, can the words be made to bear? "And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you.” Thus far, a present action only is described; Jesus broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples, that they might eat it at that time. But he immediately adds, “This do, in remembrance of me." These words, surely, can have no relation to their eating the bread at that time; for how could they eat it in remembrance of him, before he was taken away
from them? We cannot be said to do any thing in remembrance of our friends, while they are with us, and in our sight. It is not till they have gone to distant regions, or to the unseen world, that their memory begins to live and be cherished in our hearts. It was not, therefore, till after Jesus had surrendered his life on the cross,
had ascended to the bosom of his Father, and had left his disciples without their master and guide, that they could perform any action in remem