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§ 15. The Lord’s Supper.

The passages of Scripture directly referring to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper are the following: Matthew xxvi. 26-28, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it (εὐλογήσας), 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 (εὐχαριστήσας), 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.”

Mark xiv. 22-24, “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 cup; 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.”

Luke xxii. 19, 20, “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.”

1 Corinthians x. 15-17, “I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. 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? For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

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1 Corinthians xi. 23-29, “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. Wherefore, whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”

Apart from matters of doubtful interpretation, these passages plainly teach, First, that the Lord’s Supper is a divine institution of perpetual obligation. Second, that the material elements to be used in the celebration, are bread and wine. Third, that the important constituent parts of the service are, (1.) The consecration of the elements. (2.) The breaking of the bread and pouring out of the wine. (3.) The distribution and the reception by the communicants of the bread and wine. Fourth, that the design of the ordinance is, (1.) To commemorate the death of Christ. (2.) To represent, to effect, and to avow our participation in the body and blood of Christ. (3.) To represent, effect, and avow the union of believers with Christ and with each other. And (4.) To signify and seal our acceptance of the new covenant as ratified by the blood of Christ. Fifth, the conditions for profitable communion are, (1.) Knowledge to discern the Lord’s body. (2.) Faith to feed upon Him. (3.) Love to Christ and to his people.

The main points of controversy concerning this ordinance are: (1.) The sense in which the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ. (2.) The sense in which the communicant receives the body and blood of Christ in this ordinance. (3.) The benefits which the sacrament confers, and the manner in which those benefits are conveyed. (4.) The conditions on which the efficacy of the ordinance is suspended.

The Lord’s Supper is a divine Ordinance of perpetual Obligation.

This has never been doubted in the Christian Church. That Christ intended that the ordinance should continue to be observed 613in his Church until his second advent is plain, (1) From his express command given in Luke xxii. 19, and repeated by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians xi. 24. (2.) The design of the ordinance which is declared to be the commemoration of Christ; the constantly repeated proclamation of his expiatory death in the eats of men; and the communication of the benefits of that death to his people, necessarily assumes that it is to be observed so long as Christ, in the visible manifestation of his person, is absent from his Church. (3.) That the Apostles so understood the command of Christ is plain from their continuing to observe this ordinance to which such frequent reference is made in their writings, under the designations, “breaking of bread,” “the Lord’s Supper,” and “The Lord’s table.” (4.) The uniform practice of the Church on this subject admits of no other solution, than the appointment of Christ and the authority of the Apostles.

