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BY REV. J. S. PATTENGILL.
PASTOR OF THE FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, WALTON, NEW-YORK.
THE FIRST SUPPER.
"AND when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. 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. But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table."-Luke 22: 14, 19, 20, 21.
THIS passage presents a familiar theme to the Christian; a theme full of interest in view of its object, and one in which every Christian mind should be fully educated. Not only should the theory of the Lord's Supper be understood, but the impress of its spirit ought to be stamped alike upon every Christian heart. There is in the subject no mysterious theory. Its intent and application have nothing so difficult as to form any serious ground for difference. How much soever Christians may differ upon the doctrines of revealed truth as affected by different processes of education, there is in this ordinance and the teachings respecting it, all that is necessary to secure the unity of the body of Christ. It has no side issues. Christ is the one great object, and the remembrance of him as revealed by faith in the use of simple emblems. That Christians do differ upon side issues respecting the conditions of approach to the Lord's table, is evidence that the true intent of it is not understood, nor is the true spirit of it applied as required.
The vail of prejudice may so obscure the spiritual vision as to prevent a clear view of the simplest truth. This assertion has too much of demonstration in the want of Christian fellowship, where the love of Christ is the all-engrossing theme. There is much yet to be learned of the principles, and the spirit of the Saviour's passover. Though there should be nothing new developed by further investigation of the subject, still the facts and circumstances clustering around the last passover and the first supper are in themselves deeply interesting. To the true Christian they have a growing interest, and will have until his robes are fully washed, and he is fitted for the marriage supper of the Lamb.
They reveal the old and new dispensation meeting in Christthe one to die with his crucifixion-the other to live with his re
surrection-the last type, giving its last impress, and that impress the new and living way. The Messiah is the medium by which the one passes over to become the other; transferring covenants and promises, and the transfer ratified with his own blood offered once for all.
It is of interest that the last passover and the first supper were celebrated at the same table and during the same interview. It is of interest that the twelve disciples were present; that denying Peter and betraying Judas, as well as the beloved John, partook together of the last passover and of the first supper. Above all, it is of interest that the Searcher of hearts was present to close up the one and institute the other, thereby giving to his people a precedent of priceless value for all coming time. Your attention is directed to
THE REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER OF THE FIRST SUPPER.
In that upper chamber where were gathered the Saviour and his twelve disciples, is exhibited the connecting link of the old and new dispensation. Christ is the medium of transfer, by which the old passes over to the new. The old continues valid until after the new is instituted-and valid until Christ, the new passover, is slain.
1. The Church, with its covenants and promises and organization, is not affected only by higher advantages. In its organization there is no dissolution or change. No new organization is declared. All there is of apparent change pertains to a simple and impressive ordinance the one pointing forward to, and typifying a coming Messiah-the other pointing back, and to a Saviour slain-both signifying the same great truth.
Those gathered in that upper chamber were members of the Church under the old dispensation. As such they kept the last passover, and as such they celebrated the first supper. Their membership of the one was not disannulled, nor was any new membership declared. The blood of the Lamb slain for the last passover, seems to suffice for the institution of the supper, blending the principles, as well as the symbols of each, before the new covenant is ratified by the blood of the testator.
In that upper chamber there were no females. Martha and Mary are not present, nor even the mother of Jesus. Only a small number of his true disciples are present. Why should Peter and Judas be admitted, and Luke, Lazarus, and Zaccheus be absent? The twelve were sufficient as witnesses, and sufficient in their representative character.
2. None of the disciples in that upper chamber had received Christian baptism as we now regard its required administration. They had probably been baptized unto John's baptism. They may have been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. But the
name of the Trinity was not then clearly revealed, nor its use in the form of baptism commanded. The Holy Spirit was not then given as a person of the Trinity. John had only performed the rite of purification as by law prescribed, and as preparatory to the reception of the coming of the Messiah. Christ had been baptized to fulfill the righteousness of the law, which required his priestly consecration by one who had received his authority under the law from Aaron. The question of baptism did not, and could not enter into the considerations of the first supper. We can conceive of no reasons why this should come in as a side issue then, or since.
3. It is also a remarkable, as well as a significant_representative fact, that nothing is said at the institution of the Lord's supper, respecting the qualifications of the partaker. Jesus knew that Peter would deny, and that Judas would betray him. Beforehand he had warned Peter of his denial, and at the table he declares the treachery of Judas. This is full notice that these facts were not overlooked nor forgotten. But he excludes neither from the table. He does not say that they shall not eat with him. He does say, Behold the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. Our Saviour knew that the plan of Judas to betray him was already made, and the price agreed upon, if not received.
With treachery in his heart, covered by hypocrisy from human detection, he takes his place for the last time as a disciple in that upper chamber. Here was the place, if ever, for tests to be set up, and principles of fellowship declared pertaining to this ordinance, and yet here are only representative precedents.
