« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
persons who insist more strongly than they do, on that which they deem to be the only needful supper of the Lord. That supper, according to their apprehension, is altogether of a spiritual nature. Now, it is a circumstance which strongly confirms the general view thrown before the reader in the arguments already stated, that, according to the narrations severally presented to us by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, of the last paschal meal of Jesus with his disciples, our Lord availed himself of the
occasion which has given rise among Christians to the rite of the Eucharist, in order to direct the attention of his disciples to the supper now alluded to—a repast of a totally different description, and one which may be enjoyed by the disciples of Christ, independently of every outward ordinance. “With desire I have desired," said Jesus to his apostles, “to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God;" Luke xxii, 15, 16. Again, “This is my blood of the New Testament, which is given for many, for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom;" Matt. xxvi, 28, 29. Again,
Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom;" Luke xxii, 28–30.
We may, indeed, believe that these gracious declarations are accomplished in all their fulness, only in the heavenly state of happiness and glory; but it is sufficiently evident, and is allowed by various commentators, that our Lord's expressions, now cited, cannot be considered as relating exclusively to the world to çome. When Jesus Christ had died, on the cross, a
sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, the type of the passover had received its fulfilment in the kingdom of God. When his blood had been shed for many, for the remission of sins, and when he had ascended to the right hand of the Father Almighty, that kingdom or reign, conducted through the mediation of the Messiah, was established in the earth. Then, therefore, did the day arrive, as we may fairly deduce from these impressive passages, when Jesus was again to eat the passover with his disciples, and to drink the new wine in their company: according to his own declaration, on a subsequent occasion,
Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me;" Rev. iii, 20. When the faithful disciples of our glorified Redeemer open the doors of their hearts at the voice of his Holy Spirit; when, more especially, they are engaged in rendering unto him their joint and willing service, and in worshipping God in unison; he is often pleased to come in amongst them, to sup with them, and to permit them to sup with him. Then does he bring them into a holy fellowship with the Father, with himself, and one with another; breaks for them the bread of life; and gives them to drink of his most precious blood; and thus, while their souls are refreshed, nourished, and comforted, they are brought, in a living and effective manner, to the remembrance of that crucified Lord, who is their strength, their joy, and their salvation.
On a general review, then, of the particular passages of the New Testament which relate to the observance of the Lord's Supper, I may venture to recapitulate my own sentiments, that such a practice has no proper or necessary connexion with a spiritual feeding on the body and blood of Christ--that the history of our
Lord's last paschal supper with his disciples affords no reason for believing that he then instituted a religious ceremony, which was thenceforth to form an essential part of the worship of Christians--that our Lord's injunction, on that occasion, may be understood, either as relating solely to the rites of the Passover, or as intended to give a religious direction to the more common social repasts of his disciples—that it was in connexion with such repasts, and particularly with their love-feasts, that the primitive Christians were accustomed to commemorate the death of Christthat the custom of those love-feasts, however appropriate to the circumstances of the earliest disciples, soon fell into abuse as the numbers of believers increased, and appears to be, in a great degree, inapplicable to the present condition of the Christian world --and, lastly, that under the influence of the spiritual manifestations of our Redeemer, we may, without the bread and wine, participate in that true supper of the Lord, which he has himself so clearly upheld to the expectation of his disciples, and which alone is indispensable for the edification, consolation, and salvation, of his people.
Although, for the reasons detailed in the present disquisition, it may fairly be concluded that the practices of water-baptism and the Lord's Supper are by no means needful, it is certain that these practices have been very generally observed by the professors of the Christian name. This fact is easily explained, not only by the known power of example and tradition, but also by that principle in our nature, which leads us so commonly to place our dependence upon outward and visible things. Man is naturally prone to trust in any thing rather than in the invisible Creator, and he is ever ready to make the formal ordinance a part of his religious system, because he can rely upon it
with ease to himself, and may often find in it a plausible substitute for the mortification of his own will. Now, I would suggest that the ordinances which we have been considering, so far from being like the moral law of God, universally salutary, are evidently fraught with no little danger, as occasions by which this deceitful disposition in the human heart is naturally excited and brought into action. And here our appeal may be made, not only to theory, but to facts; for, it is indisputable that the outward rites of baptism and the supper, as observed among the professors of Christianity, have been the means of leading multitudes into gross superstition. How many thousands of persons are there, as every spiritually-minded Christian will allow, who place upon these outward rites a reliance which is warranted neither by reason nor by Scripture, and which, so far from bringing them nearer to God-so far from reminding them of Christ-operates in the most palpable manner as a diversion from a true and living faith in their Creator and Redeemer? How often has the ignorant sinner, even in the hour of death, depended on the “sacrament” of the Lord's supper as upon a saving ordinance! And how many a learned theologian, both ancient and modern, has been found to insist on the dangerous tenet, that the rite of baptism is regeneration!
While the Society of Friends believe that ordinances which are so peculiarly liable to abuse, and which have been the means of exciting, not only the superstitions now alluded to, but endless divisions and contentions, and many cruel persecutions in the church, cannot truly appertain to the law of God; while they are persuaded, on the contrary, that the spirituality of that law is opposed to the continued observance of any typical religious rite ; and, while, on these grounds,
they considered themselves amply justified in the omission of such practices; they entertain, I trust, no disposition whatever to judge their fellow-Christians, who conscientiously make use of these ceremonies. They are, it may be hoped, too well aware of the importance of obedience to the Lord Jesus, to condemn others, who, from their very desire to obey him, are led to differ from themselves.
For my own part, I am persuaded, that there are many pessons who avail themselves of the rites in question, on principles which cannot be deemed superstitious, and who even derive, through these signs and memorials, a real instruction and edification. Such instances may serve to convince us that God continues to accept the sincere heart, and that he is still pleased to bless a variety of means to a variety of conditions. Nevertheless, I cannot but deem it probable, that there are many Christians, not of our profession, who, as they draw yet nearer in spirit to an omnipresent Deity, will be permitted to find, in the disuse of all types,
a more excellent way."