The names given to this sacrament in the early Church were very various. It was called, (1.) Εὐχαριστία, not only by the Greeks but also by the Latins, because as Chrysostom says, πολλῶν ἐστιν εὐεργετημάτων ἀνάμνησις.627627In Mattheum Homilia, xxv. [xxvi.] 3; Works, edit. Montfaucon, Paris, 1836, vol. vii., p. 352 [310. d]. It is a solemn thanksgiving for the blessings of redemption. This designation being so appropriate, all English speaking Christians are fond of calling it the eucharist. (2.) Εὐλογία, for the same reason. The words εὐχαριστέω and εὐλογέω are interchanged. Sometimes the one and sometimes the other is used for the same act, and hence εὐχαριστία and εὐλογία are used in the same sense. In 1 Corinthians x. 16, St. Paul calls the sacramental cup τὸ ποτήριον τῆς εὐλογίας, “the cup of blessing,” in allusion to the כּוֹס הַבְּדָכָה drunk at the paschal supper. (3.) Προσφορά, “offering,” because of the gifts or offerings for the poor and for the service of the Church made when the Lord’s Supper was celebrated. (4.) Θυσία, “sacrifice.” Properly, the act of sacrificing; metonymically, the thing sacrificed or the victim; tropically of anything offered to God, as obedience or praise. In Philippians ii. 17, Paul speaks of “the sacrifice and service of faith;” and in iv. 18, he says that the contributions of the saints were “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God. And in Hebrews xiii. 15 we read of a θυσία αἰνέσεως, “a sacrifice of praise.” The praise was the sacrifice or offering made to God. The Lord’s Supper in this sense was at first called a sacrifice, both because it was itself a thank-offering to God and because attended by alms which were regarded as tokens of gratitude to 614Christ for the benefits of his redemption. Afterwards, it was so called, because it was a commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross; and finally because it came to be regarded by Romanists as itself an expiatory sacrifice. For this reason the consecrated wafer is by them called “hostia,” the host, or victim, because it was assumed to be the true body of Christ offered to God in expiation of the sins of the faithful. (5.) Μυστήριον, something secret, or having a sacred or secret import. As the Lord’s Supper was a significant memorial of the greatest of all mysteries, the death of the Son of God upon the cross, it was appropriately designated μυστήριον. This word, however, is applied in its general sense to both sacraments and even to other sacred rites. Another reason may be assigned for this designation. The Lord’s Supper was celebrated in secret; in so far that the promiscuous body of attendants on Christian worship was dismissed before the sacrament was administered. (6.) Σύναξις, “the assembly,” because from the nature of the service it implied the coming together of believers. (7.) “Sacramentum,” in the general sense of μυστήριον, by way of eminence applied to the Lord’s Supper as “the” sacrament. It was also after the idea of the sacrificial character of the eucharist became prevalent, called “sacramentum altaris,” the sacrament of the altar. This designation survived the doctrine on which it was founded, as it was retained by Luther, who earnestly repudiated the idea that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrifice. (8.) “Missa,” or mass. This word has been variously explained; but it is almost universally, at the present time, assumed to come from the words used in dismission of the congregation. “Ite, missa est,” “Go, the congregation is dismissed.” First the unconverted hearers were dismissed, and then the catechumens, the baptized faithful only remaining for the communion service. Hence there was in the early Church a “missa infidelium,” a “missa catechumenorum,” and finally a “missa fidelium.” There seems to have been a different service adapted to these several classes of hearers. Hence the word “missa” came to be used in the sense of the Greek word λειτουργία or service. As under the Old Testament the offering of sacrifices was the main part of the temple service, so in the Christian Church, when the Lord’s Supper was regarded as an expiatory offering, it became the middle point in public worship and was called emphatically the service, or mass. Since the Reformation this has become universal as the designation of the eucharist as celebrated in the Church of Rome.

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The Elements to be used in the Lord’s Supper.

The word element, in this connection, is used in the same sense as the Latin word “elementum,” and the Greek word στοιχεῖα, for the component parts of anything; the simple materials or rudiments. Bread and wine are the elements employed in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, because they are the simple corporeal materials employed as the symbols of the body and blood of Christ.

As the Lord’s Supper was originally instituted in connection with the Passover, there is no doubt that unleavened bread was used on that occasion. It is evident, however, from the apostolic history, that the Apostles used whatever kind of bread was at hand. There is no significancy either in the kind of bread or in the form of the loaf. It is enough that it is bread. This makes it the proper emblem of Him who declared Himself to be the true bread which came down from heaven.

Although it seems so obvious that it is a matter of indifference what kind of bread is used in the Lord’s Supper, a serious controversy arose on this subject in the eleventh century between the Greek and Latin churches: the former condemning the use of unleavened bread as a remnant of Judaism, and the latter insisting not only on its propriety, but on its being the only kind allowable, because used by Christ himself when He instituted the sacrament. The two churches adhere to their ancient convictions and practice to the present day. The Lutherans in this matter side, in their practice, with the Romanists. The Reformed regard it as a matter of indifference; although they object to the “placentulæ orbiculares,” or round wafers, used by Romanists in this ordinance; because flour and water or flour and some glutinous substance is not bread in the ordinary sense of the word. It is not used for nourishment. The use, therefore, is inconsistent with the analogy between the sign and the thing signified. The eucharist is a supper; it represents our feeding upon Christ for our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace. Besides, the use of the wafer was introduced with the rise of the doctrine of transubstantiation. The consecrated bread being regarded as the real body of Christ, it was natural that it should be made in a form which precluded the danger of any particle of it being profaned.628628The question of the kind of bread used in the eucharist at different times and in different churches is discussed with great minuteness of detail in the recent work, Notitia Eucharistica, a Commentary, Explanatory, Doctrinal and Historical on the Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, according to the Use of the Church of England. By W. E. Scudamore, M. A., Rector of Ditchingham and formerly Fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge; Rivingtons, London, Oxford and Cambridge, 1872, pp. 749-765.