The traitor is admitted upon his own responsibility. No statement is made that certain inner qualifications, or the adoption of certain outward forms of religion, designate the conditions of approach to his table. Concerning these things no word is uttered. The object and the circumstances of the occasion were such as to forbid the admission of unessential questions. In a few hours, the mock officials, with Judas to lead them on, would complete the tragic scene of Gethsemane. A few hours more and Peter would profanely deny that he knew the man-and in a few hours more would succeed the mock trial; the malignant taunts of countrymen and soldiery, closing with the ignominy and death of the
With all this before the Redeemer, he took the bread and the cup and distributed to all, saying, This do in remembrance of me: and as oft as ye do this, ye do show the Lord's death until he come. No exception is made to Judas, though the bargain for betrayal was made and only awaited the fit hour of the power of darkness to execute.
4. The relations which the disciples sustained to each other seemed to have no significance. Though the passover was a so
cial repast, there was in it a higher object than its social element. In the institution or celebration of the Lord's supper, the social element is entirely overshadowed by its higher object; the remembrance of a suffering and triumphant Redeemer, who gave himself for our ransom.
The design of this ordinance is not to remember each other in Social Christian fellowship. This is a minor consideration which must be yielded to the higher object. It is not to indorse each other's opinions or characters or practices in any of the forms or ordinances of religion. It is not to indorse each other's views of revealed truth, whether agreeing or disagreeing; nor is it to fellowship each other as Christians. No other object is specified by the Master, but a remembrance of me.
Did the Saviour sanction or fellowship the treachery of Judas or the denial of Peter by eating with them?
If the Lord's supper were simply a social repast-if Christ were not in it, and all of it; and the one all-engrossing object the recall of his death as an offering for us-then might the idea of mutual fellowship come into the account. But this ordinance is not primarily a social repast. It is a silent repast, a communion of spirit with him who is brought to remembrance by appropriate symbols. Each is concerned chiefly with his own individual relations to Christ. It matters not so much to each, what is the character or qualifications of the other, as what are his own qualifications. The act of partaking is one of individual responsibility. The Saviour's table is not the place to discipline the offender or to remember offenses. It is not the place for denominational standards or tests.
5. No new tests or principles were added by the apostles. They left it where the Redeemer left it-upon the responsibility of the individual conscience. "Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other; for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? For if I by grace am a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?"
We are often reminded that ours is a depraved world. Even in the best religious conditions of the Church, offenses seem to spring up spontaneously as if to verify the words of the Saviour-it must needs be that offenses come.
Those who misapprehend the designs of the Lord's supper, are prone to bring their offenses to his table; to thrust into his very presence those issues which belong entirely to the discipline of the Church. "My brother has trespassed against me, and I can not eat with him. If he comes to the Lord's table I must withdraw, because I can not indorse his trespass, and by eating with him, become a partaker of his sin." How often is this same conduct a grief and a reproach in the Christian household! Christ commands me to remember him, and to approach his table for this one object. But when the offense of another is allowed to intrude
as above stated, it is assuming that the remembrance of the offender and his sins, is paramount to a remembrance of Christ as required. It is certainly making less of Christ than of a real or supposed offense.
In such instances there is a plain contravention of the Saviour's command. It is turning away from his body and blood, broken and shed for sinners. It is wounding the Saviour in the house of his friends.
That must be a benighted heart which exhibits so plainly the works of darkness; or it is the result of a false education in the plainest principles of Christian duty.
The admission of Judas at the first supper, has representative importance in meeting just such cases of weakness and sin. It is saying by precedent, This do in remembrance of me, though your deadly enemy is at the table. Remember me, though you know that one who eateth with you designs your ruin or desires your life. As I left Judas to his own responsibility, so leave your enemy to his own responsibility. The example of Christ is sufficient for all who desire to be instructed in such relations.
In social life I may not eat at the idol festival of the things offered in sacrifice unto idols. I may not in social life eat with the extortioner upon such terms of reciprocity as makes me a partaker of his sins. I may not sit at his table, because it is his, upon terms of social equality. What is Christian duty in these relations the Scriptures make explicit.
But when I come to the Saviour's table, the relative social law yields to the law of Christ. It is not my table; is not the extortioner's table. It the Saviour's table, and is spread for his family. It is his to say who may come. If the traitor or extortioner approaches by the Master's permission, I have no dictation; for I too am but an invited guest. None of my rights and privileges are invaded. If I commemorate the love of Christ as required, it is not my fault if another does not do it—by the same act which shows forth the Saviour's death.
We are accustomed to invite our own, and " the members of other evangelical denominations to unite with us in the celebration of the Lord's supper." But why this distinction? It is the principle of exclusiveness, though extended beyond some denominational rules. It is the practice of the same principle of which we are wont to complain when applied to narrower limits. Our accustomed invitation is derived mainly from tradition. By it our views of evangelical truth are set up as exclusive tests, against individual rights given by the Master.
6. The disciples at his table are his invited guests. He is the head of his household. When he had finished his work and given rules for his household before he ascended up, he committed to his ministering servants the duty of service at his table. Though he made them his embassadors in preaching his Gospel, in break