THE LORD'S SUPPER.
--MATT. 26:17-30.--FEB. 17.--
"This do in remembrance of me."--Luke 22:19.
VARIOUS ARE the theories throughout Christendom respecting the Lord's Supper--its meaning and the proper time for its observance. Most Christian scholars recognize the fact that it was instituted as the antitype of the Jewish Passover. Amongst the older churches, Roman and Greek Catholic, Episcopal, etc., there is an attempt made to celebrate our Lord's death as a memorial on its annual recurrence. Originally the celebration was according to Jewish calculations, on the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month, Nisan--the day on which the Jews kill the typical Passover lamb. Subsequently, however, a change in the method of calculation was made so as to commemorate our Lord's death on the nearest Friday and his resurrection on the Sunday--Good Friday and Easter Sunday. With the younger denominations of Christendom this custom has generally fallen into disuse, probably with a desire to put as much difference as possible between Protestant [R2771 : page 73] customs and ceremonies, and those of Catholics. As a consequence of this we find that the majority of Protestants fail to associate the Lord's Supper with the Jewish Passover, and fail to appreciate the fact that the death of the Jewish lamb celebrated annually on the fourteenth of Nisan typified the death of our Lord Jesus on the same date, the latter being the antitype, the fulfilment of the type.
Nor are they wholly without excuse in this oversight, for we are to remember that while the older churches celebrate our Lord's death upon its anniversary, they introduced other ceremonies resembling the Memorial, but not authorized in the Scriptures, nor in anything pertaining to the type. For instance, to the average Catholic mind, as well as to the Protestant, the Catholic Mass is merely a commemoration of our Lord's death; but this is not its true significance. The Mass, rightly understood, from a theological standpoint, is a fresh sacrifice, and not merely a commemoration of the one sacrifice at Calvary. Protestants, misinterpreting it to be a repetition of the Lord's Supper, have come to believe that from the earliest times the Memorial Supper was celebrated at any convenient season. Hence we find among Protestants a variety of views on the subject, some partaking of it weekly, others monthly, and others quarterly, as each esteems to be the most desirable, most profitable.
We hold that no such irregularity was ever intended by the Lord or by the apostles--that our Lord instituted it at the particular time, on the particular day of the year, that was proper; and that the words, "As oft as ye do this" had reference, not only to the bread and the cup, but also the time,--the general incident commemorated. We will not here attempt to go into detailed expose respecting the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass, but merely refer our readers to MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. III., pages 98-104, remarking incidentally that to the informed Catholic, Greek or Roman, the Mass is in no sense of the word a commemoration of the original sacrifice of Christ. The claim is that the first sacrifice of Christ was sufficient for sins that are past, but not for subsequent sins, and that God has given authority to the properly ordained bishops and priests to representatively create Christ afresh on any occasion, and then to sacrifice him afresh for any special sin or sins--High Mass for particular sins of an individual, Low Mass for general sins of a congregation.
The claim of Catholicism is that the blessing of the priest transforms the ordinary wafer and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ, who is thus re-created thousands on thousands of times every year, by thousands of priests, and re-sacrificed for thousands and thousands of sins. We, of course, object to all this as being thoroughly anti-christian, and the majority of orthodox Protestants will give their cordial assent. Nevertheless, those who organized new Protestant denominations seem to have entirely overlooked this matter when they use this frequency of the Mass in the older churches as an excuse for a frequency of commemoration of the Lord's Supper. However, the majority of Protestants seem to have been well aware that great frequency of observance (as in the Mass) would be unwise, unprofitable; and hence the majority commemorate only three or four times a year, believing the service to be thereby rendered more impressive and solemn to all who participate. We hold that the original method, of celebrating our Lord's death on its anniversary, is still more solemn, still more impressive; besides which it has the sanction of the Scriptures, which we claim no other method has.
OTHER MISCONCEPTIONS, BASED UPON SCRIPTURE.
Our so-called "Disciple" and "Plymouth Brethren" friends and others who have adopted the custom of celebrating our Lord's death every Lord's Day--on the first day of the week--seem to us to have fallen into a serious blunder. The inappropriateness of such celebrations is manifest in several ways: first they celebrate it on Sunday, which is itself the memorial of our Lord's resurrection, a totally different thing--a joyous Easter occasion. And losing sight of the importance of the date, it is not remarkable that they have likewise lost sight of the proprieties respecting the time of the day--that as originally instituted it was partaken of at night, whereas the usual custom is to commemorate in the morning or in the afternoon.