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Some of the Reformed theologians raise the question whether in places where bread and wine cannot be obtained, it is lawful to use in their stead other articles of nourishment, the most allied to them in nature? This question they answer affirmatively; while they insist that the command of Christ and the practice of the Apostles should be strictly adhered to where such adherence is possible.

By wine as prescribed to be used in this ordinance, is to be understood “the juice of the grape;” and “the juice of the grape” in that state which was, and is, in common use, and in the state in which it was known as wine. The wine of the Bible was a manufactured article. It was not the juice of the grape as it exists in the fruit, but that juice submitted to such a process of fermentation as secured its preservation and gave it the qualities ascribed to it in Scripture. That οἶνος in the Bible, when unqualified by such terms as new, or sweet, means the fermented juice of the grape, is hardly an open question. It has never been questioned in the Church, if we except a few Christians of the present day. And it may safely be said that there is not a scholar on the continent of Europe, who has the least doubt on the subject. Those in the early Church, whose zeal for temperance led them to exclude wine from the Lord’s table, were consistent enough to substitute water. They were called Tatiani, from the name of their leader, or Encratitæ, Hydroparastatæ, or Aquarii, from their principles. They not only abstained from the use of wine and denounced as “improbos atque impios” those who drank it, but they also repudiated animal food and marriage, regarding the devil as their author.629629Suicer, Thesaurus Ecclesiasticus, sub voce Σύναξις; edit. Amsterdam, 1728, vol. ii. p. 1123. They soon disappeared from history. The plain meaning of the Bible on this subject has controlled the mind of the Church, and it is to be hoped will continue to control it till the end of time.630630This is not the place for the discussion of what, in this country, is called “The Wine Question.” The reader will find it amply ventilated in the Princeton Review for April and October, 1841, in two articles from the pen of Rev. John Maclean, D. D., and more recently by the Rev. Lyman H. Atwater, D. D., in the same Review, October, 1871, and January, 1872.

In most churches, the wine used in the Lord’s Supper is mixed with water. The reasons assigned for this custom, are, (1.) That 617the eucharist having been instituted at the table of the Paschal supper, and the wine used in the Passover being mixed with water, it is morally certain that the wine used by Christ when instituting this sacrament, was also thus mixed. Hence it was inferred that his disciples in all ages should follow his example. That the Paschal cup contained wine mixed with water rests on the authority of Jewish writers. “It was the general practice of the Jews to dilute their wine with water. ‘Their wine was very strong,’ says an ancient Jewish writer,631631Gloss in Lightfoot, Horæ Hebraicæ, in St. Matthew xxvi. 27, n. v. Opp. tom. ii. p. 380. ‘and not fit for drinking unless water was mixed with it.’”632632Scudamore, ut supra, p. 350. It is certain, from the writings of the fathers, that this custom prevailed extensively in the primitive Church. As the Greeks and Romans were in the habit of mixing water with their wine on all ordinary occasions, it is the more natural that the same usage should prevail in the Church. It is still retained, both by Romanists and by the Oriental Church. (2.) Besides this historical reason for the usage in question, it was urged that it adds to the appropriate significance of the ordinance. As water and blood flowed from the side of our Lord on the cross, it is proper, it is said, that water should be mixed with the wine in the service intended to be commemorative of his death. This being the case, the quantity of the water used was declared to be a matter of indifference. In the First Book of Edward VI. prepared for the Church of England, the minister was ordered to put into the cup “a little pure and clean water.” This order was omitted from the rubric, and has never been restored. Merati, of the Church of Rome, says: “A little water ought to be mixed by the priest with the wine on the altar, not . . . . . for necessity of the sacrament or divine precept, . . . . but only of ecclesiastical precept obliging under mortal sin.”633633Note by Merati in Gavanti. Commentaria in Rubricas Missalis Romani, pars. III. tit. iv. n. vi.; Thesaurus Sacrorum Rituum. auctore Gavanto. Augsburg, 1763, vol. i. p. 333, b.

