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§ 55. The Lord’s Supper.


The commentaries on Matt. 26:26 sqq., and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke; 1 Cor. 10:16, 17; 11:23 sqq.; John 6:47–58, 63.

D. Waterland (Episcopal., d. 1740): A Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist, a new edition, 1868 (Works, vols. IV. and V.).

J. Döllinger: Die Lehre von der Eucharistie in den drei ersten Jahrhunderten. Mainz, 1826. (Rom. Cath.)

Ebrard: Das Dogma vom heil. Abendmahl u. seine Geschichte. Frankf. a. M., 1845, 2 vols., vol. I., pp. 1–231. (Reformed.)

J. W. Nevin: The Mystical Presence. A Vindication of the Reformed or Calvinistic soctrine of the Holy Eucharist. Philadelphia, 1846, pp. 199–256. (Reformed.)

Kahnis: Die Lehre vom heil. Abendmahl. Leipz., 1851. (Lutheran.)

Robert Wilberforce: The Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. London, 1853. (Anglican, or rather Tractarian or Romanizing.)

L. Imm. Ruckert: Das Abendmahl. Sein Wesen und seine Geschichte in der alten Kirche. Leipz., 1856. (Rationalistic.)

E. B. Pusey: The Doctrine of the Real Presence, as contained in the Fathers, from St. John to the Fourth General Council. Oxford, 1855. (Anglo-Catholic.)

Philip Freeman: The Principles of Divine Service. London, 1855–1862, in two parts. (Anglican, contains much historical investigation on the subject of eucharistic worship in the ancient Catholic church.)

Thos. S. L. Vogan: The True Doctrine of the Eucharist. London, 1871.

John Harrison: An Answer to Dr. Pusey’s Challenge respecting the Doctrine of the Real Presence. London, 1871, 2 vols. (Anglican, Low Church. Includes the doctrine of the Scripture and the first eight centuries.)

Dean Stanley: Christian Institutions, London and New York, 1881, chs. IV., V., and VI. (He adopts the Zwinglian view, and says of the Marburg Conference of 1529: "Everything which could be said on behalf of the dogmatic, coarse, literal interpretation of the institution was urged with the utmost vigor of word and gesture by the stubborn Saxon. Everything which could be said on behalf of the rational, refined, spiritual construction was urged with a union of the utmost acuteness and gentleness by the sober-minded Swiss.")

L. Gude (Danish Lutheran): Den hellige Nadvere. Copenhagen, 1887, 2 vols. Exegetical and historical. Reviewed in Luthardt’s "Theol. Literaturblatt.," 1889, Nos. 14 sqq.


The sacrament of the holy Supper was instituted by Christ under the most solemn circumstances, when he was about to offer himself a sacrifice for the salvation of the world. It is the feast of the thankful remembrance and appropriation of his atoning death, and of the living union of believers with him, and their communion among themselves. As the Passover kept in lively remembrance the miraculous deliverance from the land of bondage, and at the same time pointed forward to the Lamb of God; so the eucharist represents, seals, and applies the now accomplished redemption from sin and death until the end of time. Here the deepest mystery of Christianity is embodied ever anew, and the story of the cross reproduced before us. Here the miraculous feeding of the five thousand is spiritually perpetuated. Here Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, and is yet truly present in his church to the end of the world, gives his own body and blood, sacrificed for us, that is, his very self, his life and the virtue of his atoning death, as spiritual food, as the true bread from heaven, to all who, with due self-examination, come hungering and thirsting to the heavenly feast. The communion has therefore been always regarded as the inmost sanctuary of Christian worship.

In the apostolic period the eucharist was celebrated daily in connection with a simple meal of brotherly love (agape), in which the Christians, in communion with their common Redeemer, forgot all distinctions of rank, wealth, and culture, and felt themselves to be members of one family of God. But this childlike exhibition of brotherly unity became more and more difficult as the church increased, and led to all sorts of abuses, such as we find rebuked in the Corinthians by Paul. The lovefeasts, therefore, which indeed were no more enjoined by law than the community of goods at Jerusalem, were gradually severed from the eucharist, and in the course of the second and third centuries gradually disappeared.

The apostle requires the Christians683683    1 Cor. 11:28. to prepare themselves for the Lord’s Supper by self-examination, or earnest inquiry whether they have repentance and faith, without which they cannot receive the blessing from the sacrament, but rather provoke judgment from God. This caution gave rise to the appropriate custom of holding special preparatory exercises for the holy communion.

In the course of time this holy feast of love has become the subject of bitter controversy, like the sacrament of baptism and even the Person of Christ himself. Three conflicting theories—transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and spiritual presence of Christ-have been deduced from as many interpretations of the simple words of institution ("This is my body," etc.), which could hardly have been misunderstood by the apostles in the personal presence of their Lord, and in remembrance of his warning against carnal misconception of his discourse on the eating of his flesh.684684    John 6:63: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing, the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life." This passage furnishes the key for the understanding of the previous discourse, whether it refers to the Lord’s Supper, directly or indirectly, or not at all. That the ἐστί in the words of institution may indicate a figurative or symbolical (as well as a real) relation, is now admitted by all critical exegetes; that it must be so understood in that connection is admitted by those who are not under the control of a doctrinal bias. See my annotations to Lange’s Com. on Matthew, 26:26, pp. 470 sqq. The eucharistic controversies in the middle ages and during the sixteenth century are among the most unedifying and barren in the history of Christianity. And yet they cannot have been in vain. The different theories represent elements of truth which have become obscured or perverted by scholastic subtleties, but may be purified and combined. The Lord’s Supper is: (1) a commemorative ordinance, a memorial of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross; (2) a feast of living union of believers with the Saviour, whereby they truly, that is spiritually and by faith, receive Christ, with all his benefits, and are nourished with his life unto life eternal; (3) a communion of believers with one another as members of the same mystical body of Christ; (4) a eucharist or thankoffering of our persons and services to Christ, who died for us that we might live for him.

Fortunately, the blessing of the holy communion does not depend upon the scholastic interpretation and understanding of the words of institution, but upon the promise of the Lord and upon childlike faith in him. And therefore, even now, Christians of different denominations and holding different opinions can unite around the table of their common Lord and Saviour, and feel one with him and in him.



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