We are not to suppose that these Christian friends adopted their weekly custom without any reason whatever; but noticing the reasons they give we find them quite insufficient. It is their claim, for instance, that the statements of Acts 2:42,46; 20:7, which speak of the disciples coming together on the first day of the week "to break bread," refer to the Memorial Supper. To the contrary, we hold that these first-day-of-the week gatherings were Love-feasts, and never intended to take the place of nor in any sense to represent our Lord's Memorial Supper. It will be noticed that in these various accounts nothing whatever is said of "the cup," representing our Lord's blood, and which must be considered as important a part of the symbol as the unleavened bread, which represented his body. The Love-feasts appropriately took place on the day which celebrates the Church's joy in her Lord's resurrection, and no doubt were all suggested by the circumstances of the first Sunday,--the day of our Lord's resurrection, on which occasion he was known to the two at Emmaus in the breaking of bread, and later in the evening to the eleven as they sat at meat, saying, "Peace be unto [R2771 : page 74] you," and causing their hearts to burn within them. (Luke 24:30,31; John 20:19.) Our Lord's Supper, on the contrary, was evidently intended to be a reminder of his death and of our covenant as members of his body to have fellowship in his sufferings.
THE FIRST CELEBRATION OF THE LORD'S SUPPER.
Our lesson points us to the first institution of this memorial, indicating that it was celebrated on the day before the Passover proper began,--on the fourteenth day of Nisan. The Law respecting the Passover was very exact. The lamb was to be taken into the house on the tenth day of Nisan, was to be killed on the fourteenth, and was to be eaten during the night before the dawn of the fifteenth. In the antitype Jesus offered himself to the nation on the tenth, but they, except his faithful few, neglected to receive him, and on the fourteenth he was crucified. It was in the same Jewish day in which he was crucified that he ate the Passover mentioned in our lesson, and later on he was betrayed. (The day with the Jew began at sundown and lasted until the next evening.) There can be no doubt from the account that our Lord and his disciples ate the Passover Supper on the day preceding the one on which the Jews in general ate it; for in John's Gospel we read (18:28; 19:14) that when our Lord was before Pilate in the Judgment Hall, which was after he had eaten the Passover, the Pharisees, his accusers, had not yet eaten it--nor would they eat it until the evening after his crucifixion.
One Evangelist records that our Lord said to his disciples, "With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." It was his last commemoration of the Jewish rite, which as a Jew he was bound to observe legally, fully. We may not know positively the particular hour of the fourteenth day at which our Lord and the disciples partook of the Passover, but probably it was near midnight, when after the Passover had been eaten our Lord instituted the new memorial of his own death, the Lord's Supper, substituting it for the Passover supper of the Law, and intimating this in his words, "Henceforth, as oft as ye do this do it in remembrance of me." "This" represented the antitypical Lamb, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," and doing this-- breaking the bread and drinking of the fruit of the vine--showed forth our Lord's death and not any longer the death of the type, because the antitype had now come, and in this same day, a few hours later, he would be killed, crucified. Our Lord was thus laying a deep and broad basis for the new institution, his Church, and separating it from the Jewish type by pointing out to the believers himself as the antitype, and the higher meaning connected therewith--the deliverance of all true Israelites, not from Pharaoh, but from Pharaoh's antitype, Satan, the deliverance of all the first-born of God's people from death into life more abundant-- eternal life.
All who see clearly the type should realize that it could never pass away until its antitype had come, and the antitype of the killing of the Passover lamb must occur on its anniversary, the fourteenth day of Nisan. Hence the significance of the Scriptural statement that "they could not take him because his hour was not yet come." (John 7:30; 8:20.) God had foreseen the entire matter, and had forearranged everything pertaining [R2772 : page 74] to it, and the type had marked it most definitely. We no longer celebrate the type, but believing that the antitypical sacrifice of the Lamb of God has taken the place of the type, we as Christians "do this" in remembrance of the antitype; for, as the Apostle says, "Even Christ our Passover [Lamb] is slain; therefore let us keep the feast."--1 Cor. 5:7,8.