The Sacramental Actions.

The first of these is the introductory and consecrating prayer. The object of this prayer is threefold: —

1. To give thanks to God for the gift of his Son, whose death we are about to commemorate.

2. To prepare the hearts of the communicants for the solemn service on which they are attending. To this end the prayer must be appropriate. And to be appropriate, it should be well considered. This is a matter of great importance. It often 618happens that the prayers offered on such occasions are long and rambling. Petitions are offered for all classes of men, for the young and old; for the sick and afflicted; for Sunday-schools; for missions, and all the other objects usually embraced in the long prayer before the sermon. The consequence is, that the minds of the people are distracted. Their attention is turned away from the service before them; and they are much less prepared to celebrate the Lord’s death when the prayer is ended, than they were before it began. This is as inappropriate and as hurtful as it would be for a minister to spend his strength in praying for the conversion of the heathen or the Jews, when kneeling at the bedside of a dying sinner. The officiating clergyman little thinks of the pain he inflicts by such desultory prayers. He not only puts himself out of sympathy with the people, Out there is a constant antagonism between him and them during the progress of the prayer, and when it is over there is a painful effort to collect their scattered thoughts, and to suppress the feelings of disapprobation, displeasure, and sense of injury awakened by the want of thought or want of tact on the part of the pastor.

3. The third object of this introductory prayer, is the consecration of the elements. Bread and wine in themselves, or as found in common use, are not the symbols of the body and blood of Christ. They become such only by being set apart for that purpose. This is an important part of the service; and therefore, is made prominent in the liturgies of all Churches, and especially enjoined not only in our Directory for Worship, but also in the Confession of Faith and in our Larger Catechism.634634Directory, viii. 5; Confession, xxix. 3; Larger Catechism, Q. 169.

In all these points there is an analogy between this prayer and “the grace before meat,” used at an ordinary meal. In that service we recognize the goodness of God in providing food for our bodies; we prepare our minds for the thankful reception of his gifts; and we pray that the portion received may be set apart or rendered effectual for the renewal of our strength. When, therefore, it is said that our Lord gave thanks or blessed the cup and the bread, it is to be understood that He not only thanked God for his mercies, but that He also invoked his blessing, or, in other words, prayed that the bread and wine might be, what He intended them to be, the symbols of his body and blood, and the means of spiritual nourishment to his disciples. This is also taught by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians x. 16 where 619he speaks of “the cup of blessing,” i.e., the cup which has been blessed, or consecrated by prayer to a sacred use; as is explained by the following words, “which we bless.”

Breaking the Bread.

This is the second of the prescribed sacramental actions. It is an important, because it is a significant, part of the service. Christ broke the bread which He gave to his disciples. The bread is the symbol not merely of Christ’s body, but of his body as broken for us. “The bread which we break,” says the Apostle, thereby showing that the breaking was a constituent part of the service. So significant is this act that it was used as a designation of the sacrament itself, which was called the “breaking of bread,” Acts ii. 42. The breaking of the bread enters into the significancy of the ordinance not only as referring to the broken body of Christ, but also as the participation of one bread is the symbol of the unity of believers. There is one bread, and one body. This significance is lost, when separate wafers are distributed to the communicants. Above all it is expressly commanded. It is recorded that Christ blessed, broke, and gave the bread; and then added: “This do.” The command includes the blessing, the breaking, and the giving.

This important part of the service continued to be observed in the Church until the doctrine that the bread after consecration is the real body of Christ began to prevail. Then the use of the wafer was introduced, which is placed unbroken in the mouth of the communicant. This is clearly a departure from apostolic usage, and evinces a departure from apostolic doctrine.

The Distribution and Reception of the Elements.

It is recorded that Christ after having blessed the bread and broken the bread, gave it to his disciples, saying: “Take, eat.” And in like manner after having blessed the cup. he gave it to them, saying: “Drink ye all of it.” All this is significant. Christ gives; the disciples, each one for himself, receive and partake of the offered gifts.

From all this it is clear, (1.) That it is contrary to the rule prescribed in Scripture when the communicant does not for himself, receive with his own hand the elements of bread and wine. (2.) That it is utterly inconsistent with the nature of the sacrament, when, as in the private masses of the Romanists, the officiating priest alone partakes of the consecrated bread or wine. 620(3.) That it is against the nature of the sacrament, when instead of the two elements being distributed separately, the bread is dipped into the wine, and both are received together. This mode of administering the Lord’s Supper, was, it is said, introduced at first, only in reference to the sick; then it was practised in some of the monasteries; and was partially introduced into the parishes. It never, however, received the sanction of the Roman Church. In the Greek and the other oriental churches it became the ordinary method, so far as the laity are concerned. The bread and wine are mixed together in the cup, and, by a spoon, placed in the mouth of the recipient. Among the Syrians the usual custom was for the priest to take a morsel of bread, dip it in the wine and place it in the mouth of the communicant. From the East this passed for a time over to the West, but was soon superseded by a still greater departure from the Scriptural rule.635635Suicer, Thesaurus Ecclesiasticus, ut supra, vol. ii. p. 1127. Scudamore, Notitia Eucharistica, ut supra, pp. 614-618. (4.) The most flagrant violation of the integrity of this sacrament is that of which the Church of Rome for the last seven hundred years has been guilty, in withholding the cup from the laity. This is inconsistent not only with the command of Christ, and the example of the Apostles, but also with the practice of the Universal Church for eleven hundred years. This is not denied by Romanists themselves. They do not pretend to claim the authority of antiquity for this custom. They fall back on the authority of :the Church. They deny, indeed, that the words of Christ include a command that the wine as well as the bread should be distributed in the Lord’s Supper; but they affirm that after consecration, the whole substance of the bread is transmuted into the substance of Christ’s body; and that as his body and blood are inseparable, they who receive the bread do thereby receive his blood; and, therefore, that the whole benefit of the sacrament is experienced by the laity although the cup be withheld from them. This being the case, they maintain that it is wise in the Church, for prudential reasons, especially to avoid the danger of the blood of Christ being spilled and profaned, to confine the administration of the cup to the clergy. On the principle that the whole Christ is in the bread, the language of the Council of Trent is:636636Sess. xiii. canon 3; Streitwolf, Libri Symbolici, vol. i. p. 51.Si quis negaverit, in venerabili sacramento eucharistiæ sub unaquaque specie, et sub singulis cujusque speciei partibus, separatione facta, totum Christum contineri; 621anathema sit.” The comment of Perrone on these words is as follows: “Hæc porro veritas est corollarium dogmatis de transubstantione; panis enim et vinum per consecrationem convertuntur in illud Christi corpus et sanguinem, qui in cœlis est, et in eodem statu glorioso; jam vero corpus illud inseparabile est a sanguine, anima et divinitate, et e converso pariter sanguis separari nequit a corpore, anima, et divinitate, ergo sub quavis specie totus Christus præsens fiat necesse est.637637Prælectiones Theologicæ, 5th edit. Turin, 1839, vol. vi. p. 168. Withholding the cup from the laity is therefore founded on the doctrine of transubstantiation, and must fall with it. The custom was introduced gradually, and it was not until the Council of Constance, A.D. 1415, that it was made a law in the Latin Church. And that Council admits that its action was contrary to the primitive practice, for it says: “Although in the primitive Church this sacrament was received under both kinds, yet has this custom been introduced, that it should be taken by the celebrants under both kinds, and by the laity under the kind of bread only. Wherefore since this custom has been introduced by the Church and the holy fathers on reasonable grounds, and has been very long observed, it is to be accounted for a law, etc.”638638Notitia Eucharistica, ut supra, p. 624.

The Design of the Lord’s Supper.