It was while the Lord and his apostles were eating the Passover Supper, the typical roast lamb, that our Lord said to them, "One of you shall betray me." John tells us that our Lord was "troubled in spirit," manifested emotion, at the time he said this. His emotion was not caused, we may be sure, by the matter of his betrayal, for he evidently foreknew the particulars as well as the fact of his death. The cause of his sorrow, we may reasonably suppose, was the thought that one of those whom he had so tenderly kept and cared for should now prove so ungrateful, unthankful, unholy;--evidently his sorrow was for Judas. His statement drew forth from the disciples inquiries, "Lord, is it I?" Or rather, as the Greek word would seem to indicate, the question signified, Lord, do you mean to accuse me? I am not the one, am I? And the disciples in general were sorrowful too. It was well, perhaps, that they should pass through this experience at this time, as they evidently needed it all, in order to prepare them for the trying times just before them.
Judas, of course, asked the same question with the rest, for not to have asked it would have implied that he admitted his guilt. Our Lord's answer was that it was one who supped with them, and dipping the sop he gave it to Judas, who forthwith went out. (John 13:25-30.) So far from these incidents melting the heart of Judas and leading him to change his course before it was too late, they seem to have aroused in him a malevolent spirit, just as divine mercy toward Pharaoh, in the stopping of the plagues, hardened his heart. Instead of resisting the Adversary's suggestions Judas entertained them more and more, until he was filled with the Satanic spirit, "Satan entered into him" fully, completely--took possession of his heart as an instrument of evil, and it was doubtless because he felt out of place in such society that he went out. [R2772 : page 75]
It thus seems probable that Judas was not with the others when our Lord washed their feet, and subsequently instituted with the bread and the fruit of the vine the memorial of his death. It was better that he should be absent; and so it would be preferable, where possible, that only the true, loyal, devoted disciples of Christ should meet together to celebrate his death on its anniversary. Nevertheless, let us remember that we are not competent to judge the heart, and hence in coming to the memorial table all should be invited to come who trust in the precious blood of Christ for redemption and who profess a full consecration to the Lord. Let us leave it to divine providence to scrutinize those who profess to be fellow-disciples.
PRIMARY SIGNIFICATION OF THE BREAD AND THE CUP.
In presenting to the disciples the unleavened bread, as a memorial, our Lord gave a general explanation, saying, "Take, eat; this is my body." The evident meaning of the words is, This symbolizes or represents my body. It was not actually his body, because in no sense of the word had his body yet been broken; in no sense would it have been possible for any to have partaken of him actually or antitypically then, the sacrifice not being as yet finished. But the picture is complete when we recognize that the unleavened bread represented our Lord's sinless flesh,--leaven being a symbol of sin under the Law, and specially commanded to be put away at this time. On another occasion our Lord gave a lesson which interprets to us this symbol. He said, "The bread of God is he that came down from heaven and giveth his life unto the world. I am the bread of life."--John 6:33,35.
In order to appreciate how we are to eat or appropriate this living bread it is necessary for us to understand just what it was. According to our Lord's explanation of the matter it was his flesh which he sacrificed for us. It was not his prehuman existence as a spirit being that was sacrificed, altho that was laid down and its glory laid aside, that he might take our human nature. It was the fact that our Lord Jesus was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and without any contamination from father Adam, and hence free from sin--it was this fact that permitted him to be the Redeemer of Adam and his race,--which permitted him to give his life a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. And when we see that it was the pure, spotless human nature of our Lord Jesus that was laid down on behalf of sinners, sacrificed for us, we see what it is that we are privileged to appropriate. The very thing which he laid down for us we are to "eat," appropriate to ourselves: that is to say, his perfect human nature was given for us and redeemed Adam and all his race from condemnation to death,--to a right to return to human perfection and everlasting life if they could. The Scriptures show us, however, that if God would consider all of past sins cancelled and should recognize us as having a right to return to human perfection, this still would not make us perfect nor give us therefore the right to everlasting life. In order for the race of Adam to profit by the redemption accomplished by our Lord's sacrifice it is necessary that he should make a second advent, and then be to the whole world a Mediator, Prophet, Priest and King, to assist back to perfection and to harmony with God all who will avail themselves of the privileges then to be offered.