As the death of the incarnate Son of God for us men and for our salvation is of all events the most important, it should be held in perpetual remembrance. It was to this end that our blessed Lord instituted this sacrament, and accompanied the institution with the command, “This do in remembrance of me.” And the Apostle in 1 Corinthians xi. 26, tells his readers, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” This itself is of great importance. The fact that the Lord’s Supper has been celebrated without interruption in the Church, from the day of the crucifixion to the present time, is an irresistible proof of the actual occurrence of the event which it is intended to commemorate. It is, therefore, just as certain that Christ died upon the cross as that Christians everywhere celebrate the Lord’s Supper. It is not only, however, the fact of Christ’s death, which this sacrament thus authenticates; but also its design. Our Lord declared that He died as a substitute and sacrifice. “This is my body which is given for you;” or, as the Apostle reports it, “broken for you.” “This is my blood of the New 622Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Redemption, therefore, is not by power, or by teaching, or by moral influence, but by expiation. It is this truth which the Lord’s Supper exhibits and authenticates. Still further, as Christ affirms that his body was to be broken and his blood shed for the remission of sin, this from the nature of the case involves on his part the promise and pledge, that the sins of those who receive and trust Him, shall certainly be forgiven. The sacrament thus becomes not only a sign but also a seal It is the handwriting and signet of the Son of God attached to the promise of redemption. As, therefore, the truth revealed in the Word has the highest power that can belong to truth in its normal influence on the human mind; so even the natural effect of the truths symbolized and authenticated in the Lord’s Supper, is to confirm the faith of the believer. But as the natural or objective power of the truth as revealed in the Word is insufficient for conversion or sanctification without the supernatural influences of the Spirit, so the truths set forth in the eucharist avail nothing towards our salvation unless the Spirit of all grace gives them effect. On the other hand, as the Word when attended by the demonstration of the Spirit, becomes the wisdom and power of God unto salvation; so does the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, when thus attended, become a real means of grace, not only signifying and sealing, but really conveying to the believing recipient, Christ and all the benefits of his redemption.

In the Lord’s Supper, therefore, the believer receives Christ. He receives his body and blood. The Apostle asserts that the bread which we break is a participation (κοινωνία) of the body of Christ, and that the cup which we bless is a participation of the blood of Christ. (1 Cor. x. 16.) Our Lord in John vi. 53 says, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” There must be a sense therefore, in which believers receive the body and blood of Christ. The effect of this reception of Christ is two fold. First, lie and his people become one; and secondly, all true believers in virtue of this union with Christ become one body “and every one members one of another.” Christ and his people are one in such a sense that it is not they that live, but Christ that liveth in them. (Gal. ii. 20.) He dwells in them; his life is their life; because He lives they shall live also. (John xiv. 19.) They are one in a sense analogous to that in which the head and members of the human body are one. The Holy Spirit given to Him without measure is communicated 623to his people so that they become one body fitly joined together. (Eph. iv. 16.) By one Spirit they are all baptized into one body. (1 Cor. xii. 13.) This union between Christ and his pecple is also illustrated by the union between the vine and its branches. The life of the vine and of its branches is one. (John xv.) Again, Christ and his people are one, as husband and wife are one flesh. “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” (Eph. v. 30.)

In being thus united to Christ as their common head, believers become one body, in a mystical sense. The Holy Spirit dwelling in each and in all constitutes them one. They have one principle of life. The Spirit works in all alike “both to will and to do.” They have, consequently, one faith, and one religious experience, as well as one Lord, and one God and Father. They are so bound together that if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or if one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Cor. xii. 26.) So far as this all churches seem to agree. They all admit that in the Lord’s Supper believers are thus united to Christ and to one another.

Qualifications for the Lord’s Supper.

It is plain from the preceding account of the nature and design of this sacrament, that it is intended for believers; and that those who come to the table of the Lord do thereby profess to be his disciples. If sincere in this profession, they receive the inestimable gifts which it is intended to convey. If insincere, they eat and drink judgment to themselves. The Apostle, therefore, argues that as those who partook of the Jewish altars did thereby profess to be Jews; and as those who participated in the heathen sacrifices, did thereby profess to be heathen; so those who partake in the Lord’s Supper, do thereby profess to be Christians. But to be a Christian a man must have competent knowledge of Christ and of his gospel. He must believe the record which God has given of his Son. He must believe that Christ died for our sins; that his body was broken for us. He must accept of Christ is He is thus offered to him as a propitiation for sin. All this, or, the profession of all this is involved in the very nature of the service. The faith, however, of those who would acceptably partake of the Lord’s Supper, is faith not only in Christ, but also in the sacrament itself. That is, faith in its divine appointment, and in its being what in the New Testament it is declared to be. We must not look upon it as a mere human device, as a mere ritual 624observance or ceremony; but as a means ordained by God of signifying, sealing, and conveying to believers Christ and the benefits of his redemption. The reason why believers receive so little by their attendance on this ordinance is, that they expect so little. They expect to have their affections somewhat stirred, and their faith somewhat strengthened; but they perhaps rarely expect so to receive Christ as to be filled with all the fulness of God. Yet Christ in offering Himself to us in this ordinance, offers us all of God we are capable of receiving. For we are complete (πεπληρωμένοι) filled, i.e., filled with the fulness of God in Him. (Col. ii. 10.)