It is this same blessing which the Gospel Church in this age receives by faith from the Redeemer; viz., justification by faith--not justification to a spiritual nature, which we never had and never lost, and which Christ did not redeem; but justification to human nature, which father Adam did possess and lose, and which Christ did redeem by giving his own sinless flesh as our ransom-sacrifice. The partaking of the bread, then, means to us primarily acceptance and appropriation to ourselves, by faith, of justification to human rights and privileges secured by our Lord's sacrifice of these.
Likewise the fruit of the vine symbolized our Lord's life given for us,--his human life, his being, his soul, poured out unto death on our behalf; and the appropriating of this by us signifies primarily our acceptance of restitution rights and privileges which the Lord has thus, at his own cost, secured for us.
THE SECONDARY AND DEEPER SIGNIFICANCE OF THE
LOAF AND THE CUP.
As we have already seen, God's object in justifying by faith the Church during this Gospel age in advance of the justification of the world through works of obedience, in the Millennial age, is for the very purpose of permitting those who now see and hear and appreciate the great sacrifice which Love has made on our behalf, to present their bodies living sacrifices, and thus to have part with our Lord in his sacrifice--as members of his body. This additional and deep meaning of the memorial our Lord did not refer to directly. It was doubtless one of the things to which he referred, saying, "I have many things to tell you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit, when he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth, and show you things to come."
The spirit of truth, speaking through the Apostle Paul, clearly explains the matter of this secondary and very high import of the memorial, for he says, writing to the consecrated Church: "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the participation of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the participation [R2772 : page 76] of the body of Christ?"--to share with Christ as joint-sacrificers even unto death, that thereby they may be counted in with him also as sharers of the glory which he has received as a reward for his faithfulness. "For we being many are one loaf and one body." (1 Cor. 10:16,17.) Both views of this impressive ordinance are important: it is necessary that we should see, first of all, our justification through the Lord's sacrifice. It is proper then, that we should realize that the entire Christ is, from the divine standpoint, a composite body of many members, of which Jesus is the Head, and that this Church as a whole must be broken, and that in this respect each member of it must be a copy of the Lord Jesus and must walk in the footsteps of his sacrifice. We do this by giving our lives, "laying down our lives on behalf of the brethren," as Christ laid down his life for all. It is not our spiritual life that we lay down, even as it was not our Lord's spiritual life that he laid down in sacrifice; but as he sacrificed his actually perfect being, so we must sacrifice our justified selves, reckoned perfect but not actually so. Likewise the cup represents suffering. It is one cup, tho it be the juice of many grapes, even as it is one loaf, tho it be from many grains. The grains cannot maintain their individuality and their own life if they would become bread for others; the grapes cannot maintain themselves as grapes if they would constitute the life-giving spirit; and thus we see the beauty of the Apostle's statement, that the Lord's people are participants in the one loaf and one cup.
Our Lord distinctly declares that the cup, the fruit of the vine (nowhere is this cup described as wine, tho it may have been) represents blood, hence life; not life retained, but life shed or given, yielded up, sacrificed life. He tells us that it was for the remission of sins, and that all who would be his must drink of it,--must accept his sacrifice and appropriate it by faith. All who would be justified through faith must accept life from this one source. It will not do to claim an immortality outside of Christ; it will not do to declare that life is the result of obedience to the Law; it will not do to claim that faith in and obedience to any great teacher will amount to the same thing, and bring eternal life. There is no other way to attain eternal life except through accepting the blood once shed as the [R2773 : page 76] ransom price for the sins of the whole world. There is no other name given under heaven or amongst men whereby we must be saved. Likewise there is no other way that we can attain to the new nature than by accepting the Lord's invitation to drink of his cup, and be broken with him as members of the one loaf, and to be buried with him in baptism into his death, and thus to be with him in his resurrection to glory, honor and immortality.--Rom. 6:3-5; 8:17.
THE CELEBRATION IN THE KINGDOM.
As usual our Lord had something to say about the Kingdom. It seems to have been associated in his every discourse; and so on this occasion he reminds those to whom he had already given the promise to share in the Kingdom if faithful, of his declaration that he would go away to receive a Kingdom and to come again to receive them to share it. He now adds that this memorial which he instituted would find its fulfilment in the Kingdom. Just what our Lord meant by this might be difficult to positively determine, but it seems not inconsistent to understand him to mean that as a result of the trials and sufferings symbolized there will be a jubilation in the Kingdom. "He will see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied." He will look back over trials and difficulties endured in faithful obedience to the Father's will, and will rejoice in these as he shall see the grand outcome in the Kingdom blessings which will come to all mankind. And the same jubilation will be shared by all his disciples who drink of this wine, first in justification and secondly in consecration, and who suffer with him. They are promised that they shall reign with him, and when the reign is begun and when the Kingdom work has been established, looking back they as well as he will praise the way that God has led them, even tho it be a "narrow way," a way of sacrifice, a way of self-denial.
Our Lord's faith stood the test of all these trying hours which he knew to be so near to the time of his apprehension and death. The fact that he rendered thanks to God for the bread and for the cup are indicative of a joyful acquiescence in all the sufferings which the breaking of the bread and the crushing of the grapes implied. He was satisfied already with the Father's arrangement, and could give thanks, as by and by he will greatly rejoice. In line with this was the singing of a hymn as they parted, a hymn of praise, no doubt, thanksgiving to the Father that his course was so nearly finished, and that he had found thus far grace sufficient for every time of need.
THE MEMORIAL SUPPER THIS YEAR.
The anniversary of our Lord's death will this year fall, according to Jewish reckoning, on Wednesday, April 3. Consequently, the appropriate time for celebrating his memorial would be on the "same night in which he was betrayed," the night of Tuesday, April 2--not immediately at six o'clock, but later on, allowing time for certain necessary preparations then, and for certain examination of the meaning of the symbols and considering the whole subject afresh, now.
According to custom, the Church at Allegheny will meet on this anniversary date to celebrate the great [R2773 : page 77] transaction by which we were bought back from condemnation, and to celebrate also our consecration to be dead with Christ, if so be that being dead with him we shall be sharers also in his resurrection, the first resurrection, to glory, honor and immortality.
We recommend that the dear friends in various parts of the world neglect not this precious memorial, which is so full of meaning to all who intelligently appreciate it. We do not advise gathering together in large companies, but rather that each little company or band meet together as is their usual custom; for this seems to have been the method in the early Church. Let us keep the feast in joy of heart, and yet with due appreciation of its solemnity, not only as relates to our Lord's sacrifice for us, but also as relates to our own covenant of sacrifice to be dead with him. We recommend that all the leaders of the little companies of the Lord's people make arrangements to obtain, if possible, unleavened bread (from some Hebrew family, possibly) and either unfermented grape juice or raisin juice, or other fruit of the vine, as may be decided. Our recommendation is against a general use of wine, as being possibly a temptation to some weak in the flesh. However, we recommend that provision be made for those who conscientiously believe that wine was meant to be used. As satisfying to the consciences of some it might not be amiss to put a small amount of fermented wine into the unfermented grape or raisin juice.
We recommend that these little gatherings be without ostentation,--yet decently, orderly, quietly, let us come together, full of precious thoughts respecting the great transaction we celebrate, rather than with our attention much taken up with forms and ceremonies. Let us in this, as in all things, seek to do that which would be pleasing to our Lord, and then we will be sure that it will be profitable to all who participate.
We have already intimated that none are to be forbidden who profess faith in the precious blood and consecration to our Savior's service. As a rule there will be no danger of any accepting the privilege of this fellowship who are not earnest at heart. Rather, some may need to be encouraged, since wrong views, we believe, are sometimes taken of the Apostle's words respecting those who "eat and drink damnation to themselves, not discerning the Lord's body." (1 Cor. 11:29.) For the sake of these timid ones, who, we trust, will not forego the privilege of commemorating this great transaction, we would explain that to our understanding the class mentioned by the Apostle is composed of those who fail to realize the real import of the sacrifice, and who merely recognize it as a ceremonious form. They eat and drink condemnation because, if they would investigate the matter, they would clearly see the terms upon which the Lord is accepting the "little flock" being chosen in this Gospel age. Their failure to do this brings a measure of condemnation, reproof; they are more responsible than others of the world who know nothing of the Lord, his sacrifice, etc.
Let us, when we celebrate this grand memorial, not forget to give thanks to the Lord for our justification, and also for the grand privilege we enjoy of being fellow-sacrificers with our Redeemer, and filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ. And while sorrowful and thoughtful, meditative and full of heart-searchings on this occasion, let us, as did the Lord, triumph through faith and go forth singing praise to him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light, and who has privileged us thus to have fellowship in the great transaction now in progress.