It is impossible that the faith which this sacrament demands should exist in the heart, without producing supreme love and gratitude to Christ, and the fixed purpose to forsake all sin and to live devoted to his service. Our Church, therefore, teaches that it is required of them who would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves, of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon Him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience.

It is, however, not to be inferred from this that a man must be assured that he is a true believer before he can properly approach the Lord’s table. It often happens that those who are most confident that they are Christians, have the least of Christ’s Spirit. And therefore we are taught in the Larger Catechism,639639Ques. 172. that “One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not assured thereof; and in God’s account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it, and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ, and to depart from iniquity; in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians) he is to bewail his unbelief, and labour to have his doubts resolved; and so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord’s Supper, that he may be further strengthened.”

It is no valid objection to the doctrine that faith, love, and new obedience are the qualifications for an acceptable approach to the Lord’s table, that under the Old Testament all the people were allowed to partake of the Passover. This only shows the difference between what God demands, and what fallible men are authorized to enforce. It cannot be doubted that it was required of the Jews in coming to the paschal supper that they should 625believe the fact of their miraculous deliverance out of Egypt that they should be duly grateful to God for that great mercy and that they should have faith in the promise of that still greater redemption through Him of whom their paschal lamb was the divinely appointed type. All this was implied in an intelligent and sincere attendance on the Jewish Passover. The priests, however, were not authorized to sit in judgment on the sincerity of the worshippers, and to exclude all whom they deemed insincere. So while faith, love, and the purpose of new obedience are clearly required of all who come to the table of the Lord, all that the Church can demand is a credible profession; that is, a profession against which no tangible evidence can be adduced. Even to acceptable prayer, faith and love and the purpose of obedience are demanded, and yet we cannot exclude from access to God all whom we do not deem true believers. Confounding the Church and the world is a great evil, but the Church cannot be kept pure by any human devices. Men must be so instructed that they will be kept back from making profession of a faith they do not possess, by their own consciences; and those who act unworthily of their Christian profession should be subjected to the discipline of the Church. Further than this the Bible does not authorize us to go, and all attempts to improve upon the Bible must be productive of evil. According to our Directory for Worship, the minister “is to warn the profane, the ignorant, and scandalous, and those that secretly indulge themselves in any known sin, not to approach the holy table.” To these classes his power of exclusion is confined. “On the other hand, he shall invite to this holy table, such as, sensible of their lost and helpless state of sin, depend upon the atonement of Christ for pardon and acceptance with God; such as, being instructed in the Gospel doctrine, have a competent knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, and such as desire to renounce their sins, and are determined to lead a holy and godly life.”640640Westminster Directory, chap. viii. p. 4.

Although all churches substantially agree as to the natare and design of the Lord’s Supper, so far as the general statements above given are concerned, they differ essentially in their explanations of those statements; just as all profess to receive what the Scriptures say of this ordinance, while they differ so widely as to what the Bible really teaches. So far as these differences of views concern the qualifications for participating in the Lord’s Supper; the benefits the ordinance is intended to convey; and the nature 626of the efficacy attributed to it, they have been already sufficiently considered when teaching of the sacraments in general. There are, however, certain points in reference to this sacrament in particular, which are so important that they have determined the course of ecclesiastical history. Those points are all intimately related. (1.) In what sense are the bread and wine in the eucharist the body and blood of Christ. (2.) In what sense are his body and blood received in that ordinance by the communicant. (3.) In what sense is Christ in the Lord’s Supper. These points are so related that they cannot well be considered separately. These are the points as to which the Reformed, the Lutheran, and the Roman Churches are opposed to each other.


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